By Ephraim Nwosu
Fast rising Cameroonian singer, Kimberly Ayuk, started her music career covering popular songs on stage and social media platforms.
After recording success upon success, the 24-year-old talented artiste is proof that young musicians can have a global presence irrespective of age.
In this interview, Ayuk showered encomiums on Nigerian music stars like Wizkid, Tiwa Savage and Burna Boy, saying they have what it takes to compete with the best in the world and possibly rule the global music industry in future. Here are excerpts:
Could you tell us about your growing up?
I grew up in a compound full of people because my grandfather was polygamous. He had three wives, but only two lived with him. I was always very outspoken which often got me into trouble. My mom gave birth to me when she was in high school and had to go back to school after my birth. When she had her advanced level certificate, she moved to Yaoundé where she attended the university after which she travelled out of Cameroon in search of greener pastures. In her absence, my grandparents raised me, with extended family relatives living with us. So, in a sense, I had a lot of siblings and my childhood was very colourful.
How did music begin for you?
It all started in the church during Sunday school. They used to play drums and we would sing and clap along. Then when CD became popular, I had cousins who loved rap music and they had CDs of American musicians that I picked interest in watching their music videos with them. There was also this radio my mom had in her room during her university days; and whenever I went for summer holidays I remember playing rock CDs, Nigerian CDs and other gospel CDs that inspired me. Being a member of my church choir and taking part in singing competition also helped to shape my music career. I also loved being on stage. During my class six graduation, my friend and I put together a performance of a Papillion song that we rehearsed for weeks. We didnt have any musical instrument, so we sang with our mouths while dancing. Also, I remember in my secondary school, I used to perform in front of my classmates, and sometimes in front of the entire school and I was never shy. It was all fun in the beginning.
Are your parents music-inclined?
Not professionally, but I know my mom loved music and she used to be in a choir when she was in University of Yaoundé. I also recently found out that as a child she used to be a conductor in her Sunday school choir. So, I guess the love for music has always been there.
Were your parents supportive of your career from the onset?
I don’t think so. I am academically gifted, so I know my parents wished I did something more along that line. But there is nothing they can do about it now, they have realised that music is the path I’ve chosen.
How would you describe your type of music? What does the sound represent?
I am a rapper, singer, songwriter and my sound represents the new African sound – hip-hop, Afrobeats and a blend of both. You can call it Afro-fusion.
Who do you sing to?
I sing to anyone who cares to listen. You never can tell who is listening, but I know there are many people who feel the way I feel and who go through the same things I go through or know someone with a similar story. So, I say what I feel through music, and hopefully it translates successfully to whoever is listening.
Your tracks are brilliant. Tell us about it. What was it like creating the music?
Creating music, for me, is channeling energy. I just pour out whatever I’m feeling and thinking into the creative process, and then I start working on it and making corrections and adjustments as I go.
Besides music, what else do you do?
I’m into fashion and Okrika business. For instance, during festive period, I focus on fashion; I buy and sell bags, shoes, jewelry, make up, perfumes, hair, waist trainers and other cosmetic products. During rainy season, I retail Okrika, bails of kids and adults clothes. It’s quick turnover and that’s how I fund my music career independently.
What inspires your creativity?
They are life experiences, emotions, people, moods, places, dreams, thoughts, family, friends, neighbours, social media, and poverty.
Which big record label in Nigeria are you looking forward to working with and why?
If I had to choose, I’ll name three – Supreme Marvin Dynasty, 30 Billion Gang and YBNL Records. I’ll say Marvin because it’s one of the oldest record labels in Nigeria. Way back, it was known as Mo Hits, which signed the likes of Wande Coal, D’banj and Don Jazzy who is also a part owner. They have also signed talented artistes like Ladipoe, Buju, Ayra Star, Rema, Ruger, Tiwa Savage and many others. 30 Billion Gang is great because Davido is the only Nigerian artiste who currently has songs with some of the biggest names in the American music industry, having featured the likes of Lil Baby and Nicki Minaj. This is a strong indication that they have a lot of pull and they will be good record labels for me especially as a rapper, who hopes to crossover into the American market. I like YBNL because Olamide is an artiste, who has stood the test of time in the music industry, and has a plethora of successful hits to his name like Shakiti Bobo, Poverty Die, Motigbana, and Infinity.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my Ambitious mixtape. I’ve been working on it for a while now. Working alone without any support for my studio sessions and promo has, however, made the process a bit slow. It was initially supposed to be a one project made up of 21 songs, but I figured it wouldn’t be beneficial to over saturate the playlist, so I decided to divide it into two. The second mixtape is called Trauma and it contains more of Afrobeats instrumentals. Meanwhile, the Ambitious mixtape contains more raps and bars. It will be interesting to see how people receive them. I am currently rehearsing and applying finishing touches to the mixtape while gearing up towards shooting videos and doing shows.
When are you planning to hit the market?
If by hit the market you mean sell a project, I’ll say hopefully by the end of this year. I am gearing to release my mixtape titled, Ambitious. It is not going to be for profit making because I don’t own the rights to the instrumentals used in the songs. But I believe the mixtape will lay a good foundation when I am ready to drop my original work and make profit from it.
You seem to have an emotional attachment working with Nigerian artistes, what is responsible for this?
I grew up listening to a lot of Nigerian music. Besides, I am half Nigerian, but I grew up in Cameroon. Nigerian music and movies were always a way to connect with and feel a part of Nigeria. It’s just a big part of who I am.
You recently took part in a world music competition where you were unfortunately eliminated at the semi-final stage. Tell us about the event and your experiences?
It was a music competition organised by an App called, Orbitt. They partnered with Davido to organise a $10,000 prize competition in which contestants had to register with either a cover of Lala by Davido, a cover of any of Davidos songs or an original song of yours. The contestants were then selected and sent confirmation email that they had been selected to take part in the competition. We were each given voting links that we had to use to urge people to vote for us; votes cost $1 each. The competition was then divided into three stages of voting in which the people with the least votes at the end of each voting round were eliminated. I gave my all, but got eliminated at the semi finals. I was super grateful for getting the opportunity to take part in the competition and also very proud of myself that I made it that far. It gave me a boost of reassurance that I was doing something right and heading to the right direction. It was a wonderful experience for me.
How would you compare Nigerian and Cameroonian musicians?
Nigerian and Cameroonian musicians have a lot in common, but I think Nigerians are more into show business side of things, while the Cameroonians are into show politics. In fact, the two industries are incomparable; they are worlds apart when it comes to age, growth and size. More importantly, Nigeria’s population alone puts them 10 steps ahead of the Cameroonian music industry.
As a young Cameroonian musician, which Nigerian artiste did you look up to?
First and foremost, I will pick Wizkid. I am so much in love with his songs. He is a genius whose songs have special place in my heart. I also admire Waje, Timaya and Tiwa Savage, and last but not the least, Olamide. They are all great musicians.
And do you think you’d be doing music with some of them in the near future?
Who knows? Man proposes, but God disposes. But it will be a dream come true to do on a song with any of these great musicians, especially Wizkid.
You’ve shown prowess in your ability to make good music out of any word, what is your secret?
Wow, thank you. I read a lot of books and watched lots of YouTube videos in which I learnt new words and how to use them. I also listen to different types of music especially rap which contains lots of words. So, I guess constantly working on your vocabulary really helps with the word play.
What is your opinion of the Nigerian music industry? Would you say it is difficult for young talents to make it?
I am so proud of the Nigerian music industry and its immense growth. Credit must go to pioneers like Daddy Showkey, African China, Danfo Driver and so many others who didn’t get to benefit from the age of technology, but they were able to spread their art across the continent. Looking at Nigerian musicians like Wizkid and Ckay hitting the international billboards and spreading Nigerian music all over the globe is really beautiful. It’s a good sign that Nigerian musicians have all it takes to compete with the best in the world. For Beyoncé to collaborate on a whole visual album with exclusively African talents in a track list dominated by Nigerian musicians such as Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade and Wizkid, gives me the feeling that Africa is the next big thing for music globally, and Nigeria is at its forefront.
There are lots of up and coming singers like you that are not yet fully recognised, what would you advise them to do to become visible?
They should take full advantage of the Internet; learn, connect and put themselves out there. Use Google, be active on social media, learn the algorithms and try to use them to their advantage. Above all, they should rely on themselves first before relying on anyone else.
The music industry today is dominated by lewd and raunchy content that the audience appears to vibe on; do you think it will be difficult to rise in the industry without using such lyrics?
Yes, the audience vibes to the raunchy content, but in that audience are human beings who also go through day-to-day struggles. So, if you focus all your energy on making lewd and raunchy content, you will be missing out on a lot and as well doing a huge disservice to yourself and to the people listening to your music. I love music and I listen to music based on my moods and how I feel during a particular period.
As an up and coming artiste, what’s your ultimate dream?
My ultimate dream is to be someone’s favourite musician. Beyoncé, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj don’t even know I exist, but they have been a huge part of my life from the little girl I was to the young woman I’m becoming. So, to be able to impact someones life in that way is really a priceless gift, which not everybody gets to possess.