AT the age of 28, ace female percussionist Sheena Richardson aka Ajibola has already made a name for herself in the entertainment industry and has played alongside T&T’s leading jazz vocalists and musicians. And now, Ajibola is working on her debut album Bliss in which her vocals will take centre stage. Bliss will offer fans another side of this multidimensional artiste.
If you’ve witnessed the conviction with which Ajibola plays the drums, you would swear that she’s been playing all her life. And technically speaking, she has.
“I’ve been playing drums ever since I’ve known myself,” says Ajibola who was born and raised in Siparia.
Her relatives recall that at the age of three Ajibola was inclined to make sounds out of every object that was in sight. Most children eventually grow out of that stage, but not Ajibola. As she grew older her love for music, and percussion in particular, grew deeper. She found encouragement in the family circle; one of her aunts plays the guitar and her uncles play the pan. Ajibola also plays the cuatro and sings, but nothing can replace the feeling that comes over her when she plays the drums.
“I like to think that music has always been a part of my life, it flows through my blood. There is something about playing the drums that makes me feel good. It’s my go-to instrument whenever I feel down,” she says.
However music wasn’t Ajibola’s only passion growing up; she also had a knack for numbers and was so good at it that she pursued an accounting course with the aim of one day becoming a hotel manager. Ajibola had it all mapped out in her head; she would open her own hotel and have special days designated to different genres of music and local talent. But in the end her love for music came out the winner. She wanted to prove that drums were as serious as any other instrument.
“I felt that people were taking percussion for granted and that it needed to be taken seriously,” she says.
Proud of her heritage
By her early teens, Ajibola was already performing for large audiences but she didn’t know how to read and write music. By the time she graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts specialising in percussion from the University of Trinidad and Tobago, she added the technical skills to the experience she’d already gained. But she didn’t stop there. As a percussionist, Ajibola wanted to delve deeper into the history of drumming. She began examining aspects of the African culture; the dances, food, songs and costumes as well as some of the lesser known aspects of the culture that aren’t necessarily found in books but have been passed down orally from generation to generation. She pursued her Master of Arts in Carnival Studies and became an adjunct lecturer at the University of the Southern Caribbean while also giving private lessons. Ajibola became a fixture on the jazz circuit and also achieved one of her lifelong wishes when she got the opportunity to play alongside one of her inspirations Ella Andall.
Needless to say, Ajibola proudly wears her love for her culture on her sleeve. She is the musical director of the Egbe Omo Oni Isese Traditional African Association which specialises in Trinidad and Tobago Ifa and Orisa drumming and singing. They also make the drums. As a lead-up to the release of her album, Ajibola started a series ‘Blissful Talks’ on her Facebook page in which she talks with musicians on various issues including the preservation of African traditions.
As a result of the pandemic, this year’s commemoration of Emancipation Day will be unlike any other. Ajibola plans to spend the day reflecting.
“For some people Emancipation Day is about bringing out all the fancy African clothing and for that reason, the importance of the day has been overlooked by some. It’s a day of reflection, a day to look back and see where we have come from and see how best we can go forward as a people,” she says.
Ajibola is collaborating with numerous talented musicians on her upcoming album Bliss. Among those featured on her album are Tamba Gwindi, Emile Fortune, Khalen ‘Ja Moi’ Alexander, Karla Gonzales and Arlington Serries.
“It promises to be a blissful experience,” she says.
For more info on Ajibola’s album Bliss, visit her