Calabar, the capital of Cross Rivers state, Nigeria, has a global reputation for beauty, serenity and tourism. But that’s not all. Many do not also know that Calabar is notable for producing national icons that are trailblazers in various aspects of human endeavour, such as music, politics, sports and education, among others. A significant start icon who has made it to the peak of his career at the national and international stage is the one and only “Kukere” crooner, Iyanya Onoyom Mbuk.
Iyanya was born and raised in Calabar. The 28-year old recording artiste, singer, songwriter and performer also had his elementary and tertiary education in the beautiful city of Calabar. Iyanya shot to limelight in 2008 when he won the maiden edition of the MTN Project Fame West Africa music reality show competition. His humble beginnings can be traced back to a large compound within the Calabar metropolis where he grew up in a large family comprising of his cousins, brother and dad. Although he would later lose his parents and sibling in a car crash in 2008, he still credits the strong connection he had with them as a major source of inspiration for some of his works.
After winning Project Fame, Iyanya went on to churn out his R&B debut album titled My Story with critically acclaimed songs like No Time and Love Truly. The turning point for Iyanya came when he went back on a visit to his hometown, Calabar. It was on this trip that he experienced the beauty of the native Etigi dance steps of the Efik people. Intrigued and inspired by the moves and steps of this traditional dance, Iyanya produced his monster hit track, Kukere, which became a ‘national anthem’ in Nigeria in 2011 and also won him multiple awards, especially the coveted Artist of the Year award at The Headies 2013.
Iyanya’s music ingenuity and talent has taken him to many countries in Africa, Europe and the United States where he staged solo performances and featured as guest artiste in various shows and events. Iyanya had a stint in television with his cameo appearance in the popular MTV Shuga Series 3 in 2013.
Back home in Nigeria, aside from his rising profile as an A-list artiste in the music industry, Iyanya has enjoyed massive endorsements worth millions of naira from telecommunications giant MTN, smartphone retailer Solo, and Nigeria’s first certified branded computer manufacturer, Zinox Computers.
Coming on the heels of his success and with a burning desire to give back to society, Iyanya established the Iyanya Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization aimed at helping orphans across the country to improve their lives. During the launch of the foundation in 2014, Iyanya, submitted that he’s one of the very few orphans that have had the opportunity to become great and influential in the society through his music. And with MTN giving him the platform through Project Fame, he recognises that not every talented boy/girl on the street today will be as fortunate as he was.
Finally, in a bid to honour his Calabar relatives and loved ones (especially his late parents and only brother), Iyanya inscribed memorable tattoos on his body to serve as a constant reminder of his heritage. With this singular action, many will agree that Iyanya is undoubtedly a true “son of the soil.” Wouldn’t you agree?