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Zainab Sule: Rocking with Nigeria’s rock music royalty

Weekend Magazine: The launch party of your latest album, ‘Hypersonic’, comes up on August 20th. What would you say makes this different from what you have done before?

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Zainab Sule: I haven’t done an album launch for years. I have done one, way back in 2010 that was supported by Radio House and then I did one in 2012, and that was it. All I have been doing are live shows, so I’m very scared in a way because I am not used to it. That’s why this is different. A part of me is still used to shows. I wasn’t comfortable about an album launch, but I want to give listeners an experience as well. So the difference is, I am going to play a lot more, with four other supporting acts.

WM: What makes this album different from your other two, ‘Elixir’ and ‘Attitude’?

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Zainab: Five years is a long time. I have grown. I am not the same singer. If not that sometimes you need those albums to like categorise your growth, I would say no. The way I sing now, my lyrics, and even dressing, has changed. 

There’s a lot of maturity in this album, a lot of me coming out now as opposed to then. Also, the producers I worked with then couldn’t interpret my sound. Now I was able to travel around the country and got what I wanted. I was able to work with people who are used to Alternative Music. In the former album I just met someone who’s used to the typical Nigerian pop music. That person would certainly find it difficult to interpret soft rock. Now I have worked with people who are guitarists and Alternative Music is more accepted presently.  

WM: What informed the lyrics?

Zainab: It’s easier now for me to write songs. I could just pick a title and put myself in that situation. I’m no longer scared about what people would say. I say it the way it is. Because I have a type of inspirational audience and lyrics like baby was sought of forbidden. But now I say it, and not in the way people think. So I am more freer in the way I express myself. A lot of that has shown itself in the album.

WM: What’s your favourite track in this album?

Zainab: It’s  the number two track, ‘I believe in Love’. It reminds me of a friend of mine who died. I performed the song in Lagos. It was the first time I was testing a song before an audience because sometimes when I write a song, I can have it for years and then one day decide to test it before an audience. That is how I know  if it would be appropriate. So I did this particular song in Lagos and wasn’t sure about it, but during the rehearsal for the Lagos show, I was performing it in a certain way and there was this man, Omo who advised me to put my soul into singing the song. He was supposed to come for the Lagos show, but on his way to an event he died in an accident on his power bike. Anytime I perform the song I remember him.

WM: You are well known as a guitarist. Have you considered exploring other musical instruments?

Zainab: No. It’s always going to be the guitar.

WM: How did you get attached to the guitar as your go-to musical instrument, as opposed to others?

Zainab: It was in 2002. I didn’t like the fact that when I wrote a song I needed someone to play for me. So I have always had that desire from when I was very young. I told my mum and my dad said “God forbid, his child can’t be a musician.” My mum was the one who, under duress, bought a guitar for me. But I couldn’t play, not until when I went to university of Jos and hung out with friends. I have never had a conventional teacher, but we had access to videos.  

WM: How were the two albums you released before ‘Hypersonic’ received by fans?

Zainab: I released two albums and one EP. The first album in 2010 did very well because Abuja was a closed up town where people knew each other. So it was easier for the album to fly. I performed a lot in church so it was easy to sell albums. The second album didn’t go as far as the first. Most people have the former but not the latter. It was after last year that I realised I haven’t done any album in a while except singles. So I decided to gather some of the singles, since I knew I was doing an album this year, and just give people so they have something because ‘Elixir’ didn’t go as far as I had wanted it to. 

WM: What artists would you say have been of great inspiration to you lately?

Zainab: Recently I have been listening to a lot of country music. I would say musicians like henry Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny Chesney, and several more, basically people who know what they are singing about. 

WM: What do you do when you are not giving time to music?

Zainab: I write code. I design websites a lot. So my time is literally shared in half. If I am not doing music I am designing. 

WM: So how do you relax?

Zainab: I watch movies.


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