Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In Black Chiffon, Yinka Glows Even Brighter

In Black Chiffon, Yinka glows even brighter

Sunday, 26 June 2011 00:00 BY GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR Life Magazine
Nigerian Guardian

FEW days ago on the social network, the civil right activist, culture patron, Tony Uranta, declared, ‘Yinka just glowed on stage; she is great’. And in response to that declaration, the flutist, and very competent musician himself, Tee Mac, regretted that he missed the show. Muyiwa Majekodunmi — head house of the defunct happening jazz music club, Jazzville (which has translated to Praiseville), who had weaned many musicians through the club he ran for 11 years – kept lamenting: “But what is wrong with this country; when are we going to start appreciating genuine talent and not keep celebrating mediocrity in the name of music”. He wasn’t speaking to anybody in particular, but just musing loud enough for others soaking up the event in his corner of the hall to feel the depth of his pain.

Peter Fisher, the engineer bass guitarist — about the only one known in local music circuit who plays the bass with a left hand — appreciated Yinka’s performance, but he declared regretfully, “the bad sound from the guys at the console is ruining a very excellent performance’; and so he left in despair.

Patrick Doyle, easily described as a show impresario, sat mesmerised in a corner of the hall his head almost dancing off his head as he soaked it all in; just as the female football champion and financier, Princess Bola Jegede stated, “ Yinka is one of our very best, and we all need to give her all the support and applause’.

Soon, the comedy merchant, Ali Baba panted into the hall, and declared ‘if it is Yinka’s show I must give up every other thing to be there; I have had to abandon a show midway”. On his heel came yet another merchant of the laughter business,. Tunde Adewale, who said, ‘I have had a busy day today – four events in a row, but for Yinka, I must appear’.

The torrent of love and tributes to the prodigious talent of the singer and leader of the Five and Six band, was simply overwhelming… The night glowed as Yinka and her band rode the credo of repeated applauses and screaming by the gathering of distinguished audience that saw the show staged at the Oriental Hotel as produced by Heartlinks Venture, led by social worker, Kemi Otegbade; there was hardly anyone present, who did not celebrate the depth of Yinka’s artistry – her musicality, her singing, her performance which is robust with theatricality.

LAST Sunday’s show, which held at the African Bar, Lagos Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, was part of activities to mark the World Sickle Cell Day.

The World Sickle Cell day is celebrated across the globe with special emphasis in African nations and Asia. The celebrations include, media campaigns, musical and talk shows, cultural activities and many other events by groups and non-governmental organisations that aim at creating awareness for the scourge.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that mostly affects people of African ancestry, but also occurs in other ethnic groups, including people who are of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent. It affects haemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells (RBCs) that help carry oxygen throughout the body.

On December 22, 2008, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/63/L63 that recognises sickle cell disease as a public health problem.

Among the objectives of the resolution was the celebration on June 19 of each year as a World-Day of Sickle Cell Disease.

ABOUT two months earlier, when Elfreda Yinka Davies appeared on stage at the Metropolitan Club, Lagos to formally introduce her recently released double CD, Black Chiffon, her music mesmerised her audience.

She entertained the impressive gathering of guests that included members of the diplomatic community, the entertainment industry, culture enthusiasts and her fans with tunes that celebrated her vocal prowess; and her garnered experience after years of hanging-in in the scene even when a musically gullible public gobbled up mostly substandard musical works that now rule the market.

The show, designed to mark the release of her second solo studio release, Black Chiffon, was a double-barrelled one of album listening party and autograph signing.

Before Black Chiffon, many had wondered what was happening to the artiste, whose musical narrative is an assemblage of different genres.

Did not releasing an album before now not give her concern?

“No,” she says. She motions to a companion, who adds, “all those years, she was summiting herself to the will of God.”

The lady, who’ll be 41 on July 17, talks with a lot of humour. In fact, for every word, she has what seems a funny answer.

“You see there are some goats, there are some stubborn goats and there are some real hard nuts. You have to decide who you are and you must come down! You must be totally and absolutely unreal to be what I am. It took me about 17 years and some months,” Yinka grins.

She says in a girlish good nature, “Biodun Olaku, the one that has gallery and Bisi Fakeye, they were the ones that sent me away to go and finish what I started; and I have finished what I started. They are like it’s taking me how many years from 1986 till now to get them something to say at l-a-s-t the woman has finished something! People believe that I’m totally incoherent, too lazy… what’s she doing after all and I think that is joy.”

Her feelings about the album listening and autograph signing?

Yinka snipes, “in 1986, my first experience on stage was joy and if you remove from that stage I will just find a way to kill you and run away.”

Yinka says, “that was the first show I did myself. All these while, I’d always been trying to get the feeling. I did all the run around and everything. Wow!... I’m just too happy.”

A broad, engaging smile is never far from Yinka’s lips. Little wonder many see her as eccentric.

Why did you decide to go underground?

“I have been running away from the music.”

Why has she been running away from music?

“Music is actually easy, music I love you, come and touch and the rest of it so easy, but there are more things to it. I had to actually take my consultation, what do I want to do? What do I want to achieve? And how do I want it explained?” She asks.

Has she now reinvented yourself?

“I haven’t, I’m only trying to get there; you see I try to do all, apala, I go there and come back, and all that mix up, is like that particular stage of life allowed me to do what I like and give it to you the way I like it so that you can appreciate what I do in everybody. Like you are black, white, green, yellow, so I now put all the colours together in my own view, can it fit those people? It’s for you to see how I see you. So, music for me is more than just sit me up, open the door and get back to my car, sort of a thing.”

SO, why the Black Chiffon?

She screams, “That’s is it! That’s exactly, what I want to try to say? People can’t think they don’t want to know where you are coming from; all they are interested in is to see you look good.”

How many months or years did it take you to get to the Black Chiffon?

“Like eight years,” she retorts.

Why did it take up to that?

“I will give you an idea; when I listen to songs, maybe Salawa Abeni or Baba’n Gani agba… when I hear such songs in my head, I ask myself, ‘is it blues or nothing else’. I always hear blues in every music I listen to. Someone once asked why I was ‘always hearing blues in something else and how do I combine these two things? The music is crazy, local and nothing more than local content; so, you want to bring your blues into the local content, so, he has to find a way to provide for me’.

“What is even more interesting is you know how we women fall in and out of love and guy now dumps you and you now say Olorun ma je ki Dada ni kan su le, what is the correlation of you not getting disappointed? You understand what I’m saying? For me, that is the Yoruba humour, there are so many things our society has missed out; the Northerners still have them, they still drink their tea, have tales by moonlight; all these are interwoven and that is what informed the Black Chiffon. It’s to give you something to talk about. You pretend that it did not happen, No, not exactly! It’s to appreciate the fact that it happened for if there is a sort of fall by the other side, you can tell exactly what happened by standing on the road and analysing what happened. It’s tasking and a lot of work, though.”

At that point in time, were you going through a period of philosophical recognition or do you just think that like goes on?

“No! I was being trained to become a person,” she laughs out.

BORN on July 16, 1970, her romance with the arts started from very early in her childhood.

At the age of nine, she found out that she was always singing and dancing to music. Her major encounter with the arts was in 1986 with a group called Troupe Africana at the National Arts Theatre Lagos, Nigeria.

She blossomed under the tutelage of Ms. Lizzy Hammond, an acclaimed choreographer, who brought out Yinka's performing abilities such as acting, dancing and singing.

Felix Okolo, a theatre director and Sam Ukuah, a well-known musician, further enhanced her talents for acting and singing.

In 1992, Bisade Ologunde (aka Lagbaja, the multi-talented instrumentalist/musician and ace saxophonist) introduced Yinka to the world of live music. This broke open her talents not only as a singer but also as a composer, lyricist and particularly as an arranger.

She was the female lead vocalist with Bisade's Colours Band and performed numerous live gigs with them; she also performed in the same capacity with Lagbaja.

Yinka has appeared as guest Artiste on the CDs of many Nigerian Artistes — Bisade & The Colours Band; Lagbaja (she was the exciting chantress in the debut of Lagbaja, Side by Side); King Sunny Ade; Esse Egesse Alex O; Timi Osikoya; Blackky; Francis Goldman; Femi Lasode's Afrika 'N Vogue etc.

On January 21, 1994, she had an accident whilst coming back from a rehearsal. A vehicle knocked her down, as she was trying to cross the road. She suffered a compound fracture on her left leg.

With the help of a charity call coordinated by Concerned Friends of the Arts, led by Femi Akintunde Johnson (FAJ), the late Wale Olomu and Jahman Anikulapo and others, an initiative, Save Yinka Davies Appeals Fund, she was able to be rehabilitated. She underwent a surgery to save her leg.

After her accident in the 90s, in which she suffered fracture on a leg and had to stayed for months in hospital, it seemed Yinka dumped theatre for music. Why?

“I didn’t. Though I have not gone on stage in a while, but I did two productions.”

YINKA, arguably a virtuoso in jazz and ballad within the Nigerian music space, has performed in major world cities such as Milan (Italy), Tunis and Sousse (Tunisia) and Johannesburg, South Africa.

In Milan, she performed at the 'Donna Africa' Concert, which was the highlight of the closing ceremony for the yearly African Film Festival.

In Tunisia, she performed at the famous castle - 'Maison du Baron d' Erlange Ennejma Ezzara' in Sidi bou Said, Carthage followed by another performance at the Spring Festival in Sousse.

She says Black Chiffon tells her story and God’s faithfulness to her, “I also hope that you would find listening to this CD a richly rewarding musical for you and for those that you may wish to share it wish.”

She adds, “I believe that this work will project Nigeria as a country with rich musical heritage and will be reference point for what music from Nigeria should sound like.”

Black Chiffon is a 17-track double CD collector’s item it is vintage Yinka in the fullness of her vocal power, vastness of her musical experiences and influences, her playful cheekiness, in her soulful glow and delivery; it is Yinka Davies just being herself and dragging you into her world of sheer musical joy,” as Iwhurie of 24 Media says. “If you like the African drums, if you like structured brass or wind instrument arrangement, if you like good harmony with a twist of the occasional minor notes, if you like the elements of surprise in your music, then you would love Black Chiffon.”

He continues, “The music takes you on a whirlwind expedition of sound with African and Diaspora African roots; the apala, the afrobeat, the jazz, the highlife, the soul, the blues and the fuji.

She appends her signature on all these genres the way only Yinka Davies can.

A percentage of proceeds from last Sunday’s show will go to the Sickle Cell Advocacy Initiative led by Ms Sola Adesola and promoted by Otegbade of Heartlinks.

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