Questions with Singer/Songwriter Offiong Bassey

Aug 27, 2013 • Articles, Interviews, MusicNo Comments

In the wake of singer/songwriter Offiong Bassey’s album debut and the premiere of her first single ‘Edidem’ off of the new album, we caught up with Ms Bassey to learn about her inspirations and her new video.
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Your latest self-entitled album is very diverse. How would you describe your music?
Thank you! I would describe my music as pure fusion. It’s African-inspired Soul, Jazz, and Gospel. You’ll hear Nigerian Highlife and Ekombi, Afrobeat, some rap and spoken word, some Jazzy scatting, some danceable pop, complex rhythms and harmonies, and lyrical depth. I have fun with all the different styles that I’ve grown up hearing. As large as the breadth of depth of the music that I explore in my album, it is all authentically “ME” and that’s why I enjoy it so much – and I think others will enjoy it too.

Does your Nigerian upbringing have any influences on your style of music?
Absolutely. I’m influenced sonically, rhythmically, and lyrically by the music of Nigeria. Soundwise, I’ve been able to use instrumentation that’s traditional to our culture – including the djembe and talking drum, the guitars, the trumpets in the Highlife songs; I use polyrhytmic patterns and driving percussive beats – both with the drumming and with piano; and lyrically, I incorporate our reflective way of storytelling and delivery, doing so in English, Pidgin English, and my family’s native language of Efik (there’s a little Spanish in there too).

Where did you grow up? Does your hometown have any effect on your style of music?
I grew up in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. Boston is a very artistically rich city and I draw on those influences, in addition to the Nigerian influence that I had in the home. I will also say that I grew up listening to an eclectic blend of music – of America, and of Nigeria. I did do a highschool study abroad in Spain and I traveled a lot – to Panama, Ghana, Japan, so I picked up a bit from each of these places and they influence my music, for sure.

Do you write your songs yourself? And if so, how often and where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?
I do write my own songs. I’m grateful to have been given that gift. As long as I’m open to receiving, I’m inspired to write songs on a daily basis – as I observe nature, as I reflect on human interactions, as I express and understand my own feelings – there’s something to convey – some story to tell. I’m just happy to be a vessel!

If you weren’t pursuing music, what would you be doing?
Well, I do have a profession in addition to music. I direct a leadership development institute in the area of education reform. I like that I have the opportunity to promote and support social change through my other vocation, as that is what I endeavor to do in my music as well.

How are your family and friends finding your success?
I have wonderful support from my community – my family, friends, and collaborators. I recently had my official album launch event and people came from all over the country to support me. I’ve been blessed, in this process, to receive so much love!

At what age did you start singing?
I started singing when I starting talking, LOL!

Tell us about your song ‘Edidem’ – how was it putting this song together? where did you get the inspiration for the song?
The song, “Edidem,” is an adaptation of a traditional Efik Chorus that my grandparents taught me. It’s based on Psalm 91 in the Bible where the scripture speaks to us taking refuge under the wings of the Lord, covered and protected completely. It’s a family song and I wanted to pay homage to that on my album. Stylistically, it employs an Ekombi rhythm and guitar pattern.

The video for ‘Edidem’ features your family. How important was it to include them in your first video?
Given the origin of the song and its meaning to my family, I really wanted to include them in the video. You’ll see my mother, grandmother, and brother Eniang – he plays djembe in the video. There is also a scene where I’m sitting with mom and Grandma looking at family pictures. It’s very intimate and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to include them.

Which artists, if any, inspired you to sing?
There have been many. My grandmother was my first singing inspiration – I’m named after her. There’s also Miriam Makeba, Jonathan Butler, Rachelle Ferrell, Mahalia Jackson, Fela Kuti, Lauryn Hill: storytellers.

So what’s next for you? Are you working on any live performances,  are you writing new material?
I just released my official music video for Edidem – it’s on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTZWDHF-Evg. I have some performances coming up this Fall and I’m getting back in the studio! I’m always writing new material.

How can our readers learn more about your music?
Readers can go to www.offiongbassey.com for information and to join my mailing list. You can “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OffiongBassey. You can follow me on Twitter on www.twitter.com/OffiongBassey. And you can hear clips of songs on SoundCloud at www.soundcloud.com/OffiongBassey.

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