The Shuga Band is one of the most successful live bands around. The music band, for 16 years, has performed in major gigs and virtually before dignitaries all over the country and beyond. The CEO, Akin Tofomowo, speaks about his journey so far, the state of the music industry among other issues.
Influences: I listened to a lot of music from Jazz, R&B, pop and from my own background. My father used to play and listen to Ayinla Omowura, Ayinde Bakare, Frank Sinatra, Hubert Ogunde and the likes. Growing up, I was enthralled by the arts of watching videos like Ogboju, Ode Nigbo and Irunmole. That was how deep I was culturally. Listening to deep Yoruba and Igbo lyrics was part of my formative days.
My Work: Africa Christian Medley: I have done a song for MKO Abiola before and a couple of works with other people. My present work is the African Christmas Medley. The decision to record this was borne out of the fact that Christmas is nostalgic for me and other people. It is a part of us whether you are a Christian or not. Africa Christmas Medley album has something for everybody. Is it the Dansaki track in Yoruba which eulogises Jesus Christ or the Onye Nzoputa in Igbo that praises God?
Everybody loves Christmas music and this album is there for those who love good music. It has eight tracks and there is a song for everyone. During the yuletide season, we perform almost everyday. We deliberately leave some days so that we can have some time.
Shuga Band and Our Music: As a live band, we are designed to play all genres of music. It’s our love for music and arts that makes us to do so. Our music is influenced by the niche that we find in the market segmentation. We are a company, a band that keeps finding what our clients want and work towards satisfying them. I have a 14-piece band and some have been with me for nine years, some six years and we have travelled far and wide – Dubai, Paris and Sri Lanka.
A lot of them are graduates and we all understand what it means to be a live band. On the average, we perform over a hundred gigs per year. Our band is as sweet as the name implies. We started with four-piece band members. Live music is just one of what we do. We do other things; when we are not performing, I am recording sound somewhere. We won the Best Band of the Year months ago by WEBS Awards.
Foundation and Growing Up: My father was a top judge, not just a magistrate judge and we had cooks, drivers and house helps living with us. From Port Harcourt to Enugu to Calabar to Lagos, these were where we lived and it was a good experience.
My foundation, Shuga Limb Foundation, is spurred out to provide people with mobility aids and not to eradicate polio. I am not concerned with eradicating polio but helping people who have suffered polio. I had polio as a child and I grew up with that but my patents never made me feel as a lesser child.
I was not handicapped as it were. I can’t remember my limitation as a child as we had so many house aids working in my house. Recently my wife asked me, was there ever a time when your limitation came to the fore? I told her never! I can’t remember. I played football and was a goal keeper in my neighbourhood in Enugu GRA where we lived. I was the shot stopper and the preferred number one goal keeper. You can imagine that. My friends would come to my house and ask of me, the shot stopper, and my parents would wonder. I was that good and did not see any limitation. It was later that when I have grown up now that I became conscious of the limitation. I attended UI briefly after which I went to LASU to study Political Science.
How we function as a Live Band: For live performance, our clientele goes from me to you. We perform live at your wedding, your birthday or your gig. As a live band musician, we build our clientele from the scratch. Other artistes use the radio or TV to showcase themselves but we use the oldest form of communication which is performing live at your event. We go for a gig and our client appreciates our performance and tells another and our fan base grows massively. We are exposed to different levels of performances. We are trending and do what our fans would love us to do. It’s not like normal musicians who need the radio, TV and newsprint to make them known. No one can say, play my jazz songs from 9am to 12pm. That is what a live performance does.We have done concerts before like, Tyme Out with Tee A.
Even when we are not performing, we are recording somewhere. We run an entertainment company and we also have an 8-5 job. The band only plays when there is a booking; we have other things we do. Shuga Entertainment owns the band but the band is managed by One Stream Global. They manage other acts and other bands too. One thing about Shuga Band is that without being arrogant, we do our work well and pamper our clients. Part of the challenge is that we have to be spontaneous to utilise our instinct to deliver what songs people like the day before and we have performed at a burial ceremony. The people’s reactions determine the flow of our music.
Performing in Sri Lanka (Asian Country): It was a great experience. We performed in the midst of mixed races; we had people from America, Greece, Montecarlo and also Nigerians. It was a traditional Asian wedding between a Nigerian and Sri Lankan. They had their band; that was the beauty of it. They also performed first and their band did so well. We came to do our thing and trust me, they were thrilled. They said they had never seen something like this before. One thing about Shuga band is that, not sounding arrogant, we more than deliver! The father of the bride was so thrilled.
My Marriage and Family Life: I am married for almost five years now. We did the traditional wedding years ago. Two things you can’t take away from me are my family and my music. I like a compact family.
Music Industry, a Jungle: The music industry is a jungle and largely unstructured. You record a piece of music and another person claims the credit. There are four agencies that work for the interest of artistes. For example you record in Nigeria, one of the agencies will collect your royalties for you in London or wherever. Who is doing that here? We have lacked structures for a while now.
If you record a song and it’s not successful, you hide from view. I know major music labels in Nigeria and the independent ones. What are the distribution channels? There are only four major labels in the world. Nigeria has no major label; we used to have. Where are the Tabansi Records? They are no more. What a major label does is that when a song is released, the distribution channels in places like Enugu and others will push your music. Do you know the amount of financial resources at their disposal? It’s huge and we don’t have that here. And you know musicians here don’t respect contracts.
Also musicians make more than what bankers earn but the money just goes out like that. That’s why in my company, we don’t pay them cash, we pay into their account and help them plan their finances. Money management is what a lot of artistes don’t have. As a musician, you manage what you have now properly because you won’t always have the clients the way you do now.