A WAW time-out with Mr. Ibobo 2015


This interview is powered by Words Are Work, as a pilot for our ‘Youth Corner’, a beautiful, unfolding work in progress. Ibobo Ujaligwa is an annual affair among the Abor people of Enugu state, which comprises activities aimed at socio-cultural development. One of such activities is a beauty pageant, and our guest for today is winner of one half of the pageant, Mr. Ibobo 2015, Ikenna Ugwu.

It was a WAW session getting to know him, and we hope this will go a long way in motivating our young people. And maybe older ones too. Enjoy.

We can’t wait to meet you!

Hello, my name is Ikenna Ugwu. Just four days ago, I turned 19 –

WAW. Happy birthday in arrears!

Thank you very much. I am a second year undergrad at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and I major in Mechanical Engineering.

What about your family Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?

I’m the last child in my family. I love my family because we are always so ready to see the best in each other no matter what it takes. I grew up primarily in Abuja even though my older siblings spent most of their formative years in Kaduna. I’d like to think my childhood was very un-childish. My parents were already much older at the time I was a kid. So I don’t think I did a lot of childish things.

I see. Mechanical engineering though, sounds very mechanical. But you look so gentle. How come?!

I guess it doesn’t come with the look after all. That’s why stereotypes are dangerous and one of the things that need to be rid of.

Lol. Very true. So why did you choose mechanical engineering? Are you passionate about technology?

There’s no concrete reason why I chose what I am studying but I generally have just always been inclined to study engineering. In a sense, I want to have something that broadly deals with technological development especially in more technologically deprived areas like Nigeria, but I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about technology. No.

What are you passionate about then?

Well I’m passionate about music from a critical standpoint. And even though I’m still growing, I know I would want that to play an important role in my life.


Music? I did not see that coming. Wait. How does a Mechanical engineering undergraduate who recently won a pageantry (we’ll get to that one soon too) work music into ALL that?

(laughs) I guess it’s a road less travelled but it’s all a process.

Road less travelled huh? How far and for how long have you travelled down this road?

I’ve been passionate about music for as long as I can remember and have always hoped to be involved in the music industry.

Any break-in yet? Or breakthroughs maybe?

Not yet. I’m still in college, blogging and trying to get my life on track first.

Blogging? You blog?

I do.

Cool. What do you blog about?

It’s a music blog. I do reviews, lists, articles based mostly on western music, not Nigerian.

Interesting. What kind of music mostly? And why not Nigerian?

I enjoy every kind of music honestly, and I write articles about all kinds of music. Nothing is excluded but I’ve come to see myself indulging more in Hip-Hop and Alternative Pop. I do blog about Nigerian music but just not as much. To put it simply, I blog about the best music I hear and I scout a lot. Nigerian music mostly never makes the cut.

How do you define Nigerian music? And what ‘disqualifies’ it?

Nigerian music is any indigenous Nigerian song. If someone like Beyonce sang Shoki, for example, I would not consider it Nigerian music. Looking at music from a global scale, Nigerian music doesn’t really count. Sad but true. I highlight the amazing African songs I hear. By the way, I never disqualified Nigerian music.

Oh. So Nigerian music would be any music done by a Nigerian?

Not necessarily; Nigerian music, by my own definition is music that is localized to Nigeria that does not have effect globally. Artists like Sade Adu are Nigerian but their music is globally recognized.

Wizkid is globally recognized.

He isn’t. People just throw that accomplishment around frivolously. Are they globally recognized in the sense of their music or their person? That you do shows in Japan and Sweden and team up with French DJs does not make you globally recognized.

So what makes an artiste globally recognized?

When their music has a substantial effect on the global music market. The last Nigerian artiste to even come close to global superstardom was Asa and that’s about it. Well the bottom line is Nigerian artists aren’t seen on a global scene and I do not blame them. But let’s save it for another day.

Yes, let’s. (lol) Meantime tell us what your blog address is. And more about what to expect on it.

My blog is www.popandotherdrugs.wordpress.com. There’s no major rubric for it. I basically highlight the best music out there on my articles. Sometimes I write about issues plaguing the music industry like how albums were going out of fashion because of suffering sales and how they’re coming back now. My last post highlighted the best new songs of the week. Check that out for some new amazing tunes.

Hmmm. I definitely will, as will all the beautiful people reading this (right? *wink*) Back to the matter, the chief reason we’re here: you are the reigning Mr Ibobo. First off, congratulations again.

Thank you.

What is Ibobo?

Basically, cultural rejuvenation for development and growth.

Were you ever interested in modelling?

Nope. I’ve never even considered modeling. I’ve been told I have the face for it. But I do not model at all.

What inspired you to enter the competition?

I participated in the Ibobo pageant as a way of reiterating my cultural values. It is probably a one-time thing. I don’t really picture myself in modeling. I love fashion but it’s not what I want to do professionally.

Generally, how was the experience for you?

Well I was scared. We all were. I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I didn’t want to humiliate myself. There was a grooming process by the organizers. It was very short, impromptu kind of, but it covered the basics. They let us know what the competition would be like. The competition itself was an interesting experience. Like I was going in with the mindset of ‘whatever happens, I can’t come last.’ And then, I emerged victorious! It was very surreal.

Congratulations again. How did it feel?

I never expected it. It was only after I had started ‘performing’ that I knew I had it in me. As I said, winning felt surreal but it also made me realize that anything is achievable.

Winning comes with responsibility. What are your plans going forward, as Mr Ibobo?

Well first and foremost, I am a student so I’m back in school now. Studying hard. Literally always busy. I plan to chase some internships but I’ll then focus again on my books. As for Ibobo Ujaligwa, I see intergalactic possibilities. We will bring our culture to the global stage and it will shine.

Last words?

Anything is achievable.

It’s a wrap. This was a pleasure, Ikenna. Thank you.

Thank you for having me.


Words Are Work

3 replies added

  1. Odinenu keren-happuch February 14, 2016 Reply

    I checked out the blog. It was really cool, better than I expected. I even downloaded some songs.

    • Chisom February 16, 2016 Reply

      I agree with you. Ikenna is doing a great job there. Thanks for following through, Keren

  2. Ike-Nwoke Uchenna February 17, 2016 Reply

    Okay, this is officially an eye-opener, in a negative way. The vibes I was getting from this engineering-cum-blogging guy was that the songs that matter are only those that fill up Western lists of “Top 10 Urban Hits” in popular blogs and music channels like Trace TV. He makes it look like these popular Western artistes didn’t start from somewhere. His problem with Nigerian music is definitely not the quality of it (I mean, Beyonce could sing a Yoruba song like Shoki to a bewildered American audience without doing much damage to her fan base). Our local artistes need to be promoted somehow, but for some reason Ikenna believes comparing Western and Nigerian music is a light and darkness situation.

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