There is storm in her eyes. The fire in her belly bellows in explosion. Her gregarious gusto metamorphoses into beads of sweat on her sensuous body. She is a beauty to behold and a brain to boast about. As she sashays into the room, you know it is no other person than Seyi Shay. She ticks all the boxes as a singer and entertainer. Featuring as the lead actor in the Biola Alabi latest film – Lara and the Beat – Seyi has stepped up her game in the movie and music industry. Funke Olaode writes about the ambition and passion that drive this seductive siren of the serenading and silver screen
Humming in a mellifluous tone, delectable in her gorgeous dress and mesmerizing in stardom, Seyi Shay exudes sheer simplicity doused with intensity. Her voice is like a floodgate of open skies that trickles in drizzles. The power behind it and the passion surrounding it have remained unstoppable over the years. With that voice, she possesses a commanding gusto that eternally electrifies the stage as she sings. Her dance moves are both electric and eclectic.
Seyi Shay is a singer by choice. Today, she has become a movie star by adventure. Playing the lead role in the movie, Lara and the Beat, the indefatigable singer has once again stolen the show. Life and her passion for music did not, however, start like a movie. As a young girl, she had to battle the maternal instincts of a doting mother. She also had to slay the dream of being a doctor or an accountant as her parents would have wanted. Down-to-earth and full of dreams, Seyi Shay is like a new chapter in Nigeria’s effervescent entertainment industry yet to fully unravel.
Born in the United Kingdom, she once traversed the entertainment industry in the United States where she was managed by the father of the world hip hop star, Beyoncé’s father, Matthew Knowles, for three years. But her unknown sonorous voice found its way into the Nigerian airwaves in 2015 when she decided to relocate to Nigeria.
Just like other stars before her, her journey into music began in a choir. “As a child, I was in several choirs – school choir, church choir, girls’ group, and bands – in the United Kingdom where I was born. I started following my mum to the choir practice from the age of five. Then, I graduated into taking music as part of a curriculum in my school – my extra curriculum activities had to do with music – playing violin, different instruments and singing in the gospel choir in my church and school. As the years flew by I continued with music in my ‘A’ levels and my degree at the University of East London. I just discovered that music has been part of my life,” she recalled.
For Seyi Shay, even in far-away UK, going into music was met with opposition from her mother who felt it was belittling for her daughter to settle for music after acquiring a university education. The actress knew the only way to convince her mother was the hard way. She explained: “The mentality is the same. I never grew up with both parents, I lived with my mum – my mum has passed away. My father is still alive. My mum especially wasn’t a fan of the idea of going into music in the beginning because she wanted me to be a doctor, lawyer or something like that. As the years went by, I was getting good grades – doing well at school. My relatives, family and dad were like: ‘Look, nowadays you don’t dictate to young persons what they want to do. She listened and just before she died, she was in the hospital when I saw her last. She said to me: ‘I can see you becoming very big in Nigeria.’ I exclaimed: ‘Why Nigeria?’ She said that was the vision she had and she had been praying about it. My mum said Nigeria is where I am going to have my success. I moved to Nigeria in 2015.”
How has it been believing in that vision? “Well, it has been full of ups and downs. The first year I was trying to get familiar with the culture of the music out here. You know afro beat was the music I was singing in the United Kingdom and America – when I was signed by Matthew Knowles, Beyoncé’s dad. He managed my music for three years before I came to Nigeria. Nigeria and the West are two different worlds,” she said.
Three years after, she has found fame, fans and perhaps fortune. With the acceptance of her music, various endorsements, she feels she rediscovered herself.
Today, the vibrant and euphoric songstress and entertainer is a versatile character, who does not only dazzle with her voice. She titivates with her exotic dance steps and captivates with her gorgeous looks. Like a superstar, she is blurring the line between music and movie. Little wonder then she was made the lead character in a newly-released movie, ‘Lara and the Beat’ – from the stable of Biola Alabi Media – playing the character of Lara Giwa.
“Lara and the Beat is about the young and beautiful Giwa sisters caught in the centre of a financial scandal with their parent’s media empire. The sisters are forced out of their privileged bubble. They must now learn to build their own future and salvage their family’s past. The movie also tells a love story between Lara and Sal (aka The Beat), who helps Lara to find her voice and jumpstart her musical journey. It is a movie about loss, love, music and a dream,” the excited Seyi Shay said about the movie.
Known for her industry, genius and originality, Seyi Shay sparkles among the movie cast, exploring the lives of the Giwa sisters who yearned and fought their way to restore the glorious past of their family. The singer-turned-actress added: “The movie is about financial literacy and family values.”
Also starring in the latest film is the Nigerian rapper, Vector, as ‘The Beat’. He was the love interest to one of the Giwa sisters and instrumental in charting a path for their quest.
Eclectic on stage, Seyi Shay is never known for acting. What is her motivation and what has been the experience? She answered: “It has been interesting. I was introduced to Biola Alabi through a friend that freelances for her company. She spoke to me two years ago about the vision and the plan she had for the company. She asked if I was interested in acting and I said I would give it a t Having had a bite of acting – falling for the allure of light, camera and action – Seyi Shay wants some more action. To achieve that, the Biola Alabi Media has decided to register the singer in an acting school in the US. That appears to be a death-knell to her illustrious music career. Seyi Shay does not think so: “I am always going to be a musician because that is my first love and I will never leave music.”
Juggling music and movie can be a herculean task. A hard worker and shrewd sensibility, said she has the recipe to successfully manage the two worlds.
“I am equal to the task. Fortunately for me, I had recorded songs previously before entering into shooting of this movie. I had materials that I could release while I was away from the music industry. I was away for three months not doing concerts and music while I was rehearsing and shooting the movie,” she said to reassure her music fans.
Seyi Shay has already found fame is her getting into the world of movie fortune? “It is not definitely for money. I did it for the experience. I did it for trial because in life everybody has to try something once in life. I am an entertainer and entertainment comes with all the things – and movies included. So I did it because I love the script, the cast, and the production house – and I love the story and love Lara,” she said.
Ambitious as she is, it will not be impossible to see calling the shot behind the camera and that idea made her say: “I think being a musician is huge enough and I don’t think I can go into directing a movie at this point because it involves a lot of hard work seeing what Tosin Cover went through. If that would ever happen I would have to quit music. But I don’t think I’ll ever leave music.”
How does she feel working with the multitalented Biola Alabi, who like Mo Abudu is breaking the glass ceiling, treading the terrain once traversed mainly by men? “Nigeria’s music industry favours men, more so entertainment as a whole. But now women are coming out to take their rightful place in movie production, headlining shows. I think the time is now. Mrs. Alabi is doing this at the right time now that women are at the fore front of entertainment and it can only get better,” Seyi Shay responded.
The Lara and the Beat movie which held penultimate Sunday at the Lagos Continental Hotel is a celebration of the best of Nollywood fusing movie, music and fashion, and the who’s who of the industries that came out in colourful attire. The lavish event was an evening of fabulous fashion presentation and a mesmerizing music concert, taking cues from key themes explored in the movie – music, fashion and culture.
The movie has an original music soundtrack produced by ace music producer, TY Mix, with significant input from the team at Universal Music Group in Nigeria.
“I have never watched Nollywood movie or Nigerian movie with such sound tracks. The sound tracks are so important to any movie because it carried you through the emotions of the movie. It helps you to understand more the layers of every scene because it can tell what is going on. TY Mix is an amazing producer. TY Mix produced most of the songs if not all. The song writers were amazing. I went to the studio to record the songs which is going to be a separate project. So it is a two-in-one project: the movie and the music. It’s going to be released like an album just like ‘Waiting to Exhale’ and the ‘Bodyguard’ movies starring the late Whitney Houston,” Seyi Shay explained.
Lara and the Beat, produced by Tolu Olusoga, boasts of award-winning Nollywood heavyweights like Somkele, Chioma Akpotha, Chinedu Ikedieze, Uche Jombo, Lala Akindoju, Bimbo Manuel, Wale Ojo, Shaffy Bello, and Saidi Balogun. Other cast members include Deyemi Okanlawon, Demola Adedoyin, Folu Storms, Sharon Ooja, Anne Icha, Akan Nnani, Dara Egerton Shyngle, Bollylomo, David Jones David, Cookies, Keira Hewatch, Patrick Oke and Demi Banwo.
As Seyi Shay embraces her new adventure, she believes the future is bright. “I am not going to quit music. I just released a short clip of an album with songs that featured six artistes from across Africa. We are shooting the videos and they’ll be released gradually – which I called volume one. And in the nearest future we’ll release volume two. And hopefully, I’ll get involved in more movies,” she added.