Petite, eclectic, creative, energetic and with a powerful voice, Elfreda Yinka Davies is a singer whose singing prowess is enviable. Yinka, who is also an actress, dancer, songwriter and reality television shows judge currently plays the role of ‘other woman’ in the TV programme, Battle Ground. She tells Adedayo Adejobi why she misses late legendary Fuji music crooner, Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, how she’s re-inventing her sound and what it feels like being single, and waiting for the right man
Your album, ‘Black Chiffon’, with a signature track, ‘Owo’, featuring the late Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, has remained evergreen. How did you strike the connection?
My talking drummer at that time helped me to get in touch with Barrister at that time. He went to Mushin to look for him because Bisade Ologunde (aka Lagbaja), then band manager to Colours, had told me to think commercially and so I was thinking of how to weave commercial sound with the kind of style I do. I went to my band, the 5&6, and ran the sound by them. They tried it and said we should do Fuji. And the only person I know from my primary school days was Barrister and his song, ‘Owo’. When they found Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, he told them to tell me to show up that he’s been waiting for me. When I first met him, he gave me my dossier. He remembered the day I had an accident, told me how he prayed for me and how he had wanted to meet me. Baba had been following me. I didn’t know whether to cry or smile.
Knowing full well that Barrister may not be familiar with Yinka Davies, how did the studio recording session go?
We had done the pre-recording and we just wanted him to come and lay his voice in the studio and he came. So when he came to the studio to lay his vocal, he followed and was writing down his lines as he did in the 70s. I then told him I wanted him to ad-lib. He asked inquisitively what was that. I then told him to keep singing and we thought of how to work it out. Towards the end of the recording, we picked out his words. I loved the sound. It was wow! I miss him terribly. And I made major mistake of not recording his video. The only one we did was when he was in the studio. And the one in the studio the guy has lost the rushes. So the one we have is dull. At the time we shot the video for Maami, at this time, he was at the hospital so his younger brother took on the part. Even Tunde Kelani wanted to shoot the video. We believed he was going to return and then do the video properly, but then he died.
You seem to have been off the radar. What are your commercial plans for music?
That you’ll have to find out. This particular year, I have been quite busy on TV but I have about four young producers who (I) have been working. We have some collaborations and it’s been quite interesting. This year I have done reggae, soul, and techno-house traditional song. You shall hear about them all soon.
You love the stage but seems to have moved to television as seen.
I have always loved the stage. Television is quite superficial for me. It is ‘cut and action’. The largeness of the theatre cannot be compared. Your life begins and ends on stage. When you are done on stage, is like you are drained of life. You now have to find a way to get back to life. The great Tina Mba is a witness. Television is a miniature of the essence of art. Television is doing very well; they own the money, glamour and flamboyance. But that’s it. After that, what’s next?
You don’t come across as one who joined the arts with a view to becoming financially fulfilled.
I bumped into the arts. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing there. It took a while for a host of us to realise that this is a business. You never lose anything. I haven’t lost anything. You take on a challenge and move on. The only time and thing you lose are when you lose yourself in the process of finding yourself.
The producers of Battleground seem to have you in the right role. For anyone who knows you, the role you play, Cissy Jack Badmus, is no departure from the real you. You have an idea what they were thinking or did they confer with you when giving you the role?
I have no clue. No clue whatsoever what they were thinking. I am, however, enjoying it.
Would you be taking on similar sitcom projects of this nature?
I’ll think about it. It is time-consuming. I don’t have time for my work.
With you not having time, what would happen to Yinka Davies, the musician and the 5&6 band? Wouldn’t acting take all that from you?
Why should acting take all that from me? Although acting started before music for me but going forward, I’ll rather find a way to handle both. We are back. We are working at it. We are still doing our private functions, but it’s time to go global.
When you showed interest in the arts, didn’t your parents fret, especially at a time everyone wanted to become doctors and lawyers?
My family is a very alive kind of family. They are beautiful, quite understanding and very crazy themselves individually. And collectively they don’t know when you are gone. My dad was a musician. I didn’t’ know. He would tell you straight away. I remembered he commented on Blackky’s song saying my voice was too loud. Can’t they find a way to tone down the sound? I said, ‘Daddy, I’m trying.’ At that time, I was coming from the theatre and at the National Theatre they trained your diaphragm to be loud. But I am not as I used to be – very boisterous, very loud. We criticise ourselves. We never see one’s work as good.
I am critical of myself, especially. I do not know if that is what you call professionalism or perfectionism. All I know is if it’s not worth it, don’t try it. If it would not meet up to or even beat status quo, don’t do it. If I say it’s not up to my standard, I’ll be lying. It would be evil to me to tell you that I allow the song to lead me. It would be evil of me to cage the sound.
Could that be the reason why you haven’t done popular music?
Yes. You can’t allow the sound. I don’t listen to music. I don’t listen to the radio because when the sound comes it has to be pure and I have to deliver it. It would be evil of me to cage it. It has to express itself the best way it knows how. And that sound, God owns it, I don’t.
Away from music, how do you see marriage?
Marriage is a covenant, an institution, and the foundation of life.
Do you covet it?
Well, you covet it. When you covet it, just don’t worry about it. Covet but continue; make sure your journey is smooth and as rough as it is, it’s smooth.
Are you on your way to marriage?
Marriage is honourable. Very honourable. I am too much into my work. Too intense. The sound; When I hear the sound, I don’t want anyone to look like me or marry someone like me. There’s no way. We can’t work. I’ll kill him. When I see the man, I would know. But the thing is he has to be the one doing the looking, not me. No matter how much you look and say you know if the man is not saying yes, you are wasting your time.
Are waiting for the man?
I’m female. The man has to speak. That’s his job. The man leaves and cleaves to his wife, not me. I don’t want to know who he looks like. Once he comes and talks to me, I hear it and I’ll know it’s him. But that’s the institution really. I know women have asked men out so many times. But the thing is, let’s not all lie to ourselves: if the man is not involved with you, after some years he will leave you. Why waste my time when I know I’m the one looking for the man? No. I don’t want that. So coveting marriage is an anomaly for a woman; the man must come.