By Rita Okoye
Abuja–based songstress, Zeeter Zainab Oliver, returned to the music scene in 2017after a hiatus, and now she’s determined to leave her imprint on the Nigerian entertainment scene. In this interview, Oliver shares her musical odyssey, her kind of man and lots more. Excerpt:
Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do?
I am what you could call a mixed Nigerian because I’m Igbo and Idoma. My music career started when I was much younger due to the influences of my childhood. But I took a break from music and returned in 2017, and I’ve been pushing since then as an independent artiste. My genre is Afro pop and Afro house.
Can you shed more light on your childhood influences?
My mum was a contractor for NTA, and my aunty was a manager also at NTA in Lagos. I spent my after school time in the premises of NTA and would be part of kiddie shows and activities. I had the privilege of working with OJB Jezreel when I started recording music.
Which of your parents is Igbo and which one is Idoma?
My dad is from Owerri, the Imo State capital, and my mum is from Benue State.
Since 2017, how has the music industry received you?
Yeah, I can’t complain. The industry is more receptive now than it was many years ago. Now artistes can release music independently without a label. I have released an EP and its available on all streaming platforms, and I have a new single about to be released. In between, I have attended some shows and club performances to build my fan base. But it’s not easy starting all over again with little resources.
What are the challenges you face as an independent artiste?
Money! That’s the major challenge. You need money for everything necessary to build a successful career, from music videos to music promotion and marketing. These things cost a whole lot of money. Record labels have a pool of investors that provide funds for signed artistes to work on projects.
How do you fund your projects since you don’t have a label yet?
I am a marketing executive and PR representative for a branding company, and I do some businesses like selling skincare products, furniture and even real estate. My mum taught me to work for what I need.
Which Nigerian label would you like to work with and why?
I would love to work with Universal Music and any other label willing to sign me. I mentioned Universal Music because they are positioned internationally to export my music to the world, not just the Nigerian audience.
Sexual harassment seems to be a norm in the entertainment industry, any personal experience you want to share?
Yeah true. Sexual harassment exists in the entertainment industry and pretty much in every other industry. But like I always tell people, being attractive comes with its perks. I haven’t been harassed. I have sometimes not been taken seriously, because some guys see a lady and assume she’s accessible because of how she dresses or just that she’s an entertainer.
One of your colleagues recently said that to be successful as a female musician in Nigeria, you have to sleep your way to the top. How true is this?
I hope she’s very successful if she has slept her way through the industry. I can’t entirely agree with her. I don’t know if Asa or Simi slept with the entire industry to be successful.
Can you mention the titles of your recent songs?
Some of my recent songs are One People, Ihotu, Shy, Hot Sauce, and Twilight – all available in my Nostalgia EP.
What inspires your lyrics?
Most times, I am inspired by real life occurrences and sometimes my personal experiences. And at other times, I am inspired just by the vibe.
As a beautiful diva, have you had an embarrassing encounter with a male fan?
Yeah! I was visiting Lagos last year and agreed to have a drink with a male fan. We met at Rhapsody but the guy ran away the moment he saw me. The waitress was like, Eeh yah, sister, you too fine. The guy was literally shaking. He just paid for the drinks and zoomed off. I am yet to know if I did something wrong. The waiters were laughing.
So, why are you still single?
I’m not married, but I’m not single.
What kind of man do you fancy?
I like tall, smart men. Smart men got me covered. I like sophisticated men, men ‘wey sabi’ something and dey do well at what they do.
Sex, money and then love, which comes first for you?
Love, money, and then sex.
Do you see yourself marrying an entertainer someday?
I don’t know. I’d rather prefer my spouse isn’t an entertainer.
What are your projections for 2021?
More music. Create a product people really need, and hopefully, some travelling when the borders are open again.
What did the pandemic deprive you of and how did you pull through?
It was very challenging. I dropped my EP a couple of weeks before the pandemic hit Nigeria, and we had the lockdown. I couldn’t promote my music; I didn’t have money and couldn’t make any.
Where do you see your brand in five years?
In five years, I want to be a global brand.
Who are the artistes you would wish to have collaboration with?
I will love to collaborate with Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Black Coffee, and a whole lot of great talents.