Efezino makes grand Afro-soul entry with Amere
It is easy for a new musical talent to be like a needle in a hay sack in the Nigerian music industry, and be lost in the babble of musical sounds. But Efezino Akpo, however, appears set for different, upward direction. Her debut song ‘Amere,’ which is laced with Isoko vibe, is a melodious tone that will make the heart beat with warmth and love. Her musical video for Amere is well made, too.
While she visited The Guardian recently, Efezino presents herself as a confident young woman, who knows where she is coming from and where she is headed. This comes through as she spoke on why she decided to keep her real name as her stage name.
“I believe in originality, in who I am,” she asserts. “My name is not even a popular one. Most people even wonder if it is Nigerian. I guess that makes it more unique. It is my native name; it represents where I come from, my background, my culture and my existence. That is why I decided to use it.”
Efezino in Isoko means wealth has come.It seems possible that more wealth of tenacity has come to the Nigeria music industry through Efezino, who took a personal decision to join her church choir at age eight. She started going for shows when she was 12 and was lucky to have a brother who took her to events and concerts as a child. At 17 she won her first singing competition, ‘Who Sings First in Warri.’ Her 18th year saw her auditioning for the first season of Nigerian Idols; she got to the top 100. She returned for the third season and lasted to the round of top six in 2014. Last year she got to the live shows of The Voice.
On what informed her decision to take music as a career apart from her talent, she says: “Nothing else made sense. I mean, I have a B.Sc in Human Anatomy from Delta State University, Abraka. I was not interested in any other thing as I was in music. I remember I will be reading for exams and I will be tapping my feet to an imaginary song. I did well in school, but I wasn’t connecting fully to the medical line or any other thing in life. I was really drawn to music. It was what made me happy. Yes, it made me happy and it still does. I get this unfathomable joy when I am writing a new song. In life you need to be happy by doing things that make you happy.”
In most cases music talents don’t usually have the support of their family, especially from their parents, but Efezino is lucky not to fall in that category.
She says, “My dad is barrister and also a pastor. He used to be a musician in the 1980s. He plays the guitar and is a songwriter. My mom grew up in the choir; all my siblings did. My brothers can play drums, the guitar and piano. So my background is a pretty musical one. Besides advice and encouragements, my parents took care of my fares when I went for shows and competitions. My brother bought me my first guitar. He also introduced me to jazz music. My dad and brother helped with writing some of my songs; when I am stuck with my melody, which is Afro-Soul, they held out. My dad came up with the title of my song, Amere.”
Though she derives inspiration from the likes of Asa, Adekunle Gold, Johhny Drille, Simi, Omawumi and other African acts like Angelique Kidjo, Salif Keita, and late Mariam Makeba, Efezino does not buy into allowing the success of established musicians determine what hers would be; she has her own unique sound that is native to her Isoko people.
“I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself,” she states. “I don’t compare myself with anybody. I just do music. It makes me happy. I don’t even see it like when I get here or there I should have done this or that. I just want to feel my music. The joy is having people enjoy what you do. It is not about being here or there.”
She spoke with passion on why her song Amere has traditional Isoko-pop feel with live instruments and why she didn’t go with the current trending, computer-generated beats. Efezino gives credit to her mother, saying, “Growing up, my mum used to buy a lot of traditional Isoko songs. Songs from Efano and the rest were very much listened to. So it has kind of been part of me also. I have tried doing American pop music, but it wasn’t original. I thank God my producer is from South-south, too. I experimented a lot and but I could connect more to this, my roots.”
Apart from her family, which is a major support system, she is currently signed onto Sol-Tracker Music Group, a new record label to which “I am their first and only artiste. I currently have a lot of recorded great songs” and she hopes to, by this time next year, release her album.
So why did she choose Amere as her debut song?
According to her, “I love all my songs and having to choose which to put out first wasn’t an easy task. But my management team and I picked Amere, which means ‘sweetness’ in Isoko. It sorts of describes my personality as a firm believer of love; it represents my cultural and musical background, too. It has that kind of vibe that people can easily connect to and enjoy. It is a unique love song of how you feel when you are in love. So I believe it was a wise choice for my introduction into the music scene. I believe our music industry has really developed in the past few years. The world is paying attention to our sound and even copying it. Guys like Whizkid, Eazi and others are really pushing the notch. Through our music I am really proud to be a Nigerian. So I had to put out something that portrays Nigeria’s uniqueness.
“For Amere video shot, we were on set for like four days and it was a bit hectic four days, not even a bit. It was hectic. We had to look for sunlight. Imagine chasing sunlight and all of that. The cast had Gabriel Afolayan and Anita Asuoha (Real Warri Pikin). They made the experience interesting. Gabriel popped a lot of funny acts that relieved the stress. I have never really acted before, though I dream of being an actress someday.”
If music does not work out as planned will she try other things like acting?
“Music works and it will continue to work,” she says. “I have given a lot to be where I am today and I am ready to give more. I am not just being optimistic, but I have a well thought-out plan for my career. This is my plan A, B, C to Z. You know you cannot run away from what you are supposed to do. It will just keep on pulling you back!”
Efezino says she has a calm personality, but “Some people say I talk a lot. My mum used to call me Maria from Sounds of Music. I can be talkative sometimes though. I don’t really like stress. I love to have fun with friends and family.”