Smooth, magnetic and distinctive, Moelogo’s vocal chords oozes Sonics like a breath of fresh air over the speakers in an eatery in Lagos, Nigeria. The customers nod their heads rhythmically and feign a sing along to “One time” a hit single from Moelogo’s latest extended play project, “ITheEP” all while munching down on their spicy delicacy.
Scenes like this have become a norm and are testament to the powerful influence of the new sounds of Africa, which is taking the world by storm.
British-Nigerian Singer/Songwriter, Moelogo whose birth name is Mohammed Animashaun talks about his South London influence, his Lagos heritage and pushing his Timeless Sonics from Lagos to the world.
He chats with Tola Adebayo of SIMPLE about his latest extended play project, “ITheEP” which is the third and latest installment of his pronoun-titled EP project, the earlier ones being “Me EP” and “Myself EP”.
Read full of the interview below:
When did music start for you professionally?
Music started for me around the age of 16, that’s when I took it seriously because I realized it is something I love. I always sing every time; I always try to understand how I can bring that gift out of myself. Music started for me around that age and since then I’ve not looked back.
You are described as a British-Nigerian singer and songwriter. Why?
The reason why I’m seen as a British-Nigeria is because I live in the United Kingdom, it’s half and half, my life is also in the UK as well, I’ve got that side to me and I’m Nigerian first that’s the most important thing. I lived here first, I was born in Ondo state, and moved down to Lawanson (Surulere) where I stayed with my grandma till the age of 10, from there I moved down to the UK. I’ve got both nationalities and I mix both cultures into my music so I guess it’s right to say I’m British-Nigerian but when I go out there I tell people I’m Nigerian, that is what I am.
You went to London’s Starlight Music Academy. How does this influence or defines your music?
London Starlight Music Academy for me was a place to be because I did not want to be out on the streets, I did not want to be involved in the gang life that was happening in the UK, I did not want to be influenced to do something I don’t want to do out of peer pressure.
Starlight Music Academy was a place I felt comfortable, there was music and I was learning at the same time, that’s where I developed the love for writing and creating music and that was that moment for me that I felt like ‘I love this, I can do this, I can record myself, I can earn, why not just take it further’.
You do a lot of music in your local language Yoruba. Are there any specific reasons for this?
Like I said I’m Nigerian first, my household, my mom, they listen to the likes of King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, the music around me was Yoruba, the likes of King Wasiu, Pasuma, Saheed Osupa, so its like the language is ingrained with me and also watching Nollywood movies – I love Nollywood movies, nobody watches Nollywood as much as I do to the extent that I think I might end up being a Nollywood actor. All this helps me to keep and not lose my origin or language and I’m always using that to teach myself.
Been in the UK as a Nigerian, what was it like?
Living in the Uk as a Nigerian was a beautiful thing, because you’re coming in, and they’re not used to you, the way you speak, your intonation. I had an advantage because I was just there to adapt, learn and see how the culture is, and when I realized I can merge both of them it was a win for me because I’m teaching these people that don’t necessarily know about being Nigerian or Yoruba and they want to learn, I felt like it was only right for me to merge both of them. The Yoruba side takes over the English side, more like 60/40.
How do you create music, do you listen to the beat or do you write to the beat, what comes first?
When I’m creating music, am all about the beat first, I feel like the beat speaks to you, if it doesn’t speak to me I don’t tamper with it. I also make sure I get the melodies first; once you have the melody everything is easy, the lyrics will come.
Your fifth studio project tagged “I THE EP”. What was your state of mind when you where recording the EP?
Me, Myself and I was something I needed to do. I needed to speak about how I felt on society issues, my life, other people’s life as well, what I see around me. I felt like those 3 EP’s needed to come out so I can speak my mind and let the whole world know that this is how I felt whether it’s relationship, family, religion, whatever it could be, I needed to use that to speak to the people and they loved it.
Across the EP, you worked with lots of artiste from Qdot, Bella Shmurda, Adekunle Gold, Reekado Banks, LAX, Laycon, The Caveman, Ria Sean, what was the exchange like?
Working with these amazing artistes was a new thing for me as I’ve always been an artiste that likes to work with myself because I’m very spiritual when it comes to music, I like to take my time and speak my truth. I had to make sure that everyone I was working with was on the same level in the way I was thinking. I needed them to bring out the same energy or even better. Everyone on that project made it so beautiful for me to collaborate with them and as you can see people loved the song, if you haven’t heard the EP go listen to it.
Among the artistes featured, who did you feel most connected to?
All of them. They all gave me the energy that I needed, they all gave the songs what it needed and I wouldn’t have gone for anybody else because those are the right people, they killed the song and I’m happy with what they brought to it.
Your music has a spontaneity that makes it unpredictable in the best way. Walk us through songs on the project and the story behind each song?
I feel every song is different and unique in its own way because I’m speaking from reality standpoint, and even if it’s not my reality it’s somebody else’s reality, the energy I put in it makes it relatable. When you listen to it you can actually see yourself, it’s not far off from your reality. If you listen to the EP you’ll see that in each song you can see yourself in those scenarios.
What’s your favorite track on the EP?
If I have to pick one, I’ll say “Thing Fall Apart” is my favorite.
On the arrangement of tracks in the EP?
It was personal for me, the way I wanted to arrange it, if I had arranged it that way it will have been so moody, so big shout to my manager Teni Paul and producer Bayos music, those are the people that helped me to arrange it. Sometimes you have to take out the emotions as well, put the emotion there but you have to make sure that you work with logic as well.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
My biggest inspiration is myself, even though it might sound vain. I will say me, I inspire me a lot. God, my family, my surroundings.
In my music I speak about things that even if you don’t know me, or you’re not from the Yoruba tribe, or not Nigerian you’ll understand it, even if you don’t understand the lyrics, you’ll get it from the feeling or from the melody.
Who are artistes who shaped your music ideology?
I will say the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Chris Brown, Usher, Awilo. These are the people I was listening to when I was in the UK. I remember that time I would tell my mom to get me the Walkman disk and I’ll make sure CD doesn’t scratch. Awilo is one of the people I listened to during my younger days as well.
What is your favorite thing about music?
Everything. It gives you different energy, when I’m writing, a different thing. When I’m in the studio it’s a different energy, when I’m on stage its amazing because you’re sharing this amazing energy that I cant even describe to you because when I’m on that stage and I’m seeing who I’m singing to, I can see that they’re feeling the song, I can see that it’s talking to their soul and that energy, you cant pay for that. That’s the best feeling ever. They all have their perks, I’m always grateful. Just doing music is a big deal for me.
What do you want people to feel when they listen to the EP?
When you listen to Moelogo music I want you to feel safe, I want you to feel comfortable that you’re not alone, I want you to understand that the person making music is exactly as you. I’m just the vessel bringing out what you want to say out; I’m the guy that understands you without even knowing you. When people listen to my music I just want you to know that it’s okay, it’s okay to be who you are. It’s okay to continue working, keep moving, even if you’re not getting the right recognition at the moment in time, it doesn’t mean you’re not great or that things wont come through.
What your definition of Success?
Me doing what I love and loving what I do. Also seeing people sing your songs or seeing people write you messages telling you that they were in a good place and your song is what stops them from doing negative stuff. It’s amazing; you can’t buy this type of feeling or emotion. It can only be God because I’m sitting down in my home, writing how I feel and somebody else listens to the song in a different country that you’ve never met before and they’re telling you that the song has changed their life, it’s beautiful, it doesn’t get bigger than that.
Your thoughts on Nigerian music industry?
The Nigerian music industry has been growing, not just now, it has been the biggest thing from the likes of King Sunny Ade but right now I believe everyone is playing their part and taking it to bigger place and we are here for it. There’ll be more because there’s more people coming in, more of the younger generation that are going to take it to a bigger level as well. We just have to keep championing who we are and our language. We have to be happy using our language, let them know that this is our language, we are Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa people – we just have to be proud of who we are and people looking in from the outside will be interested.
What’s your take on songwriters in Nigeria and do you think they get enough credit for the work they do?
I will be real with you, I want to be politically correct but I’m a real person and I’ll say it has a long way to go in Nigeria. I think what we need in the industry is to reeducate ourselves on those things and that’s the only way we can move forward and be better so people can put food on the table through song writing. Not everybody wants to be on the stage or limelight; people have the talent to create a story. Until we learn, that’s the only time we can move forward.
What misconception do you think people have about you?
People think I’m proud, and that’s not the thing. I just believe in myself 1000%. I believe God made me and nothing else can stop my greatness because I’m amazing.
I feel people see that energy and they think it’s arrogance but it’s not, I just love myself, and I love what I do. Sometimes people that don’t have the same energy or cant be that thing that I am, makes them feel like I’m rubbing this energy on them but I don’t care.
If you weren’t doing music, what would it be for you?
It’s a difficult question because music is all I do, if I was not doing music, I’ll probably be teaching it, but that will still be doing music or maybe I’ll be one of those people that like to eat food, that go around eating food, tasting different food in different countries.
What’s the best advice you have for artists who are struggling to find their voice in the same way you have found yours?
For everyone still finding his or her voice, just search deep. I think the problem is that we’re scared to unleash that first energy that we find, and somebody can be in love with music and maybe all they want to talk about is God and that’s actually how they feel but the don’t want to do that because the society or the music industry has this image of ‘if you don’t sing about girls, money, having a great life’ then you’re not going to make it, and that’s the problem, I feel like a lot of people try to do what is popular and then suppress who they really are. Just be yourself, people that will love you will find you, not just find you because you will take yourself to those people because there is a lot things happening in the world its not just singing about money or girls. Find your truth and roll with it.
What are your thoughts on the popularity of Afrobeats?
Afrobeats is everywhere and it’s only going to get bigger. We need to make sure that we own it in the sense that we let the world know that it ours and protect it. I know it’s easy to collaborate with other people that are not Nigerians because they got bigger reach but you have to make sure your home is good first and people around your home are good as well. A lot of people don’t know how to tell the story properly, you only choose a certain people and it’s like you need to say the true story so that whoever is looking in and doing their research can understand where it started from and how it’s going.
Afrobeats is in a great place, but we also need to educate ourselves, and do the right things.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I will like to be remembered for loving God so much and am a loving person, I love people. I’ve got a soft heart, I love to love, I love to help people. I will also want to be remembered for speaking my truth no matter what, you don’t have to like me but I’m going to speak my truth. I will not be cornered or pressured to be somebody else that I’m not.
Watch full interview on Youtube:
Interview: Adebayo Adetola
Photography: Ekunola Arewa @rewa_foto
Videography: Olowolagba Ibrahim
Assit: Ebiniyi Fisayo and Anuoluwapo Dada
Creative Director: Rayo Kasali
Executive Director: Edun Adedamola