The life of a musician is an incredibly frustrating one in Nigeria, where the system is yet to start functioning properly. But there are musicians who are struggling through it, no matter what. GT da Guitarman is one of them. He has seen his ups and downs, yet, he is more focused at the moment than any time in his life. Things are shaping up well and he is gaining strong grounds. After all, he has been in the music industry for up to 5 years. His foray into music made way for him into the fold of Storm Records, owned by the entertainment guru, Obi Asika. But that doesn’t end there.
We meet on a sunny Thursday afternoon, a night after Bez Idakula’s Birthday Gig, at Mega Chicken in Amuwo Odofin, close to where he lives. I didn’t see him at Bez’s party, so I thought he is the introvert people think he is. “I’m not an introvert,” he says, defensively. “When you have a lot of things bothering you, you have to take care of them first. Bez is someone I respect so much and I would have loved to be there.”
Born in the UK in 1984, GT da Guitarman is suddenly abandoning ‘da Guitarman’ for GT, which stands for his name: Gbemiro Tokunbo. He’s trying to find a new life, a new world, or maybe, he is just finding out that he could become a new star? However, there are rumours that he left Storm Records: “Not like I’ve left Storm, we are still family, the great family Obi put together,” he says, “but the thing is that our contract has expired.” Now he is working to own his music label, Music Ed, which is shaping itself already. There are challenges too, but he is facing them, as a lot of people have made promises. Does he believe in God? “Yes, I do. Not like I used to. Something happened to me and it turned me around.”
Unless you’ve been living in the jungle, you may not have heard any of his songs. People have compared him with Bez and Asa. Is there an affinity between them? “I respect Bez a lot. Same thing with Asa,” he smiles. “Infact, Asa gifted her old guitar to me. Mine broke recently, so I’ve been using that particular guitar she gave me each time I practice.” So, does he feel any kind of spirituality when he strums on the strings of Asa’s old guitar? “Not really. Same feeling I have when I was using my guitar. But the thing is, that guitar is priceless.” Would he auction it out some day? He laughs and says, “Maybe.”
The first part of his life as a musician has been well. He has performed both at home and abroad. He, however, feels he doesn’t sing what people want to listen to in Nigeria. Would he go commercial? The answer is that GT will remain doing what he does best and what he likes doing. Moreover, his music is an infusion of almost everything and any kind of audience can connect with him. Those who feel that he is poorly promoted by his promoters and managers are right. There is little that has been done about the projection of this great talent. He has redefined the nature of the genre of music he does, yet, there is a lot to be seen.
Since his foray into music, GT da Guitarman has worked closely with A-list singers like Naeto C, General Pype, Sasha and others. The music label he is working on will also cater for other artistes, but not now. He has a very busy schedule, as he is hoping to release a sophomore album by the middle of next year. And then, of course, it is appalling to note that Storm Records only did three videos of GT da Guitarman in the whole span of 5 years he was signed to them! That doesn’t sound like good business. “Storm Records showed me love. They reached out to a poor person and made a star out of me,” GT adds. That could just be humility! No matter what, a lot should have been done if he had been signed to them for that long as really, there were no tours to reach all his fans scattered all over Nigeria. “The thing is this: Storm is a great platform, but I think like any child won’t stay forever with his parents, I need to make a move on my own.”
Before we depart, we chat off-record and it feels good to know that he has a wonderful and amazingly surprising sense of humour that bellies his slim nature. Tall, slim and Bohemian in looks, with an afro, GT da Guitar is undergoing a rebirth. He will come out very soon as GT. But the question is: will this be the making of a new star by himself?