Temitope Phil-Ebosie is a singer, songwriter, tunesmith and a style aficionado. Her appeal transcends the usual barriers of gender, age, and genre. If you don’t love her for her one-of-a-kind sound, her witty lyricism, her take-no-prisoners performances, her forward-thinking imagery, then you’re bound to be seduced by her elegant yet daring style. She revealed her unique nature in this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly.
Who is 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. I am a mixture. I am half Yoruba, quarter Ibo and a quarter of West Indian and Scottish make. The Scottish don’t really count because it can’t be seen in my mother but I feel like I am a throwback. It skipped one generation and it 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. To all intent and purposes, I am a multi genre artistes. 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 Drama Soul.
How did you come about the name, Drama Soul?
Drama Soul is really just a cocktail of all the 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, electro, So, I like to express all these influences in what I do. I believe that my music bridges continent, culture in a way that isn’t expected.
People won’t expect that you will take an afro beat, put a bit of instrumental, and put a little of electro wonder and sing with jazz vocal, so that’s what I like to do. I like to mix it up.
I will say that my style is very similar to the way my music is. Drama Soul invokes past and modern luminaries, but matched with my own intrigue and quirk, 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 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 RnB; but that doesn’t do justice to the variety of music I incorporate 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 seven and as much as I can remember, I was always singing and always gravitated towards music. But at seven, I wrote my first song with the keyboard given to me by my pastor. I think it was just my natural inclination 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 have a taste for and when I listen to such songs I found them interesting that I could do that 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 got a degree in Food Sciences and Nutrition. A lot of people think that it has to do with the hospitality and catering business but it’s not. We were always in the lab 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 fears which is stage fright and the best way to overcome it is to throw yourself into the situation and then jump and the nerves will appear. I did that, taught classes and it’s 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, I was performing at every given opportunity. Once I was done with the university, I decided I would go for a performance school.
On the international scene, how far have 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 RnB crooner, Chris Brown, Neo-Soul artiste 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 artists 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 Artist 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 2 on the Soundcity and TVC best video countdowns; remarkable for a first video from a previously unknown independent female artistes.
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.
Are there any 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 and 2Face
What would you say is the major difference between doing music abroad and doing music in Nigeria?
The music industry over 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 diversities.
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.
– AJOKE ONITOLO