Tuesday, 17 March 2009

From the child of yesteryears…

AT age three, she made her first musical appearance. At six, she recorded an album. At seven, she released her first album. Many wondered where she was coming from, and how she was able to do all this. She was a tagged phenomenon because she did what was not ordinary for her age. Her songs were for the tender hearted, for and about children. She traversed the length and breath of Nigeria, singing in order to raise fund for children, who were abandoned and in motherless homes. All of a sudden, she went out of circulation and there were different rumours; one of which was that she was dead. She came out to debunk the ugly rumour, however. And in no time, she launched a foundation. Tosin Jegede Foundation. That is the story of Tosin Jedege, the brilliant artiste and author, whose concern is catering the less privileged children in Africa.
What motivated her to sing at an early age?
“My dad had a band, I started with them, I used to go out with the band when I was one, perhaps, two years or thereabout… you know there was nobody in the house, no baby sitter, everybody worked together on the stage. I still remember, one day, the group went to the University of Lagos to perform. I sat down and was waiting for the performance to end,; before it finally did, the person that was with me had left and I said ‘let me go out to visit my friends.’ I actually went on stage, met my friends there and took the microphone from one of the people that was singing, and sang the lead and the people could hear my voice singing the lead. My dad was about to take the microphone from me, when people said, ‘let her sing, let her sing’, that was the first time my friends noticed that I had stage carriage,” she says.
“I remember singing very well that day. I was only three then. After that, I followed my dad to visit the motherless babies’ home in Isolo, where I saw children that had no mummies, no daddies; and asked where their parents were. I was told that they were abandoned at birth. So, I felt like doing something that will make them happy, I should sing for them to make them happy, and that, basically, was where I started active singing, and the song was written for me, which happens to be the first performance that I did,” Tosin quips.
“After that, people were saying, why did you not go to record, and I did the first record, which had Orireremi, Let there be love and Cheer up; there were quite a few songs that were unpopular. My songs were to make children happy, to make people happy, and to inculcate good behaviour; and I think I was a bit successful doing that. At the same time, from the money, I was able to do concert and raise money for the less privileged, which I did throughout my musical career.”
She says, “initially, it was SOS, then came motherless babies and abandoned children all over Nigeria from Sotoko to Lagos, Calabar Kano and Kaduna, I covered many states in Nigeria while trying to raise money for them.”

TO actualise her dreams for the upliftment of the less privileged children in Africa , Tosin, in 1998, set up the Tosin Jegede Foundation (TJF), a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit making organisation, with the objectives being, to cater for the less privileged children and motherless babies homes; support education; award scholarships to the less privileged children in primary, secondary and institutions of higher learning; discover young poor talents and encourage them; campaign against ills among children and youth in general; campaign against all forms of child abuse, hawking, early marriage, campaign against Vesico Vaginal Fistulae (VVF); mobilise necessary resources to support the less privileged children, among others.
“Really, without God, I do not think I would have got to the level I am now. Thinking about it, as the first child to actually be involved in such a project in Nigeria, I got support from my teachers, headmistress, my fans and my parents right from the first day.
“I think it was really God, looking back, and my destiny. At that young age, I was in the right place with the right people despite some negative comments I got along the line.”
She adds, “in 10 years time, I will not be in music any more, but will be using my Foundation to raise fund for motherless and indigent children. I think it is just destiny; that is just the only way I can look at it.”
So, who is Tosin Jegede?
“She is a very creative person. As you said, there is music, painting, and writing. Which are all part of creativity; I am just a creative person that is why I like doing things that I will express myself. That is me.”
Of these creative parts, which one does she prefer most?
“Every one of it. I think I have enjoyed every process, too. Music, though it was when I was really young, I really enjoyed the process, because I had my friends around me and we were singing together. I really enjoyed the whole package. Then I do my painting and my beadwork, I also enjoyed them,” she says.
On her growing up, she reveals, “my nursery school was a normal one, and my primary school was at Central Bank of Nigeria Primary school, where I started singing and performing at functions. I was still very young when I went out in the daytime or at weekends to Abuja, Calabar or somewhere to perform. On Mondays, I would come to class as if nothing had happened. If everybody is being flogged for disturbance in the class, the same punishment is extended to me; no difference. I did not get any special treatment.”
She adds, “in secondary school, the same thing happened; you meet people that you like and those that you do not like; so, I had normal growing up. I think another thing that really helped when I was growing up was that I had a steady church, and the people that I grew up with, we are still friends.”

LAST week, there was a public presentation of a book she wrote on Cardinal Okogie.
What motivated the book?
She says, “I have watched him overtime commenting on issues. I have always been interested in his outspoken nature, even as a priest. He is really interested in the well being of the people. Secondly, when I was going through the letters of support he gave me, I felt there was need to write about this man.”
In her book, as a young child, she told the Cardinal that she liked to be a medical doctor, but today, she is a graduate of Business Decision Analysis.
What changed that process or what went wrong?
“No, nothing went wrong oh, you know, I had other things after medicine. There was medicine, there was a time I wanted to be a pilot, then a footballer, that did not last long, then a race car driver, I really wanted to race cars, I wanted to represent Nigeria. There were different professions like catering… I really experimented but I think what I really had passion for was engineering, maybe because my dad was an engineer. I also liked the idea of being in government as well; there were economic, politics, and ambassador. Yes oh, medicine was just a phase, quite a few career choices that I thought I wanted to make.”
You also said you wanted to be a footballer, which you stated was the shortest ambition you had, what made you think of being a footballer and why did you back out?
“I used to enjoy playing football when I was really young, playing with my brothers, cousins–– all of us play football; and I was a very good dribbler. Then, I thought, it was good to be one, but when I saw the much training they engaged in, I was scared away… Wake up early in the morning to be jogging up and down. I prefered something that would involve my brain, also my heart. I think why I read Business Decision Analysis is that I could be anywhere, and in any organisation. And I have been looking forward to working for myself, and work for charity, and I felt it will be good taking up that into what I want to do, that balances everything.”
With the fame, and all the attractions, did you not feel arrogant among your mates?
“I would have always felt I never did, because I never felt I did. I think, thinking about it, I go away, I come back, I just felt nothing special, the friends that are my friends are the same people, and they do not feel anything negative.

ON her painting, she says, “I developed the art when I was really very young, from cradle like most children did. I discovered that I really, really enjoyed painting than when I was much younger. I am not so great at drawing, when you give me something to paint with different colours, I can make beautiful work. It is something I really enjoy doing.”
On the Foundation, Tosin Jegede Foundation, she reveals, “it all started when I was singing to cheer up children. When I was going around the country raising money for the less privileged children and motherless babies, I noticed that there were children that were at home with their parents but because of one circumstance or the other they could not afford to have basic things, compared to other children in the same area.”
“These children need help and encouragement and as a growing country we cannot ignore. So, it is something I had always had a passion for, not only to make them smile but do something to enrich their life. The foundation definitely almost became natural. The focus is about the education of children; it is more about the quality of education that they get, the affordability of it.
“In Nigeria and in many countries, they look at education that you have to be in the classroom, you have to get a degree, diploma, and master. And I know that there are many people in life that did not go to school but are affecting people’s life. I also really believed in vocational training, whether they are going to be carpenters, painter, and all sorts of profession that do really require formal education. I believe in education as a whole.
“The immediate things will be more of scholarship but I think as I go along, I will be looking at how to get better, and looking at other areas.”

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