Vibes Of The New Age
In the last two decades, the Nigerian music scene has evolved exponentially giving rise to a number of stars, who have gone ahead to become some of the greatest voices in music from Africa to the world. More recently, another evolution has begun to occur and, although it’s still relatively fresh, some of these amazing new musicians are already blazing their own trails. Guardian Life caught up with four of these eclectic new voices—Lady Donli, Odunsi The Engine, Santi and Maka—to discuss the music scene, their art and their plans for the future.
Lady Donli can be likened to a musical cornucopia of surprise treats because it’s impossible to predict what she might come up with next. The twenty-one-year-old Neo-soul singer is a collection of various experiences—American by birth, Nigerian by immersion and based in the UK—and this reflects in her musical style, drawing influences from RnB, Jazz, Hip-Hop and alternative music. With one mixtape and three EPs—including her most recent project titled Letters To Her—under the belt, there is no slowing down for her.
From her vantage point, 2017 was very surreal because, as much as she had always known what she wanted to do musically and the heights she wanted to attain, she didn’t really know how it was going to happen. In her own words, “This year has been surreal for me because I don’t know how a lot of things started happening. I dropped a project [in December 2016] called Wallflower and after that, I realised that more people started listening to me.”
Speaking of her popular song Ice cream, she added, “When I came up with the idea for the song, in my head and in my spirit, I knew that it was the song. I knew it could be a hit song but I didn’t want to jinx so I waited for a while before releasing it…since I dropped the record a lot of people that I respect in the industry started speaking to me.”
She also mentioned that she graduated from the university and got featured on Complex this past year and they were huge milestones for her. Commenting on her most recent EP she described it as “a full body and soul project” that’s different from everything she had done in the past year.
For this year, she plans to release her first full-length album saying, “I started working on that months ago but I won’t be done till the end of  because I want to take as much time as I can.”
She concluded by speaking on the struggles indie artists face due to lack of funds, pointing out, however, that things are moving for her at a fast pace which she considers a blessing and a product of hard work.
Maka has come a long way from her Law background to becoming one of the fastest growing soul singers of in Nigeria today. From sharing the stage with the likes of Bez, Simi and Mi Casa, to name a few, to headlining her own sold-out show in Lagos to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday, to writing soundtracks for all episodes of the first season of the Ebony Life TV web series called Indigo, great things are definitely in store for Maka.
According to her, 2017 started on a high note as she had the privilege of performing at a Jazz festival in Italy to start the year, she also released five singles throughout the year, which includes her hit song No One and Sinner, which was released in April and featured rapper Boogey Dat.
She also added that she worked on her YouTube channel and developed content throughout the year. When asked about her plans for this year, she laughed saying, “Honestly, no one knows what will happen tomorrow so basically, I’m just doing what I’m doing and I’m all about my music…one thing I know is that there’s an album dropping [in 2018] and I’m dropping a new single in January .”
When asked about the single, she revealed that the song is titled I Just Got A Check and it will feature the rapper Muna and will drop with a video. The song is directed towards creatives being paid for what they do. In her own words, “A lot of times, creatives are taken for granted with the misconception that having a platform is enough. When I say creatives, it’s not limited to musicians but everyone who creates…I intend to start a movement and I have creatives sending in videos.” She also hinted that she has not settled on an album name yet.
Finally, commenting on the growth of her style of music in the Nigerian music scene, she stated that pioneers like Asa, Nneka and Timi Dakolo have paved the way for musicians like herself to thrive. She also added that, in her opinion, it’s important to keep things simple lyrically and melodically—without taking away from the quality of the music—to keep the attention of the audience, highlighting that the digital age has also contributed immensely to the accessibility of music today.
There are numerous layers to Santi and every new layer reveals a treasure trove of talents. Starting out with his rap alter ego Ozzy B before becoming Santi, he is one the voices shaping the new wave of urban music with three projects out so far—including the fan favourite Gangsta Fear. Santi also has a strong passion for filmmaking, co-directing the videos for Jungle Fever and Gangsta Fear.
Santi viewed 2017 as a great year because, in his opinion, there were more people who paid attention to his music as well as people in the background who were willing to push his art forward. Among his notable achievements were graduating from university, modelling for Rocka Fella and opening for Skepta’s homecoming show.
He referred to the way music sharing has changed over the years stating that it has made things easier because music travels a lot faster today. He added, “Each person who does something in the music-making process can see that there is something happening here and that the kids are not just making noise; that is really good to see and it keeps us going.”
On the subject of the Nigerian music scene and how it affects his own creative process, he said, “The way I see it, sound has no language and it’s all music. I kind of see it like football; if guys like Mikel and Musa can make it to the top of the intentional stage without anyone saying they have to play Nigerian football, why can’t the same standards be applied to music.”
For his plans this year, he said he’s going to release his first film called Havana 96 which he shot in 2017. He also plans to drop a new musical project in the first half of the year, which he is really excited about. In his own words, “I feel like from my last project because of the things I faced mentally, I’ve grown and people will connect with me more.”
Odunsi The Engine
Odunsi experienced a meteoric rise to fame with his brilliant debut EP Times Of Our Lives (TOOL), which is loved by fans and critics alike. With this EP, he became a living example of the statement “it’s not how long, but how well”, blending different genres—RnB, Hip-Hop, EDM, Reggae and Soul—to create new soundscapes.
For Odunsi, the past year was a huge learning experience for him. He said, “[In 2016], everything that happened was a win because I wasn’t expecting anything at all so everything was a plus.  was more of an observation phase, seeing how different situations could mould me as a person… This year was definitely harder than last year because there’s a lot more pressure with arts.”
He also mentioned that there was a lot of more human interaction in the past year from different spheres of lives and age grades, which came with more conflict. He added that “I started learning about how people have perceptions about me as an artist and as a person, and it helped me learn about myself and define myself more.” Overall, he believes that the past year was for laying the groundwork and going back to his foundation to fix some things that will be beneficial in the future.
In 2018, he plans to release new projects that are more defined, particularly in terms of sound, as well as headline shows in the country and outside the country to connect with core fans and let more people know more about his sound.
In response to the growth of his style of music in the Nigerian music scene, he said that it would take a collaborative effort from both music creators and fans to push the music forward.