Temitope Phil-Ebosie is a singer, songwriter, tune smith and a style aficionado. Her appeal transcends the usual barriers of gender, age, and genre. If one dosen’t love her for her one-of-a-kind sound, her witty lyricism, her take-no-prisoners performances and her forward-thinking imagery, then one would be bound to be seduced by her elegant yet daring style. Recently, she revealed her unique nature in an interview with select journalists. ROTIMI IGE brings excerpts.
Why the name Temi Dollface?
My full name is Temitope Phil-Ebosie and my stage name is Temi Dollface. I am a singer, song writer, composer and a performer as well. I am half Yoruba, quarter Ibo and a quarter of West Indian and Scotish. My Scotish roots do not really count because it can’t be seen in my mother, but I feel like am a throwback . It skipped one generation and came to me. I call myself a creative multi-tasker because I do quite a few things like my styling, creative direction, video, photo-shoots and all the rest that I do. To all intent and purposes, I am a multi genre artiste. Having said that, it is human nature to want to box people and put them in category, so I do that for everyone and I call my style and kind of music as ‘Drama Soul.’
How did you come about the name, ‘Drama Soul’?
Drama Soul is really just a cocktail of all the different genres of music that I am influenced by and you will hear influences such as Fela Kuti and other very wide spectrum of people that influenced my music even down to the love of old music, gospel and electro sounds. So, I like to express all these influences in what I do. I believe that my music bridges continents and culture in a way that isn’t expected.
People won’t expect that you will take an Afro beat, add some instrumentals, a bit of electro wonders and lace it with Jazz vocals; so, that’s what I like to do. I like to mix it all up. I will say that my style is very similar to the way my music is. ‘Drama Soul’ invokes both past and modern luminaries, but matched with my own intrigue and quirks, it is a breath mint for the pop scene. ‘Drama Soul’ deliberately evades the narrow categories of what urban music should sound like, not to mention that it defies the normal conventions of pop and every other genre it is a derivative of. As an artiste, it pulls from a wide range of sources.
For instance, I often combine jazz chords with catchy pop hooks and African percussion to create something that’s simultaneously fresh and timeless. Obvious reference points for my flamboyant sound are Afro-Beat, Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop, Electro and R and B; but that doesn’t do justice to the variety of music it incorporates or to its singularity. It’s a pull from many different forces from the past, present and the future. So, in a nutshell, that’s really whom I am. As much as I am in music, I am also a fashion person and I will say its 50-50. Both are my passion.
How and when did this musical journey start?
I started this musical journey at the age of seven and as much as I can remember, I am always singing and always gravitated towards music. But at the age of seven, I wrote my first song with the keyboard given to me by my pastor at that time. I think it was just my natural inclinations to know what to do. I found my way around the keyboard without any piano lessons or anything like that. I just instinctively knew what I wanted to hear and created songs that I had a taste for and then I listened to such songs and I found them interesting, that I could do at that age.
How did your parents react to your decision to make a career out of music?
Obviously, back then, it wasn’t exalted to do anything artistic. Parents and the society would suggest that you get a degree on something professional first so you have something to fall back on. I left Nigeria for a school in England and thought I should do something in the sciences and I got my A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. I had no business doing that, but I did. I went and got a degree in Food Science and Nutrition. A lot of people think that it has to do with the hospitality and catering business, but it is not. We were always in the laboratory, testing foods, looking at food under microscopes, doing lipid and protein extractions and many more of such boring stuffs.
From the first week at the university, I knew that wasn’t my line but I stuck with it knowing I have something to fall back on. But while I was at the university, I was exercising every musical muscle in me even to the point that I trained as a fitness instructor. I love fitness but that was really to get over my fear which was stage fright and the best way to overcome it is to throw one’s self into the situation and then jump and the nerves will appear. I did that, taught classes and it is just the same thing because all people’s attention will be on you while you are in front of the class commanding your audience. That really helped me on my way to becoming the artiste that I am today. Even before I was done with university education, I was performing at every given opportunity. Once I was done with the university, I decided I would attend a performance school.
On the international scene, how far have you gone in carving a niche for your brand?
I supported Mary J Blige at the ‘Sisters with Soul’ Concert at the Expo Centre Lagos in September 2013 and was part of the line up for Felabration Concert where I gave an electric performance along with my 10-piece band. I also opened for the likes of American R&B crooner Chris Brown, Neo-Soul artist, Rahsaan Patterson at Shepherds Bush Empire, Keziah Jones, D’ Banj, Somi, Bez, amongst other notable artistes.
I was one of the few Nigerian artistes invited to Nairobi, Kenya to take part in Coca Cola’s new music TV show, ‘Coke Studio’.” Other artistes on the show included King Sunny Ade, M.I. Abaga, Waje, Salif Keita, Culture Music Club from Zanzibar, Just A Band from Kenya and HHP. I had an MTV USA nomination for MTV Iggy ‘Artiste of the Week’, for which I came second by a tiny fraction. I was in the running with artistes from Germany, America, the United Kingdom and Ghana.
My ‘PataPata’ music video has been played on heavy rotation on notable TV stations, including MTV World, Channel O, Soundcity, One Music, TVC, Channels TV, amongst others. It made number two on the Soundcity and TVC best video countdowns; remarkable for a first video from a previously unknown independent female artiste.
My music, imagery and style have earned me rave reviews on taste making blogs such as MTV Iggy, Okay Africa, Soul Bounce (an American blog in affiliation with the soul train music awards), Afro Punk, and a fast growing social media followership.
My radical interpretation of the well known song ‘Teenage DirtBag’ of ‘American Pie’ movie fame by Wheatus has earned me great reviews and a personal invitation to New York from Wheatus themselves to collaborate on a song.
Artistes you would like to collaborate with both internationally and locally?
I would love nothing more than to work with Pharrell Williams, Outkast, Janelle Monae, Frank Ocean, Just A Band. Local artistes I would like to collaborate with include Cobhams Asuquo, Femi Kuti, Jesse Jagz, Dammy Krane, Tuface, Boj, among others.
What would you say is the major difference between doing music abroad and Nigeria?
The music industry here is quite young in comparison, so a lot of things aren’t in place such as a royalty collecting system and we don’t have a very broad musical palette at the moment, which isn’t a bad thing. It just means there is room to introduce more diversity.
What’s your ultimate goal as an artiste?
To change the way music is experienced, to shatter pop stereotypes by proving that pop music can be alternative, experimental and exciting. Also, I want to give back what I get out of music. I realise that what I get to do is such a privilege. As with music, we have the ability to touch other human beings, who are reaching out looking for the same things most of us are.