If you think you've seen it all in the Nigerian music industry, then pause for a moment until you are done with this piece. DANIEL UDECHUKWU was up-close and personal with Grace Obika, the diva, who has made her mark in Europe and the United States, but has decided to bring it down her roots
She is a charming young lady by many standards. Her light skin, fluent English Language and beautiful looks are her hallmarks. Engage Obika in a conversation and you will realise that she truly is a 'complete package'.
Sitting gracefully on the three-seater sofa in her sitting room, Obika, the Enugu State-born Nigerian UK-based Soul, R&B and jazz singer, has a story to tell: "I listen to a blend of Soul, R&B, some comercial music and a bit of Jazz as well."
Having spent almost all her life in the UK where she was born and discovered her talent in singing, Obika thought it's high time she took her musical career which started about seven years ago to her roots. "Because of the type of music I do, it seems like my market is more in Europe. So what I have done this year is to do music that reflects my origin; my ethnic origin is Igbo.
The music titled 'Take Me There' which has been enjoying massive airplay in some major FM stations across the country is to cater for my roots because I believe the market is really good here in Nigeria. So I want my piece of the pie," she reveals with excitement.
Obika believes she has an edge over her contemporaries in the industry even in the face of the notion that the Nigerian music industry is saturated with various artistes springing up on a daily basis. Judging from her chosen genre of music which she claims has all it takes to appeal to the Nigerian public, it is indeed a new dawn for the Nigerian music industry. "I am a unique brand; I don't need to barge into using afro-beats like most artistes in Nigeria do.
I do music that both my local and international audience can relate to. I have a fusion of various genres of music that most acts in the market don't have; music that can relate to various ethnic backgrounds, not just in Nigeria but in Africa. Four years ago I was offered a recording contract by EMI South Africa, for various reasons I turned it down. South Africans are appreciating my music. I think I have that unique brand that can represent Nigeria and do well on the international scene," she attested confidently.
Recounting how her journey into the industry started at a tender age while still in the choir, Obika can thank her stars for the feat she has recorded so far because her short stint in the industry has seen her work with notable artistes in Europe, the USA and Africa. "I came from a musical family. It all started in the church and it developed through networking with fellow musicians; also I was able to collaborate with people already on the music scene.
"I've done shows across Europe and the US. I've supported major acts like Akon in Atlanta; I was also selected as an opening act for a film premier - Amazing Grace - in Hollywood. I've also supported US brands such as Omar, John B, Michael Houston and I've also done collaboration with Nigeria acts such as Moeazy and Sway. It's been a good journey so far.
The young artiste, who has no role model in the industry, rather a clichéd view for their work, said she draws inspiration from Beyonce Knowles for her doggedness and zeal to aim higher despite all efforts, especially from the media, some of which are trying hard to pull her down.
As would be expected in every human endeavour, Obika identifies the challenges of having a good recording deal as most offers from music labels have clauses that might make the deal attractive, but short-lived in the long run if not critically examined.
"You have to really be patient because a lot of people have a lot to say - that they can do this and that for you. You need the spirit of discernment to know exactly where they are coming from and what motives they have behind each proposition. You have to be prayerful too because one should not take everything that comes his or her way. I've been approached with so many offers for a record deal; thank God I have people like Lemar I can look up to for mentorship," she said.
The independent artiste who is hoping to find a good recording deal here in Nigeria as her work is presently focused on the Nigeria market said she is opened to ideas.
In next five years, Obika hopes that her music would become more recognised internationally as she is very optimistic that she would have captured the Nigerian market within this period. 'Off the record', she hopes to be married with children within this period too.
As part of her philanthropy gestures for Nigerians, Obika said as a medical analyst, she hopes to establish a better medical record system for Nigerians. And for Nigerians who love good music, she said: "Nigerians should expect something fresh, new and unique; something they can relate to and be proud of that represents them."