As you may have seen in our last announcement, the first NYJO-Trinity Laban Award in support of a talented young musician studying on the conservatoire’s Jazz degree programme has been awarded to South London’s David Ijishakin aka Akin Soul.
We sat down (virtually) with David to get to know him a bit better and get his thoughts on the award, his music, and life at large!
Hi David, how does it feel to start a new year?
Though 2020 had felt like what I may call a catastrophic terror, I feel upon the entry of this new year, a chance to try my best and still walk the path of my life with the new circumstances. However, this is still tough and an ongoing struggle for me, especially not being able to play gigs and be inspired by live music, and play in ensembles and orchestras. I almost forgot some of my joys of music yesterday and I had to remind myself that the new circumstances have not necessarily allowed to fuel my inspiration as heavily as before, so it makes sense for me to feel slightly less inspired at times. As I’m trying to still live through this tough time, I’m using the chance to still release music and write songs, which is what is keeping me going.
You are the very first recipient of the NYJO-Trinity Laban Award designed to support new voices like yours. How did it feel to hear the news?
I feel quite happy and thankful to be the first receiver of this award. I’m aware that not everybody will get this award, so for me to be that person who was chosen feels like I have been given one of my most kindest gestures – and for that I am grateful.
You are a multi-instrumentalist in the truest sense of the word: trombone, keyboard, guitar, as well as singing and song-writing. Why do you think it helps to have multiple tools for musical expression?
I feel like playing different instruments allows you to open up your understanding of music as a whole. Usually, when we listen to songs we are listening to more than one instrument. Sometimes, if we don’t understand a specific instrument, it’s easy to ignore that part of the music due to a lack of understanding; so playing different instruments is cool because it allows you to hear more and appreciate more. Furthermore, the skills and thought processes start to become transferable, as music is a separate entity from the various instruments which we can play. Therefore, we can learn different concepts from different instruments and take them to another, such as singing a riff and playing it on trombone; or playing a specific chord on piano and finding that same quality of harmony on guitar.
Akin Soul, your stage name – tell us about it...
I got the first part of my stage name, “Akin” from my surname, Ijishakin, from the Nigerian ‘Ondo State’. I felt to take on my second name as Soul. I sing my music from the deep roots of my soul. I do feel truly exposed and entranced whilst singing and so you’d be listening to Akin’s soul when listening to me, but also Akin Soul!
What is your earliest musical memory?
My earliest music memory, though it has become much of a misty and vague one, I can still sense that it had been very real to me. I was in America, in the back of a car, singing a song that gave me chills and it felt ever so beautiful. This ability to see the beauty in music has driven my inspiration and influenced my music journey in that I finally made my first performance as part of Southwark’s scheme “All About The Band” at Canada Water Library when I was 12. I was now suddenly in love with the performance element of music and have gone out to do a plethora of shows since, eventually creating my 12 piece band 3 years ago “Akin Soul and The Soul Tribe”. This program [All About The Band], 7 years ago, introduced me to key mentors that have been the foundation to my artistic and technical growth ever since, and are still my ongoing mentors. Some people I must give gratitude to are: Steve Holmes, Marcia Escoffery, Jack Kelly, Jo Fitzmaurice and Denise Barber, though there were many to help on the way…
Trinity Laban has become a hothouse for musical excellence, particularly for those within the contemporary London jazz scene. What does it mean to you to study there?
I feel that Trinity Laban is a community and it’s inspiring to see so many players who have attended Trinity Laban in the past to be doing so well in their careers. Even for my fellow friends who I study with, I’m enjoying the experience of learning from them and even watching them do big things for themselves in their careers. Check out Kemani from Secret Night Gang for example!
Last year felt like a roller-coaster. From a global pandemic that locked most of the world inside, to an international racial justice movement which saw many young people take to the streets in protest. What are your thoughts on the BLM movement?
I feel that the Black Lives Matter movement was a wake up call to a lot of people. Till this day, we still experience racial injustice and subconscious prejudice. If we all approach the world with a more open mind and allow ourselves to constantly learn to better ourselves with mindfulness, the world would be a better place.
What are your plans for the new year?
I plan to release a few songs, leading up to an EP/album. I have many songs I’m currently working on with various producers. I have a few online shows lined up, one that Eliza asked me to do which is also exciting. I also – whilst going about my career – have plans to grow in my musicianship whilst being at Trinity Laban. I really feel that my growth in musicianship works hand in hand with my career, where I write songs and play music in ways I had not done in earlier stages of my musicianship.
This has been great! Before we wrap things up, we’d like to get your Desert Island Discs. You know the drill: eight tracks, a book, and a luxury – go!
My eight Tracks would be, in no particular order:
Here’s To Life – Shirley Horn, The Meaning of Love – Steve Kuhn, The Shadow Of Your Smile – Stevie Wonder, Tenderly – Sarah Vaughn, Skating In Central Park – Bill Evans & Jim Hall, Me & Mr Jones – Amy Winehouse, Breathe – Lalah Hathaway and Come Get This by Marvin Gaye.
Book: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Luxury: a grand piano. Imagine playing a grand piano on a desert island, near the sea and sand. I kind of feel as if I’d be content with life on this island having these items, so please feel free to take me to a desert island and pack these items with me!
He took it well, but unfortunately we had to inform David that the budget doesn’t quite extend to providing trips to desert islands with their own grand pianos. (We’d quite like him to stay here and make some more music to be honest.)
We hope you’ll join us in congratulating David for winning the NYJO-Trinity Laban Award this year. We’ll be keeping a close eye on what should be the start of a really inspiring musical journey, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated along the way!