Constance van Niekerk in Vereeniging, South Africa
Africa, our beloved motherland, the land of our forefathers is unique in more ways than one. Think of Olduvai Gorge and think of the great pyramids of Egypt and the Great Zimbabwe Monument! And there’s more. Many will agree that music was born in Africa! So it comes as no surprise when people from Africa continue to excel and to serenade the world with musical innovations that are often quite breathtaking in their quality and expanse.
In modern times Africa has unleashed upon the world a number of inimitable classics including Miriam Makeba’s Phatha patha song, Malaika a song that both Kenya and Tanzania claim, August Musarurwa’s ‘Skokiaan’, a great Zimbabwean piece that even the great American trumpet player and jazzman Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong could not resist. And, of course, Fela Kuti’s iconic song ‘Lady’! These are but a few of the most prominent songs from modern Africa.
Nearly every corner of Africa has produced fine music and fine musicians in recent time: Manu Dibango from Cameroon, Franco Luambo Makiadi of the DRC and Oliver Mtukudzi of Zimbabwe. Nigeria has been on the rise musically and in other ways as well. So P Square and others come as no surprise. There is now a recognisable genre of hip hop and dance hall music that is decidedly Nigerian in flavour and sentiment. The Pigeon English in many of the lyrics is quite endearing. Chop my money! Oh, those sensational twins!
But hello, here comes another very promising musician from Nigeria – the innovative and extremely talented St Lahrie! Not so well known for now but decidedly a musical power for the not-so-distant future. St Lahrie Strings is one of Nigerian’s upcoming multi-talented artists who is on his way up to the top of the load, not only in Naija, but in the rest of Africa too. He sings a mixture of R ‘n’ B, Pop and Highlife. The result is an irresistible eclectic mix of hit material. St Lahrie is a singer, composer, instrumentalist and renowned producer. A sure formula for success any day!
St Lahrie was born Olanrewaju Olaniji in Ondo, one of Nigeria’s 36 states. This is where he also went to school. He went to Christ Primary School and Aquinas College.
With a warm chuckle and a twinkle in his eyes, St Lahrie explains the origins of his somewhat outlandish stage name.
“I was given that name by my friends. ‘St’ because I like doing things the right way,” explains St Lahrie. He goes on to say, “Lahrie comes from my real name Olanrewaju which can be shortened to Lanre. So from Lanre, you get Lahrie,” he explains.
“I have always wanted to be a musician for as long as I can remember. I started singing at the tender age of 9. I was a member of the church and secondary school choirs,” says St Lahrie.
“In 2003, I started a group with my childhood friend, St Sammie. We didn’t record any songs and just decided to do our own solo things. He is now in Cinematography and we still do things together but not as a group. I went on to release my first single ‘Elebolo’ in 2005. The song talks about a girl I was dating. I thought she was a good girl, not knowing she serves hot to other men including my friend,” says Lahrie.
After the release of ‘Elebolo’ St. Lahrie signed up with a record label called Kjack Records and released ‘Right Now’, a love song that became a favourite at parties. He left Kjack after a year and started doing ‘my own solo thing’.
In 2007, St. Lahrie released ‘Ojumo ti mo’ a song that says you are waking up to the call. The song was produced by DRE. In 2009 he released ‘Feel Naija’ ft Biggie and Alois. It was produced by DRE as well. It talks about being proud to be Naija. The song has some catchy lyrics:
Before dem feel Yankee
Before dem feel London
Now dem dey feel Naija
Dem dey feel area.
‘Feel Naija’ is a patriotic song with a Pan-African feel and orientation. Zimbabwean urban groove artists and their fans can readily relate to this song. That means St. Lahrie can do well in Zim and can generate a big following for himself there. His ‘riddims’ are catchy infectious. Hey Lahrie, when are you heading Zimbabwe-way? I dare say that ‘Feel Naija’ can become an anthem for Africa’s young people. They could substitute their own particular country for Naija. It’s that relevant! And when it comes to ‘Pammi’ with pulsating bass line that Zimbabweans love so much, Lahrie is sure to slaughter many hearts.
In 2009 St Lahrie did a remix that collectors might want to sample. The remix features YQ and was produced by K Solo. That same year St. Lahrie he released the sombre, but delightfully enchanting single ‘Mr Elevatin’. This is a song that can chart his rise and show just how high he has come up in the world and in music. In his own words he says, “Now I’m moving up they call me Mr Elevatin.”
In part the lyrics go, “I’m a book to be written, a story to be told.” And yes, he is a book to be written and a story to be told!
In 2010, St Lahrie moved to Port Harcourt, the capital city of River State. There he became a producer and record label manager at Eagles Hill Records. In 2011, he released the single, ‘Highness’ which he produced himself. It is mellow and different. Where ‘Feel Naija’ is energetic and insistent “Highness’ is calm and inviting – a perfect love song. Its lyrics are pleasant and warm in a powerful way.
St. Lahrie’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. To quote him:
“I improved so fast that I got the attention of people that matter in Port Harcourt. In June 2012 I shot my first video, ‘Mr Elevatin’.”
After a month, St Lahrie left Port Harcourt for the Lagos where he is currently based. He now has his own record label which he calls ‘FlyinBeat Entertainment’. Using his label St. Lahrie released the single ‘Gobe’ featuring Enterdazement. In this song, St. Lahrie demonstrates, for one so young, a refreshingly endearing social conscience.
“Gobe means trouble,” he explains. “So the song says ‘gobe plus gobe is equal to ‘gbege.’ Gbege is serious trouble.” This song is a warning to youngsters to stay out of trouble, especially the young girls.
Lahrie’s latest single is ‘aGIRLY’. He wrote the track himself and produced it as well. “Agirly means ‘this girl’ or ‘my girl’,” St. Lahrie explains. “It is a love song dedicated to every beautiful lady that knows the essence of love.”
What does the future hold for this son of Africa?
“I’m hoping that one day soon I can perform in Zimbabwe. It has been my dream for a long time now and I hope it’ll come true before the end of this year.”
Lahrie goes on to say, “It is just unfortunate that piracy is crippling the entertainment industry the world over. The only way an artist can at least get something out of his or her sweat is by having live shows. I have been doing a lot of these and it’s rewarding. Piracy is like becoming part of the game now. As a matter of fact, they are the major marketers in Naija.”
Lahrie sees himself becoming part of the growth that is beckoning to Africa. He muses:
The music industry in Africa is the next big thing. That is why you see all the big shots in America coming down to Africa for concerts and collabos.
Go for it Lahrie, go for it!