With her debut album on the way, the stylish singer, Falana is set to take over the music scene. In this interview with Elle South Africa's fashion director, Dimeji Alara, she talks about her personal style and what to expect from her album.
How would you describe your personal style?
I definitely believe in comfort, but that does not only mean in the physical sense. I became very comfortable in my skin early on, and never really wanted or needed to fit in. So I wear, (and style my hair) in a way that makes me feel like myself. I definitely understand that fashion is such a powerful form of self-expression, but I wouldn’t say I am particularly fixated on how people will perceive me, and rather more concerned with how what I am wearing makes me feel! I believe in style and beauty that is natural, 'effortless' yet bold and understated sexy.
And your style of music as well.
Sonically - My music is where high life, soul, jazz, 'afrobeat' rhythm meet with some synth sounds and pop sensibilities. I need to give it a name because I know it is a sound distinct to me! Lyrically, I would say my music is like prayers and poetic excerpts from my journal.
How and when did you decide to go into music?
The answer for me is quite simple: Music is my most natural form of expression, I have always been a singer and songwriter, and I have always been an artist. We don’t choose our gifts; we just choose whether or not (and how much) to indulge them.
Who were some of the people who inspired you?
I was really obsessed with studying Nigerian vintage sounds – the whole recording process and how that could influence the more contemporary sounds I was exploring. So I spent some time working and mentoring with Mr. Odion Iruoje. He worked as an In-house Producer for EMI Records and also with DECCA Records in Nigeria in the 70s. He produced one of my “TOP TEN” favourite albums “Danger” by the Lijadu Sisters, and also worked with many notable names of the time – Fela, Chris Okotie, Sonny Okosun and many more. I've also always loved the honesty and universality of Lauryn Hill's music. Her music has had a huge influence on my songwriting style. Another songwriter I admire for her skill, creativity, and process is Sia. Lastly, Florence and the Machines, Bjork - artists who really push boundaries and approach their music as both visual and auditory experience - I truly admire as well.
When exactly did you start performing and how has the response been so far?
I have been performing for as long as I could remember, and there is nothing I enjoy more than being on stage. My live concerts are what have really built my reputation in Nigeria and internationally. The response has been humbling, and I am very excited to release Chapter One and begin touring again.
How have you been able to balance art and commerce when it comes to your music and you as a brand?
I think quality and individuality are the most important elements to consider when thinking about your art form as a product. I understand that ultimately if the art I create echoes the human experience (ie. Is it relatable?), has its own voice (is unique), and the talent is obvious, people will want to experience, share, learn and engage with it. That’s when the commercial element will begin to take care of itself.
There's been quite a lot of focus on your style. Are you worried about being known more for that than your music or do you think the two can coexist seamlessly?
I am definitely not worried. I think what I wear is an extension of who I am and what I do, so they can definitely coexist seamlessly. I also know that my music has a purpose all on its own, and what I wear can never take away from that!
Who are some of your favourite African musicians?
I am forever obsessed with the Lijadu Sisters! Most people know that. I also love the versatility and range of Burna Boy’s new album.
What are you currently listening to at the moment?
Big God – Florence and the Machines
What will you say is your favourite album of all time?
Hard question…how about I give you my top 10 in no particular order.
Lauryn Hill - Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Earth Wind and Fire – That’s the war of the world
Lijadu Sisters - Danger
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Stevie Wonder –Songs in the key of Life
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a butterfly
Prince- Purple Rain
Miles Davis-Kind of Blue
Music for 18 Musicians
Nina Simone – Little Girl Blue
When can we expect your first album to drop?
The first single “Ride or Die” off my EP CHAPTER ONE will be released in November; with the rest of the project being released early 2019. Ride or Die is a song about a desire for intimacy, and sometimes our fear or inability to welcome it into our lives. We isolate ourselves despite attempts by even the sincerest and truest love. Sonically it juxtaposes what I am talking about - the song is fun, high life guitar makes you want to move… a nod to the idea that no matter how pretty and together it appears on the outside, no matter how much we smile and pretend like something isn’t missing…we cannot thrive as human beings without intimacy…and it’s a cold world. I am talking about the forms of intimacy that give the truest meaning to life – Spiritual, emotional for example.
What should we expect from the album?
The look and feel of the project and my current style and sound is the intersection of contemporary and vintage, both sonically and visually - where the old meets and inspires the new. I think this project is going to represent the true reintroduction to Falana. I wrote and produced every song on the project and worked with some amazing folks to take some of the records to the next level. It was mixed by the Grammy Award Winning Engineer, Commissioner Gordon Williams (known for his work with Amy Winehouse – Frank, Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill among others). Needless to say, I am excited to finally share. Stay tuned.
Photography: Flora McLean
Makeup: Grace Ellington
Hair: Joy Matashi
Styling: Natalie Roar
Video: Laura Colada