Abiodun Koya is a Nigerian-born classical singer, poet, and humanitarian who’s performed for the likes of US Presidents (Barack Obama, George W. Bush), Nigerian Kings, and World Ambassadors.
C: How important is it for you to give back to your native community in Nigeria and other parts of Africa through your foundation?
This is very important to me. I give back to my native African community through my humanitarian works by awarding scholarships to underprivileged children, especially girls. I believe in girls’ education because not only does it empower women, but women also make some brilliant leaders in the world. I also enjoy meeting with women in prison and coaching them on the skills they would need to succeed once released.
C: Can you tell us about how you got started performing?
During my sophomore year in college (Catholic University, in Washington, DC), both students and professors knew I could sing well, and so eventually word had gotten to my college President that there was an international student who could sing—and that she made the Dean’s list every semester. Shortly thereafter, he invited me to his office to discuss whether I might want to sing at various campus events. Of course, I said yes, and the exposure at those events led to several more invitations to sing at DC-area events and essentially launched my professional career.
C: What was it like growing up in Nigeria?
Growing up was really amazing. I think I had one of the best childhoods even though I was a sickly child afflicted with different ailments every few months. This is where music actually saved my life, because when I was sick, even to the point of death, music sort of preserved me. My parents knew to leave the record on to play continuously because that was the one thing I always responded to during my times as an invalid. Days when I wasn’t responsive to food or medicine, music was my doctor and food.
C: Was your family involved in music as well?
Yes, my family was! My dad has a fine baritone voice but never sang outside the shower and the house. My mum was an alto and played clarinet in the church. My immediate senior sister sang in the church choir and played the violin too. I was a violin student but dropped it during the early teenage years and never looked back, which is something I regret deeply. I guess I was distracted by boys; I was quite popular and a well-liked girl back then.
C: Who was your greatest influence growing up and did anyone inspire you to start singing classical music?
As a kid, no specific musicians inspired me other than mostly classical composers and “the lady singing on the radio.” I coined that name whenever I heard a lady with a sonorous voice singing on-air because, growing up back then in the 80s, you couldn’t pull out a smart phone to Google a singer or Shazam a song to know who was singing and what was playing.
C: At what age did you realize that you had this gift?
I realized at age 6 that I had the gift of singing. Prior to then, I moved and reacted to everything that was musical. When I was a kid, I even used to create cartoon-like characters for each musical note in my head.
C: What was the most exciting event that you’ve performed at?
This is like asking to pick my favorite child. I’ve had many opportunities to perform at different lovely events.
C: Do you have a favorite city or country in which to perform?
I enjoy performing in the US and Africa. I also look forward to performing in Italy someday.
C: You have a such a beautiful voice. Did you train formally or were you simply born gifted?
Both. I was fortunate to have been born with a gift to sing. And not only that, but to write as well. From childhood, I had formal training in church through my teenage years. Then in college I started a new level of formal training both in college as well as outside of school with professional coaches.
C: Do you have a favorite song to sing?
I have a favorite type of music that I love to sing, but not necessarily a favorite song. Singing love songs in any language is what brings me the greatest satisfaction.
C: Are there any specific artists you’d really love to work with?
Oh yes! Andrea Bocelli, Vangelis and Yanni.
C: What projects are you currently working on?
I just released my mental health T-shirt line—Gigantic—and also my poetry book entitled “The Moods of a Goddess” which is now available on Amazon. I am currently working on a series of love themed concerts for this coming February called the “Red Hot, Red Hearts” concerts. Lastly, I’m working on two albums. One is an African relaxation/meditative album with solely instrumentals. The other is an eclectic collection of full vocal arrangements. Updates on release dates will be posted on my website (www.abiodunkoya.com), and I typically announce the unveiling of my projects on my Instagram @singabiodunkoya.
C: What advice would you give to those interested in becoming an opera singer?
I would advise them not to focus only on the opera genre but instead to be versatile. Cultivate a solid singing technique that will enable them to effectively perform multiple genres.
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