Nigeria’s prom queen of music, Aituaje Iruobe, popularly known as WAJE (Words Aren’t Just Enough), is one of the very few Nigerian music acts who would take a hiatus risky for many to do yet waltz back to take with ease her pride of place. About her career, motherhood and more, she speaks with LANRE ODUKOYA.
You’d stayed on recess for too long; were you not under pressure to make songs?
When you see certain write-ups about you, you will get worried. Things like that make you to start thinking about your career, if it is ending or not. But I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well. It is one thing to be in a hurry to put out music and it is another to put out great music. If you take Adele for example, she takes her time to release songs. It does not make sense if you have seven albums, but people can only relate with only three songs. I am a live artiste, I enjoy the stage and everything that has to do with music. But I have to be sure that whatever I put out is worth it. If I am not inspired to put out something and I did, people would query why I put out quack content. That is even worse, because you might never get the chance to redeem yourself. I was not really under pressure because I had supportive people around me and I knew what I was working on. Being a judge on The Voice Nigeria took a lot of my time. Since it was my first experience, I did not plan well; I thought it would not be an issue. But I have lots of plans this year; my album has to drop too. My new singe, ‘The Mountain,’ is so special to me because it is like a new born baby. And the feedback has been amazing.
Have you been getting shows all along?
Shows are not really how we make money in this industry. There are times you see us on billboards and we get little or nothing from the promoters. How many shows did we have last year? Even most companies did not do their end of year parties; artistes were the ones creating concerts for themselves.
With qualities you saw during the show, were you not afraid that you could be substituted pretty soon by fairly younger acts?
It is one thing for you to be an A-list artiste and it is another thing for you to maintain it. For me, I just want to improve. The accolades I get are great and I am inspired by them, but it does not really put me under pressure. If you’ve been following me closely, I am also very involved in developing young talents anyway I can. I might not be able to give you money, but I advise and mentor many of them. When I started out in the industry, I was signed to a record label that did not do anything for me for a long time. If I see a young talent who wants a record deal, I would tell him or her the pros and the cons to be aware of what it is all about. I do not see those talents as threats to me; I even think it is a blessing that we have them. My fans will always be mine as long as I continue to create great music.
Are you signed on to a record label?
I am an independent artiste; I have been like this for a while. I have been getting offers, but I have decided to be alone. Maybe, my experience with the first record deal I signed made me to stand alone. However, there are so many people I have collaborations with. In as much as I am an independent artiste, I have lots of partnerships with established people and organisations. I cannot do all on my own, to be honest.
Do you agree that P-Square’s ‘Do Me’ shot you to limelight?
It served what it came to serve; remember I was not in the video.
Why were you not in the video?
That is a story for another day. Some things are bound to happen because I needed to learn a few things and be more deliberate in decisions I make while working with other people. I also needed to understand the power of having a team that looks out for you. Even as an up-and-coming artiste, you need a management team to get you to the next level. I did not take a good leverage on certain relationships because I did not know better at a time.
Was it because you didn’t know the song would become a massive success?
I knew it would be big because they were already stars and I was just a young undergraduate. Of course, I was not happy I did not feature in the video, especially since I wanted to be in the limelight and get money from it.
How did you combine music and education?
For me, I just wanted to be on stage to show myself. When I started singing, it was somebody that even told me I could make money from music. The first time I performed in my school, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, people shouted and I did that without my voice. They gave me N200 or so. The first time I earned so much was at the end of the year party of the then Zain mobile. They paid me N250, 000 and it was so huge for me.
How did you spend the N250, 000?
I am the first child in my family and I am involved in taking care of them. So, it really helped us stabilise a few things.
Other than music, what would you have settled for?
I don’t know really. I have thought of the question too many times. I do not like cooking, but I like to bake. I did ‘chin-chin’ for a while with my friend. I would have continued making and selling ‘chin-chin’ I guess.
It seems you are a bit emotional about nearly everything?
Yes, I am very emotional. But I am changing gradually; I try to hold myself more now. I used to cry a lot when I see certain stories about me. That is why most of my songs are inspiring because that is what I had in my head at a time. But the media has been fair to me generally.
Why did you decide to lose weight?
You know when they stream live on television, you look bigger. I do not know what really happened to me, but I did not look nice and people were saying negative things about me on twitter. I really cried, I can never forget that day. It was in October 2013. I called my manger that I did not want to do this again. I was sincerely tired. He told me that if there was something I did not like about myself, I should change it. I started working out and I was determined about it. Also, life is hard so you have to surround yourself with people that feed your ego. A man may not have anything in his pocket, but because of the people around him, it does not bother him. I do not like to be seen with people who make me feel bad.
Is it true that you lost weight to impress a man?
I am not married yet, so they will talk. As you grow old, you will understand that people will always have opinions. If you do something either negative or positive, they will come after you. I did that because I saw that I was a brand and I wanted to be able to sell myself. I want to be able to go on magazine covers and look good. I am constantly looking for how to spread my music so I need to reinvent myself.
Does this mean fat people are not appealing enough?
I do not say that. If you do not like something about yourself, change it; it does not matter anyone’s opinion. I am not a thin person; I still have my shape and curve.
Why do you try to hide your daughter from the public?
The thing is that she has her life to live. I think the focus should be on Waje, not my family. She is still young so she is trying to discover herself. Whether she goes into entertainment or not, I will support her.
Would you say being a single mother has influenced you to be who you are?
Definitely your background and story always has a way of influencing your decision as you grow in life. So it probably has an effect on me as a person, but it is not really about being a single mother. I am a woman, a parent, and as a one, I have a huge obligation to bring up my daughter in a certain way. I am also a Christian, a strong one. I also get lessons from young girls who send me direct messages and so on. I do not usually like the term ‘single mother’ to be honest with you. I am a parent and I need to do my job as a parent.
Have you given up on getting married?
Of course, I am still open to it. My kind of man has to be God-fearing because the Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I want a man that is not afraid to be expressive and not afraid to support his woman as well. He should not put restrictions on what I do too. He does not need to have all the money in his account, but must be hard working. When he is hard working, it means that we would get up when we fall. I do not care much about his height or complexion, but he must not be too short because I am tall.
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