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HOT SEAT : NQOBILÈ

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Joining us in the Hot Seat today is the beautiful South African born, UK based international Dancer Nqobilé.

Inspired by dance and the New School era of Afrobeats, Nqobilé brings a truly unique and eclectic vibe to the Afropop scene. 

We had a chance to talk about her latest release ‘Look at Her’, her decision to tap into her passion for music, who’s on her playlist and much more.

 

SK: “Look at Her” is your first official single as an artist, at what point did you realise music was something you wanted to take seriously?
NQ: YES! Omg I still can’t believe my 1st single is actually out, finally. It’s all exciting. 2014  is actually when I proper made the decision to tap back into my other passion : MUSIC. After I wrapped up the CEO Dancers North America tour I got into the studio and started playing around with sounds.

SK: Talk us through the song, what is the message behind it?
NQ: With Look At Her I was in such a good space in life and was surrounded by great energy in the studio. When it came to creating and executing the song, I wanted to create a sexy, ballsy, feel good song. Essentially a feel good anthem highlighting and celebrating THE FEMALE. As much as it’s a easygoing dance song, it has under ones of female empowerment which I’m all about.

SK: How has your culture and surroundings shaped your sound and creativity, and in what way(s)? 
NQ: Being Southern African I’m super in touch  with my culture in every way. From the music I listen to, the food, language, fashion and dance. When I started embracing my culture a lot more I feel it opened a lot more unique doors for me, from literally me being myself. Everything about my culture is inspiring. And then having been in the Afrobeats industry for over 8 years I’m very influenced by the West African culture as well. I mix both cultures in music and performance for sure. 

SK: How have you managed to transition from the dance space to the music scene?
NQ: It’s actually been an organic transition for me. I feel music and dance go hand in hand. In my music you can hear and feel that dance energy, so I’ve made sure those two remain well connected and that way I also remain true to myself as an all round performer. 

SK: How do you think women can support each other more in our industry?
NQ: I’d love to see more women dominating spaces, being respected and celebrated  equally. Not just the women on the forefront either, I’m also talking about the women behind the scenes that make things happen but aren’t celebrated enough. It’s no secret that behind every successful artist/performer especially in my industry there’s an amazing talented woman connecting the dots, making it all happen. This needs to be highlighted more. 

SK: Who would you most like to collaborate with?
NQ: Production wise Diplo and Pharrell Williams are a dream. DJ Maphorisa is super amazing as well, that collab would definitely be for the culture. There are so many amazing artists I’d love to collaborate with for sure. For now I can so hear a #LAH Remix with myself, Zlatan, Sho Madjozi and an East African artist produced by DJ Maphorisa. Oh gosh, I can so hear it. The dancefloor deserves that remix. Haha.  

SK: What other genres of music asides pop do you think you would be willing to explore?
NQ:  I’m not really tied down to a particular genre. I’ve been developing and perfecting my own sound and I’m definitely now confident with that infusing elements of my Southern African background, dance culture and a bit of the Vogue Ball dance scene as well. I’d love to play around with the Latin or Brazilian Funk sound actually. I find that genre super sexy and energetic. 

SK: What top 5 African artists are on your playlist currently?
NQ: Busiswa, Adekunle Gold, Kabza De Small, Prince Kaygee and DJ Maphorisa.

SK: What’s next for you?
NQ: I’m super excited to release MORE MUSIC. I’m definitely looking at a feel good EP.

 

Be sure to stream and listen to ‘Look At Her’ from Nqobilé on all digital platforms here.
Follow Nqobilé on her social media pages for all news and music updates (@nqobile_danseur)

Interviews

10 Questions with Wes Nelson

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Following his chart-topping debut single ‘See Nobody’ and his latest release ’Nice to Meet Ya’, we caught up with UK reality star turned musician Wes Nelson.

SK: When did you fall in love with music? How has your musical journey been?
WN: Music has been a passion of mine for pretty much my entire life, definitely as long as I can remember. I can remember getting my karaoke machine at the age of 3, it wasn’t really even a karaoke machine, just a plastic box with a rubber microphone. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m constantly listening to music, and now I’m working in music. It’s any person’s dream come true. To be able to bring a passion to light and make a living from it, when to be honest I don’t even really see it as a job but a hobby, is I guess the best way for it to be. If something that’s fun can be work, then in a sense you’ll never work a day in your life.

SK: If you could explain your music in 3 words, what would they be?
WN: Unpredictable, jumpy and melodic

SK: What inspired Nice to Meet Ya? Does it have an overarching message?
WN: For me, nice to meet you is just about giving people that fresh trim feeling, when you leave the barber and just feel 110%, 3 minutes of escapism. I think especially in this time when people aren’t feeling their best and a little down, I wanted to make a song that makes people feel good.

SK: What made you decide to have Yxng Bane on the track, how did you know his sound would blend so well?
WN: First of all, as a person Bane matches that cheeky chappy tone of the song, obviously loves his drip, loves getting out in his Sunday best and that’s what the song is all about, just feeling yourself. I also think tonally, his voice just matches this type of beat, we have seen him hop on tracks like this before and I thought that our voices would be complementary to each other, it was just a no brainer really.

SK: The Afro-Swing sound is getting worldwide recognition, what would you say changed the game?
WN: I think afro-swing is killing it right now, and it’s definitely a big part of my sound. I want to take little bits of many genres in my own music. Since afro-swing is so versatile, and you can combine it with complementary sounds from other styles, I think it is a huge strength for a genre to become more global.

SK: What Nigerian songs/artists are currently on your playlist?
WN: I’m loving Rema, Wizkid and Burna Boy at the moment.

SK: Are there any Nigerian artists or producers you would like to work with?
WN: Yeah loads. Burna for sure, I think he sounds incredible and I think we could do something special together.

SK: What has been the most challenging period for you during lockdown? What got you through it?
WN: I think the most challenging part is not seeing my close ones, I’m a bit of a family guy so that’s been tough. We have facetime and similar things that obviously help, but yeah, just being a little disconnected from them has been hard for me.

SK: What advice would you give to aspiring artists, DJ’s, and producers
WN: I think just to stick to what you like, don’t look elsewhere too much otherwise you copy what’s been done before. Part of the reason artists and producers we love have had success in the first place, is because of their individuality. Trust in your process and your own sound.

SK: What future projects and (or) collaborations are you currently working on?
WN: There is a lot that I’m working on, so many songs lined up for this year… but yeah, I’m gonna have to keep my mouth closed on anything more specific than that. What you can expect from me is hopefully a lot of live stuff, and also maybe a little EP towards the end of the year!

Stream & Download ‘Nice to Meet Ya’ Here
Stream & Download ‘See Nobody’ Here
Follow Wes Nelson Here

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Interviews

UP CLOSE WITH ADENIKÈ

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Following the release of her self titled EP, we got up close and personal with British-Nigerian Afro Pop singer and songwriter Adenikè.

In your own words can you give us a description of ‘Adenikè’ as a complete body of work; what is the EP about & what does it means to you?
Adenikè stands for Royalty and my mother didn’t  give me my name for no reason. I am a young, beautiful young lady, who doesn’t put up with nonsense and deserves respect. My EP represents what I will not tolerate from men and also that love is real.

How did you fall in love with music? How has your musical journey been?
Honestly at first I started music because my friends and family would always tell me how good my voice is, and I shouldn’t waste my talent. I wasn’t really doing it for myself to begin with, however as time went by and I spent more time around other musically talented people and more time in the studio, I started to realised that it is actually what I want to do. I remember being much younger, maybe around 12/13 and I used to write my own songs, run around the house singing or my brother would assist me recording a cover and it dawned on me that even from a young age, I’ve always wanted to do music at that point it started to make sense.

My journey so far has been the biggest learning curve for me, it has put me in positions that I wouldn’t put myself in and that has shown me that I’ve grown in so many ways especially with my sound.

There will always be comparisons. How do you set yourself apart from other Afropop females?
I feel like my voice itself sets me apart from other  Afropop females.

How do you feel social media has impacted your music and reach? 
I mean social media plays a huge role, if not for it none of my music will be heard. It definitely shows me what I’m up against and this pushes me to want to show more of me and what I can bring to the scene. This is hard one for me because although I am an  artist I shy away from social media. My supporters don’t really see my personality they literally just see my music. Which I am trying to change.

What do you think of the AfroPop scene in London? 
I personally think it’s popping at the moment. This is exciting because it means that that genre is getting the attention it needs as new talent is emerging from literally everywhere.

Is there any African and (or) International artist you would love to collab with and why?
Tiwa Savage and this is because she is another reason I do what I do. She has this attitude and confidence that I love and want to be able to show in my own music.
The way she implements her language into her music does it for me. I want to be able to fluently use my native tongue in my music so people know where I’m from and she does that right down to the T. I’ve been listening to her my whole music journey and I think we would bounce of each other.

What advice would you give to other female artists in your genre?
Be confident, own your shit and do you. No one can do you better than you.
This is advise I need to take for myself lol!

What is currently on your playlist?
My current playlist has a bit of Rema, Fireboy, Burna, Tems, Teyana Taylor, HER, Summer Walker and Tiwa of course. As you can see my mixture of Afro- R&B/Pop.

What’s next for you?
This year is a busy year for me. I have a lot of up coming projects on the works and cannot wait to put them all out.

Listen to Adenikè EP
Follow Adenikè

 

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Interviews

5 Women, 5 Questions

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Some women are very vocal about how they are treated by the industry and the men they are surrounded by and often receive a lot of backlash for speaking out. But a lot of women don’t complain, creating the impression that they don’t share the negative experiences that their fellow female colleagues have.

To highlight International Women’s Day, I asked five women the same five questions to find out what they are dealing with as female members of a predominantly male genre and what they think could bring us closer to gender equality.

Thank you so much Kim Sineke, Laverne Thomas, Kemi Smallz, Simi Badiru and Gracey Mae for taking part. (Left to right)

 

1. What is the most common misconception about female artists?

Kemi Smallz: One of the most common misconceptions about female artistes is the “women not liking /supporting” women narrative.

Laverne Thomas: That they are high maintenance and expensive for labels to develop.

Gracey Mae: There’s a few sha! 😂 I think the one that irks me the most is the misconception that all female artists are territorial. Competition for male artists is seen as healthy but when it comes to women, it’s seems as if there’s only one seat at the table. For this reason, there is a narrative that women cut off each other to secure their spot. The pseudo solution is that women should collaborate more but this is simply not the case. Working together can be strategic or organic but shouldn’t solely be because both artists are women. There are many recent examples of this where the partnerships leverage different but complimenting sonics  audiences and locations:

  • The One – Efya ft Tiwa Savage
  • There for You – Simi & Ms Banks
  • Can’t Let You Go – Stefflon Don ft Tiwa Savage & Rema
  • My Power – Nija, Beyoncé, Busiswa, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack, Moonchild Sanelly & DJ Lag

Kim Sineke: The most common misconception is that we are too emotional to make concise decisions. This is, as a misconception is such an untrue belief. We are killing it in the game as headstrong, fearless and undeniable. We are at the forefront of creating trend and making things pop. Never underestimate the power of female. In fact, it is to the power of female.

Simi Badiru: In such a male dominated industry, female artists are hardly ever given 100% credit for the success of their careers (this happens to women within the industry that are not artists as well). People often think that female artists have taken/need to take ‘short cuts’ in order to be successful, but no, a lot of women genuinely work hard and smart for what they have achieved.

 

2. Have you experienced situations where you feel you were treated as a lesser person simply because of your gender?

Kemi Smallz: Oh yes! A lot of times. There’s even the phrases like “na woman”, “I get your type for house” that exist just to do exactly that, make you feel less.

Laverne Thomas: Yes numerous times unfortunately. I have been underestimated by virtue of the fact that I’m a womb carrying member of society and excluded from conversations because I’m a woman sitting in a boardroom of men.

Gracey Mae: Nothing will humble you like working in an overtly patriarchal society within a male dominated industry. The stories are countless: from being objectified to being overlooked. Instances like this are the extra ammunition I use to push me to work harder and so that I can command the respect I deserve.

Kim Sineke: Absolutely been treated as less than. Too many times to count. But there is so much victory in proving the opposite. We continue to show up, create and be indispensable and it’s not only a victory for females, but a victory for the creative entertainment industry.

Simi Badiru: Haven’t we all? I think because I live in Nigeria, already that makes it completely unavoidable. But to answer your question, yes. It can be upsetting sometimes but there’s not much we can do about it. We keep working and moving forward, there’s no time to keep complaining about things we cannot necessarily change. Although this responsibility shouldn’t be put on us, we have to be able to turn a blind eye and not give certain things and people too much attention.

 

3. Have you ever been in situations where you felt that being a female in the industry actually worked in your favour? In other words, do you ever get the special treatment simply because women are still a rarity in the genre?

Kemi Smallz: Special treatment? No. Women in fact have to work twice as hard as our male counterparts in this industry.

Laverne Thomas: There honestly may have been instances when people treated me favourably. I’m used to people being surprised upon meeting me that I’m a woman as my name is unisex so there shock at emailing and then meeting in person and discovering that I’m female is quite entertaining as there are few female managers.

Gracey Mae: Let’s start with I’m here due to God’s grace, hard work and divine opportunity. With that said, I would definitely say that you can learn to lean into your femininity when it’s appropriate. That doesn’t necessarily mean be overly flirtatious or sexual (though you can be if that’s your bag – no judgment), it does mean that you can leverage your feminine energy with servant leadership; that sometimes looks like leading with your heart (and not always with your head), you can dabble in artist development by nurturing talent and you can be accessible by tapping into your vulnerable side. My role is reliant of network and relationships, it can be argued that I’m optimising the warmth usually associated with being female.

Kim Sineke: Lol yes. Purely because we are so undermined. We walk into the room and a few minutes later we own the room. We are no longer just getting the seat at the table but are becoming the head of the table because we are inadvertently proving our abilities and our strength. A lot of people think we don’t have a voice and we don’t have view but BOY are we loud with the right noise and the indisputable view.

Simi Badiru: Off the top of my head, I don’t think so. Obviously, people are a lot  softer with the way they approach/respond to me as a woman (because society), but I wouldn’t say it has gotten me any special treatment, if anything a lot of the time it gives unnecessary attention.

 

4. Do you think the music industry should intervene with measures like quotas to create a more balanced industry? Is there maybe a better way?

Kemi Smallz: I mean , If you want something to change , you have to make conscious efforts to put things in place to aid the process.Things like quotas, balance of opportunities, inclusion of more women in music shows/festivals/concerts, mentorship programs /initiatives for women are some workable ways to create a more balanced industry.

Laverne Thomas: As far as intervening I am not entirely sure that wide scale legislative measures are the best approach. But I definitely believe that there should be more initiatives to encourage women into executive positions in the music industry as well as behind the boards as producers and engineers as well as DJ’s and promoters. There are some female artists that have suffered instances of harassment from executives and male creatives in the industry and having more females in positions of power could help to minimize these experiences. History has shown the industries improve when women are brought in at executive level so for me that would be the first step second only to creating safe and encouraging spaces for female creatives to thrive.

Gracey Mae: As much as I would love for female musicians to rise to the mainstream on their own, I’m an advocate for quotas and allies. We’ve seen it happen successfully with countries like Nigeria dictating how much local and foreign music can be played on TV and radio. They created a demand for Nigerian music and the artists supplied it in abundance. The same should be done with female artists. They’re not lacking in talent, work ethic or production quality – it’s simply exposure, so the use of affirmative action as a short term solution could be really impactful, knowing that it will normalise a balance in representation and become what’s expected.

Kim Sineke: I think females have created a new quotas. We are no longer just getting coffee but are bringing unforgettable creative quotas to the forefront. We are not waiting for an industry to create these quotas but we are doing it ourselves daily. It is taking time but we are doing it.

Simi Badiru: I feel like with every industry, there are imbalances and people in  higher positions can make a difference if everyone was genuinely intentional about it. Women represent a good chunk of the industry and I don’t see why they should not earn as much as their male counter-parts. I don’t know about a better way because a lot of it seems majorly idealistic – but it starts with employers, if you are paying your male employees more than the females, then you are part of the problem.

 

5. What would be your number one piece of advice to women who have just started careers in performance, radio, TV, film, or the music business?

Kemi Smallz: Do not downplay your confidence and diminish yourself just so you can be more acceptable. Do not apologize for being yourself.

Laverne Thomas: Try not to let the industry convince you that being female isn’t a bonus. Own and embrace the fact that your’e a boss and keep it moving.

Gracey Mae: Shine bright. Shine apologetically. Shine regardless. Navigate the male dominated industry with wisdom but note that your gender is not a barrier to your success.

Kim Sineke: Be stern and unafraid. Your ideas will not always be the best in the room but they are valuable in that room. They are a catalyst to unlocking yours and others creative process. Say them out and say them out loud – don’t be afraid to be critiqued, it will propel you forward and it will showcase just how valuable you are at the table.

Simi Badiru: I would say never change who you are unless that’s what you want to do. Build your career for you and not anyone else. It is also important to be intentional about your journey, we all don’t have it figured out but as long as you are going in the right direction things will all into place. One last thing, don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything that doesn’t make you comfortable, it’s your career not theirs!

 

International Women’s Day is not just about celebrating, its about amplifying women’s voices for tomorrow and the entire year.

The music industry still has a long way to go for gender equality. What the experiences of women reveal is that the biggest barrier they face is the way the music industry thinks about women especially those in colour.  As women in entertainment, it’s essential to ensure that women from all backgrounds are being considered and hired throughout the industry and must continue to expand its commitment to representing the voices and talent of women in all aspects of the business.

 

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