This interview is particularly special as it is with a dear friend of mine who is probably the next best thing that’s about to happen to the Nigerian music industry. He is a seasoned artist, musician and to me is the man with the gifted hands.
Meet Atta Lenell
- Tell me about yourself and what you do
I make music. I’m a professional music producer and a musician myself. Making music is both work and play for me and I’m grateful to God for the opportunity.
- Tell me about your journey as an artist
I began traditional piano lessons like so many other children at the age of nine. I suppose I had an uncommon zest for it or something because I really loved every minute of those classical piano lessons. It was never a chore. I learned the guitar in university. Over the years I’ve played in countless bands, directed several choirs, played in hotel lounges, restaurant gigs and the like, backed up on countless jazz sets, been a thoroughly active musician in church (still am), and performed my own material on countless stages. It’s been twenty three years since that first piano lesson – a long time – but every single piece of experience has proven invaluable to me as a music producer and also as an artist in my own right.
- How long have you been in the music business
I’ve been an active gigging musician since 2000. I’d say I crossed over from being primarily an instrumental musician to the real business of professional music production around 2010.
- What inspires you?
Other creative individuals. Listening to amazing musicians. That’s a massive spark for me. Makes me want to just turn off the television or the radio or whatever and just go create something myself.
- What musicians and styles have influenced your music over the years
I listened to a lot of classical music in the early stages of my development. Then I drenched myself in jazz music for a couple of years. But as far as more mainstream music goes, it’s very difficult to say who has influenced my own personal sound either as a producer or as a songwriter. As a producer, everything has and everything does. Constantly. You have to be receptive to everything you hear and then process the bits you love and discard the bits you don’t. So I could be influenced by both Tupac and Oscar Peterson in the same breath. We’re always dealing with different kinds of musicians and it’s our responsibility to interpret their vision. We don’t have the luxury of pigeon-holing ourselves.
- How would you describe your style
My own music has an acoustic bent. I’d say there are elements of folk sensibilities and a little bit of soul as well. I like to contrast soft passages of music with bursts of energy. The energetic peaks are rock inspired. I’m big on the element of surprise. I’d describe a lot of my songs as being acoustic guitar driven with a singer songwriter bent from a lyrical perspective.
- If you didn’t have music what would be your preferred means of artistic expression
Writing. Definitely writing. That’s my other great love.
- If you were to have a soundtrack for where you are in life right now, what would it be?
Wheel by John Mayer.
- Do you have plans to be a recording artist as well as producer?
Yes I do have plans. I’m as much a performer as anything else. I’ll release my ep shortly.
- Mention some artists you have worked with
A few names: Jessica Bongos-Ikwue, Lindsey Abudei, Jon Oogah, Bemyoda, Nana Aisha and Cef.
- What is your opinion of the Nigerian music industry as regards your style?
It’s a young industry. A lot of things have never been heard. That makes it fertile ground for eager listeners in my opinion. I’m not one of those people that think Nigerians don’t appreciate certain styles of music just because they aren’t mainstream styles. I think people appreciate what they have a chance to appreciate – what is available to them. So I’m very optimistic about the future.
- What is your take on the quality of Nigerian music in comparison with the international market
I think it depends on what you mean by quality. We definitely have the ability to produce music that can hold its own anywhere in the world. There are lots of examples of that from Nigerian musicians. The frequency and variety of that quality however is where there are perhaps question marks. But that could be said of any burgeoning young industry. The ability is unquestionably there. Give it time.
- Would you say Nigerian music within your style, is exportable?
Yes I would say that.
- What’s next for you?
More music, more songwriting, more film scoring, some work with a couple of interesting artists and my own ep release.
Check out Atta’s work here : http://www.attalenell.com