ROTIMI IGE recently interviewed AYOINMOTION, a fast rising Nigerian music act about a variety of subjects, including his recent takeover of one of Apple’s flagship and busiest stores located in the world-renowned fashion-centric Soho area of New York City to perform and screen his soon-to-be released music video Ifemelu (Americanah), which was shot in Ibadan. Excerpts:
What do you think makes you unique as an artist overall compared to others, especially versus other Nigerian artistes?
I think what makes me unique is my story, my deliberateness, my passion, my experiences and honestly being obsessed with blending sounds and vibes with story-telling as well grooves that move you. I always tell the audience, “Listen we are going to go all the way up so if you aren’t ready to go, that’s fine but we are going up anyway, (smiles) as long as I have your attention and you have mine.” Overall, I love seeing people at the end of my shows. It always feels like we just went through an immersive experience and now we are close friends. My new EP, SOVA was also made with such attributes as well.
Compared to other Nigerian artistes?
Like I said, I avoid comparisons. But I think Nigerians don’t just love to move but they want to be moved too. They are more than ready and yearning for music that illustrates their experiences, speaks to their struggle, celebrates them, pushes them to love and that speaks to their pain. We aren’t a one-sided people and our music shouldn’t be, at least, what is highlighted in the mainstream shouldn’t be. My goal is to tap into the range of emotions instead of limiting myself to one formula of style. I believe listeners deserve that and like the pizza man, I am here to deliver.
You mentioned your new release SOVA. Can you delve more into it? It seems to be doing well streaming-wise right?
Yes, we thank God. It’s been out two months and has already hit 74, 000 in plays. About SOVA, I would say, this is my most complete musical exposition to date. I am expressing life in fluid and unapologetic artistry. It is an invitation to all, but it doesn’t seek anyone’s permission to be Nigerian, to be American, to be an immigrant, to be a poet, to be soulful, to be an artist, to be an activist, to be myself, without boundaries. In SOVA, I speak, I dance, I am vulnerable, I fly, and most of all, I am free and welcome you to be free with me.
Ifemelu is a track on SOVA, what is the story there? What inspired it?
Immigration is a big issue that is being debated all over the world at the moment and it is often discussed with duality of those who are for or against, without nuance. Immigrants don’t have a monolithic story, there’s multiple narratives. Chimamanda Adichie’s best-selling novel, Americanah was a spark because it gave us a way to launch this song and video. It was a personal way to explore something many people can relate to. We wanted the real life emotions of heartbreak that people face leaving their loved ones or struggling to find a well-paying job while attempting to feed themselves or their families and other issues of mistreatment, acclimatizing to a new country where they are sometimes seen as less than and undeserving. Many Nigerians travel abroad seeking greener pastures and in Ifemelu (Americanah) we use a love-story that illustrates these harsh realities.
Why specifically did you shoot it in Ibadan?
We decided to shoot the video in Ibadan for a variety of reasons. By we, I mean Nosa Garrick and I. Nosa is an amazing Nigerian-born documentary film-maker who is as crazy and fearless as I am, so this was a case of birds of similar feathers in certain respects flocking together. To answer your question, first of all, Ibadan is such a beautiful city; the tin roofs, the culture, the tradition. Although I was raised in Lagos, I was born in Ibadan and there’s a certain charm about the “ancient city” as it is sometimes called. I just don’t think it’s celebrated and highlighted as much as it deserves and it was so amazing to watch it come alive on screen. You will see some iconic scenes in the video like outside Mapo Hall, Bodija market, Agodi Gardens and places like that. Speaking of Ibadan, I know I make it sound so romantic but I want to be clear that shooting there was incredibly challenging and a brave undertaking. For example, we had to construct two 10 feet long planks side by side as a background that we were still working on during shoot day. At some point we hoisted said planks on a pick-up truck that kept getting caught in power lines while we drove it and then carried it up a long flight of stairs on the top of a hill. Funny thing is we never used the scene anyway. The market scene which I absolute love required us having to talk down some individuals who were enforcers and initially disruptive. I’ll be honest, shooting in Nigeria in general is not easy but I am glad we did and credit to Nosa for also fearlessly pushing for it. Also, in terms of the story, we wanted to show Ifemelu in her element as I reminisced about her, while going through the hardships and frustrations I was going through in a new country. That is an added reason and benefit for making the location decision.
You premiered it at Apple? That is some success. Tell us more about it?
Thank you. Yes it was special. The Ifemelu (Americanah) video was screened followed by a super engaging panel and effusive audience Q and A. Then I performed an unplugged set with my band. Everything about the event as I conceived it was intentional and experiential, so it took a lot of planning but I will say, special thanks to Apple, they were great to work with. The feedback for the video and event overall was really amazing, so it was a really super way to kick of this year!
When will the video be out?
It will be out very soon I promise.
So what should we expect next from you?
Well, a lot. SOVA was just released. I can’t wait for people to listen to it across the world and in Africa as well Nigeria especially. More international concerts and maybe a tour are coming, we’ll see. 2018 was quite good and I think 2019 will be special. I am so ready to release this Ifemelu (Americanah) video so be on the lookout for that. But overall, I just want to say I am thankful to my fans, friends and everyone who has been so supportive. I promise not to let you down.