Moranike Lasode, with stage name Marenikae, recently returned home from Atlanta, U.S to introduce her genre of music, Afro-merge, a combination of neo soul and afro-pop with electronic influences. The 24-year-old artiste, whose singles, Smooth Operator and Remember are currently enjoying airplay, speaks on how she left criminology study for music and other issues.
When precisely did you travel out?
About two years ago. I went to school in 2010 for my university programme and graduated in 2015. I went for criminology, my consideration was crime injustice.
Why did you have to travel to get a higher education?
What I wanted to study was school –specific. Even in Boston where I was, it was only two schools that had the course. Fashion Merchandising and Marketing was what I initially went for. Then when I transferred to my other school, my advisor said to me, ‘you know fashion which is already in you, why don’t you use your brain on something different?’ We spoke and I told her I have interest in human psychology and deterrents. She suggested me going for a couple of criminology classes and if I enjoy them, then I can continue. That was how I ended up doing Criminology.
Tell us how did the music interest come in?
Before I left, I had always been a musical child. My mixtape was done at the age of 15, I wrote my first song at the age of 12, and I have been writing and producing since at that age. My dad has a recording studio. And I have always had opportunities to do things related to music and my parents had always supported too. I am always surrounded by people who ask me to do one thing or the other that is related to music. My dad has always been a musical person. He can play like seven musical instruments. He is a director and a screen writer too. My mom is a theatre art graduate. She produces too.
Smooth operator is a beautiful song; tell us about what informed it?
I picked Smooth Operator because of Sade Adu. Sade is a very huge inspiration for me because she was the first Nigerian artiste to really cross over. She was popular in America, in Europe and Nigeria as well.
Now that you are trying to introduce your music, what do you have on the table?
I think there is space for everyone. For me, someone like Yemi Alade did not get scared of doing music, because Tiwa Savage was already there. I believe there is space for everyone, also with my kind of music which is quite different from what people of heard in the past. I feel that with my own kind of music called the Afro-merge, I can be able to create and find my own space and find people who enjoy such music.
Tell us about Afro-merge?
It is the combination of neo soul, afro-pop with electronic influences and some 90s RnB, and 70s vocal arrangement. It is also the complement of some songs that I have listened to all my life, as I was exposed to a wide range of music while growing up. I have a natural love for Nigerian music and artistes. I still listen to Plantashun Boys album. I love Nigerian music. I guess that is the pretty much cause of my sounds that has also influenced my writing process.
So I felt it was time for me to blend them together and create something new. Africa is huge and everybody wants to know everything about Nigeria, and they are always like, ‘you are a Nigerian, what about the Nigerian music?’ So I felt it is the right time to create something that both can enjoy. I want to bridge the gap between both worlds.
It’s a stiff competitive world here, how do you intend to break in?
Definitely by releasing what we have on ground and get to see people respond to them. And we are already working on some couple of performances here. I could have come in to perform, but I don’t want my first time in Nigeria to be on a level we do it in America. I don’t want to shortchange anybody, because I feel people work hard for their money. If they are coming to see a show, it has to be good. In all, we are working on a great performance that people will really appreciate at the end.
What about collaboration?
There are a lot of people I would love to work with. MI listened to my music and gave me some constructive criticism. Reekado Banks and Sheyman shot in my house in Atlanta, so I have met with some Nigerian artistes and Atlanta is like a spot for artistes. There have been a lot of interest on collaboration, but I have been advised by some musical veterans that for my first project, because it is different, I should push it myself and when people get accustomed to it, and what I sound like, I can then think of collaboration.
You know, pay your dues, release your music and take it from there. Get the acceptance or rejection of the project and then you can decide what to do next.
Tell us what you think about artistes having stage craft?
Well, performing on stage in Nigeria is going to be different from what I used to do abroad. Over there, the mindset is that these people have not have the total experience of what an African performance is like. So I try to do my music and some cover of Nigerian music and dance.
Stage craft is also all about building, but in Nigerian; I do not see stage development. In America, once you get signed to a record label, they put you up on what they call artiste development; where you go for a sort of training on media, tour and others.
You also infused pidgin into Gidi, do you still speak that?
The album ‘Ajebutter,’ all my first songs did not have any African infusion because I was very subconscious of the way I speak pidgin while growing up. I was always teased because I went to a British-like primary school, so my accent was like a point of reference when I got into boarding school. I was called Oyinbo and Ajebutter, which influenced the album. And I have been called Ajebutter all my life. The writer I worked with on Gidi and Smooth Operator, said to me that I need an African flow. So I said I was going to speak pidgin, and also use it as my kind of style too.