Kemena is a multi-talented musician & producer from Enugu, Nigeria.
The artist recently released a body of work – Bold – that has received rave reviews from all corners.
Hi, Kemena! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How are you coping with the lockdown?
I’m doing alright, working as usual. My name is Ekene Nkemena, I’m a musician. I dey Enugu like this. Lockdown no really affect me. Ask any musician. We’ve been in lockdown since we got into music.
What was growing up like for you?
Growing up was fun. I grew up in the barracks. Yeah, I be ‘bari’ boy. My father was a soldier, he’s retired now. My childhood was fun. We were very active in church, that’s how I actually started music . My dad is from Anambra state, and my mum is from Akwa Ibom.
What kind of music did you listen to, growing up?
Disney! Man, I didn’t think I was worthy to make music. I thought music was made by gods – who wouldn’t after listening to the music in Disney movies? As a teenager, I loved the soundtracks of popular Nickelodeon and Disney TV shows. In teens church, I listened to a lot of Hillsong, so they influenced me too.
Did your early music experiences influence you to start creating music?
Not really. I just enjoyed the gift. I didn’t think I could make music or that it would ever be even possible. Like, I didn’t even think of it.
When did you start creating music? When did you start pursuing it professionally?
Started making music in 2013 – my first year in the university. I played around a bit until 2016 when I released my first official single on campus. Oh, yeah, I attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Who & what inspires you to make music now?
I love story telling. I simply tell stories with my music. As for the music, like the sounds. My influence is mainly Jon Bellion. Like, if u want us to off cloth and fight now, say something bad about him.
Then there’s J. Cole, Owlcity, Lewis Capaldi.
How would you describe the kind of music you make? What genre?
I hate genres. Listen to my new album. As soon as you try to place me in a genre, you hear a track that throws you off.
Do you play any musical instruments? Can you produce and engineer yourself?
100%. The whole 9 yards. Production, engineering, I play the guitar, keys… I’m actually a professional drummer. Played a few gigs in church back then, I play the sax too.
When you create, what’s your process like? What are some things you do to get into the zone to create?
It just comes to me at the oddest times. I just hear a phrase with a melody. Almost as if it was whispered in my ears. Listen to my music. There’s always this catchy part you can’t wait to hear. When I have that, I just build the entire song around it.
Do you make music for yourself or does your audience influence your direction?
Myself . One hundred percent.
This is how it works, I make music until it excites me. Then I release. Anyone that likes it is like minded and will probably like anything else I release. That way I’m not under pressure to “give the fans what they want.”
Have you ever performed on stage? How did it feel?
I’ve done a couple shows in my four years as an artiste. It’s scary – even if it’s one person in the audience. But I do it anyway. After the first minute, the butterflies are gone, and I end up having a swell time.
How is support from your family regarding your musicy?
It has always been a thousand percent.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career as an emerging artist & producer?
I know what I want to do, but I can’t do it to the extent I want. Na money be the koko, my guy.
Will you rather be independent or sign to a record label right now? Why?
I frowned at labels in the beginning. But I’m open to getting signed now. They’re there for a reason. Artists need them.
What have you learnt the most so far in your music and life journey?
Nothing is easy. It’s hard. Everything is. Anything that seems easy is a habit that has been built through repetition. The hard things can be made easy too. Or at least bearable.
Many artists have distinctive visual brands. What would you say is your fashion style? Do you have a stylist?
Stylist nibo? You dunno warris going on. [Laughs]
I have a deal with Focus Attires, though. Friend and mentor. I explain what I want and he gives me. I doubt I’m consistent styling wise, though.
How frequently do you release music? What influences your decision on when to drop music?
Bond, the album just dropped on the 1st of August. I release projects and singles regularly. I need to be consistent to remain relevant.
What was the idea behind Bond?
The cover art. A friend took a picture while I was working. She took it from behind and it was so good when she edited it. I remembered telling her “no, this picture deserves an album.”
If given the chance, would you: Reinvent the wheel or build a new chariot?
Reinvent the wheel o, I’m a lazy guy. I’m not building any new anything.
More like would you do the same thing, that guarantees a good response from fans and listeners or would you do something radical with your next project?
I don’t know to be honest.
Just know that fan request has little contribution to my music. There’s a reason they’re my fans. They’ve trusted me with their ears. I’ll give them magic every single time.
What’s the goal for you? What would a successful career for you look like?
Whenever the music alone can pay my bills, we good. I don’t care much for luxury.
I won’t reject it if it comes, though.
Would you take a 9 to 5 job to supplement your income – do you currently have a job – or do you do music full-time?
Music full time. Hunger full time.
Where can people reach you on all platforms ?