INTERVIEW Tobi Ibitoye, finalist of “Vocea României”, about the music industry in our country

Romania’s music industry is making progress every year and is constantly on the move. Artists, concerts, festivals, TV competitions. Tobi Ibitoye is active in the music industry in Romania, he was a finalist in the “Vocea României” contest in 2015 and conquered the hearts of Romanians with his voice. The Playtech team talked to him about the music industry in Romania, his passion about music, and an exciting upcoming festival.

The seventh edition of the multidisciplinary festival Unfinished means four days of workshops, performances, debates, conversations and presentations taking place in Bucharest from 29 September to 2 October. Under the theme “off-centre”, artists, architects, great thinkers, entrepreneurs, philosophers, biologists, mathematicians and more will explore the concept of decentralisation in many aspects of life. Alongside the University House, the Sala Radio and the Bulandra Theatre will open their doors for the festival events on the Unfinished map.

Participation in the event is by application only, in exchange for the most valuable currency – time – places are limited. You can register here. For those who can’t physically make it to the event, the festival can also be experienced online, with pre-registration only.

Ozana: How did you discover your passion for music?

Tobi Ibitoye: Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved to sing, ever since I was a child… (and here comes the all-time classical) I also sang in church and grew up singing all the time. When I came to Romania, I started going to karaoke and singing more and more. Little by little, my passion became my profession. In 2015, I found myself singing on national television in Romania in a singing competition. I think this experience was the turning point for me. It was the place that finally awakened the intense passion I have always had for music.

Ozana: How and when did you come to Romania and what was your experience like here at the beginning? How did people welcome you, what did you learn about the country?

Tobi Ibitoye: I came to Romania at the age of 15 in 2009 with my parents after my father was transferred to the Nigerian Embassy in Romania. It was and still is a wonderful experience. No doubt it was a challenge initially, because no matter how warm people are, there is still the language barrier. However, I have to mention that from the moment I started learning the simplest things, from “good morning” to “goodbye”, the “warmth” started to shine brighter and brighter. It’s been over 13 years since then and I’m having a blast.

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Ozana: Tell me about your experience on Vocea României.

Tobi Ibitoye: I’m sure every artist who comes out of a TV show like this often says this, but it’s true: it’s a life-changing experience. I think I needed a stage and a competition of this magnitude to challenge the artist that has always been in me. The adrenaline, the pressure and the desire to be true and still deliver a good performance has a way of turning a human being into something almost impossible to describe in words. I loved every moment of my experience on The Voice of Romania and there were so many beautiful moments. Today I have an unwavering commitment to the arts, from music to film to theatre, and it all started on that stage.

Ozana: Have you ever participated in a competition like Vocea?

Tobi Ibitoye: I’ve had the opportunity to perform in other TV competition shows of this kind, but I always decided not to go because I feel that the authenticity of that initial experience could not be replicated in another competition of the same format. I was able to learn so much in such a short amount of time and I couldn’t share the same desire to learn in the same environment. But I signed up for a cooking show and that was a lot of fun.

Ozana: How do you see music in Romania, referring to evolution, quality, audience etc.

Tobi Ibitoye: This is a very difficult question to answer, because there are no universally accepted benchmarks to define the quality of an art such as music. Music represents a lot of emotions filtered through the minds and thoughts of the creator. The music industry in Romania is growing because it is becoming more and more relevant every day. But I don’t think I want to be the guy who defines in any way the quality of music or the quality of the audience. I think as long as artists make music that inspires emotions in people, from joy to sadness, from fun to solemnity, I think they’ve done their job and done it well.

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Ozana: What is the Unfinished festival about and can you tell us what exactly you’ll be doing there?

Tobi Ibitoye: I think Unfinished is the birth of a new culture and a new way of having conversations about important issues that matter to all of us. One of the most important mediums of change in our history as human beings has been unconventional conversations. Bringing like minds and like minds that think at cross purposes into the same room, exchanging ideas, is a great way to find the balance so necessary for our common development. At Unfinished I will sing. I will sing my heart out and address all the beauties and horrors that inspire me to create.

Ozana: What does off-center, the theme of this year’s festival, mean to you?

Tobi Ibitoye: “Curious” is the word that strikes me every time I think about this topic. Curious about what it actually means, what it entails and what it has to offer. It’s actually quite challenging for me, because from what I’ve learned about myself, I can confidently conclude that my one fervent principle in life is balance, in other words the battle to the centre.

As such, when I think about this theme, I imagine how beneficial it would be to experience a completely different approach and under what circumstances. It’s a challenging theme. I think it’s going to take more approaches than one, more extremes than one, and as I said earlier, being able to talk about all of that is absolutely essential to our development.

Ozana: What are your current professional projects?

Tobi Ibitoye: I’m working on many projects at the moment, some I can talk about publicly and some I can’t. I am currently completing work on my first album and developing my acting skills. In time, all will be revealed.

Ozana: What are your plans for the future?

Tobi Ibitoye: I’m not planning that much, to be honest. I like to take things one step at a time, to create space in my mind to really be engaged in the moment. I pay enough attention to my evolution as a human being and as an artist. I have dreams, goals, visions and desires, but they require hard work and patience, dedication and perseverance. For me, this is the plan. Stay true, work hard, stay healthy, be love, give love and make art!

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