Monday, 17 October 2011

Manly Daily Article

I was fortunate enough to have an article written about my singing in the local paper.

http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/doctor-feelgood/

 However, with limited space, the journalist couldn't give the full story behind it all, so here's the rest.

Why singing? I just love it, I guess. Until recently, I hadn’t done it for a long time. I used to sing in a rock band at school and the guitarist and I went off to medical school, and the other 3 guys turned professional. We would do background music for university functions. When I left England for the southern hemisphere, I went to New Zealand for 3 years with the aim of playing rugby while working, which you can’t really do at home. I was teaching salsa, and did a couple of years of hip-hop and jazz, while doing a diploma in theatre acting.

With that, I entered a performing arts competition (singing, dancing, acting and modeling- I don’t really consider modeling that much of a skill, but it was an interesting opportunity).
I made the national team (The Black Stars- all NZ teams have to have a collective name, for some reason), and we went to LA (after I came to Sydney) for the world championships. I’d been to Hollywood before, but to have the chance to perform in front of showbiz representatives was something I didn’t feel I could miss out on.

It went pretty well- I won the mens latin dancing, and got medals for acting and swimwear modeling, and also got signed by a Hollywood acting agent and won a scholarship for the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts intensive course in TV and film acting, which I did last July. I was disappointed not to have won anything for singing, though.

I hate the idea of singing badly, so I joined one of the singing schools in Manly- Singing Alive on
Pittwater Road
, and I’ve been going to karaoke at the Ivanhoe to get used to singing in front of people again. With singing, you improve so slowly that you don’t really notice any change in your voice, but a few months ago, one of the X-factor crew heard me at karaoke and urged me to go on the show next year. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not, but I thought I’d go back to background singing in local venues as a target for getting my voice up to performance standard.

The feedback has been pretty positive. I’ve sung at The Space, the 4Pines and SugarLounge. I was going to have a guitarist accompanying me, but he had to leave the country at short notice, as his mother in Ireland was sadly taken terminally ill, so I had to use mp3 backing tracks, and it seems to be proving pretty popular.

I sing mainly soft rock and popular music, and it’s designed to just blend into the background while people enjoy their evening. I don’t actually want to be noticed that much. From university days I know that people usually only notice you much if you’re bad. It’s completely different from being in the band, when you’re running around on a stage with the other members and crowd-surfing.

At school we used to sing Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Guns ‘n’ Roses, so I naturally lean towards that genre, which surprises some people. A lady at The Space said to me “You look like a soul singer.” I said “No- I’m just black.”

The 4Pines is a favourite venue for hospital staff, and my salsa friends all go to Sugar Lounge, so I’m normally singing in front of a few friendly faces. Actually- I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of colleagues who came out to see me at the 4Pines. The venue said their weeknights aren’t usually that busy, so they’d like to make me one of their regular acts. I’m back there on Monday the 24th of October.

My whole family sings and dances- it’s a huge part of Nigerian culture. In fact, the best thing about being African is that you actually enjoy watching your parents dance. I never could relate to the fear and trepidation most of my Caucasian friends feel when faced with that prospect.

I just love performing, as it just makes me feel so alive. I’ve done a decent amount of acting since being here, although the logistics of it can be incredibly difficult. I’m notorious in the emergency department for asking people to swap shift with me so that I can make it to castings and filmings. I did a play last year at the Pavillion Theatre in Bondi, which ran for a week, while I was on night shifts. I didn’t have to swap shifts with anyone, but it was truly exhausting.
I was contemplating going to LA to be represented by the agent that I met during the world championships, but I think I’ll finish my emergency training here first. I’m currently a registrar, and I have 2 more years of advanced training to go (and an exam) before I become a boss. I can’t ever imagine leaving medicine entirely. I think it’s a very special thing to be able to do. If you have the ability to bring good health to somebody, or even save their life, then that’s something I don’t ever want to lose. It’s why I studied medicine in the first place. But then, so did Lucy Liu….

I don’t have any particular desire to be rich and famous. I just see myself as fortunate to be able to pursue the things that I enjoy, and even more so to be at least competent at them. If I was ever to be famous, I would like it to be for doing and achieving something of genuine substance. I couldn’t live with myself if I ever signed up to a manufactured band, or was ever mentioned in the same sentence as the Paris Hiltons or Kardashians of this world.

[shudder]


Dancing is incredibly exhilarating, and salsa, in particular, is very positive, feel-good music. I’ve never seen a fight in a salsa club. I help out with the teaching at Beaches Latin when their teachers are away, but the irregular timetable in emergency medicine means that I can’t commit to any recurring time to teach or rehearse, so I do solo performances, which are pretty intense, as all the pressure is on you, and any mistakes can be glaringly obvious. the Sydney Salsa Congress doesn’t usually allow solos, so I go back to New Zealand every year to perform at the congress there. One of them is on YouTube, if you’d care to find it.

Modelling isn’t something I do a lot of. It’s interesting to have a look inside the industry. While not all models are stupid, as the stereotype dictates, you definitely don’t need to be particularly intelligent to do it. While in LA, I went to a seminar with Michael Maddox, who is Tyson Beckfords runway trainer. I was surprised to find that there is actually something to it, and if you didn’t learn it, you would most likely get it wrong. For example, you’re supposed to walk a certain way, and stop and pose in four steps, take your jacket off in a set manner and if you’re modeling a bag, remember to show both sides of it. Watching people get it wrong was nothing short of painful. They recommended that, based on my body type, I pursue swimwear and sports modeling, but this doesn’t motivate me as much as actually performing.

Singing is probably the easiest thing to coordinate, especially as a solo act- I do 20mins of vocal exercises and half and hour of songs each day, and one lesson a week with Singing Alive, and I’m really pleased with the fact that people like the way that I sound. I used to be incredibly reluctant to practice singing, as I would often hear people laughing outside my house while I was doing it, but I really don’t care anymore. My viewpoint now is that the result of my doing vocal exercises is that people now pay me to sing. Anyone who laughs at me practicing is probably more likely to be paid NOT to sing. I’m the guy singing to himself on the ferry and in Fitness First in Mosman and Dee Why, as well as at work. Some people might recognize me. If I do X-Factor next year, maybe a few more will do so as well.

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