Azeezat Niniola Allen Azeezat Niniola Allen popularly referred to as Azeezat in music circles is one musician who believes so much in love. She is regarded as one of the pioneers of present day Nigerian music and she not only stands out among her peers but she is equally admired for her sonorous voice. The creative artiste opens up on her love life, marriage while also reflecting on her style among other issues in this interview with AHMED BOULOR.
WHAT has it been like thus far having a career spanning over 10 years?
My journey on the music scene actually started 13 years ago to be precise. It has been a long journey with a lot of ups and down; it has also been mixed with a lot of fulfilment and blessings. There have also been a lot of challenges and triumphs; it is a long story filled with lots of experiences which has made me who I am today.
What has been your highest point in the last 13 years?
I cannot really place a finger on a particular high point in my career for now because I have received a lot of awards and recognition over the years. I have also gotten commendation from a lot of people too; what you sometimes call your high point may vary because the definition of my high-point may vary from yours. All I can say is that, I have had so many high points in my career and it would be unfair to just mention one of my high moments.
Are you a satisfied artiste?
The truth is that I cannot sit back and analyse and make it seem as if my career has ended. I am still trying to muscle my way into the industry after the short break I had; I still have a lot of things that I am working towards. There have been lots of achievements in 13 years; there have been open doors and the perks that come with being an artiste in the Nigerian music industry.
How would you describe your evolution as an artiste in the last 13 years?
I was a small girl when I started and besides the career, I have also grown in stature and experience. I had dreams which have been fulfilled and I have also experienced situations which I never thought will take place. It has been a long change process which has overtime made me evolve into the artiste that I am today. I have been able to put smiles on the faces of music lovers over a period of time especially at a time when young girls who did music were considered as never-do-wells. I was an undergraduate when I started doing music and ensured I finished school before plunging headlong into the world of music. People like me are considered as the pioneers of modern day Nigerian music and I am glad to be part of that golden generation.
What are the challenges you are faced with in trying to catch up with today’s music?
I am more about the message; I am more about getting an important message across to music lovers. But today’s music is all about dance and trying to infuse that into my songs has been a challenge on its own. Being able to understand the music terrain and the dynamics of music promotion, and learning tricks of what makes a song a hit is another challenge on its own too. Sometimes, it is not the rave that is the in thing; it is the make-up of the artiste that really matters. The blend of certain things in your psyche is the basic work; it is what you have in your bag of tricks you can produce. Being able to blurt out the fact that people see you as old school and the ability to adapt to present day musical trends is really challenging.
Should we expect an infusion of dance and current music trends in your works?
Yes! I have tried my best and I have come to discover that I cannot do music that I do not believe in. I cannot do music that people cannot vouch for because people have come to discover that my music is all about my message. My current efforts are a blend of the old and new; my fans should expect dance songs on my forthcoming album.
Would it be okay to sum up that your style was influenced by your upbringing?
Definitely! You know girls will be girls and when you are younger, you come across a lot of things and you are tempted to try some things as a young girl just because you want to blend in. You later learn your lessons in the process of growing until you discover yourself and your personality. My upbringing and training did not require me to be flamboyant and catchy to the eye in the manner in which I present myself. There is one person I really admire on the movie scene because of her simplicity in appearance and that is Genevieve Nnaji. She has redefined her style; she is very simple any yet classy and she always comes out on point. I learn a lot from a lot of people and what I learn from them informs what I do because I want to add value to my trade and personality.
What informs your style, especially your hairdo?
I was trying to find an outstanding identity that would not be imitated by anybody. That was why I initially settled for the long thread hairstyle which is known as shuku andkiko. I initially saw a sample that inspired that hairstyle and I discovered that it really made me look African. It wasn’t something that was easy to achieve and sustain over the years because I went through a lot of pains to achieve it. There was a time I stopped and decided to start all over again because people had come to know me by that hairstyle. My hairdo works for me at the moment; it defines me and it is a blend of me of old and in present times. My new looks aptly explains what I have had in my head all this while.
What past mistake would you not want to repeat again?
That would be trying to force an idea that would always come out wrong because it was by force. I have learnt to allow things to flow more naturally; I have also learnt to move with the tides and times. I have also learnt to listen more to the counsel of people who know me better so they can add more value to my career. I have come to understand that it is better to allow specialists to handle some aspects of your career. I have a stylist and make-up artiste that takes care of my looks; I just want to concentrate on doing good music while other personnel concentrate on other parts of my music career.
How many albums do you have in all?
Technically, I would say I have four albums because my fourth album is a repackaged version of my third album.
So give or take you have four albums?
Yeah! Give or take, I have four albums…
How have you been able to cope on the music scene which is predominantly dominated by hip hop artistes?
The truth is some certain things are determined by certain people and situations; I recently had a collaboration with Mode 9 and that tells you that I have decided to infuse a bit of hip hop in my music. International artistes like Rihanna, Beyonce and Kelly Rowland all infuse different genres of music in their personal albums and I am not an exception. I predominantly do soulful songs and you can’t take that part of me away from the kind of music that I do. Everything else is an addition…
Which of your four albums would you say is the most successful?
It will be very difficult for someone like me to say that this album or that album is my most successful. I started music before songs became commercial and for instance my first album made headway but it was released in an era when people weren’t really crazy about the kind of music that people like me were doing at the time. It was an era when the industry was waking up from the slumber caused by the military rule. So if I say that there is any other album that was more commercially viable than my first album then I will be doing my debut album a great disservice. People still remember my first single titled ‘Hold On’ and that song was in my first album. Funny enough, I bought that album from a pirate…
Talking about pirates, how much have you lost to them in your years of music?
It’s unquantifiable! I just don’t go there all the time and that is why I am happy that I was recently appointed as a board member of the copyright society of Nigeria (COSON). A whole lot of solutions have been proferred for the advancement of the music industry and it is time to start making changes. There is still so much work to be done and I am a part of COSON to effectively eradicate piracy as much as possible. It is time to allow the Nigerian artiste to go home with something. Last week, we sued WAZOBIA FM for copyright infringement and that is the first time ever that such an action would be taken. At least, that will serve as a deterrent to others.
Would you say you are a fulfilled artiste?
Yes and no! I read a lot of interviews of other people and I have learnt from some of the things they have said like I said earlier it depends on your definition as a person. It varies for individuals but in certain areas of my life and career I would say that I am fulfilled especially when I get positive comments from my admirers. I cannot really say that I am fulfilled because I am young and I have a whole lot to achieve ahead of me.
Would you be more fulfilled when you start having babies?
When I start having babies? (Laughs coyly) I am sorry I wouldn’t want to answer that question…
How supportive has your husband been all these years without a child?
He has really been supportive and I want to thank him for all that he has done. I can’t do anything without him. He is a strong pillar of support and I cannot ask for a better partner.
What about your in-laws? Are they not pressuring you in any way?
My in-laws are really supportive and I have posted it on social media several times. They are the best in-laws I can ever get; there are certain things I cannot talk about but all I can say is that I have the best in-laws in the world.
How did you meet your husband?
We met at a talent hunt competition and that was 13 years ago; it was through my husband that I got into music. The competition was a winner-takes-all affair and was so distraught when I didn’t win. After the competition, he walked up to me and told me we can work together and take my career to the next level and the rest like they say is history.
What made you fall in love with your husband?
I can’t really tell why I fell in love with him, but I can say that I have a lot of respect and admiration for him. We recently celebrated 10 years in marriage and my life started the day that I met him. In a lot of ways he has helped to make my career a success and what people see on the outside today is as a result of his hard work.
10 years in marriage; what’s your greatest wish?
(Pauses and laughs) Nice one! (Laughs really loud again) That’s a nice one but if you ask me, that’s between me and my creator…