Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye, or simply Simi, knows sound. The Nigeria-born singer and songwriter is also a self-taught sound engineer who has mixed and mastered her own music. Simi’s self-sufficiency got her ahead of the curve and into a class by herself. But her artistry was never typical; she has always been thoughtful about developing her style. That experimentation can be heard on her first album, 2008’s gospel driven independent release Ogaju. The mixture of hip-hop, R&B and African inflections was one not heard before, but she continued to strive for the sound she has today.
Rooted in the church, Simi’s early days of performance were as a member of the gospel group Outstanding. She also attended Nigeria’s Christian mission founded Covenant University. “I was in the university and about to graduate when I put that out,” she told Nigeria’s National Daily Newspaper of Ogaju. “After the National Youth Service, a record label signed me. Things didn’t go well so we parted ways. But in that period, I worked on myself and carved a niche for myself.” The switch from gospel to mainstream was more than stylistic—”I switched genres because I started to see music more as a job…,” she told Vibe.ng’s Cynthia Atagbuzia.
Now, after two mainstream studio albums—Chemistry with rapper Falz and 2017’s Simisola—Simi is comfortably in her zone and keeping busy. Simisola debuted at number five on the Billboard World Music chart and last year she took home an All Africa Music Award (AFRIMA) for Songwriter of the Year and a City People Music Award for Best Collabo of the Year with friend and fellow Nigerian singer Adekunle Gold. It is fair to say she is stretching out. She’s even gotten involved in the tech space, announcing her appointment as Brand Ambassador with mobile web browser Opera Mini in January. We look forward to the sound and innovation she will undoubtedly continue to bring to the table.