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Real Life Stories
By: LuRae Iwenofu
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Once you've heard 'Shayo', the song will resonate in your head for days to come. And Bigiano?s 2009 monster hit is still continuing to make waves in the international music scene.

 "It honestly takes a lot of hard work to get the end product and, more importantly, get it right."

DivaScribe catches up with this brother to know a bit more about his passions—and just how to make hit songs. Interviewing Bigiano felt like conversing with a sibling. His warm charm and ability to make one feel at ease is a rare gift for someone in his position. DivaScribe had to remember that we were on a job: Bigiano, a.k.a. Gabriel Bablalola, in a nutshell, is a real darling.

Hey Bigiano, how are you doing today?
(Breaks into song — a cappella, baby — and we are nearly tempted to add in our out-of-tune voice. We barely manage to restrain ourselves as the song is a real hip swinger.) It’s my birthday today so I am gonna celebrate with my boys tonight! You can come along too, sis. (Though tempting, we politely decline the kind offer as we had work the next day — what a shame.)

Our Divas would like to know more about you: your music, your creative influences, the man behind the music, and how you started. Can you start by telling us how you came to be where you are today?
It kicked off when I was really young and used to sing around the house. I then took this to our family church where I was told by strangers that my voice sounds very pleasant. Eventually, I got pulled out to be a choir leader, chorister, and choir coordinator at the age of 13.

So when did you become a professional singer?
It was in 1999. I sang with a group called Triple B. At that time the industry was quite difficult — and it still is to date — [and you can’t easily] get a record deal and be noticed. I went solo in 2004 and gave my life over to music. Eventually I realised that people needed to see the commercial side of what I could do; this was about the time I dropped “Shayo” in 2008. I can still do the soul R&B thing, but I wanted to incorporate the whole African [Nigerian hip-hop] vibe into my music. In Yoruba (a Nigerian dialect), there is a saying “ati ile la tin ko eso re ode”. This basically means that: before you start to explore new territories you should first explore your home base. I needed to get that appeal to my fans in Nigeria before I could do anything internationally.

So where are you residing now?
I live in Nigeria, but most of the time I am either in America, UK, or touring in Europe.

Your family must be incredibly proud of you and the success you’ve achieved?
My dad didn’t really like me doing music at first because, as a retired Army General, he wanted me to finish school and get a “real” job. It was a tough period for me though, but I made up my mind that music was the one and only thing that I wanted to do and what I believe God wanted me to do. I had to leave home and face the big bad world and really fend for myself. I stuck it out and here I am today. My dad wanted me to do an electrical engineering course or become a pilot. He wasn’t proud of me when I first started, but he is proud of me right now (chuckles). (Switches to patois) I dey do my thing and I won’t stop doing my thing — music is my life.

You still went to university right?
Yeah, I did. I studied Political Science, graduated in 1999; though I didn’t do my youth service.

How many siblings have you got?
There are six of us in my family: three boys and three girls. I am the fourth child. We’ve got a very even number there (chuckles).

How are your siblings handling your fame?
Everybody in my family sings. My mum still sings with the choir that I was with, and my sister is the choir coordinator. I am incredibly proud of my family and they don’t let the fame thing daunt them. I am still just their son/ brother.

Would you say that your talent came from your mum’s side then?
(Laughs) My dad sings as well, so I can’t really say. Right now he is into politics. Nah. Really, I put my talent down to God and I thank him every day for blessing me with this gift.

So what do you do to promote your music and get that extra visibility outside of Nigeria?
I am currently working on my new album and I do a lot of tours. At the moment I am shooting a video here in London and also in the process of setting up another in Nigeria. In terms of marketability or visibility, I don’t think about it in terms of how far you’ve gone in promoting yourself, but how well you’ve done your thing before putting it out for your fans. And magazines like DivaScribe are also good vehicles for us to utilise in getting our art out there. 

Have you got any promotions lined up whilst you are in the UK?
Yeah, I have got a few tour dates here in the UK and I have just come over from a tour in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Paris — the whole gamut. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to finish my tour dates as I was needed here to wrap up the video shoot for my next single. However, I have a couple of dates in Liverpool and I hope to restart my tour dates in a couple of weeks, but I might have to interrupt the shoot and get back out there for my fans. Today is my birthday so I am chilling out today and hanging with my boys (raucous laughter – breaks into his monster hit song). “First of August na the date o.” (His happy mood is infectious.)

So what happens when you are at the studio getting creative? How do you conjure up hit songs?
If God has given you the talent, it’s not something you are forcing yourself to do. Most of the time, when a song or melody comes into my head — I start to sing it out loud, and then I just grab my pen and paper and start writing it up. Once I have it written down, I then know the exact producers that would do it justice.

So what’s your next album about?
Wow, it’s a mixed bag of creative and different musical influences. One thing I know for sure is that I am dedicating this album to the poor, the children, and the widows out there who are trying to make the best out of bad situations.

So what piece of advice do you have for your young fans here in the UK and back home in Africa?
I have one message for the real musicians, those whom God has gifted and not the wannabes. You should have a direction, you should have the passion, motivation. And you should have a reason why you are doing it. Be ready for the hard work; don’t do drugs. Just stay focused and God will take care of the rest.

What are you doing to impact this message on the young?
I am doing it through my music, that way, everybody knows what I am about and the message that I am spreading.

Back to you in the recording studio: how hard is the creative process from beginning to end?
The end product is not easy to finalise, because you spend a lot of money getting things tight and ship-shape. It’s not easy; it was quite tough — but you gotta do your thing. (Switching back to patios) But God dey. People say “Bigiano has hit the big time.” But it honestly takes a lot of hard work to get the end product and, more importantly, get it right.

The current economic situation in Nigeria, what are your views on that, and how do you think things can get better?
Change has got to start from the top: the government is not helping matters. They are meant to create a brighter future for the young leaders of tomorrow, but right now the political parties are not doing anything. Nigeria is a great country with the capability of rivalling developed countries with technological advances, great reforms, etc. But the job is not being done right. We can only pray and hope the God helps bring about a positive change by appealing to the conscience of our leaders. 

Any last words for DivaScribe?
Yeah. Let me know when you launch; if I am in town, I will be there.

You were a real pleasure to interview. Thanks for the 20 minutes and we hope to see you at our launch.

It’s a date! (DivaScribe puts out our hand for a handshake; he forgoes this and gives us a big hug.)

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