For Nigeria’s most celebrated singing couple, Tunde and Wunmi Obe (T.W.O), there’s every reason to celebrate this year.
Aside from Tunde turning 50, the year 2018 marks the couple’s 30 years as music partners, as well as 20 years in marriage.
And, from all indications, the love birds are not leaving any stone unturned in their quest to stage a ‘one in town’ anniversary gig in Lagos.
Already, the chairman of the Planning Committee for the triple celebration, Gbenga Adebija, has assured fans of the couple and fun loving Lagosians, of a bumper package to celebrate the milestone.
Speaking at a media briefing held recently in Lagos to announce the celebration, Adebija informed that part of the event include the premiere of Without your Love remix, while the grand finale and highpoint of the celebration is the Tunde Obe at 50 dinner, with the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, celebrities, stakeholders in the showbiz industry, ambassadors, as well as friends and colleagues of the singing couple, expected to attend.
Meanwhile, their manager Don T Anifite has assured fans that the programmes of the anniversaries were designed and organised in accordance with the premium quality standard of stakeholders that had come to associate with T.W.O.
Wunmi Aboderin met Tunde Obe, while an undergraduate at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 1988 where she was pursuing a degree in Philosophy.
Tunde, an undergraduate of Lagos State University (LASU), was pursuing a degree in History Education.
Wunmi had joined the UNILAG band, Turning Point, in which Tunde was already lead singer.
The two became friends and when the band separated, as its members graduated, Tunde and Wunmi stayed together.
T.W.O first sang as a duet in Sealed, which turned out a success and they decided to work on an album.
As group, they eventually go their first recording contract from Zmirage in 1997 and their debut Album Sealed was released in 1998.
They later followed with T.W.O in 2003, T.W.O 4 real in 2007, T.W.O Legit in 2010 and T.W.O PLUS in 2015.
“The truth is that when we came together 30 years ago, it was more of a professional relationship.
But you find that, beyond the music, you have a connection with somebody.
The first thing that connected us was the fact that we had recently lost our fathers; our fathers were like the main breadwinners and focal points of our families.
A lot of people will not understand what that means when you are used to a certain lifestyle, and then you lose a parent and things almost changed immediately; we understood it.
So, we were able to connect on that level. And from there, we realised that we had lot more in common than music,” Tunde said in a chat with Guardian Music.
Though both created time for rehearsals in those days, the sessions actually paved way for a bond that transcends just music.
“We would always find excuses to rehearse on our own vocally, which is professional.
But half of the time, we were talking about many things; we became friends and things progressed from there,” he revealed.
As for those, who might be thinking the relationship was an ‘arrangee’ marriage, the truth is that the couple never juggled anything; it came natural.
“The friendship happened naturally and the music is the talent we share.
So, I think for us, it has just been the life we’ve known.
If you’ve been with somebody for 30 years, which means I was like 20 when we met, it means I’ve known her much more than half of my life.
So, for me, being with her is normal; beyond music, there’s genuine friendship.
Our marriage is based on friendship first, before any infatuation, love and all that.
Love is important; but that friendship and respect for one another is what I really think is the ‘glue’ that kept us together,” Tunde said.
For a man, who lost his father at 45 and his father in-law at 49, turning 50 is indeed a big deal.
“In a time in Nigeria where people are not really living long, with so many untimely deaths, turning 50 is a bid deal for me; it means I’ve outlived both our parents.
I think for me, it’s a major thing. I’m glad I’m still here,” he enthused.
Though marriage is not a bed of roses, Tunde and Wunmi Obe seem to have found a winning formula in dealing with their marital challenges, which has lasted them for 30 years without any known crisis.
In fact, separation has never been an option.
“Like in every relationship, there would be ups and downs, but I want to assure you that Wunmi and I have never put separation or divorce on the table; it’s not something we’ve ever discussed and it’s not something, by the grace of God, we will ever discuss.
As two adults, we table our differences and find solutions; we’ve never called a second party to settle anything that happens between my wife and me; we sit down and talk until we find solution.”
He continued: “I think the love we have for each other and the friendship we share, would always conquer any little disagreement that we have.
So, it’s a milestone and we are very happy. Thirty years is a lot for a musical group; 20 years of marriage is a lot for a couple.
So, we are looking forwards to many more successful years,” Tunde hinted.
Asked if they’ve had a situation that could have led to a break up as artistes, Tunde explained, “A lot of groups have split; except somebody comes up with a better group, I think T.W.O is the oldest group in Nigeria.
I don’t think anybody has stayed together as we have done.
People say is because we are married, but if twins could break up, then that’s not really an excuse.”
He continued: “Anything musical, which concerns two people, whether it’s marriage, brothers of fiends, it’s a coming together of two totally different ideology and idea in music.
The way we deal with it is that we respect each other’s space; we respect each other’s talent.
Once we agree on a topic, you do your own and I do my own. It’s a healthy rivalry, a healthy competition, but we are all both striving for excellence.
So, you find that a lot of the time, if I write something that she doesn’t agree with, she would say, ‘ah, see o, you know I like it, but…’ because, it’s all the same product.”
For Tunde, the biggest frustration as a songwriter is the fact that a lot of his songs are sometimes watered down to make it commercially viable for the audience.
However, he observed that the trend is gradually changing.
“Because we want the song to be commercially appealing, we step down a lot of things.
A good example is this Without your Love.
When we first did the song, to me, it was one of our best songs I’ve ever written.
At that time, I made up my mind not to promote it, I said, “people might not get it; they might not understand it.’
For those of us, who used to listen to it in our closet, it was one of our favourite songs.
But with time, we realised that a lot of Nigerians are getting open minded about music.
And some of the things that maybe couldn’t work a few years ago can actually work now,” he observed.
Just recently, Wunmi lost his elder brother and Chairman of Punch newspapers Wale Aboderin.
Till date, the singer is yet to come to terms with the reality of losing a second brother after Jaiye.
“Let’s just say that I’m still coming to terms with that; God is my strength; it really devastated me to say the least.
I’m just hoping that with time, this too shall pass,” she said.
Beyond being just a big brother, Wale was actually instrumental to developing Wunmi’s interested in music; he provided those early encouragements that shaped her music appreciation.
“Musically, I must say that he probably laid the foundation because, when I was young, at about six/seven, he was crazy about music; he was always buying records back then.
He was older than me by 11 years, so, when your big brother comes homes with all the records and then calls his little sister and say, ‘oya, come and listen to this song, what’s your opinion?’
Every time something new came out, he had it and he was always making me listen to it.
When I turned 12/13 years, he had this acoustic guitar that he used to play; he taught me how to play the bass guitar. Every chance he had, he was always encouraging me musically,” she recalled.
Even while he was away in the United States for studies, late Wale remained a pillar of support to younger Wunmi, who was determined to make a career out of music.
“We once went to spend some time with him during the holidays; this was about 1985.
Because I came there, he went out and bought new equipment; guitars, drums, keyboard…just so we could be jamming and practicing in his apartment.
With some neigbourhood guys, he brought us all together to rehearse music.
So, he really influenced my music, encouraged and gave me the opportunity to discover myself,” she said.
From all indications, T.W.O, particularly Tunde, has issues with the current crop of artistes, who seem more interested in making money than building a career.
“The generation we have now is in a hurry; it’s the sign of the times.
Nobody is really asking you to do anything; they don’t want your suggestion, they don’t want your opinion.
They just want money! If a young artiste approaches you today, he will tell you, ‘I need money to do my demo.’
They don’t want to pick your brains to find out what do to go beyond where they are; all they want is ‘signs me, I’m ready to blow!’
He lamented that sour relationship that exists between artistes and record labels, saying, “
It’s not encouraging anybody to want to help anybody; I don’t know of anybody, who is grooming anybody today.
What I see is that, if you invest in an artistes and you put two to three years on the artiste and spend a lot of money, the next thing you hear is, ‘I’m the one feeding his family.’
You find that, they always start well; they are obedient, but once money starts coming, they say, ‘you are collecting 60 per cent of this guy’s money, don’t you want him to build big house like yours?’ these are the issues that we are actually facing as older artistes,” he lamented.
If not music, Wunmi would have been either a lawyer or an entrepreneur.
“I’m a woman of many parts, but if you asked me when I was 10 years old, what was I going to be, in my words, I would say aircraft engineer.
Then, I got into secondary school and physics and mathematics came, I said, ‘ah, not such a good idea.’
So, I said, ‘okay, I was going to be a lawyer.’
For a long time, I wanted to be a lawyer; that’s probably what I would have been.
But today, if I say I’m going to stop music, I’m an unrepentant serial entrepreneur and an artiste,” she enthused.
However, Tunde would have followed his father footsteps by joining the diplomatic mission, if no that music came calling.
“For me, I would have probably followed my father’s footsteps; I’ve always loved diplomacy.
I’ve always loved the art of being able to negotiate on behalf of you country; I’ve always loved the opportunity to defend and sell my country to the rest of the world.
I think that’s where I would have probably fall or public relations; I think the way I relate with people close to me, you could tell that I have natural ability in that area.
Communication is also a strong still that I have so, I could have probably been in that area.
Wunmi is more of an entrepreneur; she always has a new business every month,” he said.