Former Nigerian Idols music show star and vocal powerhouse, Jemiriye Adeniji, is traversing the world of music and carving a niche for herself in her afro-fusion genre. The zestful singer cum songwriter, in this interview with SAMUEL ABULUDE, speaks on the journey so far, challenges and other issues.
It’s been about seven years you left Nigeria, what have you been up to?
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of self-discovery. You know it’s been very stressful with the whole COVID-19 drama going on right now. But I’m definitely making good use of the time.
Before the COVID-19 lockdown, you were reported to have performed with your band at Pittsburgh Airport, how was the performance and what led to it?
I had a show at the airport with my band few weeks before the lockdown. Then I flew to Miami to perform at the Florida Atlantic University. I had two shows on April 9 and 10, six days before the lockdown. It was a rude shock for me, I didn’t even know how to react, I was already booked for May 1 and another date at the Pittsburgh International airport, then suddenly, the airport became a forbidden place. However, my band and I had a blast performing at the airport, it was a new initiative being put together by different airports in the United States, and I must say, it was really fun. Seeing people from different parts of the world stopping to enjoy good music before flying is priceless. My band and I spent Valentine’s Day at the Pittsburgh International Airport performing. It was a beautiful sight to behold. I had always fantasized about singing at the airport, so when the opportunity came, my manager asked if she should go ahead to book, I said, yes (Laughs).
What lessons have you learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic as a person and a musician?
The biggest lesson I learned as a person is that when you love someone don’t hesitate to tell them, or show them, because life’s too short. I don’t hold grudges against anyone and I always try as much as I can to show love to people around me, but I told myself I have to do more after seeing how COVID-19 took people away from their loved ones without warning. It was really scary. As a musician, I just appreciate the saying “Man proposes, God disposes” more. It’s all in the hands of the creator, no matter how powerful or wise you are. We all need to stay humble knowing we don’t control anything.
How many songs should we expect from you before the year ends?
I released a song shortly while the pandemic was really hot, titled ‘Saami Iye’ a prayer in my language Yoruba for God’s protection. It was recorded in my bedroom, and I sent the voice note to my producer in Nigeria, he was surprised because I didn’t have access to a microphone or any other sophisticated studio equipment. But we made it work. I’m still promoting the song and I hope it helps heal broken hearts caused by COVID-19 or other known and unknown life occurrences. I’m also currently working on two other singles before the end of the year, titled ‘My body’ and ‘Pretty Lady’.
Can you tell us about the reception of Nigerian music artistes in the US?
I believe music is a universal language, and as a musician you should be able to shine anywhere if you know your craft and you’re ready to take advantage of opportunities around you. Not limiting yourself to a particular race is key. I let my work speak for itself. I must say the reception has been overwhelming. I’ve travelled across so many states in the USA singing my Afro-fusion music, and it’s been wonderful.
You seem to be an artiste that fancies controversy, what is your take?
I don’t agree with the phrase “fancies controversy” but I believe people should have a right to their own opinions. As different as our faces, so are our opinions. People sometimes only see what they want to see no matter how hard you try to make them see things from your point of view. I recently shared an opinion on my take on the #EndSARS protest, where I talked about strategising and knowing when to retreat before we start sounding like a broken records. But my post was taken out of context and I started getting loads of backlash that nearly gave me a panic attack. People were all over my page cursing me out.
I was forced to shut down my comment section, because apparently our people don’t like to read everything. Instablog9ja took a screenshot of my comments, but they didn’t publish the concluding part, and they gave it a caption that says “Go home guys” I was like “what in the world” when I woke up to all sorts of messages on my phone, and friends calling to check on me if I was okay. I’m not controversial; I just love to see things from another perspective. And for the record, I detest corrupt politicians, they’re evil, I also want to see a better and livable Nigeria, I just don’t want us to shed anymore innocent blood. I’ve travelled across the globe and I know how citizens should be treated, I must say the situation in Nigeria needs a massive turn around and the time is now.
What was on your mind when you snapped a picture with a bum short sometime ago and posted on social media with a caption?
Omg! That’s funny. I was just advising people to do the right thing on Sunday, I think I said “keep the Sabbath day holy” to my amazement nobody said anything about the caption, instead they came for me and what I was wearing. I was like okay. I’m sorry I didn’t know there was a dress code before I could pass such a harmless message.
Can you tell us how your career in music began and what were the challenges then?
Hmmmm it’s a long story, I need to write a book (smiling) I started singing as early as age five. I was in my church choir then at a very tender age. My dad said I was very shy as a kid, he said I would keep to myself most of the time. According to him he started noticing a change in my personality when I started singing in the church choir. Music brought me out of my shell, music gave me my voice. I knew that was my path very early in life, and I followed it. The career started fully in my final year in high school. I started the school choir at Ikeja Grammar School, we sang on the school assembly every Friday. Then I was taken to the studio to record the school anthem. That was the beginning of a new me, I fell in love with the studio.
But it’s true, I went in my school uniform and most of the producers around asked me to come back to help them record some jingles. I went back and started making money with my talent while I was still in high school. That was where it started professionally. Then I also formed an All Girl’s group called ‘The Just Sistars’. The group started from high school as well. The challenges are enormous, but most importantly finding the right management and record label was very stressful. There was no social media then, so you really needed to know your craft. We sang lots of accapella just to show the strength in our voices as a group and as individuals. Money was also a big challenge. I remembered working on a TV show with the then TV host/comedian on Minaj Broadcast International (MBI)who goes by the name Alam Blow. After each recording, we sometimes walk 5-7miles from the studio in Isolo way to Maryland. I always say if you’re in music for money you need to go home and have a rethink. Music business is not for the faint at heart. Your passion must first overshadow your hunger for money.
As a female music artiste, do you feel you have to work twice harder than the male counterparts?
Yes I had to. As an African woman in general, you have to work 10 times harder to be seen or heard. Thankfully things are changing slowly but surely. You always have to prove that you’re not just a cute face. I believe a woman should be able to wear different caps, you can be Beautiful, Smart, Strong, Sexy and Humble.
What is your take on celebrity marriages like that of Chacha Eke of recent?
Celebrity marriages are like other marriages, the difference is that celebrities have no privacy, with the exception of a few, therefore all eyes are on you. Any little issue in a celebrity marriage can be blown out of proportion because they’re in the spotlight. For instance, in a normal simple marriage setting, people have their differences, and they can easily settle it amicably without a third party hearing about it, this makes life less complicated. But as soon as you make your marriage public it’s hard to have a sane marriage or relationship, because people will have opinions about the littlest things like the colours of your clothes, your hair, why are you not smiling, when are you having babies, who’s bankrolling who, your baby’s not cute enough for them, and the list goes on. Chacha darling I don’t know what exactly you’re going through, but I pray you’re making the right decision. If she’s bipolar like she said, I hope she’s seeing a therapist. Mental illness is real, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Praying for her and her home. I don’t advice anyone to stay in an abusive relationship or marriage, it’s not worth it.
What is sex to you and do you think it is overrated in a relationship?
I’m sorry, the word “sex” sounds like what you do without any emotional connection or attachment with a random person. I believe in experiencing your partner, therefore I prefer to use the word “love making”. Making love to someone you love is not overrated, I believe just as we are what we eat, we can become who we sleep with. So, I advise we choose our partners right. The person you choose to make love with can make or mar you. You can inherit their problems and they can inherit yours. This might sound a little conservative, but believe me- it doesn’t get old. Some people get stuck in a wrong relationship because of the ‘sex’- they feel they owe the other person something, hence they jeopardize their future. Something as simple as an AS marrying an SS can negatively affect the life of an unborn child, why go that route because of your selfish sexual desires for each other?
What do you desire in a man?
Honesty, hard work, compassion, good looks, and education.
Who are your role models in life and in music?
The legendary Fela Kuti, Queen of soul Whitney Houston, our legends Chief Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, Haruna Ishola, Yousef N’dour, Angelique Kidjo, Patti Labelle, Mariam Makeba and Bob Marley.
Do you still maintain a working relationship with colleagues in Nigeria?
Yes, I do.
What is on your bucket list?
I need to travel round the world, at least 95 countries.
What are the three things people don’t know about you?
I can be very shy, I cook a lot and I do my own hair.