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Fola Sheva: 'My biggest dream is to show vulnerability'

MUSIC WITH A MESSAGE: Fola Sheva’s debut album When The World Turns Story has a strong focus on storytelling, although the musician also likes to add to his narratives with interesting videos

FOLARIN AYENI, popularly known as Fola Sheva, is a storyteller. He makes music that’s all about personal experiences; whether it be his own story, or someone else’s. It’s always a story.

Take his most recent offering – his first studio album, When The World Turns Story. He explains that each track within it is someone’s story.

He says: “Every single person has a story. So, on my album each individual track details a story – from a first-person point of view, second person point of view and so on. It’s all themed around stories.”

While most of his music is sourced from within, he also lives vicariously off other people.

He tells me that an experience doesn’t necessarily have to be his own for him to be able to embody that story. He tells Life & Style: “For example, if you’re talking about the pain behind the horrific act of rape. I haven’t been raped nor raped anyone, but if someone I know goes through that pain, I feel it too, and it becomes my experience just as much as it is theirs.”

Sheva goes on to talk about how he paints his own narrative with his music.

His music will always come with a message. And that’s where he believes he stands out from the rest.

He believes there’s nothing wrong with a good up-tempo song, even if it’s one without much meaning, but he personally has a way he wants to project his work.

Speaking about interpretations within the art of music, he explains that his music videos often tell a different story than his lyrics.

“The good thing about music is that the audio gives you one image, and the visuals can give an entirely different idea than what you imagined while listening to the track.

“Sometimes, the visuals act as an aid to the music. Things you didn’t understand about the song become clearer once you see the video.”

Take his latest single Breathe, for example, a track that’s all about love. He says: “We all love love, don’t we?

“So, the track is all about love, about getting her attention, about expressing feelings for each other.

“As for the video, we had a concept, of wanting a cool feeling instead of a warm feeling.

“So, you see a lot of cool tones like blue. You see me, and the artist being featured, but the video is centred around a girl.

“But even still when it comes to any sort of artform, I try to leave it open to people’s interpretations.”

Moving on to musical style, he explains that his music would lean toward being described as R’n’B and hip-hop.

But it’s not typical of these styles, he explains.

“I like writing hooks and verses. I like rapping. But my biggest dream as far as music is concerned is to show vulnerability.

“For me, it’s always being honest. Whether someone can relate to it or not, it’s about a listener saying, ‘Oh yes, this makes sense’.”

Another thing he hopes for from his listeners is that they listen to whatever he says, whatever he represents – whether that be his lyrics, his stories and even his flaws.

“It’s alright to make mistakes. To be yourself. I want people to know that,” he says.

When it comes to music, Sheva does not want to do what everyone else is doing. Hailing from Nigeria where Afrobeats is the main genre of music, he wants to remain different from the pack.

Asked if he has taken influence from his Nigerian origin, he says he’s still in the process of discovering his influences.

“I was born in Nigeria but spent a lot of time in UK, so I’ve been impacted a variety of sounds and styles. But really it shouldn’t matter where you’re from. Music is just music, even if you don’t understand the language it’s sung in.”

Talking about is inspirations, he listed Dido and Coldplay among his biggest influences. Insofar as a personal role model, his mum takes that title.

He says: “A single mum, hustling and bustling, just being a great support system.”

Sheva, a lawyer by profession, found that when he wanted to follow his dreams of making music, his mother stood with him, and for that she remains his biggest inspiration.

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