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IkStarr: Without artistic integrity, you have no legacy

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Nigerian-British singer and music producer, Bennie Ike Opene aka IKSTARR (Iyke Star) is one artiste whose music has club and dance influences with a very melodic and sometimes rapid-fire rap delivery.

His lyrics are poetic and often romantic with sharp production and beats that keep partygoers happy and groovy on the dance floor. He recently came through with a new album; the second to his credit titled Afro Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (AFRO A.S.M.R), which may also be considered a new music genre.

The album, according to him, is a fancy way of referring to the goose bumps and feeling of euphoria you get when you listen to the African vibe and flavour.

“It is a labour of love for the fans,” IkeStarr said.

His first work titled Club, an extended play (EP) released in January 2010, received significant mention in the media. He followed with the release of a free mixtape titled Sychrnicity on the popular DatPiff.com platform, as part of promotion for his sophomore album.

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Recounting his sojourn into his music and how far he has come, IkeStarr who is also called Bennie said, “My interest started from the womb, my great-great grandmother was Omu Okwei, the Okwei of Osomari; she lived between 1872 – 1943. As queen merchant and from all accounts, she was a very musical and artistic woman in addition to being a trendsetter for women liberation at the time. So my interest in music and creativity is almost genetic and inherent.

“Growing up, my dad had a phenomenal record collection. I listened to every kind of music, from Tupac to Led Zeppelin, Fela Kuti, Mongolian throat singing. I would say though that my major influences are Afrocentric.”

“In terms of how far I have come, I would say I’m only beginning. Seeing a crowd of Europeans sing along a song written in pidgin word for word and seeing my work cut across race, gender and creed is a worthy accomplishment for any artiste,” he added.

Describing his style as truth music, the entertainer said, “Music is the most sacred thing and this is what separates us from the beasts of the field. I am definitely political and I would like to think spiritual, and this reflects in the music.

“My music is often melodic; it is Afrobeat influenced with an edgy urbanesque songwriting aesthetic that also emphasizes my love for Afrobeat, highlife and hip-hop. It’s a music that respects women, empowers men and lifts the mood of the listener.”

He continued: “I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and acquired a certain type of cultural software from that environment, living in Europe and subsequently travelling round the world has helped my music find a universal voice, so you will find a lot of influences in my music from retro 90s hip-hop and R & B to uber modern dance, pop, soul, jazz, afrobeat and classical music.”

On the acceptance of his music by the audience, the London based hip-hop/dance artiste with an international appeal said: “it’s all about the energy in the music; you know the vibe. People want to feel something real preferably. People recognise and demand quality, and that’s what I concentrate on in my music and creative output.”

Commenting on the kind of emotion his musical expression evokes, the singer said: “I am a big lover of Nigeria, Africa and by extension the whole of humanity. I am a romantic and a humanist in that regards and believes in the perfect potential of good in people. Hopefully, my work, whether in music, film, politics or otherwise contributes to this expression of goodwill.”

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Some of his musical influences include late Abami eda (weird one) Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Mozart, Michael Jackson, Wizkid, Davido, Ludovico and others.

On the challenges faced by music artistes in the industry today, he said, “the big one is pressure from certain corners of society to conform their art or sacrifice their conscience and integrity to a specific narrative. This is what ‘selling your soul’ means. Maintaining artistic integrity is the biggest challenge. Without artistic integrity you have no legacy as a creative. The more mundane challenges may include improving your craft and financing your campaigns,” he said.

Speaking on COVID-19 pandemic, the singer said the global crisis has forced artistes to look inwards and come up with fresh ideas and monetisation models for creative output

“Like I said in an interview, COVID-19 has taken money from the pocket of many artistes due to lack of shows and events, but we’ll bounce back with greater ideas and content once the tide turns.”

What should your fans expect from you, any exciting project coming up?

“We are working on new music, a feature film and a reality show format. My second album AFRO A.S.M.R is out now on all platforms. So if you love great music support it. We are also looking to release new music videos to support the album. The music video for the lead single Willemina is also currently enjoying airplay.

“As a creative, I’m interested in investing back into Africa. So in addition to the music we are launching something really big to the Nigerian market early next year. Watch this space.”

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