Coming from a musically-diverse family, Ngina Fayola has developed into an accomplished musician and is working towards furthering her career in music.
Ngina, born Ngina Luke, in Georgetown, Guyana to Ida ‘Nellie’ Luke and JoJo Felix Terrence, one of the founding members of the Yoruba Singers, grew up in Cleveland Ohio, USA.
It was in 1982, Ngina told The Scene in an online interview, when her family migrated to Cleveland, where she spent her childhood.
“I started school and the children were cruel… I mean American children aren’t very often exposed to different cultures so they made fun of my sister and me… The way mommy dressed us, our accent and my name. The spelling of it made it hard for them to pronounce, so they called me Ninja. Even the teacher called me Ninja. It’s funny now, but back then I hated my own name,” Ngina related.
She recalled that her talent started to develop when she was just 3 years old, when her father taught her and her sister a song, “I am a child, a Guyanese child. I come from home, to learn at school.
“That was the first time I had heard the sound of my voice outside of myself. But again, I was very shy around non-family. I sang in the youth choir at the church we attended but I hated it. I dreaded the thought of having to sing in front of the whole church,” she said.
Grown and over her shyness, Ngina actually began to perform as an artist by doing poetry at open mic nights in the city. But she later bought a guitar and decided she would learn to play the instrument on her own.
“So I learned a few basic guitar chords and started writing songs and incorporating them with my poems. I eventually became so wrapped up in the singing portion of the poetry that I stopped doing spoken word and started honing myself as a singer/songwriter,” she said.
Ngina said she was always exposed to music such as soca, calypso, reggae, bossa nova, gospel, R&B, hip hop and even country but melody is what inspires her to make music. Her father, she said, played a big part in shaping the individual she is today and even the music she produces.
“I grew up watching my father write, produce and record his own songs. He would play old records from the Yoruba Singers in the house. I think that witnessing the whole music creation process helped shape me as an artist,” she said.
She added that her mother was also an influence on her as she taught her about God, love and wisdom in speech and deeds. From listening to her mother’s gospel records, Ngina said, she learnt about vocal control from powerful singers.
Currently, she is still working on her career while attending college where she is pursuing studies in digital audio production and envisages managing a recording studio one day.
Since 2004 Ngina has written, arranged, produced and directed four albums: ‘nginafayola (the birth of)’, ‘observationz’, ‘Anomaly’, and ‘Ladybugs in my Lamp’.
Ngina also produced ‘A Spoken Word Project: for the People for Kisha Nicole Foster’ (Gneous Music) in 2008. In 2008, she was on the Kings vs Queens on the Iron Mic (Grog Shop) and she was in the Battle of the Beats (Symposium). In 2009, she was featured in the Cleveland Scene magazine for her performance in the Queens on the Iron Mic Show. She has worked with such artists as Eriq Troi, PhatBurner, Elemental Hard Groove, and Joe Byrd.
She has toured with RepLife, a jazz/spoken word duo, which consists of Mark Matthews (D.J) and Daniel Gray-Kontar, in Ohio and Pittsburgh. She has also featured at The Earth Nightclub (Cleveland, Ohio); The Underground (Cleveland, Ohio), and the legendary Grog Shop (Cleveland, Ohio). Ngina, who performs live acoustically or with a four-man band and back-up singer, has been compared to Nina Simone.
Ngina said she does not believe that living abroad has assisted her career, but “to God be the glory”. She said she is determined to stand out in her art and that is what has helped her as a musical vessel. “My dream is not to be the next so and so. My dream and mission is to give the people music that creates a revolutionary movement in each listener.“
She added that she once thought that a musical accomplishment had to be being recognized by millions of fans with her name in lights.
Those accomplishments, she said, have not been met yet, but she has grown to realize that this is not so, as she has already accomplished so much by simply creating beautiful music.
“I’ve shared many, many of my own songs on many, many stages. I’ve worked with many wonderful artists… I’m in a good place creatively, currently working on my new album and looking forward to my graduation from college next summer [this year]“ she added.
Ngina said she often remembers the breeze in Guyana when writing love songs.