Interview by John Eni-ibukun, Article by Moyosola Olowokure
Creatives have special connections to specific tools. For Melody Ifeanyi Adigo (M.I.A), it is the microphone. With this tool available to her, everyone who listens to her gets drawn towards her voice, whether from within a cool car ride or at a heart-thumping party scene. Her creative endeavours oscillate without halt, between hosting and hype.
Melody currently hosts a six-hour daily radio show on the Beat 97.9 FM and still manages to take her energy to private and public events across Nigerian cities which include and is not limited to Ibadan, Lagos and Port Harcourt. Her initials, “M.I.A” bring to mind the popular phrase “Missing in action” but Melody’s case is a noteworthy exception because you can’t miss on any activity if you ARE the action, right?
We had an exclusive conversation with Melody to discuss all that her journey has entailed so far, with many lines blurred. This article is a result of that conversation.
Could you tell us how this whole journey started for you? How you realised that you had the special talent of relating with people and having them go along with your flow en mass…
Okay. So, for me, I’d say it started after secondary [school] or maybe [in] senior secondary school 3. It was me trying to run away from Law. You know that thing where as a kid you say things like
‘Oh, I’m gonna be a lawyer..’
I had the dream of being a lawyer.
Then, it happened that I found out in senior secondary school 1 that to be a lawyer you have to read life-long. When I discovered this fact I’m like ‘You and who is reading all the days of my life?’
I just said I could not afford the thoughts to study law anymore. So, I decided to change to Communications and Language arts which is also known as Mass Communication in most Nigerian universities. But in the University of Ibadan, we called it CLC.
May I interrupt you here? You will continue but I feel the need to ask a question. Now, I feel like for most Nigerians, when growing up older people feel and project that Law is the most serious course for kids who like to talk and may I add, kids who like to argue, ask questions and or have conversations. Is that where it came from for you?
Yes o. I was just the talkative of the house. I was very talkative. So, because I was talkative, everybody felt ‘this one should be a lawyer’. And you know kids, everybody is saying it, so it’s in your
Head… yes, exactly, that was it.
Okay… you can continue… so sorry for the interruption
It’s okay… So, that’s how the whole lawyer thing came. But I thought it was going to be just the talking part. They told me the talking is going to involve reading and I’m like ’Nah. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this’. So, I just went to Communications.
Now, the passion for hosting and TV and media in general now struck me when one night I was walking home from somewhere. I think this was after my secondary school. I was going back home from somewhere I can’t remember now, and I talked to myself a lot then. I just randomly started doing the Top Ten countdown of whatever thing I was doing. And I was just doing it on the road as I was walking. And then a random stranger who was behind me and whom I was unaware of said ‘You’re really good. You should do this on TV’. And I was like, ‘Oh’. And that was when it struck me that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
Fast forward a bit,I got into the university in 2011. That strange incident happened in 2011. I got into the university in 2012 but I didn’t study Mass Communication. I got in for English education but I always knew that I was not going to just do the education part of it. In 2014 I tried to get into the Nnamdi Azikwe University radio station but I did not get it. But in 2015, I got into this online TV media. I started hosting red carpets and events. I was a natural, so it just kicked off. It wasn’t something that I had to really force myself to get into. I Did the events, went to red carpet events and hosted shows for the online TV.
In 2016 I graduated and left Eastern Nigeria for the West. I came to the West in 2017. Even though I was born in the West, I schooled in the East.
When I came to the West, I think I went to Lagos and tried to do TV in Lagos. But Lagos was just Lagossy. So, I just moved back to Ibadan. Plus, my mentor advised me – oh, forgot to mention – I got a mentor because I was really trying to get into TV. I got a mentor who advised me that, mostly it’s better for me to do radio because radio is more popular.
And then he’s like ‘Oh, my Dad has a radio station in Ibadan, how about I introduce you to my dad and if you’re good enough like I think you are’. Later he came back and said ‘My dad thinks you are [good enough]’ That was how he said it. It was so funny.
I started doing the radio stuff. I had a few more things I needed to get experienced on. For example, I could not pronounce the “TH” sound. You know where you have T-h-e-y. We Nigerians have issues with such.
One day, I had a conversation with my friend’s Dad who is now my boss. After the conversation He wrote a couple of words with TH in them and asked me to pronounce them. Obviously I flopped. So, he told me that I needed more training and advised that I should go to the National Broadcast Academy. I did that in January 2018. And it was right there – Now, you know I had been hosting events doing TV but – it was when I went to National Broadcast Academy, that I actually now found my love for hype and radio.
We used to organize parties and at the parties, I found out that they were more inclined to put me as the “ginger-driver”.
Why? Because that’s what hype is at the end of the day; Driving the ginger.
They were more inclined to put me as the Ginger-driver than the host of the show. So, it was from there that I started hype. Now, I could host shows but because they were putting me as Ginger-driver, I learned to direct the energy of the party.
When I was done at the Academy in 2018, I did my National Youth Service Corps compulsory service in March, at Ibadan. The National Broadcasting Academy is at Ikeja. I Came back to Ibadan in March and I started serving.
While I was serving, I realised that I have a distance-relative in Ibadan. My mum introduced me to the guy. He is a DJ. She says,
‘My daughter is into entertainment, see her through’.
I started working at a bar and I used to do this entertainment thing every Friday where you hype the music, and you MC the whole thing. The gig ranged from from talking about charts, to best hit songs in the clubs now, to five American songs that you’re going to love and also hyping at intervals because I mean it’s a bar and it needs music not just talk. That was how I officially started all of these, and here we are. I could go on and on. But that’s the official starting point.
That’s a really interesting story. From what you’ve said, I feel like one thing that has driven you is your eagerness to learn. Especially when you mentioned that you had someone tell you to pronounce a list of words and then you had somebody else tell you to start from the NBA and you got to the NBA. So, it was just like you kept fuelling this interest of yours. You mentioned that when you got into the Nigerian Broadcasting Academy, you had some things to do with hyping. You got into hyping should I say by accident because it wasn’t something you were really planning to do.
I know right.
Is there any point in that process since when you’ve started hyping that you realized that ‘this path of the industry I’m in is a little bit more male dominated than it is with people of the female gender as myself’?. And maybe, how did you adjust to that and then move along?
Okay. So, this is the thing. It’s weird for me but most times when I’m involved in something I only see me. I just want to do it with all focus on what I am doing. I just want to do what I have to do. That’s how I think about things. It’s much later I would even realize, Oh my God! This person is here! That kind of thing.
I kind of could be living in a bubble most of the time. As long as it’s not about me, I forget.
But I remember one particular party which was the end of the session party at the NBA. That was when… You know they were pushing me towards hyping. I had been gingering the crowd but they never said it was “hype”. But at the end of the year party, officially, they said ‘Melody you’re the one hyping’. That was when I realized, ‘Oh! I have been hyping!’
I made a call to two guys. One of them used to come to the National Broadcasting Academy to teach us some of the pronunciations so we could pass the examinations. So, I remember calling him and asking ‘how do you start to hype at a party?’
I also remember calling somebody from Unizik because I had been seeing posts about him being a hype man. So, I called him and I asked ‘how do you ginger the crowd?’ He told me.
When I came to Ibadan and my mum introduced me to my distant relative, at the bar where I was hyping, the Chief entertainer there was a woman. MC Queen Lagbaja was her name. She still hypes till now, and oh my God, She is good. Under her I think I spent a long while before I quit. I can be very cocky when you’re not paying me, I like my money so much. I quit eventually because they were not paying me. At one point I thought, ‘you know what? I can’t be doing this. My house to you is too far and you guys are not paying me’. So, I left. Later, she got pregnant and they called me back.
So, with that experience, there was never a point that I felt that this is a male dominated industry. All I was just seeing in it was “this is hype!”. Because the first person I officially learnt under is a woman. And she does it better than… if you said it’s a male dominated industry, Okay! She does it better than most men. Right?
I get this. Very interesting.
Now, relating what you just said to the kind of places you do your stuff. You host nightlife events, you MC shows and events, you hype at clubs, you also MC/Hype private parties, as well as weddings. You just have a multidimensional thing going on. And I feel that this is possible because of how well you understand your audience.
How do you try to understand your audience and merge everything together to make an event successful?
So, I like the fact that you said this because most people do not get it. And that is what I tell a lot of people. It is hype as I said earlier but there are different types of hype; there is hype at the bar, there is hype at the club, there is hype at a festival, and there is hype at a private party. They are all different.
At the beginning of my journey, I did make one or two mistakes. I think there was this event I was called for, the most embarrassing day of my career. Halfway into the gig they told me to be going home. They
had paid me fully o. But they told me to go home. I cried. I cried. I cried.
But, you know, it made me learn. The next time I had a private party I kept telling myself ‘Okay oo, easy girl, easy’.
First things first, understand the type of party that you’re going to. That’s what I do. I usually tell my manager when I get bookings, ‘First of all find out what type of party it is’. Is it a pool party? Is it a festival? Is it a get together? You have to understand.
Secondly, ask what they actually want. Because apart from knowing the type of party, you might have something in mind – ‘Oh! This is what it should be’ – which was the mistake I made. You could ask them.
‘What do you want? What are you gunning for? What type of communication do you want with the crowd? Or with your attendees. And then they tell.
I have a code for events. It’s not a one-size-fits-all-thing, but it works. With small events like get-togethers, there’s usually less talk and more music. With the club, there’s more hype. You have to keep talking. You have to have lamba in your mouth. You just have to keep talking. This is because people going to the club are not going to have conversations about business. They are just coming to clubs to party, to dance. You know, to spend money. You have to ginger them to spend a lot of money which has to do with talking.
With festivals, you just have to carry the whole crowd. You have to find one energy that carries the whole crowd to feel in one way.
When it comes to bars, bars you have to entertain. So you have to have
a program when it comes to bars. It’s not just about hyping. You have to entertain the guests, have one-liners, tell a little bit of jokes, you know. Compliment them. Make them feel good. You know, let the music play. The hyping could be subtle. People go to bars to have conversations. I mean, if you’re going to have a date, you will not be going to the club for a date. You would want to know the person better so you could go to bars and lounges. So, the hype for that is a little bit reduced, it’s more of controlling conversations.
Weddings are just like bars. It’s conversational. But it’s more of making sure that you have one-on-one conversations with almost every major player at the wedding. The bride, the groom, the bride’s friends, the groom’s friends..
Ultimately, it’s about knowing what the audience wants and how they want it. And somehow using my voice and body in everything that I do.
Right, on using your voice and body in everything that you do; you work on the radio and you also hype. I’m inclined to believe that your work at Beat FM is your major nine to five, and then you do hype on the side.
My next question is on finding balance. We’ve talked about balancing different types of events. Now let’s talk about balancing your own personal life with your work life as an OAP, hype woman, and MC. With all these things in one person. How do you try to make sure that each part of your life is in sync with the next one when it’s time to be?
Well, it’s not easy I must confess. My boss at work tells me that ‘To be extreme is the easiest thing. To balance is not easy’. You could be very extroverted or very introverted, but finding the balance between our extroversion and introversion is not easy. To find the balance between wicked and… what’s the antonym for wicked?
Yes. To find the balance between being wicked and kind is not easy. You have to know when to not be too kind or too wicked. So, to be honest, that’s one thing that is currently my challenge – finding the balance. But one thing that I always do is rest. I believe so much in rest that my manager thinks I’m crazy.
So, if I feel overwhelmed, I take a rest. I’m just like, I can’t do this, I must take a rest. Because as you grow older your body is never what it used to be and being on radio Monday to Friday, six hours, and then traveling out of Ibadan, Lagos, PH, Abuja, wherever it is.
Sometimes I even have like two weekend events, like Saturday and Sunday. It’s not easy. It’s draining. So, when I need to rest, I rest. And if it means I have to cancel a job just because I have to rest, I do it. Because if I break down, they’re gonna look for the next good thing. That’s what they’re gonna do.
How I balance is, I do the work as much as I ought to but when my body is telling me to rest, I take that rest. Whether it’s in the middle of radio week or it’s a job that came through. I’ll take the rest. It’s needed. That’s how I just find my balance. But when I don’t have gigs, I just find something relaxing to do. Still rest sha. Something relaxing more with nature. I surround myself with nature to rest.
Now, let’s still go back to the point when you started and you mentioned that you started to do a lot of freelancing. Now, creatives these days have to freelance for the exposure. How would you… You have a mentor.
Let’s use this medium and say you’re mentoring someone who is also trying to break into the entertainment scene. How would you advise them to balance between freelancing and getting their money. Because, of course freelancing would give you a little bit of exposure, money is important to keep your life running. So, yeah those two things how would you… what would you tell them to balance? Freelancing?
Can I give you a free compliment?
Yeah, you can.
You are very intelligent. The questions you are asking are really conversations that I like to have with people when I’m having conversations. They are very intelligent questions.
So, balancing. I tell people that not all stages are “that stage” that you need. I’m gonna say I got a break from… I got a break. Not a biiiiggg break, but a break from last year, like last year in July when I did Premier Block Party.
I tell people that not all stages are that stage. Freelancing is important. But this is the first thing, number one, you need to know your worth. Now, you need to know how good you are.
Two, you need to come to terms with the fact that Nigerians need money to – scratch that, you as a person, living in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world, you need money to survive. You do need money to survive. So, when you know your worth and you realize that you need money, you’d realize that not all stages are that stage.
Some people will come to you and tell you that ‘I want to give you exposure’, and then you look at them and you’re like, ‘if I do your event I‘m the one giving you exposure’. Right?
And that’s mainly because of what you’re worth. So, even if it’s going to be peanuts for the first time, charge. Charge for logistics. Especially, your outfit would cost. Your transportation… Your outfit would cost money, your transportation is gonna cost. Your logistics, taking care of yourself, feeding and all of that is going to cost.
If you’re a girl and you wear makeup, you’d try to make your hair look good. All of these things are going to cost money. So, even if the least you can do is charge for logistics, do it. And if you’re good and they decide that ‘we cannot give even if it’s ordinary logistics’ then don’t do it. That means that’s not the stage for you.
Secondly, you have to look at what that stage can do. I never told any interview this, but for Premiere Block Party, a lot of people were like
“Dem don pay you”
“Melody they’ve paid you”
I was like hmm. I wasn’t paid.
In Ibadan, earlier last year Ibadan they barely called me for events. Do you know why? I will charge you. Or I will charge logistics or something. So, I was barely outside because I don’t even like doing outside. If you’re not paying, I’m not coming outside. It’s because I was trying to look for “the stage”.
Before I did Young Johnn Fest in 2019 or thereabout, I knew it was a stage I had to be on. They Called! called! called! ‘Please help me, Please help me’. I went there, even thoutgh it was free. Do you get it? In that same period Somebody would come and tell me I want to pay you, hypothetically speaking, 50k. I’d say no. Not because it’s 50k or anything. I’d say no. Make it 100k. And here I was, going to do a free event. Do you understand what I’m talking about? I’m rejecting a gig of 50k and I’m going to do a free event. Because I knew… It was that stage.
Where is the exposure of this particular event? For me it was not about the organizer coming to tell me that. If you come and tell me you’d pay me with exposure… I know that you don’t know my worth and I might not even do it. But if I look at the stuff and I say, Okay, okay! Then I would go for it.
Now back to my Premier Block Party story, I made a promise to myself, I said, when I’m done here, Alhaji Popping would have no choice but to take me with him. That was what I told myself. So, it was that stage for me. I had already looked at the stage and I knew my worth. And I knew even if I was not gonna be paid here Ahan! Ahan! Ahan! He’s gonna have to carry me anywhere he’s going to. And that was it. I have not missed a single block party since Premier Block Party in July. And is Alhaji Popping paying me now? Yes! The first one was free. The video is even pinned on my socials. That video is powerful.
So, you know your worth. You know what you’re looking for. You know your dreams. You know how far you want to go. You have to look for that stage. The stage that you know would add value to your brand, even if it doesn’t pay. That’s how you balance freelancing with the ones that would pay you.
That’s profound and quite educational in a way that you won’t be taught in school. So, to my last question. Always my last question with everybody I have interviews with. It may be difficult, it could be easy to answer too, depending on who you are. It is this; what matters to you the most? And why?
I matter to me the most. I don’t know. I don’t have the why. But I matter to me the most. I have come to terms with it and I’ve accepted it. Do I care about people? Yes o. But, I matter to me the most.
It could sound selfish, because I have had conversations with myself where I said, Hmm! Am I sure I want to give birth and give another person twenty-four hours of the twenty-four hours that is not enough for me. Do you get it?
Yeah, I get it.
Then I’m like, Hmm! Hmm! Do I want to have a life commitment with somebody that will now come and be telling me, because you’re committed to me don’t do this about yourself; like, a move that would be a big career break. And I’m like Hmm! Hmm!
So when I say I matter to me the most, I’m not just talking about me just mattering to me. I’m talking about every aspect. How I look. How I feel. My career. Me as a person. Am I happy? Is my mental health good? If you are disturbing my mental health, I block you.
People say don’t burn bridges, Un-uhn. Burn it! Burn it! If it’s disturbing your mental health, burn that bridge. Even if it’s looking like a bridge that would give you million Dollars, know that you’re worth so much more than a million dollars. And at the end of the day, you’d find another bridge that would give you two million dollars. And that’s a fact. That’s a fact.
So, if it’s something that disturbs me, I don’t want it. If it’s something that’s gonna take too much from me and would not give me so much happiness and peace, because I value peace a lot. I don’t want it.
So, I think I matter to me a lot.