Unarguably one of the iconic musicians in Nigeria and Africa, Innocent Ujah Idibia, aka Tuface, talks about his music, life and inspiration
When it comes to churning out good music, Tuface knows his onions. One of Africa’s finest musicians by a long way, the number of devoted followers he has garnered over the years readily attests to his prominence.
Born in Jos, Plateau State even though he hails from Benue State, the 41-year-old singer, songwriter, record label owner and entrepreneur, who has been under the radar in recent times, says he’s making more music.
“At the moment, I am recording a couple of songs which I hope to release much later, so that is what I am preoccupied with now and has kept me away, ’’ he says.
With a new single, Hate what you do to me, which is currently trending in the music circle, the boisterous entertainer, without much prompting opens up on the inspiration behind the song. He says, “The song is just about relationships. There are some relationships that work and some just don’t work. The song explains itself and I think everyone should listen to it.”
With a music career that dates back to the nineties, Tuface discovered his flair for music when he was a student at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, where he studied a diploma course in Business Administration and Management. At that time, he had yet to be in the limelight and only performed at school gigs. He would eventually drop out of school to pursue a career in music. Afterwards, he relocated to Lagos and that was where he teamed up with Blackfaze and Faze. Together ,they formed the hugely successful Plantashun Boiz. Before the group disbanded and each member went to pursue solo careers, they churned out three albums; Body and Soul, Sold Out and Plan B.
Many years after, a reminiscing Tuface admits to missing his former group members. In a nostalgic voice, he says, “Sometimes, I miss the group and we have tried to get back together a couple of times but as you know, we have all grown as individual artistes and there are so many differences now compared to when we came together as a group. Some things are not as smooth as they ought to be but it would be a nice thing to come together and do something really big.’’
When he started out, Tuface says that he never envisaged that he would hit it big in music. Hear him: “One thing about life is that when you embark on a journey, you never know your final destination. At a young age, I had a mental picture of what and who I wanted to be and I pursued it. I must say that I have yet to reach the pinnacle of my career and that is why I am still working extremely hard.’’
He freely acknowledges that there is not much difference between his persona as an artiste and Innocent Idibia. Changing the tempo of the interview, he expresses himself in a mix of Pidgin and English. “The thing is this, Tuface dey craze pass Innocent if I can put it that way but by and large, there is not much difference between both personalities,’’ he says.
Going down memory lane, he recalls that he listened to several genres of music as a child and that shaped his craft. He says, “I actually fell in love with reggae and country music more and these are reflected in most of the songs that I sing from time to time. I think that I wrote my first song when I was in secondary school. I was in Junior Secondary School at that time. I do know that the song was titled 123 and it was a reggae song.”
A recipient of several national and international awards which include an MTV Europe Music Award, a World Music Award, five Headies Awards, four Channel O Music Video Awards, a BET Award, four MTV Africa Music Awards and one MOBO Awards among others, Tuface, seems poised to continue his winning streak as an international artiste.
Nonetheless, in spite of these huge successes that have come his way, he is not without some attendant personal issues. With seven children from three women including his wife Annie Idibia, Tuface expresses his displeasure at having children from multiple women. After a long pause, he decides to respond in a measured tone . “It is really tough to talk about it. Honestly, when I look back and examine that aspect of my life, I wish it never happened. I wish all my kids came from one woman. I love my children and there is nothing I can do to change the situation . I have moved on and I am married to one of the women who bore me kids. I no longer dwell on that issue.”
He goes further to describe his relationship with his children. “I am not the strict type because I have a soft spot for kids. As such, my children always get away with so many things when I am around. Their mothers are the ones who discipline them. I pamper my kids,’’ he tells with delight in his voice.
Does it seem likely that any of his children would follow in his footsteps? He affirms this and adds that some of them are already exhibiting signs of taking up music as a career and rather than dissuade them, he is prepared to give them the encouragement they need to succeed.
When he is not making melodious music, the international act always takes a break from his hectic schedule to relax. For him, this comes in different forms he quips. “Sometimes, I could just sleep but most times, I like to hang out with my friends. We laugh, gist, crack jokes and generally have fun,’’ he says.
Commenting on the motivators in his life, Tuface says that one of the things he strongly believes in is the fact that the sky is big enough for everyone to fly as there is adequate space. He continues: “It is just like the millions of stars that you see in the sky at night. Notwithstanding their number, there would still be space for more stars to shine. That is life and nature at work, so there is space for all of us. I always say that nobody should think that he or she is luckier than everyone else in life because that is a farce. As an individual, do not think that there is no space for the next person to thrive. For me, that is how I see life.’’
Even though he dropped out of school many years ago, he reiterates that in spite of his itinerary as an international musician, he looks forward to a time when he would be able to go back to earn a university degree. In a pitch that shows sincerity, he says, “Maybe I’d give it a thought once again. I am going to keep trying and I would never give up on education.’’
His role models he says must not necessarily be musicians. He argues, “They are people from different professions and surprisingly music is not one of them . I look up to many people and I do so for countless reasons.”
Still speaking, he says Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, Richard Mofe-Damijo and comedian, Ali Baba stand out for him and the reason is not farfetched. In a revealing tone, he enumerates some of the reasons why he regards them so . “These are people who have remained on top of their game in their respective fields of endeavour and they are doing very well so I have tremendous respect for them. For instance, take a look at Ali Baba, he is a very humble man, yet he is on top of his game as a comedian and I always strive to do same,’’ he states.
Tuface is not exactly a trendsetter yet he manages to keep it simple and sharp even though he is not proficient at fashion as he is at music. In describing his style, he keeps it brief. “Nothing in particular determines what I wear . I just like to dress in clean clothes and also look sharp when I go out,” he explains.
He sums up his philosophy about life in just one short sentence, ‘Live and let live’ and adds that he just wants to be remembered as that guy that came to the world to do his thing and also allowed others do their own thing, all in the spirit of one love.
Having weathered several storms in his career, Tuface has a word of advice for up-and-coming artistes. “I just want them to know that going into music is serious business. More so, they should challenge themselves creatively and be able to explore all avenues. They must not be held back by any challenges that may come their way. When they combine all of these together, the road would be easy. On my part, I am just going to keep doing good music and keep bonding with my family. For me, I am just doing my own thing so I am not in competition with anyone. I am on my own lane and wouldn’t have it any other way,’’ he concludes.