I met Tofarati as a spoken word artiste and his performance was very impressive. When we got talking, he told me he was also a writer which at the time did not feel so strange but then he started talking about acting and comedy and I got fascinated. I saw his two published works and I knew I had find out more about this ‘phenomenon’. He writes here as tofarati and you probably did not know he was also a DJ.
Q: Tell us about yourself
My name is Oluwatofarati Ige. I was born in the late 1980s Lagos, Nigeria, but I’m originally from Ekiti state in south west Nigeria. I attended Niger Pre-Age International Home School for my primary education then proceeded to Lagos State Civil Service Model College, Igbogbo for my secondary school education.
I graduated from the Olabisi Onabanjo University with a degree in Biological Sciences.
I have always had love for entertainment. I sing, act, write, compere, DJ, speak publicly, dance, stand-up comedy…entertainment is my first love. It is a talent, which I took up as a hobby, and then brushed up through informal channels like books, internet, TV…to become a way of life/profession. I am already versed in the basics of English Language, and so my science background helps me as a writer to be more factual, analytic, comprehensive and concise.
Q: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing from when I could hold a pencil aloft. I can remember scribbling all sort of gibberish on paper at an early age when I couldn’t yet form words. At that time, it just felt good to see my own handwriting. I’ve always had a fertile imagination, so the urge to give vent to my crazy thoughts on paper came on strong at an early stage. Over the years though, I’ve read countless books which have impacted and shaped me into the writer I’ve become today. The first piece of literature I sold was in JSS2 in secondary school. I wrote a collection of short stories with my pen, and then re-wrote several copies with my hand (I’m not kidding!) which I sold to fellow students who I knew had weakness for books.
The response was enthusiastic as my ‘customers,’ kept bugging me for my ‘next’ book.
I began writing to put down my thoughts and experiences. But now, I write to teach, amuse, entertain, inform, correct and transform lives. I see my pen as a weapon of social change, and so my works are reflective of the voice of the people. My poetry takes a populist approach because I pen what everybody and anybody can relate and identify with.
Q: What inspires you to write?
I am basically inspired by my environment. I regard myself as a student of life so I glean lessons from actions that might be inconsequential to other people and I believe that I’m just a vessel inspired by God. Sometimes, I am affected by what I write. I owe my creativity to the Almighty.
Q: What was your publishing journey like, from thinking of the book idea to holding it in your hands?
I must admit that my publishing journey has been tortuous. Thinking of a book idea definitely ranks as one of the best moments in my life. I am usually in my elements when I’m conceptualizing a book. I get to fall in love with the characters in the same way that the reader would. And then I get dizzy with excitement that the book will change somebody’s life somewhere. When I first wanted to publish, I submitted my manuscripts to a lot of the leading publishing firms in Nigeria. Some of them indicated interest in publishing me, but their terms were unattractive, and so I was advised by my managers not to take them. I also wrote to publishers around the world, but I didn’t get any favourable response.
I thereafter decided to go the self- publishing route. As an entertainer, I had floated a company called GRAND TYCOON ENTERTAINMENT which is legally empowered to publish books. It is this company that has been publishing my books.
We embark on a lot of sales tours, and what I’ve gained the most in my publishing experience, is the love of readers I get everywhere. Many of them appreciate my works and they do not hesitate to tell me how it has affected them. That alone makes up for all the rigors I go through.
Grand Tycoon Entertainment is involved in general entertainment services like Live band, party planning, talent management, DJ, MC, Dancers…..etc.
Q: How many books have you published?
I presently have two published books. They are TOWN CRIER (2008) and ORIKI (PRAISE POETRY 2011). Both are a collection of poems and were published by Grand Tycoon (GT) Entertainment..
Q: Why poems? Do you plan to write prose too?
Poems have the ability of touching you with just a single line. A verse of poetry can pass powerful messages that might be difficult for a hundred pages of prose to convey but then, I started off with prose, and I do have a lot of manuscripts so definitely I will publish stories in the future.
Q: Discuss the poems in your book.
The poems in my book are largely inspirational and romantic in nature. I adopted the free verse style of poetry, but I also make use of a lot of rhymes. A lot of the poems read like songs, and they have a mass appeal as it is not constrained to a particular age or group. Here is an example:
Got a thought to spare?
For my tale of woe and despair,
borne by a heart,
damaged beyond repair.
Where we were
was better than where we are,
it’s not by choice,
but here we are.
Did I hear you say ‘ah?’
let a sigh,
and let’s think side by side.
Welcome to my thoughts,
a world full of buts,
if only but,
I could only but,
I’d have bought all the buts.
Share my thoughts:
a world of forgotten dreams
and what have you nots.
I tend to play around with the issue I’m discussing. In “Soliloquy”, I was heartbroken, and even my thoughts were melancholic, but the poem still comes out as been funny. I also go out of my way to employ easily understandable English so that my readers don’t get headaches trying to decipher my message. My poems are naked, as I deliver it the way it comes to me. In that, I’m different from some other writers, as I don’t hide my true meanings under debris of high sounding words.
Q: Do you have a major theme that runs through your writing?
The poems in my books have three major themes Inspiration, Romance and Family. My poems extol perseverance, consistency, honesty, creativity, healthy self- esteem….and victory. The poems also celebrate love, romance and passion. I also encourage passion even for married and elderly couples. (You never get too old for love!)
Lastly, I also stand for family values. A healthy home is the foundation of an individual. I support strong family ties, and it is noticeable in my books.
Q: What books have influenced your life the most?
A lot, but I’ll mention a few. ‘The Palmwine Drunkard’ by Amos Tutuola. ‘The Joys Of Motherhood’ by Buchi Emechata. ‘If Tommorrow Comes’ by Sidney Sheldon. ‘The Concubine’ by Elechi Amadi. ‘Left Behind’ by Tom Jenkins and Tim Lahaye.
Q: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Sidney Sheldon. He has had such a profound effect on my literary career. In his time, he was simply the master of the game.
Q: What books are you reading now?
‘Trevayne,’ (Action) by Robert Ludlum. ‘The Bible,’
Q: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
As I’ve stated earlier, Sidney Sheldon. I enjoy his pace-y and suspense laden style of narration. His characters are always so….captivating, so intense. Tracy Chapman, the lead character in If Tomorrow Comes was so real to me, that I carried her along with me for so many years. I read some books and I enjoy them. Some I love, but anytime I read a Sidney Sheldon….I live with the book.
Q: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Creativity thrives in a quiet and serene environment, so at times when it gets too loud it stifles my flow. A writer also needs to know that his works will get to a lot of places, and touch lots of people’s lives without actually worrying about how that will happen (its up to the sales and strategy team). Ordinarily the writer is supposed to just write and wait for the paycheck, but here in Nigeria, you infuse so many roles into one. That also impacts on creativity. Then we need funds, and a viable platform to export our art to the world.
Q: What do you think of the Nigerian publishing industry?
We really don’t have a publishing industry as it were. A lot of writers actually write, publish, hype, promote and sell their books by themselves. Where is the division of labor? Where are the regulatory bodies supposed to make things right?
Q: What comments do you have about the reading culture in the country?
The reading culture in Nigeria is poor, so the onus lies on writers to catch the attention of the public with rich and entertaining literature. Writers should also be accessible in their style of writing. It’s a difficult task getting a man to read, and then you confront him with what he/she can’t understand at first sight? That puts him/her off. As a matter of that, the major reason why I published poetry instead of prose is because I know that by reading even three pages of poems, the reader would leave with some tangible lessons.
I advocate for a vibrant literary awareness amongst youths, not because I’m a writer but because I’m aware of the power of books.
Why, a sage once said that change is dependent on two factors in your life: the people you meet or the books you read and so I’m organizing a program called The Bring Back The Book Campaign (BBBC).
As we all know, the reading culture in Nigeria is very poor, and I believe that we need to change that before we can make headway as a country. Some graduates are described as half baked because they cannot construct simple sentences in English. It is quite sad, and we hope to change that.
We visit schools, churches and mosques and we talk to the people encouraging them to read and establish small libraries in their homes, churches and mosques. We also donate books to indigent students who otherwise aren’t able to afford them.
It also encompasses a competition, whereby we ask students to read books and also come up with original stories, poems and dramas of their own.
Q: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to tell my readers that I love them. It is for them that I write. Never ever give up. Everything is possible, if you put your mind to it. Also, go out and buy my books, ‘Town Crier,’ and ‘ORIKI (praise poetry)’
Q: Do you have an online presence?
Yes I’m on Facebook: ‘Tofarati Gt Ige,’ ‘Grand Tycoon Entertainment.’ I’m also on Twitter; you can follow me @grandtycoon. Be sure I’m going to follow you right back. *wink.* I also have a blog presence. Check me out on www.grandtycoon.blogspot.com; and www.grandtycoon.wordpress.com. Come on people, let’s meet online, and you would surely catch some of my rhymes.
Q: W here can we buy your book, both in stores and online?
My books are available in stores nationwide. They are sold at Terra Kulture, opp. Bar Beach V. I, C. S. S. Bookshops at C.M.S Lagos.
You can also place orders on www.grandtycoon.blogspot.com.
You can also call 08068792241, 08124533044.