Lami Phillips or better still, Lami is a Neo-soul singer that, literally, burst onto the Nigerian scene just a little over a year ago. Her singles, Nuttin and Know which featured M.I became instant fan favorites. Despite the general belief that the Nigerian palate as far as music never went past Dancehall, or as it is called: Tin-Can music (loose translation of Kpangolo music); she made a mark. Her album, Intuition, was out right after and got a considerable amount of acceptance – Three NEA Nominations. Since then, she’s been actively involved with #LightUpNigeria and the Enough is Enough march. BNM talked with Lami about Amala, Okadas, and the reasons behind her activistic tendencies.
BN: So Lami, when did this journey start for you?
Lami: Well for most people you start at a very young age. It was the same for me. The point where I decided that this could be a career, happened 13 years ago when I was in England. A couple of people came up to me and said ‘this your gift is not a joke’ but I just thought they were having me on and being nice. But some people actually took it seriously and kept telling me ‘Wow the last time you sang I had goose pimples’ and stuff like that. So that was what started it all those years ago. The journey has been important in terms of discovering who I am as a person and also as a musician but more importantly as a song writer because to me music is a means of communicating — the essence of life as we know it. That for me was my big eureka moment, this is what I want it to be about. So, I ask myself in every song what am I trying to communicate? That’s what I’ve been able to get from this journey and I’ve enjoyed the learning process so right now I don’t feel like I’ve arrived or anything. I feel like I’ve just started.
BN: What was it like spending most of your formative life abroad and then adjusting to life here?
Lami: Well I’ve been here 2 years but it sounds like a lifetime ago but I just know that I’m more at peace with being in Nigeria and I’m more at peace with what the issues are; I understand what the issues are and the passion to change it has grown because I realized that at the core of everything that I’m doing I’m a human being. Whatever my gift is, which for me right now is music, it has to be relevant in whatever way. So now, I’m more ‘street’ (laughs). I can’t get on an Okada yet though…I’m terrified of those things. I have however eaten Amala at a Buka with my manager (Bayo Omisore) and now I like it. I love being Nigerian; I love the strength of our character as a country. What it is now is putting out a more positive vibe as to what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it and when we speak with one voice. I can sleep without electricity now *laughs* when I just came back that was a no-no. It’s not that I want to tolerate the fact that we have erratic electricity just that I’ve learnt to live around it. So, please #lightupnigeria
BN: In the time you’ve been here, you’ve been involved with the #LightupNigeria Movement as well as the Enough is Enough Movement. Being a silver spoon kid, don’t u think it’s far-fetched that you want to be a ‘voice of change’?
Lami: Well I can’t say I feel the pain of the average person or the person living below average conditions; what I do feel is the fact that everyone has rights. I’ve been blessed to travel outside the country and see different cultures and economies so I know we still have a long ways to go in Nigeria and the truth of the matter is in every economy in every country they have issues. They have the rich and the poor. We have underprivileged people in Nigeria. It doesn’t mean we can’t relate with them. What it means is that some of us have been blessed with the ability to make a difference and I believe I’m one of those people
BN: Since you released your album, Intuition, you released two videos. Know and Nuttin there’s been a lull. Why?
Lami: I don’t think there was a lull. Some people don’t even release any videos from their albums. Albums and videos are like your resume. It doesn’t mean that outside of that CV the gift isn’t there. To show the gift you have to go for performances. You have to go for events. So there hasn’t been a lull. I have two videos coming out over the next month; Over and Ere-Ife which features eLDee the Don who also worked as the Director on the project and then we have one more up our sleeves but I won’t talk about it until it comes to light. And it has been really difficult trying to schedule the videos because my schedule has been really crazy. So that’s what we have been up to; a whole lot of promo, a whole lot of PR.
My mission in life is to be relevant and put out relevant music. and when people walk up to me and say thank you I love your song, it’s almost impossible for it not to get to my head because I’m aware of the fact that I’m just a human being and I’m blessed to have a gift. That’s why it’s called a gift; because you didn’t deserve but you got it anyway. So for me it’s really humbling when a stranger tells me something fantastic about the album I put out or when I get a nomination or when someone calls and says I want you to sing for my husband on his birthday. I’m a simple person and I’m impressed by people’s ability to accept me for who I am. And because I see myself as just me, whenever people tell me they saw me at a bar or somewhere on twitter or Facebook, I always say why didn’t you come over and say hi; because it puts a face to the name of your fans and it helps you appreciate the people supporting you better instead of using how many albums sold to quantify them. I also learn from my fans like I ask them what songs did you like on the album and what do you expect from the Nigerian music industry.
BN: What is there to expect from Lami in the next few months?
Lami: Well we have a show coming up called Lami Unplugged which will be a live show. We have a couple more videos coming out. We are gonna be live in your area in the next couple of months. I’m gonna conquer my fear of flying locally and get to Abuja and Port-Harcourt really soon. We should also do London and New York shows too. We have had to cancel a lot of things because you know in Nigeria the plans keep changing which is something I’m not really happy about. We are still trying to put structure to this industry that we have but it is what it is and we are working on it. We’ll get there.
BN: Any parting words…?
Lami: I have none…I always say the same thing though. We are all foolish outside of God’s grace.