Olamide Philips, fresh on the local music scene, is a good looking female artiste popularly known as Lami. She believes in starting your big career from home. The holder of three different degrees from the University of Kent, University of Nottingham and Pen State University, England, tells Reporter, Ifeoma Meze, in this interview how starting her music career abroad sharpened her experiences and how she measures her success.
You have been into music for over 13 years now and you started the career from England and America, how has it been?
Starting my musical career over there gave me a very strong platform, a very strong foundation to start from. A lot of people think music is all about being a star or being famous, but at the risk of having a cliché in this interview, I really have a passion for music. I listen to every genre of music, whether country, folk, pop, rock, gospel, or whatever, once it is music I would listen because you learn a lot of things. You learn the art of song writing; you learn the art of communication just by listening. Then in terms of delivery, out there, I did a lot of work in the studio, back up, ad-libs, and ghost writing for people. I did more of that for people back there in England. I think that strengthened my ability to stand in front of everybody and know exactly what my own style of music was. What America did was to give me inkling into my own personality as a musician. When people hear you sing or perform, what they want to know about you is what makes you different and that is what America did for me. But as I always say to people, I am always happy that I am back home. I am happy to be promoting myself as a Nigerian artiste, as supposed to an African American. Because at the end of the day when people hear about Sade Adu, a legendary musician, they still don’t remember that she is a Nigerian. We hear a lot of things coming out of Nigeria that we are not necessarily proud of and I would like to be one of the goods exports of Nigeria. When we went for the MTV award in Kenya, I was very proud that we swept almost all the awards.
What is your kind of music called?
I coined it new soul hip hop because it is not new soul, and it is not hip hop, a nice blend of both.
You said you found out your strength in music, what would that be?
I found my vocal strength, the ability to sing. Another strength I found is the strength of communication. I am able to figure out what it is that I want to say in my music. Somebody said that music is what feelings sound like; I think that is a good way to express it. My strength is communication and I love writing. I love finding out how to bring out what I am feeling and communicate it to the next person through music.
Why did you decide to come back to Nigeria?
Because I felt that I had maximised everything that I wanted to do out there, and I felt out of place. When you are home, there is a way you feel. I cannot explain it and I wanted to be around my family. When you are doing something as big as this, putting yourself out there in the public eye, it is always very important to have the right people around you and I wanted my family around me. Also I wanted to do music as a Nigerian and then use it as a backbone for a lot of projects that I am interested in which I am hoping would help in rebuilding our country.
Your ‘Intuition’ album, how many tracks does it have?
There are 13 music tracks and three interludes. The one on air with the video right now is Know, the song I did with MI. Nothing Do You is another popular song in the album for now.
How are people accepting the music?
The acceptance of the songs is going beyond my expectation. People really like the fact that there is a woman out there that is holding her own and putting out good music and that always encourages me to keep trying.
People describe your music as groovy and at the same time fun and subtle, what would you say about that?
It is exactly that. In as much as I am a very deep thinker, I am very down to earth and I am a lot of fun. I always say I am silly and when you listen to some of my songs you might not know until you listen to the first and the second track. So there are some hearts wrenching songs there, there are some ‘think about your life’ kinds of songs and some kind of cool your head and have fun. It is a very nice comprehensive versatile album.
Do you rap too?
I try, but I would not call myself a rapper. I do more spoken word than rap, but I did rap in one or two tracks.
The shows we have in Nigeria parade more male artistes little or no female, do you have a problem with that?
What I know is that we have a lot of strong female artistes like Omawumi, Kel, Kefee, Sasha, Waje and I. There are a quite a number of talented female artistes, I am not quite sure what the reason is, but it would make me very happy to see more of us out there. Right now, to be honest, I think it is a man’s world. A lot of us, I would say this year, are planning on changing that. I like our guys out there. They are doing a fantastic job, but we also have female artistes and I think the organisers should be able to mix up while picking.
Don’t you think repeating the same kind of people would soon start boring the audience that attends these events?
The thing about the popular ones like D’Banj, Wande Coal is that they bring something fresh all the time to every show, and they do it very well. Bringing freshness into what you do is also what makes you unique as a musician because when you have three different shows on the same day, you cannot do the same thing in all. But at the same time, the show promoters and the listeners somehow have to find a good balance because most times the show promoters think that that is the only thing the listeners want to see, so they are doing what they believe would make money. Even at all these, I still applaud our entertainment industry because we are really making progress and we will get there.
While abroad did you feature any of the popular international artistes?
No, most of the works that I did were mostly underground, and very life stuffs. By underground, I mean studio works. And by, I mean Jazz band and Jazz cafes. I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do then in terms of my art. When it came up to that and I was ready to sign a record deal, I said to myself that I would rather do it in Nigeria.
So do you look forward to featuring such people?
If the opportunity comes, why not? But I am not necessarily measuring my success or my accomplishment by whom I feature, because I am a strong musician. So I am not thinking until I feature Jay Z in my album before I will be an accomplished musician. That would be crazy for me to think.
What would you measure your success with?
Success is your ability to metamorphose into a greater person on a daily basis. When I am doing my music, I said I like communicating and the other person on the other side understands what I am saying through music. So if anybody walks up to me and tells me that the song touched them, made them better or helped them understand how they felt about a certain situation, then I have succeeded. That is what I measure my success by. I went in for a radio show, a lot of people called to say they love my music, but a particular guy called from Mushin to say I got him listening to soul music, I said that that was success. My ability to improve or change a situation through my music is the success I measure.
While coming to Nigeria, did it occur to you that there was piracy?
Of course, when you are going to make a decision, you count all the costs and the benefits. I cannot explain it to you, but I have a strong desire to see Nigeria become a better place. So I am not going to stand at the sideline and call Nigeria names that we are bad or there is so much piracy. I have to figure out a way to make it better and for you to make things better, you have to go into it and understand it before you can make a change.
It is almost sounding like a cliché when people say they went into music because they noticed the talent when they were very young or
when they were in their mother’s womb. What your own reason?
I think I can understand where they are coming from, because we are born with certain gifts, but it is you that decide what you want to do. I have always known that it was in me. People have always told me too. When I finished college in England, a lot of my friends told me “See You on MTV Lami.” I did try to run away from it many times because trying to figure out what you want to do, how you want to do it as a musician is quite difficult. To find out the genre, the brand you want to build, it is quite challenging, but I did grow up with music everywhere and I can’t run away from it. When I am thinking, I am thinking in music, I make music on the go.
You said something about music out there being a man’s world, how do you intend to make yourself visible, what are the steps you are going to take just to make sure nobody looks down on you?
I think the most important thing even in any industry is the strength of character. Your character has to be strong. You have to be willing to be a hundred steps ahead of the guys. You need to believe in yourself, you need to show up on time where you are needed and very persistent.
The fame has started setting in, is it going to be a problem to you or is it going to be embarrassing?
The fame has started setting in. I don’t have to be a snub because they are the ones paying, so when they show appreciation I really need to listen to them. They are my paying audience. For me to say I am busy is being foolish, because when you put yourself out there as a public figure, then you needs to be ready for what comes with.
What about the male attention?
Blessed for me, it is a male dominated industry. So most of the time that I am at a show, I am always in the company of my male recording friends. So if I am with them, they protect me.
How does your family feel about the career?
They are very proud. My husband is my number one fan and my mum is second. When you do something with the strength of character, you do it properly and you do it with taste then they don’t have that problem. I do other things. I have three degrees; I am very well educated. I consult, I write and I still do music.
I learnt that you teach too?
Yes I work with teenagers. I am like a counselor, a youth leader like their big best friend. We talk about everything because while growing up as a teenager, many are bound to make a lot of good or bad decision, which would make or mar your future. So it is more like showing them the right direction.