Words by Gracey Mae
So excited to have you, Nissi. You are an amazing vocalist, you give us moves and fashion as well. What would you say describes you best?
I would say singer-songwriter and an artist as well. Just a general creative really.
I love that you’ve said creative because you do it all. Tell us about Moxie Lagos, your accessory line!
Well it’s an accessory line that I started with my sister who is really the brainchild behind it, to be honest. We just wanted to make stuff that would be nostalgic to African heritage and Nigerian heritage, [so that] people could have a momento of their childhood or things that make them remember where they’re from – that are still cool and fashionable. [My sister, Ronami] is a brilliant fashion designer and she has a brilliant eye. It was good putting together my artistic skills and her vision in the fashion world to make an accessory line.
On the topic of artistic skills…It’s amazing to see you doing fine art with your brand, Norrd Art. We’ve seen you do amazing paintings and murals, is it important to you to be a triple threat?
It is – it’s very important. I mean…art and music come hand in hand for me. I can’t do one without the other because when I’m even composing, I sort of visualise the song. That’s how it comes to me in terms of the lyrics and the story I’m trying to tell, and it works vice versa. With art, if I’m painting a piece or having an animation done, I always see it with music in my mind so I think you can’t have Nissi without those two things.
I love that! So was that the genesis of Taeps Animation Studios? What’s going on there?
Brilliant stuff is going on. We’re just about to put out our debut short film and try to take off from there and build on it. There’s a lot of stuff in the works coming out so I’m really excited to start to share some of that stuff, and this side of my company with the world.
We can’t wait to see it. Now you touched on starting Moxie Lagos with your sister but it doesn’t stop there – you come from a super talented family. Being the sister of Burna Boy, do you feel like there’s a lot of pressure since you’re both doing Afrobeats?
I don’t know about the rest of the world but internally, there isn’t. Obviously as two creative people who are really passionate about what we’re doing and have worked hard on our crafts individually, and together as a family, we both want to conquer it all and be the best we can possibly be. So for me it’s more of a case of, I’m put on a peddle stool as opposed to having pressure coming at me from all angles because obviously the world is going to see what they want to see and say what they want to say. You just have to deliver your craft as best as you can and tell your story. I think the pressure will be more be that I’m put on a peddle stool because of my association but I’m not worried about it all. That’s how much I believe in the music and the process that has brought me here.
It’s sounding like a real advantage. Many open doors but that doesn’t end there. Your mum used to dance for Fela Kuti. Your grandfather was his manager. Would you say that music runs in the blood of your family?
Music definitely runs in the blood of my family. With regards to my mum dancing for Fela, I think that’s a bit of a misconception but yes – my grandad used to manage Fela and my mum was always around them as the daughter…and young niece per se. My grandad has been a big big influence on my musical journey. He was actually one of the first people to discover my talent and understand my range and put me through from the age of 13 recording jazz songs when I figured out I could sing at 9 years old. He started training me at 13 with jazz. He’s been a big big BIG supporter and a big influence throughout my growing years in this space.
That’s amazing. You’ve taken us to the start of your journey, let’s talk about the present. What did you have planned for 2020 that has been delayed or pushed back due to the pandemic? You were due to be hitting the stage for Afro Punk this summer. Is that still taking place?
My project has always been in the works to come out this year. I’m so excited for my first EP! Obviously a lot of the physical events I was hoping to do around that [project] have been postponed. A lot of the shows I was planning to do…recording camps with talented, creative producers and musicians, that’s been pushed back. Afro Punk! I was really really looking forward to Afro Punk this year so it’s a bit of a bummer. Afro Punk was supposed to be this year but Corona Virus made it move to next year. There’s a lot of things that physically you can’t do any more in contact with other but I think it’s also opened some doors in the virtual world and the social media space to learn to connect in other ways.
Very true! So I heard a few teasers there about the forthcoming EP, is there any more you can tell us about the project?
Oooh. I can say it’s a 7-track project and it will be all new tracks, except from the last two releases of Tornado and Trouble so you’re getting five fresh tracks and a bit more insight into the making of…so you get more of a taste to what my creative process is like.
On the topic! Let’s talk about Trouble and Tornado which you dropped as a double release at the end of 2019. Both tracks are doing pretty well! They’ve been playlisted everywhere. Did you expect this response and reception from your fans?
I was hoping for it and to be honest, I’m still very hopeful about it. I mean you can never put into words what it means when your music reaches people and it’s influencing their lives…I think that’s the biggest thing for me as an artist. Getting people to relate to my sound or my songs is amazing. I’m excited – like a kid in a candy shop; looking forward to all the adventures that come with it and all the people that fall in love with my music.
Your fans are everywhere. On Spotify, the top locations are Amsterdam, Paris, Montreal, Rotterdam and London. Where do you feel the most loved?[Sigh] To be honest, that’s another thing I’ve missed with this Corona Virus. Being able to go to all these places and perform so I can actually get a sense of their vibe. Unfortunately, I haven’t performed anywhere except for London, Nigeria and Ghana so I haven’t really been able to experience the fanbases there. But through social media I’ve been seeing some great videos, great dance challenges – I love to see the girls, you know, doing the dances and feeling really confident when they’re playing Trouble. Hopefully, post-COVID, I’m looking forward to coming out to all those cities and shutting it down.
You’ve touched on London shows… am I right in saying that the biggest performance so far was opening up for your brother Burna Boy on 3 November 2019 at Wembley SSE Arena?
Yes – that was soooo good! It was such a rush!
It was amazing for us in the crowd, what was it like for you on the stage in front of thousands of people?
Oh – were you at that show? Beautiful. It was electric. Honestly, it felt so good. I think for me, performing – once I touch the stage, the full me comes out. It’s never been a scare or fear. I just love when the audience can connect and I think that’s what really shocked me with the crowd. People were actually connecting to the music and responsive to my actions and all that. Man, it was great. It was great. I can’t even put into words. I loved the reaction!
Aww, I love that. There were clearly a lot of fans in the audience. Who christened them the Nissi Nation, was that you or was that a name they gave themselves?[laughs] So that was a name one of them gave the entire collective fanbase. I don’t know how it came about. I think I was out somewhere or something and someone was talking about a release, and one guy said “yeah, she’s taking over the entire nation”. Then someone else said “Yeah, we are the Nissi Nation”. So I was like “okay, cool”. And it started catching on; everywhere I went, everyone that was there told their friends to tell a friend to tell a friend. And it just became a thing!
Wow. Since you’re involved in singing, writing, accessories, fine art and animation, is there any else we should be expecting from you? Possibly acting, movies or a clothing line?
I mean…all things in the future, for sure. I would love to dabble in acting, dabble in branding. I have a big passion for technology, product design and also, beverages. There’ll be a lot of things I’ll be wanting to do ike product design, I’m big on that. I’m hoping to play a little in that space. Acting – yes. I wanna try that out. I’m really open to doing a lot. Exploring as much possible when the time is right, of course.
We can’t wait to see it. Everyone is experiencing this pandemic together, what would your advice be to anyone who is feeling down or lonely?
I would say for me, I’m fully with everyone who is struggling at home. It’s not easy being cooped up but what keeps me sane, and what I would advise everyone to do is, find something you’re passionate about. Try something new. Use this as an opportunity to develop a skill or you know learn a bit. Don’t spend all your time watching the news and heightening your anxiety. Just relax. Find some time to dance around, listen to some music. Feel free! That’s what I would say to keep us through this. I pray we all get through this together in good health.
Amen to that! Any final words?
Thank you all for your support; I love it. I wanna see more of it. There’s so much more coming your way from me. I’m super excited to show you the full picture of Nissi. Thank you and stay locked in.
Thanks Nissi! Trouble and Tornado are out now dropped in December, meaning more new music should be here soon. Keep your eyes peeled. Where can we find you online?
@Nissination on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Snapchat @nissio. Triller is @nissiogulu. Tiktok as well is @nissination so you’ll be able to find me in all those places.
Perfect, thank you Nissi!
Thank you for having me.