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Did You Know Niniola Wanted To Quit Music, Now, She Is The Queen Of Afro House Music


Aug. 06, 2020

Sometimes, you try a number of things before realizing what exactly the real deal is for you. Sometimes you start, then you fail, you start again, and you fail again. 
The truth is, you perhaps still need to try harder because that is what you were meant to do. There are a number of people who were told that they can never do music, but today they are some of the biggest music stars in the world today. So also is it for other craft. What is most important is never to give up.
Beyoncé’s 2019 album The Gift, a companion to her soundtrack to The Lion King, finds sturdy footing on its fourth track. “Find Your Way Back” is supported by the graceful thrum of Niniola’s “Maradona,” an indelible house music single released early in 2017.
This nod marked the latest jump in global exposure for Niniola, a Nigerian singer who has gradually built an international profile since “Maradona” became a multi-country hit three years ago. 
Her latest release, “Fantasy,” came out on Thursday; it’s a wiry collaboration with the Nigerian luminary Femi Kuti driven by pinprick guitar, jolts of brass, and pattering hand-drums. “I don’t know why I’m working with these legends now,” Niniola says happily.
It’s a long way from where she started. She took to music early, absorbing her parents’ record collection. “In secondary school, I started entertaining my friends during lunchtime I had a sort of request show where my friends would request songs and I would sing,” Niniola recalls. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m a star!'” 
But not everyone felt the same. When she started to audition for televised talent shows in Nigeria, she faced a string of rejections. “I got my fair share of, ‘No, you’re not good enough,'” Niniola says. “I remember a particular incident where I went for an audition at West African Idol, the Lagos edition.
 I got one yes from a judge but two no’s, so I couldn’t move on to the next level. I got on a plane and went to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. I went to the audition, but I was told that I couldn’t. I cried, told them I came all the way from Lagos. At the end of the day I was picked but then dropped.”
Niniola temporarily stopped doing music, dispirited by all the rejections. She was jarred back into action by her brother, who called and told her that X-Factor was holding auditions in Nigeria; Niniola tried out but fell short once again. 
She allowed herself one final opportunity, deciding that “if I was not picked, then music is not for me.” She made it on to Project Fame West Africa and finished fourth.
Over the past few years, the mainstream American music business has become increasingly attuned to music released in Africa. The signs are scattered around the industry, a Grammy nod here (Burna Boy), a radio hit there (Afro B), deals with American labels (Santi, Wande Coal), and of course, the Beyoncé homage.
That makes it a favorable time for Niniola to return with a sophomore album, which is sure to attract more ears — from more countries — than her last. The endurance of “Maradona,” which was also remixed by DJ Snake, a mainstay of Western electronic music festivals, has helped give her cover as she works on a This Is Me follow-up. 
“Fantasy” is expected to appear on the new album, which Niniola hopes to release this year. She’s also been sending music to the veteran hitmaker Timbaland, who has been teasing a collaboration on Instagram. 
“I’m glad I can be comfortable as an African and sing in my language,” Niniola says. She finishes with a prediction, almost a warning: “When I drop songs, I drop hit songs.”
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