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Davina Oriakhi [Spotlight Interview]

Davina

DavinaMeet Davina Oriakhi, a British-Nigerian Singer-Songwriter and a multiverse of talents. The Soulful Artiste, poet and performer released her Debut single “Content”, an Afro Fusion happiness anthem produced by Nonso Amadi  in August 2014. After the release of her Debut Single, Davina moved back to her birth city, and completed her Masters Degree in Media and Communications. Now she is working on her Debut LP.

Davina has a lot to offer when it comes to expressing herself as a poet, a spoken-word artist, a dancer, a host, a presenter and a wonderful personality. Find out more in our chat below.

Tell us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up? What was the environment like, and how has that affected you as a person? 

DAVINA: I was born in London but I lived most of my years in Abuja. When we first moved to Nigeria, we lived in Surelere, Lagos for some months.
I visited London every year, sometimes twice a year. Um… I wouldn’t have changed the way I grew up because… being in boarding school and all that good stuff really taught me how to get along with other people. I’ve met amazing people in my teenage years, some of them are still my best friends.
Growing up I also learned to always make do with what was around me, no matter how little. If I was in a more comfortable environment, you know, in a day school, in London, with constant electricity and everything *LOL* amongst other things, I wouldn’t have learnt that. So I’m grateful.

And when did you get into music?

DAVINA: I started (trying, *LOL*) to sing since I watched my first Disney film as a little girl. My parents told me I would always try to sing along but I always got the lyrics wrong – for example, in Pocahontas, they were saying “Savages, Savages”, but as a child, I confidently belted out “sandwiches, sandwiches” *LOL*.
I grew up around music, my parents have great taste in music so my ears were exposed to a diverse range of artists and styles. From Fela Kuti to Elton John, Michael Jackson to Bob Marley, James Brown to Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton to Cece Winans, and the tunes of the 90s that London radio played, Capital FM was on lock in Dad’s car *lol*.
As a child, I just always wanted to be one of the names that would contribute to the world’s catalogue of great and timeless music.
I started writing songs, poems, and some raps *LOL* when I was about 8. No one paid me any mind at that time, but I kept on anyway*LOL*. I loved to dance as well, so I performed mostly as a dancer. I wrote almost everyday while I was in secondary school, and I would beat the wardrobe door as my percussion *LOL*. I recorded my first song, called “Goodbye” when I was about 14/15 , and I absolutely hated it. I like the song in my head, but not the way it turned out. The production was appalling.

So… as life went on … at University I was more into hosting, presenting, dancing.

I did Radio (LOVED IT! Still want to get back to that one day), I led dance groups, I choreographed but I kept my singing and songwriting to myself, mainly because I told myself I wasn’t about to put up with the competition around me.
To be honest, my voice stood as one of my fears. I didn’t think my voice was any good, so that held me back a bit. And every time I did want to collaborate with other artists and producers… it just never happened. *shrug*.
But then on graduating from Uni, just before I went to London that year, my mother told me I must release a song. She literally terrorized me into doing it, bless her. Fortunately, I was blessed to have Nonso Amadi give me the beat to Content and it sounded like everything I loved about afro-soul and Afro-beat. Needless to say,  I jumped on it and wrote about happiness, and that was how my first single was born.
I was happy that people received it well… so since then, I decided it was time to take music much more seriously, but I needed to be a true artist, I needed to do more than just make music, I needed to find myself within music. I didn’t have a lot of musical guidance growing up, I basically just winged it and learnt from Biopics, documentaries, Behind the scenes, interviews, things like that. But I would say after Content, with all my experiences from 2014 till now, I have been on a spiritual journey and that has moulded me and my craft.
Right after the release, I did my masters in Media and Communications, I started work a month after I was done so… life, you know, took me through and is still taking me through a process, but I am proud of it as it has made me the artist I am today.

First time you ever sang to an audience?

DAVINA: First time, I sang to an audience… it was probably as a child in London, in front of the parents, teachers and other children for a Christmas play, I do not remember the details of that tbh *LOL*, but I do remember I played Mary… there were songs to be sung, I don’t remember *LOL*.

What do you classify the type of music you make as? Genre? Fusion? Is there something you are gearing towards? Or would you rather not be labeled/classified at all?

DAVINA: My Sound is hypnotic. My Sound is uncommon. At the moment, I would say I’m on a journey with my sound, it’ll keep evolving because my sound is concurrent with my experiences, my growth, my tastes, my ups and my downs and everything that contributes to my being. I am always learning and always growing so, my sound cannot be confined to one particular definition over time. I hate to be and I do not intend to be confined to one genre. That’s way too boring… and stagnant.
I believe one of the amazing parts of being an artist is self-expression and expression should be fluid. I like to think I am musically fluid, I am a very versatile artist and hopefully people can hear that with the music I have out at the moment.
But if I must define my sound at this point, I would call it Rhythm and Soul Fusion, in the absence of a better title.

Tell us about your poetry, and being a spoken-word artist, what has the reception in Nigeria been like?

DAVINA: Quantitatively it hasn’t been extraordinary however, it does draw new fans to my music, some people have actually found my music through my poetry, and I really am blessed by that . It’s also gotten other artists to pay attention to me. My poetry has been featured on Muyiwa Akhighbe’s EP, the first track called Freedom, and a song by Likkle MG, called The Wind.
It’s nice to know something so personal to me is well appreciated. And everything I write, just like my music, comes from a deep place. I’ve also performed my pieces, at a couple of venues in London, including the Roundhouse.
I’ve been writing poetry since I was 8 years old as I mentioned earlier, but I only started to record my poetry in 2015 actually… My sister from another mister, Preye sent me a video of a Spoken Word Piece called “to be a black woman and alive” by Aaliyah Jihad and Crystal Valentine and it was the most powerful thing I had ever seen. I’ve been obsessed with spoken word ever since. How they used their words to conjure such emotion and demand such authority. The wordplay and imagery on each stanza was mind-blowing. Boy, Poets and Spoken word Artists are powerful! Some people told me to take poetry more seriously actually, and I listened to them. I’ve attended a lot of workshops on writing all sorts of poetry and I’ve met amazing poets along the way. I want to nurture that power 🙂

What are most people’s reactions when they get to hear your music, or hear you sing for the first time?

DAVINA: At first they usually have a surprised look on their face, like… you wrote this song? Is this really you?
A lot of people have expressed that they feel a deep connection to my songs, and that’s what I pray for, so I’m glad.

You emerged as winner of the Teen Choice Awards in 2016, amongst a pool of other talented acts; such as Efe Oraka and Dami Oniru to name a few, What was that like for you? And how has that affected you as an artist?

It was quite humbling, I didn’t think I would win, cos I thought “oh I haven’t put out music in a while“, “I don’t have as much of a following as the other talented ladies I was nominated with, so…” at the back of my mind, the trip to Abuja that weekend was to see my friends and just be happy *LOL*. Winning the award actually gave me the ginger to record the songs I had been writing… so yeah. All in all, a lovely and humbling experience. I do not take it for granted. I thank everyone who voted! God bless them!

Looking at your ‘music rap-sheet’, you have a knack for making inspirational music and passing off healthy messages/content; as opposed to what the Nigerian music scene readily accepts. Why is that? And would this be for the long haul, or would you soon transition for commercial-ity sake?

DAVINA: Why is that? You almost make it seem like it’s a bad thing! *LOL*. Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to inspire people, uplift people, share an experience and life lesson, shower them with encouragement. I am that sort of person, so it reflects in my music. I was not called to make music about sweet nothings. I believe in purpose, and I believe there is more to music than just entertainment.
Music is powerful, we need to remember that. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy commercial music. I’m literally the one who starts dancing as soon as the beat drops *LOL*. But in my opinion, if it is not a personal experience or story, if it is not uplifting, if it, as you said, doesn’t have a healthy message, I’m not releasing it, I won’t even bother finishing the draft. The music I have out right now comes from a deep place, never from the tip of my finger or tip of tongue. I am an Artist in spirit and in truth.
I also believe art with substance stands the test of time. Hits are hits, good and fine but a genuine heartfelt expression of soul births a revolution. Commercial songs aren’t always, you know, songs about, superficial things. I can mention legendary artists who released inspirational and heartfelt records that were hits and are classics and their names would take up this whole interview.
If your question is would I ever change for the sake of temporary fame and fortune? The answer is no.
Would I delve into more popular and commercial sounds? I might do, but my message(s) won’t change, because my purpose stays the same.

What else do you do apart from making music, or anything entertainment related? And how do you merge or handle them altogether?

DAVINA: I used to be a music blogger for a site in London and one in Nigeria, but balancing that with my full-time work and my music was a bit too much, so I left that for the pros. I really did enjoy it though, I loved interviewing artists, I got to interview the Compozers, write EP and Album reviews for a handful of artists across various genres and yeah, it was good while it lasted.
I teach children dance once in a while, when the centre I teach at needs me.
One of the best things, the kids are so cute. We dance to pop songs, songs they hear everywhere all the time… so the energy always flies out the roof! They don’t stop, and when I stop, they drag me back up!  *LOL*

We are all made stronger by overcoming weaknesses in our past, so we’d like to know, what were those weaknesses you’ve overcome? What are your most embarrassing moments so far? (Hopefully there aren’t too many. Lol)

DAVINA: Weaknesses? I used to doubt myself a lot. I still have spells of doubt don’t get me wrong, I am human.
But overcoming that came with a lot of soul-searching. A lot of support from great friends. And a lot of time off social media (it helps, so much) and a lot of “just do it” moments. True friends that give genuine support is something I am blessed to have tbh. We all need somebody!

Who do you think should be your audience? And what message do you have for them?

DAVINA: Anyone who has a spirit, and is in touch with it. Anyone who appreciates genuine music.
I have a lot of messages for them, but the main message is love. Not the love that you find one night at the club and then doesn’t text you back the night after, My message is real love.

What do you do for fun? In your free time? What are your hobbies and interests when you’re not making music?

DAVINA: Nowadays I try to give myself free time, as per balance to life. Not everytime work innit?
So I’m really glad I have some stuff to say *LOL*
I am a YouTube Junkie! From Old movies, to documentaries, sermons, music videos, Makeup tutorials even when I’m not trying to learn anything  *LOL*, interviews of my favourite artists – I am sure I can recite Lauryn Hill interviews from 1994 – 2007.  *LOL* (I might be exaggerating, but it’s not too far from the truth I assure you!).
I do not have a favourite Youtuber, But Liza Koshy is my guilty pleasure, and Louis of Fun for Louis has a lifestyle that I covet! Curtiss King gives mad advice for artists and producers so I religiously watch his videos.
Davina
I am also, a loyal fan of the Mcclure twins. They make me so happy, they are too cute! I can even tell them apart (but only when they start talking, I can tell them apart by their personalities, not their looks. They look like the same person literally  *LOL*)
I love long walks, I love parks, gardens. You know… that sort of thing.

Lastly, you have a new album coming out, of which two singles have been released. Tell us about that. What do we need to expect/know prior to its release?

DAVINA: 3 singles actually. Silence, FSLS, and Juju. The LP is a treat of genres and a ride for Love. Love on a spiritual level.
There is Soul, R&B, Reggae, Jazz & Swing, Afro Fusion, Hip Hop Soul, Neo-Soul – all with the basis of soul. There is also spoken word and poetry on the LP that help guide the listeners through the journey that is the LP.
I’m a Poet, and so it only came naturally to include spoken word and poetry in the project. It makes the project make sense.
I worked with 3 amazing producers on the LP, Damilola Ayeni “The Chordinator” , Mfonobong Inyang “Nobong D’Synth” of JIC Records, and a UK Based producer, Radjertan Agolli “Gabriel Ryder”.
What I loved about working with them was we all grew together on each song, and the songs evolved and manifested right before our ears  *LOL*.
I also worked with this amazing UK Based producer and sound engineer , Shaun “Hpertone” Barrett. He mixed most and mastered all the songs on the LP and he vocal-produced the first two tracks and they are absolute stunners! I actually didn’t plan to write and record an LP, I was just writing songs and hoping to record at the time, but then I realised that all the songs were connected and were telling my story… so I started investing  a lot more into the project.
I want people to expect something they truly have never heard before, something really special, something different, something very genuine.
There are no features on this project, why? Because I want people to listen to me and come to know… me and my story, from just me.
It’s a soul project and I believe it will be a project that will stand the test of time.
After the project, expect visuals and collaborations, God willing 🙂
Jeffery Abdulateef
Jeffery Abdulateef
UI/UX Developer by day, music enthusiast by night. Fun and emotional somebody. I believe that our level of creative consciousness separates us from one another, but we are united through music. I enjoy working on the http://urbaneffect.net website.

4 Comments

  1. Ernest says:

    She’s got an amazing personality. A lovely read I must confess.

  2. Bisola says:

    The *sandwiches* part killed me! . She’s awesome!

    Finally found a new spoken-word artist to stalk..maybe i should play “I Have Marley Twist In My Hair” for my parents

  3. Zayyad ™ says:

    She’s been incredible and her music would stand the test of time

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