Iyanya Onoyom Mbuk (born 31 October 1986), also known on stage as Iyanya, is a Nigerian Afropop singer and songwriter who hails from Calabar in the Cross River State of Nigeria. He rose to fame after winning the first season of Project Fame West Africa. He is known for singles like “Kukere“, “Ur Waist“, “Sexy Mama” and others.
Iyanya was born on October 31, 1986 in Calabar, Cross River State in Nigeria. He lost his parents in 2008, and later lost his older brother around the same time.
Iyanya had his tertiary education at the University of Calabar, where he studied Business Management.
- After graduating from the University of Calabar, he worked in a hotel and sang karaoke at a local bar he managed. Iyanya began developing his vocal abilities at local bars which include: Fiesta Fries Bar, Mirage Nite Club, and West-Life. Iyanya cited British singer Craig David and American hip hop artist R. Kelly as his key musical influences. Iyanya was motivated to pursue music professionally after watching the celebrity lifestyle of 2 Face Idibia and Olu Maintain. Iyanya started as a rapper, going by the name “Lofty”.
- In 2008, KCee from KC Presh convinced Iyanya to partake in the first season of Project Fame West Africa. Iyanya went on and emerged the winner of the competition after battling numerous people who had the same aspirations as him. The 2008 MTN-sponsored Project Fame competition was the beginning of Iyanya’s musical career. Unlike many people who dwindle after a major competition, Iyanya’s success had just begun.
- After winning MTN’s Project Fame West Africa, Iyanya began recording his debut album My Story. It was released by CN Media Imprint. The album showed Iyanya’s versatility as an R&B artist, particularly on the self-titled track “Iyanya” and “Love Truly”. Iyanya’s debut album was a commercial failure due to problems with distribution and promotion.
After visiting his hometown of Calabar and seeing people’s affection for the Etighi dance, Iyanya decided to do a song that would popularize the dance that originated in Calabar. He teamed up with producer DTunes and recorded “Kukere”, a single that achieved global success, particularly in Nigeria, Ghana and the United Kingdom. The song was succeeded by the album’s second single entitled “Ur Waist”, which features additional vocals from Emma Nyra.
- On 16 October 2013, 360Nobs reported that Iyanya became an ambassador for Solo Phones Nigeria, a mobile phone company situated at Computer Village, Ikeja. The one-year deal was reportedly worth $220,000 (35 million naira). In addition, Iyanya got a 2014 Toyota Prado from the deal. The Daily Independent newspaper reported that Iyanya also signed a one-year deal with Zinox Computers (Nigeria’s first certified branded computers) worth $300,000. The deal will feature Iyanya on Zinox billboards and in TV commercials.
- yanya started performing ballads, particularly on his debut album My Story. In an interview with Toolz on Ndani TV, he said he wants to be a versatile artist and wants to be known for his R&B and Afrobeats abilities. In the same interview, he also said he switched from R&B to Afrobeat because he wanted to make money and wanted fans to see his versatility.
- On 25 November 2012, Iyanya performed at comedian AY Makun show held at the INDIGO2 arena. To promote his second album in the UK, Iyanya headlined the Iyanya vs. Desire concert. It started in London and ended in Manchester. The London concert was held at the INDIGO2 arena on 9 June 2013. It featured performances from Tonto Dikeh and Emma Nyra. On 14 June 2013, the Manchester concert commenced and featured performances from Emma Nyra and DRB Lasgidi. Iyanya and his label mate Emma Nyra went on a mini tour across the US and Canada in early 2013. Iyanya performed at the Shrine in Chicago on 11 April 2013. He also performed at the African Muzik Magazine launch on 12 April 2013, which was held in Dallas, Texas. Iyanya serenaded Grammy Award nominee Melanie Fiona at the LTB Jean store in Soho, New York, and performed at the world-renowned New York Fashion Week.
Awards & Honors