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Seke Fowode on becoming a self-taught artist

Seke Fowode has sharpened her creativity over the years. Amongst a couple of other things she’s a talent manager with an ear for music, and she recently started releasing music of her own under the stylized form of her name ‘Shaykeh’. She trained herself to sing because she wanted to bring her own melodies, stories, and experiences to life through music. Seke Fowode is no stranger to artistic expression and has now found a way to seamlessly forge a path with melodious, easy flowing, and seductive music. Shaykeh is inspired by musicians like Asa, Bob Marley, Teyana Taylor, Tay Iwar, Sabrina Claudio just to name a few. Influenced by these great artistes, Shaykeh has found a perfect balance to create music with a unique voice and sound.

I literally had to find my voice. Singing isn’t a talent I was born with, it’s a skill I had to sharpen because of my desire to bring certain ideas in my head to reality. Being a creative, if I have something in my head I must bring it to life, and from experience I know you have to be good at what you do to get the right people to pay attention so I don’t relent with perfecting my art. I’m always trying to present the best version of that idea at any given moment. I know I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m constantly learning and growing and for the most part I’m having a lot of fun with it, that’s good enough for me

On RADRPlus this week, Seke Fowode opens up about how she’s harnessing her numerous talents.

Let’s give those who don’t know about the wonders of Seke Fowode a chance to know, tell the world about all the things you do

Alright so I’m a photographer, a graphic designer, a film-maker, a painter, a talent/brand manager, A&R and a music executive with my imprint Dreamchasers. Also, I run a hat brand called Hatbreak

With your artiste management experience, music has been a part of your life for a while now, but with your new single, ‘All Night’, how does it feel to get things going on your musical journey?

Feels amazing actually, if you had told me 5 years ago that I’d be making my own music now I would have laughed at the idea. I mean I’ve always loved music, and had a strong admiration for musically talented people, but for the longest time I didn’t think I was capable of doing it. 

What have you learnt from managing artistes that you’ve brought into this new phase of your life? 

The most important thing I’ve learned is the place of hard work and dedication in relation to your general progress. I’ve learned how to properly navigate the process of making and releasing your work, and I know the importance of maintaining certain standards. I’ve learned how to mix and master vocals to a good extent by playing around with my artistes’ vocals. I’ve learnt a lot of stuff, most of them random, but relevant. 

You are into several creative & entrepreneurial ventures, how do you manage to balance all of it to ensure you’re not lacking on any front? 

I stay busy, I plan properly and I try to connect everything as much as I can. Honestly I’d say things always just seem to fall in place half of the time, that’s how you recognize the hand of God. 

Your creative journey has seen you dabble into painting, graphic design, photography, film-making & music, which is your most exciting form of creative expression?

My most exciting form of creative expression is definitely painting. I’m genuinely happy and free when I paint. I play with a lot of colors and the whole process always feels limitless. I get to express emotions words can’t even come close to describing and then when I’m done I just wanna cry sometimes because I’m so proud of what I created. 

Which came first into your life?

Well I’ve always been good at drawing for as long as I can remember, in fine art classes I was like the superstar. Everytime we had a class work people always came to meet me saying stuff like “Wow, you’re an artist” and I didn’t even realize how much weight the words carried at the time.

I’m aware of your alter ego Shayksss, tell me a bit about her, what she’s like and how she differs from Seke Fowode?

[laughs] Let me just say Shayksss is the driving force, she’s the one that says “DO IT” all the time. Shayksss is fearless, brave, unlimited and she barely plays by the rules. Usually, I have to find a balance and apply logical reasoning to her motives, properly plan out goals, and see how it connects to the bigger picture, or else it will just be a lot of doing with very little strategy.  

Walk me through your creative journey by giving a timeline of when, and how you transitioned into your various forms of expression?

I have been in the classical choir at my church since I was about 10. My voice was pretty bad and I was embarrassed by it most of the time, but my Mum insisted that I stayed in the choir, saying stuff like “Just take whatever God has given you and use it”. I felt out of place at the time, most times I just used to sit and listen. At that age it didn’t make sense to me at all, but I learned the beauty of singing in the choir. We would sing carols with riffs and runs that seemed ridiculous to me at the time, it was so hard for me and I didn’t understand any of it, but not a lot of things can compare to the beauty and purity of a choir singing in harmony and I knew I felt that deeply. 
I also loved drawing from a young age, in high school I was the only science student who took fine art classes, at the time. Then I got to uni in 2011, to study Chemical Engineering, my parents told me to forget drawing and face my book. I was cool with that, but the next thing I knew I got interested in photography. Covenant University has a beautiful landscape and a feel of nature that makes you appreciate the beauty of life. I didn’t have a camera so I started by borrowing people’s cameras and editing the pictures with Picasa. In my second year I started learning how to use photoshop, so I could edit pictures better and add extra stuff to make them cooler. I learnt how to use Photoshop on my own through trial and error and when I noticed I was getting better at it I started designing artworks for my friends that were making music at the time. That’s how I started graphic designing.

When I started learning everything I do now, I was really bad at them and I had every reason to stop, but I didn’t. Drawing is the only thing I remember not failing at. Then in 2014, my dad got me a MacBook and although he had no idea how, he just had a feeling that the MacBook will help me do much more. Getting that MacBook changed the game for me because it came with these softwares that were easy to use for an average person with decent knowledge of computers. It was like getting a new toy with many features. The moment I started playing around with iMovies, I got addicted. I’d make dance videos of my siblings with my blackberry curve and make music videos out of them. That was where the love for film-making started. In my 4th year of uni, I had the opportunity to take fine art classes then I started drawing and painting again. It was so nostalgic, it reminded me how much I loved it and painting just made so much sense that I just wanted to keep doing it. So immediately I was done with uni, I bought painting materials and I got to work on it. Since then, it has become therapy for me. My MacBook also came with a software called GarageBand, it’s like a music-making software for beginners. I opened it one day and it was like I had found a gold-mine. I started recording over rock beats made out of random loops on the app, with the inbuilt laptop mic, I was doing it for fun.  If I was bored, I’ll just go into GarageBand and express, but I did it a lot so I started getting better at it. In 2017, shortly after I started managing Bowale, I got inspired to take music making more seriously and see where it gets me. So I took that motive and put it into making Till The Morning, my first record. 

What was it like making “Till The Morning”?

Till the Morning is so special because it was a product of me just saying I genuinely want to make a good song. I made the instrumental by looking through GarageBand for loops that sounded like what I was feeling. When I was done I played it over and over looking for all the right melodies I could surf on it with. With the melodies, the lyrics came easy. I sent it to a close friend, Hue & The Sound for constructive criticism, he helped with some of the lyrics and gingered me to follow through with it. I went to record it in Steine’s studio and some guys at the studio that day were so mind blown watching the song come together. Complete strangers telling me “I’m blessed to be in your generation” just from hearing one song. It was funny cos I was like Wow you guys genuinely feel like this? I made music that people are connecting with? I was super motivated. 

Let’s talk about being a female creative in Lagos, what’s your daily experience like in Lagos?

Hmmm… it’s funny cos I notice these things but I don’t pay attention to them, I just find them hilarious when they happen. For one I know that a lot of men generally feel like a little flirting will get you to bend your logical thinking when it comes to your work and how you handle your business. Some also don’t really want to take you seriously because for them, your being intelligent undermines them. I personally don’t stress too much about it, I’m careful about the kind of energy I nurture within. I just go about my business strictly and so happen to make them look stupid doing so. 

I know it’s common for people here to underrate women just cos of gender, have you experienced anything of that kind so far?

[laughs] Of course. A lot. I believe that usually, it’s easy for people to underrate when they haven’t been given a reason to rate you. Now one of the problems women face is that a lot of people only want to rate you based on your looks, they don’t care about what’s in your head. I don’t really care about impressing with my looks. I do not expect to be given the respect I haven’t earned, that will be ingenuine and I don’t want that. I want you to see for yourself all the reasons why you should rate me without having to say much. That’s part of what motivates me; the sweet doubt, I work so hard to see the look on their faces when they see what I’ve done. Impressed? I’m glad you are, safe to say I earned it [laughs]

Tell me about some of these experiences

Ok let me just talk about the most recent one, one of the artistes I manage had a Listening Party/Live Experience for his EP in June and we had worked so hard in planning and putting it together, and honestly it was amazing. He had a lot of people come out for him and the whole thing was great. At the end of the show, when everyone was congratulating and just generally telling us what a great show we had put together, my artiste introduced me to one of his friends as his manager and this guy goes “why na woman you dey use take do manager?” My artist playfully shutdown his question and continued greeting other people. The guy went ahead and made some more snarky remarks directly to me. He tried to play it off like jokes and I tried not to get worked up about it at the time. The next morning I expressed my distaste about the incident to my artist and he apologized and called his friend to set him straight on the matter, he also apologized, saying he was just joking and I let it go immediately.

How have you navigated through the hostile conditions of the city of Lagos to still get shit done?

Well, I know when it comes to Lagos the first thing people do is complain about traffic, the sun, and how tough things are which is completely understandable. For the most part, I barely have anything to complain about. I’ve lived in Lagos all my life and over time I’ve found a way to make it work for me. I work at Fredap Water as the brand manager and it’s a walking distance from home. I have everything I need to create at home, my MacBook is like my office. I also have a small recording studio setup in my room, and an art studio so I get to do most of what I need to do at home. 

I don’t move around a lot unless it’s somewhere I really want to go. I’m thankful for the beach, I go to the beach a lot, when I need to clear my head and just breathe. I go for art exhibitions every now and then. I try to avoid noisy and crowded gatherings. I attend calm music shows and get to network a lot. I live in Surulere and it’s perfect for taking long walks. I generally appreciate the good more than I acknowledge the bad so for me Lagos is pretty cool. 

If you were to pinpoint one thing as your biggest source of inspiration, what will it be?

Man I think it’s just general life experiences. I’m a Scorpio and we’re said to be really passionate. I know I’m a very passionate person and I experience things very deeply. So when I’m creating art it’s easy to just pour it all out, because I have it all in there. Although I would say that the one thing I seem to be sort of centered around is the general concept of human behavior & life, and anything I create is just me sharing it from my point of view.

Shaykeh Fowode

You mentioned when you started out with some of the things you now do, you were bad at them, what was the driving force for you to keep at them? 

The hunger to succeed at it. The mindset of ‘If I keep doing this thing diligently I’m definitely going to get better at it, all I need is more practice’. Understanding that it’s okay to be bad at something while I’m still learning the ropes. Confidence, most of that confidence comes from God honestly, like I know I can do anything because He has my back, so literally, nothing is too big for me to achieve. Also, general analysis of the situation every now and then, acknowledging my progress and growth no matter how little. Restrategizing, everytime there’s a setback, to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Most importantly, staying positive even when it feels like you have no reason to. 

Who are the people out there you would you like to collaborate with?

I would love to collaborate with Asa, Niyi Okeowo, Rihanna, Santi, Kranium, Juls, Burna Boy, Teyana Taylor, Kanye West. I’d also like to work with Elon Musk on creating something in a new field I plan to venture into.

Wanna share what that new field is ?

Industrial and Engineering Design. It’s basically innovation, bringing ideas to life but from an engineering point of view. I’m about to start a masters program on it. I’ll have more to say when I’m more learned.

Looking at your own creative journey, you’re walking multiple paths, if you had to say something to fellow creatives with various interests, what would it be?

Do only the things you love, don’t be afraid to explore and push boundaries, work smart, motivate yourself, always push to be better, and find a way to link your interests so they can work for you simultaneously. Also, for freelancers, work well enough for your clients to always keep you as their first choice. 

Art can evoke different emotions, what are the emotions you want people to feel when they experience the works of Seke Fowode? 

I’m a big advocate for genuine connections and when I create, it comes from a place of sincere expression, especially with painting. So when people experience my art with an open mind, I expect that you understand what I was feeling, how I tried to express while creating. Especially when it’s a feeling you’ve experienced before, you might not be able to put it into words, but something in there will connect with you. Just that pure communication right there is the most beautiful part of it all. With music it’s easier for people to connect because they hear the lyrics and immediately understand what you’re saying. Even though it goes deeper with melodies & instrumentals, and for me the deeper it goes, the more beautiful it becomes. Man art is amazing.

Photography: Wale Ekemode & Sesay David

Graphics: Seke Fowode

Spreading good vibes.


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