Nigerian born UK-based songstress, Folashade Aboderin, who is simply known as Shady Blue, started her musical career in the UK with the now-defunct JJC and 419 Squad which housed music heavyweights like D’banj, Don Jazzy and JJC. But while Don Jazzy returned to Nigeria to start a music empire with D’banj, Shady Blue rejected the offer. The artiste who is on a visit to the country spoke with journalists and ADENIYI ADEWOYIN was there. Excerpts:
What would you say informed your recent visit to your country home?
It is always nice and a thing of delight to visit one’s source. The Yoruba adage also attest to it that ‘Ile la bo isinmi oko’. It has been an awesome experience since I came into the country. I have engaged with a lot of bigwigs in the industry and also it has made me have a feel of the mainstream of the industry. I have also granted some media interviews both in the print, radio and TV stations. Part of the plans of my visit was to come and prepare the ground for my music in my country and I cannot wait to storm the industry with my talent.
Why did it take you so long to explore your career in the Nigerian music industry?
At some point I had to quit music because of some reasons and I became depressed when I stopped doing music. I had to take a break from music to have kids. At a time, I lost my confidence because I went through a lot when I was having children. I felt I was too fat, ugly and didn’t have any talent anymore. Before I returned to doing music, I was quite depressed. When I returned to music, I decided to take to my brother’s advice by doing Afrobeat, instead of my original style, Soul/Jazz. He feels doing Afrobeat is easier than Soul/Jazz. So, he advised me that once I got people’s attention, I would be free to show them the other side of me. I am not a stranger in the Nigerian music scene. Aside the fact that I have done a couple of Nigerian vibes, I have a typical background of the industry. I was the only female singer in JJC and 419 Squad, though I didn’t regret quitting the group. I was close to JJC Skillz, D’banj and Don Jazzy but I decided to leave the group because I wanted to start my own girls’ group.
I started a group called Quali-tee and we enjoyed the support of JJC and Don Jazzy, but the group was short-lived. I didn’t take Don Jazzy and D’banj seriously when they invited me to their studio when they returned to Nigeria. To be honest, I didn’t take them serious. I couldn’t believe they left the UK for Nigeria; I just felt they wanted to waste my time. But their decisions back then have indeed paid off. I believe, however, things have happened the way God has orchestrated it. I believe that when the time is right it would happen. I think I probably would have been in a better place by now. I want the industry to watch out for me, as I am set to storm the industry with my talent.
Going by your readiness to light up the music scene with Nigerian vibes, are you also conscious of the close watch of the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) on Nigerian artistes?
I don’t think I have anything to fear about that. My mission is to explore my talent and contribute to the development of the industry. I am aware of the recent happenings in the Nigerian music scene and I feel that EFCC resolved to make a scapegoat out of the popular street rapper, Naira Marley is unfair. I don’t think the way the commission has clamped down on Naira Marley is fair. I feel really sorry for the guy. I didn’t know the true story but it’s really unfair the way he’s being treated. But that is just how life is; one person gets to be the unlucky person unfortunately. I recently discovered that he’s not the first Nigerian artiste to glorify internet fraud. It’s just unfortunate he has to be the scapegoat.
You have been releasing several singles lately. How did you find this?
After almost seven years break from my music career to raise my children and focus on other aspects of my life, I was yearning to get back to my passion and what I love. I never stopped writing or recording and never really stopped performing with bands, though I was not active. I continued recording and collaborating with my main producer, Teebee O, to whom I am very grateful. He was one of the few people that really believed in me. As a perfectionist, I wanted to make sure the sound was right and the music was well crafted and polished.
My producers and I recorded for a while and then finally decided to release some songs. I took my time as I wanted the music to be perfect and unique. I didn’t want to just be releasing songs for the sake of being current or consistent but wanted to release new songs and music that was properly produced with high quality and in tune with the current sounds of the times that could appeal to the new age and be able to keep my signature edge (Afrocentric soulful sound). So far, the feedback has been awesome and I am very grateful that despite the break, I am still being accepted and my music is still being embraced by all.
How were you able to blend into the Nigerian vibes despite the fact that you are based abroad?
I have been doing lots of research and I always make sure I stay current by listening to what is being released here often. I am very passionate about what I do and always like to do my best and still stay true to myself. I wouldn’t want to tone down who I am and my style to fit in with other people as there is no need for me to fit in because I believe I was born to stand out. I was born and raised in Nigeria, Ibadan, Oyo State to be precise and I wanted to infuse my culture, my roots and my influences into my sound. So, I collaborated with my producer TeebeeO on every song on my album as he was the only one who seemed to understand what I was trying to create and with his help and expertise I was able to do this.
TeebeeO and myself have similar influences and he also comes from the live music background. We have even performed live before he relocated years ago to Nigeria. He understands my tune and my influences like my father – Anjola Aboderin, Fela Kuti, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade and Onyeka Onwenu, Lagbaja, Sade Adu, Jill Scott, Anita Baker etc.
What is your next focus after the singles?
The plan is to release the album entitled ‘My Way’ this year by God’s grace and then do a European and African tour, while I work on my next album. That will enable me connect more to my fans and music lovers and perhaps possibly afford me getting a live recording of my tour on a CD and DVD.
How has life been staying abroad as one of the Nigerian-born musicians based abroad?
It has been a roller-coaster as you literally have to combine different aspects of living into one from having a 9-5 professional job as project and change manager to being a mother of two children and managing my fashion business and still conducting my music career. It’s hard to find a balance but God has been faithful and has enabled me to carry on and make things happen. I wouldn’t want to pretend and say it’s been easy; God’s Grace has afforded me tenacity. There are times I survive on little or no sleep. I have days when I get so overwhelmed and emotional but I thank God for always keeping me strong and seeing me through. Basically, I would say that my faith in God keeps me strong.
Do you think Nigeria has what it takes to compete with the music standard abroad?
I feel there are still lots of room for improvement but I also know there are true talents in Nigeria. I feel some need to work on perfecting their craft before going out there. Nigeria entertainment is highly rated presently overseas compared to other countries, especially in Africa. Back in those days it used to be the Jamaican industry but Nigeria has taken the lead now.
Don’t you feel threatened among foreign musicians in the industry over there?
No, I don’t feel threatened and never will. Everyone is unique and I feel as long as you are not trying to be who you are not by staying true to yourself, staying unique and not trying to fit in and staying creative and not competing, then there will never be a reason to feel threatened.
What has life taught you as a musician?
As a musician and an artiste, life has thought me so many things. First, to be myself. ‘Fitting in’ is highly overrated. I will continue to be me. Confidence is sexy. Besides, great leaders didn’t get where they are by following the crowd. Never to give up on my dreams and passion, despite challenges; taking time for myself to meditate and do some writing and creating good music which is where I derive most happiness.
Living in my truth, being honest. Never apologising for my own imperfection. No one is perfect and also saying no when I need to as I used to take on so many tasks and tried to please everyone but me, which was overwhelming and led to stress. I have learned to say no firmly without being negative and saying yes only to things I want and love. There are other things life has taught me as a musician and artiste and these are being kind. The benefits of being kind–or at the very least courteous–far outweigh the effort you put in. I enjoy doing random acts of kindness.
I know myself better than anyone else. I don’t let anyone else’s opinions control what I do, what I wear or what I say. Other people’s opinions are suggestions. Everyone else is as worried and insecure as I am. Some people just hide it better. It doesn’t mean that they are any smarter or better than me.