Queen of Hikosso music, YeyeAsa, Mother of the culture, Popularly known and called Floxy Bee by contemporaries and friends, in this close up with Head atqnews.comRennOffor, shares her how her father’s love for highlife music rubbed off on her, her passion to promote upcoming artistes who areinterested in promoting African cultures, and her sojourn in the world of music which has culminated in collaborations with some of world legendary musicians. Highly travelled, versatile, talented, warm, enthusiastic and a woman who ‘loves to love’, she takes him further into her aspirations which range from supporting and mentoring upcoming artistes, her expectations from government towards women artists to her dream of creating an institution that grooms and supports such talented artistes. Excerpt:
You put up a fabulous performance, an amazing show tonight! The energy, your voice… was something! So, for how long have you been doing this?
It’s been awhile, it’s been forever! I’ve been doing it for 30 years! But I’ve been away from Nigeria. Since I came back, this is one of the few shows I’ve had, because in July I did the unveiling of my brand, Yeye Asa, and the unveiling of my designer wears, handbags, and all that. Today, I am doing the show of the century. Breeze was here, D’Legendary Sisterz were on, and a bunch of other artists.
Before we go on, who is YeyeAsa? Let’s meet you.
I am Foxy Bee, the queen of Hikosso music, Yeye Asa, mother of the culture! It is called mother of the culture because I’ve been promoting African music in the diaspora. Now, I’m back home to continue, doing the same thing. And also using the same forum, to promote other artists who are aligned into promoting African culture. Also like Breeze, Starfaz, China Wonder, Judy King and a bunch of other wonderful artists doing African music, and not deviating doing hip-hop, and jazz, and all that.
What is Hikosso, and where did you get your inspiration for music from? Can we say your father inspired you?
Hikosso is a mixture of Highlife-Makosso I grew up listening to my father playing highlife Nigerian music in my house! Like I said, I grew up listening to Rex Lawson, Osita Osadebe, Victor Uwaifo, Oliver de Coque and the like. My father is an ardent lover of those high life music. And that’s why I’m in love with high life music. The best music that I deliver today are highlife. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it’. For me growing up actually moulded me to be what I am today.
In 2012, I was made the Yeye Asa (Mother of the Source) ll-lfe lyanfoworogi in recognition of my musical achievements and my efforts over the years to further the musical and cultural traditions of Nigeria throughout the diaspora. Since the age of sixteen I have been performing and recording. I’ve received numerous awards for my Hikosso music, a mixture of highlife, makossa, soukous, juju and afrobeat. I’ve also received citations from the cities of Boston and Newark for my efforts to bridge cultures through music.
My father was a captain in the Nigerian army, and growing up on the several army bases allowed me develop a deep understanding of the many cultural and musical traditions of Nigeria, as the army is the melting pot of all of Nigeria’s tribes. Even going to Church gave me an understanding of the rich African Christian tradition. The traditional culture was inscribed in me as an infant and again as a young girl.
Well, about me, I’ll say that achieving success for a woman in Africa is difficult and as a singer even harder. The Yoruba believe that a person is born with a purpose, anyone hearing me, Floxy Bee sing, would know that my purpose was to make music. And, truly, God on my side, I’ve done so famously in Africa and in America.
I heard YeyeAsa speaking Igbo, Yoruba, and mixing both in her songs. Is YeyeAsa an Igbo woman?
(Laughs). That’s why I am the mother of culture! As a mother of culture, it means you appreciate a lot of culture and should be able to sing or speak several languages. I also sing in French, Spanish, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa. It’s only an ignorant man that will neglect his own culture and embrace another man’s culture. By embracing your culture, you’re showing respect to your people.
You were away from Nigeria for a while. Now, you’re back. How would you rate the acceptance the Nigeria music scene accords to you and brand?
It’s been beautiful. Nigeria music scene is at its best right now. Nigerian artist are so versatile and talented. And now they use their language to sing. They sing in Yoruba language, and the language is accepted in Cuba, in Brazil and all over the world. A lot of people are learning Yoruba language, and they want to practice the culture. A lot of people want hear the Nigerian music, watch the Nigerian movies because they know they’re coming from a place of originality.
What are the various things YeyeAsa is into, and how would you rate Nigerian music?
I’m into fashion and clothing. We sew clothes for women of plus sizes. Nigerian and African women must have the curves, that’s what makes the African women beautiful and unique. And the Nigerian music is totally different from hip-hop, jazz and what have you.
When are we expecting your new album?
I just dropped my new album. It’s called, ‘Mo ye ge’, meaning victorious. It’s a new album with a new video. We released the album without fanfare, launching or party. It’s out in the market, it’s been played on television and on the radio. This year I’ve released about 6 songs. Some of them are ‘Because I can help myself’,‘Opami bi oti’ which is a love song. I also did ‘Moments of silence’, and ‘Ejekat’aye se’, a song which people love. I wrote, arranged and produced the music by myself.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to contend with since coming to Nigeria and as you push your brand?
The video to my music which was shot in Paris, but they refused to air the video here on the excuse that it’s ‘Christian-like’. It’s so sad. I was asked to go back to the studio and re-do the song because there was a particular word that would not be acceptable. So, I went back to the studio and corrected it. Still they wouldn’t air it.
So, outside music and fashion, how does YeyeAsa relax?
I relax by playing my ‘akungba’ drums, keyboard or, (I love people), I love to be among people. I like to laugh, smile, I love to be happy. I love to be among people.
If you were to set up a legacy foundation to impact people, what would you be focusing on?
First, my philosophy of life is, ‘Live, and let live’. Never judge anybody. Do not discriminate. Love everybody, because I believe in love. And I like to have an institute where they train artists.
What’s your word of advice for upcoming ladies who have a dream and are struggling to fulfil it?
For me, I always say to them, ‘Go and get your education’, and after that continue, come back to music. You should always have something to fall back on. The African music is very hard, except you make it big time. I’ve had to go to school. I am a chef, a personal trainer, voice coach, I’m also a security officer, and I’m so many things. And I love music. It’s my life and it’s what I do best.
Which musical video would you rate as your best, your best song, best movie and best book you’ve read?
My best book is from my best author, Macavelli. The book tells you about life, about how to live. My best musical video was by Tina Turner, ‘What’s love got to do with it’…
It’s like you love ‘love’ a lot…!
(Laughs). ‘Odiegwuooo’! (Igbo language meaning ‘it’s amazing’). Because God is love and love is God… why won’t I like love?! It’s a beautiful thing to love, and be in love with people!
My best movie… Love in Sierra!
Love in Sierra! It’s another love…!
(Another round of laughter).‘Na’love in Siaro, not Sierra! And my best food is Edikaikong soup with yellow ‘garri’!
Where’s the dream stage you’ll want to perform?
I’ve done Appollotheatre, I’ve done all the big stages abroad, and in the USA! I’ve performed with Lucky Dube, the Lematoys sister, with our own OsitaOsadebe, when he was alive. I performed for the late Ooni, Oba Sijuade, and for Obasanjo, I can go on and on! My target is where the Lord will take me to, the highest of heights!