‘I Want to Use My Music to Teach Morals’

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Annie Cedric is an acoustic songwriter, guitarist and singer. At secondary school she was nicknamed Asa, when she didn’t know who Asa was. In this interview with Ugo Aliogo, she speaks about her music career and her desire to create a proper balance between soul and hip-pop

Why did you decide to go into Soul and Jazz music?
I didn’t decide to go into it on my own, I just found myself doing it and it became a habit. I enjoyed listening to soul and jazz music at the age of 15. When I was in secondary school my fellow student nicknamed me Asa at time I didn’t know who Asa was. The first time I listened Asa’s song collection was in secondary school, between SS1 and SS2. It was among what I wanted to do. There is a difference between just listening and liking, then liking, getting inspired and want to be like the individual you listened to. I listened to a couple of her songs and other soul singers. This was how the journey started for me. I do more of India Arie in soul, while in Jazz I do Ella Fitzgerald.

What platform prepared you for a career in soul and jazz music?
I think it was the exposure to good music. There was no particular reason; the love for Asa was spontaneous. The exposure to Asa’s music and other soul singers helped trigger the inborn love I had for soul music.

At what age were you convinced that this was the career path you wanted to follow?
At the age of seven I was already convinced that this was the career path I wanted to follow. The first time I actually sang was in church and I was seven years old. After my performance, the church gave me a standing ovation, my late uncle was in tears and the Pastor appointed me the children’s choir leader. I felt so happy with the experience of that day. I realised that music was something interesting that will personally love to do.

Is music in your family gene?
I cannot say yes because my parents were not singers themselves. The only singer in the family though not professionally was my elder sister. She was always singing in the church. Growing up, she liked listening to Celine Dion, R Kelly, Usher, Mary J. Blige, and others. At some point she started learning the dance steps of Busta Rhymes.

Who are your role models and what do you find interesting about them?
Asa, Bez, Adiele, and Bob Marley. I find their lyrics very unique and interesting; you could see yourself in what they are singing. For instance, Asa has a way of making you restrain from your bad steps, become happy when you’re sad, fall in love when you don’t want to. She just has a way of talking to your soul, healing that part of you. Soul music has a way of healing your soul; it tells a story and inspires you.

How are you able to put what you learnt from these role models into your music?
I apply what I learn from these role models by ensuring that my lyrics are up to certain standard and can actually meet somebody’s need out there. Music for me is the ability to reach out; therefore it is more like being a preacher. You have a word and there is somebody out there who needs that word so you have to ensure that at all times you watch what you write.

Can you differentiate between Nigeria Hip-pop and the soul music especially in the aspect of lyrics?
I will not say anything is wrong with both music genres. Rather, there has to be a balance we cannot always want to listen to soul and vice-versa. The lyrics are not the same because both genres are not talking about the same thing, therefore the messages are different.

How do you tend to use your music to find expression for women. What is your plan in this direction?
My plan is to continue doing it until it gains balance. Presently, a few people enjoy listening to soul. When it gains balance is when you are able to reach everybody. Despite the rejection and obstacles I have faced; I will keep at it and ensure that I get the recognition I desire in order to attract more women into it.

What do you want to bring into your music. Is it the quality of your lyrics?
I want to bring in the quality of my lyrics and morals. So far I have noticed that parents don’t want their children to go into the entertainment world because they nurse the fear that they could become drug addicts, or dress half naked on stage. On my part, I will help to educate parents. Also, the up and coming singers that they don’t have to dress half naked to preach a message, you don’t have to do drugs, you don’t have to look crazy, all you need is to keep on doing your best. For me, I think it’s what you sing and your message at all point that is important. It is going take a long time to disabuse people’s minds from sex appealing music, but I will keep at it. My lyrics will be designed to meet that need at some point. I want to use my music to teach morals.

How far have you gone in terms of appearances and shows?
So far I have been able to get some persons supporting me such as Alibaba. I was able to get support from Alibaba when I performed at a show at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and he was there, so he liked what I did so he took interest in me. I performed at his January 1 show. We are working on a couple of shows as the year progresses. For 2016, I attended a lot of shows.

How many singles do you have and what are your plans to produce an album?
Well, we don’t have any official singles and at present, we are working on a lot of singles. There are no plans for albums launch any time soon. We have to do a lot of singles and videos and make sure people associate with the brand before launching an album.

What is the support of your parents towards your music career?
My father was a bit very skeptical about it, at some points he refused me going into singing. But when I started giving him reasons to like it, he accepted my decision and decided to give me the necessary support. My mother on her part started supporting from the beginning. The first time he saw me on television, he was very glad. He also supports me financially as much as he can. My aunty in Lagos is also very supportive towards my music career and I’m grateful to her.

What is the future of Soul and Jazz Music in Nigeria two years from now?
The future is bright for soul and jazz in Nigeria because there are a lot of people doing soul music now and I think the interest for dancehall is reducing, and then soul is taking over. In two years from now, we should have a very big balance and that’s actually a very bright future for the singers.

Who has been the people supporting you to get to the level where are?
My manager Kolade Adeyemi, he has been very supportive financially. I learnt playing the acoustic guitar through my first manager James John (JTunz) who gave me a couple of tutorial videos on playing guitar. He developed my talent in soul music. Everything I know about soul music has been through his effort. Later, he travelled to Lagos, therefore due to distance and resettlement I could not continue with him. Since I’m now based in Lagos, I hope to get to work with him because he is someone I understand his style of music.

What have been your challenges?
Finance has been a major challenge. Having to sponsor yourself is not easy. It is a huge challenge. Music requires a lot of financial support. For the female singers, it is even easier especially if you attend a show and you’re the only female singer the males tend to give you the necessary support. For me, I have been treated so well, I don’t know about the treatment of other female singers before the male folks.