WHY I LEFT LAGBAJA – EGO
Ego Ihenacho Ogbaro was Lagbaja's main female vocalist and her name has been mostly linked to Never Far Away, the solo dedicated to her in Lagbaja's Africano; The Mother of Groove Album. But the newly married singer says the confidence she exhibits on stage today took her many years to develop.
" After I left Ikeja High School, I wanted to start earning money immediately. I did all sorts of things. I worked in a restaurant (not a fancy one), in a supermarket and even in a ball-making factory at Ajao Estate, but I only lasted a day there because I could not handle it" Ego which is short for Nwakaego meaning " a child is better than money" eventually found a job as a receptionist at a furniture company, where I made a steady living and still had time to sing.
I come from a very creative family of rappers, actors and singers, even my mum can sing.
My friend, Hakeem Benson, told Sunny Nneji, who belonged to Bisade Ologunde's Colours band, about my sonorous voice and he visited me at the furniture company. When Bisade walked in, I thought; “who is this tall handsome man?” I can still recall. He was smiling. He invited me for an audition and was pleased with my performance.
Three months later, he contacted me and asked me to sing at a show which was planned for the following day. It was World Health Organisation event and I was scared and nervous before going on stage that my legs were shaking visibly.nervous or not, I sang so impressively that I then appeared regularly with Colours and within 24 months, the group evolved into Lagbaja. Thus began my extraordinary musical journey.
As Lagbaja produced one successful album after another, being with him, the creative relationship and friendship among the band members deepened, fed by their common joy in music-making and the enthusiastic response of their audiences. We never had a bad show, they were all incredible. There were also trips around the world, which I found extremely enlightening. " I have never been outside the country before I joined the band and I really wanted that adventure. I got to see Brazil, Cuba, America, England, Belgium, Jordan Central and West Africa".
However, the thrill of success did not come without sacrifices. One of the hardest choices I had to make was between furthering my musical career and my education. I was admitted into Lagos State University for a five-year part-time course in Public Adminstration in 2001. Seven years after I joined Lagbaja, but when the tours took me outside the country, my studies suffered. " I was the only girl in the band and there was no one who could replace me when we travelled.
I missed my first-semester examinations in the first and second years, so I knew that I would have to do a sixth year to make it up. At the beginning of my third year, I finally made the difficult decision to give up the course". Nevertheless, I did not abandon my ambition for studying, I enrolled for French lessons at Alliance Francaise, which I found very helpful when we travelled to Francophone countries in and outside Africa.
I still want to study French at University, I have not given up on that." Motivated by my love for music and the desire to be independent, I got stuck with Lagbaja. The experience greatly broadened my knowledge of music and of finances. Over the years, we got salary increases, I am not a shopaholic or a spendthrift, I do not waste money, I save it, or invest in shares. I never overindulged myself, so that I always have something to fall back on".
However, in December 2006, I finally announced to the band that I was leaving. My decision had long been expected by my fans, and I wanted to begin 2007 with a new slate. " Even Lagbaja had been expecting it, it was just a matter of time. But I knew that it would be hard for him to adjust and find someone else to sing with the group. He was sad, but he realised that it was the right time for me to leave and he promised to support me in whatever I do".
My breakaway was boosted by the popularity of my brilliant interpretation of Never Far Away, the hit track of Lagbaja's Africano: The Mother of Groove album. It was actually written before I joined the group, but when Lagbaja decided to add it to the album, I did not anticipate it being so successful. And while I really enjoyed the thrill of its popularity, I kept warning myself, do not overdo it-do not push your luck.
Last year, I got married to Niyi Ogbaro, who is now my manager. Together, we are developing a solo career in which I hope to explore traditional music, a genre I never listened to before joining Lagbaja, but have since grown to love. I cannot imagine myself breaking out of soul, which has heavily influenced my style. I love, live and breathe soul. I want to do relaxed, laid-back music. I think there is enough hip-hop around. In the past, I only knew Chris Okotie, Onyeka Onwenu and lots of foreign artistes. But eventually, because I can speak Yoruba as my mum is from Ijebu, I started listening to traditional songs. Percussion will definitely feature a lot in my future music.
I hope to become a solo artiste, and I am currently putting together a band to back me up at events like weddings and birthday ceremonies. I used to do that a lot and I miss those days. I also like singing other people's songs. Which is not to say, I lack lyrics of my own. I am currently composing songs that I have been writing since 2003. The realisation that I could compose as well as perform was an important stage in my development.
For years, Lagbaja encouraged me to write songs but I kept telling myself, I could not do it because each time I tried to put pen to paper, nothing happened. Then, on my way from a tour to South Africa, I bought myself a midget ( tape recorder) because I could create a whole song, but forgot it almost immediately. The first time I used the midget, I sang a whole song in under 10 minutes, and that was how I started writing my own songs.
Although, I dislike having my privacy invaded by fans, I know I will still have to endure it during my future career. When I am on stage, I give myself to the audience completely. Outside the stage, I just want to be my own person-but that is not always possible. "Whereas Lagbaja managed to achieve a degree of anonymity outside his mask. I was constantly accosted by strangers. " I get really annoyed when people assume that any man who is with me is Lagbaja. My husband has been called "Lagbaja" several times! What is even worse is when people just stare at me, without saying anything. I do not know how to react-it makes me feel very awkward.
I am a human being and I do not know how to put up a pretence, so when I am having a bad day, you will know it. I treasure my privacy,I cannot relax and go to places I used to visit, like amala joints, because people would whisper about me so loudly that I can hear them. They seem to think that they own me. I went to mail a while ago and two girls just came up to me and took my photograph, without even asking me for permission. I was really offended, and let them know it, but they simply carried on as if my wishes were irrelevant-as though I were their property. "These are not serious incidents, but they are prices one pays for success."
Despite my aversion to public scrutiny, I am considering venturing into TV presenting and acting, judging from the characters I played in Lagbaja's video, I clearly have the talent to make as much of a success in that field as I have in music.