ExpaCreates is a multi-depiction of UK-based Creatives of African Descent under the Connect South/UK Project by the British Council.
Through a series of portraits and interviews, Zimbabwean Creative Stephanie Kapfunde and UK-based Artist Ubuntugraphy teamed up to highlight the fluidity of identity and how it can be traced through Creative Expression. ExpaCreates is a juxtaposition of British values and opinions with African Heritage, illustrated in Visual, Spoken or Performed Arts.
This is a story of how heritage and identity influence creative identities and expression.
Central London was abuzz, it was just after 5 PM, people were streaming from offices, down into the Underground. They littered into sidewalk cafes, pubs, and bars. Maryam emerged from the crowd, towering and wearing an unlikely yet well-suited pair, a body-hugging sequined dress and a pair of trainers. It looked quite chic I thought to myself as she gave me a bow-hug of greeting in a strong cockney accent. Strolling down high-street stores we found a perfect little-cobbled alley to have our chat.
Listening to Maryam’s music, it’s not difficult to trace her Nigerian influence/heritage; Electronic in nature with deep soothing vocals over Blues instrumental and of course hints of Afrobeat the connection is quite clear. Maryam’s Nigerian-born mother in pursuit of brighter days moved to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, as a result, Maryam’s upbringing was based in South East London. It was her who sparked Maryam’s first love for music
“she was the initial flame that sparked my passion for music”, said Maryam with a smile.
Growing up in a home that was rich in culture stirred the Creative within Maryam, who fell for the power of Music’s ability to stir emotion or relate to imagery through film scores and old records.
I WAS EXPOSED TO THE ECLECTIC MIX OF GENRES MY MOTHER LISTENED TO…THESE ARE THE SOUNDS THAT INFLUENCE MY MUSIC
Maryam attributes the connection to the music she grew up listening to,
“our house was an ambient environment that always had music playing in the background, from 70’s British Soul to Afro-jazz… I was exposed to the eclectic mix of genres my mother listened to…these are the sounds that influence my music”, she highlighted.
In her latest project ‘Lightlife’, there are distinct airy, sexy, breathy vocals over familiar Brit-Pop Electronic sound reminiscent of a Fela Kuti and Kylie Minogue cocktail with a whole lot of soul!
“In ‘Lightlife’ I play with 70’s and 80’s style electronic synths and warm ambient pads/strings, every track has elements of nostalgia travelling through decades of musical influence but also channelling sounds from back home in Nigeria,” Maryam said.
Referring to her lyrical inclinations, Maryam draws up her childhood and life experiences, as holstered in the contents of her Music,
“I write tales of growing up without a father, love, falling for the wrong guys and being a tall black curvy woman”.
Although Maryam admits that her sound is an amalgamation of the influence of the music she listened to growing up, she strongly identifies as a British Creative.
“Being British is all I know, and all I’ve been, it’s who I am,” she concluded defiantly.