Mavin star, Afro Di’ja, aka Hadiza Salma Blell, had an exclusive interview with LIB recently where she gave reasons why she had a secret wedding to her husband Rotimi and why she never shares photos of him online.
"It was very intimate and it was also in my home town, Kaduna, so it’s kind of hard to get people to come over there and then Kaduna is not as ‘Noisy’ as Lagos. So anything like that could be probably called low key. I just don’t translate them into being posted on my page.And I guess in the ‘Post it’ ‘Tweet it’ world; you almost kind of look abnormal if you don’t But it’s not like am going out of my way not to, i guess it’s just not in my character to do it all the time, but i’m also getting better at my Instagram. At least you see my baby and all other stuff, (laughs). So I always say there is difference between privacy and secrecy, it’s not something to hide. Again, i guess people forget that when you are in the entertainment industry, you also have to live a normal life. For instance, i wake up in the morning and i give my son a bath, and sometimes my mom will, and other times, it is a maid and an aunt that would help me with him. So don’t forget you have a real life too and you have people to answer to as well. Again you wake up and you have people that are depending on you, and people you pay for the work they do for you, you know as much as we have this entertainment life, and it’s amazing, i mean, God bless you all for liking us so much because it’s actually your love that has put us on the pedestal, but we also do these things and wake up with a regular life, so in that sense and sometimes because i could get carried away, that's majorly the problem.
Read the full interview below...
LIB: Tell us how it’s been, working with Don Jazzy, and Mavin Record as a whole?
Di’ja: Working with Mavin has really, really been a dream come true, because, the record is like a family. It’s like working with your brother. I mean sometimes you have your arguments and other times you have your fun moments. There are so many memorable moments and pretty cool ones. Sometimes when you are working in Mavin, you don’t get to see each other that much. Sometimes you see, Korede, sometimes you see, Reekado, and sometimes you see Tiwa, but we are getting to a point where we see each other alot more now. So it’s fun, it’s exciting and it has its own moments too. But what you do is to pick up and you start moving again, yeah!
LIB: talking about the record label, you guys recently got a new addition to the family. What do you think of Iyanya joining the label?
Di’ja: It is Iyanya, and i mean, he is Iyanya. He is a brand on his own, so him coming in, only adds to the label and makes it greater especially for someone like myself that is still seeing so many new things that I could add and then increase my own talents and what I want to share with everybody. He is a blessing, because there is so much we can learn from him, and there is so much I can learn from him. You know, in Mavin record we are like a family, we like to collaborate with each other, and by the Grace of God, we are going to get to that point where we start doing songs together, so i think it’s a new chapter that we should all look forward to.
LIB: How do you manage being a mother and an artiste?
Di’ja: (Laughs) Well, there are so many people that have done this before me, thousands and millions of them. So I think that the best thing to have is an amazing support system, when you have an amazing support system and you have people that are willing to work together with you, for your interest as well as theirs, it makes it a lot easier to get bye especially when you are doing stuff. I mean, I can’t tell you it’s been easy. I give my mom so much respect, I respect her so much already for the kind of support i get from her. it makes you want to appreciate your own mom or your parents like ten times more. It is amazing, for me. It’s an amazing journey right now. My son is the light of my life. You know what i mean. I also have an amazing husband that is very supportive, and i have an amazing family, and we all work together to make it happen, yeah.
LIB: You don’t share pictures of your husband on the social media, why is that?
Di’ja: Even before we got married he is a very private person, and i actually believe in respecting people’s zones until they are ready. It’s not like we don’t. So because a lot of things don’t happen right now-people are like, why are you not doing this and why are you not doing that, what’s wrong, what are you hiding, you know what i mean? We are not hiding anything, we actually go to events together and do stuff together, and i just feel, for me, am not very good at..., I like enjoying the moment, yeah, and am actually very bad at doing the posting thing. I don’t know if you have noticed, i mean recently, I started doing selfies when people were like, Di’ja, why are you not doing selfies? So not long ago, i did my very first mirror selfie, (Laughs). Not like i don’t want to do these things sometimes, I just enjoy the moments and forget to take pictures when we hang out, that’s why presently, i am always begging my crew, (‘please help me take pictures mek me sef dey pose na, wetin dey happen?’) So, it’s just that thing where I am enjoying the moment and then I forget. So we are not hiding anything. Sometimes if he can make it with me to an event, he comes, and if can’t, he will come to the next. So it’s not like he is not there, or that it doesn’t happen, i guess it’s just that, it happens and i don’t get to translate it on my page.
LIB: Was that why you did a very low key wedding?
Di’ja: Well, i mean, if you call having about 400 people grace your wedding low key, then i guess, yeah. It was more of just intimate and it’s also in my home town, Kaduna, so it’s kind of hard to get people to come over there and then Kaduna is not as ‘Noisy’ as Lagos. So anything like that could be probably called low key, but like i said, most of these things are happening but, where the problem lies is that i just don’t translate them onto being posted on my page. And i guess in the ‘Post it’ ‘Tweet it’ world; you almost kind of look abnormal if you don’t. But it’s not like am going out of my way not to, i guess it’s just not in my character to do it all the time, but i’m also getting better at my Instagram. At least you see my baby and all other stuff, (laughs). So I always say there is difference between privacy and secrecy, it’s not something to hide. Again, i guess people forget that when you are in the entertainment industry, you also have to live a normal life. For instance, i wake up in the morning and i give my son a bath, and sometimes my mom will, and other times, it is a maid and an aunt that would help me with him. So don’t forget you have a real life too and you have people to answer to as well. Again you wake up and you have people that are depending on you, and people you pay for the work they do for you, you know as much as we have this entertainment life, and it’s amazing, i mean, God bless you all for liking us so much because it’s actually your love that has put us on the pedestal, but we also do these things and wake up with a regular life, so in that sense and sometimes because i could get carried away, that's majorly the problem.
LIB: Let’s get back to music. Your music kind of stands out from what every other Mavin artiste does. How have you been able to maintain your distinct style of music?
Di’ja: First of all, thank you so much for even listening to my music, but i don’t think, adding new things into your music or adding commercial things into your music, makes you un-original. I actually love commercial music. I think I’m in my own world because sometimes i actually think that my music is not commercial pop, but it is everybody else that tells me something else. So i guess as the saying goes, the word celebrity means you are a celebrated person, meaning, you are working for the people. So i don’t run away from being influenced by certain things because no matter how you look at it, everything from when you are born is influenced by something, even how you think and what you are, regardless that somebody told you that, that’s what you are going to be, it’s later, later that you will start forming that, ah!, ‘i want to be myself; you know what i mean. So we have a platform called 'music' to express different things. But first of all, i always give it up to the grace of God, i cannot lie, I’m very much in the believe that it’s not all me, because, as much as i have plans, it’s God that says it all. So apart from that, i honestly just do what i love. I do music i would love to hear and when same is compared to what every other person is doing, people would kind it. But i don’t really think there is so much difference in music in terms of how it makes people feel. For me music is how you interpret it, if it makes you feel good and you are listening to it, then that is your kind of music and there is no need to be figuring it out, like what kind of genre it is, because even as we dey now, (everything just dey fuse) you know, everything just ends up coming back together. So for me, i think i just enjoy what i do and i do what i enjoy, and if you like it along the way, I’m very grateful and if you don’t, i hope that i do something you’d like. But i try not to... (as you guys deh talk am, trend setter), i just try my best, even if I try it and I look somehow doing it, I try it again and you know, one might just end up refining it. Everybody started somehow, and refined themselves later. For me, i just keep doing what am doing and refining same, so the more people I know and the more things that influence me, the more it allows me to form my own music. Again, I also think it’s the lack of my ability to copy someone, that gives me the 'how' to form my own music. (So because i no fit be you, i go com add one kind style like this to my song), and people would be like, ‘ah! You are original. So nothing under the sun is original my dear, we are just influenced by something somehow.
LIB: How come apart from ‘Dorobucci’ you and Tiwa have not collaborated?
Di’ja: Uhm, do you see how many we are? And how do you know we haven’t? I keep telling people that, it’s not all the songs that you recorded today, that you’d be release today. So depending on how long you have been working. When you started is only as irrelevant as whatever people feel that they already know about what you are doing, but then you have been working on many things, but I always say, how do you even know we haven’t collaborated yet, it’s just that the said song, you haven’t heard it yet. Then there are so many of us, and there are so many songs in Mavin right now, because we like music, and each and every one of us, bring something very different, which is why it works so well. So sometimes you see similarities some other times you see differences, and it is those differences that complements the other. So you never know what to expect until you see.
LIB: How do you feel about Tiwa being referred to as the first lady of Mavin records?
Di’ja: But i met her there, right? I mean, she is the first lady of Mavin records. It’s kind of funny when people want to state the obvious. Tiwa is such an inspiring person. Set aside the fact that we are even in the same record label, i mean, she has done so much and been through so much, and she still keeps this standard of performance that she does all the time, you know what i mean, you can see it. For me, it’s inspiring, and like i said, i met her there. When you go to a place and you meet someone there, it’s one of two things, it’s either you learn from them or you don’t, and so what i am doing and what would be good for me is to learn from somebody that is that strong and that can inspire me and it’s really mad cool, yeah.
LIB: So what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced working with Mavin record?
Di’ja: I think one of the greatest challenge you will face working with Mavin is actually feeling like you are creating hits. Because hits are being made in that place, and na you go tell yourself sey, (omoh, mek i stand up), you know what i mean. Whatever challenge i am going to be talking about now, is going to be my strength later, because, those guys force you to be better, because you can’t be in Mavin and not do great music, i mean, we have hard times and no matter what, you are going to try certain things and people are not going to like it, but if you are in that group of people, you would be inspired to try something else. So it’s more or less of saying, ‘How do you keep up? That’s what you should be asking me, because everybody is hungry and everybody is working, and what i like about Mavin is that nobody is going to tell you to work. When you see what people are creating, you yourself you’d just be like, (omoh, make i do something or, why i dey sleep sef, why i dey nap). So it’s a beautiful place to be in.
LIB: So do you plan to own a record label
Di’ja: Uhm, it is not in my plans, and it’s not like there is anything to fear about doing that, it’s just that owning a record label is a very hard work. Dealing with artist with very different personality types, thoughts and creativity is not very easy. So is not something i can say, oh, because you did it then i can do it. So right now, in my mind, i will never tell you that nothing is ever going to make me own one, but as of now, i don’t feel i am that kind of person to own one. But then i can have artistes, i mean people that are doing very well that i can be part of their lives and development ‘cos i always believe that if God blesses you with something, if you can in turn do it for somebody else, even if it is one person, then you’ve tried. So i can help someone else build, but to say to own a label right now, i don’t think i am just about that kind of a person right now.
LIB: You are actually a very beautiful lady, and we believe you would have lots of male admirers, so how do you manage that part of your life?
Di’ja: Anybody that kind of walks around have admirers, even babies, people chuckle and admirer them. Having admirers is not something only me encounters, everybody does. So you treat them with respect. If he crosses the line, then you check him, but i believe you treat everybody with some kind of respect.
LIB: Tell us how many children you plan to have as an artiste?
Di’ja: You know artistes call their albums children too, so which one are you talking about-(Laughs). Uhm, as many as God gives me I will take. I mean if you get to a point where, if God continues to bless you, then you say, okay, I want to chill, then fine. But as of now, I have just had my first one and it’s also a very amazing experience and hard work, but it’s not that kind of hard work that you are never going to do. It is just that kind of work that no matter how tired you are, you are just gonna do it, but honestly, God is the one that can answer that question for you, because i have learnt that no matter how much i tell you the things i want to do, they will change. So i would rather not go back and then look at it and when they ask me a question and be like how is it that i said i want ten kids and i only have two? But i would say, as many healthy kids as God can give me, that i can handle, I’d take.
LIB: How has it been working as a married woman now, compared to when you were not married?
Di’ja: Honestly it is a whole new experience, because you equally have people who need your attention, a hundred per cent. So i am not going to say, i would put fifty per cent here and put the rest there. I have to put in two hundred per cent. Because, like i was saying, regardless of how you live your life, you are still going to do your work. So you can’t say you want to give your family fifty per cent and all that, you have to give them even more love. For me, it has just increased my heart and increased how much i actually have the capacity to love something actually beyond myself. So it’s something i am doing because it’s there now, and am not changing the situation. It is fun and it’s hard work, because you are balancing studio time and home.
LIB: So what kind of support do you get from your husband
Di’ja: I get a lot of support. You like a woman, it’s either meeting expectations or not meeting expectations, you know the way the world is moving, and the love that people have for you, so for me it’s a learning experience and it is beyond anything i can actually tell you in words. It is something i didn’t plan and i am grateful for it.
LIB: Going back to divorce rate in the country, especially amongst celebrities, how do you feel about it and what’s your take about it?
Di’ja: Well, i don’t know if it is necessarily fair to say amongst celebrities, it is just because celebrity lives are kind of out there in the open and sort of magnified, it looks like it’s that much. But there is a lot that goes on in the country that I feel like it’s actually neglected in terms of..., i mean, it’s almost like a psychological warfare people are dealing with in this country. So there is just so much out there happening in people's homes. So it’s not like these things are so much amongst celebrities. It is just that when you see something in a certain industry over and over again, you just believe that it is so much there. But I just think, it is everywhere and it is what it is. If you have a divorce experience, people should more of be asking, ‘how do you deal with it’ as opposed to why it’s happening because there are certain things that are happening and we can stop them, so if it is happening, then we should be dealing with, how to take care of people after it happens as opposed to beating it on the head that it is actually happening. So let's actually focus our energy on ‘how to help people after a divorce or something', as opposed to, oh, it’s happening so much, is it because of the industry, is it because of this or that, because alot of things happen every day, and then the social media has just made it magnified on a certain group of people, so that's my take and how i feel about it.
LIB: So how do you think it can be managed then?
Di’ja: Everything can be managed by the power of God. I mean, I can’t tell you how to manage things happening in people’s homes. So I don’t even know the root of the problem so, i can’t really tell you how to fix something if i don’t even know the root of the problem. But i think, the problem is, we have so much opinion with surface knowledge and we do not even know the root of certain problems, and we can’t really fix something that we feel we have answer to already. I think the power that the public has is that they can have a public opinion, and when you have an opinion, you suddenly start feeling that things are not moving the way they should, or things are not the way they should be. So it’s time, first of all they need time. You need time to fix everything and nothing is going to happen overnight, nothing good is happens overnight, or nothing that will be everlasting will happen overnight. So you need time in order to manage things like that. For me the biggest thing is, the less people prying into things and making them magnified than they really are, the better these people would also sort of manage their lives. And i think managing information would also help people psychologically to sort of deal with their internal problems. You know we are in the new age of spreading information whether it is true or not, and these thinks actually affect people, you kind of have to be psychologically strong to deal with all the information sometimes. We are not really dealing with guns we are dealing with psychological warfare in the world, like; people’s minds are actually messing with them; because people sometimes look at something that should be in their marriages, and they compare it with someone else’s and you are like telling yourself, ‘ah ah! My own is not like this and so on and so forth. You know, i think, we really need to work in healing each other and healing ourselves within and kind of not try to focus on every other person’s problems, because if we start fixing our problems, that’s one problem down right? So everybody should ‘kinda mind your own’ because if you mind your own and you deal with your problems internally, then everything on the outside will be automatically fixed, let's start there first, yeah!
LIB: Yeah, so do you mind sharing how you have managed to keep the bond alive in your marriage? Let there be a message to someone who is already struggling with his or her marriage right now, or celebrities who actually have divorced or are struggling with theirs right now.
Di’ja: (Sings song with her fingers pointed upward—Oluwa ni, you don see Oluwa ni, ooo?). You see your mama prayers enh, mek you no joke with your mama prayer at all. I earnestly believe so strong in prayers. I am not trying to skip your question or anything, but nothing is possible if there is no strength in God. If you don’t love God, you cannot love a human being. I am not trying to tell you that people that don’t have love for God now that that's why we are separating so much, or maybe that okay the God i pray to, is not the God they pray to, and different things or whatever. For me if you have something higher than you that you love, the love that you will give to a human being would be priceless. So you can’t..., i mean, i believe so greatly in the Almighty. So this is how i am going to answer this question, i have love for God and i have fear for the almighty. So it’s hard for me to take my hand and not use it to help somebody. If you pray, you will find the answers you need for your marriage i believe. There is so many answers in sitting down to yourself and having a conversation with God, or even a relationship with him. It is called faith. We believe in what we don’t see, so if you have faith, there is so many boundaries you can break, yeah!
LIB: So when is Di’ja giving her fans an album?
Di’ja: By 2017, at least. We have been working on a beautiful music and great music for you to dance to. I love music, and that’s the truth, my category in Nigeria, is Alternative. There is so much that is going to happen (in sha Allah) in 2017, and it’s already happening, so i just need your support and your attention.
LIB: Have you regretted anything in life?
Di’ja: I don’t regret anything because whether i like or not, it happens.
LIB: What do you think the Nigerian music Industry can do differently, what advice do you have to give the Industry?
Di’ja: Honestly, what i would actually like to say is, ‘more support from the people, more support from everybody. You have to realise that there is something we don’t do. We actually don’t give credit enough here in Nigeria. The Nigerian Music Industry has employed a lot of people, and as much as it might not be up to the standards that we expect it to be, it has given jobs, and i think that the more assistance we get from different organisations that are related to the Nigerian music industry, even from outside as well, you know, if anybody has better ways to do something, where ever we can get extra funding coming from, it would help the industry. I mean, alot of people are actually trying. So, I don’t particularly like talking down on what feeds me, because there moments when i have had really bad moments, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that for you it’s been all bad, because when i was having it fun i wasn’t complaining but when thing are not going so cool, that’s when i start saying how crappie it is and all that stuff. So if we have the right arms and support, everything is going to flourish in the industry more than it is already doing, but you have to give it credit for where it is already, i mean it still has holes, but it’s definitely feeding us.
LIB: Is there anything you don’t like happening in the industry you want to point out.
Di’ja: There is always something you don’t like. The thing is, what you actually don’t really like in the industry is what is actually needed in the industry to make it flourish, ‘cos it is entertainment we talking about. So as much as am going to sit here and tell you i don’t like certain things, the whole idea is to have our audience entertained. So anything i don’t like, will probably be entertaining somebody else. So for me, it’s anything you are doing, you try and do it in your favor, as long as you are not hurting anyone in the process, i mean, yeah, that's it.
LIB: In one of Lynxxx’s recent reports as a singer, he said he switched from circular to doing what many people now brand as Gospel music, because according to him, he wasn’t finding fulfillment in the former, so as a circular music artiste, are you finding fulfillment in what you are doing in relation with serving God?
Di’ja: First of all, i would actually give credit to Lynxxx for mentioning a few times that being close to God doesn’t necessarily mean, he is shutting everyone else out. He is singing songs that he feels is glorifying his God, you know, but he didn’t tell anybody he is a gospel artiste. Again, I think we always try to define certain things the way it makes sense to us and we actually do not listen to what the other person is trying to tell us, like if it doesn’t fit into what we have in our minds, we think it is its wrong. I really can’t tell you, I mean even in terms of religion, there is still so much that i am even learning, because i don’t know it all; and i am constantly asking God, whatever is not good enough for me, push it far, and whatever is good for me, bring it close. I don’t know what those things really are sometimes, and sometimes i do know what they are. So when God answers your questions sometimes he answers them in such a way that you are the one that can really tell he has answered your questions. So i just ask God anything that i am doing that i am not supposed to be doing, please take it far from me. And i can’t tell you other than that, because sometimes somebody else be saying 'if you are really close to God, you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing', so i really can’t even argue with them, because, the truth is, i don’t even know exactly what i should be doing until am even doing it, because a lot of us ask which way is the right way? And there are ways that we’ve learnt, that (no matter how you do am, naim be dey right way), and then (e get some people wey be sey, no matter how the thing do you), make you respect your elders and parents sha, and they don’t really look at how you try do am. So this question with God, i really can’t tell you that what I’m doing is the right thing o, but i can tell you that every time i pray to God, i tell him to push anything that is not good for me far, and any door that is okay for me, if he opens it, i will take it as a blessing and if he closes it, i’d take it that it means i should move the other direction, so yeah.
LIB: what’s your advice to upcoming artistes?
Di’ja: honestly if you really believe in what you are doing, really don’t give up. There is really no hard formula to this, just hard work; so no hard formula to making it. There is this quote i always like to say; ‘you can’t really cheat a hustle.’ As much as some people look so good on camera, and it’s looking as if nothing has ever touched them, that’s the art of this entertainment industry that no matter how sad you are, once you on that camera, you have to make that smile come back. So just keep doing what you are doing to pursue your dreams, as long as you are not hurting anybody, put the 'pedal to the meddle,' keep pushing it and then you honestly pray, ‘cos you really can’t joke with your prayers and I’m not trying to change anybody’s mind or anything, but i really do believe in it, in terms of faith, i really believe it helps do things people say you can’t do".