Q & A: Nigerian Singer Douye’ Enjoys American Success, Second Time Around

Written by Ann Brown

Douyéism.

That’s how Nigerian-born, Los Angeles-based singer Douye’ (pronounced Doe-Yay) has branded the form of music she performs — a blend of various genres from around the globe.

Not restricted by boundaries, Douye’ mixes musical forms. This can be heard on her new indie album, “So Much Love,” her sophomore effort. You can hear touches of American soul and rhythm and blues — Douye’ was inspired by Sade, Dianne Reeves, Chanté Moore, Regina Belle, and Rachelle Ferrell.

Despite her love of American music, Douye’ doesn’t abandon her African roots. She adds a healthy dash of Afrobeat. Her new album features fellow Nigerian and multi-platinum producer Dapo Torimiro (John Legend, Justin Bieber, Toni Braxton), Grammy nominated multi-platinum British songwriter Terry Shaddick (Pointer Sisters, Diana Ross), guitarist/producer Chris Sholar (Beyoncè, Mariah Carey, Kanye West), and Grammy nominated jazz keyboardist/ producer Philippe Saisse (Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau).

Even as a child growing up in Lagos, American music called to her. Her household was filled with the sounds of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington. She found herself wanting to make music just like them. So she started writing poems and later ventured into singing and songwriting.

According to a press statement, she moved to Los Angeles and attended the Musicians Institute in Hollywood as a vocal major. During this time, she was introduced to songwriter Terry Shaddick, who penned Olivia Newton-John’s decade-defining multi-platinum hit, “Physical.” Shaddick and Douyé began collaborating with her on a series of songs that would eventually result in her debut album, “Journey,” in 2007. The album, co-written by Douyé and Shaddick, received rave reviews worldwide.

Now she’s ready to repeat that success with “So Much Love,” and help bridge the worlds of Nigerian and American music.

Douyé spoke with AFKInsider from Los Angeles.

AFKInsider: You have many American music influences. What attracts you to that music?

Douyé: I think it has to do with the fact that I was widely exposed to the Western music from childhood. My parents used to always play Western music such as jazz, classical rhythm and blues, blues and soul music at home. I grew up listening to such music which led to my interest.

AFKInsider: You have been involved in the American music scene for some time now. How is the market different from the Nigerian market in terms of tastes.

Douyé: Well, the American music market is different from say Nigerian or even Africa as a whole. In general, America is considered to be a global market and so it is fast paced and a lot more competitive on all ends musically. As an artist doing music business in the Western world, artists are expected to know their brand and be able to tailor a marketable  campaign as it relates to their brand.

Further, artists are to know and understand their fan base and how to promote their music or brand to their fans. Artists are to understand that branding is beyond just the music artists create. Branding is anything and everything that adds to the artist’s artistry. The use of applying social media in promoting an artist brand is key in today’s music market especially in bringing awareness to the public both physically and online/digital market because digital marketing is the current language of the global market in the music scene.

AFKInsider: Do you think America is becoming more interested in African arts?

Douyé: I believe so, because Africa as a whole is rapidly emerging in the entertainment and art forum. African artists and designers of all arts and entertainment facets are graciously expanding their sense of creativity into the Western world by blending both culture in their designs and concept of style, which makes their creations distinctively unique from the rest of the world. This in turn gives the Western world reason to be interested in Africa.

AFKInsider: How can African artists take advantage of this increased interest? And why should they?

Douyé:  African artists could benefit from such interest by exploring the styles of the Western world and creatively fuse their style in a way that it would be appealing and beneficial to the global market. The basic idea is for Africans not to be rigid or even be afraid to explore on new horizons but, rather think outside the box be open to change and embrace new thinking and ways of creating and connecting with the world.

AFKInsider: What are some misconceptions Americans have about Africa in general? About Nigeria?

Douyé: Well, as we all may know, presently, the negative highlights of the issues that surround Boko Haram movement give the world concerns and poor connotation of Nigeria in general. Such negative ideas cause ghastly notions of Nigeria, which make it difficult for I as a Nigerian to defend… However, just like anywhere else, there are the good and the bad and nothing is perfect. However, Nigeria needs a  positive turnaround in improving social and political issues such as the issues of Boko Haram. The world is briskly changing before our eyes and I think Nigerians need to wake up and begin to improve in the aspects as discussed.

AFKInsider: We often hear of Nollywood, but what is the Nigerian music scene like?

Douyé: I think that the Nigerian music scene has come a long way in the sense that they have found a way to create a sound that is appealing to the African market. African music sounds such as Afrobeat mixed with street beats that are rhythmically driven with an African pop element to it, are great and unique and will continue to do well in the African market. However, I believe that, Nigeria artists and the Nigerian music scene could benefit from exploring and integrate their sounds with the sounds of other Western genres in order for them to be able to obtain greater grounds in the global market scene.

AFKInsider:  Is Nigeria very supportive of is musicians?

Douyé: Yes, I believe so, both Nigeria and Africans all over the world. It is a sound that they could easily relate to because of the culture, the language and rhythm of the music. And it’s a good thing that Africans support their kind because that helps to keep the music culture alive plus it brings awareness of the African sound to the rest of the world.

AFKInsider: Tell me about your latest project?

Douyé: My new album titled “So Much Love” is my second album and the sound of the album is my signature style which is a blend of jazz, soul and rhythm and blues. The album consists of 13 original songs all written by me and my co-writer, Terry Shaddick. The songs of the album speak of love and life experiences. The title track of the album is a tribute to the legendary Felt Kuti. The album continues to receive great reviews by fans and music critics. I am pleased with the album and I am immensely grateful for the gift of song writing and creating music — it’s something I live for.

AFKInsider: How do you plan to promote this new CD?

Douyé: I do have a great team of music and marketing professionals that continue to work with me and support me in promoting my artistry. I also perform and make appearances whenever such opportunity allows. My team and I also utilize social media in putting the word out there and bringing about awareness in promoting my artistry to the world.

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About Ann Brown
Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.