I DON’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT ME, I CARE ABOUT MY ACHIEVEMENTS……….
SALAWA ABENI, QUEEN OF WAKA MUSIC.
Queen Salawa Abeni Alidu, is a Nigerian singer, currently sixty years of age. She hails from Ijebu Yoruba, waterside in Ogun state. Queen Salawa Abeni began her professional career in Waka music, when she released her debut album, titled, ” Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in 1976 on Leader Records. She swept others off their feet, by becoming the FIRST female artiste in Yoruba songs to sell over a MILLION copies in Nigeria. Come with us, let’s give you an entertaining and thrilling journey of the “Queen of Waka music”.
Let’s see the discussion she had with Princess Veronica Okei and Promise Naomi of La Veronica magazine, recently.
LVM: Congratulations on turning Sixty ma, on May 5th. How do you feel turning Sixty?
SALAWA: First and foremost, I want to thank Almighty God for sparing my life, it has been a long journey and a dream come through for me. To be at Sixty, is a great achievement for me and honor for me as well.
LVM: Can you say you are fulfilled at age Sixty?
SALAWA: Well, I won’t say I’m fulfilled in all areas, but in most. A house is not built in a day, but I thank God for everything and still dream for more greatness.
LVM: So, if you could go back to any age, what age would that be and why?
SALAWA: It would be the age when I started my music career (13), forty-seven years ago. I was very vibrant then and quite known as a good dancer, and my passion for music started to grow.
LVM: At Sixty, what are the most important lessons you have learnt in life?
SALAWA: I learnt a lesson from my mother, which is to be myself. I don’t care what people say about me, I care about what I achieved and what would make me to be a good person. I’m a straight forward and truthful person. I’m the blunt type, I don’t pretend to be comfortable with somebody or something, that is Salawa Abeni for you.
LVM: Do you ever think about retirement?
SALAWA: (Smiles) I will when God says it’s time for me. King Sunny Ade is over 70 and is knocking at the door of 80 but is still bubbling. Likewise our daddy, Chief Commander, Ebenezer Obey, and so many others. So, who am I to say “I want to retire”?
LVM: What is your greatest strength when performing on stage?
SALAWA: Water is my greatest strength. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. In our society, it is said that if you don’t drink or smoke, you won’t perform well on stage, but for me, I have never smoked in my life. The crowd is my inspiration, as I love to carry them along while performing.
LVM: Ma, you are such a strong woman coming bigger and better after five years of absence in the music scene. How did you manage that low fame and came back with a bang?
SALAWA: Firstly, it is by God’s grace and secondly, determination. In life, you fall to rise and to learn. There is no perfect human being; there must be hurdles on your way. My absence in the music industry was even more than five years, but God brought me back and I thank God because there are significant, positive changes now.
LVM: How do you manage to keep your private life even in the midst of stardom?
SALAWA: When you are going to be somebody in life, you will pass through a lot. Like I said earlier, I don’t care what people say, I care about what I did and whatever makes me happy, I go for it. I’ve passed the stage of caring about the negative things people want to do to me. My determination is what keeps me going.
LVM: Since your debut album in the year 1976, how has the journey been for you, as the originator of Waka music?
SALAWA: I am not the originator of Waka music. Mama Batile Alake started the music before I was born. I was told mama sang for Nigeria during the colonial era in 1960. Also, Mama Adebukonla Olorode Ajao-Oru, Alhaja Mujidat Damilola Lawal, Princess Adetoun and others, are those I met in music, and few are still alive though. The difference is that I started my own music of Waka, at a very young age and I decided to stand out in it. Waka, Apala Sakare as they say. I want to make something clear today; anybody who sings, be it Juju, highlife, Fuji, Apala, and so on, we are all singing in the same line of music. Waka , I was told, is an Hausa language and called ‘Orin’ in Yoruba. Waka is the sound, everybody just name it the way they like. I met Waka, I’m not the creator. God Just helped and supported me. I formed my own, introducing a lot of things to it, I made my own stand out.
I started with the name, “Salawa Abeni and her Waka group” . After performing twice, I added the name “Alhaja”. Then in 1992, the Kabiyesi, Alaafin of Oyo crowned me as ‘Waka Queen’ and since then I’ve been referred to as ‘Queen’.
LVM: You have been so fashionable since, tell us about your ethics and the fashion items you can’t do without?
SALAWA:(Smiles)… It sounds funny to me. The truth is that I never saw myself as a fashionable person, though people do compliment my fashion sense. I do dress according to my mood. Also, my daughter who is my greatest pillar encourages me on how to look good. She tells me my dress sense would speak for me and help me fit into the title, “Waka queen”.
LVM: You did a hip hop song with your son and you also performed the same hip hop at Fela’s Shrine. How did you feel performing hip hop?
SALAWA: I can sing any song, yeah, I could go to any level, not Waka alone. He also rapped on my song, “gentle lady”. My son is not the first person to do a remix with, at one time a singer actually used the intro of my song for a remix. The fact is when you give me your guideline of how you want the song to go like, then we arrange the song and flow together. I’m actually planning to do a remix on my song with Tiwa Savage and we are working on it. We tried to work it out earlier on, but due to circumstances, it wasn’t possible. I have also approached Simi at one time too. It’s just to let people know that I’m not just into Waka. I also noticed that a lot of people do commend my voice particularly the sharpness of it, which God has given me.
LVM: After four decades in the music industry, and you are still relevant till tomorrow. What advice do you have for the new generation of musicians? How can they still be relevant like you?
SALAWA:Thank you so much for that question. First of all, they should pray to God, be it a Muslim or Christian. Be focused, be truthful and know what you are doing. Let your YES be YES and your NO be NO. This world is a place where you will be thrown here and there, back and forth, but you should just raise your head high and stand firm, one day unfailingly, you will get there. Also make sure that whatever song you sing, sense should be in it. I’m not criticizing anybody, but just try to sing sensibly. You might hear a song for the first time and just get attracted to it. About two weeks ago, I was in the car with my driver, and I heard a song by Terry Apala on the radio titled, “Funmi Lowo”. When I got home, I found out the lyrics of the song, and I started singing and dancing to it, because what he sang made sense to me.
LVM: What is that one message that you would like to give to your fans out there?
SALAWA:(Smiles)…. Thank you so much, my fans worldwide. I’m so grateful to you all, especially how you celebrated me on my 60th birthday anniversary, beyond my imagination. I thank you all, I can’t thank you enough. Continue to pray and push me, I promise not to disappoint you all. Lastly, thank you La Veronica magazine for featuring me, I appreciate it.
LVM: Thank you ma, for your time