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D’Watchlist: The Lady and The Sound

Law Student by day, Singer, Song Writer and Producer by night. Zainab Donli is showing the potential to be become Nigeria’s next great female musician

Mainstream Nigerian music for all its obvious merits can sometimes become very repetitive. The same old recycled beats, same old lyrics and very little innovation. Thankfully, Afro-Pop, the dominant mainstream genre, isn’t the only sound we are creating.

That’s why finding new Nigerian talents and alternative genres gets us excited at The PGM club, and listening to Lady Donli’s “Selfish” aroused the same enthusiasm and much more.

Seamlessly alternating between rapping, singing, and spoken word poetry, Lady Donli has created a unique style with her music that is as unconventional as it is beautiful.


“My music is influenced by a long list of people I grew up listening to, such as Nneka, Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, Sade Adu, Frank Sinatra, Andre 3000 and Lauryn Hill the great.” I’m trying to create my own unique blend of sounds, but these artists definitely paved the way for me to even dream of such.” She says.

Growing up with brothers who were musicians also helped shape her. Lady Donli started recording and putting out music in 2012. Her journey so far has produced two mixtapes. ‘Love and War’, released in 2014 and served as her debut project and ‘What is perfect?’, her most recent mixtape which was released in 2015.

What is Perfect? is Lady Donli’s best body of work yet. She takes her songwriting to a whole new level, exploring more complex topics with a style fluid enough to perfectly express her range of talents complimented by the beat selection.

We asked her about the creation of the mixtape.

“I just wanted something to musically reflect where I was at that moment. I want listeners to feel like they’re on a journey watching me grow” she says.

The standout song on the project is Sour Wine, featuring an excellent guest verse from D-Boi. A song where she tells the story of feeling insecure when in love, a somewhat common theme for her.

Songwriters tend to draw inspiration from personal experiences, telling stories inspired by personal emotions. When asked if she finds it easier to write about personal heartbreak and insecurities, she gave a rather pleasant but unexpected reply. “None of the songs really centered on real-life events”, she says. “I’m a conceptualist, I always try to create a story outside the song. Fictional events that could or might have happened in our lives.” She said.


It is this creative ability that has truly endeared the fans to her. She’s in total control of not only the art but also how the art is presented. Hands on with everything from album art to music videos. She’s all about her visuals and presentation. “I love colors, I love art, and I always pitch ideas to whoever is in charge of my visuals. “I am very picky”, she says. “I want the art (the music) to truly represent me and what I feel. I also think presentation is important for the fans. They deserve to see and listen to a perfect body work”.

Interestingly, Lady Donli manages to achieve all of this while studying Law at the University of Surrey and with a new EP titled “Wallflower” in the works, you can be sure that Lady Donli is looking to outdo her last project.

For a patriarchal society with a male dominated music industry, Nigeria has been blessed with immensely talented female musicians. From Christy Essien to Weird MC and in more recent times, Asa, Tiwa Savage, Waje, Yemi Alade and a few others, we strongly believe that in a few years Lady Donli can perhaps be mentioned in the same breath as these greats.

We at thePGMclub strongly recommend that you add a bit of Donli to your playlist.

Follow her on social media.

Instagram: @ladydonli
twitter: @ladydonli

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