Words by Tom Gregory

“There is magic in music and I don’t know if it’s ever meant to be  figured out” 

I have the great privilege of being friends with the beautiful jazz musician who goes by the  name of Akin Soul. I hadn’t seen them for a while due to their busy schedule but when we  had both found time, we caught up over a cup of coffee and here is what we talked  about: 

I’ve seen you perform before in a few different settings now but the solo show you  played in the Brighton Unitarian church the other day felt really special. What felt  different about that show?  

One thing that really stood out to me was that the crowd was so sensitive to their  environment. Everyone in the room was so respectful to everybody’s art and the space  that they were holding. Initially when somebody asked me about it I wanted to say that it  was dead silent but it wasn’t silent, you could feel everyone’s warmth. It was really  respectful though. It might’ve been one of the most respectful crowds I’ve played to in a  while. Usually I do a song and I’m like: ‘don’t even prepare yourself for a round of  applause’, because when you play at snobby places they often won’t appreciate your  talent at all. But it’s so great when you are actually appreciated, that applause in the  church was long standing (makes several woo-ing and clapping noises).  

The gig at the church was also an independently run POC event. How does it feel to  play those kinds of shows compared to others?  

In all honesty, it seems that every time I play with more POC artists I feel more  appreciated. When I play gigs where everyone is caucasian it does feel different. I’m not  saying it directly has a correlation but I don’t know… obviously for me being a person of  colour it’s quite comforting to perform with other people who will share my kind of pain  and struggles. We can all have empathy for each other’s oppression so, when it comes  down to the music, I can see people in the crowd that get where I’m coming from in my  songs. 

You spoke a bit at the gig about not being wholly responsible for your music.  Instead you said you were a channel. Can you speak a bit more about that?  

I channel music for myself and for my own therapeutic use and that’s always been a  thing since I can ever remember. You know me Tom, I sing literally every day. Lost my  voice or not lost my voice, I wanna sing. I’m also very appreciative to have the ability to  share that gift with other people and not just keep it for myself. People have come and  said that they’ve found joy from listening to my music and that is my desire – to allow  everyone to receive joy. It’s very powerful and pleasurable but it can be… sometimes  overwhelming, but in such a beautiful way. It’s kind of like when people sing in church and  start crying – that’s the same feeling I get sometimes when I’m playing music.

Do you find that this powerful energy you are trying to convey is ever affected by the  more commercial side of the music industry?  

I feel like I’ve been fortunate as most of the gigs I get asked to do are suitable for the kind  of thing I want to do. I’ve always had the opportunity to just express myself on the spot, and most  of the time I’m just improving and ad-libbing which is beautiful. I think it has a lot to do with the genre of music that I have chosen to pursue. Hand in hand with soul and jazz music  comes people who want to hear something that’s more free. When it comes to the  business side of things it’s always been a bit difficult. I’m an independent artist but I’ve  had managers who have completely done me over in the sense that I was very young and  they’d be telling me to do more commercial things. They were completely trying to  brainwash me and ruin my potential. At one point I was thinking it was a complete let  down because they slowed down my journey, but now I think ‘No, you’ve made me grow  and now I know who I am’. We’re all on this journey and however we have to get there is however we have to get there.  

A common thing in jazz music is to cover other people’s songs. You’ve just been  performing at ACCA playing the songs of the great Erykah Badu. Can you tell us  some more about this?  

The Badu gigs started some time last year. We played jazz cafe a few times, went to  Bristol and then we came here to Brighton which was really lovely. Badu’s music is so  beautiful and shares a lot of messages that I resonate with. So to be able to sing her  music and also get paid and enjoy it and play with a lovely backing band is so lovely. I’ve  covered multiple artists before, that last gig at the church I did an Adele song and I love  that song. People have written beautiful songs in this world. I resonate with my songs but  there are other songs that give me fiery chills and I am more than happy to sing them.  Learning and singing songs also help with my writing and my own understanding of  music. It was strange playing at ACCA because I already study at Sussex. When we came  in there was a bandmate who was telling me where the dressing room was and in my head I was like ‘this is my uni babes’. But I don’t like to reply by saying ‘I know’, I prefer to say  thank you anyway.  

To finish off, how do you find the balance between uni life and your music career?  

It’s just playing catch up every week, but if I use my time wisely then the game of catch up  will be sorted out. It can be difficult but I’ve been making some smarter choices for myself  and that has been serving me well. I’m still a growing physicist but I’m trying to find ways  to link it with my passion for music. The reason I say I’m growing and learning is because I wanna tell the truth and it can be hard. All I know is that there is magic in music and I  don’t know if it’s ever meant to be figured out. 

Categories: Artist Focus Arts

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