Mr. Godbless Ubeibifayen is the leader of the Eboni Band, one of the biggest and hottest in the country right now. A father of three and obviously in his 40s, the dark dude from Delta State shared the story of his involvement with music with YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine’s AZUH ARINZE and JULIET IKEOKWU during a visit to our office on Monday, August 17, 2015. Enjoy…
How did your journey into music start?
My music (career) started when I was in class 3 in Uhrobo College in Warri. I was the music ambassador; then went to Victor Uwaifo School of Music. I did Grade 8. I was supposed to go to University of Ife and start from second year and I said while waiting for result, let me come to Lagos and here I am.
How did your parents react when they found out you wanted to do music?
Definitely bad. They never supported me. My dad wanted me to be an engineer. But I ran away from the house; he knew he couldn’t do anything about it. So, he said okay and insisted that I read music first. That was why he paid for my fees in Victor Uwaifo School of Music.
So, when did Eboni Band start?
It was formed in 1987. I can’t really say, but I know that Eboni Band is 19 years old. When I came newly to Lagos, I was working in a studio as a backup singer and an engineer; then I joined Onyeka Onwenu. I did backup for her for a year plus. My friend told me about a band he was putting together. That’s Sharp Band. I was with Sharp Band for 5 years. While I was in Sharp Band, the guys weren’t doing things the way I really wanted it to be because I was made the lead singer, so I decided to put my own band together. That was how the Eboni Band came about.
Eboni Band is one of the biggest bands in the country now, what makes it different from the other bands?
We all play the same kind of music, but what really matters is how you present your songs. I have my style, because I am from Warri and every Waffarian is a comedian, you know. I am not just that straight singer. When I sing, there is this kind of humour I add to it. Apart from singing, I make you laugh at the same time. That’s what stands me out and sometimes people mistake me for a comedian, which I am not.
You have played in many events, which is the most memorable for you?
I have played in high profile events, so I can really choose one.
Tell us some of the high profile events that you’ve played in.
I’ve played in Aso Rock, played for Obasanjo. I’ve been to Dubai, played for Total, Mobil, Dangote. I am like the in-house band for him. Ooni of Ife, Oba Elegushi…
How expensive is it to get your band to play in an event?
You only have to pay for our services and like good food, na money kill am. So, you understand (laughter).
As someone that has been playing for a long time, what makes a good music?
Be disciplined, know what you are giving to the listening audience, don’t take them for granted. Then, appearance, good instrument and sound. Be at the event early to check your sound. Then, mind the kind of songs you play. I don’t play every Naija song, especially when it comes to wedding or birthday parties because of the lyrics.
So, which of the Nigerian songs do you enjoy playing?
All of them, but it’s not all their songs that I play. For example, I like Wizkid, but I don’t play all his songs because of the lyrics. I like 2Face. He is just there.
As someone who is always invited to play in weddings, which of the Nigerian songs does the audience enjoy most?
Most Nigerian reigning songs, but I select songs based on lyrics. Even if the organiser chooses songs and the lyrics are bad, I will let them know that it’s not good for children. I play reigning songs that DJs play in clubs.
Which Nigerian artistes do you like their songs?
Personally, I like 2Face, Kcee, Darey, Omawumi and Flavour.
So, who among them is your friend?
They are all my friends.
For someone who has been in the industry for a long time, what is the greatest mistake that musicians make?
Not to invest. There is so much money in music, but the life span of a musician is very short. So, you have to invest when you are making money. Or you have to write songs that will last for a long time; that won’t fade in 3 months. Ever green songs. That’s why I respect 2Face till date.
Why do musicians like weed, women and wine (the 3 “w”)? Especially women…
You know, these things are part of music. They are one family. Like me, before I got married, I was a wonderful man. You know what I mean. For woman side. But when I got married, I started stopping some things.
Why is it that entertainers can’t run away from these things?
Because they come around. Entertainment is just like sugar and ants. Once you drop it, they come around. That’s just it. It takes just self-control for an individual to stay without them.
Your wife (Wisdom) also plays with you, how did you meet her?
We met under the same music platform. I left Sharp Band and was looking for a female singer. She came in as a back-up singer. From there, the rest is history. I was playing somewhere before and one day I was so tired. So, I told her to help me finish the remaining 30 minutes, and when she sang Greatest Love Of All, I said men, you won’t be a backup singer anymore. I gave her a South African song to learn. Seriously, she did them well.
How long have you been married and what is still keeping it?
We’ve been married for like 12 years and what has kept us going is that she’s been my friend. I don’t see her as a wife. Her pet name is Smallina. We are good friends. I make her laugh and she makes me laugh. When you see us, you will never believe that she is my wife.
Tell us about your kids.
I have three children, Nuel and Nuella (twins). They were born on Christmas eve. Then, my first daughter, Sophia is 10 years old.
You are one of the biggest bands in Nigeria, why do you think people enjoy having you play for them?
It’s just about being professional. Even if you are paid N100,000, you have to deliver 100 percent. The way you carry yourself is the way people take you. Sometimes when you are high, people watch you from a far. So, when you give out your complimentary card, they will call you because they like what you do.
When you want to relax, what do you do?
I am a film freak. I can stay at home for one week with good films.
Other than Onyeka Onwenu, who are the other musicians that you have worked with?
Just Onyeka. But on Eboni Band platform, I have worked with many musicians. Because sometimes they are invited to the occasion that we are playing and we back them up with their session men.
Why did you choose the Eboni name for your band?
My complexion. Majek of Jazz Vill gave me the name. When I was putting the band together, I was confused about the name. So, I told him and he said your complexion, Ebony. Even before then, I used to answer Blackface, but there were many people answering that. So, I chose Eboni.
You have played for many people, who haven’t you played for that you would really like to play for?
I will like to play for the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth, President Buhari and Obama.
I know that you once did an album, when are we getting another one from you?
That album I did was Christmas Made in Warri. I did it because I felt like doing it. But the music industry right now; to promote an album now, you need to rob a bank. So, what I have right now is Eboni Band. It’s like building a house and the pillars are not strong, and the house crashes. I want to do more for Eboni Band, make it very solid and do other things. Later on! I want to get instruments and take it to a higher height.
What’s your success story?
I think my success story is my wife, my home. For every successful businessman, when your home is not intact, you can’t succeed. My wife has really contributed to my life and Eboni Band seriously, because when I get home, that is where I rest my head and if everything is not in order, I won’t be able to think about my next show or sleep at home. My wife has been God sent.
Do you do any other thing aside entertainment? You talked about investment, do you do any other thing aside entertainment?
No, I don’t do any other thing. Entertainment is all I know.
So, where do you see Eboni Band in future?
I see it improving every day, taking me places I’ve never been before. Like outside the country and being recognized around the world.
What advice can you give to people that want to come into the entertainment business?
Whatever you choose to do, be focused and disciplined. When you have these two things, definitely you will get to where you want. You will face obstacles, discouragements, but when you are focused and disciplined you will achieve all.
What is the most difficult decision that you’ve taken as an entertainer?
Getting married, because when I was single, I was so free. But right now, it’s just one channel. I don’t have to change to other channels (laughter).
What are you working on presently?
I have a new gig in Dubai, I sent Eboni Band there. They’ve been there for like 3 years. They are a resident band in the lounge. It’s owned by a Nigerian friend, but he contracted me to help him with that aspect.
What are the challenges that you face in your work?
Clients not paying makes you face pressure from your staff. They don’t pay when they are supposed to pay.
You said you sent your staff to Dubai. aren’t you scared that they may run away from there?
No! They are under a contract, solid one. And I trust the people I sent there. I know that people change, but I trust them.
Have you experienced that before?
I’ve only been to Dubai once to play, but this one is different because it’s a contract. So, I have not experienced it before.