When I started out, I had sang background vocals and danced for a couple of bands in London where I’m from, and I dreamt of moving onwards and upwards with my music, though I wasn’t sure what form that would take.
So I was really thrilled to get a chance to perform as one of four singers in a London soul band, with the massive opportunity to perform at the world-renowned venue, Ronnie Scott’s Club in Soho. It was an amazing opportunity for us all. We all learnt the songs, all original material, and we rehearsed hard as it was such an important gig.
On the night, the club was absolutely packed, and as I’m sure you can imagine, nerves kind of kicked in. I performed my best, but I wasn’t expecting any special praise or anything. Just to perform there, with such fantastic musicians was already phenomenal. As I looked round the room, I could see a group of friends, and also the leader from a course I had been on that day all standing to the right beaming away at me and looking as proud as could be. As it happened, the session of the course that day had covered public speaking, and as I stood there, the course leader made a gesture to me to smile. I guess my nerves were showing more than I thought!
I took her advice and smiled as I sang. It actually made a huge difference – I enjoyed the performance so much more, and I think that came across to people. A little later, the band leader was going round introducing all the members of the band. When he got to me, he got me to come to the front of the room and introduced me to the room saying ‘Here she is, our African princess!’ a huge cheer went up in the room. I was absolutely stunned, and so moved. It was so amazing to get such praise and acknowledgement, from the band leader, and from the audience! At Ronnie Scotts..
After the show I went over to thank friends, people from the course who took the time out to come and see us, and the course leader for her timely advice. But the night got even more amazing as people came up to me to congratulate me on my performance, one of whom said, ‘You did so well, why don’t you think about setting up your own band too?’ That was echoed by one or two more people who came to chat with me afterwards.
It might not sound like a massive deal in the big scheme of things, but I really think the encouragement I got that night was one of the things that pushed me forward to start on the path of making my own music. Before long I started writing and recording demos of my own songs.
Fast forward to today, performances on Notting hill Carnival World Music Stage, many songs recorded, two EPs finished, lots of love and airplay from radio stations I’ve always loved and many, many musical experiences along the way and it’s still that feeling that matters most to me when I think about being a musician.
I don’t mean to sell the creative process short. Needless to say, it’s essential. For the listener it’s everything. But to some extent almost anyone can make music.
But when it comes to BEING a musician, it’s the experiences that define what it really means. From booking a venue for a show and wondering how it will all turn out, to practising your brand new song you’ve written but never performed, over and over fingers crossed it will come across how you really want it to, to getting ready in a tiny changing room in a small venue where there’s only just enough light [and space!] to get ready to perform.. It’s those little experiences that define what it means to be a musician. At least that’s the way it’s been for me. It’s not the number of songs sold, but rather knowing that you are one of a small percentage of people to have had experiences big or small that make this whole journey worth while.
But perhaps even more importantly than all of that, it’s YOU, the listener, that makes all of it matter.
I look forward to many more sometimes hard, always fulfilling experiences along this musical journey. Here’s to hoping that you are part of that journey.
If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey, click here to listen to my most recent EP, ‘Adinkra’.
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter.
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