Iko Akoh is not only a talented singer-songwriter with deep, beautiful vocal tones, but he is also a promoter of London’s intimate gig scene, a tireless champion of talent and a very welcome visionary. Mr Akoh, please introduce yourself. We’d love to know more…
I . Am. Batman. Let me explain, I am a Business analyst by day (Bruce Wayne) and a Singer-Songwriter, Promoter, Podcaster by night/weekends (Batman).
I have been singing for as long as I can remember. I grew up listening to the likes of Lauryn Hill, Lighthouse Family, DC Talk, Delirious, Oasis, Erykah Badu and so on. My dad had a big influence on my listening tastes in that he introduced me to Bob Marley (and many other Reggae acts besides) and Michael Jackson. I would say I have a fairly eclectic taste in music but Soul/R&B is my preference.
I learnt to play the guitar in my mid-teens but didn’t become a songwriter till my early 20s. I was just strumming one day and a couple of songs emerged somewhat spontaneously – I was hooked. Some time after this I stepped out onto the open mic / gigging circuit, I dubbed myself ‘Ikoustic’ because my name is Iko and I play the acoustic guitar. People seemed to like the name! 🙂 However, I struggled with the experience of playing in places where people weren’t really paying attention to the musicians so I started my own music night. I wanted to create a space where authentic, original artists could share their music with people who love music and are ready to listen closely. I called it Up Close & Personal for this reason.
I am deeply passionate about intimate live music events generally, there is something special about bringing performers and listeners so much closer together. For a time I was organising weekly live music events at The Living Room Cafe (in Soho) on behalf of my church, City Gates. I met some great people in that ministry, like yourself! 😉
A friend of mine, Richard Lalchan, approached me, in 2013, about starting a music podcast with him. I was mad keen to do this as I had been thinking about what more I could do to support and encourage these fantastic artists who had lent their time and talents to my events. We called it Reverb* and in this forum we have been discussing various aspects of the London music scene, matters relating to independent artists and also playing sumptuous songs by artists that have performed at my shows in the past (Hanna Willow, NADINE, Matshidiso, My Northern Sky, Kat Deal and Light Falls Forward so far).
Of all that you spend your time doing, is there one area you love engaging with the most? Why?
Hosting live music nights and fostering a community spirit around music (particularly Up Close & Personal) I love music! I really enjoy listening to good authentic musicians live; when I am really moved I can’t stop myself from joining in – there are a few videos on the Up Close & Personal page where you’ll hear me humming along, LOL! Part of the joy is sharing that experience with other people, introducing them to really talented independent artists and also giving the artists an environment in which their craft is fully appreciated. It seems there are not so many places where artists are really listened to…
If you were to paint a picture of your vision for the music scene (and the arts in general), in London and beyond, what would it look like?
- Celebrating real artistry as opposed to popularity
- Encouraging artists to take risks and develop their gifts
- Supporting independent artists more enthusiastically (more paid gigs, more people purchasing their music, more individuals/organisation acting as patrons independent artists)
- Artists collaborating and celebrating each other (more)
- Opening up a way for talented independent artists to follow their dreams/vision without having to compromise their artistry in order to attain ‘success’, retaining full control of their creations
In living out your passion for music and community, what has been your biggest challenge to date? (How have you dealt with/overcome this?)
Finding time to do everything, do it well and not burn out!
Spread the workload; Rest; Get away every now and then; Prioritise; ENJOY what you do
What and who inspires you?
My faith (I’m a Christian). I believe that my abilities and passion for music (and the arts generally) are from God. We’re doing this together, 🙂
From all the ups and downs you’ve experienced on your journey, what would you say to others who carry hopes and dreams?
Go for it. Take ownership of your dream. Don’t be afraid to do something no-one else is doing. Find good partners / collaborators. Understand the WHY as much as the WHAT or the HOW.
You’ve come across a wide range of artists over the years, could you share 3 who you think we need to go and find out more about?
Really?! Just 3? Hmmm…
Matshidiso (www.youtube.com/matshidisomusic )