Music — December 20, 2019
In her words, undefined, unapologetic, and at peace, Ms. Tekowa Lakica.
by Gregory Gagliardi
by Tristan Sayah
Many moons ago, I like you sat on my computer, away from the world. I was heading into my senior year of college. Summer was coming to a chaotic end and truthfully, I was happy. That summer was tough. Mental health defined a roller coaster of emotions that unfortunately filtered into my first semester. Throughout the summer, a long shining beacon of hope was music, but not any music, local music. I had begun writing for a local blog, and in doing so, was tasked with sharing a song. That song, which still exists, is tucked away on Tekowa Lakica’s SoundCloud, a goldmine of soul and blissful injections. So, like I had done with many songs, I wrote a quick blog post and sent it out. It felt fresh, but ultimately there were not personal connections between me & Tekowa. She, like many, was another cog, a talented artist hidden on the internet. Flash forward 3 years, I find myself at The State House, a small music venue in New Haven. On stage was Tekowa, accompanied by a laptop, and neo-soul vibes that would have made Erykah Badu smile. It took a short set and room full of friends to prompt this. I present to you, in her words, undefined, unapologetic, and at peace, Ms. Tekowa Lakica.
What was your initial goal when creating music, and how has that goal changed since day one until present?
When I first started making music, I was young. I started playing the violin at 5 (and still do) and grew up in a musical household— my sister played saxophone, mom played piano, and dad played drums and finger piano. So, I started singing and composing music with my mom as a kid, and I didn’t have a goal - it just felt good. As I got older and started writing more lyrics, it was mostly to release difficult emotions. I still use music to process life; the only thing that’s changed is that I want to give it to other people now. As I grow as an artist, my vision expands on how to give the music to people. How to make it a full sensory experience, whether it’s through music videos, performance, or curating a whole environment for a show/performance to exist in, as I’ve done with my Golden Hour performance and other collaborations with art galleries.
The best music-related advice you've received that left you speechless.
I think the best advice I’ve ever gotten regarding music is to be diverse in what you do. Even if your main identity is as a singer or songwriter, learn instruments, learn how to produce, learn how to create your visuals. That is something I’m working on. The late Hugh Masekela was one of my mentors, and he told me that.
ALCHEMY EP: love that production...the loud bass sounds like woozy and distorted in a hazy sense. How do you pick beats and describe your sound? (Do you make your beats?)
Thank you! I meant it to feel like a creepy, almost uncomfortable dream. I did not produce on that EP, although you will hear production from me on future projects. I picked all the production-based off feeling. ALCHEMY was built around the concept of transforming your experiences into wisdom, dreams into a tangible reality. To reap those results, you first have to sow that intention subconsciously. ALCHEMY sounds that way (dreamy and surreal) because it was me sowing those lessons and intentions in my subconscious.
Thoughts on the CT music scene, do you think CT does enough to promote and break artists?
I think that there are a ton of talented musicians in CT. I don’t have any feelings about whether or not CT supports its artists enough because I think sometimes people focus on not getting enough support in their home state, and it’s a limiting perspective. Realistically, the idea that you’ll blow up in your home state first and then go elsewhere, or that a tiny state with limited art infrastructure will “put you on” is outdated. We have the internet so we can be seen and heard anywhere in the world. CT is very small and doesn’t have the most bountiful opportunities for artists, in my opinion. But you can find support from your local community, build your repertoire, and take it to wherever you want to. And there are gems in CT - for example, I love The State House in New Haven, but we only have a handful of places like that.
“I think for us to have a spotlight on this tiny state, we as artists need to take it upon ourselves to go outside of our comfort zone, hold ourselves to the same quality standard as those in major cities, and flourish in as many places as possible.”
While CT and New York border, there is a clear gap in appeal, my question is: talent wise musicians in CT can hang with the folks in NY, but for some reason we don't attract the same buzz...why should people care about CT artist’s as much as NY artist’s...simple difference being a Twitter bio that reads "location CT" vs. "location NY.”
Well, NY musicians are really from all over, and NYC is globally regarded as a huge cultural hub, so it makes sense that we can’t get the same buzz in CT. We don’t have the same infrastructure. And that’s not an insult or something that bothers me much. I accept it and don’t try to force CT to be what it’s not. I think the identity of being a “CT artist” can be limiting when you’re starting. Personally, it’s not how I market myself or how I view myself. CT is where I was born and grew up, but I’ve lived in other places (like South Africa and Hawaii), I’ve traveled a lot, and my parents are from other countries, so all of those places feel like a part of my identity. I don’t feel like a “CT artist” I’m just an artist. I think for us to have a spotlight on this tiny state, we as artists need to take it upon ourselves to go outside of our comfort zone, hold ourselves to the same quality standard as those in major cities, and flourish in as many places as possible.
What can you tell me about your new music and current inspirations? Also: do you have to be inspired to create?
The new music is more soulful but also more experimental. The older I get, the less afraid I am to try whatever I want. That’s the beauty of creating - the possibilities are endless. The only limitations are the ones that we place on ourselves. I’m playing more with my production, violin, stacked vocals, and a richer sound. Also, I've been practicing and performing with a looper, which has allowed me to explore my voice as an instrument. A lot of my outside influences are powerful women artists, and I listen to a lot of neo-soul and indie. Right now, I love TOPS, Joy Crookes, Tierra Whack, Keifer, MNDSGN, Anna Wise, Lolo Zouai, Jacob Ogawa, Trey Moore, TroyBoi, to name a few. And I’m always listening to old soul like Donald Byrd, George Benson, Shakatak, Michael Franks. If you can’t tell, my taste is all over the map.
How do you deal with writer's block?
I usually tackle writer's block by being creative in another way. That might mean producing, or drawing, playing around on the looper, creating plant medicine, or hiking. I think the key for me is to find some way to be creative and active, and then the words will come when they are ready. Taking time to do other things that also stimulate you gives your mind and spirit time to process life enough, so you even have something to say when you sit down to write.
What era did you wish you came up in? By era, I mean, cassette, vinyl, cd, iTunes/iPod, streaming services, and how has your era, the streaming service era, affected the way you create, promote, and distribute music?
As much as I want to romanticize some previous era, I’m pretty glad to be in this current age. We have access to musical tools that other generations didn’t. Like, even my beloved loop pedal wouldn’t have been an option in the past. I love having access to my recording equipment, DAW, MIDI instruments, and the internet.
You sampled the movie Gummo on “Better That Way”— LOVE THAT MOVIE...how did the sample make its way into the song, and why do you incorporate soundbites into songs?
That sample was already in the instrumental. Mvzonik produced it, and I loved that sample because it was so gritty.