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Zimbabwe-Born/UK Folkstress Eska 'Gatekeeper' EP + Interview

Listen to 'Gatekeeper,' the debut EP from Zimbabwe-born/UK soulstress Eska.


Zimbabwe-born/UK-based folkstress Eska makes her solo debut on the rickety-soul, string-pulling Gatekeeper EP. On her welcoming letter to spiritual ears the Gilles Peterson favorite joins forces with co-producer Dave OkumuThe Invisible frontman who has worked with the likes of UK royalty of song Jessie Ware, V.V. Brown, and Anna Calvi. We spoke to Eska about her Zim roots, choice of hatwear, dream music vid settings, and more. Listen to the full EP (out now via Earthling Recordings) below and read on to get to know the new first lady of barn-yard soul.

Gatekeeper is out now via digital release, CD, and vinyl.

OKA: Where were you born and where did you grow up? Was there much of a diasporic community in your part of London?

Eska: I was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and arrived in London when I was still a baby. SE London didn't have any notable diasporic community. I didn't meet someone my age who had grown up with a similar cultural experience until I was 20 years old.

OKA: What did you grow up listening to?

Eska: My dad played vinyl records, mainly on Sunday afternoons. We were raised on everything from Ahmed Jamal to Phil Collins to Madonna to Oscar Peterson. It was eclectic and exciting so we never became philistines about music, growing up to appreciate everything- in time.

OKA: Have you been back to Zim? Any stories you'd like to share?

Eska: I've visited my birth country only a handful of times. On the last one, we managed to road-trip, visiting some of the great lakes and the falls with my grandmother. It was an incredibly significant journey, being the first Zimbabwe experience for my sister-in-law and the last road-trip that my grandmother was to ever make.

OKA: Three important albums in your life?

Eska: Right now, in my current mood I'd cite Hamza El Din's Al Oud, Quincy Jones' Sounds & Stuff Like That and Joni Mitchell's Court & Spark.

OKA: Where was the Gatekeeper cover photo taken?

Eska: Ah! That would be telling. It's as beautiful as it photographs but you wouldn't possibly imagine where it's located. A very local, magical space near where I live in Peckham Rye.

OKA: Any plans to play Zim/on the continent?

Eska: Well, HIFA Festival is on my radar for next year– I hope they'll invite me.

OKA: Dream space to play Gatekeeper? We saw that you've already experimented with a barn and that was incredible.

Eska: Whilst I never got round to doing a video for "Gatekeeper," the live Barn Sessions filmed at In The Woods would be a tricky 'happening' to beat as it's a near-perfect representation of my song. However, my fantasy "Gatekeeper" video would probably involve journeying on the London tube. At some point the commuters would all break out in to a dance routine.

OKA: Where do you get your hats?

Eska: For great headwear, I'd start with Jodie Cartman.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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