So it was a beautiful interview session with British Nigerian singer Mel Rouge who is an interestingly fun and patient person, even as the session started a little later than planned, she didn’t mind instead, she politely offered to wait as we fix the problem at hand.
In this interview session, we didn’t just get answers to our questions but got to see how funny and intelligent Mel Rouge is. Mel Rouge who visited Nigeria for the first time in 2012 says that she has been in and out quite a number of times since then because she fell in-love with Nigeria and that visit literally changed her life and she has a funny way of speaking Yoruba. hahaha!!!
“There’s an ignorance that people think because you’re great in music or can dance, then you don’t have a brain. I think you can be both”
What is your birth given name?
MY name is Toluwalope Oyedele. My middle names are Anne and Olamide.
Did you grow up in Nigeria?
I was born and bred in London, my first trip to Nigeria was for my cousin’s wedding and since then, I’ve been here 9 times and my trips just get longer. My first trip ever was in 2012 and I fell in-love with Nigeria during my first visit. My parents are Yoruba and speak to us in Yoruba, we attend Nigerian parties, have Nigerian friends and we have an idea of Nigeria but from a London view. When I came to Nigeria, I found out that things were different from what we see from London.
I thought there would be a thief at the airport or a Babalawo in the sky. Like I literally thought that. But I saw Dominos, KFC, and the music was wow. I can say my trip to Nigeria literally changed my life and I think every Nigerian should come home and see when they are from because it changes your whole perspective. I’m happy I came to Nigeria.
When did your love for music start and when did you start music professionally
I kind of inherited music from my mom. When she was in Nigeria, she used to perform. She had medals from age twelve in the gospel area. I have been singing in the choir and school from age five, leading solo choir but being academic as well, “you have to be academic when you have a typical Yoruba dad”. When I graduated, I was like “ok, I have to follow my dreams”. I’ve got my certificate, education is very important but I had to follow my heart.
My first experience here in Nigeria wasn’t to start music, it was just to learn, so I’ll be in the studio listening to Samklef and some other artists, just watching what they do and learning. I like to dance and perform so from that, I decided to start going on stage to see if the crowd liked what I did. I opened for Wizkid, LAX, others and I did that for a bit. My first ever song was “Senpe”, it was a soft release with Burna boy, which was in 2016. So I’ll say I started professionally in 2016.
What do you have your degree in?
I have my degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. #laughs. I’ve always been academic. There’s an ignorance that people think because you’re great in music or can dance, then you don’t have a brain. I think you can be both and I also think that there’s no knowledge lost. I can be a governor tomorrow but I can’t speak because I didn’t go to the university. So I don’t think there’s anything lost.
How do you manage to combine all your art?
I think when you love what you do, you don’t see it as stress. To be honest, I don’t really sleep much. If you call me at 2 am, I’ll still be up. So you just do it because it is something that you love. I love to work on my craft, so let’s say after this interview I go somewhere else and then I go home. I get home by like 9 pm, I’m going to research, and I’ll listen to random music for like 2 hours. I feel like putting stuff in my mind subconsciously affects how I do things. I must say though, I write on my phone, things I need to do because if I don’t, I’ll forget. So I keep note, for my day to day activities.
If you had to choose one of all your art, what would it be?
Music. singing, that’s like my soul. Because I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t sing. For me, singing is magic because you’re able to affect someone’s life even without the person understanding the music. Music is the only language that you do not need to know what it means, to know what it means. Even if you take off all the make-up, take off everything, music is my life. I don’t know what I’d do if I woke up the next day and I couldn’t sing. So music is number one, above everything.
How has trying to break into the Nigerian music industry been for you?
I’ll say it’s been good and I’ll also say it is hard work because no one will give you anything. Even if you are a dope singer, you are a dope artist or you are a great performer, you have to work at it. Where I am now as an artist, in terms of my writing, my performance and other things, I am happy I didn’t come out 3years before because I’ve shaped my craft so much more. Because you learn more and more and for girls, I think it is different because girls have to work harder, have to be better and I don’t know why that is though. It is not just in Nigeria, even in England and America. When it comes to females, you just have to put in more effort. So you have to grind and fight because no one hands anything to you.
How different is the Nigerian music industry from England?
I think it is different when you look at it from different views. For instance, black people are the majority here which is very different from London and it affects it. I feel like African Artists are making massive wave here and in London. But little things are different like shows are bigger here. The structure, there is more structure in England, you have the radio and other departments. But it is a young market here so we still have to do some groundwork and of course, England is more developed so they are more in place. I love both sides though.
How did your collaboration with Burna Boy go, how was your experience?
It was produced by Jfem, he suggested that I’d be great with Burna Boy and I was like “well, yeah!!” #laughs. So we did the song in Burna’s studio. Burna is great, he is a great musician, he takes music very seriously, the way he thinks is different from most artists and for him to be on the song was just amazing. I can literally do 100 songs with him. His music, his sound, he is versatile, he is authentic, he is just great and there are a few artists like that in Nigeria.
What other steps have you made to feature other artists?
We have some stuff coming this year, there are some songs ready, featuring artists and I’m not going to say who they are or what the song it but don’t worry, it is coming. When you drop a song as an artist, you just don’t relax. You are still working, you are still in the studio recording, you are still holla-ing at artists and a lot of those times it’s your friend, they hear something and they are like “yo! That beat is sick, I want to jump on it”. You could do it that way or other times, someone could hear your song somewhere and think it would be cool for XY to jump on something with you. Cool, but I love authentic collaborations because the chemistry is real and you vibe more. But don’t worry, we’ve got cool stuff coming at you this year.
Your song “Madam” what’s the idea behind it?
Madam is a very empowering song for women and it is about being a boss, about knowing yourself, about taking what you want and not asking for permission. It is just a very empowering song, it’s got that dancehall vibe and I just wanted to go in a different direction and I love it.
What inspires your lyrics?
I’m a writer but I also work with creatives and most times, it starts with the producer as the skeleton with the beat. From that how I write, I create melodies on the beat then change the melodies to lyrics. But on some occasions when I’m just chilling at home, some things just pop into my head and I write them down, then send to the producer to create a beat around that. I try to write stuff that will sink into people’s mind, write punch lines that people can relate to, because I feel like in music, even if something sounds nice, it won’t stick if you cannot relate to it. So that’s how I write, I think, I don’t just write and go off, I write and look at it if I can do better I scratch it off and do it again.
How would you collectively describe your kind of music?
I’d say my music is expressive, fun, empowering and fire. #laughs.