Sunday, March 10, 2013

Amina Abdi: I'm done singing

PHOTO | COURTESY Amina Abdi.

PHOTO | COURTESY Amina Abdi.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BONIFACE MWALII

Who is Amina?

Amina is a fun loving, sweet, 25-year-old radio and TV presenter who just recently ventured into singing. I love music, I love cooking, I love fashion. I’m a girly girl. My family is my strength. In a nutshell, I love my work and I’m all about the people who matter in my life.

Tell us a bit about your upbringing

I was born and raised in Nairobi. My parents are both Borana. Dad is from Moyale and my mum is from Isiolo. I studied at Kenya High School up to 2006.

So you’re like the most famous Borana right?

Haha. It’s funny everyone always tells me I’m the first Borana they’ve ever met but I know so many it’s just that they’re probably really scattered.

How has it been transitioning from the interviewer as a radio/TV presenter to the interviewee as a musician?

It’s quite awkward really. I’m used to asking all the questions so the first time I had to do an interview was really awkward. But I love music. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but because of my religion it’s always taken a backseat. My parents are very strict and they always nudged me to become a lawyer or a diplomat. I can say I just stumbled on music.

You’re obviously a talented singer. How did you nurture that talent given your family’s attitude?

I always used to listen to music with my elder sister. Naturally we had very different tastes but I ended up listening to Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, Joe, Whitney Houston and other great musicians of that time. I remember singing from as far back as Standard One.

I would cram songs from cassette tapes and my dad would bring home karaoke machines and mics which I would use to perform for my family and friends. I always wanted to be a singer but it just never really happened until recently.

From an aspiring diplomat/lawyer to a media personality and musician, how did that happen?

I heard Homeboyz were opening a radio school which I joined and worked so hard because they told us the top student in our class would get a job at Homeboyz.

It so happened I was top of my class so when I started interacting with people in the industry, many commented on how well I could sing. We did some projects back then but I was always skeptical about putting any of it out because I was afraid of my parents and religion.

What has changed now?

I won’t lie, I may not be the most pious of Muslims but even then I’m not the type of person to strip naked on a music video or anything remotely close to that. I’m happy for everyone who is willing to do that but it’s just not for me. And that’s not even about my parents or religion, it’s purely a matter of principle.

In the end my religion still doesn’t condone what I do but I feel like we we’re all given one life to live and I want to live mine my way. As long as I know my family is behind me, I’m good. Besides they know I wouldn’t go and do something stupid like dance half naked on a striper pole in a video.

How did you end up working with Jay A?

I was chilling in the studio with the producer Dillie whom we work with at Homeboyz and he played for me this beat and sang the hook he wanted to have on it. We quickly recorded it so we don’t forget the tune and believe it or not that was the only take I did for that song. When Jay A came and heard it, he loved it and laid down his verses immediately. Within no time it was mixed and mastered and released.

What about the video?

Yes, about that. Contrary to what everyone has been saying my not being in the video had nothing to do with my religion. It was simply because Boomba kept postponing the date for the video shoot. On the day they actually ended up doing it I was at home asleep and my phone was off for most of the day. By the time I woke up I found a bunch of missed calls and texts and they notified me that the video was done.

You must have been totally pissed

Honestly, at that time I wasn’t. In fact we had planned to reshoot it but somehow the video was leaked and there was really nothing we could do about it. I felt so bad and actually so would anybody in the world. I was a bit upset that I couldn’t reap from the success of something that I was part of. Then everyone started making assumptions about why I wasn’t in it and I felt there wasn’t any need to keep dwelling on that story and I decided to move on.

Did this interfere in any way with your relationship with Jay A or Boomba?

Not at all. In fact I’ve done another song with Jay A, which is still being worked on and I also have a solo project with Boomba. I don’t want to just be known as the “collabo girl” you know.

Did you anticipate that level of success for ‘On Me’?
I honestly didn’t think it was a song that everyone would be wowed by. Of course when you do anything you hope for the best but it completely surpassed my expectations. The good thing was that I had the support of my radio audience and all the connections I had on other radio stations so it was truly a blessing to see it evolve into what it became. It was a huge deal for both of us considering we were both new in the industry.

Then you did another collabo with K-Letta…

It was purely a coincidence that that came out at the time it did. The thing is I had even done another song with another musician but we had some disagreements and decided not to release it. We had done the song some time back but I had to hold off on the release because my boyfriend wasn’t entirely sold to the idea of me becoming a musician.

By ‘your boyfriend’ are you referring to K-Letta?

What? No! I’ve never understood where that came from. Is it because I did a song with him? Because by the same virtue I also did a song with Jay A and Octopizzo. I’m not dating anyone that anyone knows.

So what’s next for you musically?

Well honestly, I don’t think I want to venture into music anymore. I love singing but I don’t want to deal with all the negativity that comes with it.

Really? You’re going to quit now when you’re literally on top?
I wouldn’t say I’m quitting. It’s just not my main focus anymore. I have other things I’m working on which I feel are more relevant to me right now.

Care to tell us about these ‘other things’?

Well, I’ve been offered a role as a co-host for a new feature on MNet’s Mashariki Mix show. I’m really excited about this since I will be able to engage a continental audience.

buzz@ke.nationmedia.com; @iwittness