She took the nationâ€™s entertainment stage by storm in the late 90s with her single, Eko Ile, and she later followed with Na Honest Work. Elfreda Olayinka Davies has paid her dues. The ace performer, singer, stage actress and renowned jazz diva, recently granted an interview with top Nigeria Newspaper, Thisday. It was still Yinka at her ebullient best. Not surprisingly frisky and petite, with a gorgeous, infectious smile, upbeat attitude and larger than life voice that is best described as contagious, she fielded questions on issues ranging from her music, dance, childhood, relationship and marriage, challenges, her family, the Nigerian music industry and her new faith with all the liveliness in the world
A Talent Early Discovered…
Yinka Davies, born on the 16th of July, 1970, began her romance with the arts from a very early age. At the tender age of nine, she found out that she was always singing and dancing to music. Her late father, who was an aeronautic engineer with the Nigerian Air Force, was also a lover of music and in fact, himself a composer and lyricist. He knew that Yinka had an affinity for the arts and, so, he encouraged her to follow her heart and achieve her dreams.
Her major encounter with the arts was in 1988 with â€˜Troupe Africanaâ€™ at the National Arts Theatre Lagos, Nigeria. She blossomed under the tutelage of Ms. Lizzy Hammond, an internationally acclaimed choreographer, who brought out Yinkaâ€™s performing abilities in acting, dancing and, eventually, singing. Yinkaâ€™s talents for acting and singing were further enhanced by Felix Okolo, a theatre director and Sam Uquah, a well known musician.
Davies, who was once a back-up singer for the masked one, Bisade Ologunde, a.k.a Lagbaja, Nigeriaâ€™s multi-talented instrumentalist, musician and ace saxophonist introduced Yinka to the world of live music. This encounter broke open her talents, not only as a singer but also as a composer, lyricist and particularly as an arranger.
Reliving the Little Beginnings…
Relishing the days of little beginnings, Davies says: â€˜â€˜I stumbled on Zubbyâ€™s producer, Sam Uquah, who insisted I joined him in touring with Alex O in 1990. I was a back-up musician to Alex O then. By 1992, I had done an album with Lagbaja and Colours band, a group under the management of Bisade Ologunde. I did another album called the Colour of Rhythm and after these, we recorded Side by Side again with Lagbaja. From then on, things started flowing for me musically. Apart from Alex O, I did a rap for Sir Shina Peters; I also did back-up for Blackky, Esse Agesse, Mike Okri and quite a number of people.â€
Yinka is blessed with a great vocal prowess that can be likened to that of a nightingale. She has churned out great melodies from her highly creative musical gift and remains one of the best singers of her generation, despite her elfin stature.
It is worthy of note that she won the Voice of the Decade Award in 2007 at Nigeria Music Award. Although many people wondered why she has not hit it big with her enthralling voice. She possesses every quality to make money, record sales and top the charts which seemed not to be happening. But Yinka simply insists that she is just emerging even after her nearly two decades experience in the industry. Narrating her artistic journey into the Nigerian music industry, she says one word that best describes her journey is glorious!
A Diva and Her â€˜Re-emergenceâ€™…
In the words of the 45-year-old mother of Dayo and Niyi: â€œI am just â€˜emergingâ€™ after over a decade and a half in the industry. And my new album, Black Chiffon, under her record label, John 3 vs38, is a live musical journey I recorded last year and yet to be released, will show my fans a â€˜re-emergedâ€™ Yinka. Iâ€™m emerging and Iâ€™m really beginning to see what others donâ€™t.â€
Reacting to opinions that she might have wasted time, she says,â€ Iâ€™m emerging, as I said, and I thank God for giving me another chance to make things right. No time is wasted, everything is an experience.â€
Yinka, who sounds so optimistic about her new album, says: â€œA lot of things will come to light when the new album is released.â€ One thing she confirms is that the album would be a departure from the past, adding that it would be as a result of her re-emergence. She will make us dance more and, of course, give us reason to still believe in her. Her music is simply sound. â€œMy music is just sound, you can call it so many things, but I call it sound,â€ she says.
Speaking on the reason behind her parting ways with Majek, her former manager, Yinka says â€œwe did not fight; it was all about discovering myself. I told somebody recently that Majek is yet to get what it was I wanted to do. It was not his fault in a whole lot of ways. Majek had no fault. I have to define myself. It is when I discover myself that I can be managed. If I did not know where I was going, how do you expect Majek to know?â€
Reacting to whether the self-discovery is coming too late, as she is already 45, she insists it is better late than never. Waxing from a philosophical perspective, she says, â€œCaleb fought the war for the Israelites after 40 years of spying the land. It is better to wake up late than never. For some people, they wake up early while others wake up late. Maybe I belong to those who wake up late.â€
Most people know Yinka as a mother of one, but she states with very bright eyes that she now has two. â€œI have two children. One of them was the son of my late sister, and as the oldest, I had to claim him as mine. Iâ€™m just learning how to be a good mother, and that is part of my self-discovery. My children are wonderful, I love them.â€
Me a Lesbian? Guys Can Really Make Up…
On allegation that sheâ€™s a lesbian, Yinkaâ€™s response which came with a humble feeling was as weird as the allegation. â€œJust because Iâ€™m not allowing guys to come close, people just draw conclusions. It is like complimenting me that I am still a babe,â€ she enthuses.
Speaking on her music, especially now that hip hop music is thriving, Yinka explains: â€œThat is where we are missing the point, let the hip hop people do their own and let me do my own, it doesnâ€˜t matter. When we were doing Apala in the days of yore, was that the only music existing? No. Everybody will have their variety. At the same time, we are all on parallel lines and the world is going that way. What matters most is that you are still able to make sense in what you do. My music is ageless. You choose what you desire to listen to or hear. My melodies are ageless.â€
On the philosophy behind the brand name Five and Six, she says â€œthe philosophy behind the name given to my band men is behind their togetherness. They are always together rehearsing, drinking garri, gisting on the floor and always doing things that are unusual. So, my younger sister just looked at them one day and made a comment in Yoruba; Ogbon yin rin papo gbogbo yin. Five and Six; meaning birds of a feather. The name struck me like a thunderbolt and today, we have Five and Six just like that! The band started with me on April 1st, 2000 and we recorded in 2005 and 2009. I will soon release my new album, Black Chiffon.The album chronicles the pains I went through at that time, the uncertainty, and the torment of not knowing what the future holds from then on. It is all about holding out a flash of silver lining behind every cloud of whatever hue.â€
â€˜I Really Wish I am High on Stuff…â€™
Yinka, who is aptly described as eclectic, eccentric and hyperactive, such that many wonder if she is hooked on drugs, especially in places of public domain or on air, reacts thus:
â€œI really wish I was into some stuff so that I could confuse a lot of people more, but it isnâ€˜t worth it. I just believe I should enjoy life and live my life to the fullest. I am just blessed and I will live it well. The need to actually think one is probably on drugs is expected. Meet me on Adejobi Crescent in Anthony village where I live, at the Mallamâ€™s kiosk or uncle Gbolahanâ€™s shop where I am high on coca cola and fanta. I wish I was on something else.â€
Talking family matters, Yinka says â€œI was not quite aware that music flows in my family. We were just wonderful people. My brother sings Apala. Then he was schooling in Shagamu and would come back to say all he was listening to was Apala music. I did not know my father was a singer until he died.â€
According to the songstress, â€œtheatre took my heart away from schooling. I went to school and stopped at secondary level. I just loved to enjoy life. I was always at the theatre. I was even ready to run away from secondary school, but my principal forced me and made sure I finished secondary education. There was so much joy in arts for me. But now I understand.â€ And amid laughter, she teases: â€œIâ€™ll explain that understanding later.â€
Commenting on the present state of Nigeriaâ€™s growing music industry, she says artistes are doing well, except that the new generation of singers donâ€™t have serious mentors.
â€œI donâ€™t blame them. Even before them, who are the artistes that they know? I guess it was only Fela. And after Fela, who else? Fuji and juju are now being relegated to the background for gospel music, which, in most cases, are produced by foreign artistes. So, the only people that can influence them right now are the foreign artistes, so you cannot blame them for singing music that is Western-oriented. One cannot really blame them because what do you want them to sing? Whose act do you want them to follow apart from the foreign artistes they watch on TV or videos all the time? So what they get is what they copy from.â€
Get Good Network Like Pirates and You Defeat Them…
On the hydra-headed monster called piracy, Yinka Davies says: â€œthe truth of the matter is that I must give it to them: the pirates have something- a distribution network. If a set of people who are willing to do business can also generate a distribution network and do it the right way, with the backing of Nigerian Copyright Commission which will continually fight the pirates and thereby promote those who want to do legal business and give them full backing whereby everybody can profit, business will thrive.â€
Does Yinka ever regret having a child outside wedlock? A quick and resounding â€˜Noâ€™ is very quick to her lips. â€œWhy should I? I was the one that consented to sex in the first place. Anyone who does not like it should go to hell. Besides, sex is sex. The only thing is that after having the information we have now, we know we are not supposed to do it before marriage and go into marriage because of it. But I know it takes more than determination to stay away. It is wrong when men hop from bed to bed.â€
Speaking on her new-found faith which she preaches and strongly upholds, Yinka says: â€œI am a good Christian, no doubt. I am in love with Christ terribly and nothing can compete with Him for that singular role in my life. As I told you, I am a Christian. I speak to my Father every day.â€
Singing for Herself? No…
Yinka is less inclined in searching for easy melodies to conquer the market, and this is a merit, even if the road that she is taking is harder. The petit-sized singer has not looked back ever since. For if size were a criterion in the art of music rendition, Yinka might probably have been consumed by the challenges associated with the industry. But it is certain that she has a huge arsenal to wade through the forces against the advancement of artistes in her voice, stage act, and total rendition.
While some people argue that she has tended to sing to herself alone, considering her song delivery, which usually evokes somnolence; those who respond to elitist approach to the art strongly hold that Yinka sings for the world. Her universal bent may have opened the doors of Mason De France, Spain, Italy and other local, regional and internationally acclaimed jazz festivals where she has regularly performed in the last couple of years