How My Dad Arrested Me When I First Started Music” – Singer, Davido Reveals

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As soon as he pads into the smart
lobby of a Leeds hotel, 25-year-old
Nigerian pop star Davido — wearing
Gucci slippers and a merch shirt from
his 30 Billion world tour — is accosted
by excited staff requesting selfies. One woman tells him: “I listen to your
music every day!” Davido, aka David Adedeji Adeleke, is
slightly jet-lagged, but amiable. He’s
arrived in Leeds to perform at the 2017
Mobo Awards, where he’ll also receive
the Best African Act trophy. This isn’t
Davido’s first UK trip; he’s previously packed out club shows here. He has, however, reached a point
where his success across Africa is
translating into international
recognition. Having signed a major
label deal with Sony, his triumphant
latest single “Fia” follows “If” and “Fall” (the latter tracks so far amassing 54.7m and 38m views
respectively on YouTube). David Adeleke has won Best African
Act at the MTV EMAs, and in early
2018 his 30 Billion tour (which has
already covered venues across the
US, Spain, Djibouti, Ivory Coast and
beyond) hits the UK. Quote “Funnily enough, this is the
first time that I’ve won
European awards,” says
Davido, in sweetly raspy tones.
“I realised that when I really
focused on Africa and my culture, that’s when people
started recognising me. I travel
a lot, but I know the kind of
environment I need to be in; I’d
rather create the music at
home, in Lagos. The travelling distracts me, because there’s
so much going on.” In the western music mainstream, the
profile of young African talent is
soaring. Of course, Africa’s vital
influence on, and cross-pollination
with, international music scenes, has
been deep-rooted over decades; among countless examples are Fela
Kuti’s Afrobeat movement and
legendary 1970s Lagos hotspot The
Shrine, which drew the likes of Paul
McCartney to work in Nigeria. The 21st century has seen
collaborative projects such as Africa
Express: launched by British musician
Damon Albarn, it has connected artists
from Mali, Congo, Senegal, the UK and
the US. But recent years have also seen the mainstream focus on “afrobeats”: seemingly a catch-all term, yet very distinct from Fela’s
polemical grooves. Afrobeats sounds are fuelled by youth
culture and catchy anthems, their
vocals and rhythms laced with
electronic effects. Some artists have
been Brits reflecting their African
heritage: take Fuse ODG, whose 2014 debut TINA (This Is New Africa)
merged Ghanaian dance roots with
western club production, or fellow
Londoner J Hus, whose album
Common Sense created a buzz this
year. Many others, such as Davido, are
Nigerian talents whose success was
established well before western
attention: D’banj, say, who scored a
2012 hit with “Oliver Twist”, or Wizkid,
who raised the roof at London’s Royal Albert Hall in September. Afrobeats has also notably inspired
work by international stars including
Beyoncé and Drake. Why is it that the
western mainstream has now
experienced an awakening?
It’s the internet and social media, Quote ” replies Davido, with the
assurance of someone who has
Nigeria’s biggest Instagram
account (5.5m followers). “I’m
telling you, Nigerian people
have a supportive force, and an amazing energy. Beyoncé
and Kanye felt it on their visits,
but Nigeria has always been
very big on entertainment;
when I was little, a big artist
would come over to play every Christmas.
“Now the music industry in
Nigeria is like a government
ministry; it’s worth billions.
There are so many artists in
Nigeria that you might not have heard of, but trust me, they’re
doing well.” Davido has never played down his own
wealthy background; his 2012 debut
album was entitled Omo Baba Olowo
(Yoruba for “Son of a rich man”). He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a
family of Nigerian entrepreneurs, and
he returned to the US to study
engineering; when Davido went Awol
to pursue music instead, his father
was decidedly unimpressed — and had him arrested upon his reappearance in
Lagos.
Davido and His Official DJ, ECool Quote “My dad didn’t like me doing
music!” laughs Davido. “If he
saw my face on a billboard,
he’d arrest everybody at that
show! But when I made the
song ‘Dami Duro’ [2011], it became the biggest track in
Africa; it’s saying: ‘I’m the son
of a rich man, you can’t stop
me, and people love me.’ It now
feels good for dad to see that
music can take me this far.” This multilingual pop wave is
arguably pan-African, with
artists and fans taking
inspiration from countries
around the continent; it
highlights the rich disparity of African cultures — and the
limitations of the “afrobeats”
tag. “In Nigeria, we all mix sounds
together and collaborate; it’s
natural,” says Davido. He
prefers to call his own music
“afrofusion”, with elements
including hip-hop, Ghanaian high life, South African kwaito,
and R&B. “It’s been
generalised as afrobeats, but I
have songs that sound like
afropop, afrotrap

Updated: September 10, 2018 — 10:04 pm

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