US-based Nigerian-born Azeez Agbabiaka, popularly known as El Zeez, is currently making waves in the world of Afrobeats and underground club culture. Regarded among the class of leading artistes to have emerged from the US, the singer is gradually tracing his roots back to Nigeria with his new sound. He speaks with SEGUN ADEBAYO about his musical projects and plans for the year.
From Nigeria to USA, would you say that your style of music has been influenced by the cultures from these two countries?
I have encountered different experiences from each country. My childhood was formed in Nigeria and my early adulthood was formed in USA. Throughout each step and journey, I have learnt and experienced different things that have helped me to express myself through my music.
With the heights you have attained over the years, do you think you are getting the right and positive responses from your fans?
My fans have sustained me thus far in my career and I am very grateful for the constant support. They are always asking me to give them good music and have never failed to uplift me when I am unsure of my next moves. I want to give them a special ‘thank you’ for their constant support and recognition of my work over the years. Without our fans, we have no career, so they are very important to me.
Looking at the Nigerian music industry and the array of talents, how do you see your chances of staying relevant?
My chances are quite bright as long as I continue to be consistent and I’m prepared to release quality materials. The industry changes every day and the secret to longevity is to release music that fans can enjoy for years to come. We call this “evergreen” music. I plan on doing just that so that my career will definitely remain relevant.
With the pandemic casting gloom across the globe, how have you managed to keep the inspiration flowing as regards music?
It has been a hard time during this pandemic. Without the constant fast-paced life, it has really allowed me to experiment with different sounds and explore different genres in music.
How are you adapting to the struggling curve with shows and events suspended at the moment?
Honestly, it’s very melancholic but everyone in every industry is struggling right now. So, we all just have to stick together and work together to get everything back and running again.
In terms of music project, what should fans anticipate from you?
It is all about new contents from now. I have been working on new projects for a while and I am sure you are seeing some of them already. Right now, my debut extended play (E.P), “Letter To the Street” which holds a distinct sound so unique and refreshing it brings breath of fresh air on the highly-competitive circuit drops officially next month.
How do you cope with the hard times?
It is true that there are many frustrating and down times where one would question and doubt one’s ability, but it is just okay to feel that way sometimes. I always try to encourage myself and put all my energy in my music. This is one thing that gives me joy and I am passionate about it because that’s where my strength and success lie. Hard times, they say, don’t last. So, the plan is to keep working hard and focus on the goal, not the distractions.
In a competitive industry, what is the uniqueness and edge you intend to bring?
For me, I believe no two persons are the same regardless of how hard anybody tries to imitate anybody. I also believe that nobody is an island; music, as with every other area of human endeavor, involves learning from those ahead. So, there will always be a comparison of sound. By and large, my uniqueness would be in the fact that I can do just about any type of music depending on my mood and how I feel per time.
You seem to always pay attention to the contents of your song; how do you manage to write your songs?
Well, I’ve always believed in content and conscious music because I believe I’m not just a musician but a messenger. The goal is to reach people’s souls and not just make them move their bodies. Music should be able to appeal to the minds of the people and not just make them dance. Music is powerful and one must be careful with the kind of message one dishes out to the people. I am guided by that principle.
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