Born Eniola Akinbo, she’s better known as sultry singer Niyola. The only lady in the EME squad, she’s had a career that has spanned over 10 years, and in this interview, says she’s ready to stage a comeback, challenges notwithstanding.
What has your journey to and through the music industry been like?
I started doing music quite early. I was part of Starlet music competition in 2000. It used to be part of the events for the AMEN Awards. I was the first runner-up for that year, and it was where I met people likePlantashun Boiz, Psquare, Paul Play and Slam, who I used to see on TV and hear about. From there, I started singing back up for Sound Sultan and Baba Dee, and I did a duet with Faze on a track for his first album. I was also on Trybe Records for a short period. After I left them, I recorded my first two singles with Make Some Noise Productions. The songs were accepted and from there I decided to continue, after which I got signed to Westside Records label.
Has your journey been what you expected it to be, considering the fact that you’ve been in the game for over a decade?
Because I am doing this for the passion I have for it, I will say all the time and effort I’ve put into this business has been worth it for me, and I won’t say I have regrets, because I know this is the beginning of a new dispensation for me. When I left Westside, I took some time off to retreat. I felt I needed some time to put certain things in place, especially because I thought I was going to be starting on my own. I knew I needed to set a lot of things right and be sure I was ready for the journey I was about to take, and as God will have it, I came back with EME.
Your video ‘Don’t go there‘ was just released. How did you find the experience?
It was amazing. We rehearsed for about four weeks before the video was shot. The choreography, the dancers and the dances made it all fun.
The video is your most recent solo work after a long time away. Does it mean you’re ready for a come-back?
Definitely, it is. I am back and I am ready.
Nigeria’s music industry doesn’t seem to be too friendly with the ladies. Only a few of them are making waves. How are you making sure you’re among the top ranked female singers?
There is no strategy per se, but I can assure you I will do what I know how to do best and be the best at whatever I do. If that is what you call a strategy, then that is my strategy.
How do you intend to deal with other female artistes who may see you as a competitor?
Honestly, I am not setting out to compete with anybody, I am just going to strive to be the best at what I do and I think if I’m the best at what I do, my work will speak for itself.
When are you likely to release your album?
It’s definitely going to be next year, although I can’t say what quarter it will be. I will be dropping more singles and more videos as well.
A lot has changed since you went off the radar. Now that you’re planning a comeback, what kind of songs should we expect from you?
I will stick to my contemporary music. I don’t like to box myself to a corner, describing myself as an R&B or soul singer. I will just do what comes naturally. I’m ready to explore and make more good music that people can relate to.
Who are you planning to work with on your album?
I really can’t say for now but I am going to be working with a lot of people. I definitely want to work with Banky W because I have always been a fan. I have done stuff with Skales too , and hopefully one other female artiste.
You were once romantically linked with rapper Freestyle. Is there a possibility of you both getting together again, at least professionally?
I was? Well, Freestyle was my great friend and is still my very good friend. We had a conversation yesterday just like the friends that we are. Working with him, I can’t say for now, maybe, maybe not.
Are you in a relationship now?
No. I am very much single.
Tell us how your journey into EME started and how it has been so far.
Banky and I have always been friends and when I decided to make my comeback, I did a song with Skales. Along the line, I went to the EME house where I met him and everybody. We got talking about so many things, including the DELSU rape issue which was popular then. He advised that I do a song about rape in Nigeria at that time. He later volunteered to be part of the song. We started working on the song and I guess it was at that point he realized he had to sign me. So far, the journey has been great and a lot of fun. I look forward to more fun moments because as much as it is work, it is also a lot of fun because it is what we love to do.
What is the difference between your previous label and EME?
I’ve only been on one record label, which was Westside Music. Everybody has their modus operandi and how they operate, so it is a different thing entirely. Besides, we cannot compare the kind of music that was in trend then to what is available now. There is a whole lot of difference. I like where I am now, which is very important. The past is gone.
How does it feel being EME’s first lady, and does it come with pressure?
It definitely feels good because everybody is looking out for me on a personal and work level. They don’t let anybody mess with me. They are like hawks watching over me, the things brothers do for their only sister. There hasn’t been any pressure on me at all. I am comfortable being the first lady.
In your twelve active years in the music industry, you must have observed lots of changes. What is your opinion of Nigerian music as it is today?
I will say it is evolving. It’s a lot better than it was, which is very good and rewarding. People are a lot more confident now being artistes. A lot of people are becoming more expressive with their music, and are no longer scared of doing the kind of music they want to because of fear of acceptance. Different styles have come up and it gladdens my heart that it is happening. I am really happy.
What was life like before you started doing music?
I grew up in Lagos. I studied Journalism and English language and a little bit of travel and tourism. And of course, I was blending everything with music. I love to do different things. For now I am doing music, but I will be doing a lot of things next year. Expect a lot of things from me, besides music, but whatever it is going to be, it’s going to be entertainment related.
Lastly, what is your take on the segregation female singers have had to face in Nigeria and what solutions would you suggest?
I think the segregation is factored by the society. We are in a society where the women aren’t seen as equal to the men, so naturally, it affects every sector. The banking sector is affected too, and it is obvious in politics. It will definitely be a challenge but I think it boils down to the individual.