With increasing pressure on Nigeria music acts to go commercial, Ruby Gyang is one artiste who has stayed true her sound regardless and she keeps churning melodious music with enriching contents. Read excerpt of her interview with Tush Magazine:
T.M: Can we meet you?
Ruby: My name is RubyAnn Gyang; My Dad is from Benue state while my mum is from Kaduna, so I consider myself a dual citizen of Nigeria. I grew up in Zaria and had my primary education at Ahmadu Bello University Staff School. My childhood was quite fun, I have five siblings – three sisters and two brothers. I’m actually the 5th born out of the six of us.
I was at Kaduna till I was 12 before I moved down to Benue for secondary education and then back to Jos, which is where my mother’s family are based. Education was a big deal for my parents, such that they made sure we got the best possible education at every point in time. I attended a couple of secondary schools – Air Force Sec. School in Markurdi and Command Secondary School and Bettany Christian Academy both at Jos. I also had my tertiary education there, studying Economics at the University of Jos.
T.M: What would you term your genre of music?
Ruby: My genre is soul and R&B
T.M: Judging by the reception of that genre in Nigeria, having little attention, but then again it’s good for you because there are few of you, so what did you consider before doing that kind of music?
Ruby: Well…Firstly, Soul and R&B is the kind of music I absolutely love. It’s what I grew up with. It comes naturally. It’s what I gravitated into – the sound, lyrics, style, content and performance of it. So it was natural for me to be a soul artiste. Thankfully, the likes of Asa, TY Bello and her defunct group – Kush, Jeremiah Gyang, Styl-Plus were already paving the way for us and showing us that genre of music worked. Also, going back to old Nigerian music which featured the likes of Bongos Ikwe, there was funk music going back there. Back home, I was listening to highlife music which my dad was into and all inspired me.
T.M: How did your journey into music start, where did it start from and what inspired your transition to Lagos
Ruby: Music has been with me all through; growing up we had morning devotion, where we sang, it was almost like a choir going on with everybody having their part. I have been in the church choir since I was 5. My musical foundation is gospel music and I knew that was what I was gonna do and this was at a tender age of 6, I was obsessed with it, I would spend hours listening to music. Church was a factor, where we had family devotions. At school also, we had awesome music programs, dance and acting programs. I was doing this my whole life, so along the line, it just made sense that this is what I ought to do.
In Jos, I met with Jesse Jagz, M.I, Ice Prince and we started making music together, we were in school back then which kept us in Jos at the time but then eventually, M.I just told me it was time for us to move down to Lagos but it was tough due to the difference in pace between Jos and Lagos. But I had to adjust to the fast-paced life of Lagos. Shout out to MI who encouraged me and told me I could stay with him, saying he would produce and work together with me as an artiste.
TM: Were you part of Loopy Music?
Ruby: Yes, I was. It all started with Jesse Jagz, myself and some friends of ours who used to sing in the choir. We performed together and when MI came back from the states, he decided we should start something as a music group and that was how the Loopy movement began. Eventually, people got signed and left after a while but MI was committed to bringing everyone back still and that he did.
TM: In an interview, you granted the Daily Trust you stated that Jeremiah Gyang is actually not your blood brother
Ruby: Jeremiah is my brother but from another mother. Our parents are very good friends.
TM: So when did you move to Lagos officially and what has been the experience so far?
Ruby: I moved in the year 2000. The experience has been awesome but tough. Being a full time artiste is scary because of the financial insecurities that come with the territory(General laughter). Knowing quite well that it takes a while to get to that point of financial stability.
TM: How would you place your value in the music market at the moment?
Ruby: For my market, that is, soul and R&B, it’s pretty good, I’m doing pretty well.
TM: Since you moved to Lagos, what major milestone or experience convinced you without a doubt that you were here for good and not moving back to Jos?
Ruby: I remember that I left lagos for like 6 months, but then while in Jos, I consulted with people, prayed and then it just hit me that I needed to go back to Lagos, and I stayed proper this time. Also the response I got from my music encouraged me that I was on the right track, though it hasn’t been easy but I believed I was making the right decision.
TM: Will you attribute your success thus far to MI/Chocolate City
Ruby: 100% yes. No one can truly say his or her success is self-made. There is usually someone that helps you along the way. Back home in Jos, I knew I wanted to sing but didn’t know how I was gonna be an artiste. MI and Audu has been instrumental to what I am today. They believed in me and gave me the platform. Audu also trusting MI to run his company was a big deal and we all are benefiting from that now.
TM: What inspired that ‘Good Man’ song?
Ruby: Every woman has a picture of that man she wants to end up with, that was basically what inspired the song, even though MI wrote the song and I was like “what! how can a dude write this kind of song”, But then I was impressed. My A&R man endorsed me to record the song. Also, the concept of a good man became more than just in the sense of a husband, it gravitated towards my brothers, my dad and male friends, and realized I was surrounded by good men, so then it became a song celebrating good men in general.
TM: In your interview with the Daily Trust, you said you wanted the song to be played at your wedding
Ruby: Yes, I realized there were few songs out there in the market that celebrated men, and the song did get a good feedback from my female folks.
TM: Judging by the content in your song ‘good man’ and seeing that most songs out there don’t have “content” yet they rake in money more than those with good content, how do you feel about that knowing fully well that you are in the same music industry?
Ruby: I noticed that the people that don’t have “content” in their music hustle really hard to push their songs, so I figured, if me with my own good content can equally work hard and hustle it out, then I would also make it big. So even though I am not a fan of music without “content” as music is so powerful it can influence the listeners, I am motivated and challenged by their hustle and work ethic.
TM: What inspired an EP project instead of an album? Was it the tediousness that goes into an album compared to a project?
Ruby: Well…see an album is like a PhD and an EP project like a bachelor’s degree. And even with a project, it’s a lot of work, it takes a lot and requires little input, but the album is the grand scale. I had a lot of music just lying there, so I thought, let me put them together into an EP, and thankfully I make music in a certain direction, there’s a common denominator for the songs, so I was able to gather them together over this long period.
For an album though, you want to drop that when people really want it, when you are really hot, so you don’t want to put it out and waste it. So this project is basically like a pre-launch of the album
TM: How was the selection process of the songs like? Were you satisfied with it?
Ruby: The best thing about Chocolate City is that we have a lot of artistic freedom. They are going to sit down and advise you on which song will work and which won’t but if you insist on it, they’ll let you have your way.
So I sat with my team – my A&R, MI, my PR guy, to iron out the songs to put on the project, but what was most important was the fact that ‘This is Love’ talks about different kinds of love – self love, angry love, happy love, sad love. So it was about the content and the picture we wanted it to paint of the album to come.
TM: Which is your favorite track on the project?
Ruby: It’s track number 2 ‘No No No’ because that’s like 100% soul music which is my core sound and also about the content which talks about a relationship where one party jilts the other and that broken party tries to rekindle the relationship but to no avail, then the jilted party moves on, becomes a better person and later the one that breaks off the relationship comes back begging and gets rejected.
TM: What’s your fashion style?
Ruby: I like classic fashion, which implies, not following trends, wearing timeless pieces that don’t fade away with time. YSL once said: “fashion fades but style is eternal”. When you think of the likes of Chanel, the late Jackie O, Elizabeth Taylor, Victoria Beckham, people still will be rocking their style because it’s never going out of vogue.
TM: Back to your music, what will your sound be like in the next five years?
Ruby: What I can say is…It’s going to be soulful, African and edgy.
TM: Why the stage name Ruby?
Ruby: Ruby is part of my name, my full name is RubyAnn, which my mother gave to me, and I guess she looked at me and said “She is priceless”, so yeah I do take pride in my name.
TM: Not meaning to judge you but during an interview with HipTv you mentioned leaving your baby with your mum back home in Jos. Would you say it was the wisest decision to make?
Ruby: Well, I mean, you are in a situation, you look at the best possible decision; being here in Lagos, with the job I do and with the hours I keep, and the lifestyle I live, the safest place is to keep her with my mum. She spends her holidays with me, we talk on the phone on a daily. It’s about spending quality time, not quantity time with her.
TM: Sequel to your break up and reunion with the guys- Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz, MI and the rest at Chocolate City music, how is the chemistry between you guys now compared to back then, is it still the same?
Ruby: Our relationship has evolved into maturity, with everyone having their individual interests, but the bond between us is better and stronger.
TM: Would it be wrong to call you Chocolate City’s first lady?
Ruby: Nah, just call me queen and I’ll be okay; but really though I’m not big on titles. Pryse, DJ Lambo and Victoria believe they are Chocolate City’s first lady and they are right, but I feel we are what we do.
TM: And you are not in any competition with the other ladies?
Ruby: It’s a healthy competition, because when you see Pryse or Victoria or DJ Lambo working hard, you wouldn’t want to be left behind and disgrace yourself. We mutually support and respect each other, we motivate each other to do more.
TM: What would be your best advice for artistes, especially those that want to do something different from the norm?
Ruby: Stick to it, be amazing at it, learn the skills, work hard for long enough, something will come out of it, it’s the law of life. Develop intellectual capital, develop relationships, learn about the music business, the history of successful artistes.
TM: While we’ve been conversing during the interview, you’ve made a number of quotes, are you a philosopher, or do you read or study it?
Ruby: If you ask my manager, he would tell you I’m intellectual. I love reading and thank God for my parents for encouraging us to read, so growing up, there was an encyclopedia, there was the bible which was like the best book to read because it had entertainment, education, spiritual feeding. I absolutely love quotes because you are taking a lifetime of experience from someone’s life and they are powerful seeds to inspire and motivate you, so yes I would say I am a philosopher.
TM: Thank you so much for your time Ruby
Ruby: My pleasure.