Niniola: 'Maradona' erases pain of rejection

The hit song Maradona, which gained momentum during the festive period, is still making waves.

It's hard to imagine that the vocalist behind the song, Niniola Apata, was once a reject.

Maradona has topped several charts across Africa, with the video and second single, Sicker, having a combined 3.8 million views on YouTube alone.

The Nigerian songstress says when she and her team put the song together, they had no idea it would be a success.

The song is off her debut album, This Is Me.

She named the song after Diego Maradona, the legendary Argentinian footballer.

"The song is about the player and the girl who can't have any more of his behaviour. In the song I likened the player to Maradona, who is known for his dribbling skills," she said.

Apata is currently in the country to promote the rest of the album.

She said in a bid to get a foot in the door in the industry, she went through numerous singing competitions.

But she was often subjected to harsh, hurtful comments from the judges as they rejected her.

"They told me I was not good enough and I did not have what they wanted. I cried all the time, but I didn't give up," she said.

She resorted to joining a band and says this is where she learned to dance, perform and connect with her audience.

Refusing to give up on a solo career, she entered a singing competition called Project Fame West Africa in 2013 and made it to the top four.

She told Sunday World that she used the prize money from the show to pay for the services of a good music producer.

"I knew I wanted to make music my lifelong career so I searched for a top ranking producer and asked him to make me a hit song," she said.

The following year she released her debut single, titled Ibadi, which became a hit in Nigeria.

Apata, 31, said her mother never supported her passion for music.

To please her, she enrolled to study education at the University of Lagos, completing the course.

But after her mother saw her sing live on TV during the competition, she changed her tune.

Her mom then funded the video shoot for her debut single.