By Ayo Onikoyi
Velvet-voiced songstress and former Nigerian Idol star, Adeniji Jemiriye, known simply as Jemiriye left the shores of Nigeria seven years ago and at the time she was effortlessly warming her way into the consciousness of the finest art connoisseurs around. The Ebony-hued, Afro-fusion exponent shares her career trajectory, extends solidarity to fellow Nigerian youths over clamour for era-defining reforms and gives insight into what tomorrow holds among other sundry issues with Showtime Bonus. Excerpts:
How has life been since you left Nigeria for the US seven years ago?
I’ll say Life is good and I’m thankful for my struggles and travails. It’s been quite a journey, but I’ll do it again if I have to.
Looking back would you have said that was the best decision you made at the. time?
It wasn’t a decision I made per se, life just happened. And who am I to fight what’s beyond my control? I’ll say it’s simply divine direction, and I just followed my destiny. And I’m thankful to God for his mercy and guidance through it all.
Do you think some of your co-contenders at the 2012 Nigerian Idol Music show are doing better back home and are you in touch with anyone of them?
I think they’re doing great in their own right. I keep in touch with a few on Facebook and Instagram.
How well did you fare in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic and what are the lessons learnt ?
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.
Your music was gaining popularity when you suddenly left Nigeria; how much would you say the entertainment industry in the US has shown appreciation to your craft?
Music is an universal language, and I believe you have the ability to grow wherever you find yourself as an artist if you surround yourself with people that believe in your craft. The reception has been overwhelming. My music has taken me to different nooks and crannies of this great country and beyond.
Is Afro-fusion one of the genres that can win The Grammy and is it your dream too?
Yes Afro-fusion genre can win the Grammys. But, I’m not really the award-driven type, even though I have countless awards in my name, it can be very depressing sometimes. You know, you put so much efforts into making beautiful work of art, and no matter how good you are, you’re at the mercy of the panelists of the awards. Some of them may not even understand your craft based on their own background. But sure, if I win the Grammys I’ll be grateful and more than happy.
You led a peaceful protest in the US lately in solidarity with your Nigerian kinsmen. How were you inspired to reach out to the Nigerian community in that region to pull that off?
Nigerians are united people wherever we find ourselves in the world. And whatever is going on in Nigeria affects us in Diaspora directly or indirectly. We have a group called Association of Nigerians in Pittsburgh, a group I belong to, I reached out to my fellow executives and made my intentions about the protest known, and they were very supportive, and all hands were on deck to make the protest a success. We got support from the City of Pittsburgh, people from different African countries, Caucasians, and African Americans. It was a amazing seeing both old and young people come together to lend our voices to demand change from our leaders. We just wanted Nigerians at home to know that we stand in solidarity with them, and we feel what they feel.
After the wanton destruction and looting by thugs who hijacked the #ENDSARS protests, many believe that there’s no smoke without fire and that it’s impossible for the military to open fire on defenseless protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate without the knowledge of some people like the Asiwaju of Lagos and the governor, both of whom had denied playing any role in the saga. What’s your take?
I believe only the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces can give such an order to the army in any sane country. However, I can’t throw blames at anyone right now until proper investigation has been conducted. The #Endsars protest is a movement, and I’m proud of the Nigerian youths. I think it’s been long overdue, we really yawn for a change. I hope the leaders are listening and ready to serve the people that put them in power. No Nigerian is more Nigerian than the other. Most importantly we need to let peace reign.
Are you returning home with your music soon?
Yes I am, and I’m excited about it.
What project have you done in the US to court the admiration of music lovers and investors?
I’m involved in so many community-based projects, advocating for better living standards of Africans living in diaspora. I worked with the Union of African Communities in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I lend my voice to speak against hate via music with the Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf alongside the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto and Hollywood actor, Tom Hanks and other notable personalities to speak against hate when an angry shooter went into the synagogue in Pittsburgh about two years ago, and shot at people worshipping God their own way. That’s one of the saddest things I’ve seen. That and many more experiences gave birth to EWA Global Initiative, a nonprofit organization I founded, dedicated to advocating for equality and empowering people of colour.
Aside singing, are there other sides of you the world doesn’t really know?
I love my privacy, I love to travel, I love to cook, I dance a lot and I love to see people happy.
As one living in a more advanced nation than your country of origin, what do you think of same sex marriage?
Life is for the living. I have wonderful gay friends, I don’t judge people by who they choose to lay with, there’s more to life than that. As for legal backing for gay rights, I don’t know if Nigeria is ready to embrace that yet. We have some very serious issues right now that needs urgent attention. Like the basic social amenities in rural areas, simple things like good roads network, access to clean water, good public schools, healthcare, the list is endless. All these call for immediate attention, I don’t think we’re ready to have same sex marriage conversation yet. Maybe some day in the future.