Dave Koz, Boney James, Peter White, Walter Beasley and Norman Brown are some of the names associated with contemporary jazz music. Indeed it’s hard to ignore the strong influences of jazz across the USA, especially during summer, thanks to the New Orleans and Essence Jazz Festivals, both held in the Big Easy.
While we get delicious servings of these wonderful jazz artists all year round, whether through radio or at the festivals, we have not really heard for a while now, at least in mainstream, African influences in the Western jazz music scene.There is one woman hoping to change that. Her name is Douyé and she is our Ladybrille Woman of the Month! We [Ladybrille’s Toya Thomas and Uduak Oduok] connected with Douyé to discuss her work as a contemporary jazz artist and her African influences.
LADYBRILLE.com: How did Douyé begin?
Douyé: I have always loved to sing, from childhood. My parents were into music, therefore I was exposed to various kinds of music and so, I grew up listening to the likes of soul, classical, jazz, Afro-beats, r&b, reggae and country music. I was encouraged by my mother to join the church choir and, after that experience, I traveled abroad to study voice at Musicians Institute right in the heart of Hollywood, California. After graduating from MI, I continued to hone my skills while performing at local shows and clubs. I was then introduced to Terry Shaddick, a renowned pop songwriter and producer. We began writing songs which led to me releasing my debut CD titled “Journey”.
LADYBRILLE.com: Contemporary jazz is not a place you typically find Africans, what made you thread there?
Douyé: [While] I was exposed to various kinds of music growing up, jazz music was my favorite because from an early age, my parents exposed me to the music of some great jazz artists [like]: Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee etc.; so that influenced my taste for jazz music. As I grew older and continued to identify my sound and style, my interest in contemporary jazz music widened which in many ways shaped how my sound came about. As much as I was influenced by great jazz musicians, I was also rooted in listening to rhythmic sounds of artists like Fela Kuti, Rex Lawson, Miriam Makeba and the early recordings of Sunny Ade.
LADYBRILLE.com: What has kept you so determined and motivated as you pursue your dreams?
Douyé: My determination has always come from within and listening to my inner voice telling me not to give up; and of course a supportive family that has always kept me going.
LADYBRILLE.com: We know you are from Africa but where exactly?
Douyé: I am from the State of Bayelsa which is located in the southern coastal region of the country, Nigeria, in West Africa.
LADYBRILLE.com: We do hear periodically both in African and global news about conflicts in Bayelsa. Could you enlighten us a little on what is going on in Bayelsa? Any plans in terms of giving back to that community?
Douyé: Bayelsa has a peculiar terrain, due to its riverine nature. It is the bedrock of crude oil production in Nigeria. As a result, most of the communities are flooded with water and oil spillages which is rampant; and thus affecting the lifestyle of the citizens of the State. As a result of the situation, transportation to the cities seems to be the government’s greatest concern. I intend to reach out and support some of the organizations that are already in place to improve transportation and education in the deeply isolated parts of the region. I also intend to open a youth center in the future to enhance development.
LADYBRILLE.com: Going back to the music, what inspires you to create?
Douyé: Life, my experiences as well as other people’s experiences. I like writing about subjects or issues that people can learn from or relate to.
LADYBRILLE.com: What do you think your listener’s will be able to relate to or gather from your music?
Douyé: I believe that my listeners would relate to the stories I tell in my songs because they are everyday life experiences and so, that captures the listeners’ heart more so than anything else.
LADYBRILLE.com: What songs do you believe your fans will be able to relate to most on your ‘Journey’ album and why?
Douyé: I think the song “Journey” because everyone is on a journey in life and the song is basically about one’s journey, experiences and going through one’s destiny, finding oneself in life. I also think the song “Still Hurting” is a song that most people can relate to because everybody gets hurt at some point in time.
LADYBRILLE.com: In listening to your album, it felt like I was listening to any of the jazz artist on a local jazz station across the country. What sets you apart? How do you intend to distinguish Douyé, the brand, in the world of Boney James, Kirk Whalum, Peter White and the many contemporary jazz artists out there?
Douyé: In my work as an artist, I give it my best and strive for excellence because I believe that my fans deserve to have their money’s worth when they listen to my music. My debut album “Journey” is built on a brand that defines a great artist whose sound is filled with depth and uniqueness. As I strive for excellence, I attempt to leave a fine legacy that will forever stand out as Douyé’s brand.
LADYBRILLE.com: How does your background as an African influence you/your work?
Douyé: Being an African, my background has influenced me greatly as an individual and as an artist. As an individual, I was raised to have an identity of my own yet dignified and poised as I thread on in life. I was also raised to have a voice of my own while I respect the views and philosophy of others. As I [mentioned] earlier, I was also musically influenced by the likes of some great African artists which includes; Fela Kuti, Rex Lawson, Mariam Makeba and the early recordings of Sunny Ade. Most African sounds seem to be embedded with jazz roots that are rhythmic and soulful. And so, when composing, I think of all these elements and try to blend some of it as I create my own sound.
LADYBRILLE.com: Being an artist is not only about the song. There is a packaging and presentation that comes with it. Your recent shots tap into your African background. What kind of style image do you want to project about you?
Douyé: I am into fashion and cautious of my looks and what I wear. I follow the latest fashion trends in the West and in Africa and being that I am an artist with African background, I feel that it’s part of my image to reflect and tap into my roots as I blend contemporary styles with some of African modern designs; as I make the best of both worlds in complementing my fashion style and image.
LADYBRILLE.com: You mentioned many would resonate with “Still Hurting?” Were you hurting from a broken relationship? Is that the impetus for the song?
Douyé: The song “Still Hurting” was influenced by a friend’s experience. However, I was once in a relationship were I was deeply hurt and heart broken. I truly can relate to the meaning behind that song. Besides, the song “Still Hurting” is not just for broken heart lovers, the song relate to anyone that have lost someone/something so dear to one’s heart; it could be a parent, a child, a pet etc.
LADYBRILLE.com: What tours have you done so far?
Douyé: I have done some shows and I am currently working with a new booking agent as we are planning on setting up more shows/tours here in the Untied States and Europe.
LADYBRILLE.com: Lots of American artists are heading to Africa, and particularly Nigeria where you are from, to perform. They are getting paid large sums to do so! When do you intend to grace Nigeria with your songs and presence? Douyé: Soon. It’s in the making. I believe that Nigerians will be happy to grace my sound and the energy that I bring on stage. I also think that they will be exceptionally pleased to know that I am a true daughter of the soil.
LADYBRILLE.com: What other creative outlets do you use to express yourself?
Douye: Apart from writing songs, I enjoy writing and reading poetry. I also love recording and performing as well as collecting primitive arts.
LADYBRILLE.com: For those who will be inspired when they read this to follow your footsteps, what are the obstacles you have overcome that they can learn from?
Douyé: Initially, when I decided to pursue music as a career, it was a struggle because I quickly realized that it takes more than having the talent to sing to be successful. The music business has changed a whole lot compared to how new acts were signed in the past. As a new artist, one should be willing to do it all by oneself and still maintain a positive attitude as one increases his/her fan base. I also believe that finding the right people that believe in you is necessary [and] key to success; [also] being focused and willing to work hard towards achieving success.
LADYBRILLE.com: Our last question for you. What should your fans, and Ladybrille readers as well, be expecting from you in the near future?
Douyé: More recordings/albums, tours all over the world, contributing positively to the world as I broaden my fan base.
LADYBRILLE.com: Thank you Douyé.
Douyé: Thank you so much Uduak and Toya for the opportunity you have given me to broaden the awareness of my art.