Why I was in Nigeria – Jidenna

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I can unite two continents - Jidenna
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I can unite two continents - Jidenna
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For the Nigerian-American singer, songwriter and record producer, Jidenna, being in Nigeria was more like a homecoming affair than a business junket to his father’s place of birth.

His  visit to Nigeria presented him another moment to bond with his kith and kin.

“I know the label would bring me back if I say I want to promote the album,” he told Guardian TV in an exclusive interview, “but secretly, I wanted to see my friends and family again. It has been a few years.”

“But I am here as well as, besides pleasure, to promote Long Live the Chief, my debut album.”

The album would be released later in the year by Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Records.

Jidenna traced his interest in becoming a recording artist to a gift he got from his mother when he was a child.

“One day, my mum bought me this music production software for my computer and I started making beats…. I realised it was more like production than a video game but it was a video game when I was playing it. That’s how I got into music production,” he said.

That experience propelled him to develop a more solid base for his career as he merged his talent for writing poetry with his ability to produce beats on his computer.

His first official single ‘Classic Man’ did not only become a club anthem, it also fetched him a Grammy nomination for best rap/sung collaboration, three Soul Train Awards nominations for best new artist, which he won, the song of the year and video of the year.

But Jidenna said he is more focused on using his song to inspire people, especially children.

“The most important thing for me is the thing I strive for. But I also hope when I play my songs for people – adult, children, mostly children – that they feel mighty, they feel noble, they feel like warriors. And they feel like they can do anything in the world because that’s how I feel.”

For him, however, establishing a strong connection between his art and his fatherland goes beyond being physically present in Nigeria. His fashion sense and music he listens to constantly remind him of his roots. His current playlist consists of classic Nigerian highlife singers such as Rex Lawson, Celestine Ukwu, Sunny Ade, Sunny Okosun the Lijadu Sisters etc.

That connection, while blissful at the moment, can also be frayed sometimes. In 2015, Jidenna was accused of exaggerating his experience in Nigeria when he came for his father’s funeral six years. But in a post on his personal website, he staked a claim to his credential as a son of the soil who has shared in the joy and pain of Nigeria.

He said, “My father and Nigerian culture has always stood for excellence. While the majority of my childhood memories are beautiful, I also have experienced the challenges that Nigeria has faced since Independence.”

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  • Tosin