by Wilfred Okichie
I have been trained to step into another pair of shoes, to step on stage and become larger than life. It comes naturally to me, I cannot imagine not being able to do it.
Since her return from the UK where she spent a lot of time touring the world and prepping for big break, Seyi Shay has become one of the most consistent female performers this side of the Niger. She has put out hit singles like Irawo, Loving my way and most recently Murda with Patoranking. We spoke with her on the journey so far, being a woman in a male dominated space and the experience of being signed to Matthew Knowles. Enjoy excerpts from the conversation. Background I was born in London, I have 3 siblings from my mom’s side and then 11 from my dad’s side so it is a big family. I grew up with my mum and graduated with a degree in music business management. Shortly after my graduation I joined a girl group called From Above, a UK based group. We were together for 4 years under the management of Matthew Knowles and he taught us and trained us well. We went on tour with Beyonce, different concerts around the world and it was a really good experience until the group broke up. Moving back to Nigeria Met Sound Sultan in London and he advised me that there could be a place for me in Nigeria to pursue a music career and I took his advice and moved to Nigeria finally. I went on tour with 2face Idibia in Ukraine and felt the energy he was receiving from his fans in a foreign country. I got some advice from him and together with Sound Sultan I came to Nigeria with confidence. I am here now because of that advice, thank God. Leaving Flytime I spoke with Flytime like a family and they supported my decision to build my own team which is what I have now. I own my own record label called Star girl entertainment but I do intend on signing artistes in the future. I work with my partners and managers called J management and we are doing everything pretty much by ourselves with the help of a few people in the industry. The difference between the Nigerian and foreign music scenes I am not completely on my own, I have a team. The structure is pretty much the same as it would be anywhere in the world. I made it that way because that is what I am used to. But the structure is mine, like my blue print, I gave it to them and asked them to follow it. It has been working thanks to what I learnt in university. Who is Seyi Shay when she is not on stage? I am not the same as I am on stage. I am a normal girl, quite introverted, a little bit shy, quite incognito. I don’t have that adrenaline walking down the streets every day. You cannot practice how to be a normal person. I am an entertainer so when I am onstage I have an alter ego. It is not as deep as Beyonce’s where I have given my stage presence a name. Being a woman in the music business There is always sexism, prejudice being a woman in a male dominated field, sometimes some things are not as readily available for women as they are for men. We will continue to live with that until we rebel. I am trying to reconcile your sexy image with the normal girl I see in front of me. Is it a chore for Seyi Shay to turn that on? Sometimes it is a chore most times it is just natural. That is what I have been trained to become for over 10 years now; an artiste. I have been trained to step into another pair of shoes, to step on stage and become larger than life. It comes naturally to me, I cannot imagine not being able to do it. It is like being a robot, if you are programmed in a certain way. So she would advise up and coming artistes to take their training more seriously Yes. I believe that you have to master your art and nurture your craft. Nigerian favourites D’Banj, 2face Idibia, Sound Sultan. If D’Banj and 2face Idibia were to get married and have a child, it would be me. On accusations of selling out and leaving her soul roots behind. The kind of music I am making now is soulful and contemporary, it is not watered down or Pangolo or Afro-pop. I am singing what I want to sing. I am experimenting with my sound actually.