Eniola Akinbo, also known as Niyola, disappeared from the music scene just when people were getting to know her. She recently resurfaced on Bank W’s Empire Mate’s Entertainment (EME), and spoke with SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, Hazeez Balogun at an album launch last week
Did it have to take an EME to drag Niyola out of her shell?
No. A lot of labels have tried to sign me on and have promised heaven and earth but EME has something that I did not find in any other label and that is the fact that we have the same dream. They have the same vision and they have the same goals. So it was easy for me to say, ‘hey, let’s work together’. And since I joined, I found out that they are an amazing team to work with. They are not just a group but a family.
What’s the difference between Niyola now and the previous Niyola?
I have grown personally and musically. A lot has changed though I am still the same Niyola.Now I know what I want. I have a clearer picture on how to put across what I want, and how to get it. I know how to work better to achieve my goals.
All of a sudden your name is on people’s lips again…
Well, I am happy for the fans who have been supporting me over time. They keep asking when is the album coming out? Where have you been? What is happening? I am very grateful for all the support. I am back now and I am with the best team ever.
What have you been up to; you were out for a long time?
Yeah, it has been three years. Unfortunately I don’t want to disclose much. I have had to sort out some things on a personal level. I had to decide what I really wanted to do musically.
So you see your membership with EME as a career booster
Definitely, that is what we all aspire for in our various works. The hope to reach for greater heights; EME gives me that hope. I see that they can help me achieve my dreams.
And to bring a lot money to your pocket?
Amen o, I say Amen. God will do it.
So what is your first move? What should be expected of you soon?
Definitely, the first work is the just released Empire State of Mind album. I did a lot of work on that one, and my fans will see a lot of the new me in that.
The album is a collective work; I am talking about your personal projects
First, this album is the major thing we are pushing for now. There are a lot of singles from me on the way. There is the album project too. But everything has its own time. EME is very organised, and we are not in a hurry. There is so much to expect. What I can say is keep your fingers crossed and expect the best.
Will you continue to do R&B or has your style changed as well?
I don’t like to put myself in a box, and say this is the kind of music I do, and that is all I do. I do contemporary music that is what I would say. I don’t want to say I do R&B or pop or anything like that. I do contemporary and I do whatever comes to me naturally.
People knew your music then but knew very little of you.
Ok, I’ll tell them. I am Yoruba from Ilesha in Osun State. My father was the one who discovered that I could sing. Then he would encourage me to write choruses for the morning devotion. In my mind I will be like, why is this man disturbing me? I did not know he has seen something in me. One day he told me to sing in church. I was just eight years old then. As I was singing, people started crying and I remember thinking, is this me? From then I took it more seriously. I started listening to greats like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Pharell, and it just went from there.
Many artistes will say their parents did not support their musical career, it seems yours is the opposite
I come from a very artistic family. My father has an amazing voice, and sang in church. That does not mean it was a walk in the park when I decided to do music full time. In his own way, he supported me.
You were known with Freestyle before, are you guys still together?
Freestyle is a guy I worked with. He was someone I did a lot of stuff with musically. He is a very good friend of mine and a colleague. We are still friends. Like I said, I have evolved. We all grow and life is in phases. What I will say is that Freestyle is still a good friend. I am working with EME right now and that is what I am focusing on now.
EME has big names on its label, do you feel intimidated sometimes?
I never feel intimidated even if I am in the midst of a million people. I believe everyone has his or her own unique strength that makes them stands out. So at EME, everyone seems to complement each other, and not intimidate.
When it was announced that you joined EME, your picture in leather pants, which defined your curves was distributed online. Are you planning to redefine yourself using the sex appeal?
I am a woman, and I am not afraid to show my sexuality. Sexuality does not mean you are a slut. I am not afraid to show I have brains, I’m beautiful and sexy. If you are afraid to show that side of you as a woman then you have a problem. A woman is an object of admiration. Even if I wear a bou bou, those that will admire me will still admire me. I am beautiful, sexy and talented. All these things are what make me.
Some say, oh, she left Freestyle and now she is doing Banky W. Are you really dating Banky W?
I am not really surprised to hear that. A lot of people write and say things that make them feel good about themselves. I don’t really care what people say. It is strictly business between me and Banky W. He is my boss, he is my colleague. He is the chairman of EME and everybody knows. You know, when people see a guy and a girl together, they start to talk. It is expected and understandable.
Bank W is quite young, in fact you were doing music in Nigeria before he ever had a hit song of his own, how do you feel being under him?
It has nothing to do with age. He is an intelligent and very talented person. That is what I see. I don’t care about any other thing. I don’t even want to know.