Singer Iyeoka feels at home, Nigeria to Hawaii

Text Gary Chun
Thread music

As an artist, Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo has taken the meaning of her name to heart -- "I want to be respected" -- and she's been rewarded in kind.

The American-born singer, poet and activist of Nigerian parentage has found a second home in the islands, commuting between Hawai'i and Boston on a regular basis since 2006.

"I discovered a rich culture," she says by phone from Boston, "and it reminded me of Africa -- that deep connection with the motherland. Besides a similarity in temperatures, there's a lot of deeply spiritual people in Hawai'i that appreciate their culture. There's also a big push for language preservation, which I believe in, as well."

Iyeoka has memories of regularly visiting Nigeria ever since she was 6, specifically the family home of Edo State in the western part of the country. "My parents and I would go back once a year and stay for two-three months in the summer." Her Boston University-educated father and mother have since returned to live in Nigeria, and Iyeoka has visited her ancestral home in 2012 when she was promoting her latest album, Say Yes.

The 2010 album represented a conscientious choice on her part to change her sound. Prior to Say Yes, Iyeoka recorded a live album two years earlier in Honolulu at the KTUH studio with Paula Fuga and the now-defunct Tempo Valley. It was then that she met Shree Sadogapan of Quadraphonix. "A close connection with the band developed, and it's a relationship that's lasted as we've grown and bonded together," she says.

Iyeoka has certainly earned our respect.


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