Getting To Know BEKA, The Of-The-Moment Musician Our Playlists Can’t Get Enough Of
We’ve been fans of BEKA’s sound for some time, thanks to her unique talent to bring together delicate vocals, relatable lyrics, and a hopeful tone in a way that feels fresh and right for now. Yet as we sat down to talk to her, it was her warm disposition that really struck us last week; chatting to BEKA is like catching up with an old friend – one who is ready to get deep and do so quickly. We discussed everything from the songwriting process and the ways music can heal us to how to overcome struggles with creativity. Here’s a conversation with an artist who really understands the power of music and what it can bring to our lives.
So, tell us… When did you first realise your love for music; did you know you always wanted to be a musician?
Growing up, we had a lot of music in the house and my parents were big into jazz. My dad played the cello and my mum had been a dancer, although we have no proof of this (laughs). It’s a family legacy! Music was central to all of our gatherings too – think Stevie Wonder, Shahrukh Khan, and Quincy Jones.
I actually wanted to be a choreographer when I was younger but I can’t dance! I loved the freedom I saw in the artists we listened to growing up and I was transfixed. As a teenager, I got the chance to start songwriting and learn about production. I was really lucky at that time. That was the moment I worked out what I wanted to do and felt I could actually try this. I went on to study vocals at university and things went from there.
"I actually wanted to be a choreographer when I was younger but I can’t dance..."
For those who aren’t familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
A great question and something I find so hard to answer. I think my sound is hopeful and almost like alt-pop.
What inspires your songwriting process?
I write about the things that I’m going through and seeing, whether that’s culturally or politically, or personally. I find it difficult to write about things that haven’t moved me, or impacted me. The process usually starts when a melody comes to me, which often happens in the shower. I’ll take my phone and voice memo any melodic ideas and lay down a baseline. I’m not good at playing any instruments but I am pushing myself. The first song that I wrote for myself with my own projects is a song called ‘I’ll Be There.’ I had just come back from touring and was my husband was really struggling with his mental health. To see somebody that you care about and your best friend feeling that way was really painful. If I have space for my subconscious and a sense of freedom, that’s when the best ideas happen too.
It’s always so interesting to hear about people's musical process. Does the melody always come to you first or is it sometimes the lyrics?
It can be the lyrics too. I was watching the Oscars once and two women of West Indian and Latino heritage were the first to win a certain award, and they said they were breaking glass ceilings for others to follow them. I was so moved and considered the fact we are in 2021 and there’s still progress like this to be made. How haven’t we broken these ceilings already? That inspired me to write a song. It’s no one size fits all though, sometimes the melody comes from a feeling, and other times the lyrics.
It’s the same with how people respond to music too, right? Some people are drawn to melodies really quickly. Whereas I’m someone who often notices the lyrics, especially if they resonate with me personally or speak to my situation.
Totally, if you identify with the experience it can be so powerful. And if you hear where the song came from or the story behind it, that can revolutionise it for you. You might not like a song on first listen but once you learn about the inspiration behind it, it can change everything.
What is your favourite thing about making music and performing?
It’s one of the rare magics in the world. There’s an idea that love is this strange thing that we can’t quite tangibly touch or see, but it’s so powerful for humans. And I think music carries a very similar universal magic to it. You can be going through something in life and listen to a song that can take you away – you can deal with it through the sound. It can be a powerful healing tool. I love what it does in culture too and the fact it allows us to engage with family and friends in new ways. It sparks conversation and that’s something that really captivates me.
“There’s an idea that love is this strange thing that we can't quite tangibly touch or see, but it's so powerful for human beings. And I think music carries a very similar universal magic to it.”
It can be such a backdrop and connection for people’s memories too can’t it, and a tool for making new ones...
That’s so true, yes. I think throughout lockdown people found healing through music and used it as a means of escape too.
What was the first album you bought?
I think the album was Christina Aguilera’s Stripped but that feels quite late… I think before that I just listened to what my family had in the house, but Christina was the first album I bought for myself.
I love that album. And the track ‘Impossible’ with Alicia Keys is always such an unexpected gem when you listen to it again...
Oh, I am always taken aback when I revisit that one! Alicia and Christina casually introduce the song together in a kind of cheesy but great way – random but amazing. I worship Alicia Keys, she’s fantastic.
Have you seen Alicia’s NPR Tiny Desk performance?
Yes! It’s outstanding – one of the best I’ve seen. She has had such a big influence on me musically and most millennials I imagine.
What have you been listening to lately?
The Winnetka Bowling League and a song called Barcelona. They’re a female-fronted band and the song is just so explosive. I’ve been loving Alicia Keys’ latest album too and I’ve gone back to Lauryn Hill.
Let’s talk a bit about clothing, how would you describe your personal style?
Probably an eccentric vogue old lady. You know women who hit a certain age and they’ve always been a bit eccentric, but then they just let it all go. They’re like “I don’t care, I’m wearing a flower crown.” I love a high-fashion look too with bold shapes, lines, and pops of colour.
What’s something that always makes you feel good?
It’s hard to pick. I love throwing on a strong suit and double-breasted blazer with nothing underneath. You can dress suits up and down and they always feel good.
How do your non-work days look like?
I love to chill out with a tea and a book in bed in the morning. I’ll try and wear something that feels a little bit fabulous and go out for a bit of breakfast with my husband or have homemade food with my best friends. My favourite evenings are having firing conversations with friends over wine and it usually ends with some dancing.
Any tips for when you struggle with creativity?
I love that phrase ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and I think that’s important to remember. I was read something in Alicia Keys’ book (yep, I’m mentioning her again) and there’s a beautiful conversation she has with Oprah where they discuss that feeling when something feels like a resounding ‘yes.’ Whether it’s something you’ve written or someone you click with and you get that feeling of ‘yes.’ I think when it comes to creativity, it’s important to listen to tune into your sense of ‘yes.’ We know that feeling when it arises and it can be so powerful.
The second thing would be just to facilitate your subconscious to come out, I think. Simon Sinek speaks a lot about going for a walk or doing a puzzle to access the subconscious. I’d recommend liberating yourself from the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘have tos’ and give yourself the opportunity to walk and muse. Avoid negative self talk too.
What advice would you give to young people looking to break into the music industry?
I think feel really encouraged that there’s never been a better time than now. I think as a world, we’re more accepting of everyone and their different quirks. My advice is to go with what you feel excited about whether that’s sound-wise, or lyrically. The world is happy to receive authenticity at the moment and people sense when you’re trying to be somebody else. Remember that you’re unique and you carry something that nobody else does. We’re told we are unique all the time but it’s actually a fact. Once you grasp what it is you love about music, that will be your fuel too.
And lastly, what’s next for BEKA?
In October, I’ve got my first headline shows, one in London and one in Nottingham. There are still some tickets left for the show at Hoxton Colours. And otherwise, I’m just really excited about the new music that’s coming out and for people to hear the songs. Like anything in life when you become more comfortable, you get a more free version of yourself and I feel that way about this new music.