Saturday, 8 June 2013

You want me? Talk to Darey Art-Alade – Music starlet, Zaina

Zaina is the ‘first lady’ of Darey Art-Alade’s record label, Soul Musik. She tells Ademola Olonilua about her life and career in this interview
Why I moved back to Nigeria from Atlanta, USA
It wasn’t an impromptu decision. I always tell people that I need to come back home because even though I was born and raised there, my parents, family are here. I was here till I was about 11 years old when I went off to boarding school. Coming back home has always been a must. It is not like I woke up one day and said I would come to Nigeria. I always said that that was a foreign land and home is home. It was just a matter of time. I finished school and every other thing I was meant to do was done, I packed my bags and came back.
My early days
Unfortunately, I did not school here. I say unfortunately because I wanted to go to school here but my father changed his mind at the last minute. People would interject and say he just wasn’t satisfied with every other school. He ended up sending me to the UK, which was funny because my brother was in UK and they brought him here. He did not want to come and I did not want to go. People always used to ask me if I was a military brat because I move around a lot while growing up. Boarding school was in UK – Brighton and Hove – it is outside of London. That is where I grew and spent my secondary school years. It was an amazing experience. My best friend is there, I still have connections with most of my friends from secondary school. Unfortunately, due to the financial meltdown that hit the UK, my school which was built in the 18th Century, ended up getting closed down. Till today, it still hurts a lot of us emotionally. It is the kind of place you would expect to send your girl to, it is an all girls school. You send your daughter to a very old school that has a lot of history and I’m a part of that history. It was quite painful.

My first crush
It was definitely in secondary school. It was in my third form and I was about 14. He was a family friend but his elder brother was like a big brother to me. His mum was friends with my mum and that was how we met. I remember him taking the train to come and see me and his girl pals in school. I don’t remember what he did, but I remember that me and my girls said that the guy was being too shy or too slow. That was my first crush. He wasn’t sharp, he didn’t know how to express himself.
How I discovered my talent
It was actually through my Jazz instructor. I used to play the trumpet and the tuba in school. When people see my stature, they are surprised I play the tuba. I tell people that it was partly because of laziness. Of course, everybody was learning the piano. I wasn’t willing to sit and learn it. I believed that I should lay my fingers on the keyboard and everything should just come out beautifully; unfortunately that did not happen. I did not like theory and you have to learn theory if you do not have that talent. That is how I ended up with the trumpet and the tuba. I used to sing but I did not realise the talent. One year, my Jazz instructor said it was time for me to sing. He put me on the stage, I had a solo and it was called ‘Shooby dooby’. That was the first time I sang a solo in front of the whole school, family and friends. After that, there was no turning back.
The experience
It was a nerve racking experience but it was so much fun. My Jazz instructor was so much passionate about me and anything that has to do with music. He really prepped me well. He made me feel like I was the only person that could do what I did. I think that was a great introduction to music. From there, I started auditioning for lead roles in our plays. Before, I would go and audition for anything. Most of our plays were musical. I always had a passion but that was the time when I started to say, ‘wow! I think I can do this’.
When I started 
At that time, it was modelling that was running after me. From when I was four years old, I modeled for almost 15 years. I was doing it but I did not see it as my passion. It was just something I was supposed to do because I had the look. What I did was that as I got older, I started looking for ways to use the modelling to connect music so I would do competitions and go for auditions that would call for a singer and a model. It was actually a great experience and it started to open doors for me. I think my parents saw it as a hobby for me. It was not till my late teens they knew I was serious. They were just clear, ‘finish school, if you like go and do bricklayer, as long as you are happy’. My parents had their own perquisites, you do those, and they are fine with you. They supported me.
My first kiss
I remember it vividly. He was a twin, I remember everything surrounding the first kiss but the kiss itself, I don’t remember. Afterwards I remember feeling like, what did you do? It was very awkward, extremely awkward for me. I did not know if he was supposed to say something or if I was to. We just sat there, and I was like; ok, are you hungry? It was weird but I think it was okay. I wish I had known more. I would have known how to read his body language. He was my first official boyfriend because I was already almost 18.
My worst fear
I’m afraid of premature death. I’m afraid of dying before I’m able to accomplish my heart desires. Those are my fears because I feel like you can die at 90 and still wouldn’t have done much in life. Meanwhile, you can die at 35 and would have done great exploits. When people call your name, they would say you impacted their lives. I met Zaina and she encouraged me to be who I want to be. That is my fear. To have not have impacted in the lives of people around me before it is my time.
Working with Darey Art Alade
I think it is such a privilege to be the first of anything. The ‘first lady’ of Soul Musik, that is really nice. It is a blessing. Working with Darey is quite an experience. He is a very smart and intelligent man. He is a workaholic and very disciplined in his craft. He is extremely humble and a lot of people don’t get to know a lot of these things. He has really pushed me to go beyond my limits. When you work with someone like Darey, he is a perfectionist. You can never bring anything half done to him. He always finds a way to push you further. That has been really great. It is nice to be the only female among the guys. It is a family setting, there is the big aspect of it that I feel I have brothers and you know his wife is the co-owner of the label, Mrs. Biola Art-Alade. I think that is one of the biggest privileges that I have – to have a female boss who sees me as a  lady and understands where I am coming from.
Tiwa Savage and I
First of all, for any kind of comparison to Tiwa, I’ll say is a compliment because she is a beautiful young lady and she has done well. I have known Tiwa since 2003 in the US, we did not meet here, I did not see her on television and say wow, that’s who I want to be like. If people have the time to do their research, they’ll see that what I do today is nothing new. I did not start music yesterday. I have been doing it for a while. If you look back, even if you look as far back as Eldee’s ‘Champion’ video, you’ll see that I have always looked this way, sounded this way. I can’t copy anybody when I have always been who I have been. The reality is that, as they say, some call it ‘first to blow’. It is who you see you would identify with. I’m not going to say I’m offended or I blame anybody for saying that. It is natural, if you see someone that reminds you of a person, it is natural to say that.
How I met Tiwa
I had a gig in Atlanta in 2004; even in the US, Nigerians who are in the industry in the UK and US are quite few. It’s a small circle, everybody knows each other. It is the greater public that will not know people’s background and history. She is a great girl, a sister and a friend. I’m a fan and I know that she also respects and enjoys what I do. Again, I take it as a compliment because they could compare me to anybody and if they are going to compare me to her, it is all good for me.
My love life
Anyone interested in me should send his applications to brother Dare and brother Mo’Easy. They will be able to get back to them. My love life right now is open. When you are coming out in the industry, it is so demanding. There is no time to focus on that aspect, so I haven’t had the opportunity for that. I did not come here with somebody, so it is still the same. Right now, music is my husband.
What turns me off in a man
I don’t like obnoxious men. I like cool guys; confident but cool. I call it the ‘silent giant’. The guy that has presence but he doesn’t have to be loud about it. Just a cool laid back guy.
What I’m working on
I have a second video coming out now; the one I sang with Wayne Wonder. I have a new single that should be coming out soon. I am always in the studio because that is our own 9-5.
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