The pendulum is poised to swing in favour of the female folk in the Nigerian music industry in no time – bearing in mind the astronomical number of hits female stars have racked up this year alone. And with new entrants such as Angela Chioma John, known in showbiz parlance as AnnJay, the male folk should watch their back.
With a voice that makes you constantly press play over her songs, the Gbakodoro crooner is certainly one to watch out for.
In this exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Michael Nwokike, the petite but sultry singer and songwriter talks about her music, Nigerian celebrities’ participation in the American Ice Bucket Challenge and lifts the lid on the truth about her rumoured romance with Oritsefemi and more.
Have you always had the dream of doing music?
Yes, for real. I started singing from the church at Redeemed when I was about 13 or there about. Later, I auditioned for the first edition of Nigerian Idol, but I was not picked. After sometime, I told myself that even without Nigerian Idol, I could still do music. Not long after, I did a song entitled Fly High. That was how it started.
How well did the song fare?
It did quite well. I had not performed on stage before, but after the song, I got my first stage performance, and it was awesome. I have performed to different people, even some top personalities like Gani Fawehinmi’s son and even some artistes, they were all like ‘you’ve done well, why don’t you take music as a profession’.
So, I decided to start with that and today I’m a full time musician. Though I worked as a journalist, I had to quit to face music.
What was that thing that inspired you to do music professionally?
I’ve always been someone that enjoyed music. I was born into a music home, my father sings also and is a big fan of Fela. I took after my father when it comes to music.
Who are your musical influences?
Michael Jackson. Everything he did was full of energy. 2Face also, I have always liked his music. I was kind of a kid when he started, and I used to say to myself I wanted to be like him. Here we are today.
What has your music journey been like since you started?
It’s been good. Personally, I believe that everything that happens to someone is a stepping stone to a higher level. One of the challenges we face as upcoming artistes is sometimes you’ll perform and you’ll not be paid, despite promises.
It’s difficult! Another thing is when an upcoming artiste tries to get some of these popular artistes to feature on a song, they expect you to pay up to one or two million for the collaboration.
How can you expect an upcoming artiste that is still struggling to pay that kind of money? It’s not supposed to be so. But I don’t see all these as bad experiences; I see them as a way of paying my dues. All these have made me to who I am today.
More specifically, what have been some of the highs and lows of your journey?
For the lows, sometimes, you get to a show and someone will walk up to you and tell you that he is in love with you. They’ll tell you ‘use whatever you have to get what you want’. Some will say ‘before you perform here you have to do this or that’.
I think it’s crazy. I’m not the kind of person to do that. I’m not desperate! That’s one thing that’s working for you. I think it is wrong.
For the highs, music has given me an edge, a sort of respect. For instance, sometimes when I go to a salon, the owner of the place will ask them to make mine first ahead of others. Even some customers will say they love my look and agree that my hair should be made before theirs.
Also, I’ve travelled to different places, met different calibre of people that I never thought I would meet.
What’s the latest with your music?
I have a new video for the song Fall in love out now, it came out earlier this month. The video was shot and directed by Obi China here in Nigeria. After I did Fly high, I did a song entitled Gbakodoro, that’s why when I go for shows they call me Ms. Gbakodoro. The song really gave me some level of fame.
Recently, there was a story in a magazine that you were in a hot romance with Oritsefemi. How true is this?
Really, Oritsefemi and I are friends; we’ve been friends since I was working as a journalist. We used to work together then; I did some PR work for him. We are really good friends. He’s not really my kind of man to date or something like that.
But what do you think could have brought up such rumour?
I don’t really know. People always go around to say stuffs. Maybe it’s because they see me with him or because we had worked together. Recently, I was at Global News awards. When I got there, we exchanged pleasantries and took some photographs. I think that’s where they must have got the idea from, but really I don’t know. I didn’t want to talk about this earlier, many journalists have called to speak with me about this, but I declined. I didn’t think it was necessary.
How did you feel when you read the story?
You know what, when the story came out, I started receiving phone calls from friends that I was now in a hot romance with Oritsefemi. I told them that we are only friends and that I didn’t know where they heard or read such stories. Truthfully, I felt really bad when I saw the story. They should be focusing on my music career. Besides, I just released a new video, not looking for some dirty details to publish. I don’t have anything with Oritsefemi, we are just close friends.
Also, you recently had a Twitter bust-up with Ghanaian actress, Juliet Ibrahim over her comments on Nigerians and Ebola. Tell us about it?
She indirectly mocked Nigeria due to the Ebola disease, forgetting that her career was made here in Nigeria. I had to put her in her place. It’s not right to bite the finger that fed you, she should remember that she started her career in Nollywood.
It was not really a fight; I don’t have anything against Juliet Ibrahim.
What’s your opinion on Nigerian celebrities taking part in the American ice bucket challenge?
I think it can be likened to doing something just to show off. We have a lot of problems in Nigeria, for instance Boko Haram, Ebola, HIV/AIDS. There are thousands of less-privileged children to be taken care of. We have more pressing problems, so I think they should face our problems, because this is where their fans are.
Who is Annjay – the individual behind the artiste?
My real name is Angela Chioma John, popularly known as AnnJay. I’m from Ebonyi state, Ohaukwu local government, born to Nigerian parents. A journalist turned singer, makeup artist, songwriter, model and dancer. I won’t say I’m not a shy person; I’m easy-going, though I can be naughty at times.
What was growing up like?
(laughs). It was cool. I was a tomboy while growing up. I used to wear some crazy stuff. I remember that sometimes I would lace my boot to go and play football or I go and jog. Sometimes also, I would just pack my brothers’ neck chains, put them on and just stand in front of the mirror looking at myself. It was fun growing up in the midst of boys.
Where do you see your career in the nearest future?
I see myself holding my Grammy award. I just want to be like Michael Jackson, he touched lives in every part of the world. I want to touch lives with my music. I want to see myself everywhere, doing collaboration with both local and international artistes.
Who are some of the people you are looking to work with?
I am looking at working with Nicki Minaj, Young Money’s, Lil’ Wayne, 2Face – I really like him, he’s an easy going person. I’m looking forward to working with Don Jazzy, the kokomaster, D’Banj.
What do you think about the Nigerian music industry? Do you think we’ve attained our full potential?
We still have some way to go, but I must say we are doing well. The upcoming artistes are doing very well, releasing very good songs, and most importantly they are being rewarded financially.
The entertainment industry in general has created a lot of jobs for the many unemployed youths. The only thing we need is encouragement; it will become bigger and create more jobs. We’ll still grow.
Finally, considering the number of female stars in the industry, do you think you have what it takes to rise to the top?
I don’t see anybody as a threat really. I believe I’m unique, I just do my things and let the fans judge who does it better.