If you’re still of the school of thought that Alternative music is not for Nigeria, you should pay more attention to Lady Donli. Zainab Donli aka Lady Donli is a Neo-Soul artist from Kaduna state, Nigeria. Born in Cleveland, Ohio; the singer grew up in Abuja and England and is the last of six children.
I first heard Lady Donli in 2017 when she released her single Ice Cream featuring Tomi Thomas, but Donli has been around much longer than that.
Zainab Donli was exposed to music at an early age and she says her earliest creative process is writing as she told the South African Marie Claire, “I’ve always been into writing when I was little I would write short stories and poetry and then eventually I started transforming them into music.” The artist has also never been afraid to put herself out there; growing up, Donli never passed up an opportunity to sing or even rap when given an audience. Having brothers with their own studio also helped Donli’s growth as an artist, as it helped her explore the process of creating music. Donli has been making music since she was 16. She’s 21 now.
Before her break in 2016 with the release of her EP Wallflower,
which many believe to be her first compilation of work, Lady Donli already had a string of locally successful singles, a mixtape, and an EP: Love or War in 2014
and What Is Perfect in 2015.
She also bagged a nomination for Choice Mixtape/EP for Love or War at the 2015 Nigerian Teen Choice Awards.
Abuja has been enjoying greatness for a hot minute Y’all!
Sadly, some of us will never know what Lady Donli sounded like on these tapes as they’ve been taken off her SoundCloud (cue tears).
Lady Donli mentions Erykah Badu, Andre 3000 and Asa to be her biggest musical influences citing a listening of Outkast’s Roses as her earliest emotional encounter with music in an interview with More Branches: ‘When I first heard Roses by Outkast I was perplexed by how music could sound so good. I’d never heard sound at such a level before. It was so different, the sound was so organic, I was little but I still remembered how it felt.’, although she started out as a rapper for love of the Hip-hop genre and its history. The singer has described her music as ‘a fusion of R&B, Soul and Funk Psychedelic sounds’.
Listening to Lady Donli, it’s easy to decipher that she’s a lover and she has said love is the biggest inspiration of her creative process and this is because she wants her audience to know it’s okay to be vulnerable and in their feelings and this is such a beautiful thing in a society that is so stifling of vulnerability.
Since the release of Wallflower, Lady Donli’s music career has gone straight to the Milky Way. 2017 was such an amazing year for her; releasing her second EP Letters To Her, headlining her own concert and getting mega international airplay for her hits Kashe Ni (meaning ‘kill me’ in Hausa) and Ice Cream and owning Summer ’17 with her features. She even got featured on Complex Magazine’s Bout To Blow list with Ice Cream and the sister hasn’t let up the speed this year either; headlining another concert of her own, being recognized by Guardian NG as a front-runner of Nigeria’s New Age vibe.
Lady Donli recently successfully headlined her own international tour across four cities in Canada and North America, featured on MI’s Yxng Dxnzl album and she also bagged another nomination at the 2018 Nigerian Teen Choice Awards for Choice Female Artist. She even gave us a video game with the release of her 2018 single Games featuring GJ the Ceasar.
Lady Donli is grinding hard right now, so don’t be surprised when this flower of talent blossoms into the super superstar we expect her to become.