Born in Lagos, Imanse spent a good portion of her growing up years in Lagos, and after her high school education in Queens college, moved to the United states where she spent another ten years. After her college education, she interned at Wall’s street prestigious firm, Morgan Stanley and also went on to take on a full time finance and tax position with a Manufacturing electronic firm,Tyco Electronics. Through all this time, Imanse always wanted to get back to what she loved doing best, music but she has always known that an education would make her a better-rounded individual. After schooling and working for a couple of years in the states, Imanse moved back to Lagos to pursue her first love, music. She has shown a strong interest in music since she was ten. In high school, she used to lead the pack, doing covers of popular songs with her classmates. She has always been curious about music, fascinated with musical arrangements and always dreamt of the day when she would be able to create music of her own. Growing up in a household where music always filled the air, her father used to play songs of music legends in the house all the time. She grew up listening to Mariah Carey, King Sunny Ade, Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton. Her mum also worked in a radio house writing scripts in pidgin and acting in several short plays. So being around creative parents helped shape her love for music even further. When she went away to college at Howard University, she joined the Voice of praise choir, Maryland, in 2004 and quickly became one of the lead singers in the choir. She went on to write all the songs for the hit Broadway play, No limits, in 2010. That served as a turning point for her. It validated her gifts and her true calling. She also sang during her graduation ceremony at Howard University. Imanse’s musical influences range from Asa, Beyonce, Usher, Alicia Keys and Brandy. These artistes are unique in their own way and Imanse draws inspiration from them for different reasons. Her quest to create a unique sound makes her a treat musically. Her first single Gbona was released in December 2014. It was produced by Ikon.
What is the focus of your songs?
I want to be able to pass across a message
Is there any social message in your first single Gbona?
My focus is on love. You know how they say “love is the greatest”. “Love makes the world go round” and all that. Well, love seems to cover everything- Within its context you will find everything else- love for family, friends of both sexes, God, country and other people- which is the social issue you are talking about. It is not just portraying or lamenting about what is happening in the society that’s important but also what we can do about it and I think love is the answer. Love is a verb. It is proactive
It seems your stay in America has you talking a lot about peace and love.
There is nothing more about love and peace out there than there is here.
How long were you in Nigeria before you left?
How long were you in America?
That’s long enough to colorize you, make you think like them.
You could say so but the switch back here is definitely an eye opener and a bit of a culture shock. I mean for one thing, there seems to be a social event here every other day. Everything is fast paced here. There is no cruise control in Nigeria.
At what point did you decide to take up music?
It was way before I actually did. I thought about it and talked about it for three years but I couldn’t work up the courage to do it. It took me time to find the guts to eventually make the move.
It was a question of how you explain it to the people around you. It won’t make complete sense to them
Why didn’t u stay back in America to do music?
Well, I have always been fascinated with Nigerian music and wanted to be part of it and I couldn’t be part of it from there.
What fascinates you about Nigerian music?
I love our sound. I love the fact that we are growing as an industry. I have been following things here for a while and then finally decided the time was right. It was like ‘now or never!’
You kind of fascinate me too. Running away from a stable society, comfortable job, leaving all you had going on for you in America and coming back here.
It is not just me. A lot of other people have taken that risk on so many different levels. They left better conditions than the one I was in to come back home. The thing is, you can’t come back home with a double mind. You have to be all in to just to stand a chance.
So you came back with a plan, saved up all you needed…
No. I don’t have all the money and everything that I need but slowly and surely, we’ll get there. A lot of people who start this journey, whether abroad or here, didn’t start with everything. If you’re going to be something, you will be.
So you believe in destiny?
Which Nigerian musician has inspired you the most?
Asa first and foremost. I remember when her first album came out. It is one of the best albums I have ever heard in a long time. They were playing it everywhere, in barbecues, in bars and lounges. Another thing I had that got me was Tufaces’ African Queen which was the soundtrack to the movie, Fat girls. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then of course there is Fela. The boldness of his messages, his craftsmanship, the rawness of his sound, the afro-centricity of the whole thing. That’s why he is celebrated worldwide. A true voice of Africa. Apart from these three, almost everyone here inspires me. The pure resilience, the work rate, the belief, the outputs are just amazing. Tiwa Savage, Flavour, Omawunmi. What they have done here helped inspire me to come back.
Are there people you would like to work with?
Definitely. I would love to do a duet with Patoranking. He simply has so much soul. Asa, Tuface and of course, Flavour too.
What is different from others that you are bringing to the music industry? Anything distinct about your music?
I like to fuse genres. My first song is a fusion of Afrobeat and soul. The next song is a fusion of R’n’B and highlife. I like to fuse. I love to create. As long as I can be creative and successfully do that, one day, Nigeria will recognize my uniqueness.
You do think you have what it takes to make it her, don’t you?
Of course. I recognize the fact that a lot of people are out there trying. Some are succeeding more than others and that life offers no guarantees but I strongly believe that if you work very hard, focus on improving the quality of your output, there is nothing that can hold you down.
If things don’t work out as planned would you go back to your banking job in America?
There is no going back. We are here. We are doing this. Will do mainstream music as long as I can then who knows what next? Judge talent shows. Coach other artistes. Talk shows. The entertainment industry here is going to keep growing. There is so much to do, so much to plug in to.
So what do you have lined up next?
Definitely a super duper highlife and R’n’B song in about a week and then a super duper club banger.
Are you just going to do music alone?
Yes. If you want to do something, do it well. Stay focused, keep at it. I have been busy learning about the industry. Learning the environment. Learning how things work. Observing, mingling, talking. That’s how you learn.
Who are the people you have mingled with since you came back?
A lot of people. I don’t want to start name dropping, but of course I have linked up with several artistes
and producers. I can safely say I have met Ikon and UC Prof, the producers of my first single and the one that’s coming soon.
Have had any performances?
Of course. I did the Lagos countdown which took place at the beach in December. I performed at the one on Christmas and the one on New Year’s day. After my debut single was released, I performed a lot.
Would you say you have been enjoying your incursion in the music industry?
Enjoying? I enjoy what I am doing; the process, the lessons, the friendships, but I am not sure one can say they are ‘enjoying’ the industry till one reaches a certain level of success as an artiste.
Has there been any kind of pressure?
There is pressure to do the kind of music that is popular. Pressure to play it safe and conform to what everyone else is doing, not doing love songs and expressing yourself. A lot of pressure to go ‘commercial’. You know when they are doing big shows, they don’t usually call those who are
pouring their hearts out, talking about love and all.
How have you been taking it?
I think I am taking it well. I understand that it isn’t an overnight thing. I know nothing comes easy. For some people, it takes 8 songs before they get their hit. Some take 10 years. So I think I am doing ok
How are you coping with male fans and admirers ?
Nothing out of the ordinary really. As a woman you learn to respect yourself and appreciate them. There is no wahala there.
Since coming back, have you had any memorable experience? Is there any experience that
The fuel scarcity! That was a memorable experience. There was so much I had to do: photo shoot, recordings, but we couldn’t do anything. No movement. It was scary because no one was selling. It felt like a war zone, like there was some kind of zombie apocalypse.
Isn’t that enough to discourage you?
No. I am not going give up that easily. I know people who have run back to the States after two months of relocating to Nigeria, after selling all they had to come back to Nigeria but there’s no going back for me.
When do we get to see your music videos?
We are currently working on a video treatment for the new single and we are hoping to shoot it soon.
So what can we expect from Imanse?
The best. Nothing but the best. I will keep putting out good music that will keep getting better and
better. I will keep tweaking sounds. I will keep performing, reaching out to fans.