My disability challenges me to do better —Akin Shuga
Award-winning musician and leader of the popular Shuga band, Akin Tofowomo, popularly known as Akin Shuga, has become a sought after music star. The crossover artiste, who is also the brains behind the Shuga Limb Foundation Empowerment, has turned his disability into fortune through his music career. In this interview with SEYI SOKOYA, he speaks about life, among other issues.
Your brand has made you become a force to reckon with in the music industry. How did you achieve this?
I have no special way in carving a niche for myself in the industry. Life is about balance and I have been able to strike a balance in all that I do. I am just grateful to God for the accomplishment of my goals in life and making me relevant in the industry. I would say that I am a man of so many parts because I do more than music.
How do you handle your regular engagements and shows which have made you relatively a toast of many?
Rome was not built in a day. I have been in the industry for some time now and I have never been in a hurry. I am also of the opinion that things ought to be done the way they should. I have also not forgotten that there must be a platform which is the work. I think that some of the things that stand me out is the fact that I am particular about service delivery and the value I am offering. The Shuga Band has always been striving to give its best. It is beyond the music thing; we run it as an entertainment company and it is about everything relating to entertainment. We are running a multiple streams of income, but still under the same umbrella of Shuga Entertainment. I feel great that we have been able to set a standard that people can reckon with. Above all, it has been a wonderful experience.
With your level of experience in the industry, what do you think is missing among Nigerian artistes?
Artistes need to seek knowledge and pay for it. Most artistes are not good managers. There is more to being an artiste and managing a record label. There are many aspects of record label management, especially in the administrative work which would have a great impact on the creativity of the artiste. What we do in the office is the back end of what people see on stage and there is a team that handles that. Meanwhile, there are two types of teams. The first team includes staff, managers, band and those handling the administrative work, while the second team includes the accountant, lawyer and personnel to take charge of the operations. Having put all these in place, such artiste will, no doubt, be creative all the time.
How do you see your career compared to others in the industry?
I am not in competition with anyone. We are only concerned about doing things better as a musician and an entertainment company. We are open to learning everyday and acquiring more knowledge. We don’t treat it as a show and worried about collecting money alone, but we are much more concerned about service delivery. We are not “Elere” (jokers); we see music as a business. We are not like others who see it as a show. We run a complete entertainment company and every required office is functioning well. We consider what we deliver before we take money. That is why we keep getting shows. Our service delivery has opened doors and we have also built on relationships. It is registered in some people’s mind that when it is Shuga Band Nigeria Limited, we will surely deliver. Our marketing strategies have really helped us and the bridges we have built through relationships have made us to expand because we have not taken them for granted.
How many songs do you have to your credit?
I have a Christmas song. I also have a song entitled: “I Can Walk”, which is dedicated to people who are physically challenge. I have a wedding song entitled: “You are Married Today” and a romantic song. “My Lady”, among others. This is my line; it is what I can do with ease and I will give my best even beyond the fact that I am being paid for it.
What genre of music are you comfortable with?
I am a crossover artiste and I understand the music and the fusion I want to play. I play all kinds of music. I sometimes blend various kinds of music to suit my concept. I have a culture of good music. This is maybe because of my foundation and the tutelage I got from the Onabolus and the abundant grace of God before I finally established my band. I have paid my dues in the industry. I went through a lot of processes as a musician. In fact, I would say that I have seen it all. Now, I run a record label and at the same time, I am a musician.
What spurred you into music?
It was a huge decision and I am glad that I followed my heart. It is fun that I get paid to do what I love doing. I am extremely passionate about what I do for a living. Every experience is unique, both the good and the bad. Above all, I have been able to manage whatever crisis that comes my way because it is inevitable. I am blessed with the wisdom to manage human, mechanical and financial crisis. I have remained focused and determined to excel in this profession. I also thank God that I have a lot of people that supported me out of nothing. No doubt, the grace of God is sufficient, but there are certain things we need to know. Personally, I paid to learn to be financially discipline. I have also discovered that one is nothing if you don’t have good attitude, character, integrity in schedule irrespective the talent or fame.
Do you still have any aspirations?
My aspirations are huge. I have lined up my projections and I know that God will make me accomplish them. I am not in haste, but I am working hard to attain my dreams. I have not started at all because I still have a lot to deliver.
Would you say you have achieved your goal with your foundation in empowering the people living with disability?
I haven’t, but my joy is that I have been able to establish it and it has started helping people and most importantly raised hopes. I am happy that this initiative, Shuga Limb Foundation Empowerment, has become a reality. It gladdens my heart that I have planted a seed in some people’s lives. Though we may not have the needed fund yet, the joy is that we have been able to impact lives in our own way.
What would you have become if not musician?
My father wanted me to become a lawyer or a doctor, but it would have been miserable. Mind you, I don’t want people to get it twisted, because I don’t want to be seen as a controversial person. I am just happy that God guided me in the right path. It has been an awesome experience following my desire.
Your life has become a challenge to people who are not living with disability, especially on how you have been able to carry yourself on stage, how do you feel?
I don’t see myself struggling. I have always seen my disability as a challenge to do better. The only thing I can’t do is that I can’t walk fast to any destination, but don’t forget I will still get there. It is not a challenge for me; I can’t remember it exists. I feel I am made that way for a purpose.
Could you share you experience on what led to your disability?
My father was a judge and he treated all his children normally. I had polio at age five. You could imagine that being physically challenged I had to wake up by 5:30 a.m. to clean and dust the house. My father would not allow me eat without washing my plate. He told me that I did not need to be pitied, but rather to be encouraged and supported. The physically challenged out there don’t get out of their challenges and that’s why they are being pitied. People should not pity us, rather encourage and support us.
Do you think the government is doing enough for people living with disability as well as fighting against polio in Nigeria?
Before we talk about the government, what are we doing as a people in our immediate environment? These people are closer to us than the government. We have a lot to do by showing love and empathy to the underprivileged in our society before the government comes down to support. We have all kinds of grants from the United Nations. But my major concern is that people only focus on the campaign against polio eradication, what about those that are currently living with it? This is one of the reasons I came up with my NGO as a contribution. But this initiative is like a drop in an ocean. I can only do my best. We need to concentrate on the affected ones. Drastic steps should be in place to massively support affected Nigerians. I agree to a large extent that people with the challenges are mostly from poor background and we cannot rule out the fact that they hardly have the ability to survive. This is why I am emphasising that individuals, collective bodies and the government need to support the underprivileged to enjoy full life.
Back to music, what is your relationship with other musicians in the industry?
It is cordial. I have friends and I have also maintained a smooth relationship among colleagues in the profession. Personally, I feel the industry is growing too, but there is still a lot to learn because it is a huge market.
Do you also subscribe to the notion that artistes need to position themselves right in order to get endorsements?
It depends. It is all about marketing. It is good, but my aspirations are beyond that. I am a business-minded person and I know what is good for me. My goal at any point is to deliver and keep the work going. This also boils down to what every artiste stands for; what you want to sell and how you want to sell it. Many of the artistes never believed they would get to a high point in life and many of the things you see many of them do are mere hypes. This is why they get carried away with the hypes. Entertainment is what it is; to entertain, so, how come you that are entertaining people now tend to entertain yourself or also buy the hype that you are selling. I think that is a problem. I want to advice people in this category to get real. Personally, my orientation has really helped me build my career a lot and I am grateful for where I am today.
What should your fans expect from you in the incoming year?
2017 is my year, because a lot is going to come from us. I want people, especially fans, to watch out. At our end, it is about what the year holds for us and it is going to be a vital year of manifestation, more success and blessings. We will also have lots of recorded music. People should also look out for our empowerment programme in May and we will start rolling out the campaign from January.