Interview With Temi Doll Face As She Talks About Her Music, Coke Studio Africa and Collaboration With Sony Music
Who is Temi DollFace?
I am singer, a song writer and composer. Let’s just say I am a creative multi- tasker in a nut shell.
How did you come up with the name Temi DollFace?
I was born Temitope Samantha Phil-Ebosie. I used to frequent flea markets in London and a couple of
street photographers told me I look like a doll. I never used to see it but after four people told me, then
I started believing it. At the time I was fronting a band so I told them about it and next thing you know
they introduced me as Temi DollFace and the name stuck from there. I have been running with it ever
What did you study in school?
I studied something completely different from what I’m doing right now. My first degree was in Food
and Nutrition which was more a case of my parents wanting me to have something to fall back on
because you can never be too sure. I wasn’t particularly interested in it but I am very interested in the
sports aspect of nutrition so while I was there, I trained as a fitness instructor. I have no interest in
picking up again though. After that I went to performing school.
How did you get into music?
It’s not so much me getting into music, but rather music choosing me. To be honest, it’s something that
came to me at an early age. I have been singing for as long as I can remember but I wrote my first song
at the age of 7. My pastor at the time had seen the musical gift in me and bought me a keyboard and a
box of cassettes. I also had a Dictaphone.
Do you remember the lyrics to your first song?
I can barely remember the words but it was a gospel song. The words were something like, “in your
presence, your Holy fragrance, I praise your Holy name.”
How did you get signed up by Sony?
After a performance at school I met a gentleman who later became my manager. He took me to Sony
and played them a couple of my songs and they invited me in on a Friday after work. Twenty members
of staff were still there and I took out my keyboard and played about 6 songs live, after which I got a
standing ovation which was really nice! Then that was it, they signed me and the rest is history.
How old were you?
I was 20.
What was it like having a massive company like Sony behind you?
You know, it was like a dream. I never imagined that soon after leaving performance school I would even
smell Sony. I was over the moon! I had mixed feelings. I was scared, excited, wondered whether I could
deliver you know, just mixed feelings.
How do you describe your music?
To all intents and purposes I am a multi genre artiste. In my music you will hear the afro beat influence,
jazz influence, soul, R&B and hip hop. It’s just really wide but with theatrical influences.
What was your first single Pata Pata about?
Pata Pata is a song about the inevitable end of a relationship. I sort of embody a character in the song
that has emotionally checked out of this relationship. She checked out a long time ago but she has kind
of been keeping up the pretenses for the sake of the other half – so as to spare his feelings. But, there is
only so long you can do that for and when it gets too much you end up spitting it out.
What inspires your music?
Many things, I have a wide range of music that I listen to and am inspired by. One of my hugest
influences is Fela Kuti, there is a bit of Stevie Wonder in there too. I love old jazz standards and people
like Eli Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday. Then there is the hip hop influence like Missy Elliot, Pharell Williams
and Outkast. There is also the gospel and electrical influence so it’s just a really wide spectrum. My love
of old movies informs what I do.
Which artistes have you worked with in the past?
I have worked with Kazai Jones, Black Magic and Show-dem Camp from Nigeria, and quite a few others.
What do you consider your greatest musical achievement?
I don’t want to just call it a musical achievement because I am as much about the music as I am about
the visual and fashion side of things. So jointly I would say that I’m really proud of my music video for
Pata Pata and the song itself.
What challenges did you encounter in a largely male dominated West African hip hop scene?
It was pretty hard especially because I’m doing something very different from the norm. Nobody likes
change, especially the African market. A couple of people had ideas and opinions on how I should go
about things you know. They want you to change your music to sound more like what is out there, show
more flesh, do more booty shaking to get your ideas and music to sell, make it more commercial, make
it sound like what is already out there, that sort of thing. But, I believe that it’s better to fail at originality
than succeed at imitation. It took a while for people to get their heads around what I’m doing. I believe
in sticking to my guns, being honest in my music and soldiering on.
What are your thoughts on the Coke Studio initiative?
I think it’s a brilliant initiative and I was over the moon when I was called to be part of it because that is
what music is all about. It’s what Temi DollFace is all about – bridging diverse cultures. I really want to
get back to African culture because I don’t feel like I have incorporated much of it in my music. So this
was a good way to learn about history, especially from outside my own country. Coke Studio provided
such a wealth of culture and was great place to get inspired and learn. I saw the nyatiti for the first time
and I went and bought one from Maasai market because I taught myself to play all my instruments and
always relish adding a different vibe to every song. It was really amazing and I wish I could come back.
What did you think of Lillian Mbabazi whom you partnered with?
Lilian is a free spirited person and is so easy to talk to. I would sort of speak when spoken to, and she
kind of brought me out of my shell. It’s been really easy to be around her, she is great company. She has
got a really amazing voice and I liked watching her during rehearsals.
What about the song you two are doing?
It’s a song about a woman whose guy did her wrong. As I know this topic very well, it wasn’t hard to
come up with my own contribution to the song. You know, most women have been through these
things and that made it a little easier. I struggled with the language a bit and there were a lot of tongue
twisters but Lillian was of great help. Where music is involved, the language doesn’t matter because
music transcends barriers. I tried interpreting what she was singing and it went well. It turned out great
and the background singers were really good with their dance moves and vocals.
What was your experience working with the band?
The good thing is I had already met the band in June, so we had broken the ice then. It was easier to
work with them because I wasn’t as shy as I was earlier. It also helped that I play a couple of instruments
so I told them what I wanted. They had also done their own interpretation of the song and it was
What are your plans for the future?
To keep challenging myself, make more music, make great albums and make a worthy contribution to
the fashion industry.
What is your message to upcoming artistes who are trying to make it in the music industry?
Don’t let criticism stop you, don’t let praise fill you and let your imagination be your guide.