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Tiki Black

Tiki Black

Her profound lyrics and beautiful vocal and piano arrangements are quickly garnering this singer-songwriter global respect, as her debut single 'Listen' soars up the charts.

It is a paradox that fragility, pain, fear and struggle are, in fact, the greatest fuel an artist can have. Few demonstrate this knowledge more than Tiki Black, a singer-songwriter who was raised in France and Cameroon and currently lives in Manchester, England. Her passion for words and music sustained her during challenging teenage years when family hardship forced her to become self-reliant. Her songs reflect her many and varied experiences and her multicultural influences. Tiki crafts profound lyrics with beautiful piano arrangements, to produce a captivating, rich sound. Audiences are taking notice. Her debut single 'Listen', a ballad written and delivered in the style of an African storyteller, has vaulted up the national and international radio charts. Tiki is now finalizing shows in the UK, Europe and North America to promote her debut album ‘Out of the Black’. Reporter Brandon Scott caught up with Tiki recently to learn more about this extraordinary artist and her plans for the future:

BRANDON: When did you first discover your love of music?
TIKI: I keep on falling in love with music and each time it feels like it is THE first time. I felt so when my gran sang, when I met two of my favourite musicians ever, when my mum explained song lyrics to me, the first time I touched a piano, the first time I heard Chopin, the first time I played Chopin, when I wrote and performed my first song, when I hear a new piece... I just can't quite remember when it all started... or if it truly has started at all.

BRANDON: Your song 'Listen' has been a big hit on radio for its third straight month.  What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
TIKI: The only way I have been able to deal with it has been to distance who I am, a regular music fan, from the music I hear, that of Tiki Black. Since my stage name is different from my every day name, it is tremendously easier. It is a lot more difficult when someone tries to tie the two. I don't really allow myself to truly realise or understand what it means. I feel that it keeps me 'sane'.

BRANDON: The lyrics for the song 'Listen' are very poetic.  What was the inspiration behind this song?
TIKI: The African storyteller, the griot, tells his people stories that remind them of their heritage (values, beliefs and where they come from), their legacy (their contribution to life through children and work) to remind them of who they are (as individuals and as a community) and what they can do (their power). He/she starts this with words like 'hear hear' or 'Listen'. He/she is the voice within, set in poetic and melodic style. It is a lot of what I wanted to emulate, this time, speaking to my people, the human race. 

BRANDON: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'Listen'?
TIKI: There are some commonalities with the other tracks on the album from which 'Listen' is extracted since the whole album has the same theme, carried mainly by piano and voice. However, each song expresses different aspects of the theme and carries its own individual touch, be it musically (through its own instrumentation), lyrically or stylistically. The mood will change, I suppose, on another album to match the theme and my own personal evolution.

BRANDON: How would you characterize yourself as a musician? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
TIKI: I suppose I would characterize myself as a bit of a researcher (or is it seeker?). I am constantly looking for the note and lyric that expresses the human mind. In addition, I constantly question everything I know, so sounds always feel new because I keep on hearing or expressing them from a new perspective. So nothing is really set and everything is still to be discovered or rediscovered. 

BRANDON: Did you come from a musical background?  Are there other musicians in your family?
TIKI: I did the whole going to church and being in choirs thing as I was growing up. I met quite a few musicians in the meantime because one of my uncles was a producer, but the exposure was never a voluntary one, quite the opposite. The only exception was when my mother consciously introduced me to two well-known musicians because of how much she knew I loved their music. There are some musicians in my family but my immediate family, as I was growing up, would not readily consider music as a 'proper' career/job.

BRANDON: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
TIKI: What is most challenging about being a musician is also what is most rewarding about it and vice-versa. For me, it is having the opportunity and luxury to weave your pain around a melodic, to unleash the magic and strength of humanity in creating out of the apparent mud of life (fragility, pain, fears and struggles) the beauty of art and the power of its expression. That alchemy is what life is to me and I am extremely grateful to have eventually realised that music was my means to experience and express that. I am also grateful when I can partake in printing that art in the tapestry of time.

BRANDON: Who are your role models in music?
TIKI: I have a soft spot for Dolly Parton and Nina Simone because of their musical sensitivity and true 'soul' music. I also love the ambassadors of social truths like Georges Brassens, Eboa Lotin and more recently Karine Polwart. I really admire Manu Dibango because he is a musical genius. Finally, I would love to live in Chopin's head to understand how one can capture the most complex emotion in the simplest chord change.

BRANDON: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
TIKI: For me, the most important thing is to stay true to oneself. Music is not just a job, it is a way of life. Know what you want and work with passion to achieve it.

BRANDON: What's next for Tiki Black?  Is there a new single in the works?  If so, what can you tell us about it?
TIKI: I am currently recording a new version of one of the album's tracks ‘Free Like Smoke’ with a really talented artist. This single will celebrate ‘One Year Out of the Black’ as it will be a year since the release of my debut album ‘Out of the Black’ from which 'Listen' is extracted. I have also started writing my next LP and am currently finalising the first single. This track will set the theme and ambiance of this second album and I am hoping to release the single in a few months.

BRANDON: I look forward to hearing it! Thanks for taking time out to share your story. I wish you continued success and good luck!

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