Nigerian vocalist and activist Sonia Aimy reconnects with her creative heart
Beloved Nigerian vocalist, entrepreneur, actress and activist Sonia Aimy reconnects with her creative heart via quarantine-inspired reflections and self-realizations on her latest album Reconnect (to be released worldwide on October 1st, 2021 via Slammin Media).
For almost as long as she can remember now, beloved Nigerian vocalist, entrepreneur, actress, and activist Sonia Aimy has been on the go. In fact, since she started touring widely as a musician at the young age of 23, she can’t recall having lingered in any one city for more than a few months at a time or having ever really stopped to take some time off for herself away from the stage, from the relentless creative output, or from her many humanitarian passion projects.
Most often described as possessing the qualities of a shimmering velvet, Sonia’s soulful, empathetic, and often joyous voice has inspired thousands and earned her a reputation as the quintessential embodiment of the contemporary African world musician. Yet, that voice belies an underlying sense of existential anxiety the artist had begun to feel in recent years anytime she wasn’t on the move. As hotels became home away from home and airports, portals to the next place of inspiration, the thought of slowing down almost felt tantamount to a dreaded creative inertia. But then the pandemic Covid-19 happened.
“When the pandemic hit and lockdowns were imposed, I was suddenly forced to slow down and stay in one place. For the first weeks, I was in a blank. I cried. I thought about so many things. But then something happened. I began to feel a new connection to myself. I began to really dream about my past, about my childhood growing up with my mother in Nigeria, or about when I moved to Italy. So many things I’d not reflected on in the mad rush. I began to see my life in a sort of rewind that I’d not seen before. And that’s when the music and the words began to flow.
The words and music that flowed from those quarantine-inspired reflections and self-realizations animate Sonia Aimy’s latest album Reconnect (to be released worldwide on October 1st, 2021 via Slammin Media). It is one of those rare introspective albums that offer intimate glimpses into the creative heart at pivotal, renaissance moments in the evolution of any genre’s most influential artists.
Reconnect embodies a fresh emanation of Sonia’s signature, dynamic sound, which blends afro-jazz, afrobeat, highlife, and elements of the African griot call-and-response tradition, in a string of easy flowing, yet virtuosic performances. As such, the album stands out in excellent execution and interpretation of today’s best African and worldbeat music.
At the same time, the album manages to bridge hints at the sonic future of an ever-evolving mixed genre with the deep cultural roots that have influenced it. Reconnect puts a personal spin on that connection as Sonia reflects on her heritage and life events — and the resulting tracks are inspired by a blend of a childhood in Nigeria, a busy career in jazz and theater in Italy, and a new life in Ontario, where in addition to her performing career, she engages in humanitarian efforts to end human trafficking, promotes African Cultural Heritage, fights to better the lives of women as the founder of African Women Acting AWA.
Sonia Aimy’s irresistible rhythms, melodies, and infectious joie de vivre regularly unite audiences of diverse backgrounds and beliefs. This tendency is expressed most eloquently on the album’s first single, the Arabic/French-language song, “Salaam Alaikum Baba” – translated in English, “Salaam Alaikum” means “Peace be upon you”.
“Growing up in Nigeria, we used to sing Muslim songs because Nigeria is a country formed by Muslims, Christians, and African spirituals”, explains the Nigerian vocalist. “I was singing ‘Naguode Allah’ to my partner who responded with ‘Salaam’. I nodded and repeated in agreement ‘Salaam Alaikum’. Right at that instant the song transformed into what it is now”.
The album’s title track “Reconnect” echoes that desire to realign oneself with the festive, multicultural spirit felt when the various ethnic and religious groups of Nigeria come together in celebration. With its melody inspired by traditional rhythms modernized to create a seamless afrobeat groove, Sonia describes “Reconnect” as a celebratory song of cultural heritage, as represented by traditional ruler kings who play significant roles in preserving traditions: “I imagine myself someday in Africa, with my Caribbean brothers and sisters, and all members of the African diaspora reconnecting through music that resonates with culture and traditions that have been preserved.
Sonia’s life and work almost reads like an ongoing serendipitous conversation with the universe, every song, album, and project seemingly steeped in altruistic purpose and the result of a refreshingly unpretentious self-reflexivity. But it took a global pandemic to force the tireless globetrotting artist and humanitarian to pause and turn her attention to some much-needed self-care. The first track on the album, “Live Nah JeJe’‘ describes how going from living a very frenetic lifestyle to a sudden forced stop unexpectedly opened the door for the Nigerian vocalist to reconnect with herself.
“Live Nah JeJe means to live life step-by-step; take it easy,” reflects Sonia. “And that’s from my perspective, as I always used to be on the go. And I thought that to not be on the go is going to be my downfall …not realizing that taking a break is actually my enrichment. So I have been able to really reshape this aspect of me.”
But Reconnect doesn’t just reflect a reconnection with things of the past. It also represents a fresh, powerful re-articulation of Aimy’s most constant and consistent creative values. It has been Aimy’s passion since she started singing at age eleven to touch as many hearts and souls as possible. From her mother, she gained an early education in the folklore of her people, the Bini, an interest she extended into traditional music, storytelling, and dance.
Motherhood and the universal struggles of women are important themes that often appear in her lyrics. These themes define the tracks “Mama” and “Woman Mwanamke,” two songs honoring women and mothers that encourage us to do what we can for others, even when our own circumstances are not the best. The songs are inspired by seeing her own mother and many other mothers struggle selflessly to care for their families despite limited resources, as a meaningful reminder of what womanhood is.
Likewise, “Manaka – Kamala” is a song dedicated to Kamala Harris and is Sonia’s way of calling to women, particularly African women to be empowered. “Having seen Kamala be elected as Vice President of the United States really inspired me,” says Sonia. “Since America is seen as such an example for the rest of the world, such accomplishments tell us that we can obtain these things too.”
Immigrating to Italy early in her career, the Nigerian vocalist studied jazz music and interpretation, as well as theatre arts, crafting a sound that has become distinctly her own. But it was also at that time that she started to become more keenly aware of racism and began to develop and express a deep concern for justice in her lyrics
“Kolanut” confronts issues of racism in Italy, a country she has come to consider her second home, where she has been saddened to see a rise in political rhetoric insulting and degrading immigrants to a new level she could never expect or imagine. In West African culture, the chewing of “Kolanut” signifies a sense of respect and hospitality extended as a way of honoring guests, a concept that stands in stark contrast to the unhealthy corporate cola of the West.
In a similar vein, the track “Do Your Best” relates Sonia’s story of being inspired by a young black man in her current home of Ontario who was beaten up for not wearing a mask. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he couldn’t afford one. This inspired the artist and entrepreneur to initiate yet another way to give back by creating a project to produce 12,000 masks and distribute them to the community through African Women Acting AWA, an organization empowering African women artists she founded a few years ago. More about AWA at www.africanwomenacting.org
The Nigerian vocalist says, “What at first seemed like a completely negative experience, the lockdown forced me to pause and allowed me to reflect and be grateful for being alive, to reconnect to myself musically, and to understand people from the outside as well. You find yourself in this situation but you can also utilize the situation to benefit yourself and others; it depends on perspective. So that was the moment of breakthrough in which I understood that I must make use of this moment to help myself and the people around me.”Reconnect will be officially released worldwide on October 1st, 2021. Reconnect is made available from Slammin Media and distributed worldwide by Believe Distribution.
Follow Sonia Aimy:
Apple Music: https://smarturl.it/saimyit
YouTube Music: https://smarturl.it/soniaaimyytmusic
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