To be honest, the pop star never really left. Only last year she released the “Di’Ja” EP, and since then has released two singles “Ayo” and “Yaraye Iye.” And there’s been a slew of virtual live performances too since the start of the pandemic that kept all of us home.
That pandemic—the coronavirus—has had Di’Ja being more focused and productive. She’s working on a new project—two, actually, with one of them, “Aphropop Vol 1” already ready to go, and the second, Vol 2, in its final stages.
Di’Ja spoke to BellaNaija about this project, the inspiration for it, and what she wants listeners to take out of it. She also shared an easy recipe for her go-to comfort food during the pandemic, which, we believe, is necessary reading.
Let’s start with something fun: What’s your favourite song to lose yourself to?
“Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey. The chorus reminds me to love myself as much as I love others. This is something I have to remind myself constantly. There are many other songs I lose myself to but for the sake of this interview, I’ll pick this.
You dropped two tracks this year, “Ayo” and “Yaraye Iye,” both of them very upbeat. What inspired them?
Yes, we sure did. I feel inspiration is everywhere, but Ayo was inspired by my life and how I have had many setbacks but still manage to pull through in the grand scheme of things. It is an anthem for life’s ups and downs. Believe me, there are countless. The song is a reminder to live life to the fullest knowing that disappointments are part of the experience but by optimising your gifts and overcoming fear and anxiety, we can experience fulfilment. By far e no be easy process but it is doable.
Your more recent releases, including your two singles this year, stay more true to your Northern roots than your earlier singles from “Aphrodija.” What informed this shift?
In my life I constantly go back and forth with what I know. This is what defines who we are and what we have to share with the world. You are currently seeing a reflection of my life’s experiences and how it entwines with the path I have chosen as a career. I’m forever changing, infusing and evolving. How my music is interpreted is up to the listener. I hope you allow yourself to fall in love with my music. I won’t call it a shift, more like two sides of the same coin.
We see from your social media that you have an EP coming, “Aphropop.” Is the Northern sound and the upbeat mood a common theme?
Yes, my project Aphropop Vol 1 and 2 is something I am excited about. In truth all my backgrounds play a part in building the foundation of my songs, alongside infusions of what you have learned and entangled with along the way. Lets face it, I am surrounded by influences from all parts of the continent, so it’s hard to tell which will emerge when a song is being developed. One thing I do try to do is ensure I let the music drive itself. That way, it’s more natural. How a song manifests and becomes a track is all by the grace of God and the ingredients that best fit the moment. The Aphropop Series is aimed at appealing across all moods.
Can you give us more info about the EP? What was on your mind when you decided to make it, what do you want fans to take out of it?
I have come to see my fans as my extended family many of which share some of their challenges with me. To me, it is important to ensure they remain connected to my brand no matter how life or the world around us changes. Every track on this EP is created to ignite a feeling from each song. With this I hope to at least strike a chord through the melodies and compositions that will continue to feed and touch all souls.
Can you take us through the timeline of making the project and when we should expect the release?
The project, like many, started long before we started putting it together. Many of the songs have been ideas that evolved over time. The good thing is we are currently wrapping up features and collabs on Vol 2. Vol 1 is pretty much complete and ready to go inshaa Allah. Fingers crossed.
The pandemic has been disruptive for all of us. How has it changed the way you work and your creative process?
The pandemic was/is a real eye opener to the vulnerabilities of us all as humans and as a planet. For me it was a reminder of how fragile we are and that the smallest things can really matter. I have used the time to build myself with the objective of being the best version of me. Work wise, it has made me more focused and conscious and heightened my awareness in how important it is to use one’s platform for the betterment of others. I think now, from a perspective of true enrichment, as against to simply commercial value. I think all music wants to be heard and not sold. The money comes while you push.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, what’s been your go-to comfort food during this pandemic (and how does one make it)?
I got experimental during this pandemic. Depending on my mood, it can be a white okro (side of betta palm oil stew) and pounded yam, or a shephard’s pie (minced meat or kidney). In terms of my okro, I’ll give a quick secret as most people have their own way of what they blend. I blend kray fish inside my blended mix before I put it again in the soup. It adds extra flavour.
See recipe below for a shepard’s pie I did over pandemic. Quick for the kids too.
8-10 potatoes, peeled (depends on amount of people)
1 stick of butter (from a bar of President butter) you can use any other one you like
Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
1-2 onion, chopped
Vegetables—diced carrots, corn, peas
1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
1/2 cup beef broth
Mash your potatoes with butter and garlic with seasoning of your choice (done separately).
Make sure you season your minced meat (what ever you are using) and stir fry that first so the seasoning, pepper, etc., enters. The mashed potato gets laid under on the casserole dish, then in goes the meat and on top goes the rest of the mashed potatoes (like a sandwich). Make sure you have enough potatoes. Then put in oven to get crispy. Everything depends on size of party or people.
I don’t measure like this, This is for the interview purpose. I don’t measure I go by the grace of God.