The green leaves of the Palm trees which lined the driveway into the Sheraton hotels and Towers, Ikeja luxuriated in the radiant sun. I wasn’t surprised when my interview subject told me Sheraton should be our meeting point that sunny Thursday afternoon.
The cabin crew of Qatar Airways litter the entrance as they await their aiport shuttle. For some years, Sheraton has been a hotel of choice for airlines to accommodate their cabin crew, perhaps it’s because of its proximity to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.
I walked into the hotel straight to the lobby. Settled comfortably on a chair, picked up my phone to call the person I was billed to see.
“Hello, I am at Sheraton.”
“Oh, sorry dear,” came the response. “I am still on my way. I am held up in traffic. I will join you soon.”
After waiting for some minutes, my phone rang. “Hello, I am here now. Where are you?”
“I am sitting close to the front desk.”
“I can’t see you.
“I am at a few metres from the concierge,” I replied as I stood up from where I was seated. I took a turn to the left. There she was sitting on the edge of the flower lawn.
Gloria Ibru reduced her weight considerably. The big frame characteristic of her is no longer there. She is aging gracefully even as she approaches fifty. She is the daughter of the famous Micheal Ibru, the patriarch of the Ibru’s family. Gloria Ibru is one of Micheal Ibru’s seventeen children. Unlike her other siblings, she has chosen to pitch her tent with the arts. She has found a fulfilling career in music.
My father has seventeen children; all of us cannot do the same thing,” she tells me frankly. “When has many has so many children, some will be doctor, some will be lawyers, some will musicians, some will be ashewo, and armed robber can follow.”
Gloria started singing at age seven as a member of the All Saints Anglican Church, Yaba, choir. She was a member of the church choir until she was 27 years old. Even when she travel to the United States for her university education she till found time to sing in the church choir whenever she was home on holiday. Singing socially, did not start for her until she returned home finally in 1987.
“I did it as a hobby and because I love to sing,” she says. “I sang everywhere, professionally when I started making money from it was sixteen years ago when I opened the bar. I have been doing this for basically all my life, I sing in the school choir, church choir but the band has been doing this together professionally this year is seventeen years.”
Her love for music made her open a bar called Mama G’s at Apapa. She had a band that used to come in to perform every night. But the band’s inconsistency in putting up appearances at Mama G’s forced her to put a band together and begin a new career in music.
Ibru has done three bars and each of them failed due to rent challenges. This may sound ridiculous considering her father’s wealth. Owning a property shouldn’t be a problem. But Ibru will have none of that at all. She is too independent minded to be clouded by her father’s business empire and wealth.
“Is it my father that wants to open a bar,” she says unashamedly. “I am the one that wants to open a bar so I should work hard towards acquiring my own. My father is still alive. He has not divided his property.”
Aside issues bothering on rent, Ibru says her business failed due to lack of proper managerial skills. “Just because you are musician, and you know the entertainment industry does not mean you are a manager. If I do open another bar but I will get a proper management that will manage the business. It is as simple as that, I will be the face of the place but the management will handle the business. Let me tell you something, people go into bar and drink then go home but you are there from morning to evening. You make sure you have the stock, you make sure the food is being cooked, you make sure that the place is clean, you make sure that there is diesel is the generator, you make sure that every light bulb is working and you are there again in the night. You stay with them to 3am or 6am. You get three hours sleep, and then you are back there every single day. After a while I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t take it anymore. Let somebody else handle that part. Let me come in the evening and look pretty and sing.”
Ibru sings mainly at night but this she is currently doing less of due to age. Her band performs on select night clubs. She is currently working on an album and she plans to do collaboration with famous singer, Onyeka Onwenu.
Ibru’s passion lies with High life, Jazz and Calypso. Often her beat could be a mixture of the three genres. Little wonder she says: “My album will be a fuse of high life and jazz, high life and calypso. Those are my genres. I use my songs to fight for all kinds of issues. There are jazz artistes, there are high life artistes but me I call mine Jazz Life. It is a fuse of high life and jazz.”
With Jazz Life, Ibru’s own creation, one is not surprised that she may be towing the line of great musicians like Fela Anikulapo, Sunny Ade who created and popularised their own kind of music that have become legendary. Hence she defines good music as: “music that is constructed, what I understand as a good song has verse, chorus, verse, chorus bridge, chorus end. There is construction to music. I don’t understand how you will go into a studio cook a beat down in 10mins and just sing la-la-la-l-ala and say you have done music. That is not music that is a beat on your computer.”