Yinka Davies… 50 hearty cheers to lady of songs
There is no doubting the fact that sensational singer and actress, Yinka Davies, has reasons to be grateful to God, particularly for the gift of life. She turned 50 last Thursday. The music and stage diva, who marked 30 years in the entertainment industry in 2017, spoke with DANIEL ANAZIA about life at 50, childhood memories and the Nigerian entertainment industry.
How do you feel at 50?
I am grateful to God for the gift of life. Being alive and attaining age 50 is a feat that could only be achieved with God’s grace upon one’s life. So, I’m grateful to God, my Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for availing me the opportunity to hit the golden age. I mean it is joy overwhelming for me.
When I wake up in the morning, I look at myself and bow down in reverence to God for all he had done for me. Melo ni maro afi sa madupe (how many will I recount). It is a popular song of appreciation to God. It is a new phase and a lot of things are coming into view. We may not know yet; we just need to get into the flow.
What was growing up like for you?
It was adventure, huge madness. Do you know how many trees I climbed and tyres I rolled? There is this saying in Yoruba, Ka ko sa jeun, rolu tyre (just eat and roll the tyres). The saying wasn’t just a proverb; it was literal for someone like me. There was no difference between boys and girls at the time; we all had fun together.
I fell in love with Nigeria, travelling from one place to the other with my father; he was an Airforce officer. From Kano to Benue, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Anambra, name it; it was just fun all the way.
Back in those days, street urchins (area boys) helped a child to cross the road. They were not even called area boys or touts; instead they were referred to as omo yen (that child). The land was pure; our mothers went to the market in their anko (uniform).
Do you know how many tap water we opened after the school hours on our way back home? We didn’t do it before we got to the school; it was usually after school because you get flogged during school hours. The water was clean and we drank without fear. However, all of these have changed.
I grew up in Ebute-Meta, Lagos, and there was what we called agbole. It was regarded as free food); it was a big thing for us as children. It usually held every month and once that time of the month came, we moved from one place to another from morning till nightfall, eating and celebrating. I learnt a lot playing on the streets. I miss all of these about my country Nigeria.
Among these places you travelled to with your father, which of them resonates more fun memories for you?
There is something about children, whoever they love becomes their home. This is private; whoever it is that you love, either your father or your mother becomes your home, and you follow that person to wherever he or she goes. So for me, if my daddy were in hell I would have followed him there; that was how bad it was for me. I so loved my father that I could not see anybody else apart from him. It was so bad that if they took him to a place that they were going kill him, I would have followed him. I didn’t see anything wrong about him at all. That for me was the beginning of my journey into understanding people generally.
How did this help to shape you into the woman that you are today?
I think I have always been the old school kind of person. As a young person, I have always been old school minded. I love Nigeria, and there is this saying in Yoruba: Ajo o da bi ile (there is no place like home). No matter the challenges we are dealing with as a nation, we should be proud of what we have. And I have always said that we should advance with whatever that we are left with.
There is something called camaraderie. When I travelled to Port Harcourt in the 80s, I saw that play out among the people, even though I was pretty young in age. I was in Akwa Ibom late last year and for the first time it was as if I did not leave Lagos. The people there still say ‘hello how are you’ even when they don’t know who you are.
I met a lady today and she is from Benue. Her warmth made me go back to her shop to buy things that I literally may not need but I was just captivated by her warm reception. That is the Nigerian spirit that I’m talking about; the Nigeria that we threw out of the window with the bath water. Someone said to me, ‘you have sentiment about Nigeria’, and I said ‘I’m sentimental about Nigeria because it is my country’. I really crave that the spirit we are known with will help wake the country back before we lose everything else. People should not get me wrong here; I’m not talking politics here, as I’m not a politician, I’m talking about fatherland.
You have consistently advocated for more female artistes in the music industry. Do you think we have enough female artistes now that are doing good enough compared to their male counterparts?
Well, the ladies are coming out and they are doing what they can to make sense of what exists as a male dominated industry. However, what I’m waiting to see is yet to materialise.
The female artistes should not be blamed because what they see is what they are attending to just make money. Right now, a lot of things are happening. There is coronavirus pandemic; people are thinking of the next best thing to do to get into the frontiers of businesses. They are trying; it is just that I do not condone nudity in the open space even though I like leaving my body as God made me in the confines of my room. Yes, I like wearing bum shorts, sleeks but that is in my house. The younger generations are coming and we have to respect their minds and feelings. These are things we have to take cognisance of. It is no longer news that men see women as sex toys. So, I think those who show off their sensitive bodies in their music videos are not to be blamed because they tend to appeal to those that like it. They are trying to sell their music. All over the world sex sells; moral instruction and edutainment are not bringing in the money. So most music artistes don’t want to be proper, instead they want to be rude with foul languages. I’m staying in my own territory. It is unfortunate that a lot of female acts are today selling sex through their music. I’m hoping there will be a major paradigm shift over the issue.
With over 30 years in the Nigerian arts space, 25 of which has been put into music, how would you describe the country’s entertainment industry generally?
It was great when we started, and one had expected it to advance beyond what we see today. Remember Jide Obi (Tonight, tonight I’m gonna make you my woman), Chris Okotie, Felix Liberty and Ecstasy. There was a particular group that if I don’t see them I will cry…Tuave (I like life). These musicians came out with hits after hits. There was so much joy for me. I was in the theatre dancing and somehow I met Zuby Enebeli, and by force by fire I was dragged into music. There was nowhere we did not go in the whole of the Eastern states. From Mgbidi to Mbaise, there was no Afor-Ugiri that we didn’t enter. We would stop at Umunede for fresh fish and banana. We were like Nigeria is about to blow. What happened? How did get to this point?
Music across the globe is a big business, and in Nigeria it has become a big enterprise. Do you think the government and the corporate entities have been doing enough to support the industry?
We have always said we should leave the government out of this matter. The sad truth is that whatever the government does affects every sphere of the industry and its operators. We may decide that we don’t want the government to participate in the development and affairs of the industry but how far can we really go, especially now that a lot of us have danced to the gallery; we have gone political.
We are musicians and not politicians. When you want to do politics, let it be said that you personally want to run for office and you are a musician with ability to do political things.
Music is not about politics; it is about life. Music is information presented to the ears that are willing to be soothed by sound. It is about enhancement, development and communal engagement; it is about advocacy and never about politics. It is so sad that music in Nigeria has become politics, and that is why the entertainment industry is comatose. This is because the practitioners have decided that every four years they will make money but in between the four years just sing sex and you will make money. It is now filthy, as some artistes are now the face of some political parties. The question begging for answer is what are we doing to revive and sustain the business that is valued at multi-trillion dollars. It has happened in one country; it can happen in our own country.
In most of your conversations, you often mention God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Does this mean Yinka Davies is now a pastor or born again Christian?
Well, if you say pastor, maybe you will come and ordain me as one. But to answer the question, let tell you that God is my father and Jesus Christ is my Lord and saviour and I’m not ashamed of Him. I love to talk about God because he is love. Anyone that tells you they love and yet turn their back on you don’t know what love means. The world was formed and framed by His word, and so I have found my position in that regard. I’m living, breathing, testimony-filled and in love with Jesus Christ. There is nothing anybody can do about it. If you want to cry, go on and cry.