Falana broke her four year music drought with the recent release of her new single, ‘Ride or Die’ and according to her, she is back to take her place on the scene.
In 2014, Falana released her debut EP, ”Things Fall Together” and despite not putting out new music since then, the talented singer, songwriter and performer has been able to remain relevant with her ‘Falana Unconver’d’ concert series and getting recognized on the global stage.
She recently visited the Pulse office for an interview, where she discussed a number of topics ranging from her absence on the scene, her new project, influences and finding her sound.
”My music I think is a blend of sounds,” she said, when asked to define her sound. ”Where the old meets the new, so I play with a lot of live instruments or what you call contemporary sounds.
I do a bit of Jazz and Afrobeat, soul, but not necessarily any of that, I just basically describe my music as Falana, which is my name. When you hear my music, you know it’s me.”
What is your reaction to being tagged an alternative artist?
”I don’t necessarily grab unto the title, I don’t grab onto any title, I am just doing what I do best. My sound reflects who I am, even that title doesn’t describe my music completely, an alternative is just a broad way to describe music… There are lanes and variety in terms of how people make music in Nigeria and I just wish we respect each lane.”
How long have you been doing music?
”I have been singing since I was a little girl. But professionally, it has however been about three years since I began living and pushing music full time and it has been an amazing journey.”
But you released your debut EP four years ago…
”When you make the decision that you are going to do this full time like I literally wake up thinking about music, go to sleep thinking about music, that is how I define going into music fulltime.”
What was the turning point that led to this decision?
”It was an internal process, the spirit was just like, ‘this is what you are supposed to do’, ‘you have been called to bless people with your music’. It was a scary part, but when it is what you are called to do and when your vision is very clear, that is comforting.”
Let’s talk about your first project, ”Things fall together”
”That project was recorded in Havana, Cuba. I stayed in Cuba for 14 months. It was when I moved to Havana to study music, I didn’t speak any Spanish, I didn’t have any friends, I was just one random babe walking around and I remember sitting at a park someday, so I was teaching myself music and this lady came to sit beside me, she was speaking Spanish and I was communicating with her.
So I was telling her what I want to study and essentially she introduced me to my piano teacher, who introduced me to the producer who collaborated with me to create the project, so that kind of incident just fell together. I wasn’t doing anything but being myself, sitting in a park and this lady came to sit beside me.
Plus I read ‘Things Fall Apart’ and it was me bringing some of those experiences to life and after this, the call became louder and it became a lot more difficult to ignore what it is I am supposed to be.”
Why did you go away for that long?
‘Ride Or Die’ is Falana’s first musical offering in four years and she explains why,
”Different things, when I did the concert series (Falana Uncovered), I was studying the discography of Fela at one point and he used to perform a lot of his songs before recording them, and when he was performing, you could see how the audience responds to it, you can feel it better when you are on stage.
That is what happened, I was performing a lot of these songs and refining them, in my new project ‘‘Chapter One” coming out early in the new year, you will hear the shift, the evolution… At the end of the day, what I create is going to outlive me and that is what is more important.”
On her eccentric nature
”I think I am just being myself, even in the way I wear my hair, I always try and just be myself and that reflects in what I wear, in how I create my music.”
On the influence of Fela Anikulapo Kuti in her music
”My dad was a very big Fela fan and whenever he will reminisce about University or his past, there was always a song that matched a particular situation, that was a part of me growing up.
So your parents will introduce you to a certain type of artist and you being to absorb more as you grow. Music from the 70s was a lot of bass and guitar riffs and that’s how you knew the song.”
She speaks on the creative process for her new single ‘Ride Or Die’
”When I write, it starts different ways. I can start on piano, I can start on guitar, I can write on percussion, this one I particularly started on a voicenote and the song evolved. As I was writing the song, I realized it was about the importance of intimacy as human beings. Just really taking time to connect with people…
The world is very cold and if you forget the importance of building deep meaningful authentic relationships, we are losing out on an important bit of life.
If you say ‘Ride Or Die’, it’s like I am offering myself as a ride or die or as a person, you can reach out to or as a point of intimacy and I am not even talking about physical intimacy, it can be spiritual intimacy.”
I play the piano, guitar and percussion, I can hold it down but I can’t call myself a drummer,” she clarifies when asked the number of instruments she plays.
On the video,”It was directed by Daniel Obasi, the venue was something that was very important to me. It was shot at the National Theatre, Surulere, Nigeria.”
How soon should we expect ”Chapter One”?
”Beginning of the year, I am so excited to release it. When I come out people know and I make sure that the quality and the level is very clear. The project is 100% ready.”
On what to expect from the project
”Chapter One” is the beginning of a new chapter… There are songs that I wrote that I don’t feel as connected to anymore but it is still very relevant to some people. The last project [Things Fall Together] represented me at one point in my life, but I have evolved and I am ready to keep it moving.
Chapter One is a new experience… I have improved as a songwriter, there is a more distinct sound, like you hear this and there is no confusion when you hear it. People will be able to say she created something new that represents herself, represents her journey and I can relate to it.
I worked with Nsikak, an amazing guitar player, Wura Samba made an appearance. It was mixed and mastered by Commissioner Gordon Williams, who mixed and mastered ‘‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ and also the first album by Amy Winehouse [Frank]
The project has just four songs, I recorded about 15 songs in a bubble but you will get them all bit by bit.”
She speaks on her biggest challenges so far
”I feel like sometimes I am running up a hill with rocks tied to my legs and it could be tiring sometimes, and there are people on the side of the hill telling you why are doing this type of music in Nigeria, is it really sustainable?
Doubt is such a powerful thing and trying to make sure that you don’t let it sink into your head and remembering the reason why you do what you do, that could be very challenging.
And then also finding my sound was challenging too, I did this feature recently on Show Dem Camp‘s ”Palmwine Music 2”, ‘The Garden’, and that was organic. But I also think as an artist if you don’t know who you are, if you go in too early into collaborations, you will lose yourself and then you don’t have a sound or an identity.”
On her December schedule is a show alongside the likes of Asa, Bez and Adekunle Gold and she is excited about being part of the line-up
”I think it is amazing, each of those artists is doing something unique in their lanes and to be performing beside them is amazing, people who are doing something traditionally unconventional in their rights, I like been with that type of energy,” she concluded.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.