Getting to know rising musicians in the Nigerian music industry has been my new venture for 2022. Today, allow me to introduce you to Femi Leye.
After watching Pheelz, Femi Leye, BNXN and Glitch Africa choir perform Pheelz’s new hit “Finesse” at the Glitch Sessions a few days ago, I was smitten by Femi Leye’s performance and asked him a few questions about his art to satisfy the curiosity of some who have not heard more about him before now.
Oluwafemi Abolade Leye, known professionally as Femi Leye, is a Nigerian guitarist, singer, songwriter, record producer, and composer. His music is a hybrid of African ethnic sounds, Contemporary Soul, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Funk and Yoruba Music.
He won Best AfroJazz Producer in the 2016 Beatz Awards.
Femi Leye has 2 studio albums;
– Femi Leye The Album
– The Highlife Ep
Cathy Ben-Ameh: How did your passion for music flare-up?
Femi Leye: It had a lot to do with my background. My dad used to play a lot of records in the house from Sunny Ade to Fela Kuti etc., you know, such good music and my ears became attuned to different sounds and my fascination for music instruments singing, harmonization (even though I did not know that was what it was called). There was just something about the music that drew me in and I just wanted to be a part of that and now I am a musician.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: What was your first contact with the electric guitar?
Femi Leye: My first contact with the electric guitar was in the early 90s, 92 or 93 I think. My dad had a band and they had a truck. I used to hold their instruments including their electric guitars for them at their shows. I don’t even think he knew that would eventually be my life. But the first time I really played an electric guitar was in 2004.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: Which players made an impact on you at that stage?
Femi Leye: Sunny Ade to be specific is a great hero. When you see him on TV playing the guitar he just looks like an African rock star and, Fela Kuti’s guitarist as well. They all looked really cool on stage and before I was even exposed to contemporary music all I could see in my environment was guitar music and Highlife, many people playing in bands, in church, at weddings and so it was just always exciting for me to watch these people do their thing. As a teenager, I played a lot of air guitar (He laughs)
Cathy Ben-Ameh: What do you enjoy most about playing the guitar?
Femi Leye: The endless possibilities of creating sound with six strings is still very fascinating to me; I can play different chord shapes, different arpeggios and modes and just develop various ideas with the instrument and make it sound like my own, expressing my individual sound.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: Tell me about your best performance
Femi Leye: My best performance yet was my first performance in America and the reason why it was very special was because it was a more diverse audience than I was previously used to playing for, which included Americans, French-speaking Africans, and other countries, you know, different people from different walks of life that had never heard my music. From the first song I played they loved the music up until the end. That performance was incredible and very well received. It was in Minnesota.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: Tell me about your worst performance.
Femi Leye: It was when I was just starting out as a performer. I went for an open mic at the MUSON Centre, Lagos and put my name down to perform as one would do at these events. But those who wrote their names before I performed, left right after their performances. When it was my turn, the entire auditorium was empty. The sound engineer started packing up the drums and I had to perform with just a bass player in an empty auditorium. That was very embarrassing.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: If you could change one thing in the Nigerian music industry, what would it be?
Femi Leye: What I could change is, to put more structure in the industry that allows musicians to thrive. The way it is now, if you are not doing Afrobeat you are not a musician and that is terribly wrong because you have all genres of music and artists here that express themselves in different ways so it’s to give everyone a platform and opportunity to thrive and express themselves in their given genres of music. Everyone cannot be boxed into one genre of music.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: What are your plans for the coming months?
Femi Leye: I am definitely looking forward to going on tour in Europe and back to America. I would like to go to perform in Australia and New Zealand, explore Japan, Singapore, Shanghai and just have people enjoy the sound. I just put out a new single called “Igba MI De”- which means “my time is now” which is very prophetic. I am looking forward to getting back on stage anywhere around the world that would have me.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: If it wasn’t a music career, what would you be doing?
Femi Leye: If I wasn’t a musician, definitely I would have been a science nerd. I’m actually a science nerd. I studied Food Science and Technology at Federal polytechnic, Ilaro so, I would have become a lab scientist. That would have been horrible. I would not have been happy. Sigh! I am very happy I make music.
Cathy Ben-Ameh: So am I! And I bet your fans are too. Well, thank you so much for sharing your time with us. We look forward to listening to and watching more of you in the coming weeks and months. Godspeed!
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Femi Leye: Thank you. It was my pleasure.