By Tony Ogaga Erhariefe
As far as urban contemporary gospel music is concerned, Nikki Laoye, recording artiste and project manager at Wahala Media Entertainment is a force to reckon with. Born to a family where music is a tradition, Nikki released her debut album, Angel 4 Life in 2005, and ever since she has never looked back. Happily married, the singer exclusively opened up on her career, growing up and why she chose to remain a virgin till her wedding night. Excerpts:
Tell us about growing up and how many were you in the family?
My family is the most unique family unit I have ever come across. We were four kids and I’m the only girl. We all see each other as best friends and love each other dearly. Growing up was a large playground. There was a lot of fun and laughter. That’s why losing our father in 2011 broke our hearts as we felt a part of us had been torn away from us.
We understand you’re from a lineage of talking drummers. How has that influenced you musically?
I hail from the royal musical lineage of the talking drum legend, late Oba Adetoyese Laoye from Ede, Osun State. Therefore, music is a lifestyle for me. My father, Prince Olusola Laoye, led a band in his days and had a massive music collection. I had access to loads of music as a child and that influenced me a lot.
At what point did you discover you were cut out for singing?
I grew up singing with my dad and playing the piano with my grandpa. I totally loved the whole essence of music. My parents noticed my interest early on and set me up with our adult church choir at the age of five and there’s been no looking back ever since. The arts became an integral part of my life from then on, all through my secondary and university days. I joined and performed with numerous dance/music groups before starting out as a solo artiste in 2005.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
I get my inspiration from my faith, my life, my experiences and the world at large. There’s really so much to write about.
How would you describe your style of music?
My style is urban contemporary Christian music with eclectic flavours of any genre ranging from hip-hop, R&B, rock, soul and jazz. I use any sound and style to pass my message across.
You released your first single in 2005, what was the experience like?
Amazing! Awesome! It was definitely a moment I recall with joy. My first single, Never Felt This Way Before, got such a resounding response from music lovers across Nigeria and the international community. For a while, people thought I wasn’t from Nigeria because of the style, which was alternative rock. The song got over 10 nominations from across the world and it remains a classic hit till date.
Tell us about your debut album, Angel for Life?
Angel 4 Life is a great collection of beautifully crafted songs featuring artistes like Cobhams, Rooftop MCs, Jeremiah Gyang, Karl Nova from the UK and Blaise. It includes hits such as Never Felt This Way Before, Taka Sufe, Someone 2 Love and Joy Comes among others. It was released in 2008 under my management/label, Wahala Media Entertainment. MTV Base covered the launch and parts of the clips were used for my feature spot on the TV show, MTV Base Advance Warning.
We also understand that you have an NGO that goes with the same name. What inspired it?
Yeah… it’s a visible extension of what my life and music is about which is basically to be a messenger of love, life and hope for God’s people. The objective of Angel 4 Life Foundation is to support the development and empowerment of Nigerian youths with emphasis on the visually impaired, physically challenged and the less privileged who are gifted in the arts. We participated actively in the 2012 International White Cane Day. We also helped to manage the Music Therapy Department at Modupe Cole Home in Akoka, Lagos. We recently teamed up with a GTBank Training School to help build a recording studio for Akeem, a physically challenged producer who lives in the home. There’s a lot of work to be done and I know that God’s our help as the foundation strives to meet the needs of its beneficiary organizations and individuals.
How did you meet your husband and for how long did you date? How did he propose to you eventually?
My husband and I have known each other for a long while so it simply was friends taking a step further towards being together for a lifetime. He made the cutest proposal via a website which he designed with my pictures and a proposal note. Then, he sent me the link under the guise that it was a press article on my music.
I had no idea what was coming my way as I opened the webpage and there it was, the proposal of life! By the time I finished reading, he was already by my side on his knees with a ring in hand; it was a very funny and creative plot indeed!
You got married a while ago and you were a virgin. How were you able to pull it off considering that in this age it’s no longer fashionable to be a virgin?
It’s really all about choices and decisions. I decided to keep myself and wait till the right time because my faith as a Christian advises me to do so; dealing with guilt and fears of unwanted pregnancies is just not worth the few minutes of pleasure because truthfully, sex is a huge responsibility especially for women. I say this because women are the ones who get pregnant and have the burden of dealing with the shame, challenges and responsibility that come with single parenthood not to talk of dealing with STDs and other sexually transmitted diseases. As the Bible says, there is time for everything…Selah!!
What’s been your happiest moment so far?
The release of my new single, Only You, a few months ago. The response on its first day of release was incredible! I got over 2000 downloads in one day and the song was trending on twitter within 24 hours. I had thousands of tweets flooding my timeline. There were comments on different blogs about how the song was touching lives. It’s so amazing! A cry of anguish from my heart in the dark year of 2011 has now become a lifeline of comfort and hope to many. It surely means a lot to me knowing that all I went through and survived would be a point of reference for survival for lots of people out there.
What’s been your saddest moment?
The lowest point in my life was losing my dad. Watching him slip away in my arms in August 2011 was a very painful experience. And it was just three months to my wedding. He was my best friend, my number one boyfriend. At that point, everything I had ever believed in was challenged. I was depressed and angry for a long while and just stayed away from the music scene. But I thank God for His love and strength as He gently brought me through each day and today, I stand much stronger and at peace with it all.
What are your dreams?
My music and everything I do are all in line with one major objective in mind and that is achieving my life’s purpose which is that specific job God has sent me here to do and that’s simply to be a voice of hope, love, change and encouragement straight from heaven’s gates to the hearts of men. And this is what I daily strive to achieve with every platform I operate on.
Tell us about your radio show and how it’s impacting young girls?
I recently kicked off my own radio show, Girls Rock With Nikki Laoye, which airs every Thursday, 5pm to 7pm on online gospel radio station, Praise World Radio (www.praiseworldradio.com). It showcases female gospel/inspirational artistes and young female entrepreneurs in Africa and beyond. It’s actually a show for everyone both male and female. We x-ray issues like abuse and relationships. My vision is to push women to the forefront and let people know and appreciate the great milestones women are achieving out there. The show has definitely been a platform for encouraging and impacting young men and women.
What’s your advice for young girls who look up to you?
I would simply say stay focused even when the road gets rough because it surely would. Hold on to God’s promise that He has a great, expected end for you. And finally, keep working, keep talking your faith, keep breathing, keep moving and soon enough, your gifts will make room for you before great men. Remember, you’re here to be a blessing, to be a source of help and inspiration to many, so get cracking! There’s a lot of work to be done.