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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

My father almost disowned me because of music - Project Fame Star, Kuforiju Yusuph Olayiwonuola

By Paul Ukpabio

Project Fame Star, Kuforiju Yusuph Olayiwonuola is one of the budding upcoming stars in the Nigerian music scene right now, but though his music is currently receiving much airplay, he has not however forgotten the hard route; he had to take to get to where he presently is. According to him, “some of the challenges he faced in the past, were tough.” 
That is because, music came early to him. At eleven, Yusuph says, he had already started showing signs that his career path will run into showbiz. “I started singing when I was eleven. So I didn’t just wake up and decide to become a music star. No, I started early in life to sing: I started by writing the songs. I was writing at home. I was dedicated to music; it was not something I had to learn at that stage. I just found the inspiration coming to me and I began to write one song after another.”   
Just as he knew then that he had found his lifelong talent, his parents also saw same in young Yusuph.
“Yes, my parents knew I had the talent. They also knew that I could sing because at the mosque, I used to recite the Quran so well. I was always a choice for that and any opportunity to sing, people usually called on me then at the mosque. Also, as a senior prefect back in secondary school, I had learnt early, how to face the crowd and that helped my musical career to kick off early too.”
However, the first major challenge to his musical career came from home. 
Asked what his parent’s reaction was when he told them he wanted to pursue a musical career in life, Yusuph replied:
“My parents didn’t totally accept. Especially my dad, he was angry, he said he was going to dis-own me. He asked me to consider how his friends and other people will feel and react when they find out that his son is singing music about town! My father is an Alhaji, a devout Muslim. So the reaction continued like that at home, though my mom was gentler about the matter.”
But that challenge also, did not last for long. Yusuph soon started excelling music.  “Their reaction towards me later changed. They eventually started thinking differently about his love for music. And that was however when I won a rap-battle. That was when my dad realised that truly I can sing.
“I won the rap battle at Rock City Fm at Abeokuta. I won what they called down-town-rap-battle. I won from the weekly to the monthly and then the annual round off. That really impressed my dad, who started doing a re-think. As for me, the love for music became even deeper. My mom then started supporting me fully but my dad was not openly supportive. He was still sceptical.”
So, why music? Yusuph gave a boyish laugh and replied, “Music is what I hope to make a career out of. It is something that gives me joy. I love to write songs. God has given me talent to sing. Ofcourse, I have been lucky in the sense that i have been able to combine music with attending a formal school.
“I was supposed to attend the University of Ilorin and study Mass Communication but I ignored it. 
There was also a time I got admission to North American University, but the lure for Lagos was 
 strong and compelling. So eventually, I found my way here to Lagos Polytechnic because of the information that I got that the place encourages talents. I also knew that Lagos was the market ground for me; so though I gained admission into a university, the lure for Lagos the city where it all happens for talented people, attracted and kept pulling me. Lagos was the place to be.
Yusuph found his way to Lagos. “When I arrived, within two weeks, people had started noticing me as a talented person in the campus. I was invited to ‘Laspotech All stars’, a talent group on campus. From there I got more popular because I was defeating more and more students in rap-battle. 
Eventually I gained people’s heart at my first performance at a Valentine event in 2013 on campus. Before we ended the second semester, my popularity had soared on campus, and I had become the co-ordinator of the group. I brought together more and more talented people in the school.
“That same year, I won another talent hunt in Abeokuta. I was first position. Then again I won at Coke Studio competition just when I was about graduating from the polytechnic. I performed on the Lagos stage at Laspotech. And then went on to Project Fame in 2013.
It was at Project Fame that Yusuph got his unprecedented publicity. But how did he get into the competition, we asked?
“I have always known about Project Fame from its inception. I went for the competition in 2013; I got as far as the wild card level. The following year I qualified to that level again. In 2015 I didn’t go because I was busy working at Fidelity Bank. I missed the audition. But this year, my musical talent motivated me further. I got to realise that my strength is in fuji genre. The fuji that I fuse into other genre of music. And I had come to realise that I have a good voice for fuji music. So I stuck to it. The fusion of that fuji into the other genre made me to stand out. I was picked in Lagos at the initial audition. I got the golden ticket straight into the first 24 in Lagos. I started becoming very popular. I think all around the country, about 30,000 or more contested through audition. So it was a great deal to be one of the top 24.
And how did he feel to be one of the top ten at the competition? I felt and still feel great. Project Fame is a wonderful platform. It gives people the ability to learn, to be known and to be encouraged. It is a wonderful place to meet great people, a place to express ones talent and to equip oneself on the music platform. I got to sing, speak better, alongside other things. More importantly, being on Project Fame for me meant popularity on the West African coast. You know people came from the other West African countries for the competition and which made a total of those who came out to vie for a space in the finalist being 40,000, and you know also that the competition is shown all over West Africa.”
Yusuph is holding on to his memories in the Project Fame Academy. He also says he cherishes his days there.
“I was in the house for nine weeks; it was a dream to me. I was used to sitting at home and watching people in the Project Fame Academy, but here was I there live at the Academy. It was an over-whelming experience for me. I left the Academy just few weeks before the finals. I was one of the popular contestants. I knew the audience loved me. I was saved by the audience four times. And that to me is a great feat.”
So what does the future hold for this young talent? Yusuph took a deep breath and revealed his expectations to us. “I want to infuse the fuji music into other genres. I want to come out with such a blend in the nearest future. So we can have fuji in Jazz, in R&B, in hip hop, in dance hall and so on. Any genre that comes my way, I want to fuse in fuji.
“I know that my popularity has soared. I get to places and people recognise me as the guy that was on television on Project Fame platform. I get to places, and people I don’t know seem to know so much about me. Even law enforcement personnel see me in traffic and they ask me if i was sometime on Project Fame. But there are also the bad sides that are when people see me; they assume that I have lots of money, or that I have arrived. Some even go to extent of asking me for money. And girls do that a lot. That’s because they feel that I have loads of money now. Then there is also the affection aspect that is the emotional side of it.
“I mean the girls want relationship and they are demanding for everything a relationship entails. So I have to be careful so that I do not derail. I have cautioned myself that I have o remain focus, because there are so many things now that I see, that can easily distract me. Some girls even want to get pregnant for me right now! Yes some girls want that because they just want to be with me. So I have to be focus. I want to face music and music alone for now. I was the first contestant to drop a song titled ‘miliki’ which was produced by TY Mix. I have been getting a lot of air play. It is right now on MTN Music Plus. And I am trying to work on a re-mix though I do not want to let the cat out the bag right now as to who I will use for the remix.”

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