A Week in the Life is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
What’s it like to be a rockstar in Nigeria? Today, we explore a week in ClayRocksU’s life. Clay is a Nigerian rockstar who grew up saving her pocket money to buy music albums. She shares the joys and challenges of performing rock music in Nigeria, blending Afropop and punk rock and why she thinks dogs are the absolute best.
I woke up at 4 a.m. today to prepare for a video shoot for my new single with my band, The Misfits. Our shoot is billed for 8 a.m. but I’m up at 4 because I need to mentally prepare and leave early.
The name “Misfits” really fits my band. We’re five oddballs in a band of misfits that’s been jamming since 2015: Orange, the one who fusses over everything; Best — the complete opposite of Orange — the clown of the group; Jerry, who’s been in the band since he was 19, is the calming influence and source of optimism; and Dare, the bassist and official late-comer. If we have a session for 1 p.m, I have to tell Dare we’re starting by 8 a.m., and he’ll still come late. But to be fair, his schedule is tight, yet he’s supportive and shows up every time.
I started Clay and The Misfits by accident. I only used to do acoustics before, but one day, I needed a band to play for me at a show. I really enjoyed the performance and decided we could create a proper rock band.
I get to the studio at 8 a.m. Orange and Jerry come in minutes after I do. In 20 minutes’ time, we’re set for the shoot, but Dare hasn’t shown up yet. I can’t blame him today sha. Today’s traffic was awful because of the ongoing fuel scarcity and long queues.
The shoot lasts until late afternoon. After that, we go to the studio to rehearse for our weekend shows. We rehearse a few songs including my new single, but my favourite is a rock cover of Flavour’s Ashawo. The song isn’t part of our plans for today — it just comes up while we’re freestyling. But in 15 minutes, we’ve written the guitar arrangement. We flow through it so sweetly that we decide to record it.
We continue rehearsing until 6 p.m when we leave the studio. I spend the next few hours in traffic. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted but happy about the video shoot and the songs we made today.
Every Thursday, I host an hour-long show on the radio where I play rock music with my co-host. I use this opportunity to plug in my music — I released a new single last week titled Amin where I fused Afropop elements into punk rock. The end product is a song I’m really proud of. I cried while writing Amin because it was such a validating experience, words can’t explain the feeling.
It’s a personal victory to be able to do something I love for a living. I grew up listening to rock. My dad played a lot of Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams and I grew to love the sound. As a teenager, anytime I got my hands on the remote control, I watched MTV. And I saved up my pocket money to buy rock music compilations.
I’ve always dreamed of being a musician. In secondary school, I was in science class and JETS club. After competitions, I’d take off my JETS club uniform and join arts students. I was also the best dancer in the school. After secondary school, I wondered why I even went to science class in the first place when I’d only always cared about music and performing arts.
After the radio show, since I’m trying to be more active on social media, especially TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, I’ll shoot TikTok videos to promote my music and engage with my followers.
Sometimes I wake up and wonder why I chose this life. Like today, the only thing on my mind is, “God, why?” All my friends who went to school are working, and some are married. Me, I said I wasn’t going to work for anybody, I didn’t want to do a 9-5, I wanted to chase my dreams and do my own thing. I didn’t stop there; I now said it’s rock music that I’ll do — music that isn’t very popular in Nigeria.
As if that’s not enough, I’m a woman, and women usually have it harder in the entertainment industry. I’ve met people who loved my music and wanted to work with me or sponsor me, but at the last minute, they went, “But you’re a woman.”
Some men even move to me under the pretext of liking my music, only for me to realise later that they just wanted to get into my pants. If you want to have sex with me, just talk to me direct, let me know if I’ll say yes or no; don’t go through my music.
I spend all morning questioning God, then I move on. Weekends are the lifeblood of my job, so the Misfits and I are booked and busy. Knowing I’m performing with The Misfits at a popular cafe on the island later in the day makes me feel better. We do this every other Friday.
I didn’t always like performing. I used to dread getting on stage But I’ve come to accept it as part of the process. I look forward to every performance these days. When the music gets going, I transform into something so beautiful words can’t describe.
I feel like if I ever get to that point where I no longer feel anxious or get that rush of adrenaline before I go on stage, It means that I’m becoming complacent because I’ve “arrived”, and I might stop giving my best.
When my band gets on stage, we perform continuously for three hours, and it feels like I could sing all night. We’re so high on joy that our drummer throws the drums on stage at the end of our performance: this is how I rockstar, and the crowd cheers like crazy!
I’m still not over yesterday’s performance. It wows me that I’ve connected with folks who really fuck with rock music. Somehow, there are people on the island who just want to listen to rock music, so that’s how we always get shows. It’s not mainstream money, but it pays the bills.
Five years ago, I went on a hiatus after releasing an EP with high hopes. It went well to an extent, but I’m an independent artiste, and I didn’t have money to promote it. After that, I got burnt out. I got tired of dropping stuff that wasn’t resonating with many people as I’d like. It’s probably unfair to my core fans, but at some point, I just kept asking, “Is anybody even listening to my stuff?
In 2020, I wanted to make a comeback, but COVID-19 happened and the lockdown was really hard on me. But in late 2021, I pulled myself by my bootstraps and started going to the studio again.
I decided to focus on my music without bothering myself too much with numbers. Now, I’m sticking to what I love and promoting myself with whatever resources I can garner. The people that love me love me, and I’m choosing to focus on them. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing.
Tonight, I’m billed for an event I’ve been looking forward to for two months, as it’s a major event. But before my performance, I’m walking dogs. Aside from music, I’m also a professional dog trainer. I love dogs because they bring me calm — but only when they’re true puppies.
Today’s client’s dog is not a true puppy.
When the owners reached out to me, I told them that I’m strictly a puppy trainer, but I realised their dog is like one year old when I got there. Training puppies is a joy because they’re cute and receptive, but a one-year-old dog is like a human teenager who has learnt all the bad habits, and now the owners want me to fix the dog in two weeks. I don’t know if they think it’s magic.
I don’t mind training dogs so much; they’re wonderful and so willing to give. Imagine the person who’s loved you the most and given you everything, no-holds-barred? Now, multiply that love by five. They can only break your heart when they die.
After my training session with the dog, I catch up with the band for tonight’s gig. But the organisers are moving mad: they’re refusing to pay the outstanding money we’d agreed. They had two months to plan this thing, but they’re only telling me now? But we’ve been preparing for this show for weeks! We eventually decide to perform just so that our efforts to prepare for the show would not waste.
With Nigerian shows, you never know what quality of sound to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for how bad this one is. It’s the worst I’ve sound ever heard — so bad that I have to apologise to the crowd. They seem to understand sha because they’re cheering us anyway. Midway through our performance, our mics get cut off. It’s one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. But we move.
I cannot wait to go home and sleep.
People approach me all the time to sign recording contracts, but they’re usually filled with red flags or just shabbily done. Like after yesterday’s performance, someone reached out to me and wanted to sign me to their label. He took my number, and the next thing he was sending me a record label contract. Just. Like. That.
As I suspected, it turned out to be a bogus contract. I’m looking for a label, but I put my all in my music and so I will only sign for a label that at least respects me.
Anyway, I quickly brush off the disappointment as one of those things. I’ve had a busy weekend, so I’m going to focus on resting and enjoying myself. For the next two days, I’ll drink wine, order food delivery, watch a crime show and have the time of my life until my week begins.