By Christian Agadibe
Fasting rising singer, Deborah Oluwaseyi whose stage name is Seyi Shay, had her tutelage under Beyonce’s father. She even toured and opened shows for the international superstar before coming back to Nigeria to pursue a career in music. In this interview with The Entertainer, tall, slim and sexy Seyi shares her experience with Beyonce and her father. Enjoy it:
My name is Deborah Oluwaseyi Joshua, I am also known as Seyi Shay. I am a singer, and an entertainer. I was born in London actually to Nigerian parents. My mum is half Fulani, half Tapa, and my dad is Yoruba from Ile Ife. I attended primary school in Nigeria, before returning to the UK to finish secondary school. I then went to the University where I studied Business Management.
I had a great childhood. In my family, there was a lot of music going on. I think my first memory of music was listening to my mum’s catalogue of Nigerian music. She used to listen to Sunny Ade, Onyeka Onwenu, Salawa Abeni and Fela Anikulapo.. My mum had a wide range of Nigerian music. My brother was both a radio and club DJ. In between work hours, he would play in the club and also play on the radio. My mum was a chorister and my sister used to write songs. When I was 14, I traveled to Japan with the choir that I was a part of at the time. I was the youngest member of that choir. Every December, they would do a Christmas tour of Japan and we will go to 12 or 13 cities. We went to Fukuokasiroshama, Wakashaki, Tokyo, everywhere and we performed in front of the fans of the choir. I remember sitting in front of the audience to take my solo and the response was so awesome. It gave me a thrill and a feeling that I never felt before. It gave me the confidence that I have the talent to do music.
I came back to the UK and I explained to my mum that I wanted to be a singer for the rest of my life. Actually, she disagreed because she wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer. I didn’t want to do that. So, there was a lot of friction and tension in the house during my teenage years. I think parents do not believe that music is something that is respectable. Musicians make more money than doctors or lawyers. But when I finished my education and got a degree, she was happier. I found myself networking within the music industry in the UK and I was opportune to sign for a record company called, No Apology, which was an affiliate of George Martin Music. George Martin, former producer of the Beetles, owned George Martin Music. He invested in the project of mine but it didn’t go as well as we thought.
The second time I attempted to do music was when I joined a girl group called, From Above, which was UK-based. The girl group was actually formed a year after my mum died. My mum passed away and I remember that the day before she passed away, I saw her in the hospital. She was only supposed to have an operation. It wasn’t supposed to be so tragic, you know, but we spoke briefly and she gave me some tips and advice on men and my future husband. She gave me some tips and advice about life and I didn’t know why she was talking like that. It seems she knew that something could happen so, she was kind of telling me some things that we never really spoke about before. She said ‘I feel you are going to end up in Nigeria one day’. I looked at her and said ‘no, no, no. Anyway, mum, I will see you tomorrow’. I didn’t see her the next day.
Relationship with Beyonce
A year later, I joined From Above’, which was nurtured and managed by a man called Martin Knowle. Martin Knowle is Beyonce’s father. He founded Destiny’s Child and also managed Beyonce until 2010, and we were under his management for four years. While under his management we did some amazing things. I have been trained for four years in their camp. We toured with Beyonce actually; we opened shows for her in the UK. We performed in front of 15,000 people every night. Then we had our own reality show, which still airs on MTV
The first experience I had performing in front of a large crowd was overwhelming and I think it influenced me greatly. I had a great choir director, great vocal teacher and I studied music and I had a flare for performing, so, I guess I just picked on what my strength was and I ran with it.
I am inspired by strong women, powerful women, women that have made a mark in the world. In my life, I would say my mum is the first to serve as an inspiration. She’s very strong and very smart woman. Also, Tina Turner inspires me. I love Tina Turner a lot because my mum looks like Tina Turner and I used to think that they were related when I was very small.
My music style is a combination of Afropop and R&B. My hope is that musically, I can crossover to different demographics. Thank God, there are some great Nigerian musicians that have broken into the international market. So, doing Nigerian music has now made it easier for me. I don’t want to be looked at as a Nigerian artiste or UK artiste. I want be looked at as an artiste that makes good music and that represents Africa.
One of my biggest role models is Beyonce. I didn’t think much of Beyonce until I started working with her dad in America. And you don’t see Beyonce misbehaving; you don’t hear any tragic story of drug abuse and things like that about her because there is an instilled discipline in her. I feel fortunate enough that over the years, I have exercised that similar discipline because I have to struggle to achieve such things. Beyonce`s father used to tell us ‘you have a choice; you can focus on the rest of your life, you can focus on it right now. You can’t focus on the past and if you decide to focus on the rest of your life, you would live longer and stronger’, you know, he’s just guiding us through life really.
Not silver spoon kid
Actually, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. My mum raised four kids as a single parent, even though she wasn’t single, she raised us as a single parent when my dad decided to leave, it was very hard. I didn’t have everything I wanted. In London, it’s not easy at all. Unlike Nigeria, you are on your own in London. You don’t have people that will help you raise your children. We were not poor and we were not rich, we were just a working class family.
Advice mum gave me
She often told me that before I end up with a man, I should pray about it. She said the man must love me more than I love him (laughs). It’s funny; we used to laugh about it. Also, she advised me to achieve the things I want in life before getting married. On sex, my mum used to say ‘don’t allow men to touch you, don’t allow men to scratch your palm. Don’t be alone with any man’, just the normal thing a woman would tell her daughter and I took her advice. I think sex is a sacred thing, I think it’s important to know who you have chosen to give yourself to which is probably why sex should wait till after marriage. God knows what He is doing; He wouldn’t have made that commandment if not for the benefit of His children.
I can marry from any tribe, any race. Yeah! Why not? My family is very open, very liberal. My kind of man? I like tall, dark, handsome and intelligent man. Yes, I can fight for my man. I fight for everything I believe in. That’s why I have been able to do music struggling and hustling for many years. I would fight for my man if I believe in what we have. Yeah!
My favourite is Irawo. We released Loving You in July. Then, we decided to release the video of Loving You on Sound City, Channel O and MTV. Right now, I have three songs, Irawo, Loving You, and Nolele. Irawo has now been turned into a remix and we featured Vector the rapper. We are going to shoot the video within the next few weeks and I hope everybody will enjoy it. That will be my second video.
Collaborating with others
Chidimma and Chekraft did a song together and I love that. I would love to see more female singers do collabo together. I would love to do collabo with Waje, Tiwa Savage and so on.
Most embarrassing moment
It was a bad but funny moment. I was on stage at Koko Lounge about four months ago and I had a wardrobe malfunction. My piece of clothing came off on the stage. It was very embarrassing. We’ve decided to learn from that mistake and we always have a dress for ourselves now. I always forget my lyrics, I don’t know why. I am so excitable on stage. Sometimes, I still get my lyrics but my label has done such a good job in pushing my music on radio than on TV; so a lot of people know my songs but they don’t know my face. When I forget my lyrics on stage, I give the microphone to somebody in the crowd that I see singing along with me and then I get them to sing the song, so they help me (laughs).
Lesbians! (Laughs). I think they are God’s creatures, I think God created them just like He created us. I think it’s a choice they have made. So, we cannot judge them really and I think that some gay people I have come in contact with have been some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life, and it’s just a shame that they get treated the way they get treated.