From afar, we thought Efezino had an amazing personality until after our interview with her! Any word more than amazing will do, but definitely beyond amazing. Our conversations with her revealed how stunning she is, simply an overflow of everything beautiful. From her relatable words to her story and the authenticity she reflected. Again, we cannot forget to mention how powerful her voice is as a singer. The kind that stirs sweet joy and peace within.
Join us on this special annual ISSUE- As Efezino shares a truckload of inspiration on her inspiring journey as a singer and songwriter.
Enjoy and Stay Inspired
Your powerful voice is the kind that effortlessly stirs joy and a soothing peace within. How you combine your art with an amazing personality makes you even more beautiful. Can you please share some highlights of how you began your creative journey as a singer and songwriter?
Thank you so much for your question. I started singing when I was maybe eight or nine years old. I joined my church choir and, like, I grew up in a very musical home. My dad used to be a musician back in the seventies and eighties. All my siblings grew up in the choir, including my parents too. So my dad used to play the guitar in law school, in Lagos. So, I wrote my first song when I was 12 and that was when I started going to concerts, my elder brother used to take me to shows back at home in Delta State. And as a teenager, I was 16 years old when I took part in my first singing competition hosting space and I won. Yeah. And then when Nigerian idol came to Nigeria, not West African Idol. That was to me, Timi Dakolo’s. This one was Nigerian. Yeah. And I was part of the first season and I got to the top on the reg. I went for the third season, then I was in UT and I got to top six. And so I went back to school, finished. I have a BSc in human anatomy. And when I finished, I moved to Lagos, and then I decided to apply, go and for The Voice. I was part of the first voice, briefly, but I lost my voice. I had a cold, so I couldn’t scale through for this. Next season, I went again and tried and then I got to the live shows, you know, the semi-finals in South Africa and, which amazing.
And just before going there, I was with my former label on Biosca, Hemanaka, Soul Tracker, music group. And after we came from The Voice, I did some covers with the Rude boy, (medical legals), and Falz. And then I put out the video, Mary, shut up Mary and it took a while for people back at home to really appreciate and like the song. But I think it took maybe from six months to a year and then people started feeling it. And now it’s everywhere and I had to do it in 2019, I had to do it in Swahili, French, pidgin. And then in an EP, he put it out and then he blew it up in the Ocean region, in a national island where we have Fiji, New Zealand and all those other countries. And I didn’t know so a fan reached out to me and was like, hey, a song is popping up on TikTok and these places and I was like, what? And then I went on Instagram, like, wow, what’s going on? And this young producer reached out that he was still trying to work on a siren remix. And the original was popping there, and his friend danced to it and then people loved it. And then I sent him my vocals. There are two versions that have been trending on the top 60, yeah, over there for like some months now, like I just kept seeing videos. The original has almost 40,000 videos on TikTok. And I’m like, what? They made a dance out of it. It was trending on radios. I’m like, wow, this is amazing. Powerful music is pretty dope. So that’s my part of my journey. Oh, and also I’m on tour currently with Simi in the United States of America. And it’s been crazy. Like we’ve just finished the first leg. I’m still a bit tired. Tomorrow we go to the next one. The next leg. And boy, it’s been really fun. It’s been amazing. I’ve been able to meet my fans in America and also meet more fans, like new people that didn’t ever really know me before. And I mean, I’m really blessed and thankful for the opportunity to be able to reach people here, those that have been following me for years, since Idols, The Voice and make new people meet new friends also. So I’m just really thankful for everything.
Can you remember the first song you ever wrote and what inspired it?
Okay, yeah. So I grew up listening to a lot of jazz music, new age, yanny, Celtic music and some Celtic musicians, I don’t remember. I grew up listening to Yolanda dance, the yellow jacket. So I wrote my first song to the jazz piece by the yellow jackets, the South African group. And I had these stacks of CDs, my brother used to buy a lot of CDs. We had this five-loader deck. So I listened to a lot of jazz music and I wrote my song to track 12 of one of the albums. I’m trying to remember the name of the album… I don’t remember. And yeah, then I sang it in this concert and that is how I started, I just kept writing and writing and going from concerts to weddings until school had to come first. So we are so good, yeah.
We are grateful to have you on board this special ISSUE with the theme- The Art of Christmas. Do you celebrate Christmas? What’s your most memorable moment yet, in this holiday season?
Well, I didn’t really celebrate Christmas a lot because I’m from a Christian home, but my church didn’t really celebrate like celebrate Christmas, the way Catholics and all other churches do. So we didn’t do a service about it in church or plant a Christmas tree. My dad is also pastor. So, we celebrated at home, but we never did the church, never did the whole come to service and celebrate Christmas with the tree. What we do is like cook food, open our doors. I will never forget the amount of fried rice and chicken I used to wait for. So they have a special scent, aroma, and then there’ll be banga soup, there’ll be starch. Cousins would come in and the house would be full. So most of my fond memories, if we we’re not spending it with my grandparents, my maternal and paternal grandparents, then cousins are coming. So I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents and God rest their soul. And so yeah, it was always fun. And then once we’re done eating in the house, we go to the next house. There’s moimoi as well. And if we’re not going, neighbours are bringing. There’s an exchange of dishes from house to house, and always so much to eat. So it was always really fun.
So what was your favourite food during Christmas. Was it, the rice or the chicken or the turkey. Which one would you choose?
Both. It cannot come separately. It’s a combination.
How was growing up like?
So I grew up in a very calm neighbourhood. I was a reserved child, so I never really used to go out much. The only time people would see me is when I’m riding my bicycle, me and my younger brother, around the street and back.
And then I won’t forget my dad or my older brother would drive us to the pool. So there’s this pool in NNPC back at home, Delta state. My friends, we all kind of learnt how to swim. I almost drowned, so it took me a while. It kind of almost scarred me for life. But like almost every weekend we use to go to the pool with our friends and all their parents would come carry us to the pool. So my parents have always been supportive of my career, like singing and my mom called me Maria, she still calls me Maria from sound of music as a kid, because I’m always singing and disturbing the house running around jumping, watching idols on TV before the voice came and watching fashion police, E-News and the rest. So growing up was really fun. Cartoon Network was one of my favourite channels. So travel and Pop Up Girls, Samurai Jack.
So do you watch cartoons till now?
Yeah, sometimes. But cartoon network has ended after 30years. Can you imagine?
Okay, there’s Nickelodeon.
Nickelodeon. I mean, I love Nickelodeon. See, they are separate. They have separate pieces of my heart and Nickelodeon was fun. For me, one of my favourite shows was Zoey 101 and Big Time Rush. But Cartoon Network was really special. So I grew from Cartoon Network to Nickelodeon. Yeah it was really interesting. I have a fun memory of my brother and I, we used to struggle for the remote control. I don’t know if you ever had that in your household.
What’s your dream life as an Artist?
Well being an independent artist is not always very easy because you have to work save money and I’m a full time musician. And then you have to promote yourself, you have to use connections to put your song out and it’s a lot of work. So, for me, I just want to keep doing what I love, writing and putting our music and having people appreciate it and getting to perform live. That’s my dream of being an artist and when I saw the videos of what my songs were doing in a region, a continent that I know nobody in. It really made me feel fulfilled, like, okay, I was meant to do this. I’m doing something right. Sometimes it might not be as fast as people would want it, but I guess like they say God’s time’s the best. And I didn’t have to push or do anything and it just organically grew there. So I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, have people support as much as they can, and put out good music, and good collaborations. And one day start a family and still do what I’m doing.
So there’s this thing my younger brother and I used to do when we watched an interesting movie and we also like the song. Then we knew of Adele before she became Adele. We go on Google, then there was no Shazam. So we’ll keep rewinding it, type out the lyrics and find a song. Yeah, this tiny (ear pod) my sister gave us, so we would go find it and then we’d already put it inside and then later I got the bigger one. And so I listened to a lot of Celtic music, jazz, new age, pop, Britney Spears was one of my favourite then. And before Afrobeat was even Afrobeat, I of moulded my style. And because I grew up in Amaisiko from Delta State, my mom used to have this cassette or traditional songs too. And if you’re walking on the street, you hear songs in Ishekiri, Ijaw, all those different languages in Delta State. So it all formed my foundation for me as a musician and at the onset when I dropped (Amari) my first single. We the team wanted to portray the South-South culture like to try to not just portray just my tribe but even the whole South-South culture and I’m a very proud delta. Yeah, I’m a very proud Southerner. That’s why I don’t like when people call me Efe or Zino. No, call the full name. Your name is very important; names are very important to me. It tells you who you are, your heritage, your culture. So we wanted to portray the culture from the South of Nigeria. That’s why we went hardcore on the style and delivery and it shocks me that till today the song is still blowing and popping. I’m like, thank you God. I’m actually looking forward to my next project. I have other stuff and I have a whole body of work with different genres. So you can say my genre of music is like combination of Afro pop, soul, country, contemporary, like I told you, there is the new genre I just learned of, I didn’t even know about it. I will remember and tell you, but like contemporary pop, Afro pop, soul, R&B. Also I didn’t even know I could do R&B until like, yeah, but we keep consuming different kind of sounds. It’ll shock you what you come up with when you open your mind.
So true. So true. Well done. Your voice I’m going to say is a wonderful one. I mean, I listen to the voice Nigeria now, you and Daniel, the away song. It was so awesome. I love it.
Yeah. Oh my god. Fun fact: I didn’t know the lyrics to that song. I got to learn the lyrics in less than a day and none of us are Yoruba. Yeah. So it was a bit tough. So we kept biting our tongues, I had to run around to ask one of my friends, Arewa, to help teach me and then we had to make it our own twist, change it a bit, but it was fun. It was really fun. It was fun for me.
Do you feel creatives in developed countries are at advantage than those in developing countries?
Yeah. Of course, I mean, you have a child. Today you see him hitting drums with the stick and then here you’d be like oh let’s put him in music school and then you put them in music school and then you find out that this child has a talent in instrument, playing instrument or they start just holding their toy mic and they’re singing. There are some doctors here that are mad pianists, some complete bass guitar, some are like, they do all sorts of different things.
But back at home, there’s so much limitation. I mean, you grow up in a place where you don’t even have very good music teachers. I remember my music teacher back at home in secondary school. The only thing I remember right now is tone tone semitone music team. That’s all. And then there’s no encouragement. There is nobody to help encourage a child. I was a very quiet child, always focusing on school and class, music had always been my passion, but I didn’t really have, the environment to encourage me. So I had to go out, like I had to, as a teenager, to go out, go for competitions and thank God my dad used to support me but we didn’t have the foundational structure back at home to help encourage me as much as I should. I mean if I was in a place like America or I was born here. I would have been a multi-instrumentalist. I would have gone to Julian. I would have gone to so many. Yeah I still hope maybe one day I can maybe do a short course there or like get accepted. There are so many other creatives not just even in music, in arts, the whole arts department, writers, painters that’s really difficult. Some people later end up giving up and just getting married and getting a nine to five job. I don’t blame them. It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. So I just wish we had enough structure put in place to help encourage children. I feel like now most people like me and you, we have understood. We have to, if we can’t wait for the government, we have to at least try. There’s YouTube now, internet. So like my niece, she loves puzzles. She loves to do stuff. So her dad always supported her since she was three months old. She couldn’t even sit properly. She would fall down, my dad, my brother who pushed his laptop in front of her, she was already interested in computer stuff, data, algorithm, as a toddler.
So I feel like that’s the only advantage we have. That’s the only way we can grow. Yeah. But yeah, the people here have it kind of better. That’s so true.
Balancing work time and rest time is a struggle for many Creatives. Please share a few tips on how you try to balance work time, rest time and family time?
So cool. So recently I learnt micro-napping even if it’s for 10 minutes. if it’s in the car, I sleep off. On the plane, I sleep off. I used to find it difficult to sleep off except everyone was quiet but omoo. You’re not going to wait for anybody. So you have to find where, like anywhere, even if I have to learn how to rest, shut my mind, even in a noisy place, and now I’m on tour. We performed in Atlanta two days ago. We missed our first flights. We got there by seven. Show was for nine. We got really dressed up and performed and we went back to the airport. So we hadn’t slept. We had barely eaten. But as we were going, I slept in the car. I slept in the plane. I slept for like 10 minutes. And then I get these two days break now. I just have to take time for myself and just stay in bed, even if I’m on my phone I’m just staying in bed and decompressing. So you just have to make it work, you know, or you’ll break down. I’m saying it because I have broken down before for no reason properly. So I take my rests. I’m still working on it. I’m still a work in progress. Well, it’s better than before.
I speak to my parents almost every day. Like Kemi was asking, a friend was asking, oh, like you really close to your family. I’m like, I don’t have a choice. I grew up in a very close family, we’re very tight. Me, my siblings, my dad, and mom, my niece. So, immediately I get back to Nigeria I go see them. I create enough, I try to talk to them as much as I can, pray together, check up on each other.
Your song ‘Amere’ is a masterpiece and stays evergreen from its original version, to its Acappella version and now its current remix. What will you consider most fulfilling right now in your journey as a creative?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve dropped a couple of other songs. I’ve dropped Ulome, Amere. I’ve dropped a full album because of the pressure from fans wanting me to put it all out. I was just like, okay, I’m not going to wait, let me just put out the full album. But to me, like I said earlier, having to see people near and far away connect to my songs, dance to them, sing along, even if they don’t know or understand jack of what I’m saying is the most fulfilling moment. And then being able to come to the United States of America for the first time and get to experience this one on one.
It’s been the most fulfilling moment for me. And then back at home I was recognised given an award for the best female artist that was I believe this year, middle of this year and I was like okay wow people have been paying attention so I’m just grateful.
What does success mean to you?
To me, I feel like I’m just growing. I’m just moving, in life you have to keep learning. There’s this saying, I used to watch CNN growing up. I don’t remember the whole line, but it goes like when you breathe, you live, you keep learning. When you keep learning, you keep moving, that’s called living and you keep growing. So to me, I feel like I’m still growing. I have so much to give. And every other thing I do on the side, music is my number one thing I’m going to do. I feel like that’s what I’ve been called to do in this life. So success to me is having people to connect to my music and it’s inspiring someone, making you happy, making you laugh. Like I mentioned earlier, when I saw people connecting to the song without understanding what I was saying, yet it was bringing so much joy to their hearts, I felt fulfilled. So success to me is not all about having all the money in the world. If it’s about money there are so many stuff, so many projects that I’ve done, so many ads that I was not even paid for, but I’m not moved by that. What pushes me to keep going is how much I’m inspiring people. Some people send me messages about how much my music is changing their life, bringing joy to them. And I just feel blessed that I’m doing what I was called to do. And I am still ahead of myself.
Please briefly tell us something we do not know about Efezino Akpo.
I feel like I’m very open to my fans. And they already know I like food. I don’t eat too much in quantity but like to eat here, eat there. I like banga soup and starch. Lemme think. I can’t really drive. I’m not a very good driver. So, um…
There’s room for learning
I mean, I can drive, but I’m not a pro. Lagos roads scare me and the drivers they scare me. But you’re looking for something in more intense, right? You want me to tell you my secrets. I’m not telling you my secrets. I am a very reserved person. So when people, reach out on social media and like, oh, she replied. I just feel like; I owe it to people to communicate. But I don’t think a lot of people know, a lot of people can be like oh, she’s like very open. She talks all the time, but they don’t understand. They don’t know that. I’m a loner sometimes. Like my friends that know me, they use to complain that I don’t go out, they say let’s go for this event, let’s go here, let’s go but I’d rather stay in my room, stay at home and just chill and watch some tv, record. So yeah I guess that’s something some people don’t really know about me
Yeah, so you’re a home person
Yes, I’m a home buddy. I have few friends but they are good friends
Let’s go a little poetic: if poetry is a rainbow and you have a choice of one colour in that pallete, what would that be and why?
Violet because I think it’s beautiful. Okay, back in school, I feel like if I had a room or something, I love lavender, so anything with violet in it, any colour, it kind of gives me this calm and peace and serenity. So I think like I’d pick violet. Yeah.
What does Art mean to you?
Okay let me summarise. It kind of reminds me of when they’ll tell you write an essay or summarise or write in two sentences. Art to me is expressing myself, speaking from my heart and trying to convey the message to as many people that would listen.
Massive Love Efezino!
The ICONIC Team