19 mai. 2022THE VISIBLES | OKE: THE NEXT SHINING STAR
THE VISIBLES is a series of interviews and articles with a focus on underrepresented creatives and artists in Luxembourg’s art scene.
Oke is a Nigerian pop dance singer with millions of streams on Spotify. The Lagos native who started singing in school musicals is now making waves with the next generation. He recently opened the Europe Day ceremony in front of thousands of international school students and put together a show with a primary school in Ettelbruck for the kids. He will also be performing at the Culture Forest Festival on the 28th of May.
Could you share a fun fact about yourself?
My name is Khalid and my surname is actually Oke, but because there’s already a well known artist name Khalid I decided to call myself Oke as it is a word that is often pronounced by people here in Luxembourg anyway! I am an independent artist with a booking agency Konektis Entertainment and I work with different labels outside of Luxembourg. I also am doing a Bachelor’s in social sciences and education. My manager Jonathan Reichling discovered me a few years ago and we’ve been working together ever since. I’m really into the pop dance genre, the image I wish to reflect is the one of the boy next door, very simple and relatable. I want to be as universal as possible, for everyone to see me exactly as I am.
How did you find your manager?
He actually found me! My bestie at the time knew a Luxembourgish artist who needed male singer to finish her album so she gave her my contact. I got a call during a track competition, she asked me to be part of her music video and after I sang her team was really impressed. Jonathan wanted to give me a shot right away but I didn’t take him seriously at first because I was younger and also very shy. But after the release of my first song things started getting more serious and I saw that it was real, that him and the team really believed in my talent. Every song released has a back story, the numbers are equivalent to the efforts made most of the time. Soleil is my first hit, the song that opened many doors for me. Other singers and producers started reaching out to me on Instagram for collaborations.
© Lee Dos Reis
Has music always been a big part of your life?
For sure. My parents are from Nigeria so music has always been part of me, especially within a religious context. I used to perform a lot in school and sing at church with my grandma. Singing in these two very different environments gave me that balance between fun but also taking my talent and my words seriously. I remember how one day my cousins insisted I should sing in front of the entire church, so they pushed me to the front and I had no choice but to prove myself although I was so nervous. I started singing alongside the drummer and I will never forget how everyone stood up. That was probably the moment I realised I could sing and make other people happy. Before that, me and one of my cousins would mimic famous people sing for fun and dance in front of mirror.
What were your music influences?
I’m a 90s baby so definitely Brandy, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Usher, Akon etc…My aunties used to play Rnb songs on repeat. I am also a huge fan of Celine Dion, her song Alive will forever be one of my favorites. These musical influences are one of the highlights of my childhood memories.
When you arrived in Luxembourg, did you manage to pursue music one way or another?
Yes, I was very involved with musicals and shows with the school. I did the opening song of the Lion King, I sang Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Amazing Grace, Summer Loving by Queen for example. I always challenge myself through my vocal performances, I did have some total blackouts in the past but it made me stronger, it made me who I am today and that’s why I am ready to face anything now. I will never forget this lady who kept going to every single of my show since I was a little boy and told me at some point that I was ready for more.
© Lee Dos Reis
You’ve collaborated with so many different artists in a short amount of time, how do you choose the people you work with?
At the beginning it was usually them who found me. I still can’t believe to this day how effortless the process was. As an artist you have to realise that when you release a song, whether you’re conscious of it or not, people are watching you, people are listening to you. So whatever you do you need to give 100% in everything you do, being a beginner is not an excuse to rush things. I had a lot of hits but they are not on Spotify so at some point I decided to make my own sound. I first released Soleil then Sunshine in My Face and shortly after people reached out to me on social media. It seems simple but I had to work hard for it, produce results so others can see me and be curious about my work. I’m very grateful for the past collaborations and now I’m looking forward creating even more special songs in future collaborations.
The pop dance genre is very catchy and your music has a lot of positive energy, does it reflect who you are as a person?
I had to prioritise others before myself a lot when I was younger. Despite my personal struggles I’ve always been resilient and never let anything ruin the present moment for me. I try to bring out positive energy whenever it’s needed. Sometimes I need to get away from music in order to recharge. Sport helps a lot with that, as I used to be big about track back in the day. If I don’t go running for a week or two it’s chaos. It’s a part of me since Nigeria, I can’t really explain it. I also like to watch movies, go out with friends and travel to get out of my comfort zone from time to time so I can come back better. My energy comes from people, so you can imagine how frustrating the pandemic was for me. Staying indoors and having to spend time alone was the biggest punishment I ever had, it drove me nuts! To keep my sanity I ran everyday and because of that I was at my strongest, I have never been this fit in my entire life. This time of reflection also taught me to shift my energy, it was a big lesson.
© Lee Dos Reis
What is the inspiration behind your songs?
I would say that my songs have a very cool vibe but you need to pay attention to the lyrics. I use a lot of key words to express myself. In future projects my goal is to show people Africa’s history and culture. People are either very ignorant or they don’t know who they are, or both. It’s vital to learn and be respectful of other communities, to realise how relatable we all actually are. Knowledge is power!
I experienced a lot of racial discrimination in school, students made me feel horrible and teachers never spoke in my defense. I had to work harder to prove myself because of the colour of my skin. The only things that kept me going were music and the few amazing friends I made, the most genuine people I’ve met who I can count on and who saw my humanity before my skin colour. I pray that the Luxembourgish school system gets better. That is why I study social sciences and education, my goal is to go to schools and do workshops and lectures, share my story and raise awareness about and for black students. The integration is difficult; everyone deserves a chance to be better so they will not give up too early. I was told I couldn’t go to the Classique, but school is supposed to tell me I can do anything. I thank God for my resilience, because I learned languages faster than they expected, I did succeed and I’m very proud of that. Life has its challenges but the key is to persist no matter what. A “no” should always be a reason to prove anyone wrong.
What are your thoughts about Luxembourg’s music scene?
It is very unique. I think there is still progress to be made, I am looking forward seeing more opportunities given to black artists and for us to collaborate and uplift each other more! I’m very grateful for my journey so far. I feel Nigerian, I feel Luxembourgish and I wish to express this cultural mix in my future projects.