AfroTageInterviews

Simi: The Queen Of Afro-Ballads

Simi talks about bringing the heat this year with fresh music, the reasons she has been considerably lowkey, and what she thinks about critics, among other discussions.

Simi: The Queen of Afro-Ballad
Simi [PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram/@simplysimi]

If I were to coherently compile a shortlist of modern-day iconic Nigerian female music singers, Simi would be on such a list. Simi has it all; fame, a successful music career, and a fruitful marriage to one of the most re-inventive singers Africa has ever come across in recent years. 

Simisola Kosoko’s three-octave soprano has made her one of the most respected and sought-after talents in the African music scene. Her soft textured vocals have aided in creating timeless ballads- now intricate parts of the Nigerian pop-culture zeitgeist of the late 2010s.

On April 5, 2024, Simi teamed up with Tiwa Savage for their first collaborative single titled ‘Men Are Crazy.’ The exceptionally addictive record with in-depth bounce as produced by Abayomi ‘Big Fish’ Ilerioluwa further highlights Simi’s prowess as one of Africa’s best vocalists. ‘Men Are Crazy’ is a pop ballad, a love song with an adorable verse from Tiwa Savage.

Without a doubt, Simi’s indelible style of music is the connection she has with her truest supporters. To her most loyal fan base, she could do no wrong, and every note belted is enduringly pure. The superstar singer whose discography spans four studio albums excluding deluxe versions, one solo EP, and a collaborative EP (with Falz), has earned the right to be called a seasoned veteran in the game, an icon in her own right.   

Since leaving X3M Music circa 2019, Simi has catered for her music independently, seeing her call the shots, and releasing music on her terms. Coincidentally,  Simi became a Mother to an adorable baby girl around the same time, which meant priorities had to be re-evaluated. 

I am working on a fifth studio album and my favourite thing about this album is that it was me creating an album based on my enjoyment of music, you know.

Simi, 2024.

Subsequently, Simi’s absence from the music scene left her die-hard fans demanding new music and it wasn’t long before she obliged via the 2020 classic hit ballad ‘Duduke.’ The song quickly resonated with many music listeners and announced a new chapter for the singer, characterized by maternal and conjugal re-awakenings.

However, in this interview with African Folder, Simi talks about bringing the heat this year with fresh music, the reasons she has been considerably lowkey, and what she thinks about critics, among other discussions.

Simi: The Non-Conformist

Simi: The Queen of Afro-Ballad
Simi [PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram/@simplysimi]

Despite dropping a bombshell project in ‘To Be Honest’, the album surprisingly fell below the commercial radar, or at least judging by Simi’s high standards. With the most popular song on the project being ‘Naked Wire’, ‘To Be Honest’ otherwise known as TBH wasn’t exactly a chart-topping body of work albeit a beautiful reminiscence of Simi’s unique gifts. 

I mean, I don’t think I would ever describe my music or my work in this industry at this point in my life as me having something to prove. Maybe before my first album

Simi, 2024.

The body of work had only two guest features, Fave, and her husband, Adekunle GoldTBH saw Simi stick to her successful sonic formulae and was heavily consumed by her fans despite a little criticism. But after spending more than a decade in the industry, Simi says critics do not get to her as she feels there is nothing to prove. “I mean, I don’t think I would ever describe my music or my work in this industry at this point in my life as me having something to prove. Maybe before my first album, or my first single because, you know, nobody knows your time. Now, it’s about doing what I love. I think most people in my core fan base know what I sound like and they already know the things I am capable of.”

Simi belongs to an elite generation of Nigerian female singers who have held it down and have paved the way for what the likes of Tems, Ayra Starr, and Fave, are now enjoying. However, the singer doesn’t give herself too much credit as she remains incredibly modest about her influence while expressing pride towards the remarkable achievements of her younger peers. ‘’I have been doing this for a while, you know, but there are women that have come before me as well. Women who inspired me, those who started the music industry, you know. Women who have worked hard to damn the status quo. So, I won’t give myself much credit than due because I also benefited from other women who came before me. Ultimately, I am proud of this new generation of singers. And I feel like their success is their own. I mean, it’s not a secret that I am pro-female, and seeing women win will always make me happy.”

Simi: The Queen of Afro-Ballad
Simi [PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram/@simplysimi]

In a saturated music industry plagued by obsessive allegiance to trends, Simi begs to differ. She isn’t oblivious to the importance of trends in showbiz but maintains that she isn’t keen on following them unless she feels artistically compelled. 

Her defiance has however been met with several criticisms online, with the recent being a Twitter (Now X) back-and-forth with supposed fans of her music who would like to hear her work on “new stuff’’. The singer however remains non-conforming to the opinions of fans who would like to dictate how she chooses to create. In her point of view, most self-imposed critics lead with malicious intent, as they critique without background knowledge of the hard work that goes into creating music and therefore render such criticisms as not constructive.

Another touchy subject for Simi is the constant comparison between herself and her husband by fans. When asked how the progress of her husband made her feel, especially putting into perspective the career contrast that currently exists between them, Simi’s warm voice over the call becomes more engaged. First, she expressed admiration for having the courage to ask her the question straight to her face, as many rarely dared, before proceeding to say:

[There are women] who have worked hard to damn the status quo. So, I won’t give myself much credit than due because I also benefited from other women who came before me.

Simi, 2024

 “What gets to me about this question is the fact that I am married to an artist, people then take my life, my music, and compare it to my husband, the father of my child, which in all honesty, I feel is a little ignorant because we are not the same. No one is comparing me to another woman in the industry, but instead my husband. It’s not just very inspiring. We might be a match, but our roles are different. When we had our baby, she was in my stomach, not his. I was the one breastfeeding. But that doesn’t make his role as a father any less. I don’t know if you understand the trajectory of this analogy, but all I am trying to say is that the comparisons between me and my husband, although expected, are somewhat shallow, you know. But at the end of the day, these are the things we as public figures sign up for. So I tend not to get too irritated these days.”

Simi: The Superwoman 

One of the most common misconceptions about Simi is that the colour of her voice matches her personality. On the surface, Simi portrays a soft, innocent vibe that most folks tend to take for granted. However, on the contrary, the singer is far from a push-away. She is fierce and stands her ground on most days. Her tough nut idiosyncrasies are how she has been able to juggle being a super mom, wife, and creative.

Simi fully came to prominence in 2015 after the release of her smash hit single ‘Jamb Question’. Before then, she had watered the appetites of sonic lovers with sleeper hits ‘Tiff’ and 2011’s faith-based single, ‘Ara Ile’ off her first-ever album, the gospel themed ‘Oga Ju’. 

The comparisons between me and my husband, although expected, are somewhat shallow.

Simi, 2024.

The success of ‘Jamb Question’ brought Simi’s distinct vocal abilities and witty penmanship to the awareness of music consumers, earning her a religious following of listeners who would proudly regard themselves as the ‘Simi Army’ later on.

Two years passed since  ‘Jamb Question’ and Simi released her first album as a contemporary singer, the self-titled ‘Simisola.’ The fifteen-track project contained classics like ‘Joromi’, ‘Smile for Me’, and ‘Love Don’t Care.’ In retrospect, a great deal of the songs on ‘Simisola’ will fare well in the present Tiktok era for their intricate relatability and sheer wit. The album, often regarded as her Magnum Opus, cemented her as a hitmaker and a sonic purist with a penchant for catchy ballads.

In no time, she had become one of the country’s most beloved singers and would go on to release a much-talked-about collaborative EP,  one solo EP, and two other full-length albums (2019’s ‘Omo Charlie Champagne’ & 2022’s ‘To Be Honest’). 

Simi: The Queen of Afro-Ballad
Simi [PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram/@simplysimi]

Simi’s last body of work as a signed artist, ‘Omo Charlie Champagne’ precedes her somewhat hiatus from the mainstream. She exited the Steve Babeoko-owned X3M in the same year she released ‘Omo Charlie Champagne’ and started her solo outfit- ‘Studio Brat’.

Albeit gaining independence over her creative works, it has however not been without a rollercoaster of ups and downs for Simi. Being an independent artist and a Mom in a saturated industry such as the one Simi finds herself in requires a lot of effort behind the scenes. Even the superpowers of Simi proved not enough for the daunting challenges, at least not by her strength alone. 

She needed a team, and the constant reshuffling made it difficult to find balance and in turn, contributed to her seeming hiatus from the mainstream.

“I have been an independent artist for a while now.  I mean I was previously signed to X3m Music but I left X3m Music I think in 2019. I started my own thing and I became a mom around that same time. I’ve been doing like a lot of travelling and my responsibilities have increased, you know, juggling between so much and I’ve also had to transition my team, you know, in the past couple of years. All these have affected my workload. So, yeah, that happens, well, but things are about to change this year anyway.  I am working on a fifth studio album and my favourite thing about this album is that it was me creating an album based on my enjoyment of music, you know”.

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