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Bukola (singer / songwriter)
Bukola started out exploring her own voice with the deep rough soulful tones of Repeat Ophenda and in 2003 Bukola teamed up with D’syfa and began writing songs together. As they worked closely they evolved and grew, constantly bouncing off each other’s ideas, talent, refining their skills and learning new ones along the way. Helena Rea caught up with Bukola in North London where Bukola’s roots lie strong...
Helena Rea: Who are your biggest influences?
Bukola: Lots of people. I’d have to say John Martyn - who I only actually discovered about 5 years ago but I really like him. Dionne Warwick [pictured], Lauryn Hill (I love her), Simply Red and India. Arie. These are definitely the ones who spring to mind.
HR: What are the best and worst aspects of the industry for you? For example, do you find it a chore to write new songs or do you enjoy that part of the process?
B: Both. There are days I love it and then other days where there’s something I really want to say but I can’t quite find the words. It’s really frustrating. Some days I can sit and write three songs in a row, and then other days, you know, I’m stuck. So, it’s a love-hate thing. But I do love it, and as soon as I’ve finished a song then you love it even more. And the best part, I think, is practicing it.
HR: Where do you start with the lyrics when you’re writing?
B: It depends. Sometimes I write to the music, so I listen to the music and then decide what to write about. I like to try and take a subject and write about it from a couple of different angles throughout the song. Sometimes it’s just something from my mind. I’ll jot something down and then maybe I’ll use that in a song.
HR: What took the Bukola project to South Africa and then Cyprus?
B: Well South Africa, firstly, it was to film a video. We went out there the first time, shot the video and then we ended up playing quite a few gigs while we were there and made a few contacts. We went back a second time and did a bigger tour. It was really good and we met some really great people.
HR: What about Cyprus?
B: I went out there really just to write and ended up doing some gigs again. It wasn’t really: "Yeah, let’s go out there to do music." I went out and ended up performing gigs.
HR: How did the audiences react?
B: In South Africa, really good. It was really nice because quite a few people hadn’t heard anything like this before. They have a lot of American influences out there and they have some ‘housy’ thing that they’ve got going on at the moment, which is quite cool but very different. I’ve never heard anything like that before so, for them, I was very different but they still felt my music and would dance along.
HR: What genre of music is Bukola?
B: I’ve been called funk. I wouldn’t say I’m RnB, but I’d say I’m Soul. A lot of people have said I’m Neo-soul.
HR: What has kept you motivated, especially having gone through the experience of two music distribution companies folding?
B: [Whispers] I don’t know [laughs]. I really love doing it. Even if I get to 40 years old and get nowhere, I’d still do it, definitely. It’s a passion, I’ll keep putting it out there. I don’t care if no one buys it, I just love doing it.
HR: Do you think the Internet (and digital music) is a hindrance or a blessing for artists today? For example piracy is more widespread with peer-to-peer file sharing but on the positive side it’s easy to keep in touch with your fan base via the Internet with sites like MySpace and Facebook.
B: That’s a tough one, although to be honest I do think it’s quite good and although it’s not good for the artists I do think it’s a good thing. People can get hold of loads of different types of music and share with each other, I know you shouldn’t. There are still lots of people out there buying music. I mean, if I like an artist I will go and buy their CD. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I just like having a physical CD. The Internet definitely makes music more accessible.
HR: What are your views on reality shows that make music stars out of the general public?
B: Good. I really like people like Jennifer Hudson, she’s amazing, and Leona Lewis who has a great voice.
I think the only thing that is a shame is they don’t get to do their own writing. But then you see people like Lemar and he’s writing his own songs now.
It is a shame when you see people on these shows getting the sympathy vote and then that sort of sends them somewhere they shouldn’t be. But I do think they are good shows, they have brought a lot of good people through.
HR: Would you have ever considered going on a show like that?
B: I think the only reason I’d say no is because I’ve really got into writing my own songs and to have to then take five steps back and sing someone else’s songs would really kill me inside.
HR: Listening to your album, I noticed that the sound from each single is very different to the next one, how important is it for you to be diverse in your music?
B: I do like lots of different types of music from reggae, garage, drum and bass that I just had to try and bring a bit of that into my songs and because there are so many different types you can’t put it all in one song.
There are so many different things I want to try as well, some of the great songs I’ve heard I think: "I’d like to do something like that".
I don’t want to restrict myself to one type of music so if I hear a track I like I’ll write on it. It’s not really important but I find that it does tend to happen.
HR: Is there going to be another album after Which Way?
B: We are actually eight tracks into my second album and I love it. Again, it’s quite different. Every song is quite different. It’s similar to the first album but has evolved a lot more. You can class it as the same genre but it has developed. I’m looking forward to getting the new album out.
I’ve been having singing lessons as well just to learn how to exercise the voice so it can become stronger and I’m feeling a lot better now and I understand it a lot better. It’s really coming through.
HR: Do you know when the new album will be released?
B: We’re going to try and get it out for spring this year (2009) just so that we can get it all finalized with the artwork and everything.
HR: Does it have a name?
B: Not yet, no.
HR: What’s the most important thing in your life right now?
B: At the moment trying to get back to some balance, my mum passed away last September. So it’s quite important to find some balance, I’ve stopped going out as much and I’m just looking for balance.
HR: If you get fed up of singing and writing what would your ideal job be?
B: It would be something outside, something creative. Maybe a scout for sets in movies that would be quite cool. Yeah I’d like to do that.
HR: Out of fame and money, which is most important to you?
B: Money. It gives you the freedom to do what you want. Fame is a bit restrictive and it’s a burden that comes along.
HR: If your life was to be turned into a musical, or a movie, who would play you and why?
B: I’d like Lauryn Hill [pictured] to play me. She makes situations that should be easy more complex and it reminds me of myself a bit.
HR: What music do you have in your iPod right now?
B: I don’t have an iPod but if I did I would have India.Arie, Aaliyah, Bob Marley, some Beyonce, 2Pac and the Fugees.
HR: Tell us something about yourself that we don’t already know.
B: I used to be a swimmer; I used to want to swim in the Olympics. I used to swim for Hertford and I trained all the time at one point I was only a couple of seconds off the qualifying time…and then I found drink and it was all over [laughs]. It got to a point where I was like, I’m gonna do this and then it just faded off, you know how it goes.
HR: Thank you for your time.
Bukola's latest single 'Hypnotised' is released on CD through Kudos Records / Slip Disc from 08 December 2008.
Click here to buy the album Which Way on CD from Amazon.co.uk
This interview was conducted on 14 December 2008