Timi Dakolo: “Don’t say it can’t be done, just try and do it”

Interview with West African Idol and one of the best African vocalists

One international phone call that I desperately wanted to make amidst my busy schedule was to the one and only West African Idol winner in Nigeria. When I finally managed to make the call it was all worth it.

His calm, poise and disciplined demeanour as well as his stage performance is world class, one that would win the accolade of royals.  Simple yet inspirational, Timi Dakolo has broken through barriers and shot for the stars.

Born to a Nigerian father and a Ghanaian mother, Timi’s rise to fame was unprecedented. Not even in his wildest imagination did he think he would be this celebrated. This Accra-born Nigerian grew-up in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State where he spent a better part of his life with his paternal grandmother. His journey as a singer began in the early 90s when barely in his teens, he joined his church choir. He went on to compete and win a talent competition in Port Harcourt titled G.E Facto.

With the resolve to let his little light shine, Timi made an ecstatic appearance at the maiden edition of the West African Idol, the sub-region’s version of the globally popular Idols brand in 2007. He thrilled all with his renditions of Lemar’s “Time to Grow”, Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love”, and Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father” amongst others.

Timi’s stint for excellence has taken his fame beyond the West African Idol. Earlier in 2010, this Bayelsan R&B Soul singer bagged the coveted Hip-Hop Awards for the Best Recording of the year with his single – “Heaven Please” featuring MI. The timeless piece was inspired by his grandma – Mrs. Ateni Dakolo, who passed-on few weeks into the Idols competition which undoubtedly spurred him to win the competition in honour of his grandmother. He achieved this feat with an overwhelming 63% – the widest margin in the history of the Idols final, anywhere in the world. Timi has performed at some of the biggest stages including This Day Music Festival, Africa Magic Anniversary, Pink Ball, Hennessy Artistry show, to mention but a few. And at every event, his stage craft has left audiences repeatedly clamouring for more.

In a candid interview, this is what he revealed.

West Africa knows you as Timi Dakolo, the winner of West Africa Idol with outstanding vocals, who is Timi? Please tell us more about yourself?

(Laughs!)  My name is Timi Dakolo and I am from the south-south of Nigeria, Bayelsa, to be precise. I am the first of three children; I have a brother and a sister. I was born in Accra, Ghana to a Nigerian father and a Ghanaian mother on the 20th day of January 1981.

How did you get into the music industry and your journey to stardom?

Actually my first encounter with music was during morning prayers or devotions. I grew up with my grandmother and morning devotion was mandatory and it always started with choruses. I think that’s just how I started singing.  I grew up in a house where it was mandatory to go to school, get good grades, get a good job, settle down, marry a good wife and live happily ever after but I have always loved singing as it came effortlessly and I must say I enjoyed it. So in my child-like innocence I decided to break protocol, I started learning songs; stood before the mirror miming them and all that, but growing up with an elderly lady who was a petty trader I must say it wasn’t easy so more often than not, I was at home instead of school like my mates; music was my only solace.
I must state here that for a lady that old she gave me the best of everything; a soul, a belief, a push, faith, as a child, she was my biggest fan. I went ahead to sing in the choir for a while and sang in groups like archers of the Y.A.M (Youth Arrow Ministry), Purple Love. I never saw music as a career until I made it to the top ten of the West African Idols.

Anyone who knows you can tell your voice from a distance without even seeing your face the same way you can tell Michael Jackson’s tunes without having to guess. How do you keep your vocals so clean, distinct and pure?

I honestly don’t do much; it’s God-given really. I just pray and do a little of vocal exercises to keep my voice healthy.

Why did you enter a reality show to get your talent out there as opposed to just starting out like most Africans do?

I actually stumbled upon the talent show… my friend came to me saying there was this Idols advert playing on the TV and that I should  give it a try but I blatantly refused  because I didn’t have the money  to start going for any auditions so I just did not give it a thought. A few days later he was back persuading me to give it a try, after all what did I stand to lose? That’s how I went for the audition.

While doing research for BEFFTA awards, one link led me to another and another and another then suddenly I came across your music. Why has the international market not picked up on your biggest asset, your incredible voice?

I have actually been approached by a couple, but you know the deal has to be right for all parties to reach an agreement.

Indeed they are missing out on your talent, but I’m sure you might be able to fit a trip or two to Europe, is that something you have thought about this year?

I was in London last year to open up for Shalamar at the Indigo2, it was awesome, that memory gives me the hunger to do more. I also performed at 2Face Live: Breathless & Buckwyld also at the Indigo2. I have a whole lot of performances lined up in the US in a couple of months or thereabout.
Who are your biggest inspirations in life and in music?

My grandma – she was a wonderful person. She always, I repeat, always warned me saying “Don’t say it can’t be done…just try and do it.”

Nelson Mandela – how he did it against all odds and got to the top without losing his integrity or selling his conscience. Every time I think of his story I get greatly inspired. In music, every great musician; living and of blessed memory.

Do you write and produce your own music?

I write most of the times, you see tunes come to me randomly so I put it down as it comes…sometimes it wakes me up in the middle of the night. I also write with friends too; I don’t produce but do know exactly how I want the song to sound.

Most of your songs send out a message of love, hope and unity, is there a reason why you chose to go down this path with such a soulful rich voice?

Yes, I always want to leave my audience with something to ponder about, not just excitement.

Any new album planned for 2012?

I just released my album “Beautiful Noise” in September 2011, but I never stop writing so I have a truck load of songs set for my next album already.

Most musicians are performing artists who branch out into acting? Are you one of them?

Wow! I haven’t given it serious thought (smiles) but it did cross my mind.

What opportunities have motherland presented you with that you are most grateful for?

We are not as advanced as these other continents in terms of marketing, promoting,  etc, so it makes us work twice as hard to get it going, it’s the extra effort to stay on top with the little resources we have.

Find latest news and gigs by Timi Dakolo on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/TIMI-DAKOLO-OFFICIAL/129100482236?sk=wall

By Pauline Long

Pauline Long’s Celebrity Corner
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