BY LOLADE SOWOOLU
She is very blunt and spares no thought for whoever gets hurt when she says it. I’m simple and down to earth. Two things I can’t stand are dishonesty and disrespect. Simple and daring, you’d would say?
This is the world according to Lami and you are welcome to enjoy a sneak preview.
I don’t think I had a choice in this matter. When God created me he must have said, Lami and then Music. If I did not pursue it, I think a part of me would be dead. I would have been lying to myself. The easiest way to communicate with other people is to write and when I do, there’s a melody.
Is it that you don’t have other passions or you just decided to concentrate on singing?
I have other passion but purpose and passion are two different things. Music is my purpose. For passion, I love taking care of people, writing, reading and traveling. I have a passion for people who are disadvantaged
What triggered that, personal experience ?
No, it’s just a part of my being. I’m a musician as well as a U N Ambassador. I do charitable work
At what point did you begin to discover music?
To be honest, looking back, I realize I wrote my first song when I was about seven. All my siblings will remember the song. At the time I wrote the song , I went to my sister’s bedroom to show her and I said I was going to send it to Disney. It was nice and my siblings wondered how I did that.
How do you write your songs ?
I think about a theme. For instance, it could be about people suffering, and an image will immediately pop into my head, memories will flash and that will become my writing and a song. That’s why it’s a gift and my team knows that the easiest thing for me to do is to write .
Where were you when you wrote that first song?
I was on holiday with my family in Miami
Let’s talk about family…
Growing up for me then and now is almost the same. I’m very close to my sisters. I have only one brother, and our parents raised us to be very close. My mother is like my elder sister. Growing was in America, England and Nigeria. It was a lot of traveling because I have open minded parents who exposed us to a wealth of culture. That’s why I don’t think you could dump me in any country and I’ll feel lost. There was lot of music, movies and freedom.
The Nigeria that I remember growing up in was more peaceful. We’d go for walks and ride our bicycles through the estate.
What part of Nigeria was that ?
Always in Lagos. I’m a Lagosian, that was in Ikoyi. We’ve lived in the same Estate for almost twenty years now. I love my family and I love the salvation they gave me. My mother is like my sister and my father is like a big teddy bear. We argue a lot but I love him all the same.
That’s growing up for me. We didn’t do a lot of local traveling so now with my music, I realize how that has scared me a little. I get scared whenever I have to go to some other part of the country. And my artiste friends make fun of me, saying “Aje butter” .
My manager equally tried to avoid areas he knows I’ll be afraid of. But if we’re in a big group and flying together, it’s fine. But you can’t put me alone on a local flight. I’ll simply look for every reason to stay at the airport and not board
What’s responsible for the phobia for local Flights ?
It’s more of a phobia than a concern. When I wasn’t in Nigeria, all I heard was there was this Sosoliso flight that crashed and people just died. I couldn’t comprehend it.
So somehow I told myself, that plane crash is not how I want to die, But I’m trying to conquer the fear any way. And I’ve given myself this year to achieve that.
How long were you away for?
Seventeen years .
And when did you return ?
Two years ago. I came home once a year while I was away but it was always to the same place in Lagos.
At what point did you begin to take music seriously ?
It’s in different stages when I was in England . Nearly everyone in my high school said I had to do something with my voice, it was an all girls school. I won the national talent contest. Then, I began to take vocal classes because I think anything worth doing is worth doing well. It will be a flaw for me to call myself a musician and not understand the keys, chords and the likes.
Do you play any instrument?
I understand the piano but I’m a bit lazy about learning it because I’m a bit lazy and don’t think it’s a calling.
I learnt it technically so that when I’m writing I can direct my producer. I’m co- producing all the songs on my next project and that’s about it. I think me having a great understanding of music was another phase. I did a lot of backing vocals for people like Ron Kenoly in Wenbley Arena and London area. Then, I moved from England to America.
Doing backing vocals trained me a lot. I think that if you cannot do backing vocals, it’ll be difficult for you to lead.
It helps you hear the fullness of the music. I did backing vocals in the studio for Soul 2 Soul too. The studio training and stage
performances helped prepare me and I’m very particular about live music
But live music isn’t big in Nigeria …
Nigeria has some how curtailed it for me. Unfortunately, in this industry, most people use backing tracks and I only learnt that in Nigeria.
If I call myself a musician, I should be able to play live. But if somebody’s booking me for a show and they don’t want to take into account the cost of the band, sound and the likes especially if it’s a show outside Lagos, where organizers have to fly you all down for a proper concert then, it’s not favourable.
Is that hindering the industry’s growth in any way?
Yes it is. I was excited when 2Face had his live show and Dbanj’s Koko Concert, where they had a full orchestra. That is what we need to encourage. Again, I feel like the term artiste has been abused. There are many non-musicians parading themselves as artistes.
Before you call yourself an artiste, you must first be skilled at what you do. Anyone who can’t perform with a live band has failed. But again, if the public is going to learn to reject sub-standard music, that will help quality control. We’re at a crossroad.
How have your friends in America and London reacted to your professional singing?
They love it because many of them already know Asa. At first they were going to liken me to Sade Adu who is a Nigeria -American and I tell them, no, I am a Nigerian.
What other areas of academics have you been exposed to?
My university years lasted almost ten years. I had my first degree in Business Administration, Masters in Strategic Management and my Executive Masters in Change Management and Creative Consulting.
What happened with your album marketer?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to comment on that but I do know that we are taking legal actions. We had a certain agreement with him and he didn’t fulfil it. For me, I could be quiet about it but I think one of the things that messes us up in Nigeria is that we’re quiet about a lot of things. When someone does something wrong and you speak up, that person won’t have the opportunity to do that wrong a second time.
Does sexual harassment exist in the music industry?
I hear it does but not with me, I will slap you upside down if you try that with me. I don’t carry myself that way. Even if there are men that would naturally do that, it will not be to me. Number one, you have to dress the way you want to be addressed.
Then, some men just feel the ladies have to be available but me I don’t even have that time. I’m too busy. If you give the wrong impression about yourself, you can’t blame anybody for treating you wrong.
Are you married?
I don’t talk about my personal life. I never do.