An 18-year-old with attitude who thinks global and acts loco
IF ANGER is an energy, as someone clever once said, then Shola Ama is generating megawatts of power right now. In her record company’s Kensington offices, the London-based R&B singer is annoyed by the thought that anyone could consider life in the music industry anything but a job.
Talk about artists being driven by demons, madness or plain creativity and she’ll only agree with the latter, pointing out that her schedule every day for the next three months has already been decided. The 18-year-old insists that success can’t and won’t change her, precisely because of her steely attitude. “The music business is not gonna change me because I treat it like a job. It’s not luck or fame and fortune and a happy life forever and ever, ‘cos that’s not how it goes,” she says, bristling. “I don’t see it as a big dream. It’s my life. It’s my reality. It’s my job. If I’m working hard, how can it turn me into a horrible person? If I did nothing all day and people just put me on a pedestal, telling me ‘you’re fantastic’, and I actually listened to them, then I would be changed; then I would be pretentious and repetitious and all that stuff. But I’m not. I’m a real singer and songwriter. I’m here to make music.”
A believer that music is truly global in the ’90s, Shola Ama describes herself as a UK artist, “made in England”, and possessed of her own instincts and trademark, even when working with American producers, as she did on 40 per cent of her current Much Love LP. With typical determination, she decided she wanted to make music after being talent-spotted three years ago by Kwame of London R&B dons, D-Influence, and spent two years preparing for a limelight she will not relinquish.
Brought to the attention of the record-buying public by a cover of Randy Crawford’s ‘You Might Need Somebody’, Shola shows few signs of cracking under pressure or being affected by tittle-tattle. In fact, she gets riled that anyone might think gossip could bother her at all.
“If you’re a clever enough artist,” she says, “you know that side of the business is something you shouldn’t have to worry about. Because people are bound to gossip. If you’re a celebrity, of course they’re gonna talk about you and make accusations about you. Everyone wants a piece of you, but you have to be strong and thick-skinned enough to take no notice. If I was to be bothered about the things everybody said about me, I’d be depressed for the rest of my life.”
Shola Ama intends to be around for a long time indeed. Just try stopping her.
© Dele Fadele, Vox, January 1998