Ada Igboanugo met anastasia damola - the singer known simply as ebisan - whose soulful voice is gradually swelling her fan base
I was to meet the pretty, petite lady whom I had seen a couple of times on TV in her video for her new hit single ‘Jowo’ and half expected to see a rather chubby looking person. But alas, I was shocked at the slim physique of the artiste who approached me at our meeting point, Koko Lounge; apologetic for her late coming due to the fuel scarcity. Still taken aback by how fit she looked, she noticed and chipped in, “don’t worry, TV makes people look bigger”, laughing at the surprised expression that lingered on my face.
Born October 25th, Damola who turned 29 recently was all smiles as we sat and chatted over a glass of water served by the lounge. But inward, she possesses a multiple persona. “Let’s say I’m kind of a diverse person. When it comes to music it’s a no brainier. Everything I do is based on love and all other emotions attached to it, the good and the bad, not just the romantic part”.
For her first video, she was a love-struck broad in a romantic relationship. But this time, she acted the role of a psychotic wedding crasher who refused to accept that what would seem as a fantasy of a relationship with the groom, was over. Her genre of music isn’t far from the Jazz with a mixture of soul, “I grew up listening to all sorts of genres ranging from Elton John, to Bassey to Whitney Houston, Madonna etc. I don’t restrict myself to one genre but no matter the genre I choose to make music with, there must be an atom of soul in it.”
Like the story goes, it all started with her growing up in the family of music geniuses, though she is doing it professionally, she’s not the only one who makes music in her family, ‘’When I was like 4 years old, while we await our meal with growing impatience, my siblings and I would take to making music- my brother being the drummer, I the musician, and we would dance and make merry’’
But even then she didn’t have a five-year plan of becoming an artiste. Overtime, she and her siblings kept the act of performing for her entire family alive for the sole purpose of entertainment. Tosin Jegede would shed light onto her dark path into music a few years later. That is the realisation that she could turn her passion to a carreer before the age of ten, ‘’When I see myself on stage, it’s amazing because this is what I pictured it would be like and I like what I see’’.
The Singer/Songwriter does not believe writers are world class avoiders of writing. In fact she tries as much as possible to get involved in writing her music alongside her manager. ‘’I always want to have control over the things I do because when I write, I conjure a mental picture of how I want things to be done, from the video to the way the music is produced’’ .
Those images could be conjured anywhere possible- be it in her car while driving, or in her bathroom or even the loo but her writing mantra comes from a different avenue.
Officially her works include, ‘Jowo’ and ‘Love story’ which she made a while back. ‘Suru’ and ‘Dance with me’ she made for hit soap opera, ‘Tango with me’. The recently released track, ‘Time of Our Lives’ she made with Chydinma, the ex-Project fame crooner, is a dance/house track and is what she currently has in her stakes. But her upcoming album takes the lead. ‘’Most of the other recorded un-released songs will make my album’’ or in collaborations with other artistes”.
Speaking of other artistes, this young lady’s wings have flown already and quite early to other parts of the continent. ‘’I made a song with a South African Soul singer, Monewa, while I was initially there to shoot the video for ‘Jowo’.’’ The song they both made is purely a soulful song- a mixture of Jill Scott and Aretha Franklin. ‘’I bumped into her in the studio while she was recording her music and apparently they, the crew, had heard about me and thought we should do a track together. There and then we made one and by the end of the day, we had made a song’’.
Travelling to a country with a culture entirely different from hers isn’t a new thing to Ebisan. In fact, she has lived between three countries in different continents. ‘’I was born in Nigeria but lived most of my life in Saudi Arabia because my parents are Doctors and were transferred there to practice. But I had my high school in the United Kingdom.’’ It s no wonder she had an unfamiliar accent that sits her comfortably in the shores of the northern region.
She isn’t in any rush to bring forth an album, despite demands from her music lovers. In her defence, she would like to take her time making one so as to sit back years to come and be proud of what she had done. But the wait wouldn’t be so long as she is expecting to launch it early next year and in it she intends to work with variety of artistes in the industry.
Her video of ‘Jowo’ raised more positive reviews not just as an artiste but as the character in it. She played like an expert. Perhaps, there are prospects of going into Movie acting in the nearest future, ‘I have a lot of energy and I love to try different things but at the same time, I get bored of things as easy as they come. But then I also love to challenge myself. But acting? Of course; I enjoyed acting in the video and wouldn’t mind doing it sometime in the future. I was actually called upon to act in an artiste’s video after seeing mine and I did pretty well because it is something I do naturally plus I have a lot of people encouraging me to go into it because according to them, I can be quite dramatic’’ .
She isn’t only challenging herself to tow that line, she has added prospects of radio presention and TV Vee-jaying into the equation due to her unique vocal enchanting voice. But that wouldn’t suppress her first love which is music, no matter what because to her, ‘Music is like breathing’. Even when I’m not in the line, there is always music in my life and I’m always making or creating music. It’s a part of me. I don’t have to tell myself you must do this like I would in acting or any other thing.’’
Her music is more emotional and passionate to her than just putting down pen on paper and singing it. It is normally ignited by circumstances whether it’s a slap on her face or what not, she would write about it and still feel the pain at the same spot on her face. Her other inspirations come from people around her and their circumstances. Her ability to relate with other people is what sets her aside. In a way, she becomes what she writes and what she writes takes over her in the writing and making the music. Her single, ‘Jowo’ though describing a heartbroken lady who has refused to let go on love, throws in a new angle to it advising to fight for what you deserve; though she wouldn’t advise anyone to crash a wedding like the video portrayed. This side of her emerged partially because she grew up in an extended home with just her older brother to look after them while their parents worked in Saudi Arabia. The diverse culture experienced from growing up within three countries, helped nurture her into the woman she has become and would be as she gets older.
Music will always be her first choice but music isn’t all she has up her sleeves. Moving to England at the age of 13 to complete her higher education, she went further to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Finance, a further Masters in International Business Management before she moved back to Nigeria, ‘‘Being a daughter of two doctors, I was expected to finish with my education before delving into anything else. Though they supported me through and through’’. She shuffled between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia every holiday.
Her parents were no obstruction to her musical career. Though at first they didn’t take her seriously, they realised she was serious with it after she had performed at numerous parties and wedding receptions and even earned her first wage as a singer at age 16. But she appreciates that they encouraged her more to finish her education, ‘’in a way it gives you an edge because music comes in different levels. You can’t always be on top. You have to have something else to fall on.’’
Signed under One Management run by ex-Kush defunct group now turned producer/manager, Emem, for the little time she premiered into the industry, her music has been accepted far more than she anticipated. Joining the league of soul crooners such as Asa and Nneka, she becomes, if not, the third soul artiste in the industry. But she isn’t signed to any record company yet.
Sporting activities is one of the numerous things Ebisan does to unwind, ‘’I love sports. I play badminton as well as Tennis. I love to jog as well most mornings when I can. I stay in a conducive environment that enables me to. I also love making hair. I know how to and seize every opportunity I get to take care of actual natural hair- keeping it healthy et al. I love eating as well. I’m a chocolate addict; be it chocolate cake or ice-cream or what-have-you and coffee. I also love painting. Is studied Arts in School for 5 years so I paint very well.’’
One thing she would love to do in the long run aside acting as well is being a linguist. ‘’I want to travel far and wide and learn as many different languages as I can in their various diversities.’’