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Friday September 20 2013    |     Views: 3189    |     Comments: 0   |     Print    Bookmark and Share

The music industry in Nigeria keeps growing, regularly bringing in fresh and talented new acts. Last year, Dare Art Alade, co-founder of Soul Muzik, announced the addition of Zainab Agoro to the record label as the First Lady of Soul Muzik. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Zaina had her secondary education at Brighton and Hove, UK, going ahead to finish her high school in Houston, before proceeding to college in Atlanta Georgia where she studied Law. Zaina has since then gone on to rule the airwaves, releasing singles like LoLoLa and Totally Yours, which she did with Wayne Wonder. The talented singer has also worked with the likes of eLDee, STYL Plus, Sasha, Lynxxx, and has performed at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards. Enigmatic, energetic and totally fun, here she is, totally yours.

For a couple of years, the music industry has had a dearth of female artistes. Suddenly, a lot of female singers are springing up. How do you plan to hold your own in the midst of so many interesting female acts?
I don't so much think female singers are 'springing up' so to say. Rather, it’s just female singers who have been working hard for a while and finally getting wider recognition. I've been doing music for a while and I believe consistency and hard work is the key among all acts, men and women alike.

Lots of talented people are coming back to Nigeria to continue their careers. What is largely responsible for this, especially in relation to you?
I'd like to think it’s first and foremost just sheer love for your country and also the fast improving growth of our industry. It’s becoming a respectable industry that parents and family are proud to have a member involved in. For me it’s mere coincidence as my immediate family lives here. I was always to relocate home after school so it was natural I continue my music here. To be honest, I refused any other option.

While growing up, most children dream of careers in the more traditional fields like law, medicine etc. Did you ever dream you would be an artiste?
Always! I never even saw it as a dream. I knew I had to do it.

So, how did your journey into music start?
I assume like most artistes, as a child I was always putting together girl groups with my friends and making them sing. In school, I took up the tuba and trumpet and began singing in the school choir. I sang my first solo at age 12 and there was no turning back from there. Once I hit college, I started writing more, and doing local open mics and competitions. I made quite a few connects and almost signed with a label but school put a stop to that. Well, I kept recording and doing music till I met Eldee The Don in 2003. He really introduced me to the Nigerian music scene and now, well, here I am!

You are signed to Soul Muzik under Darey Art Alade. How does this music label align with your aspirations for your career?
In every way, we share identical views on how things should be run in the music industry. Also what I most love about them is that their aspiration for my music career is sometimes bigger than mine. That's the kind of alignment I need!

Being tagged the First Lady of Soul Muzik is like being the flagship product of a major brand. How much pressure do you feel as a result of this?
Yeah, this is true; there is pressure. But the pressure I feel is just not to let myself or any of them down. But Soul Muzik is my family so I don't feel much pressure, only support.

Your two current singles, LoLoLa and Totally Yours are on different ends of the spectrum. While the former could be described as a high tempo dance track, the latter is more soulful and calm. Which of the styles exemplifies your music genre?
I'm definitely a split down the two, but I would lean towards LoLoLa more because it has the pop element which is a wider genre than the reggae tone of Totally Yours.

Totally Yours, your single with Wayne Wonder was reported to have been kicked off on Twitter. How then do you view social media in regards to your career?
Yes, this is very true and every time I remind myself of this I appreciate social media more and more. I feel social media is a tool that should be respected because it can make or break you. I can be very introverted, so social media has helped me a lot to connect with people, fans and friends. It gives me a chance to express myself and show what I have. It’s definitely been a very positive tool in my career so far.

Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
My environment first. I'm very inspired by my surroundings, the things I see, come in contact with, smell, hear etc. Then my experiences from day to day. Finally, from my emotions. The big three E's: environment, experience, and emotion.

Which other female artistes inspire you?
Wow, so many! But to name a few: Jill Scott, Beyonce, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, Omawunmi, Nina Simone.

Which artistes would you like to work with in the future? Why?
I'm open to working with anyone and everyone who I vibe with and make great music with. But to name a few, I'd love to work with Jill Scott because I feel she's an amazing talent and vocalist. At home, Wizkid; he's so fresh and inspiring. I love the freeness he has in his music. MI; he's so talented and multifaceted musically. Cobhams!!! Though more of a producer, he's just amazing.

In a recent interview with Channels TV, you said you recorded your first song at 14. How did that happen?
Oh wow! Yes I did say that! I wrote a song for my mother and I recorded it and put it on cassette tape but I can not for any reason remember how! I think it may have been some kind of recording device in the music department of my school. I'm sure my Jazz instructor helped with it.

Behind the show business, who is the real Zaina?
Well, I've been called a bit of an enigma so unfortunately I may not have a clean cut "Zainab" description for you. However, I'm very regular and simple; somewhat of a tomboy. I’m very goofy and silly; always laughing! I’m a bit of a nerd though—I love to learn. But I'm quite down-to-earth and very real honest. As Mrs Deola Art Alade would say, ‘With Zaina, what you see is what you get.’ So that's it then! (Laughs)

How would you describe your fashion style?
It’s kind of like my personality; very enigmatic. Neither here nor there. Let's say it’s when eclectic meets conservative then rolls around in a pile of tomboy clothes: sneakers, face caps, and ripped jeans! Haha!

As an artiste, what have been your greatest challenges so far?
My greatest challenges have been remaining optimistic and faithful no matter the obstacle or setback. It’s a tough industry and the only way to be successful is to believe you have what it takes and work hard. But other than that, it’s mostly just the challenge of proving yourself and remaining consistent.

What does Zaina do in her spare time?
Sleeeeeep, eat, and spend lots of time with parents, family and friends. I love laying in bed with my mom and girlfriends and just gisting!

What’s next for Zaina?
Well we have the Totally Yours ft Wayne Wonder video coming soon, and another single as well. Some more exciting stage performances and pretty much just more Zaina.

On a lighter note, why is a woman as hot as Zaina still classified as “single"?
Haha! Wait let me go and ask her... She said it’s because these men don't have Lo Lo La! No really, there’s no answer. I guess I'm still waiting for the bobo to find me!

Photography: Obi Sombo
Interview: Shile Shonoiki
PR: Nkem Onwudiwe

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