IT is hard properly defining yourself and standing aside from…
the crowd I guess. Music has so many different entrants and acts it can be a minefield situating yourself away from the rather faceless mass: showing character, light and originality without coming off insincere, faked and forced. Lánre is an artist for whom I have a lot of respect and time for – one of the noblest and warmest musicians around. Her live performances are talked about in passionate tones and her music channels spirituality, faith and common experiences through something we can all relate to. I was excited to see how the year had been treating her and what upcoming gigs she was looking forward to – how her heritage and African roots have influenced and enforced her music.
Hey Lánre. How are you? How has your week been?
Hiya, I am well. Week’s going great. Just got back from a family holiday and preparing for autumn gigs and projects.
For those new to your music: can you introduce yourself, please?
I am a singer-songwriter currently based in London. I released a new E.P. a few months ago: it’s my third project.
You have just played a gig in Guelph (Ontario). How have you found Canada and what are the audiences like there?
It’s my second time of playing in Canada; first time in Guelph. I love sharing my music with new audiences. I get to meet new people and other creative people as well.
PHOTO CREDIT: Janssem Cardoso
Are there any upcoming gigs you are especially looking forward to?
I have a few gigs coming up – it’ the 80th Anniversary of Cable Street and I’ve been commissioned to write a new song and perform the song live at Rich Mix on the 1st of October. I also playing at an event supporting a great cause called Thumbs UP for Uganda on the 27th Sept and on the 5th of October, I’ll be playing at The Troubadour.
You seem to have a special bond with your audiences when performing. Is playing your music to people vital for your growth and confidence. Do you feel a direct companionship with your audience?
The feedback I get is that people love when I tell the stories behind the songs. I love to play in intimate space. Writing helps me to figure things out in my mind. Not necessarily provide an answer but helps to let those thoughts out and to then get to share that with an audience is a blessing. So I’d say yes, writing and singing has helped me grow as a person.
In July, you ran two interactive storytelling sessions called Finding Your Voice. It was held at Africa Writes and brought together poets, translators and authors. What was it like being in such rarified company and is it something you want to continue next year?
If the invitation comes again I’ll be honoured to be a part of it. Helping people find their voice through storytelling and writing is new for me but I enjoyed doing that.
Human was your E.P. released this year. What were the themes and inspiration that drove and defined the album’s lyrics?
Life; dreams deferred; love, humanity and purpose. It’s all wrapped up in those 4 songs. All I try to do is pay attention and then write from there.
Fire is my favourite song from the E.P. Can you remember the day you wrote it and what was the story behind that track?
Thank you, I love that track as well. It all started with words ‘will you light a fire for me’ when I first heard about a friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Then it grew into the idea that we all want to be remembered, to be seen; to know that our time here on Earth counts for something. When you live in a city like London, with the fast-paced day-to-day grind, you tend to forget to look around you; to pay attention ‘til something tragic happens that forces you to take a min. to reflect. So Fire is all about that.
Can we expect to see any new music coming into 2017?
I’m always writing, so who knows… when it’s time for new songs to be heard, it will come.
As you have performed in Canada: are there any other areas/nations (as-yet unticked) you’d like to play.
Oh yes! Oh dear! I have dreams traveling the world playing music.
You are a very positive person and often inspire others with your inspirational messages. How do you remain so positive in a world that is very fraught right now?
I am? Thank you. I try to stay grounded and positive through my faith. I know we live in the world where it’s so difficult to believe that there’s a divine force at work. So many questions unanswered but it’s what makes the search interesting. I have a little light deep inside me that represents hope. I think that’s what keeps me grounded. I have rough moments and times of doubt ALL THE TIME but I also believe and have faith.
How does your African heritage and upbringing go into your music and the way you perform?
My heritage goes into everything; my food, my fashion; it filters the way I see life. So it comes through my music naturally I think. I love the Yoruba language: I think it’s one of the most beautiful languages in the world and I’m proud to introduce a lil it of that to my audience.
Are there any artists and musicians that you would recommend we investigate?
I just bought LA Salami’s album Dancing with Bad Grammar. Have you heard it?
What have been your favourite albums from 2016?
The Dreaming Room – Laura Mvula
The Wild Swan – Foy Vance
Martyr Loser King – Saul Williams
What advice would you offer new musicians coming through?
Get on with it, persevere and enjoy the ride.
Finally, and for being a good egg, you can name any song you like (not yours as I’ll put one in); I’ll play it here…
Meshell Ndegeocello – Oysters. This song goes for your heart
PHOTO CREDIT: CK Goulding