Meet one of Akwa Ibom’s finest gospel artistes, Conscience Friday Ibanga, popularly known as ‘Bobby Friga’. A Graduate of Electronics Engineering from Institute of Management Technology, Enugu, Bobby Friga is an ordained Evangelist, singer, songwriter and CEO of Ameyaiya T-shirts and Branding.
The immediate past Chairman of Forum of Gospel Music Ministers of Nigeria (FOGMMON) and Head, Akwa Ibom State Gospel Music Ministers, recently dropped a video of his hit single, “Owo’do” which had already enjoyed wide acceptability and massive airplay. The video to the melodious worship song was recently premiered on Trace Gospel.
Imo Etim of TheMail Newspaper caught up with him recently where he bared his mind on sundry issues. Below are excerpts:
The name Bobby Friga, sounds inviting, more like a secular musician or Pop Star. What actually inspired the name?
I grew up to hear my parents and everybody around me calling me Bobby. When I started gaining prominence in my career, people called me Bobby Bee, Bobby Valentino, Bobby this and that. Some even called me ‘Bobby skull’ because of my haircut. I like to keep ‘skincut’. I grew up that way with some different kinds of Bobby like that.
So I started to do a research on superstar musicians and how they got their names. Like the popular Bobby Brown, his name is Bobby and Brown is his second name, Like Missy Elliot her name is actually is Melissa Elliott, R. Kelly is Robert Kelly.
My real name is Conscience Friday Ibanga. I got Bobby being my home name, I took the first 3 letters ‘FRI’ from Friday and the last 2 letters ‘GA’ from Ibanga to form my name ‘Friga’. Bobby simply means a peace maker or a policeman. So I got my own Bobby so they don’t get to call me anyhow Bobby.
There are many genres of music that you would have ventured into. Why do you choose gospel music?
Truth is that, I don’t sing gospel music because I just want to do music or I am talented. I do it because to my understanding. I was called to it. I had the calling of God to preach the gospel through music, that’s number one. Asides that, I was born into a family where creativity has been part of us. I was born into it, I was into music from childhood till date, doing gospel music is not a choice, it’s a responsibility God gave to me to preach the gospel.
How long have you been doing music, both professionally and otherwise?
I have been doing music from childhood. 2010 was when I launched my official album titled ‘All I know’ but 2012 was when I came out professionally with a song titled ‘Sosongodoboho’.
You recently dropped a video Owo’do, Why the long wait?
Have you seen the video? Do you think it was worth the wait?
Are there things you would have loved to change or add, owing to the fact that the audio was done in late 2019, and the video was just released recently, was it worth the wait?
No no no! I actually worked with professional hands. I don’t rush into doing things. I do my things gradually and peacefully. First, I prefer to bargain from perfection. I didn’t want to rush and do a video, although I had several trending videos from my live performances. I had to take out time to come out with a good script. I like to bargain from excellence. So even when I don’t get it, it will either land on good or better, that’s my philosophy.
What happened with Owo’do video is that people came out to tell us their life stories and we considered them to be our story line and then we said we can’t tell one person’s story. We had to tell the story that is all encompassing, touching all the stories. I think the video excellent from what we have gotten so far. All the international platforms we have it on have commended the video as one of the best coming out of this region. So actually, it is worth the wait.
Do you have any dream collaboration?
I love certain guys. I wish to do songs with Don Moen, My sister Mercy Chinwo, my brother that is also trendy from my place Moses Bliss, Frank Edwards and one lady I so much love, Lara George.
Have you made any concerted effort to reach out to them to strike a deal?
I am a man that always allow God to lead and guide my steps. Those are my wishes. I don’t know the wishes of God. But, I have presented to Him that I will love to work with these guys, I will only make effort as human but the result will be what God wants it to be. So far, I’m still working on it.
I notice that you do a lot of singing in Ibibio, how has it affected your audience and acceptability?
It’s intentional. It is my decision to do songs mostly in Ibibio. When I came out in 2010, I was doing more of English songs. In 2016 or so, I was part of the national music ministers convention in Abuja, I discovered that each time they invited artistes to do songs, they will always do songs in their dialect and they were all national songs. Whenever it was time to invite Akwa Ibom to perform, I was scared, and I will ask myself which song will we perform that will be nationally accepted that is from Akwa Ibom and Cross River, apart from the popular ‘Akanam Nkwe’ by Anne Inyang that was done many years ago. I will call my fellow Akwa Ibom singers and say let us all bear the shame together since we are blessed with a language but we don’t seem to be proud of our language, then I came out with a song Abasi Ayaiaya and we all sang together and left.
So when I got back, I consciously started working on that. I made a decision to always infuse my language in any song I sing, even if it’s the chorus. I didn’t stop there, I had a meeting with all the singers in the State and told them it was a must to use our language in our songs. While doing an album of five songs, you must at least dedicate two songs to be in our language. Right now, I am a very proud man. The things we have experienced, English language cannot really express it.
The market is not big. We are just Akwa Ibom and Cross River. Even part of Cross River do not speak the language. It’s a bit challenging, but at the same time Owo’do has proven to me that language is not a barrier to good music.
Owo’do has just crossed 100 streams from the USA, 500 from Netherlands, and Jamaica. I was shocked. I had a lady who reached out to me from one of those Caribbean countries, she is married to an Akwa Ibom guy, but they have never visited Akwa Ibom or Africa before. The husband was able to connect to the song. I am proud to be an Akwa Ibomite, I’m proud to serve God using my language. Albeit, we are breaking in and today Owo’do is being premiered on Trace Gospel.
What can you say about the State and how young talents are being harnessed? Do you think government is doing enough?
Well, I’m not looking at the state government to handle talent development. I am seeing it that every gifted and talented person should stand up and work. It’s only when you show working that people will get up to support you, invest in you and partner with you.
As the Immediate Past Chairman of FOGMMON (Fellowship of Gospel Music Ministers of Nigeria), I’m aware of the many talents God has blessed Akwa Ibom state with. Talent does not have barriers. Today I’m invited to attend shows and functions in Lagos, Abuja and even outside the country, but I live in Uyo. Irrespective of where you live, either in Mkpat Enin, Ibiaku Ntok Okpo, Eastern Obolo or wherever you are, start with what you have. You will be so surprised you will be reaching out to the world in a short time. I’m a living testimony because what I’m saying this out of experience.
What is your advice for upcoming musicians in Akwa Ibom and Nigeria at large?
Everybody that knows me, knows that I have a line of word everytime that question is being raised. I have friends, followers, supporters, partners, I have fans and those who look up to me. Please follow my footsteps and how I live my life. Bobby Friga does not tell lies. Be straight forward in your dealings, I don’t believe in insulting the elders in the name of speaking your minds. Whenever you lie, you will need more lies to cover it up. I want to live long, so I honour my father and my mother, do so too, these are not limited to those that gave birth to you.
If you are doing music and there are no sponsors, no supporters anywhere, you are your first sponsor. You are your first fan, buyer of your music, stand up, love your music, sponsor yourself, support yourself. When you do that, others will have no option than to support you too.
You are a minister now, how was it, doing music in your family? Did you get the needed support or was it considered a distraction to your calling to preach the gospel?
This is Akwa Ibom first, Nigeria and then Africa. There was this belief that, if you must be successful, you must be a lawyer, doctor, engineer, banker, or even teacher. I remember they used to force us to attend technical schools so that we can come out to work in Mobil. Whoever thought that music can make you recognized in the world? Nobody thought that graphics can make someone a world star. Nobody thought that Journalism can employ lawyers, medical doctors among others. Nobody thought that graphics can make you known all over the world.
I did Microbiology, Electrical Electronics, then ICT until I was able to stabilize and find my peace. The kind of parents I have, I must say they were too religious and there was no room to even digress or think otherwise, but I had tried other things before finding my peace.
Most clergymen will always have one or two black sheep in the family. How was it for you to fall in line and follow your parent’s footsteps?
Let me say this. This world would have been much a better place if parents took their time to understand the children that God gave to them.
Even at my age, there are a thousand and one things that I can’t find myself doing. You won’t see me fight, insult, go to rob, talk carelessly. If you follow me on social media, you won’t see me posting things against government. You won’t see me engage in anything that will bring shame to my God, my parents and my name. That is so because my parents brought us up in the fear and influence of the lord, we don’t have any black sheep in my family and that is by the grace of God. We don’t bring shame to Mkpat Enin, Akwa Ibom or Nigeria. It all trickles down to upbringing.
Do you have anything you are cooking for your fans this 2021?
My album ‘Ameyaiya’ is still in the market. We intend to drop two songs this year and we will be having our yearly concert this year which couldn’t hold last year due to Covid-19. People are asking for it, we are yet to decide if we are having it virtually or not.
But I do have a surprise for the people. I will let the cat out of the bag soon. People should keep their fingers crossed.
I’m a huge follower of TheMail Newspaper, as I don’t have any doubt whatsoever whenever I see their stories. I know yours is a strong medium with unwavering credibility. Keep it up.