Falana… Alternative Queen Offers New Rising
At first, everyone in the room kept quiet. It carried on for a while, as her voice soared in that cozy Gaia House space. Within two minutes into the show, the serene Victoria Island neighbourhood had become electrified with Victoria Falana’s vibrant live performance. It became a night of finger-snapping, head-bopping, nerve-relaxing groove as the 29-year-old chanteuse reeled out songs from her just-released sophomore album dubbed, Rising.
Filled in a room with visual artists and art lovers, this reporter observed as Falana explained the concepts behind her songs, and its visual exhibition, which was on display at the show. On the surface, it was just a visual gallery of music-inspired portraits, by visual geniuses such as Abba Makama, Ayanfe Olarinde, Elizabeth Ekpetorson, Yagazie Emezie, and many others; but to Falana it represented something deeper. And the second encounter between this reporter and the singer, in the calm Ikoyi suburbs, confirmed it.
With her eyes aglow with passion, she peeled off the layers of inspiration behind her new album. With her signature basket-esque braids tucked beneath a silk scarf, her enthusiasm soars above her laid-back gait as she discusses self-motivation, feminism, positivity and all the other gems that shape the album. She chats with Guardian Music, backtracking to her early musical beginnings in Cuba, her Pop/RnB influences, nearly becoming a footballer, as well as her journey to becoming Nigeria’s Neo-soul queen.
Your album just dropped, how does it feel?
THE reception has been amazing. We are getting plays on the radio in Ghana, UK, Canada, and a lot of places. People are embracing it. I kind of occupy my own lane. So, it is always really cool when people embrace what it is that I do. I haven’t had one negative review from the project; everyone connects with it.
How long did it take to make the project?
When I recorded Joy, Electric Lady and Cassanova, they were written and recorded at the beginning of 2020; Sweet Adetola was recorded at the beginning of 2021. It felt so cohesive for me, but that time I took was necessary.
I wrote most of the songs, however, within 15 minutes. Sweet Adetola took a little bit longer because I wrote that over a couple of weeks. I wanted to make sure that I represented the story well.
You seem intentional with your work. What really inspired the project?
I am intentional, but I also like to flow and see what happens. If you listen to Electric Lady, for instance, you’d realise that it was a women’s empowerment anthem. When I started writing the song, it was like I was speaking to myself.
Most of my songwriting is cathartic and I am trying to heal myself with a diary entry. I think I was in a place where I was trying to find a sound that made sense and just try to find something new, confident and settle onto something. I think Electric Lady and Sweet Adetola are classic records. They are slow-burning jams.
How do you get your ideas?
It depends on where I start. I can start a song on the guitar or the piano.
Which do you prefer playing?
I think I prefer playing the piano, but I play the guitar more because it is easier for performance. So, in terms of my creative process, I was working with so many different producers. We would just get into the studio and level with each other; we build energy.
I have this rule that says ‘the song is always right’. It literally means to obey the song. So, I can come into the room and write the song. It might not be for me, but I am following wherever it directs me. It allows different things to come out. It all depends on where I am emotional.
Music is like that. Music is like when you feel really comfortable you can experiment and make mistakes. For instance, I wrote Electric Lady and Cassanova, in 15 minutes. It was spiritual; I feel like I am a vessel, sometimes. I remember we had a production and I am sitting on a couch listening and the melody just came. We were recording in Geejam Studios in Jamaica; you could see the ocean from the studio room. We kind of picked the melodies we liked, and it kind of all came together. The story just came out. I wasn’t overthinking; I just obeyed the song.
Where did you grow up and how did you get your influences?
My musical influences are from Pop music and Neo-soul. From Erykah Badu, Lauren Hill, to many others. I think Alicia Keys influenced me more than I knew. Growing up, your parents influenced music. So, I consumed a lot of Yoruba Christian gospel music. I grew up in Toronto; my mum was obsessed with KSA.
When did you decide you wanted to do music?
I think I always knew. It was more about courage for me. My singing voice is very unique. It is one thing to be able to sing and it is another to have the courage to do it. Now, I am confident to share my gifts.
What were you doing before you took music professionally?
I used to work as a radio presenter in Obalende. I schooled in Canada and then went to Cuba for a year to study some music. I knew that I needed to train myself. Cuba is amazing for its music; they are very traditional, and they have a lot of Yoruba and West African influences in their music. When I came back to Nigeria, I started working at Metro FM.
What did you study in college?
Sports Science; I used to be a footballer.
So, what happened?
I had a knee injury. Otherwise, I also wanted to play for the national team in Nigeria. But then, my music won’t exist as it is now.
So, the knee injury confirmed your career path in Music?
Not exactly, I could have been both; I always loved both. Life is interesting. Opportunities come. When I was working as an OAP, everyone from Banky W to Wizkid was always coming in to do interviews. I had just put out my debut album titled, Things Fall Together, and I was subtly promoting myself. I started doing pop-up concerts. People started to know who Falana is.
Do you see yourself as the Queen of Alternative music in Nigeria?
Respect is always given where it is due. I don’t have to crown myself or anything; I just have to sit down and do what I need to do, and as amazing as I can.
Will you ever branch into mainstream music?
The sounds in the mainstream nowadays are slower than they used to be. Maybe mainstream music is now branching into alternative music. People also want diversity; more Nigerians are also streaming music more, and developing taste for what they like. There is more room for evolution. I will make music that as many people as possible can like.
So, who are you feeling in the industry?
I want to be like the American singer, Sia; she can work with anybody and still be herself. That is what I admire. I love how Fireboy writes his music. Ladipoe is a really good friend of mine; we have worked together, but haven’t released it yet. Lady Donli is doing amazing things. I also love Cavemen. I feel we are slowly building a community and now it is down to everyone to help each other out.
What is the vision for Falana?
I am rising to the top. Somehow, I think that making this music is a personal evolution for me. I had to evolve in the process of writing those songs. It is also a way to help women to find their voice and speak up. That is where the idea for the project came.
Do you have any questions for me?
I’d like to know your favourite songs off the album.
My favourite song is Joy. Although there is another song not on this project dubbed, Teletele, which I like so much
I wrote that song two days after the Lekki shootings of October 20, 2020. I wrote that song while actually crying. People don’t realise the trauma; I was on the protest ground too, the day before. There was no violence. There was no tribalism. There was solidarity. It was beautiful. No religious discrimination. My gift is that I write songs.