THE MYSTERY MAN BEHIND IBEJII
Ibejii, the multi-music genre artist and retro musician, was quite a mystery with his eye-concealing dark shades, thickened eyebrows and afro hair. He waltzed into the room in the Ikoyi neighbourhood of Lagos, where this reporter was waiting with warm smiles, no hairs. Born in UK as a twin, Ibejii wouldn’t give up any other information about his past or personal life. Though the seat arrangement would suit a crossexamination, Ibejii only disclosed all that his fans and would-be fans need to know about Ibejii Live Experience. It’s a live music concert that took place at African Artists’ Foundation building at Victoria Island, after sundown on May 29, which is Democracy Day in Nigeria.
Raised in a music-loving family, he had been listening to a variety of music genres. Drawing upon the rich elements of rock, funk, juju, electro, jazz and R&B, Ibejii’s music is a potpourri of classic vibes.
“Ayanfe” may be the song with the highest number of airplays in his album but he has an incredible soft rock performance in “Onijekuje”, soul serenade in “Ibejii” and moral lessons in “Alejo lowo”. In this era of “Shaku Shaku” and “Segbeteri” music tradition, it is very unusual to stumble upon any new music in NIgeria that promotes moral values. That style was synonymous with music legends such as Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, Dayo Kujore, IK Dairo, Funmi Adams, Evi Edna Ogoli and the likes. That’s why his music is retro, not just in form but lyrical content.
Every one should be curious as to why he came to music just recently what with the roll call of musicians that he had understudied.
“I have been on a long walk,” he said. “I have walked through deserts and river banks in search of meaning, love and purpose. Ibejii is influenced by all music styles. From Cuban music to Afro jazz to rock, pop and to bring it down to the contemporary dimension, a big influence is Fela. Others are Brymo, Asa and Marvin Gaye. Prince? I am a big lover of prince.”
Of course, he showed that through his 70s styled-music and fashion. That period was significant in music for it birthed hip-hop, Afro-beat, disco and other genres that redefined global music trends. It was also a time music became very powerful in making socio-political statements, trailing after the effects of Vietnam war.
As humanity remains at war with itself, bad governance and corruption are some of the themes in Ibejii’s music. That patriotism is also reflected in his two albums titled “Green White Dope 001” and “Green White Dope 002”.
“We have just finished work on the album and we expect to release it by September. The artist is a part of a bigger group. There is a band involved called the Ejires led by a chap called Tosin. We performed at the Brymo concert last December 9, it was our biggest concert appearance to a rave review. We had done two shows prior to that.”
If you’re wondering why retro music is the new pop music, it is simple. Bruno Mars, Pharrell and Professor Green are toeing this line and it has brought them Grammys. But that’s not all.
“I suspect that the world is going through a phase that is not familiar,” he added. “People are retreating to what will give them comfort. Music is a source of comfort. And there is no greater source of comfort other than retro music. It is something that speaks to the value that we all hold so dear that motivate us to be better and greater people.’’
Ibejii’s interest in music is not just for commercial reasons but to reach as many people as possible with his message of love, chivalry, culture, politics and consciousness.
“Each of the albums is a full project. They have direction and purpose. 001 is Afro popish while 002 is settled in the jazz genre. 003 is very much afro electric. 004 is jazz, deep and meaningful. We released the first two albums in August 2017. We are looking at September for the next and the subsequent one will be released six months after that. Every producer that had worked on the album is a Nigerian. It is our own way of supporting Nigerian music industry.”
Ibejii will also perform in London in September, in a mini festival ambience. This Ibeji Live Experience in Lagos is an annual event, three-hour long with great surprise performances for A-list alternative music stars.