To this generation, the name Monica Omorodion Swaida may not ring a bell, but it did in the 1990s, along with the likes of Evi Edna, Majek Fashek and the late Sunny Okosun, among others that held sway in the music industry. She speaks about her forthcoming album in this chat with Daniels Ekugo
We understand you are based in the US. How would you define your experience in music industry over there as a Nigerian who grew up and started out doing music in Nigeria?
It was a bit of a challenge when I moved here. My exposure was very limited and all we had for guidance really were the Ron Kenolys, Keith Statens, Helen Baylors and Fred Hammonds – from afar. Even though I was here, I felt somewhat disadvantaged because we lacked skilled musicians and singers at that time and I was young and fresh from Nigeria. But as time went, new associations and exposures came along and gradually things began to unfold-new music, new styles, new ideas and so on.
It’s interesting. It could be competitive if you allow yourself to be dragged into that and there’s a lot you really don’t want to know or get involved in when you learn of them but ultimately if you stay in your lane, and maintain God as your primary focus and audience, then you’ll be fine.
What is your impression of the Nigerian music industry since you started and now?
Now it is so beautiful in the sense that there are so many recording studios, there are so many marketing companies and the avenues for marketing and distribution is wider, unlike those early days. In Lagos, there were four or five recording studios-like Afrodisia, EMI and one or two. There was also one in Ijebu Ode.
Let’s talk about your music. We understand you have an album and an official single Monicanization. Tell us about this
The album is a compilation of different genres of music. There is something for everyone. Personally, I am excited! I have seven songs in all. It is a mix of English and pidgin English. As a Nigerian singer, people don’t need to understand a word of what you are saying to enjoy your music. I speak a lot of pidgin English in my music and I teach Americans about pidgin English. They have to understand me, not we always trying to understand them.
In this album, I am well rounded. My album is like a box of chocolate where you pick the flavour you want. I have ballads, Reggae, Highlife, Afro beat and Pop. I am in love with different kinds of music. I am not stuck with a particular type.
Did you have any training when you were going to school?
I went to Mt Wachusetts Community College and graduated in 1994 with a degree in Business Administration and later went to University of Massachusetts, Lowell MA and graduated in 1997 with a graduate degree in Accounting and Finance. I became bored with the world of finance and didn’t think I was making reasonable salary so I left work and lastly went to Boston University for post graduate degree in computer information systems in 1999. Completely, I switched careers. School never ends in America.
How are you inspired to write your songs?
Inspiration comes depending on my mood. True singers are very moody people. When the feeling comes, the inspiration comes; maybe what you are thinking at that time gets into you to affect your feelings and moods. Sometimes as you are thinking about it, there is a melody coming with it. There is very little difference between singing and talking. I believe anybody who can talk can sing. A lot of people talk without knowing it is a song. What I am thinking, as I am talking now, if it gets into me, there is another aspect of me that it touches and then it brings a melody. Melody goes with the story and it becomes a song.
Tell us what could help to make marriages work…
I’m going to be very direct here. It takes God, you and a lot of hard work. It takes dedication. It takes humility, patience and everything your mom told you! I’m not going to offer an opinion on the unfortunately failed marriages, because marriage is between three people; the couples and God. I’m not going to judge or criticize them, because that would be a dangerous seed to sow. My prayer is that, even though not every marriage will work, everyone should find peace and joy in God and within themselves. A failed marriage is also not a failed life! It does not and should not define you.
My husband is my biggest support and supporter. He prayed me into and ensured that I got into and stayed in my lane, where I am now. He sends me on, goes with me, takes care of me, our businesses, and my sound and is involved in every decision I make. From the get go, it’s been “our” business. I am just the voice in the music and the face on the cover.