I grew up in Australia, and now live in the UK, so there was something that felt familiar about the story Gbeke tells of Christmas in Nigeria, in her festive single, ‘Afro Bells’. Just like Australia, there’s no snow, and the temperature runs into the high 30 degrees C, so roast dinners are off the menu. You’re far more likely to go to the beach than roast chestnuts on an open fire. We had an opportunity to talk to Gbeke about her plans for this Christmas, as well as her music, and what she would have done differently, if she’d had the chance.
What do you want for Christmas this year?
All I want this year is to rest, reflect, and relax. It’s been such a busy year music and life-wise, and though I’m grateful for the exposure and growth, I can’t lie and say I’m not tired. Oh, and maybe some white Comme des Garçon low top Converse – I’m obsessed lol.
What’s your favourite thing about Christmas in Nigeria? And can we have your Mum’s Jollof Rice recipe please, that looks amazing!
My favourite thing about celebrating Christmas in Nigeria is being surrounded by the culture. My people. The holidays on their own are fun, but Nigerians have a certain way of life that’s admirable. Everyone is happy, cheerful, and there’s always good food to eat.
While the jollof rice recipe is a family secret, I can let you in on a trick: we bake it in the oven rather than cooking it stove-top. It helps brings the out flavour even more!
What inspired you to get into music in the first place? What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a music career?
It started off as being fascinated by watching other performers on TV when I was really young, and before I knew it, I was writing verses and poetry as a creative outlet. By 7, I was doing my own performances in talent shows or at family functions, and at 11 I wrote my first song. I made the conscious decision to pursue music as my life’s passion when I was 16 and recorded my first mixtape at 18. My advice for anyone just starting out is to go for it; stop doubting yourself, and work hard to grow and make your vision a reality.
If you could go back and start all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently, and why?
If I could start all over again, I would go to the studio every week at the very least, and release more frequently. When I started out in 2017, I was releasing one single or project a year. Photoshoots, big-name collaboration, and branding are important, but the music is the core of any musician’s career. I spent a lot of money on things that I thought would bring me into the limelight, when all I really needed was to focus on the craft and let it speak for itself. Now, I am releasing music more frequently and focused less on “clout-based” strategies.
Who has been the most inspirational person in your life, and why? What about musically, who inspires you?
Myself. I always say that my music is based on my life, as well as things I’ve observed in general. I have gone through several trials and triumphs, all the while expressing each experience in my music. Sharing my story with the world isn’t just for my own growth and healing, but it’s the encourage and stand in solidarity with others who may have dealt with similar struggles as I have. Musically, my dad was a huge influence on my music taste- and artists I idolized growing up were Alicia Keys, Keri Hilson, and Janet Jackson. Nowadays, I’m not only focused on the rhythm and vibe of music, but the message especially. That being said, my current favorite artists include Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, and HER. What I admire most about them is the effort they put into their lyrics – they matter!!
Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
What is your ultimate goal for your music career?
To keep it short and sweet, to heal the world. Fame and fortune are great, but I want my lyrics to touch the hearts of many and establish an emotional connection. Call me a philanthropist, but I want to make a change. Whether it’s through activism, or talking about mental health, I want people to feel inspired, accepted, supported, and encouraged by my music. Music has the power to change the world, and I won’t stop making music until I’ve done just that.
‘Afro Bells’ is out now, and you can watch the music video below.