From the red carpet to the music stage, Efya, also known as Jane Fara Fauzzier Afia Boafowaa Yahaya Awindor, has been around the world and back and is now ready to solidify a place in our hearts as our favourite Ghanaian songbird.
She hopes to one day be an African music legend and has been in the pursuit of this since she competed in Ghanaian music talent show, “Star of the Future” in 2008 where she was the first runner-up. Crossing over into other markets than just Ghana’s, Efya has been able to gain quite a large following spanning across the African continent and its diaspora.
Raised in quite a number of countries abroad as she followed her mother on the road for a hit Ghanaian TV show, Efya, encouraged by her family, pursued her passion for the Arts, studying Theatre Arts and Directing in the University of Ghana, Legon.
Having won ‘Best Female Vocalist’ four times at the Ghana Music Awards, Efya’s vocal prowess cannot be underestimated. And, with hit singles “Best In Me”,“Little Things” and “The Getaway”, Efya’s voice has never been far way from her fans’ minds.
While on a short visit to Nigeria, Efya took a break to have a word with BN. She was very frank, polite and bubbly as she opened up on her life, her style, her music career and more.
Tell us who Efya is with just a few adjectives.
Efya is eclectic, musically inspired, energetic, forgiving and very very very patient. Let me add one more – I’m very loving but I can be crazy when you get me crazy. Also, let me add – I’m very adaptive. I can survive in almost any situation.
You’re mum, Nana Adwoa Awindor was the host of hit Ghanaian TV show “Greetings From Abroad”. Do you think this ease to adapt to your environment has something to do with her?
Well, may be. My mum hosted this show where she would go around the world and she would contact Ghanaians. You know, there was no Skype back then so it was her and Ghanaians loved her. So, I grew up in different countries for about 15 years.
If you were a Bond Girl in a 007 movie, who would be your James Bond?
It would be Komla Dumor, the presenter on BBC Africa.
Apart from your music, you’re known for your attention-grabbing outfits on the red carpet. Describe your style.
It depends on how I feel. But, when I’m Efya, it’s very Neo-Soul and afrocentric, but young. So, it has a bit of Mariam Makeba but she’s contemporary.
If you were to steal a celebrity’s closet, who would be your target?
Who are your favourite African designers
IamIsigo, Duaba Serwa, Re Bahia, Deola Sagoe, Wana Sambo and Papa Oppong, who is probably the youngest African Fashion designer.
If you were granted three wishes from a magic genie, what would they be?
I’d wish to be a legend with the first one; then, to be super rich with the second. It’s all about money in the end. Then the third one would be for world peace.
Are you dating anyone?
Not at the moment but I have a best friend.
Do you have any Nigerian celebrity crushes?
Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Damilola Adegbite and D’Banj.
How did you get into music?
My whole family is music oriented. I grew up in the house with a lot of church people so my aunty used to play the guitar and my mum used to sing. Everybody in my family has a little bit of music in them so it was just one of those things for me. They were certainly one of the things that helped me establish my musical background so they were where it all started from. I’ve been singing since I was six.
When did music get professional for you?
It all started after ‘Stars of the Future’, a competition in Ghana.
You emerged the first runner up in that competition in 2008. When did you have that moment when you knew music was the path for you?
I’ve known ever since then that this is what I want to do. I went to the University of Ghana, Legon. I have a B.A in theatre arts and directing. So, in between all of the singing, I want to direct shows for the theatre but we’ll get there. For now, this is what I want to do and I know for sure.
You did dabble in a little acting though. We saw your sultry performance in Yvonne Nelson’s “Single & Married”. Are we going to see more of you in movies?
That was for fun. No, I doubt you’ll see me in any more. When it comes to TV, I’ll be behind the scenes, it’s okay.
Speaking of acting, your mum was on TV and you studied acting in university, how come you tended more towards singing career-wise?
Because I sing better.
African Jazz legend, Hugh Masekela said that you’re the type of act that needs her own club, something like Fela’s “Shrine” where you would entertain week in, week out. How does that make you feel?
Everybody has their own ‘shrine’ – somewhere they can hang with their friends and people who believe in what you’re doing. It’s not so bad. It could be your home too but I think it’s really nice that he said that about me.
So, what challenges did you have as a budding musician?
It’s always hard. People judge you. People are not sure you’re good enough until you enter their hearts. And, once you enter their hearts, you’re good to go because you’re going to be there forever and that’s what I want. I want to make music that lives forever so even when I die, I can still live.
In hindsight, what would you have done differently?
I wish I went to music school for my university. I should have done that but I can still go. I’m actually still going right after I put out my album and go on tour.
When should we be expecting your debut album?
It should be out this August, 2013.
Your fans have been waiting for your debut album for a while now and its release keeps getting pushed back. Is this the final date?
I’ve been saying this for about 2 or 3 years now and I know my album has been anticipated and been waited for but that’s why I’ve been putting out singles. I also realized that I have a lot of singles out and everybody loves them. I was going to put some of the singles on the album but I have a lot of new music too so it’s battling with me. I’m thinking I should put out all the singles in one compilation – a mixtape, before I put out the album. Either way, we’re still working on the album and may just put out one more single before it comes out. The last one we put out, “Life” has started working its way in. Before the album comes out, I’m sure we’re going to put out something. The ‘Best In Me’ video is almost done too.
BN had an exclusive behind the scenes sneak peek at your video for ‘A Moment’s Notice’ you shot last year. What happened with that?
Yeah, we shot that but when it came in, we didn’t like how it looked so we dropped it. It’s one of the videos that I’m going to shoot again. The thing is – you know we’re still fresh so we don’t have all the money we need. We do everything by ourselves – My team and I, alongside our team out here in Nigeria. The label is One Nation. It’s nice to have people from different countries who have your back.
Speaking of different countries, without an album, you managed to pull off a small tour to Kenya, USA, Uganda, South Africa and more. How did you manage that?
It’s a lot of pressure because everyone expects an amazing album. I mean, I am very very very grateful to fans cut across like this. It’s just a little bit more of hard work for us to enter the system and make sure we can live forever.
In Nigeria, it’s hard to breakthrough especially when you don’t have the right club tunes. How did you get your first airplay in Ghana?
I had this song called “Little Things” and everybody loved it so they all just kept playing it.
It wasn’t a struggle for you or your manager back then, was it?
When I was in school, for two years, I was managing myself. And, even then, people thought I was big. I went through a few managers before we formed One Nation.
I remember in university then, Jubilee Hall. I had to change dorm rooms because the boys kept stealing my underwear from the clothes line. And, at a point, I moved to the boys’ floor so that no one would know where my room was, since they would never come looking for me there. It became a normal thing; boys always used to steal my underwear but the boys loved me.
That’s hilarious. Back to the music, what do you call your genre of music?
I’m beginning to call it Efya music because I want to do everything and, you know, why not? What I say is that the basis of my music is Soul so whatever I do, you’ll still feel my soul in it. I want to make party music. I want to make love-making music. I want to make cool music and make indie music. I want to make Jazz. So, what does that become? Does that mean I don’t know what I’m doing? No! It just means I’m diverse and when an artiste becomes that it doesn’t mean they are selling out, it just means that they want to do something different and that’s not wrong. If you have a lot of people who believe in you, the person, the music changing doesn’t change their heart as long as you make good music and you keep doing what you believe in, nothing can stop you.
Would you say your music has evolved over the past five years?
Of course! Now, we record live band. We’re mixing genres so it’s amazing now because we can do anything we want and that was the whole idea from the start.
Where do you see yourself and your music in five years?
Well, definitely at the top. I want to win a GRAMMY. I know it’s a lot of hard work. I haven’t even won a Channel O yet but it’s cool. I believe in hard work so I’m just going to do my part and the future will tell. But, I know what the future is going to do because I make my future and I have a plan.
Who are music inspirations?
Right now, a lot of people because I’m listening to a lot of new music – Frank Ocean, Rihanna, India arie, Mary J Blige, Jay-Z, Kanye West; I love his new album by the way. As for Nigerian artists I love all the females – Tiwa Savage, Waje, Omawumi. They are people I look up to and they are older so it’s nice to know that they are doing all these amazing things. Because I’m younger, I believe that when I get to where they have reached, I’ll be able to do more so they will know that I learnt well.
Where did you have your first performance in Nigeria?
It was at Industry Nite. Shout out to Matthew because he was the person that gave me my first platform here. He’s amazing and he’s always believed in everything I wanted to do. Let me tell you the story.
I went out and people were performing at this show and it looked like an open mic so I went to him and told him I can sing and I sang one song after which they made me sing for thirty minutes. So, from then on, I started performing at Industry Nite regularly. After school, I came here for like a month and did a lot of free shows just to put my voice out there. That’s when I met Chin (Chinedu Okeke) and he started getting me the right shows. So far, I’ve done Lagos Jazz Series, WCW conference, Ovation Black & White Ball, Lagos Fashion Week, Music Meets Runway and more. Recently, I performed at the Tinsel 1000 show.
My foray into music in Nigeria started from Industry Nite. I mean, it’s a very great platform for new artists to showcase their talent and if you do it well, who knows? Look at me, I’ve even done shows in Port Harcourt and Abuja.
With your style of Soulful music, do you think it would be suited for the Nigerian audience?
I mean, I’m about to make some music that it going to make them dance. If I can make some Afrobeat-inspired Soulful music with a little Funk in it, I think I can make them dance. I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve been hanging out with Wizkid, Maleek Berry, Sarz, Leriq, Ikon, Dokta Frabz, Masterkraft and they’ve been teaching me a lot about the music; also, DJ Klem, who is on my album.
So what collaborations should we be expecting to hear from you soon?
I was in town a few weeks ago to do a song with Wizkid for his album. As for collaborations I want to do, I would like to work with 2Face Idibia and Wizkid again, for my album this time. I want to work with the girls – Tiwa Savage, Waje and Omawumi. I want to do a song with Femi Kuti because he’s one of my mentors. I would also like to work with Ajebutter22 and Butter Boy Rilwan. I’m doing a song with Syndik8 Records’ Blink and hopefully work with Banky W very soon. I would really like to work with Kenya’s Camp Mulla and South Africa’s Zahara.
How do you describe Nigerian music?
It’s fun, energetic and bouncy and makes you want to dance. People want to dance to forget their worries. But, I thought about it, when you’re done dancing and don’t want to listen to the dance music anymore, I’ll be there to make that cool music for you. I’ll be there to make that love-making music for you too. So, that way I can please all my audiences. I like the fact that grownups like my music too so it’s not like my music is immature.
What’s your favourite Nigerian slang?
Tension! I love that word – ‘Tension your daddies’, Aisha taught me that.
Do you have a favourite song of yours?
I love all my songs because they are very emotional and sometimes are talking about me low key. But, I would say “Best In Me”. I’ve won best female vocalist in my country four times now, three years in a row including this year and “Best In Me” won record of the year so it was really cool. The video will come out soon so hopefully more of the world can appreciate the song. I went to Kenya to perform and they all knew the lyrics.
It’s easy to assume that the song that got you the most notice in Nigeria was your cover of Duncan Mighty’s “Obianuju” which you called “Falou”. How did that happen?
I was still in love then. Not like I’m not now but my brother used to play scores in the house and I just recorded a rough patch when I was at home. So, after I recorded a better version in Lagos, I sent it to Duncan Mighty and he approved for me to release it. We’ll perform it together at the upcoming DJ Awards in Lagos.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
I saw Tiwa Savage and her crew at the airport on my way back to Ghana and I was really excited. I literally just fell on my way to say ‘hi’. Tiwa was such a sweetheart as she came to help me.
So what’s the oddest thing in your handbag right now?
Ketchup. I always carry my own ketchup because restaurants are very stingy with them.
It was great chatting with Efya and from BellaNaija, we wish her the very best!
Play Efya – Little Things
Photo Credit: BellaNaija | AmeyawDebrah.com