We had the timeless music maker, Ibejii, on the 9th edition of our interview sessions, Hint A View.
The very first similarity any new listener will likely draw to Ibejii is Brymo. In one of the interviews he granted some years back, Ibejii did mention Brymo gave him the opportunity to perform at his concert in 2017, however, even if there are similarities between Ibejii’s type of music and that of Brymo, the former, in this interview with Profiling, stressed that he was not inspired by Brymo, while also noting the other acts he has been compared to, musically, in the persons of Beautiful Nubia, Tunde Baiyewu, Seal and many others.
“Brymo is a friend and a super awesome singer” he stated and went on to enlist The Motown Greats, Coldplay, The Fugees, Michael Franks, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Jean Michel Jarre and Tupac Shakur as his musical heroes.
Ibejii still maintained the protection of his identity, away from his music and his face; however, it is very interesting to find out that the singer’s career is seven years old with a number of projects. Ibejii, in this interview, addressed his win at the 2022 Headies as well as what it means to him as an Indie artiste.
Though Ibejii, so far in his career, has only been able to record two collaborations with WavyTheCreator, a singer he was faced with in the Headies Alternative Album category he won, reveals he would love to work with Wizkid, The Cavemen, Tems and Omah Lay, if he had the chance.
The singer who stated authoritatively that his music is not limited to any genre, discussed the tragedy of 2020 End Sars movement as the motivation for the Headies-winning Intermission EP while he mentioned his father’s death as well as the global pandemic of 2020 as the inspiration that formed his 2022 album titled Post-19.
Read, below, our interview with Ibejii:
- As much as I understand the depth of Yoruba, I am still miles away from understanding the meaning of the word “gonto” referenced on your Intermission EP. Although I understand the ideas of reciprocity and mutuality preached on the song. With several references to several Yoruba proverbs, I like to think the chorus of the song was borne out of a proverb too: if a masquerade pretends not to see Gonto. Please, what is the meaning of Gonto?
Gonto is a metaphor for little people. The voiceless. The unseen. The forgotten. Gonto is a warning to men of power who dismiss the cries, the pleas, the voices of ordinary people. Dismiss the powerless at your peril – for the voiceless will find voice one day. The powerless will find strength someday. The weak will rise someday.
- Before worrying myself about having this particular conversation with you, I looked you up on the net and I read somewhere that your genre of music is defined as Retro Music. I listened to Ìlù Ìlú and also found out you make music that dates far back to the early periods in the history of, especially, African music. Though, the Headies classified you as an Alternative artiste; Ibejii, I want to know why Retro, the sounds of the past ages, are your choice of exploration.
If I had my way, my sound would come ‘without labels’. The reason is simple; I do the music that I feel, that I love, as I feel it, as it ministers to me. Of course I understand the power of labels as shortcuts to helping distributors and listeners to define and engage an artiste. I certainly understand the power of labels in helping with marketing. But I made it clear from the very start that I would not be boxed in, limited by genres or labels. I insist on retaining the truth in music making that I am in music listening. After all, my listening taste has no limits; why should my music making be limited by, say, the first record I made. Nah! I would never give up the liberty to create.
Now, I fully understand that my music is alternative to the mainstream, and therefore fits in the alternative music category. But yes, it has weaved from Afro-retro to Afro-soul, at all times telling stories through sound in a manner that only the alternative music genre allows.
- I personally learned about you for the first time in September when you won the Best Alternative Album category of the 2022 Headies with the extended playlist, Intermission. Brymo, a singer who has been in almost the same area of specialization as you for almost a decade now, was one of the people you contended the award with. What statement did that win make to you?
Winning The Headies has meant the world to me. It absolutely means the world to me! It is always wonderful to be recognised and acknowledged by ones peers. But this is special. It is special because I have poured a lot into this craft for a very long time. I work very hard at it, as all artistes do. It is wonderful to be appreciated.
This Headies win is special because it gives added encouragement to the many behind the scenes who work tirelessly to make Ibejii win – from my very personal assistant cum business advisor, Kiitan Owoyele; my producers – DopeL, Laitan Dada, Emmanuel Ojo, Joseph Ajayi; my market makers snd commercial advisors – Olaolu Aranmolate, Yemi Alade-Lawal, aka Jamal, etc. The Headies is as much fruit of their collective labour as it is mine. It is truly gratifying.
To be honest, I hope my win gives other lesser known artistes a boost in confidence too. We might not all enjoy the backing of big labels, big money, or possess the savvy to beat our drums and gain media attention. But we all crave the same thing: listening ears, a steady audience and media attention. These are the fuels that motivate the creative. I wish all my earnest brothers in the industry their day in the sun.
So yes, I am massively honoured that on a list that included some of the continent’s biggest music heavyweights – Femi & Made Kuti of illustrious music lineage and gigantic artistes in their respective rights; The Cavemen, unmatchable Highlife maestros; Brymo, crooner extraordinaire; Basketmouth with Yabasi, one of my favourite 2020 projects; and the inimitable WavyTheCreator, an artiste who drips creativity from every pore – that my beautiful Intermission, a project that fills me with immense personal and professional pride, won.
The Headies win means a lot to me. It really does! It means so much because Intermission means a lot to me. Intermission is my eruption from the events of October 2020, an unforgivable incident from which I still haven’t fully recovered. So, yes, it is a hugely symbolic win. I am more than encouraged to keep putting in the work.
- I know, but I won’t assume, that a lot of fans, especially those who have patronized Brymo’s sound long enough, may find similarities in your respective artistry. I also read you performed at one of his shows in 2017. Did Brymo contribute, in anyway, as an inspiration, to your choice of music? And is there a connection between you two aside the opportunity you had to perform at his show?
I consider Brymo a friend and super awesome craftsman. But no, my sound is not inspired by Brymo.
I am inspired by life, my life. I am inspired by the world around me; by a multitude of crafts, craftsmen, craftsmanship. I am inspired and influenced by a vast array of creative forms – visual arts, motion pictures, sound, natural beauty. I am inspired by an endless stream of music and musicians. Frankly, I would be hard pressed to draw an exhaustive list of the soundscapes, the genres or the musicians that have influenced me over the years.
So, whether the comparisons are to Beautiful Nubia, to Brymo, to Tunde Baiyewu of Lighthouse Family, to Seal, or to any number of wonderful artists to whom I have been compared over the years, I consider it no more than harmless distraction. I incline toward my own oars.
I am moved by the drumbeat of my own heart, the tingles in my own ears, the craftsmanship of the many amazing industry talents that keep me going – songwriters, musicians, producers, sound engineers, managers, etc. I draw inspiration from diverse music genres – Classical Music, Opera, Jazz, Hip Hop, Fuji, Malian Sounds, EDM, Soft Rock, Afro-juju, Afro-funk, Afrobeat, Afrobeats, etc. This is all reflected in my sounds – the Afro-retro inclinations of GreenWhiteDope, the experimental soulfulness of MSML, the Afro-jazzy inflections of Tribal Marks, the percussion infused sounds of Ìlú Ìlú, the electro-soulful reflections of Intermission and the deep Afrosoulful influences of Post 19. You would be hard pressed to find a comparable artiste that has surveyed the genres as intentionally as I have these past 7 years.
And yes, I have musical heroes – The Motown Greats, Coldplay, The Fugees, Michael Franks, The Anikulapo himself, Jean Michel Jarre, Tupac Shakur, etc – but I move to my own beat, maintain my own lane, earn my own stripes – for good and bad.
I am a story teller and I craft and tell my own stories. Hopefully, the day will come when my works are defined on their own terms and not by reference to other talent. That’d be really nice!
- I am yet to hear you on a collaboration with anyone. I don’t know if I am missing something. How close have you been to having collaborators? Or you clearly do not accept collaborations?
You are right, I haven’t typically explored the option of collabos. It simply hasn’t featured prominently on my mind. I am however somewhat more interested these days. I am intrigued for instance by Terry Apala’s jaw-dropping repertoire. He is simply the most talented vocalist ever. I look forward to working with him in due course. Then there is the prospect of international collabos – Youssour N’Dour, Lauryn Hill, Tems, Coldplay, U2, Pharrell, Bongeziwe Mabandla, etc. This would be awesome.
I actually broke the jinx with my latest release. I had my first collaboration with hugely talented WavyTheCreator. She is bloody awesome. She brings sultry seductive exorcism to Blown and Wild Horses, two songs on my latest release, Post 19.
So yes, going forward, I am more open to collaborations that can bring freshness, newness, something different, for the listening pleasure of the Ibejii Clan.
- Listening to Post 19 EP, it is a body of work that addresses a handful of individual struggles with love, heartbreak etc. Regardless, the title and how it relates to the songs on the album is still not clear. Can you explain what you meant by Post 19?
Post 19 set out as a retrospective on my personal battles with the dreaded virus, lockdown and social isolation, but veered into a reflection on loss when in December 2021 my beautiful father went to join his ancestors.
Setting off with Time, a retrospective on the extraordinary vanity of time, Post 19 continues with White, a reflection on my pop’s constant reminder that a sunny perspective can make a sunny life; to Broken, an undisguised confessional about the pain of my loss; to Blown and Wild Horses, both of which celebrate the phenomenal power of love. With Satilla Shores, I take a detour to remind the listener of Ahmaud Arberry and the tragedy of hate; returning to the subject of my loss with Home – and my longing for that place where the heart found rest.
So yes, Post 19 turned out less a reflection on face masks, hand sanitizers and Covid vaccinations, and more a reflection on the father whose loss makes me less secure.
- I told you you are a bit obscure (pardon whatever unappealing meaning the word may convey). Hence, can you tell me a little about your identity i.e full name, age (probably), the part of Nigeria you are from, your alma mater and course of study, when you began music professionally and how you discovered music?
Borderless, boundless, discerning and thinking, Ibejii comes from an unbroken lineage of priceless ebony, dyed in heArt and sound.
Birthed 7 years ago, Ibejii is one half of an incredible duo; at once ying and no less yang. More than man, beyond sound, Ibejii is earnest craftsmanship. Ibejii is music. Music is me.
- Your works, based on depth and uniqueness, deserve more honour. Have you ever considered submitting your works to The Grammys?
Wowwwwww !!! You are too kind. The very suggestion that my music is Grammys worthy is the trip. Thank you! I am hugely honoured. No, I have never considered submitting my works to The Grammys. But yes, I would absolutely love to do this, if only I knew how. I am absolutely loving the idea!
- If you had the chance to feature any three Nigerian singers making mainstream music like Afrobeats, Dancehall or Highlife, who would it be?
Only three? That’s a tough one. Based on what their sound is currently doing to me, it would have to be Starboy, The Cavemen and Omah Lay. These are monsters in the game. Huge!
- And lastly Ibejii, are you currently signed to a label? If yes, what label?
If you are offering, I am open to a signing. But no, I am the very definition of independent. Ibejii is managed by @Ibejiimusic.