Mairé Abia-Bassey, fondly called Mairé, is changing the narrative one mindset at a time through her music. “There is this narrative that implies that as women, we have limitations to our capabilities; to thrive, love, and be self-sufficient. A woman’s potential is limitless and creativity is the original feminine energy.“
Music, for Mairé, has been more than a passion; it has been a calling. She describes her music as Afro-Urban because it is a mix of different genres. Growing up with heavy influences from R&B and Afrobeats, she has now infused many other styles including hip-hop and reggae into her sound.
” I have always known I wanted to do music since I was 5. I would turn my lotion bottle upside down and sing in front of the mirror. When I was 8, my cousin put me and my friends in a group and she would make us sing and learn dance routines all day.“
After being in the scene for close to a decade, Mairé is no stranger to the Nigerian music industry. Releasing her first single in 2013 featuring Tekno, she has seen every wave the music industry has had to offer. “The most important thing as a musician is being able to adapt to change. Beyoncé does it all the time. I love where the industry is now; most things are digital and artists have more control. It was almost like an autocratic government many years back. Some things haven’t changed though, you still need the DJs because you want the streets on lock. I also love that there are more women breaking barriers and going international.“
After the release of her hit single Alhaji in 2016, she took a break from music. But that break was just what she needed at the time.”There was a lot of chaos around management and funding. We were novices at the time, we spent a lot of money on the wrong things. When I had to take that break, I felt like I was behind. I’m not sure why I thought there was a timeframe. It all worked out fine in the end. I think if I popped up then, I wouldn’t be as relevant right now. Everything is all coming together.”
The break gave her time up to strategize and make bolder moves like becoming an independent artist and taking charge of her work. “Being an independent artist comes with a lot of hard work. The challenges force you to become an entrepreneur. Your career is in your hands and the consequences make you think about what brand you want to put out and how you want to be perceived.“
Her latest single Woman which speaks on strength and tenacity was for her as much as it was for everyone else. She hopes that someone listens to Woman and knows they are capable of pushing through their limitations.
Her music is largely inspired by her mother. Mkpoyo (celebration), one of her earliest releases, was an ode to her mom who she says was always the life of the party. In the midst of the grief after her mother passed, she found solace in using the expressions her mom would normally use. “My mother gave her all to everything while she was alive. She started her company before she was 30, so I always told myself I could do it too.”
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has not been an easy feat however Mairé is not deterred.
“I made a lot of enemies at the start because everyone either wanted to sleep with me or disrespect me. I didn’t take any of it. It’s why it is important for me to work my ass off on the corporate side to make money to push my music. Thankfully, everything is now digital and artists have control. My advice is for women to develop themselves so they don’t have to take anything from any man. There is still a lot of inequality and assumptions about a woman’s capabilities in the music industry as compared to men. But we are breaking these barriers one after the other.“
Mairé is a master of many trades; she works in the corporate world while balancing that with her music. However, her ‘9-5’ is a means to an end for her. My dream is to go into music full-time. “It’s been challenging trying to juggle the two. There have been times when I have been in two meetings at a time or had to leave work to go to the studio. It’s been chaotic. When I’m on leave, I focus on my music promo and spend time in the studio. It’s challenging and I don’t recommend it. But if that’s what you have to do, go for it.“
When asked what artists she hopes to collaborate with in the future, she mentions a lot of familiar names.
“There’s a whole list. I resonate with Burna Boy’s Sound, I think Fireboy and I have similar R&B foundations. Omawumi, MI, Jesse Jagz, Odunsi, Wurld and Lojay. And then my ultimate collaboration would be Beyoncè.”
In 5 years, she sees herself having Platinum and Gold records, kids, and a husband who may also be a creative. And in 10 years, she hopes Mairé is a household name engraved in the stars as one of the greats.