IN CONVERSATION WITH EBISAN REWANE DAMOLA
Ebisan Damola has enjoyed composing and performing since an early age of 8, drawing influences from the diverse cultures of Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and England. Although she earned a Masters degree in International Business Management along with her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance, Ebisan continued to pursue her life long passion—music. Even without formal training, the artiste is fast-becoming a household name, working with major celebrities, as well as performing for high-end officials.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?I was born in England and then grew up in both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia till I was thirteen, when I moved back to the UK.
What impact have these obvious varied influences had on your career?
The totally diverse cultures I grew up in have enabled me to think outside the box and sometimes disregard the ‘norm’. I learned at an early age that the norm is subjective, so I do not limit my music to society’s labels.
You obviously draw from these early musical influences to create your own unique sound. How would you describe your genre of music?
Eclectic, I never know what I will come up with next. I guess the common thread is meaningful lyrics.
You are also a talented composer. Which comes more naturally to you, singing or songwriting?
It’s a tie! I wake up some mornings with a new song in my head. Other times, in my dreams, I write and sing new songs. I am always singing and coming up with melodies and lyrics. It’s how God made me.
Just like many singers today, you started singing for your local church choir. Can you share with us that part of your musical experience?
Growing up, I didn’t sing in church choirs. I joined various groups and choirs but they were not church related. I dedicated a year in my late teens to a Church of England chapel choir in London. This was a lovely experience. Occasionally, I sing at church because I find it fulfilling.
Do you have any formal training and at what point did you decide to launch your musical career?
I do not have any formal training. While studying, I worked as a wedding singer and a songwriter for other artistes. I released my first official single in the UK in 2006.
Was following your musical passion always a struggle having earned degrees in Accounting and Finance, as well as International Business Management?
Not at all. I understood the need for a formal education and that I would eventually have a full-time career in music when the time was right. I am grateful for the knowledge I acquired. Music was my sanctuary and I could rely on it to relieve me of exam stress!
You have earned a name by telling reputable stories in your songs. Are they of personal experiences, and which have been the most touching for you?
Yes, my experiences influence my lyrics. I find that I won’t give a great performance unless I can identify with the lyrics. The most touching has not been released yet, but it will in my upcoming album. It’s a melancholic and very honest song.
You’ve exhibited your talent as an actress in music videos like Love Story, released in June of 2012. Are there plans to take up acting more seriously, considering that other international singers like Michael Jackson, Tupac and Madonna all starred in major films?
I have been fortunate enough to get to act and work with other great actors in my videos, other artists’ videos and also a TV show called Before 30. It’s something I thoroughly enjoy and I welcome more opportunities!
You are mostly known for your hit tracks Suru, Jowo and Dance with Me. How successful have these become commercially?
Jowo has been the most popular in Nigeria but internationally, Suru has been the best received.
What major performances have you staged in Nigeria?
I have performed at award shows like the African Movie Academy Awards, Lagos Jazz Festival and various corporate events such as the Etisalat Prize for Literature. Last year, I was fortunate enough to perform for the Vice President of Nigeria, the Governor of Cross River State and many more.
What is your take on the Nigerian music scene and the wave of artists emerging on the landscape?
I think a lot is going on, the increase in competition is improving industry standards. These are exciting times for the industry; all I can hope for is more structure.
What’s next for Ebisan?
I am working on my album and released a new single The Nigerians late last year. I also featured in a song called The Right Person by a UK-based artist called Breis.
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