Mon 8 Mar 2010
Nayo is a proud young African woman, whose soulful tones and heartfelt narrative lyrics have earned her the label “the new Sade”.
However, despite finding the flattering comparison, this 26-year-old relative newcomer to the ambient club scene cannot see the connection herself, calling it “bizarre”.
The ”new Sade” phrase was coined by a newspaper who jumped on her talent earlier this year, when she was causing somewhat of her stir on the underground dance floors thanks to the various remixes of her single ”African Girl”.
One version landed her a number 11 spot on the UK club chart and she even received the blessing of the most hallowed name in dance music, the Ministry of Sound, who chose to include the track on their ”HedKandi Serve Chilled” compilation CD.
The song that grabbed the attention of the industry’’s important movers and shakers was born out of tragedy.
”African Girl” was the culmination of a roller-coaster three years, which began when Nayo’’s father died in 2004 and she was forced to return to Nigeria.
At the time, Nayo was living a happy-go-lucky existence as a “Starbucks Latte girl” in California, busy pursuing a career in song writing, but unsure of what path she wanted to take as an artist, crossing over musical genres from pop to rock to reggae.
Once back in her homeland, Nayo began discovering her musical ancestry, listening to the soulful tones of Sade and the politically charged lyrics of Fela Kuti and Bob Marley.
Their words and strong cultural references inspired Nayo to transform her tragedy into something positive and she began to discover her “sense of self” as a “beautiful women from a beautiful continent full of beautiful people”.
The experience made Nayo realise she had something important to say as a singer, not just as songwriter, and effectively helped her find her musical direction - ambient soul.
With a renewed determination and sense of purpose she relocated to the UK - following a brief return to the US where she released the catchy tune ”Party Fever”, which broke into the Billboard Club Play Chart in late 2005 - and her music started to reflect her African heritage.
It was in London that she approached producers the Misfits - Pete Glenister and Deni Lew - who immediately saw the potential in this upbeat, vivacious character.
Glenister said: “She had a really distinctive voice that had not been heard for quite a while so I was interested immediately. I also thought she had a really interesting mix to her sound, a sort of African feel with a slinky groove.”
With a hot team behind her, Nayo was able to hone her style and ”African Girl” was released to widespread acclaim, followed by a whirlwind few months of press, praise and performances.
Last month, Nayo sparked further interest with the release of her new single ”Desert Storm”.
Described as “an ode to the Sahara” and featuring strong influences of jazz, trip hop and bozzanova, the track proved even more successful and made it to number four on the UK club chart.
With a go-getter attitude and an unmovable spirit, 2008 is certain to see Nayo’’s star continue to rise. Her debut album ”African Girl” is set for release in February and a stalwart fanbase are currently being drummed up on a comprehensive tour of UK universities.
Nayo may not entirely understand the label of the “new Sade”, but there is one phrase that she would readily admit sums up her attitude perfectly - carpe diem.
Here she talks about her beloved Nigeria, how music helped her grieve for her father and her celebrity crushes.
Q: You have been referred to as the new Sade, do you take that as a compliment or are you fed up of it?
A: Oh absolutely! I find it a compliment.
Q: Was she an inspiration to you growing up?
A: She actually wasn”t. I discovered Sade when I was much older.
Q: Why do you think people made the comparison?
A: I absolutely do not know. It’’s the most bizarre comparison. But it seems to be a constant. People watch my shows and they say “Sade”, people get my CDs and say “Sade”. I think I am such a ruffian compared to her!
Q: It has been quite a crazy year for you. Has there been one stand out moment for you?
A: I think the highlight was when my press guy told me to go and get a newspaper and I opened it up and the music magazine fell out and I just saw my photo right there! Nayo from Nigeria and being the new Sade, I just wanted to die, and I was thinking are these guys drunk, what is this about, it is too much for me!
Q: What do you miss most about Nigeria?
A: Oh my god, I miss having help! Having a driver and a butler, having my mother cook me special meals. Having somebody to just take care of me, I guess, because that’’s what I had in Nigeria.
Q: You moved to California to study chemistry at university (Nayo later switched to a business with finance degree) how did the US compare to Nigeria?
A: I had a stint in the UK briefly too, to study for my A-levels and then I moved to the US for college.
It was very different, I moved there because of my passion for music. I had to live on my own for the first time. It was great, I was in Los Angeles, great weather!
Q: You father wanted you to become a doctor, but you chose to follow a music career, did that every cause any problems?
A: It didn”t cause problems, no major problems, he was just concerned about my future and how music was going to help me financially.
You know, unless you are a big star, music doesn”t cover the bills. Money gives you a life with all these choices, you can pick up and go for random holidays and be comfortable.
Q: You went back to Nigeria in 2004 when your father sadly passed away, did music help you grieve then?
A: It did help, because I started listening to music from back home which helped me find my musical direction, ambient soul.
I had been doing all sorts but never really knew what path I would take as an artist. I wanted to be a songwriter, I was doing a lot of writing, from soft rock to pop to reggae. But going back to Nigeria I listened to Bob Marley, I listened to Sade, and they were very conscious of their ancestry and I was inspired by them, really.
Publishers had often told me they liked my voice, but it’’s one thing to have a nice voice and another to have something to sing about. These artists helped me rediscover my roots.
Losing my father catapulted the drive in that life is really short and you have to take your one shot now.
I thought I am an African girl - this is who I am. I acknowledge my sense of self and I was like, ”I”m going to talk about my life as an African girl, growing up in various places of the world.” I learned to just appreciate and love who I am.
Q: Did you feel you lost of sense of self in Los Angeles?
A: In Los Angeles I was just some Starbucks latte girl, who hung out at the beach doing nothing pretty much, just having fun. Living in Los Angeles is like living in a bubble. When reality hits and you go back and see people suffering, who see how fortunate you are, you take the positive from it or you let the negative break you down.
Q: What do you make of Los Angeles party girls like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton?
A: Well, a lot of people in Los Angeles are like them, so I cannot judge them. Unfortunately Paris and Lindsay are the pin-up girls but a lot of people who I hung out with from college are like that. Obviously Lindsay has worked really hard actually to get to where she is.
Paris works as well it just seems really easy for her because she has money. But some people have money and do nothing with it. There is something to be said for going from one step to the next. People just look at the negative not the positive.
Q: Do you have time for romance?
A: I don”t. I have hung out with a couple of people, and gone on a few dates. But it’’s always the time and schedule and I don”t have time to share my life.
Q: Is there a difference between English men and American men?
A: Oh absolutely. Englishmen are so polite and so proper and dress really well. American guys are just different, I hung out with a lot of surfer boys when I was in Los Angeles.
Q: What about African men?
A: Ah, Africa men, people like my father. The king of the castle, I love my African men. When I am with African men they make me feel like a complete African woman. He makes me the queen.
Q: Is there a type of man you go for?
A: Confidence. I am intrigued by intelligence, I don”t like pretty boys, because I feel quirky boys have more to offer. From my experience pretty boys go, ”Oh I”m good looking” and think that’’s enough, but for me there has to be more.
Confidence, intelligence and hard work are all important in a man.
Q: Have you got any celebrity crushes?
A: I love that guy who was in ”The Motorcycle Diaries” - Gael García Bernal. He is lovely, I love him, he is so beautiful.
I also have an eternal crush on Leonardo DiCaprio, I have loved Leo since ”Titantic” and he does good movie too. He lives in Malibu so I see him around, I have never approached him though, he has always had a girlfriend.
Q: What is your most prized possession?
A: Family photos, and my master recordings. That’’s pretty much it!
Q: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
A: I like to eat very late at night, which is very bad. I don”t have time to eat in the day because I am really busy and then I have midnight feasts.
Q: Do you have any New Year resolutions?
A: I want to try and enjoy work, enjoy the moment, because time just goes past and you never appreciate stuff.
I want to enjoy the people I work with. I want to be more appreciative and try to just take time for myself, because that is very important, because I just go on and on and on and never know when to stop.
Q: What is on your Christmas list?
A: Oh, I haven”t got that far yet. I don”t believe in Christmas trees and Santa. There is no Santa, it’’s a lie! I was never fooled into thinking Santa would bring me anything!
Q: Who would you love to work with?
A: I would love to work with Alicia Keys, she is so inspired, every time I see or hear something from her I want to write something! I would like to work with producer Mano Chau and I would love to work with Damon Albarn.
And of course, Seal has been a huge inspiration. I always thought I would do a duet with him - that would be the ultimate because I love his songs.
Q: How will you judge your success?
A: When I am fulfilled.
Q: When will you be fulfilled?
A: Fulfilment is something I strive for because I am just never content. When I lost my father, my perspective changed a lot on life, on how short it is and how if you really want something you have to go after it. The day that the lights go out isn”t your decision. So as long as the lights are on I am going to keep going for it. Maybe when I am ready to take my last breath I will be fulfilled!
Q: Can you sum Nayo up in three words?
A: Optimistic, go getter and I”ll never stop!
By: Melissa Source