I had been frequenting the bar for several weeks when I finally had the chance to meet Ruby.
One Saturday, I was there on my own as my ‘gang’ had gone to hang out at another place at Ikeja.
I was at a table with two other guys I did not know that well though I had seen them a couple of times at the bar.
We all sat drinking and listening to the music. Then after Ruby finished her song, she stepped down from the stage and to my surprise walked towards our table.
It turned out she knew one of the guys at my table- he was an old school mate of hers.
I watched her closely as she sat chatting animatedly with the guy named Joe. She must have noticed the way I was staring for at a point, she turned to me, smiled and said.
“Hope you’ve been enjoying the show.”
“Thanks to you, I have. You have a great voice,” I said.
She smiled again.
“Your fan base is increasing daily Ruby,” her friend noted. “I think it’s time to come out with that album like I’ve been telling you to do.”
“Ah, Joe, you know how tough it is getting a record deal in this city.”
“If you’re serious about making an album, I could help with that,” I said. I don’t know why I said that since I was not a record producer or music label owner. I was an architect who knew little about the entertainment industry apart from my love of music.
But I saw that as a chance of getting close to her, to hear that voice as often as I wanted and I grabbed it.
“Really? ” said Ruby, a excited look on her face.
“Are you a producer?” Joe asked, looking at me speculatively.
I shook my head. “Nope. But I know a few people in the industry.”
Actually, it was Kingsley, my friend, an entertainment reporter with a newspaper in town who knew such people. He was even friends with music stars like 2Face, the twin brothers Psquare, Wizkid, D’banj and some top Nollywood actors and actresses as well. So, when I said I knew people in the industry, it was Kingsley I had in mind.
That night, Ruby and I exchanged contacts, with the promise to help her scout for a record producer who could help her in her career.
“Hold on, Tobi. What did you just say?” Kingsley asked, an incredulous look on his face. We were sitting in my car parked in front of his office. I had driven there after I closed from work to see him as I could not wait till we met up over the weekend.
“You heard me. I really need your help man,” I pleaded.
“But why are you doing this? You barely know the girl!”
“That’s not the issue now,” I said. “Do whatever you can to help. Call your contacts in the industry. Just do something!”
“I’ll see what I can do. I have an interview with Wizkid’s producer later this week. I’ll discuss it with him.”
That will be great!” I said, punching him playfully on the arm.
He gave me a quizzical look then said:
“Wow! I’ve never seen you this passionate about anything before, Tobi. What’s up with you?”
“It’s that voice, Kingsley. Anytime I hear it, I feel her talent is being wasted singing in a bar. She should be out there captivating a wider audience…like she has done to me.”
He nodded. “I see. Now, I understand what has happened to you.”
“And what’s that?” I queried.
He placed his hand on his chest.
“You’ve fallen in love. With her.”
I laughed at his words.
“What are you talking about, Kingsley? What has love got to do with this? You know me, I don’t have time for stuff like that.”
“Then why are you so concerned about her and her career? You are neither her brother nor husband!”
I shrugged. “I told you- I don’t want her talent to go to waste.”
“If you say so,” he said, opening the car door. “I need to get back to work before that devilish editor of mine starts looking for me. Today is my production day and we’re behind schedule. I’ll give you feedback in a few days.”
He got down from the car and stuck his head through the window.
“And give my regards to the girl with the golden voice that has captured a heart of stone like yours!” he said, laughing.
I made a face at him as I watched him leave, then I started the car and drove home.
Kingsley kept to his words. The following week, he arranged for Ruby to meet with the Producer at his studio in Ikeja. The evening before the appointment, she called to express her gratitude for my support to her.
“It’s nothing,” I said graciously. “It will be ‘criminal’ to allow a talented singer like you go to waste.”
That weekend, I was at the bar to unwind as well as see Ruby. With me were Kingsley and Mark.
Later, she came over to our table after her performance.
“So, how did it go?” I asked eagerly.
“It was ok. He liked my voice and the song I wrote, ” she said. “He has agreed to work with me.”
“Wow! That’s cool,” said Kingsley. “You must have really impressed him because he’s very picky. He doesn’t work with just anybody.”
“Congrats,” I said.
“Thanks,” she smiled at me. Then she added: “There’s only one problem though.”
“What’s it?” I asked.
“His fees. He wants N500k.”
“What?” Mark said. “Half a million Naira just for a single? How much will he charge for a full album then?”
“He’s one of the best producers in the country today that’s why his fee is high. Most of the hit songs you hear on radio are his handwork. He works with mostly top artistes in the industry,” Kingsley explained.
“You are right,” Ruby said. “Wizkid was just leaving the studio when I got there. Seemed they had been working all night as he looked very tired.” She paused before saying with a sigh: “It’s been my dream to work with a producer like that. But I might have to give up on that as I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Stay strong, girl! Don’t give up too easily on your dreams,” Mark said.
“He’s right, you know,” I put in. “I’m sure things will work out well in the end.”
Kingsley then suggested she met up with another producer he knew. “Eazzy K is equally good and the bonus is, he has a record label. I’ll arrange a meeting for you.”
“Thanks, Kingsley. I appreciate, ” she said.
THREE MONTHS LATER…
I was at home taking a nap one Sunday evening on the living room couch when my phone rang.
It was Ruby.
“Were you asleep? Sorry for waking you up.”
I sat up and yawned. ” It’s ok. It was time I got up anyway,” I said. “What’s up?”
“Guess what Tobi? We are dropping my single this week!” she announced excitedly.
“That’s great news! Congrats!”
“Thanks! I can’t believe it myself! Sometimes, I feel I’m dreaming and I’ll wake up and it will all fade away.”
“It’s real, babe.”
A lot had happened since she met with Eazzy K some months back. Luckily, he had liked her voice and work enough to sign her on his label. She had immediately started work on her first album; the single she was releasing was part of the album.
” I’m worried though,” she said in a doubtful tone.
“Whether people will like the song, if it will do well and…”
“Don’t worry about that, Ruby. You will do just fine,” I reassured her.
“Trust me. You’ll knock them out with that voice of yours.”
Like you did to me, I thought to myself with a smile.
“By the way, Eazzy is throwing a launch party Friday night. He has booked the bar for it. Hope you can make it.”
“Of course I’ll be there. Nothing will keep me away from all that free booze!” I said and she laughed.
The party was warming up nicely when I arrived at about 8pm. My ‘gang’ was also there in full force.
“What took you so long? ” Kingsley asked as I sat down besides him. He blew a ring of cigarette smoke in my face and I turned my face away before I got suffocated by the noxious fumes.
“Traffic,” I said. I picked up his glass of beer, drained it and wiped my lips.
“Where’s Ruby?” asked Chidi.
“I saw her a short while ago with her manager,” Mark said.
“She already has a manager?” Chidi exclaimed. “Na wa o! Her levels don change!”
“It should,” Kingsley said. “Her single is doing very well since it dropped a few days ago- it’s getting a lot of airplay and the reviews are great. It’s going to be a hit especially if the video is as good as the song.”
A short while later, Ruby came over to our table to chat with the guys. She beamed happily as they congratulated her on the launch.
“I wish you many years of success ahead!” said Mark.
“Don’t forget us o when you become as big as Wizkid and Davido!” Chidi chipped in.
“Thanks guys for your support and encouragement. I appreciate,” she said, shaking hands and backslapping round the table.
Then she drew close to me and whispered in my ear.
“Can I see you for a minute?”
We walked towards the rear of the bar to the expansive car park.
I leaned against a car and watched curiously as she opened her handbag and brought out a gift wrapped case.
She offered it to me.
“I know this isn’t much, Tobi but it’s my small token of appreciation for all you’ve done for me.”
I opened the case and smiled at its contents- a couple of ties and cufflinks.
“There was no need for this, ” I said.
She shook her head.
“There is,” she insisted. “You were one of the few people who believed in me and made an effort to help me. It’s rare in our society today because many people don’t want to help unless they are getting something in return.”
“It was your voice that did it. I loved it right from the first time I heard you sing.”
She held my hand and gazed up at me.
“Is that all you like about me, Tobi? Just my voice?”
From the faint light from a nearby streetlamp, I could see an earnest, eager look on her face as if a lot depended on my answer.
I placed the gift on the car bonnet and held her by the shoulders.
” It was… at the beginning, ” I said then added quickly: ” But now…”
” Yes? ” she prompted.
“I like other things about you, Ruby. Your eyes, your lips, ” I said, my finger tracing the outline of her full lips as my head lowered and drew closer and closer. ..
To be continued