Pop star Michael Jackson might be dead but his musical and dancing style still influences thousands of aspiring singers around the world, one of them 11-year-old Tuwere Prince Garuba aka Junior Michael Jackson from Nigeria.
Prince is always decked out in replica costumes of his idol. While performing at the Rita Lori cabaret in Abuja Nigeria recently, the 11-year-old Prince, who uses the stage name “Bobby Kings” elicited deafening applause from the audience, made up largely of night crawlers and tycoon Jeep owners.
Prince danced through the night and brought back memories of what the world lost in 2009 when Jackson died suddenly after a drug overdose.
The sharp and brainy Bobby is every journalist’s delight, because through stage performance, he is used to the klieg light, the microphone and the tape recorder. He quickly reminds you that he is a regular guest on Niger and Delta States Television Stations. His performances at birthday parties, wedding ceremonies, school end-of-year activities and concerts within Nigeria regularly draw large audiences.
I meet Prince, accompanied by his dotting parents, after his live show. I wanted to know why he likes imitating Michael Jackson;
“Right from my childhood, I loved Michael Jackson because he was the “King of Pop Music”. I fell in love with his dressing style, his dance steps and his performance as a whole. In short, I liked everything about him,” Prince beams as he tells me this.
He said he needed just two months to master the dance steps of Jackson after watching his videos more times that he can remember.
“When my dad, who himself is a reggae musician, saw my interest in learning Jackson’s dance steps, he encouraged me by buying more video tapes of Jackson’s performances,” he adds.
According to little Bobby Kings, there is none of Michael Jackson’s songs he would call favourite because he loves all of them with the same passion. He adds that if he really must choose a favourite, it would be Smooth Criminal, especially because Jackson was literally dressed to kill in the video.
He says each time Jackson performed that song, everything was wonderful and action-packed, especially the moon-walk and the beat.
Prince is clear his singing and dancing has no negative impact on his education.
“My performances at shows have no negative effects on my education; rather, it is the other way round in that they help me a lot. My appearances on stage give me self-confidence, and right from my kindergarten days, I have always been ahead of my mates in my academic performance,” he tells me.
Prince Garuba is presently a pupil of Favour Nursery and Primary School, Madalla, a suburb of Suleja in Niger State near Abuja.
His dancing skills have secured him a scholarship from Hajiya Titi Abubakar, founder of a philanthropic organisation called WOTCLEF, and wife of one of Nigeria’s former Vice President, Titi Abubakar. The scholarship will cover his secondary education.
Prince said he was devastated when he heard of Jackson’s death in 2009.
“I felt terribly bad and as a mark of honour to my idol, I mourned Michael Jackson for three months, keeping away from all shows because I started performing when he was still alive. His death really pained me; may his soul rest in peace,” He sheds a few tears as he says this.
Prince was born into a musical family
His father Tuwere Garuba, is Ghanaian and Nigerian mother Mary Tuwere, are both reggae musicians, while the baby of the family, Tuwere Godspower, also sings.
Always accompanied by his parents, Bobby Kings has performed in many places across Nigeria, especially in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as well as outside Nigeria, particularly Cotonou and his home country, Ghana, where the audiences were really thrilled.
He also thinks it is thanks to one of his performances that he was able to become a beneficiary of an educational scholarship from WOTCLEF.
Prince says he wants to become a powerful, successful musician like Jackson when he grows up.