I don’t think Waje needs any introduction. She’s one of the most recognizable voices in the Nigerian RnB genre currently and she is yet to release an album. Pretty impressive. I’ve been a fan of Waje since her appearance on P-Square’s Do Me, and so it was somewhat of a thrilling experience actually speaking to Waje on the phone. I was able to steal her away from the studio for 30 mins, and ask her some interesting questions. Her answers were probably some of the most honest and real answers I’ve heard in a while. I wont ruin it for you so check it out.
Aribaba: For the people that don’t know who you are, can you tell us a bit about yourself… A little introduction if you will.
Waje: Ok. Well my name is Waje, surname Iruobe. I’m from Edo state. I grew up in Benin. Well Benin and Enugu. Because I grew up with my mom, I’m more of an igbo girl than the other part of me. I’m fun *laughs*… Usually describing yourself is rather difficult. I’d rather people do that for me. One thing is sure though, and it’s that I love music, and I’ve made music part of me, so I guess that’s what people use in identifying with me and my music.
Aribaba: So I’ve heard WAJE is an acronym, is that correct? If so can you tell us what it stands for, and how it came about.
Waje: It’s both my name and an acronym. Waje is a short form of my name. My full name is Aituaje, so when I was looking for a stage name, I used the second part of it. I didn’t want to use my English name. You can divide my name into two and get the two parts. My parents sometimes called me Aitua, but nobody had ever really called me Waje. So I said let me just use Waje, but instead of “U” I changed the alphabet to “W”, and added an acronym to it, so it’s Words Aren’t Just Enough (W.A.J.E)
Aribaba: Ahh, nice. That’s very creative.
Waje: I’m feeling like a G right now *laughs*
Aribaba: You’re a G now. You think it’s easy to come up with that kind of name *laughs*
Waje: Thank God I didn’t choose Sabrina or Cecelina… *laughs*
Aribaba: How did you get into music?
Waje: Well I went to the University of Nigeria (UNN), and while I was in school, I was in the choir. I liked to perform at shows; you know the usual school free shows, and gala nights and such.
One time I was singing in Church, my mentor Mr Christopher Madubuko, (well he’s like my Godfather rather), was watching me sing, and he was like ‘what do I think about taking this music thing further?’, like signing a record deal and all that. I laughed, and told him that I didn’t think God gave people their talent so that they could be making money out of it *laughs*. I guess I was just a stupid child. Even when I’m saying it right now, I can’t believe that I said that. He pretty much told me to think about it, and started training me, and teaching me pretty important things about music. You know, your stage craft and all that.
One of those times he got me a gig in Enugu, and P-Square came to perform. After my performance, backstage we got acquainted, and they thought, in their own opinion that “Waje you’re a fantastic singer.” I just felt that since everybody says it, then I guess there’s some truth in it, and decided to take it from there.
Aribaba: For most of us, the first time we heard you on record was on P-Square’s “Do Me.” Tell us how that came up, cos at the time P-square was already a huge act in Africa, and you just pop up on their record.
Waje: So after the show that I met them, ok wait… I used to remix people’s songs a lot. I’d just have my own version of the song. I heard their song Omoge Mi, and thought it would be nice to do my own version. I’ve known J-martins from way back, and we decided to record the song. I did my own version entirely, sent it to them, and they loved it. They were like people had been coming up with different remixes, but this is the first one that they really liked, and asked me if I minded if they put it on their Bizzy Body remix album. I’m like “before nko, I wont mind o. You guys should go right ahead.” *laughs*.
They did that, and when they started working on the Game Over album, they asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I’m like “Sure Banker” and that’s how it started.
Aribaba: So you competed in the reality series, MTV Africa’s Advance Warning, where you came in second, but captured a lot of fans. How did that help in your career?
Waje: It did a lot for my career. Before the show a lot of people just knew me as some name… actually a lot of people didn’t even know the name sef. People just had different ideas of who this singer was. Some people didn’t know my face, others didn’t my name. I was at home one day, and I got a call telling me that I was part of the competition, and I didn’t even put in for it. I was very excited to say the least.
It was when I was in the house that I recorded my first single, Kolo. After advanced warning, I came out with the single, and people already knew me because they had seen the show, so in terms of promotion and publicity off a brand that people didn’t know initially, it gave me a better foundation, and people were able to say “oh yeah, that’s the face to the name or the name to face.” So it definitely did a lot for me.
Aribaba: This is probably the most common question for musicians, but i’ll go ahead and ask anyways, who are/were your biggest influences currently and while growing up artistically?
Waje: Mine was mostly American. I loved Whitney Houston a lot growing up. They actually nicknamed me Whitney Houston, cos while I was in secondary school, I was on scholarship and that’s because I could sing. I was intelligent but I guess my voice did better for me.
I loved RnB a lot so Boyz II Men and all those peeps. For my naija people, Evi Edna, Mike Okri and those people. I used to look at Mike Okri as the Michael Jackson of naija especially cos of those jerry curls. I was tripped that a naija man would be doing all that. He had very cool songs too. Onyeka Onwenu also cos she was so Beyonce is her time. You remember “dancing in the sun” video. *laughs*.
These are people that basically brought me up musically, and everytime I wanted to be like them and act like them, and treat music like they treated it. You can say they are the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing now.
Aribaba: Contrary to what some people might think, you’ve been in the industry for a while. Tell us how it’s been being a woman in the industry that is very male dominated, and how you’ve been able to make it to where you are now?
Waje: I always tell people that it’s a lot of hard work. I think if you approach work as a woman, I think you’re making a mistake by doing that because we’re in a country that is a male dominated environment and society. I don’t care the kind of work you do, it’s not really about just the music industry. Even as a banker or any profession, it’s just the way it is. It really has nothing to do with music being a male dominated profression but every young woman taking her work seriously and taking it the way the guys take it.
I heard about a chick (I wont say any names) that was supposed to be signed with a record label, and one of the members of the record label who is a guy felt threatened, and said well “she’ll get married and have kids etc.” So they feel like to us music is a hobby, and that we don’t take it seriously. They don’t understand that this is a job. If you dey hustle am, the way the guys dey hustle am, it no concern you if you get boobs or you no get. The same way the guys dey take hustle the thing, dey hustle your own, and they’ll take you seriously. Cos eventually everyone wants to identify with who you are because you’re a go-getter. You just go and get it irrespective of your gender.
I guess that’s why I’m here now. Why I haven’t left the industry yet, and that’s why a lot of strong ladies Omawumi, Lami, Kels, Sasha are still here. And we’re not going anywhere.
Aribaba: Recently you’ve gotten a lot of popularity from your song with MI, One Naira, and more especially your role as MI’s “girlfriend” in the skits in his album MI2. How did that come about?
First of all the song. I went to see MI, and he told me he had 2 songs he wanted me to listen to, and afterwards I should chose which one I wanted. I chose “One Naira”…… (line cuts *thanks to MTN* LOL.)
…. He asked me to write the chorus, and I did, and he was like “Waje this is cool, but we want something very very good” so we redid it and we able to get something great.
In terms of being his love interest in the album, he called me up and asked me what I thought about the idea, and I was “go ahead… cool with me.” I really didn’t play a huge part like that.
Aribaba: You know it’s funny cos some people on MI’s interview with a radio station, someone asked him if you and him were dating. It was kinda funny but I was like that doesn’t mean they are dating. lol
Waje: they’ll always say stuff *laughs*… they should enjoy themselves.
Aribaba: I realized you speak a lot of igbo in your songs, more so than any other language I think. Are you fluent in igbo?
Waje: Yes I am. I lived in Enugu from 2000 – 2006, and my mom is igbo. She’s from Onitsha… Anyi bu ndi onitsha *laughs*. Igbo women have this thing about taking their kids home every christmas. I don’t care if she’s married to one hausa guy or a yoruba guy, an igbo woman will always make sure her kids know where she comes from, and I guess that’s what she did with us too.
I’m very close to my mom so naturally I started speaking igbo. That’s the only nigerian language I speak actually. I don’t even know how to speak my own language.
Aribaba: You don’t need to be a genius to notice that you and Omawumi are pretty close, at least that’s the way it seems. Tell us a little more about your relationship with Omawumi.
Waje: We basically respected and liked each other’s music. One time I went for an interview and she was there as well and I saw her was like “oh… no be you sing that song ‘in the music’” and as I was saying that she was like “no be you sing that one wey dem dey call ‘kolo’.” So we just connected like that and we became friends.
One thing I really admire about Omawumi is the way she handles her work. She’s very focused. It’s the same with people around me, all my friends, Jeniffer Legenu, Munachi, Lami, Kels. These are people that are really close to me in the industry that people don’t know about.
Sometimes we have these chilling friday dates when we go just sitdown… just us, chilling, gisting and pretty much bonding.
Aribaba: So you’ve had massive hits, Kolo, Somewhere, For A Minute, So Inspired. What’s next for WAJE? Videos? An album in the works?
Waje: I just shot the video for “So Inspired” and it’s massive. So i’m hoping to release that soon. I’m definitely coming out with my album, by the second quarter of this year, by the Grace Of God. I don’t like giving dates cos you know certain things can happen.
I’ve listened and I’ve made up my mind that this album is gonna come out.
Aribaba: Let’s switch things up a little bit, and get a bit more interesting. When you’re not working on music, what’s your favorite thing to do?
Waje: I’m very lazy. I like to chill at home. I’m not much of an out person. If there’s disney channel, Thank the Lord. I’ll just chill and watch that.
Aribaba: Did you say disney channel? As old as you are *laughs*
Waje: Yes o. I know it’s a shame… It’s a shame *laughs*. But that’s just me. My brothers try to get me to go out sometimes. Anytime I’m out it’s probably cos I’m excorting somebody. You’ll rarely see me alone out. I guess it’s just not a priority for me. It’s just not my kind of person.
Once there’s light. I’m good to go.
Aribaba: What is you biggest turn off in a guy?
Waje: Green snake in green grass. I don’t think there are other words for that. Green snake in Green Grass. You know some guys that will be there, but they are not there… Ahh… Run o. Pick race *laughs*
Aribaba: If you had just one wish in this world, what would it be? If God said you have this one wish and you have to make it up in 24 hours. What would you wish for?
Waje: I will wish for His Blessing actually. Some people are here to take, and others are here to give, but if you’ve ever given, you’ll find that there’s so much satisfaction from giving. The fulfilment and satisfaction I get when i’m able help someone out is amazing.
2 days ago, I put on twitter, “God Bless me so I can bless others.” I think that’s going to be my only wish. If He blesses me, I’ll be able to bless my family and friends, and even people that don’t know me. And as long as those people live, they’ll be thanking God for me.
Aribaba: If you weren’t into music, what else do you think you would be doing career-wise?
Waje: I would’ve been frying chin-chin *laughs*… But seriously while I was in school I made money by baking and things like that. So seriously if I wasn’t singing I’ll be doing that or I’ll own a school. I still intend on being a proprietress but maybe in the future.
Aribaba: Random question: Give me the your top 5 songs currently. Like what’s bumping on your mp3 player… besides your work of course.
1. Oleku – Ice Prince
2. Give it to me – Dprince
3. Follow You Go – Banky W
4. Of course One Naira… anyday anytime
5. Beef – MI
Aribaba: Ok, last question; What will you say is your goal in music? Like when it’s all said and done, what would you like to have accomplished or be remembered for?
Waje: I think I want to be able to give people the platform to do what they want to do musically. With all the experience I have, and will have later, and with all the grammies I’m going to win *laughs*. By that time I’ll be able to scout for talent and bring them musically. Not a record label or anything like that cos I don’t intend to own a record label.
I don’t know how exactly I’m going to do it, but I want to have the opportunity to do that. Maybe in 2020 or 2025, there’ll be someone that Waje brought in. So that’s what I hope to have accomplished.
Check out some of Waje’s Finest Tunes
*** For A Minute ***[audio:For-a-minute.mp3]
*** So Inspired ft. Muna ***[audio:SoInspired.mp3]
*** One Naira – MI/Waje ***[audio:One Naira.mp3]