Award-winning international music diva and cultural ambassador, Adeniyi Jemiriye, popularly known as Jemiriye, has not stopped at her best in projecting African culture through her music. In this interview with SEYI SOKOYA, the Nigerian Idol star talks about her new project and career. fragments:
You’ve been in the news lately with a new craft; can you let us know what it’s about?
I’m glad I’m back on the road with a new job. Recording Tambele was an interesting experience. When the inspiration to record came, I contacted my producer, Olatunde Obajeun, who was in France at the time and I was in the US. I gave him an idea of the song and he told me to give him about a week. He was working on the beat when he got back to Nigeria, and I recorded my vocals at the Hot Box studios, Pittsburgh PA USA. I had to make some corrections to the rhythm, so I reached out to him again, and this time he was in Amsterdam, so we kept going back and forth for a while, and I was preparing for the Picklesburgh festival (the biggest specialty Food Festival in America), at the same time.
It was very tight, but I wasn’t ready to rush the process. I like to take my time recording because I only want to do my best. So we finally finished recording Tambele and then the next day I had to catch my flight to Paris for the Figas festival. Then I had to coordinate with my team to get the master’s degree and finish the whole recording process while I was in Paris. In summary, Tambele has been worked on in four different countries and three continents, the US, France, Amsterdam and Nigeria.
What inspired the song Tambele?
The song came as a help in a time of personal grief. The month of July was very hard for me. First, I lost my beautiful, beloved goddaughter, Funmilola, to sickle cell anemia. It was painful for me as she was already 20 years old.
I also lost my godmother, Mama K, the same month. Then I traveled from the US to France and Croatia, trying to distract myself from the pains. I finally found some answers in my soon to be released music titled “Tambele”. This song is for you and for me. I choose happiness, I’m still broken, but in the midst of it all, I choose to rise above my situation, and I hope you feel the same strength that the song has given me.
Also, the inspiration for ‘Tambele’ came to me as a result of what the world is going through right now. The post-Covid era brought so much depression and mental health crisis. I was working on something completely different, and then I sang Tambele bele bela be lamba. I didn’t know what I was saying, but I found myself smiling and excited as I sang the song. So I grabbed my phone and started recording the new sound. Tambele means ‘happiness is free’. In my personal dictionary, Tambele aims to make you smile, dance and forget your problems. I just want to see people genuinely happy; I want the song to help heal the depressed people. The lyrics are a compilation of short funny stories about a small town where people had plenty of problems that were solved by something as simple as palm wine and the new dance, Tambele.
What were the challenges like creating and recording the song?
The fact that the beat of the song was created in three different continents was a big challenge. Time differences were one of the biggest issues, communicating exactly what I want with my producer who was thousands of miles away was another, then working with my American studio engineers who aren’t 100 percent inclined to Afropop. But we got it working perfectly at the end of the day. All their expertise and diversity brought the uniqueness to Tambele.
Are there any plans for the song’s visuals?
We’re currently working on the storyboard for Tambele’s visual, and we’ll start filming once everything is ready. Let me say in a month or so. And yes, I have other songs ready to be released, then the album will follow. I’m excited.
Jemiriye is a vocal powerhouse that cannot be categorized, what should fans expect from your album?
The album is planned for the end of the year. I am super excited to share my oeuvre with the world. It’s been about 20 years of recording. I can’t wait to share the album with the whole world.
How would you describe your kind of music?
My kind of music is unique, I am inspired by personal experiences, sometimes a random smile from a child can make me choose my pen to write and compose sounds. My music is rooted in African Highlife music, Afrobeat, Afropop, afrojazz, afrosoul, traditional Yoruba music and so on. I call it Afroclassic. It’s a mix of so many experiences from my musical journey.
What was your experience as a well-traveled musician and what was your opinion about music from Africa?
Traveling the world has been my greatest learning experience. It has helped me realize that there is no box, the only box is in your heart. The world is yours to conquer. Music from Africa is loved worldwide, it is very pleasant to my heart when I am in some parts of the world. I enjoy good food or wine at nice restaurants, shops, events, radio and TV stations, then African music keeps coming up, and it just feels natural and beautiful, and my heart is filled with joy. Recently I did two shows in Croatia on an island in Dubrovnik and I was amazed at the reception of my music, the singing and dancing by my audience got me excited.
Do you think the direction of music has changed globally in this post-Covid era?
Yes it has. The world became smaller without walls. Any music can trend and no one cares where the music comes from, people just want to be happy and dance to tunes and I love it.
What was growing up and your passion for music like?
I grew up in a house where music was part of our daily activities. We wake up every morning to pray, and during the morning devotions we have to sing for everything. My father also had some interesting music collections from Jazz to RnB, Juju, Fuji, Afrobeat, Highlife, etc. And I had my church choir experiences since I was five years old. As a child I always had my imaginary crowd of a million people and my PET bottle as a microphone in front of the mirror, and I will perform for real.
Your fashion is unique and seems to be an extension of your music and personality; can you tell more about it?
I love my carrot. I am an African woman. I like to look good. I like luxury. I like jewelry, I like beads, I like smelling good, I like big and headw don’t know how not to dress up.
What are your memorable moments as a musician so far?
Singing at the baseball game and becoming the first African to sing the baseball song at a live show at Citizens Bank Park Stadium in Philadelphia in 2015, singing at the Pan African Women’s Conference in South Africa with the legendary Winnie Mandela in attendance in 2005, my song Playing ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ at the World Cup in Rio Brazil, singing on the 90th birthday of the legendary Mrs. Naomi Barbara King, and so on. Every stage is special to me.
How has your foundation brought a smile to the faces of young people around the world?
My foundation EWA Global initiative has touched the lives of so many young people and women across Africa, and we are working to do more to support young girls. We are getting ready to go to Togo, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Senegal for some outreach. EWA Global initiative aims to support youth and women in Africa. Helping the youth stay out of trouble by creating a stimulating self-esteem for them and building their self-esteem. We also give some incentives to African women to start a profession and support their families.
What’s on your bucket list?
I want to travel around the world.
What are three things people don’t know about you?
I love cooking. I am a shy person and I am very bad with roads, I use the GPS to drive to the same place for months.
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