Some artistes prefer doing singles within intervals to stay consistent. Others would rather opt for body of works, seeming to go off the grid momentarily. Yet, there are those whose drive to put out new content is fueled by the deep forces of originality.
As expected of artists who grappled with the rigours of street life, underwent the gruelling training of military school systems, and attained a level of mastery in the physics of sound itself via music schools, Dapo ‘Tuburna’ Olajide appears to have demonstrated his priorities in the music business.
Starting out as an Afrobeat singer with ‘The Africa Shrine’, an open-air entertainment centre in Lagos, straight out of music school, the works of Femi Kuti and Demian Marley would later shape his ideas of the African sound — seeing him undergo tutelage under a renowned record label.
In an interview with TheCable Lifestyle, Tuburna discusses how his experience with music deals alongside collaboration with the likes of Olamide and Ycee further spurred his zeal to carve out a unique sound towards creating a platform on which emerging artists will be able to ride to fame.
What would you say sets you aside from other Nigerian musicians and what’s the idea behind your stage name?
Well, I make music that leaves listeners feeling like I’m right around the corner, talking to them. My songs are intended to portray every African child’s dream, background, and lifestyle. I’m into reality check sounds too, uttering truths via melodies such that I say what others don’t want to.
Tuburna, which is my stage name, was a military slang. I went through a military school in Abeokuta where we had names we give people. You hear words like Snipers describing people that are good with arms. So, Burna implied someone that’s really good at commanding parades, morale.
Whenever Obasanjo was landing then in my school, I would be the one to represent the navy boys. So that word stood for someone who represents people. I also used to do many things and that name said it all. The name Gingo, in turn, is what I call my sound, fans. It implies ‘ginger your go’.
At what point did it dawn on you that music is the thing you want for yourself in the long term and what were your early days like?
I had told myself I was going to become a musician back in elementary school. I was in primary five and I had to say it openly on the assembly ground when I was summoned to give a speech on ambition. Opting for music was me trying to live my life without being bound by societal clichés.
I grew up in Oshodi and, back then, music wasn’t really a thing everyone did. But being 10, 11-years-olds, we were all just trying to get involved in one or two things. My music journey started way before now. It’s only that people are just getting to catch up with my sound and discography.
I had started by opening for Femi Kuti at the shrine on Sundays, my band and I. That was the first job I got immediately I left the music school. So I started from the African Shrine, playing proper Afrobeat. I would play 6 to 7 while Femi Kuti comes on stage to take over from seven to 11.
From the mindset of a hustler and go-getter, meeting and connecting with people in the industry; catching their vibes has always been something I looked forward to, especially when I knew they could influence me in a positive way and bring out another lucid side of me that’s admirable.
At what point did you take your first stride into music-making and what song would you say represented that refined turning point in terms of the struggle to break in?
For me, any song I’m dropping represents me trying to break into greater grounds. I had a song featuring Olamide and Ycee which was the Remix of ‘Nothing’. I’ve also been in studios, writing with a couple of other musicians. My recent song ‘See Finish’ with Mayorkun is also doing lots.
I didn’t get the chance to be in the studio with Olamide while he was recording since he had his verse recorded and sent over, but I still caught the vibe during our shoot. Everything felt different. Ycee and I, however, shared a studio while I was recording; we were still under the same label then.
When I recorded that song, I had lots going on. I had just lost a very close friend that supported my brand like it was his. I was on the street, away from home, hustling. I was like, ‘Since they don’t want me to do this music, the best thing was to cut myself off. Because it’s what makes me happy.’
After two years, my mum got my number and asked if it was the case that I didn’t want to return home. My reply was, “anyone could blow (break-in) any god-damned time.” So I just adapted that utterance into ‘Nothing’. I lost a friend, so I added the line that reads “one can die anytime too.”
Some artistes prefer doing singles within intervals in order to stay consistent. Others would rather opt for a body of work, momentarily going off the grid. What’s your experience managing consistency while aiming at creating hit songs?
Well staying consistent as an emerging artist in the industry has always been about the funds and support both in terms of fanbase and the relevant connections. Yet, I don’t look at it that way. In 2019, I did an EP ‘Gingo Vibes’. I still dropped a couple of singles. Now, I’m up to another project.
So, my consistency has always been based on epiphany and creativity alongside my drive to build that formidable brand for myself. As for my creative process, that depends on my mood when I’m in the studio. My mantra amid challenges has always remained that no one can stop greatness.
I could choose to tell a story. An idea could pop in even when I’m drunk and feel like making a hippie song for the streets and others that want to get drunk as well. Alternatively, I might talk about what’s going on in society because I had started out with the African Shrine and Afrobeat.
Sometimes, I get in the studio with artists whose records I admire. Other times I collaborate for brand considerations because you find that some artistes could have been around and all they need is a facelift from another singer who is already in the limelight. Whichever it is the song has to hit.
Let’s talk about your experience as a signee with Tinny Entertainment. At what point did the record label decide to have you on its bandwagon?
Yeah, I was at the Basement Gig, a platform for emerging artists, back in 2016. And the CEO of Tinny Entertainment happened to be there. He walked up to me after one of my performances, saying he likes my kind of music and wants to discuss business. I told my manager to follow up.
Before we knew it, we were going back and forth, trying to reach an agreement on a music deal. I would later leave the contract when I felt like it was time for me to be responsible for what’s going on around my music. I had manned up and decided it was time I handled the business myself.
What exactly went wrong such as to prompt you to prematurely end your deal with the record label?
I feel like I was more like a threat to the people that signed me. They chose me because they knew I was good. But when they got to see me as more than just good but a complete package, they started sidelining me. They wanted whomever they wanted to be popping more than me within the circle.
You find that some labels would sign you to grow you. Become successful and leave tomorrow, they don’t care. But some others are quite manipulative; they want you to be their boy for life which isn’t possible. At that point, I decided I would go form my movement and enjoy whatever comes with it.
Yeah, I’m really not in the best position to say exactly how they feel about the whole Tinny issue. Everybody has their way. What fans often make of the music business is quite distinct from what one sees from as the artiste. There are lots of emotions, money invested in the artistes.
Sometimes, the label CEO might really not want to see from the perspective of the artiste. They just want to treat you like a business, which isn’t strange because that’s where they’re operating from. My fallout with Tinny was something like this. As for Ycee’s case, I don’t want to delve into that.
Many seem to have had a share in label disputes. You find that an emerging Nigerian singer would agree to a legally backed deal before being signed only for issues to crop up when they hit the limelight. What’s the problem with record deals in the country?
Before my fallout with Tinny, I didn’t need up to N1 million to shoot a video. All I needed was that the label tries to see my skills from my perspective. You don’t have to say you want to get the returns from your investment right now. Yet, that was the policy; I couldn’t be the first to change it.
Now, the problem for other artistes could be different. There’s really nothing bad in signing a record deal. You just have to know the record you’re signing to. Some labels don’t have structure, just someone from the bank that wants to invest, looking to use bank algorithms to run artistes.
As bad as it seems, we have a couple of record labels in Nigeria doing fine. Shout out to Mavin, DMW. YBNL, Chocolate City. I look to see Gingo Music join their ranks too because I’ve been on that hustle. I know what it takes for an artist to place their career in the hands of another man.
You ordinarily don’t want to be in that situation, talk more of when you’re with someone who’s not waking up to you, who sidelines you when they feel you’ll leave them if you blow up from all the money they would invest. To be honest, I think that was the fear my former label had with me.
They were like. ‘If we put so much money on this guy, he’s good. He’s going to be like Wizkid and leave us someday’ and I’m like, ‘Yo, bro, just do your part. If you can’t, I’ll have to go out on my own and do the investment. I decided to write for artistes, save up some money, and sign myself.
Obviously, you’re not with any label currently. How has been the experience, being on your own? Are you still looking to get signed in the nearest future?
Right now it’s Gingo music and I’m growing it step by step. I’m not thinking of getting signed to a label right now. But I’m definitely up for collaborations. I got a couple of concerts and a body of work coming soon. It’s just all about growth and everything is a process.
To every young artiste looking to get signed in Nigeria, I would advise that they always make sure they have a team before going into anything business so it’s not just their discretion. Do this and you’ll see that my belief that ‘nothing can stop greatness’ couldn’t have been truer.
In turn, Patience and dedication are some virtues I’ll advise labels to always abide by. They should find a convenient space to accommodate the ideas and minds of the artistes so that, at every point, the singer doesn’t lose originality but gains more strength in their journey towards the limelight.
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