Hailing from Nottingham, BEKA was raised on the likes of Quincy Jones' Back on the Block album, Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan, and discovered her love of pop when Spice Girls entered the scene. Inspired by music that’s both thought-provoking and soulful, her inquisitive nature fuels a great deal of the emotional energy that oozes through her debut single "I'll Be There," which was chosen as the BBC Introducing Track of the Week on Radio1 in February 2021.
This early success coupled with her collaborations including; More Than Friends (with HONNE) and more recently, BEKA's feature with Arkansas duo joan for brokenhearted (together), make for an exciting lead into her new single "My One."
On this latest offering, BEKA delivers a liberating pop song that’s written as an unrestrained declaration of love. It’s her most upbeat release so far, reflecting the giddy energy BEKA expresses in her lyrics, yet still maintains the empathetic sound of her previous releases.
Who inspired you to become a musician?
I was really obsessed with Whitney Houston as a girl, her music was always being played in our home and I think I felt an affinity with her because she looked more like me than other "pop stars." I grew up on a lot of Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones, and had the 'Thriller' album on repeat. It was the electricity of those artists, their live performances, how dynamic and liberated they were and how many different roles you could have as an artist from playing to writing, to performing to visuals that really captivated me.
How would you describe your style of music and performance? How would you describe your philosophy and style as an artist?
I think my style of music is alternative, anthemic, a little bold and hope filled pop,(hopefully) and I guess aspirationally my performing style is about moments of oneness where as we feel alive with the people we're standing next to, a little raw, uplifting, and liberated!
I'm passionate about being thought-led and using music, art, and conversation to create a space where we have a little wonder about being alive and where people feel known, loved and alive. Everyone is led by, shaped, and inspired by significant experience or compelling perspectives throughout their lives. It forms our individualism and informs our collective cultures. At worst, these nuances also hold the power to divide, make us misunderstood, and lonely. When there’s no place for conversation how do we grow in love, truth, understanding, and appreciation? So at every step, liberating myself a little, making these spaces through music or nattering or even fashion feels a bit like my philosophy.
What drives you to create, and how do you define success for yourself in music?
I think the big thing that drives me is the awareness of what music can do in us and in culture. Within a song is the power for us to tap into our emotion. It's almost like we listen to a song, we let it all out and then we can leave that space, knowing that if we want to revisit it, it's kept there within the song. Music has always been really healing for me where I find words or expression that I may not have otherwise been able to give words to. I think it's wild how our bodies and minds respond to music and I think there's something that, that is transcendent for us in our sometimes grey lives.
I think success for me in music is to see those people around me who I believe in also thriving, as I think if one person succeeds, we all move together. Then also getting to create visuals and sounds and spaces that make us think for a moment about representation, race, privilege, hurt, pain - being a person.
How do you think the music industry can develop into a more equitable and inclusive environment for women music creators?
I feel that a lot of it starts from a collective recognition that empowerment comes from those that are in the positions of power. As much as we may not like it, we're all drawn to favour, spend time with, give promotions to people who look and feel like us, and so when we are pursuing inclusivity, I think it takes us having to be really intentional, which isn't sexy, but is necessary, to step outside of ourselves and take responsibility. I know it's easy to feel that we shouldn't have to take responsibility and that we're all on the climb and maybe haven't "made it" to then empower others yet, but if we've had a couple of seconds in our industries, then we have something to give.
I also think it's about men actively looking to empower the women around them and recognising that they currently hold a lot of the seats of power and therefore they need to reproduce themselves, give of their wisdom, their hacks, their relationships capital, to other women. Perhaps then, for women, it's remembering that we do have something to give and that if another woman can see us in our roles, it has the power to unlock that subconscious permission in us that helps us count ourselves in and not out.
Do you have any advice for young women musicians just starting their careers, based on what you’ve experienced?
For me, having a why in music is so important, it acts as my compass. Thinking a little about what your why is...more than just "I love it," but what is it about loving it that pulls you forward and can keep you on track when there are so many different voices. But also lifting the roof off of what you think you can do and is a "sensible goal." Everybody who's achieved something you admire, was and is a normal person, and so I think remembering that is really helpful. Find yourself somebody who's willing to be a mentor, a sister, a friend to you and that you can draw from is also irreplaceable! Be bold, ask, be yourself and not what you think you should be, and approach those you admire.
From your view, what other kinds of marginalization and erasure does the music industry need to ensure we don’t enact in the name of gender equality?
I think if the movement to gender equality has taught us anything, it's that it's imperative to have all the voices in the room. Without that, we are merely speculating, at best empathising and will, more often than not, end up missing our blind spots and enacting change in the name of equality, that doesn't quite make space for the nuance that difference holds.
It really is not as simple as men and women both need to be in the room. It's different cultures, races, sexualities, genders -- it's differences. It's seeking out those who don't look and feel like you, and then creating a roadmap for how to facilitate safe spaces to listen, educate, understand, ask questions that we sit in and don't have to jump straight to the answer. I feel we need time, we need variety, we each need to carry the burden of change and see with open eyes that "as it is" often only facilitates a small minority and the majority are still waiting.
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