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‘There's an authenticity in my creative process that I can achieve when I'm in Lagos, because it's in sync with my rhythm.’

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Feature by Marley Ng

Nigerian-Canadian singer-songwriter Falana has weaved her way across continents from her native Toronto, immersing herself in the undercurrents of Aarhus and Havana, before falling in sync with the rhythm of Lagos.

Now based between Lagos and London, the musical artist has found a creative grounding in the beat of the city, which has long held significance in her family narrative. Since moving to Nigeria, she has released an EP and an album, while also creating commissioned works for NGOs, films, and the Africa Fashion installation at the V&A Museum. Her nomadic lifestyle is reflected in her music — she grew up listening to traditional Nigerian songs and picked up the cajón in Cuba — and this only helps to bolster her view that music is a powerful universal medium that connects people across cultures. Falana’s passion for the dynamic city is evident in her Lagos Travel Playbook, which includes buzzy spots to eat, drink, shop, party and of course, enjoy live music.


On the power of music to connect with people

Music is this universal medium for connecting with people. One of my favorite things is to watch how people’s bodies respond to my songs. I’ve always tried to make music that tells stories or helps you heal, so that someone can dig into it and carry it for themselves. My single ‘Joy’ was nominated for a Headie, which is one of the bigger Nigerian music awards. People send me messages like, ‘I start my day with that song. It's amazing.’ So music can be anything: it can make you laugh, dance, vibe. It's so powerful. I feel really blessed to be able to do what I do.

On your unique connection to Lagos

My mom grew up in Lagos, and my dad is from outside Abeokuta. Growing up, we would come back every year. A lot of children of immigrants have that experience where their identity has been built in two different places, so Lagos is very much a part of my family's story. I've lived in a lot of different cities, so my connection to Lagos is unique — it was like coming home. I've been going between Lagos and London, which is exciting. It’s cool to be a part of the cultural scene in London, and how it connects to the Nigerian story.

‘As an artist, I've always naturally gravitated to unconventional things. It's a bit of a crazy way to live life, but it's also exciting.'

On being drawn to the unconventional, and where that has taken you

Nothing is ever premeditated for me — whether it's a book I read or a person I met, something draws me to a place. I met a musician in Cuba who thought it would be cool if I could play with them. Next thing you know, I was studying music in Havana. Then I toured around to Holguín and Santiago de Cuba, where I started playing the cajón. It just organically happened; the spirit aligned things. As an artist, I've always naturally gravitated to unconventional things. It's a bit of a crazy way to live life, but it's also exciting.

On lessons learnt from being a nomad

I'm grateful that I've been able to experience different cultures. It changes who you are and your mindset. It's very easy to think about where you are as your entire world — it’s really cool to be able to connect with someone who's lived a completely different life. I always feel very humbled to be able to think about my life as a nomad, meeting people from all walks of life.

First row of Falana courtesy of Falana. All other images of Falana performing courtesy of Falana.

On what travel has taught you about yourself

I have an obsession with language. I'm trying to learn Nigerian Sign Language alongside ASL. I light up whenever I think about the power of language, and being able to connect with different people in different ways. People's true personalities come out when they're speaking the language they're comfortable with.

On a window or aisle seat

Definitely a window seat. I don't have patience for flights, so I have this ability to fall asleep and wake up 30 minutes before the flight lands — no matter how long the flight is. It's a superpower.

On sharing Nigerian creativity with the world

Nigeria is definitely a hub for creativity. What is so exciting now is that we're in a time where, with globalization and the internet, we really have the opportunity to export unique stories to the world, and truly represent Nigerian identity on a global scale. Nigeria is synonymous with creativity, so it's a really beautiful time to be in Lagos.

‘I always take people to Jevinik, because their menu is enormous. If you want to try Nigerian food, they have almost every single possibility.’

On an all-in-one creative hub in Lagos

Alára is a hub for food, fashion, culture and luxury, which really pushes boundaries. They also have a restaurant: NOK by Alára. It’s a visual spectacle in the middle of Victoria Island, where you can tap into West African fashion, arts and culture. So Alára will always be special for me. Then you should definitely try The Amala in NOK. They have amazing drinks made with distinctly local ingredients.

On where to taste Nigeria: from classic cuisine to contemporary innovations

I always take people to Jevinik, because they have a massive menu. If you want to try Nigerian food for the first time, they have almost every single possibility. What I like about it is that it has every type of soup, swallow and meat from every part of Nigeria. And the portions are really large, so it’s easy to share. ÌTÀN is by world-renowned chef Michael Elégbèdé. He's created this contemporary fusion of traditional Nigerian food and ingredients. That's definitely somewhere that you need to go if you get a chance.

On getting off the beaten track and connecting with locals

Rowe Park is a sport park in Yaba. It's not the most fancy place, but what you’ll find there are people who are really passionate, from all different classes, who just want to play. It's definitely somewhere I recommend to people who are OK with going off the beaten track. What I find the most meaningful are experiences that allow me to really connect with people.

First row left of hFACTOR courtesy of hFACTOR; right of Falana at Alára courtesy of Falana. Second row of Alára courtesy of Alára. Third row of Falana at Alára courtesy of Falana. Fourth row of WAFFLESNCREAM by Daniel Chado.

On where, and when, to see live music

New Afrika Shrine in Ikeja is the historically famous shrine that is affiliated with the Kuti family — Femi, Seun, and Made Kuti play there regularly. If you come in October, you can go to Felabration: a festival that honors the life and legacy of Fela Kuti. It's a really cool space with good vibes that you don't want to miss. If you're coming for music, December is the best time to come, because every artist that you love will most likely have their own show or a festival.

On partying with a view

I really like hFACTOR. It’s a hub with fashion, creative and arts events, and parties. It is really about community. One of my favorite things is that they have this rooftop where you can see all of Lagos Island. When the sun is setting, it's really pretty. It’s even better if it's a party — they have an amazing DJ that will come and spin, and it's a really cool vibe.

On a multidisciplinary space to connect with the skating community

WAFFLESNCREAM is a brand centered around Lagos skate culture. They do a lot of different activities outside of skateboarding, like yoga and film nights. They really create a community of people who are into their own vibe and champion authenticity. I love everything they represent and own a lot of their pieces.

‘Lagos teaches me about gratitude in a way that is different from anywhere else in the world.’

On a song that represents Lagos for you

I like ‘Life’s Gone Down Low’ or ‘Danger’ by the Lijadu Sisters. There's something about their music that stands out and makes me feel like Lagos in a cool way. Rhythmically and melodically, they encompass different vibes and sounds.

On your relationship with Lagos

Nigeria has so much to offer. In spite of some of the political and structural challenges, there's still so much beauty. It's important to be proud of and celebrate those things as much as you can. Lagos is like an oxymoron: it's incredibly invigorating and you can meet amazing people everywhere, but it can also be really intense. It can be challenging in many ways, but it's also so exciting to see everything that we create every day. Lagos teaches me about gratitude in a way that is different from anywhere else in the world.

On Lagos in one word

Rhythm. I've traveled a lot, and something I always find interesting is the rhythm of the city. There's an authenticity in my creative process that I can achieve because Lagos is in sync with my rhythm. Even just being able to collaborate with like-minded people who have a similar story and roots — that shared identity is special when you're creating, because it gives your work a really beautiful foundation. There's a grounding that happens in Lagos for me.


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‘There's an authenticity in my creative process that I can achieve when I'm in Lagos, because it's in sync with my rhythm.’