Upon meeting the artist Falana, one is struck by her seriousness and yet one senses there is some warmth lurking behind that initial impression. Both qualities come across in her music.
Here is a musician serious about her music as art. Here is a musician conveying via song a depth of her feeling. In a terrain as tricky as the contemporary music scene in Nigeria, Falana’s self-mapped route is perhaps the way to go.
Born in Canada to Nigerian parents, Falana has always had two sides to her music. She was very much into the conventional pop patterns on radio. That changed when she was introduced to Lauryn Hill and was won over by the American’s songwriting. Ms Hill would lead to such acts like Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu and Maxwell.
A trip to Cuba would bring all of her influences together, leading to the debut EP Things Fall Together. She spoke to Music In Africa via email. Excerpts below.
1. You are hosting pop-up concerts around Lagos. What’s the idea?
Well, the most exciting part about the concert series, for me, is exploring and re-inventing spaces in Lagos. A music experience can go beyond the music; the environment you are in, the energy, all influence how you vibe as an audience member. So I just wanted to invest in curating a whole experience. There is an appetite for many different types of music, in Nigeria specifically, so I feel privileged to be a part of the narrative that is broadening what is available. I also love performing live, and I wanted to be able to share that in Lagos as well.
2. Which of your songs so far would you say epitomises you, the definitive Falana song?
I am the sum of my work. Every song I’ve ever written or performed tells a different part of my story, and shares a different part of my creativity. So it would be unfair to say that one song epitomises my sound.
3. What has studying across the world done for your music? For you personally? Are these linked?
I think the best way to grow and expand your creative ability is to maximize your exposure to ideas and perspectives. Exposing yourself to different environments will definitely do that for you. I know I am not the same artist, just through the music I have been exposed to in Havana, Lagos, Toronto, or the people I have met, the stories that have been shared with me. The personal and the creative cannot be separated, since we create based on our lived experience.
5. Do you think of yourself as a political artist? Is the personal political to you?
I think of myself as a citizen of the world, and so I have to care about what is going on around me, at home and across borders. I believe music has an important role in spreading ideas, and I have always admired artists who create art along those lines. Even more so, when it is done eloquently, and indirectly, because more people tend to listen.
6. We think of the Nigerian scene as catering to partying people. Does this worry you? Would you consider going pop?
Pop music means popular music. Do I think different kinds of music can be popular? Yes. Do I think there is room on the airwaves for a variety of sounds and artists in Nigeria? Yes. I think generalizations are unfortunate because they prevent you from seeing all the variety that exists around us. I think music that people can relate to is what goes the distance. I also believe there is a kind of music for every activity, moment and mood under the sun.
7. You’ve spoken about how central Lauryn Hill is to your career. Do you have any local music influences? How have they influenced you?
The Lijadu Sisters have a swag and simplicity to their music that seriously inspires me. They were just themselves, and it was/is so refreshing.
8. If you were handed one wish for your career, what would you want it to be?
I would wish for a career that evolves and grows far beyond what I could have even imagined for myself, and carries me for 20+ years.
9. Your forthcoming album. How does it differ from the last? What can we look forward to?
GAH, I am excited. This will actually be my first FULL album. The last project I completed was my EP Things Fall Together. On this new album I hope to really explore organic and synthetic sounds, and just really delve into storytelling.