Squeeze Tarela, singer of “Hottest Thing“, a single charting in the UK has a voice larger than life. He is a Reggae Dance Hall artiste who hails from Warri area of Delta State. Real names, Tarela Henry Ekaye, he was born in Lagos, at the military barracks in Ojo. He was raised up there in Ojo, Warri and Benin.
On when his music journey started, he said it all started in 100 level when he was studying Geology at the University of Benin. He had used his pocket money to record his first demo in 2007, then he participated in the GLO campus tour where he came 2nd and that expanded his audience. He had access to television stations, magazines etc. However, he had not always been all reggae, as during that period he was more of a battle MC/ rapper than a singer.
Soon he experienced a shift from being a battle MC to Reggae. His main focus has always been personalizing his music from sounding generic to sounding more like Tarela’s music. “The music comes from the Caribbean Islands, but how do I personalize it to make it Nigerian, how do I personalize it to make it Squeeze Tarela’s music“. Getting a record deal in 2010 under Black Touch Entertainment was the main start of his professional career as a Reggae artist; he spent four years with them, releasing 3 videos and one mixtape titled “High Voltage Mixtape“.
“From then, I went on for my youth service and started recording as an independent artiste, and then we got in with Just Jojo Entertainment. We have “Bend” as my first official single with Just Jojo Entertainment, and “Hottest thing” as the follow up single“. He said.
Creativity has always been what he is all about and so he came up with doing a “Re-Fix” series. Shedding more light on what a “Re-Fix” was, he said, “When it is a re-fix you change the element of the song, put in your verse, and twist the chorus, on the same beat. You may just hear the highlights of the original song. We did a Re-Fix for Juice, Selebobo’s Waka, Come Closer, If”
Reminiscing on his days growing up, he talks about how he always danced with his brother at parties, dancing for people, at competitions in the early 90s at the age of 9-10. “We used to come home with a hundred and twenty naira in the early 90s, which was a big deal for a kid then. There was this craze of going to parties with mint notes and so we would keep our mint notes for a long time to take to important occasions“.
Moving on to talk about his sound, he emphasized on the uniqueness of his sound saying, “My sound is relatable, tasteful and is enduring. It has longevity “, he said. He would also go on to say that the way to know great music is from the consumers, especially when your consumers say your music is going to last for a long time.
Hottest Thing, his latest single charting in the United Kingdom, “I felt really great about it, we charted on the Official Urban Chart, debuting at 24, from then on to 20 and then 13“. According to him, the inspiration behind Hottest Thing was to communicate love in relationships, appreciating that one woman in your life.
Speaking about competition in the industry, he emphasized that he is not in a competition with any other artiste, as he has just been creating a lane of his own. His experience in the industry has not been without its own challenges though, as he says, “It is all part of the journey, being turned down sometimes, not being played on radio, etc, but it is all part of the success story at the end.”
On possible future collaborations he mentioned that he has a couple of collaborations in the bag, but would rather wait for it to be released before saying anything about it.
According to him, Tu Baba has always being his favourite artiste in Nigeria. “His music has influenced all of us; he comes in a total package, being able to be in the industry for such a long time and still being loved by Nigerians“. Outside the country however, his favorite acts are Ed Sheeran, Bob Marley, Steven Marley, Bruno Mars. He also commented on the growth of the Nigerian industry over the past ten years, “It has been big, people now support our music, and the industry is still evolving; now the music is great, producers are better, television stations and radio stations support artistes by giving them airplay“.
Speaking about his plans for the next couple of years, he said; “I really just want to live for today. I am producing for tomorrow, but I am living for today“.
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