Tuesday, 17 March 2009

In whom music and poetry are well pleased

The traffic on Ikoyi, Lagos, was really bad that scorching afternoon, to the extent that it took Diana Bada extra minutes to put her car to a final stop; luckily, I got a space to squeeze mine, hoping that LASTMA boys won’t do their worse –– tow the car of course!
“I tried,” she quizzed the security officer, who actually directed the multi-skilled artiste to the parking slot, but instead, the guy replied with broad smiles. Truly, Diana did her best.
In company of her mum, Diana led the way into the hangout, where she had opted we should meet.
“I think it’s better we stay outside,” she suggested.
“Yes, its fine here,” her mum said in approval. For me, I had no option so far as we get down to the business of the day.
Even in the porch, the atmosphere was still hot and the industrial fans provided to comfort us the section, was blowing the opposite direction, while the second one was just a piece of decor.
“Let me turn it,” Dina said, as she turned the fan towards our direction. Obviously, the breeze was much; even Diana’s mum complained.
Diana tried adjusting it; myself too, but it seemed the knob had gone bad.
“Don’t worry, one of them will come to fix it,” Diana’s mum advised. At that point, one of the waiters stepped in and got the second fan working.
With our drinks on the table, we got into a conversation that lasted for minutes. About the time we started, a call came in…
“That’s Bantu; we scheduled to meet at Jazzhole, but I think I should ask him to come this way,” she explained. She soon directed the German-based Nigeria-born artiste to our location.

MY name is Diana Bada; they call me DEE. I grew up in Lagos,” she introduced herself. “I’m a musician, composer, songwriter and poet. I’ve been into professional music for 10 years now. Right now, I’m working on my album.”
As if she knew I was wondering the kind of music she plays, Diana came on again: “My style of music is a fusion of Hip-hop, Soul music, a bit of Jazz, Afro hip-hop, and reggae.”
Diana’s decision to play music was not accidental; it’s something she had always loved doing as a kid.
“I’ve always had music around me,” she recalled. “My father had a big collection of music and my mum… her parents have always been musicians as well. So, as I was growing up, I always like to sing.”
In school, Diana would do everything within her reach to be part of every music group.
“I like to always be part of either the band or choir. In my secondary school days, I took part in all the entertainment events. So, as I grew older, I started composing songs. Along the line, I became more in tune with my musical side; I started studying it.”
You studied music in school?
“In secondary school, I did music and when I finished my Business degree in Hungary, I went to the MUSON Centre, Lagos to study music.”
Even as a business student, where there’s music is where you find the pretty, light skinned singer.
“After class, I always find myself in the studio, hanging out with a lot of Deejays and emcees and going for live events. I actually moved into the studio when I was in the university,” she informed. “I used to sleep there, and watch how the whole build-up of a stage takes place. I also used to perform during Open Mic Night in my school; I used to freestyle a lot. That was when I realised I had a freestyle ability as well.”
In the university, Diana also raps.
“I became deeper in my raps because I was actually going through a lot of things at that time.” She continued: “For instance, it’s not my country; I don’t have any tie with the country, and I don’t speak their language; it’s so far away from home; so, when you are there, you start noticing a lot of problems we are facing back home. Sometimes, when you are here, you might not be aware of what is going on than when you are far away. You start realizing the values of what you have.”
You’ve spent a better part of your life in Nigeria?
“I did my secondary and primary school here. I came back here after university in Hungary.”
Why not study music?

YOU know how it is here; sometimes people like to get a degree that is recognised; this was back in the days,” she observed. “But now, people are more open. In those days, everyone wants you to study Medicine, Law or Business. But I think it’s a blessing that I studied Business because it has helped me in my music career. For instance, I’ve been able to handle my proposals and talking to sponsors, promoting my shows… basically, it’s been of great importance to me.”
Your mum is a Russian?
“Yes, I was born in Moscow, but we moved down here when I was about five, and have started speaking Russia, which is like my first language. But I had my nursery, primary and secondary school education here in Nigeria.”
Though not the kind of musician you see at major gigs in town, Diana has been giggling for long with her band, Expressions.
“It’s a jazz band,” she quipped. “Basically, we do mostly private gigs, but I also collaborate with other bands; I collaborated with Tee Mac’s band. In Nigeria, I see myself as a freelancer, so, basically whenever I see an opportunity in terms of portraying live culture, I always like to take it,” she said.

AFTER years of fine-tuning her music, she is now poised to release her first album; confidently expecting a bang.
“This is going to be my first album and you will be hearing me in all forms. It’s going to be a fusion of everything; it’s going to be something new and something different as well,” she enthused, eyeing her mum, who sat directly opposite.
Though she describes herself as a poet and musician, Diana gave a clear distinction between the two.
“The thing is that you meet musicians, who are not poet; they just compose melodies and sing. And you meet poets, who have nothing to do with music; they just write their feelings down; it could be experiences or from the environment. Sometimes, I write down my feelings; it doesn’t have to be a melody, it doesn’t have to be music, it’s just a piece of poetry. But I also compose melodies, and raps at the same time.”
You sometimes put those feelings into music?
“Most definitely.”
That means you sing about yourself?
“I sing about what goes on around me and I believe that’s what I experience, a lot of people can connect with it because it’s something that happens to us on a daily basis,” she noted. “It could be about your first love or maybe, somebody is saying ‘oh, you can’t do it.’ But if you believe in it and put your efforts in it, you will achieve.”
With the level of success recorded at her first live show in Lagos last year, Diana plans to stage another this year as part of the official unveiling of her debut album.
“I tried getting other musicians involved as well, I also brought in comedians, just trying to make it lively, and it turned out to be quite interesting. I want to have another concert once I release the album; so, it’s like me doing my album live with my full band.”
For Diana, music is not complete without a live performance.
“I will define myself as a live musician. There are some hip-hop artistes, who do just CD and most of them are studio artistes; they are always in the studio trying to create beats. But I find myself more on stage; I feel more comfortable when I’m on stage, hearing live sounds coming from the speakers. I also record in the studio as well, so that people can play my music at their convenient time,” she said amidst smiles.
Any collaboration in the album?
“Yes, I do have collaborations in my album, but I’m not going to tell you until you get the album. But I’ve done a couple of collaborations with some Nigerian artistes such as Olu Maintain’s Jedijedi; I did the audio, but I was not in the video. I did a track with Konga, I did another one with Shank, but the album is not out. I also did a song with Orits Wiliki; unfortunately, I wasn’t there when they shot the video.”
You are always on the move?
“I move around a lot; when there’s a project somewhere for me, I always like to participate in it if I can”
You spend a lot of time rehearsing?
“Yes, I do. I spend a lot of time rehearsing with my band.”
That must be stressful?
“Rehearsal has been a better part of my schedule,” she informed. “Whatever you want to do, you have to practice to get a better result. As an artiste, you must always practice; I see it as something very important, I don’t play with it because it helps you as an artiste.”
Though light skinned like her mum, everything about Diana is African –– her dreadlocks, the beads… in fact, her personality; friendly and easygoing.
“I’m African; this is where I come from; this is my country, this is my place,” she sang.
But others tend to go their mother’s side?
“My mum is from Russia, I agree with that, but at the end of the day, I still call Nigeria my home. I have Russian blood flowing in me, but at the end of the day, this is my home; I can’t call any other place home.”
How come the dreadlocks?
“The dreads?”
“It’s my hair and it’s something I wanted to do for a while.”
How long have you had it?
“I’ve had them for about three years now.” At that point, her mum signaled in disagreement.
“Okay, over three years,” she said with laughter. “I always wanted to have them because I like the looks and all the things attached with dreadlocks. I’m so happy I have them.”
People must have reacted the first time you had it?
“A lot of people had some funny reactions because they didn’t understand,” she said with a prolonged laughter. “Today, I see a lot of people with dreadlocks; in fact, people come to me to help them lock their hair. So, people accept it more now, but then, people were like, ‘is she crazy? Is she a man person?’ but today, they’ve come to accept it as part of me.”
You know dreadlocks are always associated with reggae artistes?
“I love reggae music. Sometimes, I try to use the rave in my music. I also do reggae music,” she noted.

DIANA believes the country’s music industry is still growing, which she said could be challenging.
“Sometimes things are slower than you expect them to be, and they’ve not really set the standards; you get to do a lot of things yourself and you even find out that it’s easier than relying on record labels. Even the record labels… they’ve not really organised themselves. I’m not trying to ‘downcast’ any record label, but I’m speaking from my own experience,” she said. ‘Sometimes, it’s better to work out things yourself, rather than waiting for a label that would put you on hold for like a year or more; whereas you are there, yearning to be heard.”
Aside her music, getting her poems published is one things Diana would love to achieve in no distant time.
“I will be happy to achieve that. I will also love to have my own studio, where people can come and rehearse and record music. I see myself basically trying to make good music, even if not my own, I will also want to involve the next generation.”
That’s the business side of you?
“Yes,” she responded amidst laughter.
It seems you are very close to your mum?
“Yes, it’s a good thing.”
Not every lady moves around with her mum?
“Yes, you are right. I love my mum very much; she’s number one to me.”
“Her number one fan,” Diana’s mum declared.
“She has always been supporting me, because she knows the challenges I’m facing as a musician. She has always been there for me; giving me her hundred percent attention; that’s the connection,” she said.
Just as we ended, Bantu stepped in, and the issue of dreadlocks took the centre-stage; Bantu wears longer dreads.
“When she first did the dreads, she called me from school to say, ‘mum, I’m sorry. Don’t be angry when I come home, there’s something.’ So, when I got to the airport to pick Diana, I saw her with the dreads. At first, I started crying, but later on, I started liking it; it actually looks good,” Diana’s mum narrated.

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