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Opera music has taken me to the White House — Abiodun Koya

•Drops her first pop single

Nigerian-born US based Classical/Opera singer cum songwriter, Abiodun Koya, is a trained classical Soprano vocalist and actress born to a family of five in the South Western part of Nigeria. She started her music career at age six, singing in church and birthday celebrations under the mentoring hands of her parents. Since then, she has grown to be one of the very few African women who sing opera. Koya is also a poet, composer, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. Abby (as she is fondly called) who performed at The Democratic Convention and The White House dropped her Pop single, ‘Flourish Me’ recently and has vowed to remain the mouthpiece of her heritage through her music and voice.

BY ADERONKE ADEYERI

What informed the title of your new single, “Flourish Me”?

‘’Flourish Me” is a love song. It talks about being in a relationship where you have peace, rest and inspired to become your bigger self. It also talks about being in a relationship where you look up to a guy for direction and advice. We all understand that there are different types of relationships. Some relationships are abusive though not necessarily physical but some are just abusive in some sense. The song describes a magical moment  one experiences when you are in love.

Is this based on personal experience?

Yes, I wrote the song and composed it. It’s mine experience.

With this new single in the Nigerian music market, do you intend to relocate to Nigeria?

Not permanently but I intend to spend more time here in Nigeria.

Please take us through your musical journey?

I started music as a child.   At 8, I was already writing poems and songs. I was also very active in artistic activities. Music has taken me before kings and queens. It has made me a mouthpiece for my country. Over there, many people become amazed when they discover I am African and a Nigerian. It has brought me lots of attention, joy and exposure.

•Abiodun Koya

Your type of music, opera, is not too popular among Nigerians, can you talk about it?

Yes, opera is not too common but it is a beautiful genre of music. It originated in Europe ,  and involves foreign languages (Italian , French, German, Latin) and orchestras. Opera   is telling a story through music and using different characters.

Why  opera?

Well, I was born into it. My dad used to play classical music back then.

Did you grow up in Nigeria?

I was born and raised in Nigeria.   My family was part of those few homes who listened to classical music back then. Nigeria is my country and heritage. I have been a professional opera singer for twelve years. So, I think I have done enough of the White man’s music and have this huge desire to start incorporating elements and sounds from my beautiful heritage into my music.

Are you not worried about its acceptance in this part of the world?

I am not worried about the acceptance of opera by Nigerians. I have been coming home to do some shows for three years now and the acceptance has been amazing. Also, if you listen to my new album, I used some African instruments like the talking drum for the intro. My new album is a 360 degree turn from what I have been doing. I really want to explore the beautiful musical resources my heritage has. This doesn’t mean I am forgetting about Opera , I just want to be versatile.

Are you saying you can wake up one day to do Fuji?

Why not? I am open to that. As a matter of fact, while growing up I used to listen to Sir Shina Peters a lot and some days ago I was on Youtube   to listen to some of his albums like Experience and if you ask me, we have   good musicians in Nigeria. Sir Shina Peters is exceptional, his artistry is no joke. I respect him a lot, I am a huge fan. To answer your question, I am a restless person who loves and listens to all genres of music. I love breaking new grounds.

 Any plan of collaborating with any artist?

I am open to that. I spoke with King Sunny Ade and he was excited about it but he asked for some time. I don’t rush into things myself. My single, Flourish me took me 11months.

Apart from Flourish me, how many other singles have you released?

Flourish me is my first single outside Opera. For Opera, I have just three albums; I do more of stage performances and concerts. But with this pop endeavour, I intend to do more singles. I have about five singles that I intend to release one after the other.

 Apart from Flourish me, anything new?

I am working on becoming a popular actress too, I mean in Hollywood.

Have you taken any step on that?

Yes, acting is pretty difficult I must confess. It was like being a servant where I will have to work for hours and get peanuts. I now got some roles and I am grateful to God. I am also planning to have a classical music concert in Nigeria sometime this year. However, if I have to feature in Nollywood, the production must be a good one.

When did you leave Nigeria for the U.S?

I left Nigeria 16 years ago.

Having grown up in Nigeria, how were you able to fit into the Western world?

It took me some time. Their culture and mentality is different. I had to be observant, hardworking, smart and honest. The Nigerian thing doesn’t work over there. People think you pluck money from your backyard over there. Many Nigerians who come home to show off, work their ass out over there. The work shift is crazy. It’s easier when you have your own business.

Can you talk about your love life?

Well, I am happy. My man is not a Nigerian; let’s just say he is an American. We were friends for like two years before we took it to the next level.   He is the type who encourages me to be all I can be.   He helped   me   achieve God’s purpose for my life.

 How are your parents taking to your marrying from another race?

My parents are fine. My guy is also cool, and he takes Nigerian dishes. Some Nigerians seem to be jealous when they see Nigerian women settling for White men but that should not be the focus. The compatibility should be the focus. Even in the U.S, some black guys don’t treat our women well. Some African men feel intimidated and unsecured. On the other hand, some African women don’t respect their men especially when the woman is making more money.

 You performed at the White House and the Democratic Convention, did you get to meet President Obama?

I didn’t get to meet him but he was all smiles throughout my performance. For me, that was gold; priceless! When I remember those moments I am overwhelmed with gratitude and amazement. I couldn’t sleep for nights! I would toss and turn in bed and rehearse my songs in my head. And being a perfectionist didn’t help matters. I remember going grocery-shopping, pushing the cart and rehearsing the songs I was to sing. The atmosphere was very presidential; I had my heart in my mouth and was delicately nervous until when I mounted the stage but I managed to give a glass shattering performance. After my performance, I was asked where I originated from and I was very happy to say, I am African and a Nigerian. It is not always about terrorism or sickness like the media make out. I am proud to be an Ambassador for Nigeria with my music and voice.


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