Singer-songwriter BEKA is unmatched when it comes to penning thought-provoking, soulful and energetic pop tunes.
originally starting out as a touring musician and having racked up guest features on tracks with HONNE, it wasn’t until last year that Nottingham-based artist, BEKA, released her own music. Since that moment the rising artist has released a brilliant debut EP entitled I’ll Be There, gained a committed legion of fans, started a really fun Instagram live series, amassed 1.2 million monthly Spotify listeners, and continued to build upon her artistry. Most recently, BEKA has dropped the vibrant Kamala Harris inspired single, You Got, and has been announced as the headliner on BBC Introducing’s stage at this week’s Latitude Festival. The festival date will also mark BEKA’s first ever headline live show.
So with everything going BEKA’s way, we caught up with the talented artist to discuss her new single, Latitude Festival, and dream guests for her ‘Cuppa & A Natter’ Instagram live series.
Hi BEKA, let’s talk about your new single You Got. What inspired you to write the song? It’s inspired by Kamala Harris right?
It was inspired by Kamala Harris indeed; the global civil rights movement in 2020 and Kamala Harris were the catalyst for the whole song. I had been in my kitchen listening to Radio 4 (I’ve changed) and just felt the gravity of the history I was hearing play out. Suddenly a generation of women would count themselves into a possibility they hadn’t realised they were counting themselves out of. Hearing the precise moment we got a Female, African-American and Asian-American, Vice President of the United States, left me feeling pretty transfixed by how permission giving and liberating it felt to hear this moment actually happen, especially on the backdrop of 2020.
The lyrics came from me imagining the parents going out to protest for a moment like this, sometimes having to leave their families and kids at home not knowing if they’d be safe and thinking about the last things they’d want to say to their children. I wanted to write something that felt like the reminder that no matter how cliche it can feel, we all leave a legacy in how we live and how we make others feel and equally we just need that one person to champion us and remind us of that. Musically I’d been listening to LCD Sound System and wanted to channel something anthemic that was a nod to those records that give you the – ‘ I might feel dumb, but life is short so let me dance like no ones watching and back myself’ – energy, whilst also channelling that private reminder that our story is power and everyone has that special fire, even if they don’t know it yet.
Can you tell us about the artwork for the single, why did you choose to go for a design rather than something like your debut EP? It’s simple but stunning…
Well thank you a whole lot, I love it too. The idea started when I saw the gold backdrop at St John at Hackney (aka the Vogue of British Church venues) and became pretty obsessed with the space and how striking the gold was within it. When I was writing You Got I kept imagining the last thing someone would want to say to their person and then daydreaming about the impact it’d have on you if someone saw the magic in you and reminded you of it. I wanted the artwork to resemble strength and power and almost give off the feeling that you get when you go to a landmark that represents something bigger than yourself, and reminds you of the power of your history and story. I spoke with one of my favourite creatives and the artwork designer Andy Khatouli who was influential in ideating the core brand concepts with my project. At first, I drew out what I was seeing (I can’t draw so he’s a wonder for even understanding it) and we designed it from there. We based the artwork on the idea of taking someone to a landmark that reminds them of the light they carry and could act as a place you’d go back to, to remember that. We were playing with ideas of someone holding a torch much like the olympic torch and then decided to show that more conceptually with the stars and sun giving off that feeling of light and liberation, much like the Statue of Liberty.
Your debut EP I’ll Be There and some of your previous tracks have tackled the topics of mental health, love, and hope. How vulnerable do you feel when you write songs on these topics? Or do you find solace when writing songs?
I often find writing brings my subconscious to the forefront and lets me know what’s going on. I like to feel like I am self aware, but when I write, I feel like I end up getting to know what’s actually going on. I like to write about my experiences and often life isn’t all that sexy and it’s tough and it’s amazing and it’s love and it’s pain and so when I listen back it can feel like a real open window into some of the deepest parts of my life but it’s also incredibly cathartic and feels like the truth. Equally I love feeling like I’m connected to what’s happening in someone’s life and that they perhaps experience difficulty like me. Often knowing someone else’s experience, helps me feel more empathetic and equally more ok about life not being shiny and perfect. Why we feel we should be perfect, I don’t know, but feeling understood and knowing we have permission to be, is such a sweet emotion, so it’s something I try not to shy away from in my writing.
We’ve got to talk about two things: how was it going on CBBC?! And how excited are you to perform at Latitude Festival this week?
We really can talk about CBBC because guys, I got to stand next to the Blue Peter sign… aka my life is complete right? When I was younger I wanted to be a Kids TV Presenter so getting to watch the pro’s slay whilst standing in a room that looked like a rainbow had vomited was pretty unreal. ‘You Got’ was really inspired by things I’d want young people to feel about themselves too, so it was pretty special getting to sing on a kids show.
Latitude is such an honour. The line up is incredible and it’s a bloody fantastic festival and will be my first ever show and first festival so I am deep in my over excited feels about getting to sing and dance and drink tea whilst making bad jokes with a bunch of glorious people who want to have fun after a year of no music. I may cry. Who knows. It all feels a bit lovely.
We love your ‘Cuppa & A Natter’ Instagram live series. You’ve had some stellar names on it, such as HONNE, Griff, Radio 1 DJ Chris Stark and most importantly, your mum. But who would be your dream guests and why?
Thank you gang and also, thank you for knowing Mum was the ultimate guest (you can call her Aunty Helen and genuinely, she’d love to have you over for some tea and life coaching if you need it). ‘Cuppa & A Natter’ is genuinely one of the best gifts life has given me and I started a little dream list recently after I got to interview Dame Zandra Rhodes, in her rainbow flat for Free People… It inspired me to try and interview as many queens/people from different backgrounds and cultures as possible before I reach 100. My top 5 guests would be Ava Duverney, Tracee Ellis Ross (if you’re reading this, please adopt me) Michelle Obama, then obviously the GOAT, Oprah and finally Alicia Keys.. (starting small). These women have pioneered and made space for so many millions of others, in their small, daily decisions and I would love to know their hacks and hear about the normal hard stuff too.
You’ve worked with electronic duo HONNE for quite a while now and they’re essentially like two brothers to you. What would you say was the biggest lesson you took from them?
Oh I love this question and the fact you know they really are like my brothers. I admire them so much as people, have felt so backed by them in all the sticky decisions along the way in music, from learning how to use Ableton, to talking about contracts, they give me so much of their time and I rate them hugely. I think my biggest lesson has been that cultivating a culture within your team where people feel they’re seen for their whole life and not just what they give you, is such a gift and creates a great environment to work in. They’re hot on fun, lightness and treating people like professional adults. Not pushing the classic artist, musician, team divide seems to mean people want to work harder for them and stick around because we all want to feel cared for right?
Have you got anything fun in store for your two live headline shows later this year? You’re playing a sold out show at Rough Trade, Nottingham and a show at Colours Hoxton in London.
Getting to play these songs live is going to be so fun. Firstly, I’d love there to be some tea and prosecco on tap… to my live agents if you’re reading this… please and thank you, I love you. Some special guests, some hella fun outfit and stage design that may involve balloons and wonderful chances for us all to stop trying to look so cool and actually have fun is my goal.
Finally, is there anything you really want to achieve by the end of next year?
I’d love to have a few more seasons with some magic guests on ‘Cuppa & a Natter’ with some new topics and some on location with audiences this year… Kamala Harris as a guest would be fun. Also I’d love to direct a music video for one of the new tunes coming out later in the year, which I may pee myself with excitement about. Mostly though, to play live, have conversation, create fun visuals and meet people who listen to my music, would be pretty magic.
Interview by Cameron Poole