In a brief but witty chat with Quadri, she journeys us through her early days as a child who loved making music
The story of Kafayat Quadri in a sense isn’t the cliché type, as most artistes would state while narrating their trajectory into becoming established acts. The Ph.D. holder in Law often finds time to reconnect with people through her music.
While on scholarship at International Islamic University, Malaysia, Quadri toured some parts of Asia, where she used her music as conduit to extend the African culture, employing a creative mix of jazz and neo-soul to capture the audience.
In a brief but witty chat with Quadri, she journeys us through her early days as a child who loved making music; revealing some of her regrets and future prospects as an artiste. It’s an interesting read.
When did you start doing music?
No, I mean when you actually started doing music
In primary school, I think I was 10. I started to hum and then compose, in secondary school. I did compose and perform for small events in my secondary school then.
What kind of student would you describe yourself as?
I was always by myself; it gave me room to observe, take in and write.
When was your first performance?
My first performance was for… We had a party in JSS2, it was a funny song and I even created a dance and it became a trend. So, that was where I had my first performance.
Who were some of the artistes you listened to?
I listened to everybody. Growing up in Abeokuta, I listened to Ogun Radio and they always played R&B from the ‘90s: Boys 2 Men, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Brian McKnight, and I had a thing for classical music. I listened to Sarah Chang, she does classical music and of course the old… Oh, I love fuji; I love drums. Actually, drums were my first instrument. I drummed on tables before I learnt how to play the guitar when I was 13.
Learning the guitar, how long did it take for you to grasp its rudiments?
In about three weeks, I was able to learn how to play three chords, which I was then made to present in front of the whole school, because I was the only one learning it then. It was okay; it was nice except that in my first performance, I opened my legs wearing a gown. It had people beckoning at me to close up. When I started playing the guitar, I couldn’t play and sing at the same time. I could only play or sing, but by two years, I could play and sing.
Did you school here?
Yes, I schooled at (University of) Ife after secondary school. I studied law. I didn’t do much with music then, I was still trying to discover myself. But in my final year, I came out and performed and my colleagues were shocked. I think it’s one of the things I regret not doing (earlier on). Then, Ife was a very religious environment for both Muslims and Christians, and because of that, you go through an ‘awakening’ with yourself and you are more cautious of the things you do and don’t do. At that point in time, I was not into exploring my music, though I explored my poetry. I went to law school thereafter. It was in law school I had my first performance at a bar, somewhere in Wuse II (Abuja). If I remember correctly, it was Salamander Café. When I started my NYSC, I met with someone that introduced me to the director of plays in Terra Kulture (in Lagos). I opened for them for about 11 months, every Sunday and Saturday. Then, I became more popular with writers and authors. They always wanted me to come perform at their book launch. I did a lot of that from 2006 and even performed for Chimamanda (Ngozi Adichie), it was a big deal to me. Thereafter, I started to work for a research institute – I’m presently a lecturer there – before travelling to do my Ph.D. (in Law).
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Do you think Nigerians are listening to jazz/soul music?
Why is it so?
I think Nigerians have so much to deal with. They worry about school fees; they worry about money to eat and so many other things. They just want the kind of music that will make them dance, something that would immediately take their minds off the worries. They don’t want music that would make them reflect, because they already have so much they are reflecting about. So, I think until we get to that stage when people don’t worry so much about things like that… But this is not to say that people don’t listen to soul music, they do. It’s just a bit difficult for a lot of people.
The trend in the industry is one that requires artistes to make popular loud music in order to get the deserved attention. Why aren’t you doing that?
I need money to make noise. You need money, you need sponsorship, and you need people that are interested in you. When I was in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to make a lot of noise and I left my mark there.
How about family life and their support?
My family is Muslim, but my dad was into music, he’s the one that’s always playing the guitar; he’s late now. So, the idea of learning music and wanting to do something with it came from spending time with my dad – if you are asking? I’m not married (laughs).
Any future goals?
I want to go to New Orleans (Essence Music Festival) to perform more, move around the world, be a world citizen, enter a place and have my guitar heal people.
Who would you love to collaborate with, both locally and internationally?
This is a combination of both international and local: Tunde Baiyewu of Lighthouse Family. I just want to follow him home.
Do you have any other person on your list?
It would be nice to create music with other people, especially for one reason or the other. I want people that are well known. It is good to create music with them, but with Tunde, I feel an artistic connection with him; and it would be nice to do something with Cobhams too.