PAUSE MEETS: CKay
Talks Afrobeats, Going Viral and the meaning of life…
“Afrobeats is an ever-growing genre, and the scene is always evolving…”
In the midst of a global pandemic, few may claim global success. There are opportunities abounding; if you are someone like CKay. Totally present and able to find value in the additions that add up to a magnificent whole, the road to becoming a modern-day mastermind of Afrobeats can be a smooth one given the right ingredients.
Even with the unwavering success that has anchored his sound so deeply in the contemporary Afrobeats scene, CKay’s journey rests on curiosity, risk-taking and optimism to do more. “There are young artists like me that are coming into the space are really pushing the boundaries of the sound,” he tells me.
A certain free-spiritedness distinguishes CKay as we discuss the current musical landscape, the influences he draws upon, and his outlook on life.
Despite the perception that a digital screen is an impenetrable barrier to feeling energy, our interview challenges this belief. CKay’s spirit is contagious, inspiring and most of all deserves to be felt by the world.
Musicians and artists can both be interchangeable terms. Besides being a great singer, you are also an accomplished producer and composer. What does it mean to you to be an artist?
Being an artist is about creating art. I feel like in the world that we live in, music has quickly come in front of us, so sometimes we can forget that it’s [actually] art. I see music as an extension of myself, an extension of my personality and of my emotions – in audio form.
That unconventional influence can be heard in your own music. How do those influences play into your current musicianship?
Yes, I think it does. For instance, the video that went viral on the internet was of me playing the piano and singing my song. That version of ‘Love Nwantiti’ was practically the acoustic version so I would say thanks for my dad for that. Shoutout to my dad! That’s where the whole virality sprung from. Every single experience in my life, whether it’s from my dad to me listening to Backstreet Boys and Westlife on the radio, to then my dad playing classical music on the way home from school or me hitting the clubs and listening to Nigerian music, the combination of all those things makes me who I am as a musician today.
As you once said: “I’m in a very different space because I’m just free. I’m creatively free; I’m making music from my heart”. What does freedom look like? What does it feel like?
Freedom to me is making music that represents how I feel and being allowed to release it.
Outside of music, does that freedom still apply or is it limited to music?
I’d say outside of music, I think freedom is relative. No human-being is completely free. There are levels to it. In life, no one is truly free until they die. There are different things that are limiting you at different points – COVID19 for example. I don’t feel as free as I would like. No matter how free I feel, there are always limitations to freedom. I guess that’s the struggle of the human condition, so we just catch glimpse of freedom.
Love, Nwantiti touched on toxic past relationships. Did having your experiences translated into music play a role in helping you move forward?
Definitely. Putting out my experiences gives me a form of healing, to some degree. Writing a song about something or someone emotionalises the experience but also gives the artist a form of release. For me, I wrote ‘Love Nwantiti’ about an ex and even after we broke up, the song gave me a level of closure and helped me be at peace.
Taking such a big risk like that, has that given you ammunition in ways you think nowadays. Do you ever feel like there’s a notion of: “what’s this risk to the risk I took back then?” type of thing?
Exactly that. I have taken much more risks since then and I feel like that risk just gave me the ginger.
By combining emotively etched elements with Afrobeats, you have essentially created your own genre “Emo-Afrobeats”.
I just felt like Afrobeats is a very broad term. When explaining my sounds, I wanted to be more specific. As we know it, it was pioneered by Fela Kuti who combined folk African traditional drums with Jazz…
.. A legend.
Yeah, that was crazy. That was the first time someone had ever done that, and it resonated with people across the world. Decades later, a young artist like myself coming into that legacy, I feel like I had to make music that represents a time, a place and myself. I wasn’t born in the same generation of Fela, so the music I make can’t be the same. That’s just a foundation and I put myself and my own element into it. My element is emotion. You can vibe to it, you can move to it, but you can feel the emotion. I’m a cancer and a Pisces moon, it’s two emotional signs in one person, it’s an energy and people feel it.
I’m a cancer too. Gang! You have an eccentric and unique style. By being such an individualistic character, does this amplify your success, ability, and ambition?
I would say so. For me, I consider myself a vibe. From the music I make to the clothes I wear. It stems from my vibe and how I’m feeling. I have a strong desire to not fit in. I don’t like to wear things that people wear, just because they are wearing it. My vibe and feelings form the sound and style I have.
Which word best describes your fashion?
Emo. My fashion is a different type of emo.
The sky is the limit. If you can create your own genre, you can make your own sense of style. Emo CKay?
Exactly. Its Emo with a touch of CKay.
In an alternate universe, who would you be and what would you be doing?
Maybe engineering or something. But I’d hate myself in that alternate universe because I’d be good at it, but I wouldn’t happy. I like it here.
Okay, well let’s stay where we are. You’ve just released two brand-new singles, ‘Emiliana’ and ‘By Your Side’ which already is filled with the recipe for success. Is there a secret ingredient you want to tell us about?
Ha, It’s not a secret. For me, the secret ingredient is CKay. I put myself into the song. A couple spoons of me.
Tablespoons, teaspoons, sprinkles? What are we talking here?
Tablespoons. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Finally, how do you see the future of CKay? Let’s manifest this.
I see Ckay playing stadiums around the world, doing much bigger things. Creating more music. Just doing a madness. Creating more genres too. Why create one? When you can create two or three.