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Llona…Harmonies For Healing

Llona…Harmonies For Healing

Across the new school of Afrobeats singers, Llona stands out as a distinct voice echoing with deep emotions. His stretchy lithe vocals drip like fresh paint on a canvass, weaving his discography into a portrait of candid life experiences. In every track the rising star has put out, including his most recent, ‘Another Day’, Llona continues to create music that feels like mushy hugs on a sour day.

Born Michael Ajuma Attah, the ‘sonic healer’ honed his influences in music from his childhood days in Kogi State, in North-Eastern Nigeria. From hustling to perform on local stages in neighboring Kano, to going viral with his freestyles on social media, Llona’s commitment to spreading his music is equally as inspiring as his art. The pop singer started out his music career as a rapper closely sembling his icon Olamide under the moniker 2classic. He would later move to Lagos, several years later to begin a purge — shedding his skins as a hard-hitting emcee to the soft-toned vocalist stirring hearts with his therapeutic melodies.

With the likes of Omah Lay, Magixx, Qing Madi, BNXN and a host of others shifting a strong wave in Nigeria’s music evolution with their emo-pop discographies, Llona is a strong voice set to further entrench this style into the core of the industry. We catch up with the young singer, exploring his passion-filled muses; come-up journey and his mission to create melodies that hover as safe havens for the modern day youth.


What was your journey into the music scene like?

I think I officially started from Kano. I was doing my thing in the streets because at that time, we would pay to buy forms to perform, to climb on stage and and perform at that time. When I came to Lagos, in 2015, It became more serious. Since then, it has been for me going from one competition to the other. I started with music competitions, going to music competitions. The ones that had record labels to it or the ones that had price tags to it, because at the end of the day, I was just doing more. Though, I mixed it up with other jobs. 2019 was when I was fully introduced to the industry,as to classic then. I had a song and the song went viral and left me behind there. Lyta was on the song but knew I was in the song, like nobody knew there was another person in the song. So, yeah my journey into the music industry has been like moving from one phase to another, or from one chapter to another.

How was life in Kano, did you grow up there?

Yeah, I grew up there. I grew up with my mom. My mom is a traveler. From Kogi, she travels to Kano, Kaduna but I spent most of my life in Kaduna. That’s the one I can really say I had friends and all that stuff. So, growing up in Kano, I grew up with my stepfather, he was an inspector. And at that time, in 2015, there was this Boko Haram issue, it kind of became like a target. So, our movement was really quick. Any small suspicious movement, we’ve moved to another area, so there was basically no time to bond with friends or have relationships, because before I could make friends here, my mom was already moving to another place. I grew up in Badawa, then Hausa boys were calling me Olamide because I was imitating Olamide so bad, during the Voice on the Street period and all of that stuff. So, growing up in Kano, it was tough, but one of the things I learned was discipline- the strength. It gave me strength, it gave me discipline, it gave me different perspectives of life, you know.

How did that nomadic life influence your personality?

Now that I have grown up, it made me realize that I now ger bored of things easily and that is what has affected me. When I am in a place, just like my mum, I just feel unwanted and I am already tired of the place or depressed already, you know. It has really shifted my life and made me not dwell on things that easily. You know, I had this trauma of all the friends I have, i just know that one day I am going to be six feet down the ground, you feel me.

Growing up, what were you listening to?

I was listening to a lot of Olamide.

Were you trying to be a rapper?

Yeah, I was once a rapper and yeah I had a project out there that had me rapping songs- that’s ‘4AM’.

What was your stage name as a rapper then?

2Classic, yeah. Like I said, I was going for competitions. I went for TVC Rap or Drop, 2017, you know I won Lagos Cool breeze and some other competitions. I was just going for rap competitions, but at a time I stopped because I did not want to be that artist that just get tied to this thing. You know, we have to eat and these artists place a price tag on their beats and tell you to hop on it, but at some point I stopped because I don’t want to be that type of artist. You know, in the Nigeria music industry, you can get boxed easily. So, I had to cut all of that off. And I noticed over time that people engage more on my freestyle video than my music, and I don’t want to be that kind of artist. I want to be an artist that’s different. It’s not like anytime I come online and post, that’s when you remember me, you feel me.

How did you transition into Liona?

There was an artist then, T-classic, he was an artist and his music was out. So, whenever I see it, I am always seeing my name too- 2Classic yeah. And you know, people forget too easily, I can’t even have my name mixed with my upcoming stage name, that has always been an issue for me, but I couldn’t take a step of changing my name because I’ve dropped an EP, I have dropped a hit song that people don’t know me. You know, I’m just terrible. I was so scared of everything I’ve already built it. And secondly, my cousin brother Deji, and even my sister, when I was still rapping said I am beyond this, even my cousin brother said I am beyond this. I got to the peak of 2Classic, and still at the peak because I do not actually define my peak by how popular I am. I define my peak by how good I’ve gotten in my creativity. Now, I got to the peak of 2classic and still 2classic was not in the conversation. Nobody talks about 2classic. Nobody knows who I am and that troubled me, you know. So, one morning I woke up and hated everything that had to do with 2classic, and the record label I was trying to join already crashed the. My boss and I already gone beyond, I was just somebody that he was like he did’t believe he could bet his money on, so we’ve gone beyond record label because he does not know anything about the industry. He just believed in me and put out money, in which he put out in the wrong people. So, the kind of relationship I had with him, we already became like a family. So, when he left the place he was, I know he is an overthinker, so I decided to join him there so that he will not overthink, not knowing to me that God is taking me on a journey differently. And at that time, Lagos was so noisy. When you turn here everything is just the same thing. Everything is so noisy and it wasn’t my thing. So, I went to Abuja You know, so I went to Abuja to join him. That’s where we started. That’s where the Llona journey started, we started transforming. So, I started going to the mountain to write songs, because that’s the place I find peace. I go there, smoke, write songs and come back, and whenever I want to write songs again, I climb the mountain. So, things got worse, it looked like I was mutilating, even when you see a small light, the next thing it just goes dark, you know that kind of thing. As an artist, I have never had someone that showed my direction, I always have to go through the struggles. So yeah, I got to that place I was scared of and the lonliness I was afraid of. You know, I used to have my cousin around me, I go to him whenever I was feeling lonely, and we smoke and laugh together, but this time, he was not close by. You know, God took me away from my family, away from my friends, away from everybody and it was just me, my music and my world.

In your forthcoming music, do you think this is a style you’d want to latch on to?

Honestly, I used to see my people text me to say they’re always worried about me changing my style and worried about me not becoming whatever the industry has going for itself right now. But one thing I want them to understand is that it’s me. I am someone that whenever I stray away from my purpose for even just two days, I become so depressed. So, it’s not even about you right now. I have been in relationships, and never has any of my relationships affected my music negatively. The only thing that makes me write is that I am in pain. That’s what triggers me to write. So even if I’m in a relationship, the only time you hear about my relationship is when something is wrong in my relationship.

How do you approach art?

It’s overwhelming to be honest, because I am still developing myself. Whenever I write these songs, I get clouded by the emotions so much that I do not escape breaking down and after I record sometimes, maybe I want to use the restroom and that’s just me shedding tears. That’s why I am not an srtist that records five songs, ten songs, no, because every song I record must drop. If you play a beat for me, if I am not in sync with that beat, you will never hear me say a thing. That’s because when I am vibing, I do not think of the melody that goes. So, I like to record alone, where everything in that studio, from the producer to the feelings around the studio, the spirit to really get to the music, but that has put me in the position whereby I cannot do without breaking down. After every song, I break down because I keep listening to that song over and over again.

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Your latest record is ‘Another Day’. Tell us about it.

Another Day’ is like a year of my life compiled into the song. Like i said, my mum is a very stubborn person and i am the first born of my family. And right from the moment when I started getting little money, I took my mum away from my step-father, because i was just waiting for that time. Then, you know what it means to be a step-mother, it’s not like nswag now. So, these things make them submissive to a fault. And my step father is an inspector, so he has used psychology for criminals and all that stuff. So, a lot of times he has fucked me up, so the moment I started getting littel money, that’s how i took my mum away from him and that was how the marriage ended, they didn’t have to sit down to discuss to be able to dissolve the marriage. Up till now, he does not know where my mum is. So, i have had thing of my waking up everyday to one issue or another. Maybe, i’m in my feelings and i start telling my story and i have no one or nothing to fall back to. It’s not that i have a career i can fall back to, saying like if this does not work, i can fall back to it, but no, if this does not work, then it does not work, there is noting to fall back to. 

What are your own thoughts on people seeking therapy, as well?

So, as much as I try to make my music therapeutic for people, you know, I still believe that people need to talk to real therapists. That’s why sometimes I spill so much information. If I want to have conversations like this, I am always in my feelings. Something is wrong with a lot of people in the industry, and it’s not nice for us to start blaming one another. I’m really deep into politics, everything happening around the world and that kind of fucks you up at the same time because it makes you see life differently. It makes you see freedom differntly, especially coming from a country where we are so fucked up, and people do not even understand the gravity of this, that is, how fucked up we are as a nation. Like I cannot be going through family crises and you expect me to profess love as well, do you understand? I have always been doing my thing, but a lot of people reach out to me to tell me this is exactly how they feel whenever I release songs like that.

What informed picking Bella Shmurda for your ‘HBP’ duet?

First of all, big shout out to my brother Bella, he is an amazing guy. You see, in the industry where you are sensitive, a lot of people will think that you have pride, that you are proving difficult to work with. They can tag you to things easily and for me, I cannot work with you if you are not my friend. We have to share a moment. I have to know you, and you have to know me. That’s how I work. For us to work together, it means we must have attained a certain level in our friendship that I really treasure, such that I cannot even trade it for anything, not even an A list feature. Bella texted me, and for him to have texted me with the situation of things, you would tell that it is coming from a genuine place. He had so much to say, and the night he texted me was the night we recorded it. We went to his place with my manager, that was the night we recorded it. Even before we recorded, we shared some moments and had interestingly hard conversations. So, before I can collaborate with you, I really have to know you and maybe be friends with you. 

So, what’s next for you now?

To be honest, I think it’s actually time, because right from ‘Nobody’, I  have been lining up, even when I still dropped ‘Comforter’, I knew that people would doubt me, and one of the things I hate most is when people take my craft as a joke. Even with HBP, I knew people would still doubt me, which was why for ‘Another Day’ I came with chaos. Now the next thing for me is that I just need to make people understand who I am and where I am coming from, and how do I do that?I will do that with my project which is coming, like I am really right at your door.

What would you like people to experience from your artistry?

I want people to know that first I am not perfect, and I have never wanted to be perfect. Secondly, I want people to know, whenever they see me they should know that they are not alone. So that’s why I will not come and lie to you in my music, I will tell you how it is. So, that’s why I want people to hear my name and see through. I want them to see me as someone that is trying to make the world an even more peaceful place.

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