Fame and fortune are every musician’s dream. A few years ago, the name Iyanya Mbuk was just another name. But today, the 26-year old Calabar indigene is a star–of blinding magnitude.
Iyanya’s is not an overnight success. He crawled up the ladder, doing what every ambitious artiste would do: work hard and take opportunities. In 2008, Iyanya arrived the scene via Project Fame West Africa, a talent discovery project promoted by MTN. Following scintillating performances at the show, he was adjudged overall winner of the competition. Since then, trained eyes and ears, knew that something great was in the offing.
But after the initial applause, thing cooled off and many began to feel that like many other vaunted talents, he was on his way towards the league of forgotten stars. Then a forceful return that made the public stand up and take notice. Kukere, his monster hit, was the vehicle of relaunch. The song is based on a native folksong common among the peoples of Akwa Ibom and Cross River State. Music critics praise the funky and groovy Afrobeat that Iyanya settled for after a period of tinkering and experimentation with R&B. The experimentation phase produced such tunes as Your Waist and Flavour.
This month, Iyanya has staked his claim to being the hottest act in the Nigerian music firmament. Kukere, released in December 2011, set the record as the most downloaded song on the Internet, courtesy of the technology platform, MTECH.
The crooner has got reasons to be chuffed. Last June, he escaped death by the whiskers, after decided against boarding the DANA Airlines plane that crashed in Lagos, killing all passengers and crew on board. On his Twitter handle, he wrote: “I don’t think I had an authentic reason to stay back in abuja. I just came up with an excuse that I wanna go to the studio in Abuja. When it’s not your time…its not urs…. it took me 30 mins to convince my manager that we should stay back in abuja…GOD IS GREAT!!!!”
Iyanya was raised in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, where he also had elementary and tertiary education. In a recent chat, he told an online medium that he “grew up in a large compound with all my cousins before they left. I stayed with my late dad, with whom myself and my brother always had a strong connection.” Perhaps, his strong family ties are responsible for the tremendous achievements he has recorded so far. He maintains that it is the inspiration he derives from his family that helped him when he found himself at professional crossroads more than a year ago.
Many people have questioned lack of uniformity and continuity in pattern in Iyanya’s music. Your Waist and Flavour are distinct tunes from Kukere. But he believes that versatility should be the hallmark of a good artiste: “You should not expect me to keep doing songs that sound alike. An artiste should be versatile and that is what I have tried to achieve in this new work,” he argues.
Like most of his colleagues in the industry, Iyanya has not escaped the scandal bug that thrives therein. A report, which began quietly, soon grew into deafening rumours that he is dating a Ghanaian actress. It was given impetus when actress Yvonne Nelson uploaded some close-shots of Iyanya and herself on the Internet. While he maintains silence on the tale that he is dating the Ghanaian actress, he has discreetly called for respect from his followers. He is also yet to clear the air on the presumed dalliance Yvonne.
Many industry watchers believe that Iyanya is just arriving the scene and that his potential is limitless.
— Bankong Obi