Up until she became the first ever winner of The Voice Nigeria in August, Agharese Emokpae was a stage actress. Now known by her stage name, A’rese, the graduate of Washington and Lee University (she was a Fine Art Major, with a focus in print making) is set to carve a niche for herself in the very competitive Nigerian entertainment industry. PREMIUM TIMES had a chat with the artiste at the just concluded Smooth FM’s A Night At The Kazbah.
PT: What have you been up to since you won The Voice Nigeria?
A’rese: I have been busy recording some songs and I am not sure if I am allowed to disclose the details or whom I have been recording with. But I can tell you that my first song will be released very soon and the contemporary Christian/folk artiste and producer, Johnny Drille, produced it.
PT: Have you experienced any shockers in the Nigerian music industry yet?
A’rese: To be honest, I have only just won The Voice but I’ve been working in this industry for a long time; acting and doing stage and things. So moving into the music industry is a whole new experience but I think I’ve been preparing for it the entire time. So it’s almost as though, there wasn’t so much of a shock. All I am doing at the moment is simply adjusting to the music industry, which is a whole new terrain so to speak.
PT: So, will you relegate acting to the backseat now?
A’rese: I think, so far, right now, I am able to strike a balance between acting and music and that way I am able to do both. As you will see, some projects I’ve been working on will be released very soon. In the coming months, everything will be out for the tasting.
PT: Can you tell us more about your acting gigs?
A’rese: I’m not supposed to talk about them yet, especially the screen stuff, because they haven’t been released. But I have been involved in a lot of screen and stage acting.
PT: Which are you most passionate about between music or acting?
A’rese: I get asked that question a lot, but if I had to choose, I don’t know if I would be able to. It’s like choosing between children. I’ve spent almost an equal amount of time training in all both fields; so for me, they’re equally important.
PT: Why did you enter for The Voice Nigeria especially since you have a thriving acting career?
A’rese: I was inspired to enter for it because it seems like a great platform where I can explore music. Since, like I said, I’ve been doing acting and a lot of music. But music just for the sake of music was still new to me. So I still felt like I could learn a lot from The Voice.
PT: What collaborations should we expect from you?
A’rese: Maybe one or two but again, I’m not allowed to say just yet.
PT: Do you have what it takes to compete with the big names in the industry, especially the females?
A’rese: I’m not sure competing is a good word to use. I don’t believe in approaching music as a competition. I think it’s more of a collective effort to show the world that Nigerians are talented, and that we have quality here. So it’s not I or Tiwa Savage. It could be Tiwa Savage and I. Tiwa Savage is so far above me that I shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence as her. But as far as competition is concerned, I’m just trying to do my best in my own lane and respect myself.
PT: Who are your role models?
A’rese: They are a whole lot of them. I respect all the women who have come before me in this industry, Waje, Asa, Omawumi, Tiwa Savage, Ruby Gyang and others. There are so many people I look up to that I can only hope to live up to the standards they set before I came on board.
PT: Are you intimidated by their success?
A’rese: Absolutely not! If anything, I am extremely proud of them. Look at us; look at what we can do. We have amazing singers here. And I just hope to be able to swim in the same water and not drown.
PT: Are you apprehensive about delving into a male dominated industry?
A’rese: Yes, it is male dominated but I don’t view it that way. I don’t look as a broad industry so I will just do the best that I can at all times. I will also be as sincere and truthful as I can be in your music. My music should also do the speaking for itself.
PT: Is money a motivating factor?
A’rese: For me, it’s about having a form of expression, a way to share a bit of myself with the world because I’m a naturally shy person. So if not for arts and music and performance, most of the time, you find me sitting in a corner somewhere. But because I have this way of expressing myself, I’m able to say hey; this is what I think about this, share my views on the world and share a bit of happiness with people if I can. Spreading positivity is my motivation.
PT: Most Reality Show winners fade into oblivion after a while. Do you sometimes nurse this fear?
A’rese: Not really. Again, my main focus has always been about making the best music that I can make. And I’m not dwelling on the fact that because I won The Voice competition and I have to blow. I’m focused on making good music, true music which I believe that will speak for itself.
PT: Are you based in Nigeria?
A’rese: Yes, I am.
PT: How will you describe your style of music?
A’rese: My style of music is very much in line with what you hear on the Kazbah Radio Show. It’s African; it’s soulful. I’m mostly about African music.