As listening sessions go, Morenike Lasode’s which held at the exquisite Terra Kulture on a humid Lagos evening in December, was pretty revealing.
Pulse had accepted the invitation to attend this listening party, not so sure what to expect. We were also uncharacteristically late for the event, no thanks to the perennial Lagos traffic that knows no weekends.
Once into the event venue, we exchanged pleasantries with our hosts, music heads spanning several generations and journalists who were there to figure out what Morenike—stage name Marenikae—had up her sleeves.
We didn’t have to wait for too long.
Marenikae’s voice; once the artiste was in her elements, was surreal. She could hit notes like no one’s business, her stage performance was at once electric and soothing and her music had a thing of Sade Adu and Asa about it.
There she stood; big, bold and beautiful and owning the stage like a veteran.
The guests were applauding before they knew it and standing ovations punctuated what would segue into a night of premium entertainment.
“I wrote, arranged and recorded my first song when I was 14”, 24-year-old Marenikae tells Pulse afterwards, one chuckle at a time. “I have been making music even before I started writing. I would just arrange other people’s songs, not knowing what that was. Then I started writing, co-producing my music and then started from there”.
As the months rolled into years, Marenikae departed Nigeria’s shores for the United States to study, but music kept on calling as she made it from one lecture room to the next.
“I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I remember in SS3, they kept asking us what do you want to be and all and even though I would say I wanted to be this and do that, there was still music at the back of my mind. But I didn’t believe it was possible for me to be an artiste. Which is why I never pursued it.
“Until one day when a good friend of mine just said: ‘Oh, you want to be a singer, why not just admit it to yourself and work towards it’, you know. And I was like yeah, but how am I going to write songs? At that time, I had never attempted to write a song. And she was like, ‘oh, you can just write your songs yourself’. And I was like Ok.
“The first time I ever tried to write a song, I wrote a complete song. It was verse, chorus, bridge everything. That was my first time ever writing and it came so effortlessly. Like, I didn’t even try. And it was a really good song. That was when I was like, Ok, I’m naturally talented at this as opposed to wanting to be a neurosurgeon”, She says.
Not a fan of math
Marenikae tells Pulse that she always knew neuro-surgeon wasn’t going to be her thing because she sucks at math.
“I knew I couldn’t be a neurosurgeon and be bad at math! I’m horrible at math”, she offers with a characteristic blush as her mum looked on from the audience. “I’m so good at a lot of things—graphics, fashion, brand aesthetics, but my math is messed up.
“So , I just started writing, putting together songs, recorded a whole bunch of songs in my dad’s studio, my mum got a sound engineer at the time to go in, help me and produce and from there I met the guy who has been producing the majority of my music since then, his name is “Bigfoot in your face”.
Marenikae calls her brand of music Afro-merge— a perfect blend of her beloved Nigerian rhythms and neo soul with electronic and AC nuances throughout; laced with a whole lot of attitude.
And there’s a debut album in the works with eleven songs in there.
The Afro-merge crooner tells Pulse that fans should expect her first studio album called ‘Ajebutter’, in February of 2018.
Two singles off the album—Smooth Operator and Remember—are already enjoying some critical acclaim and airplay in Nigeria and the United States, with several Youtube likes to boot.
“I picked ‘Smooth Operator’ because of Sade Adu”, Marenikae confesses. “Sade is a very huge inspiration for me because she was the first Nigerian artiste to really cross over. She was popular in America, in Europe and Nigeria as well.
“I love Asa. I enjoy Asa. But Sade is the benchmark of how well I’m doing. I want to be a modern day Sade because what Sade couldn’t do was keep her ‘Africanness’. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I am trying to create pop culture music with the African touch”.
What does she make of Simi?, we asked.
“Simi has an amazing voice. I love her voice. I have been a fan of hers for a while, funny enough. One of Simi’s first songs called ‘Ogaju’—that’s when she was really like a Christian artiste—I heard it while I was in Nigeria”.
Made in Naija
Even though Marenikae is based in Atlanta, US, the graduate of Criminology has made sure to produce her songs in Nigeria where she first discovered she’d end up a singer.
ALSO READ: 20 Nigerian songs you should never forget
“My songs are produced back home. My producer lives in Nigeria. We actually co-produce the songs over Skype”, she says.
Apart from Sade, Asa and everyone else in between, Marenikae also draws her inspiration from American rock and Nigerian music of the ‘90s.
“I’m greatly inspired by early ‘90s Nigerian art. 9ice is a huge inspiration of mine. I love StylPlus and I’m also influenced by ‘70s rock bands”.
There’s a glint in Marenikae’s eyes as she rounds off her session with Pulse, on a night when she both slayed and wowed a critical music audience who ended up eating from her palms, every step of the way.
“2018 will be a big year for me”, she says with steely resolve and loads of self-belief. “I am back in Nigeria and this is my time”, she says with raucous laughter, her head leaning back against the backdrop of the neon lights of the Terra Kulture.
On the evidence of her performance on the night, it would be foolhardy not to take her word for it.