Prior to the time of her encounter, she had no relationship with Nigeria, whether by family tie or any other. But she had always enjoyed listening to and watching juju maestro, King Sunny Ade, perform on stage. And she had no other desire than to meet him someday.
However, for American gospel singer, Nikki Spooner, the day finally came!
“After I met Oba Akran of Badagry, he asked me to perform at his 40th anniversary with King Sunny Ade. I was so excited I nearly passed out. I proudly took to the stage to sing with the king himself. I had dreamt of nothing else but to perform on stage with him. You know, liking someone enough to want to learn his language,” she recalled.
Spooner, a nurse, born of American parents and herself a mother of two, continued: “I love God and the music I was given by God was gospel music. I am honoured that God chose me to usher in cultural exchange in Nigeria.”
And she is also a Nollywood actress. “As for Nollywood, that was actually something I did for fun at first. I thought it was so much fun just being on set. Then I started making money and getting more serious and I am very blessed to be a part of the Nollywood industry, as it thrives and grows!”
Hearing Spooner sing in Yoruba, one would assume she was born into a Yoruba family, or even married to a Yoruba man. But none of that ever happened. And yes, she tells you: “I have two amazing kids from a serious relationship which lasted eight years. I love Nigeria – the good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. And I have no problem being in Nigeria.
“I am definitely at home with Nigeria and Nigerians, and I can assure you that I always take the good with the bad. There are awful experiences everywhere you go because life happens, and that’s the way I see it. Nigeria is only 58, and slowly growing day by day. I believe in the change that’s happening, and every year I come back, there is more and more good to praise God about.
“Nigeria is an amazing country. One thing I say often is that every- thing we lack in America, Nigeria has! So, I haven’t any bad word to say about Nigeria or Nigerians.”
Does her fellow country men feel the same way about Nigeria?
Her response: “I change the mind of Americans one person at a time! See, there’s no way you can please
everyone, but anytime someone gives me the chance to speak about Nigeria, I always tell them my truth, and that is that Nigeria is one of the best countries in the world.”
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And if you think that was all, Spooner has more coming. “I launched my album last year, but ran into some issues which was why I didn’t send it to marketers, because people found it difficult to believe that a white woman was
the one singing the (Yoruba) songs on the album, and without a video it would cause people to think twice before buying, as if it was a trick… So, I decided to hold it until I do the music video this December in Nigeria. So, please come back and ask me next year,” she said breaking into a guffaw.
Spooner has had the honour to feature at topnotch events, and even interacted with the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and many more celebrities, including royal fathers and other dignitaries. According to her, Yoruba people are very accommodating and amazing.
“I have been so blessed to go all over Nigeria and meet people and experience things, even Nigerians I haven’t been able to see live! I pray that the cultural exchange programme will kick off in a big way so that during festival times, we can bring people from all over the world to experience it live as well. And my manager, Olamilekan and producer, Julie King have been working on a lot, and my calendar is already being booked up for December.
“The all white night out event holding on December 20 in Ikeja this year will be amazing, and you all aren’t gonna wanna miss it. Soji Omatayo is doing it really big this year, and award programmes as well as collaborations with other popular musicians. Sooo much going on! I am excited.”
Talking about her son, Spooner says: “My son, Fabian is just 18-years-old and is still in high school for his final year. He’s in marines training and I couldn’t be more proud as a mother. It’s all he has ever dreamed about and now he’s making his dreams come true.
I have always taught my kids to be what they want and follow their dreams because it’s usually God who orchestrates the big plans.”
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Asked what she knew about former President Obasanjo, she says: “Obasanjo was a great leader with what he was handed, and in my opinion, every person put into office has but one chance to prove themselves and become transparent. His time is up now and he still has great influence but that’s the way great nations grow – by learning from the mistakes of the generation before and fixing the problems, not adding to them.”
Nikki Spooner still has a lot she hopes to do in Nigeria. She has performed on stage with notable Yoruba highlife and gospel artistes, and featured in a number of Nollywood flicks. Her pidgin is so perfect you would doubt she actually had to tutor herself. She is also learning how to speak Igbo.