Kemena: The Musical Dopamine
“…See as the thing dey sweet you.”
Ekene Nkemena popularly known as Kemena is a brilliant creative. A box of talents, he is a singer/songwriter, producer, audio engineer, recording artist and performing artist. Kemena who whose passion grew as an instrumentalist in church released his album “Bond” which entered the Apple Music Top 100 World Albums. The Guardian Life speaks to him on genres, “Bond”, and music as a tool.
Who is Kemena?
My name is Ekene Nkemena began making music in church. I play the drums, the guitar and the piano. I actually don’t remember a time when I didn’t write songs. However, I started to take music seriously and playing around with Digital Audio Workstations in 2011. I’ve improved greatly since then. I produced and engineered 90 per cent of my album myself.
A little birdie told us that you “hate” genres. Why is this?
What I actually hate is being boxed into one of the genres. I believe that genres qualify songs, not artistes. I reserve the right to make whatever kind of music that appeals to me. I can make a pop song today, a folk song tomorrow and a fusion of three other genres the next time I create. I hate being told the kind of music I’m “supposed to make”. Feel free to call the records whatever you want, but don’t tag me to anything specific. As a creative, my most valued currency is the freedom to do what I do best – create.
These days, artists even invent their own genres that best describe their sound. A step in the right direction for sure, but now the artiste can’t do anything other than what they have described. They’re back in the cage again. Freedom Lost.
With the present menace of police brutality, do you think music can lend a voice like in the time of Fela?
Music can arguably be tagged the weapon of our time. As the police brutality protests urge on slowly, at the forefront of these protests are entertainers – musicians. Music can definitely change perspectives, give hope and help people cope with whatever they may be enduring; and when necessary, actually fight back! Music in Nigeria has slowly become more than luxury/pleasure. That’s how powerful it can be.
“Bond” peaked at number 24 on Apple Music Top 100 World Albums. Was this what you hoped?
My friend “The Boss Major” would always say things like “Your music will speak for itself” Or “The world is yours”, or “you don’t realise how great your music is”. He is my moral support so I felt that these were things he had to say. But when I saw my album up there with the greats, I realised this. With almost no budget, and completely organic marketing strategies alone, people actually listened to my music; played it multiple times and invited others to listen as well. It’s almost unbelievable! I have always believed that I will take the world at some point. But still, I was shocked! A budgetless release soaring that high completely organically is impressive… even to me.
Of all the tracks in your album, which is the most personal?
“Something I knew” is deeply personal. I was completely naked on that record. If you listen hard enough, you’ll fish out my thoughts and insecurities.
What are the significant things that you feel have made your sound appreciated?
I can’t say for sure, no one ever does. But I will tell you what I think. I never write my music to sound high end. What I mean is, I never try to “write”. I usually just end up recording the first thing I think of. The songs are usually very conversational. You’ll most likely hear something you recently said or thought about. And even if you don’t, you will wish you said it or thought of it first. OR I might be wrong and I’m just a 21st-century genius (laughs).
What has been your main inspiration for your music?
I consider myself a storyteller. I love to tell stories. Discovering music and matching that with my love for stories is a match made in heaven. It never works for me. I enjoy every second, producing, engineering and narrating my stories.
What is Kemena’s ultimate goal?
I have already achieved it! I create music, I have a fan base. At best, the fan base could only get bigger. Nothing is greater for an artist than having super fans who appreciate their music. Their life is made a little better because my music exists. They realise it and ardently follow waiting for record after record and album after album; and I’m working super hard, pushing myself beyond my physical limits, crossing every obstacle to make the world a better place, one record at a time.