New Release from an Afropop Pioneer – An Interview with Darey

Darey, a black man, crouches in front of a dark background. He's wearing sunglasses, blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a black jacket with different coloured badges sewn onto it

The music industry is littered with one hit wonders. In a world where making and sharing music has never been more accessible, there are countless artists who have shot into the stratosphere only to fade into obscurity.

But Darey is an artist that continues to endure. With his cover 10 year career, he’s preparing to release his latest EP, Way Home, this Autumn. And that’s on top of his prolific television career and co-running Live Spot, Nigeria’s first true 360 creative agency, alongside his wife Deola.

So what’s the key to Darey’s longevity?

Singer Darey, wearing sunglasses, black trousers and blazer and a white shirt
Darey’s career currently spans over 10 years

From speaking to him and reading other interviews of his, it seems clear that his attitude and work ethic have a large part to play. Darey puts his work before his ego. He lets his music speak for him and strives to make it the best it can be. As he recently told the Premium Times:

“when…our son walks into me creating music and doesn’t react…I just know that I have not tried. I have to go back to making the song better.”

Darey often speaks about the support of his family. Being the son of renowned Nigerian Jazz legend Art Alade clearly hasn’t phased him, however. Some would be intimidated by the reputation of such a prominent musician. But Darey takes this, as well as his own success, in his stride. His groundedness in the wake of his fame is a feat not many musicians can boast.

Above all, his dedication to his craft shows in his musical output over his 10+ year career. His work continues to develop as he experiments and incorporates new elements. With each release Darey always brings something fresh to his fans. And no doubt this will continue.

With his latest single, Jah Guide Me, out this month, and Way Home being released in September, we spoke to Darey about his career trajectory, balancing his music with his other projects and his plans for the future.

Singer Darey, dressed in white with black sunglasses
‘Way Home’ is out later this year

You’re considered a pioneer of Afro-pop; did you feel like you were blazing a trail at the time?

You’re very kind. Back in the day, what my team and I were focused on was making great music. Period. Music that would inspire an entire generation of both artists and fans. Music that would give younger ones hope that their voices and music can also make a difference. Looking back at how far we have all come, I’m glad that the moves made then are still relevant to this day.

Being the son of a Nigerian Jazz legend must have had a huge influence on you growing up?

Absolutely. Not just as the son of the late great Art Alade but also coming from a very musical family. From the Alade’s to the Euba’s and Bucknor’s, there have been music legends across Jazz, Piano music, Choral conducting and african classical music composition. So it’s safe to say that the influence was “met at home”.

The beginning of your career started with a bang. What did your early experiences performing with the likes of Beyonce, 50 Cent and Jay Z teach you?

Having come off a continent-wide reality show Project Fame and learning a lot from not just there but also on the job as an up and coming performer and public figure at the time, sharing the stage with those musical greats gave me insight into how professional they were. Their attention to detail while making it look all so easy at the same time. The way they hold the audience spellbound. Their confidence.

Way Home is your 5th Album. What was the inspiration behind it? What did you want to achieve?

The Way Home EP captures the essence of Africa, the Motherland, the centre of the world and everyone and everything returning to their roots, where it all began. The music is full of powerful yet subtle messaging embedded into each recording. From dance and visual inferences, to love, inspiration and much more, all in celebration of Afrofuturism! As we make our way on this journey, let’s not forget home!!

Way Home also kind of has a split personality in a sense.

Way represents the first few songs which are young, fresh and youthful. Vibrant, happy and upbeat while Home is food for the soul. Esoteric, earthy and  full of soul lifting wisdom and inspiration for the discerning audience.

Jah Guide Me almost feels like an invocation for the rest of the EP. Is that what you were aiming for by making it the first track?

Absolutely. It almost feels like a continuation of Pray For Me. Jah Guide Me is the beginning of a hero’s journey. A journey that we are all on essentially. Navigating life’s natural curves. And like this journey, it unfolds as the rest of the EP gives you a mix of emotions and paints various sceneries in the mind’s eye as you find your way home.

With all your other projects, how do you balance your music with TV work and running a creative agency?

With a great team of professionals. My family and team give me life. They keep me going and grounded at the same time.

Afrobeats/Afro-fusion is flourishing globally. Do you think it’s helping to change the western narrative of Africa as an impoverished continent?

Certainly. Our creative arts in general have done a lot more for the continent’s image than our various governments policies and political infightings. It unifies us, portrays our culture, heritage and essence and brings us positive attention and even unprecedented accolades. As long as Africans continue to support each other. This is only the beginning of greater things to come.

What are you working on next?

There’s a lot in store for my fans. As I release the new project and music videos and as fans stream and enjoy the music, I’ll also be bringing out an online series alongside a short film! I’m sooooooo excited!!!

Jah Guide Me is out now.

Way Home is out on 25th September.