Nigerian-Canadian singer-songwriter Falana was raised in Brampton, Canada, where she developed an interest in music at quite an early age. Although she describes her parents as “non-musical”, they introduced her to the sounds of Fela Kuti, and King Sunny Adé. Noting pop’s prevalence at the time, she recalls writing love songs in the “traditional pop” style she often heard on the radio. However, it was an influence from Lauryn Hill’s music that began to define her songwriting style. As she went through high school, her musical tastes expanded to Sade, Maxwell, Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu were added to her playlists alongside Nina Simone, Etta James, and Duke Ellington. While still in the process of exploring her artistic voice, Falana decided to travel to Havana, Cuba where she would spend a year, performing, developing and eventually recording her debut EP ‘Things Fall Together’. She credits her time in Cuba for leading her to hone a sound that she calls “Soul Fusion”, her very own blend of jazz, soul, Afrobeat, and R&B.
It’s interesting that despite an upbringing in Canada, you’ve remained true to your Yoruba, Nigerian roots. Please tell me how you came about your stage name Falana?
Falana is part of my actual name. It is my father’s name. I suppose using my own name felt more natural than just inventing a stage name.
The first edition of your concert series ‘Falana Uncovered’, took place in June, with the second on July 30 at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos. How successful has this initiative been so far in meeting your expectations, and how well received is your music here in Nigeria?
The fact that I am headlining my own concerts, and filling up every space we ‘pop-up’ in means it’s definitely a success. The feedback has been great so far. I am mostly excited about just having a platform to perform, share new music, and meet new people. I also get to curate the experience from start to finish, the vibe, the energy, the set.
For how long do you plan to keep up these monthly concerts across Lagos, and how sustainable are they in terms of finance?
When we announced the pop-up concert series, we mentioned that it would take place once a month from June through to September. That is still the intention. So after August, September will be the final show. Sustainability is all about tapping into your resources, being creative within your means, and taking risks; I believe we have done all of that.
Are there plans to extend them across Nigeria and Africa in building your fan base and promoting your style of music?
That is definitely something I have thought about! Live performance is the most amazing way to connect with your fans. So we will see what happens after September!
Does this mean a gradual relocation for you to Nigeria?
I am in Lagos now. When I lived in Havana, Havana was home. When I was growing up in Canada, Canada was home. Most of the artists I admire let their art lead them, and soon they find home in many places because every place influenced who they were in some way.
What is it about Lauryn Hill and Fela Kuti that inspire you?
Wow, well, Lauryn Hill was my first real artistic influence. She is the first artist that I fully and intentionally digested! Lauryn inspires me to be attentive and honest in my music. Fela introduced me to what it means to be bold, authentic, have fire, have attitude, be distinct and be inspiring in your music all at the same time.
What message are you trying to pass across in your music?
I don’t think I should limit the messages or stories that I want to tell. As an artist, I am going to evolve, and so the stories I tell, and the messages my music carries will evolve as well.
Are you a trained musician, and how has your educational background impacted on your sound?
I am self-taught mostly. I took piano lessons for 3 years as a child, and then had to stop. I revisited studying piano while living in Havana. I played in a bucket-drumming ensemble as a child (laughs), and always explored different kinds of percussion. I never studied music in a formal setting though.
What’s next for Falana in the near future?
I am super excited to be working on putting together my album! So I am looking forward to releasing that.