From Barcelona to London, and going from being afraid of performing in front of crowds, to enjoy singing in auditoriums made for performing in front of thousands of people. Bikôkô, singer Neï Lydia’s solo musical project, is the result of her life experiences and the beginning of a new chapter in her career, over which she has complete control. Being under 20 years old has not prevented her from being part of Cutemobb, the initiative devised by Leïti Sene in collaboration with several artists, which she refers to as a fundamental pillar in the creation on her first solo album, Aura Aura. "I am very happy to be a part of it since it is the reason why I have been able to complete my EP," she says referring to her new project, which comes out today.
"I made this EP for myself only," adds Bikôkô, admitting at the same time to have found herself fully represented as an artist in her music for the first time. Her first solo album, Aura Aura, invites us to follow her in her day-to-day life, from when she gets up until she goes to sleep, on an intimate, personal and deep journey. Self-produced, this album has witnessed ups and downs marked by loneliness and frustration, but also by joy and optimism. The result, in which African sounds and enveloping melodies make an appearance, promises to be the first success of many for the promising young singer.
Let's start by the beginning. Who is Bikôkô and how would you define your relationship with music?
If we get technical, Bikôkô is my dad, because that is the last name my grandfather assigned to him. But since it was passed on to me as well, I have decided to use it as a name that encompasses my creative side. My relationship with music has changed very much over the years. I have gone from being scared to sing in front of anybody, to wanting to go to the X-Factor. And I have finally ended up wanting to pursue a career in music, and to ultimately excel in all the fields that I have decided to specialise in: vocals, piano and djembe.
You have said before that you find 'absolute freedom' in music. An area where there is no place for restrictions nor daily duties, over which you claim to have absolute control. When and in what way did your first approach take place? Has it been an important part of your life since you were a child?
I remember the first time music made an impact on me. I don’t know how old I was exactly, but I recall being in my room singing and making up songs with my dad. We used to do that often, but this time he accompanied our improvised singing with a guitar. As a kid, I didn’t understand how he knew what chords to play without rehearsing anything, how he knew what would sound good and what wouldn’t. And I remember being struck by that and thinking to myself that I also wanted to know how to do that. That is, I believe when my relationship with music started. So yes, I have been in touch with it during the whole of my childhood.
It’s a very cool initiative devised by Leïti and brought to life with the support of our incredible management team. It’s an artist collective based in Barcelona that aims to bring together artists from different fields and provide them with the resources they need to create new individual and collaborative projects. I am very happy to be a part of it since it is the reason why I have been able to complete my EP, and has made opportunities like this interview possible!
Working in a team is not the same as working on your own, with its advantages and disadvantages. What do you enjoy the most about each format? And the least?
I love working by myself because it’s precisely what allows me to have complete control over what I create. The only drawback that I find from this format is that it limits the quality and the possibility of creating more ambitious projects, since I am not that good at playing many instruments nor am I a very experienced producer. Working with other musicians is something that I haven't done much until now because I am not very confident, so it’s hard for me to let go and bring out my full potential. But, on the other hand, I have learned enormously from all the artists I’ve collaborated with, from tips and technique to new artists.
Now, you get ready to release your first EP, Aura Aura. A journey through a day in your life, full of emotions and feelings produced by yourself. What does this album mean to you?
I made this EP for myself only. Of course, I want to share it and have other people listen to it now that it is done, but that was never the goal. For years now, I have attempted to make music that I identified with as an artist, and Aura Aura is the first time that I have succeeded in doing so. So, ultimately, this project represents me, the person that I am at present.
Self-producing a record of these characteristics is no easy task and the result is amazing and captivating. How have you faced this major challenge?
I haven’t. I’ve never really considered producing this EP as a major challenge in itself because it wasn’t my intention to do it, so it happened progressively. When I first came up with the idea for the project, what I wanted to do was to find a producer that I could work with. Now, that was the major challenge. The concept being so personal, I didn’t find anyone that could do it, simply because I didn’t even know how to describe what it was that I was looking for. So I decided to produce some of the tracks myself, so I could show them to a producer later and have that person help me with them. But after finishing the first songs, I realised that I already liked them like that. So I kept on going, and here we are!
You are originally from Barcelona, but you have moved to New York and now live in London. A dream come true that you confess to having had since you were a child. When and why did you decide to leave Spain? Where have you composed your new EP?
Ever since I was 13, I have wanted to move out from Barcelona to an anglophone country, because most of the artists that I looked up to at the time their first language was English.
“I'm selective, but not selecting,” you sing in your first single, Feel Like. A song that comes with a video directed by Ana Sting, in which movement and contact with the body are extremely relevant. Why did you opt for introducing yourself with this single?
Because it’s the first one that I wrote.
How long have you been working on this new EP? Was it a linear creation process, or one of ups and downs?
I started working on the EP in September 2019. I was in New York when I first came up with the idea. There were a lot of ups and downs in the process. Working alone can get very frustrating and lonely, there have been months where I couldn’t or didn't feel like writing anything. And then, I’ve had months in which I have successfully completed multiple songs. But as tough as it was sometimes, I never considered abandoning the project, and that is mainly thanks to having a great support system (my family, my friends and my management team) that has stayed with me through the whole of it.
And what can you tell us about your references and sources of inspiration? Are you especially attracted to any other creative discipline, besides music?
Most of the creatives that I look up to are musicians: Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Ray Charles, India. Arie, Lauryn Hill, Ego, Ella May, Alfa Mist, Solange, Richard Bona, Oumou Sangaré… Just to name a few. But then I also get inspiration from artists in different fields; from writers like Rachel Cusk and Rilke, or fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaultier.
Each country has its own idiosyncrasy. The same happens with music and art, being not the same depending on where in the world we look at. What differences do you notice between the Spanish and the American music scene, having lived in New York?
Despite the fact that I have made music in both of these places, I have mainly worked by myself. So I can’t compare the industries in both of these countries because I haven’t been in touch with them closely enough. From an outsider's perspective though, I think there are many differences; from the diversity in the music being made to the public that it targets. But I have to say that during my time in New York, all of the musicians and producers that I worked with seemed to be more competitive than in Barcelona. Maybe it was just my impression, but it is fair to assume that the size of an industry could influence people’s competitiveness.
It is too early to talk about upcoming projects, but 2021 promises to be a year full of projects, enthusiasm and hope. What are your next goals?
One the one side, I want to focus on developing my skills so my music-making can progress. And on the other side, I want to learn how to be more honest with myself because only then will I be able to commit to everything that I say I’m going to do.