Hotstar: From Banging Tables In Barking To Moving Crowds In Brooklyn Niji Adeleye Has Found His Path

A nice outlook.
Larabelle @Larabellenewyork
– A nice outlook.
Niji Adeleye said, he owns his own story on album number three.

Niji Adeleye is content – the result of everything he and his creative director Prash Muraleetharan have been working for over these past few years: from the release of Niji’s debut album, Better Days Ahead, (2015) to the follow-up Late Night Early Mornings (2017), accompanied by tours through the UK and gigs in the U.S., which has become Niji’s second home. 

“I’ve reached a stage where I’m very happy with what we’ve been able to achieve in the last five years. There’s almost a carelessness in that, and a freedom in me just living what it means to be Niji. My experiences are so unique and different to anybody else’s in my genre. It’s really exciting,” he tells Pollstar.
Niji made the decision to make it as a jazz pianist and songwriter in 2015. Influenced by icons like Oscar Peterson and Billy Preston, and inspired by peers like Cory Henry, Snarky Puppy, and Robert Glasper, he knew it could be done. 
His first album, Better Days Ahead, was optimistic, defined by uplifting horn sections. It captured the excitement, hunger, and extraordinary talent of a young jazz pianist from London who decided to turn his passion into a full-time profession. 
Late Night Early Mornings was the result of reality setting in, and realizing: “Hold on a minute, actually, this is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” in Niji’s words. The album sounded darker in nature and tackled serious topics like the 2016 killing of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, by a police officer in Baton Rouge, La. “When Will It End” is still as relevant in 2020 as it was when Niji wrote it.
It has been a turbulent year, but Niji is in a good headspace as he finally feels like he has made it through what he describes as “the grind.” 
It is a grind that began like it did for so many successful live artists: in a sweaty grassroots music venue in London. “I’ll never forget. It was Aug. 6, 2015, at a venue called the Forge in Camden. It was the first show I ever put on as an artist, so I didn’t actually know who was going to turn up. 350 people came, it was sold out, they were turning people away at the door,” he recalls. 
Niji at The Forge in Camden.
Esbee Photogrpahy/Segin Baker
– Niji at The Forge in Camden.
The first show he ever put on as an artist.

With him from the very beginning was Prash Muraleetharan, Niji’s creative director, manager and agent. They’ve known each other since 11 years old, when they entered into the same secondary school and became best friends from the jump. “Before music, before we ever worked together as artists, we were school kids banging on tables,” says Niji. 

Both pursued artistic careers, Niji in music, Prash in fashion and, later, videography. “Once I decided that I wanted to be an artist in 2015, Prash was at a point where he could use me almost as a guinea pig,” Niji jokes, and continues in all seriousness, “Once I launched the first album, Prash had really creatively directed everything.”
The Camden show “naturally showed us that we were on the right path,” Prash remembers. From the start, their live strategy was not to just increase cap sizes, but also “hit notable venues, if I could, and not worry too much about the cap,” Niji explains. Those venues included the Pizza Express Jazz Club, followed by Jazz re:freshed, a popular jazz night in London, very much a household name. 
“Everyone passes through there at various points in their career,” according to Niji. The first album run accompanying Better Days Ahead also included a home-town show at the Broadway Theatre in his local borough of Barking, in front of a 250-member audience followed by a performance at 2016’s Ealing Jazz Festival, headlined by Roy Ayers, where Niji remembers selling albums alongside Ayers at the merch stand: “It was crazy.”

A packed Oslo in Hackeny, London.
Esbee Photogrpahy // Segin Baker – @esbee_pictures @segunbaker
– A packed Oslo in Hackeny, London.
Where Niji celebrated the release of Late Night Early Mornings.

Late Night Early Mornings dropped in April 2017. The launch took place at Oslo in Hackney, London, which has a capacity of 375. “Jacob Collier played Oslo that year, I’ll never forget that. It’s pretty nice to play the same venues as some of the artists I love,” says Niji, who had moved to New York by that point. 

His first U.S. show took place on Sept. 18, 2018, at C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn, with an audience of 100 standing. Two days later, he performed at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington, Vt., before heading back to London for a performance at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, in front of 200 people.
Niji played a sold-out show at the Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room in March last year. It was part of the Hall’s Late Night Jazz Series, curated by two-time MOBO winner Moses Boyd. “In a live show, musically, I have the scope to go anywhere I want,” says Niji, “It’s about developing the ideas on these albums that are almost confined to paradigms of creating a music album, where I can’t spend 15 minutes on one song. But in a live setting I can do that over and over again.”
The visuals of the live shows, the album artwork, and the content on Niji socials is the work of Prash, who says, “Little details matter so much, which is a process I really love, as it involves a lot of discussions and back and forth. We discuss like adults about what we like or dislike. We detail exactly what we want, and there’s no stepping in each other’s art. We both respect each other completely, I think that’s what makes us work so well. I don’t think we ever argued these whole five years.”

Niji's first U.S. show took place at C'mon Everybody in Brooklyn, NY.
Dirty Souf Yankee
– Niji’s first U.S. show took place at C’mon Everybody in Brooklyn, NY.
New York has since become Niji’s second home.

Niji adds, “Once we established what the agenda is, I trust Prash with the execution. And when I create the music, Prash trusts me to bring a product that’s of quality to him.” They are currently working out a release strategy for the first single of what will be Niji’s third album, which he says is “a reflection of where I’m at personally. I have a nice outlook, I’m more stable in my career, whereas in the first three years it was a fight to get myself heard. Now, I just completely own my story, my lane, and the music is a reflection of that.”

There’s neither a release date nor a title for the album right now. “I’m just going to bring out music as it comes to me. The business of our industry has changed at the moment. I don’t want to rush anything, given the scenario that we’re in. The best thing I can do is take my time and create the quality output that I want. When it’s ready it’s ready,” Niji explains. “What I won’t do is wait until it’s all finished. What I might do is bring out, bit by bit, a few tracks throughout the course of next year. Hopefully the shows will open back up, because I do like to release it and then play it quite soon after.”