‘African music has put Nigeria on global map’
Singer, songwriter, speaker, entrepreneur, mother and professional consultant, Sade Aboderin a.k.a Shady Blue is one of the leading talents to emerge from the London music scene. Her unique vocal style blends the best of Soul/R&B/Jazz and Afro sound music, which she calls Afrocentric Soulful Jazz.
Shady Blue who has been compared to a diverse range of global artistes, was born and raised in Nigeria before moving to London as a teenager. Heavily influenced by her father, a renowned Jazz musician/producer at the age of six, she started singing at her local church and became lead singer of the church choir at eight. A talented vocalist, she also writes; co-produces and arranges her music with instrumentation alongside producers.
With several TV appearances, chart success and released singles and album under her belt, her passion has always been music, beauty, hair and fashion. Self-styled queen of afrocentric soulful jazz, she has been nominated and won several awards over the years. Recently stepping out with her new singles, Follow, Jeje and Suya, she tells TOBI AWODIPE about how being a part of JJC and 419 Squad formed her career, moving back to Nigeria full-time and how African music has exploded globally.
What have you been doing since your last album was released?
I’ve been working on a lot of things since the pandemic started. The onset of CoVID-19 stopped a lot of people, but also gave others more opportunities, because if you’re creative enough, you can think outside the box and figure out how to let the restriction innovate you. I used that period to my advantage and decided to focus more on my music.
I’m a mother of two boys and I work as well. I’m a programme manager in IT, but I’m a musician first, because that’s the way I was born; it’s in my blood and I’m also a business owner. The business didn’t actually happen until COVID started and since then, I’ve released a lot of songs in the last two years. I’m focusing more on my music now, because my kids are at the age where I can afford to focus on music fully and I am back home to promote a couple of my songs.
Last week, I recorded a full live version with a band of seven for 15 songs I released in the last two years. I released a new single a week ago called Follow featuring Neo Phlames. I don’t have an album from the last two years, but I’ve been releasing singles and presently have 15 singles out.
Tell us a bit about your childhood?
My childhood was very humble, I didn’t get handed things and I’ve always been a hard worker. I have realised that most times, I’m always doing things myself; I carry my entire burden by myself. If you listen to Follow, you’ll hear when I said, ‘I remember when nobody get my time but now everybody wants to be a part of what I’m doing. What about the times when I was struggling, when I was hustling when I couldn’t even do half the things I’m doing?’
I’ve been self sufficient by God’s grace so far and I’m able to do anything I want to do for myself. For some reason, I’m getting more interest from the people that have been there from the get-go that didn’t have my time then; all of a sudden, they all want to be a part of this journey. When all the hard work has been done, which is quite strange, but I guess that’s life.
I’m a single mother of two children and I am good friends with their father, but for now, I am focused on my career, business and raising my boys.
Would you say your childhood influenced your style of music?
Yes, very much. My dad is a jazz musician and so am I. My background is jazz; we had a lot of top musicians coming into the house back then and I used to watch my dad play the saxophone, he plays all instruments really.
My original style is jazz, which is why it blends well with my style, which is Afrocentric soulful jazz, which is a fusion of different styles. I wouldn’t call my style Afrobeats, because I’ve got a ‘jazzy’ voice.
How many of the 15 recorded songs have you released?
All of them; I kept on recording and releasing them one by one. There’s a favourite one of mine, So ka gbo, co-written by Neo Phlames and myself. I met him at my last press conference and he came to me and I told him I want to hear what he has. I always keep my promises, especially when one has talent and I’ve kept in touch with him and we’ve been working together ever since.
The song is a story of a love gone wrong. I like real life scenarios; I want people to be able to relate to my music. Music is my happy place; it’s where I go to when everything goes wrong, if I’m ill or down, that’s where I turn to. The last time I had a press interview, I was diagnosed with cancer and was waiting for my treatment. However, when I got back, I thank God I didn’t even have to do the surgery and only went for a biopsy and was fine. This made me think of life in a different way, as we all know tomorrow is not promised. So now, I just put more focus in my happy place, which is music.
I have a lot of young people around me; singers and producers. I’m working with young people to bring the youth out of my music so even though I have the old school jazz, I fuse it with the new age music.
How have you been able to combine music, working and motherhood?
People might call me crazy, but I survive on three hours sleep daily. I just feel everything boils down to God’s grace, but one thing I’m going to say is that I put God first in everything I do. I guess this gives me the strength and grace to be able to do the things I do and still be able to survive on three hours of sleep without the stress showing on my face.
Would you say its music that brought you back home this time?
A lot of things brought me back home this time. I was thinking of doing a live showcase in the U.K at my business place. I was going to bring live music and a live band to my shop, which is in Kent. However, I think the best musicians are in Nigeria. You have musicians in the U.K, but they’re lightweights compared to our musicians who would work from the bottom of their hearts and not for the money. Yes, they will get paid, but it’s not all about the money for most, it’s about passion.
My bandleader and I got a band together to record live versions of seven of the songs I released, which we did last week. I also decided to shoot two videos, as well and one of the videos is for the recently released song. I would love to come back home fully when the time is right. Not everyone knows this, but I used to be part of the JJC and 419 Squad back in the day. I recently met JJC Skillz while I was shooting my video and we spoke for a long time and even talked of coming back.
However, I don’t know what God has planned for me, but I would leave it all to God and whatever he has destined for me. The JJC group had Don Jazzy and Dbanj (who came in with an album to his name then) and we all came to Abdul who was signed to Sony Music at the time as a producer. He brought Afro hip-hop to the U.K, putting Africa on the map.
Abdul and JJC Skillz have always been passionate about music. When everyone was in school, Abdul would be locked up in the studio creating music. Joining JJC and 419 was a foundation to most of our careers. We’ve been singing in different groups before, but that group made our careers. We all still in talk and keep in touch till today.
There were about 10 of us in that group, including Masterplan, Jay U, Flu, Stylee G and so on. Don Jazzy and DBanj were the first to leave, but I didn’t leave the group because I was unhappy. Actually, Don Jazzy produced some songs for my girl group back then, Quali-tee, but the group fell apart when we all went our separate ways for various reasons.
You said you had a tough time with COVID last year, how did you survive it?
I used to be a non-believer of COVID last year, until I got it and was very ill for a month. I couldn’t even drink water; I lost so much weight and almost died. I had to be hospitalised by the third week and was placed on heavy antibiotics. But I thank God I’m okay today. I think I’m very spiritual and God shows me a lot of things and tells me what to do and where to go and I think where I am today and what I’m doing now is God’s will.
Which musical artistes are you looking to work with?
There are so many amazing artistes in Nigeria I want to work with; I would love to work with Simi. I love her to bits; her voice and creativity. I love the way she and her husband work; they’re amazing together. I’m beginning to like Wizkid a lot even though I used to like Davido. I would love to see collaboration happen between myself, Seun Kuti and Dbanj; it would be huge. I would also like to work with 9ice.
What do you think of African Music today?
African music has put us on the world map; everyone is featuring Nigerian and African artistes, they want to be a part of us now. Even Beyoncé is now a part of our music; everyone wants to be a part of our music. People tell me they want to come to Nigeria to see what’s going on musically.
There are lots of talented artistes coming out of the woodwork lately and they are all super amazing. Almost everyone wants to go into music today but there are so many sides of music people can get into asides singing.
What would you say to upcoming young creatives?
I find it strange there’s a lot of unemployment today, because I believe there are so many things young people can do, but it saddens me to know that most people don’t want to start from the bottom, everyone wants to start straight from the top. Many young people don’t want to get their hands ‘dirty’ and work and I think young people should humble themselves and take whatever legal employment they can while chasing and nurturing their creativity by the side.
Most young creatives want to make it overnight, but nothing comes fast. I would say they should be more realistic and while chasing their dreams and not stay idle at the same time; things would definitely work out.