Abe Ebenezer has become one of Nigeria's most promising talents.
Known by his moniker Olakira, the singer's debut tracks, "Hey Lover" and "Flirty Signal," exploded in the world of Afropop and caused a surprising stir in Africa's expansive Afropop landscape earlier this year. Both singles garnered over 3 million plays on YouTube, Spotify, and Soundcloud, and Olakira still cannot believe his debut tracks took off that quickly. When asked if he knew these songs were hits, he said: "Not at all. The label advised that I think of the two singles as an introduction. They were optimistic, but said that I shouldn't be under any illusion that [they'd do well.]"
But the tracks' success seem almost inevitable in retrospect. Olakina is a talented ghostwriter and producer, who previously co-produced Dotman's "Akube" and "My Woman," among other hits. Popdust talked with Olakina about his recent success, his debut EP, and what the world can expect next.
What does the title of the EP, Wakanda Jollof, represent?
Wakanda is a unifying word, recognized worldwide as a good symbol for Africa, while Jollof is Africa's favorite spicy rice dish, so I'm basically serving up a spicy dish from the continent to the rest of the world.
Where do you see the Afrobeats genre heading, and how do you think you'll help it grow?
I think Afrobeats now is what Reggae and dancehall [were] in the 90s but with a potential to be even bigger. I feel my job will be to bridge the gap even further between mainstream Pop and Afrobeats.
How did you get into music? Was your family into music?
I got into music through the local church. It's where I learned to play most of my instruments, as well. My parents were very active in the church, and I helped out in the band and choir early on, and I could not get these melodies out of my head. The whole experience led me to produce music, and I soon got signed by my current label as a producer to support Dotman. I wasn't just a producer, but a back up singer and writer. I was shy and didn't like the limelight or to be at the forefront. Over time, the label gave me the confidence to [make a career of my own.]
Who else inspired you growing up?
Everyone from Fela to all the R&B greats like Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye .
When "Hey Lover" and "Flirty Signal" took off, what were you feeling? Were you expecting the singles to blow up as much as they did?
Not at all. I was surprised at how well it did, and it definitely gave me more steam to power my engine.
How did the EP come about?
The EP came about simply as a result of the feedback we got from "Hey Lover." The fans that heard it were searching for earlier work I had, but there was none, unfortunately. So we decided to give them a body of work. [The EP] is also for the doubters that were saying ["Hey Lover"] was a fluke or that I'm a one-hit-wonder.
Can we expect you in the states anytime soon?
Most definitely. My prayer is that the new EP spreads and fans over there familiarize themselves with my music before my visit. It's true [that] a lot of work needs to be done before my arrival on US soil.