MEET THE SOULFUL JESSICA BONGOS

MEET THE SOULFUL JESSICA BONGOS

Her music took me down memory lane. It was like I took a time capsule that allowed me relive some good old times. One of those memories that came to mind was the chill I felt watching Beyoncé sing in the movie Fighting Temptation. The soulful music performers from Jennifer Austin and Beyoncé in the movie Dream Girls also flashed in. Her uniqueness, vibe and delivery makes me connect like I always do whenever I hear Christiana Aguilera bring down the soul like she did in the song ‘Hurt’. I am a groupie for artistes that draws your soul in when they sing, just like Jessica Bongos’ music is doing to me now. It’s angelic hearing her sing and I think I will be cheering for her for a long time. She’s spreading that aura that made her father the legendary Bongos Ikwue, one of the most respected and distinguished musicians in Nigeria. Jessica’s sound can be described as Neo Pop Soul.

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

Her unique, raspy, sultry vocals are somewhat intriguing to listen to and blend well with her stories of love and heartbreak. “Music touches the deepest parts of my soul. It is to me, the most beautiful artistic expression of feelings that people can relate to on a daily basis.” Her musical
influences stem from a vast variety of genres such as old school Motown, soul, r’n’b, jazz, gospel, alternative and country music. Her biggest musical influences are Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone, Sade Adu, Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder and Bongos Ikwue. Possessing a Bachelor’s degree in International Development and a Masters in Leisure events and facilities management, she released her debut 5 song EP titled “UNSCATHED” produced by Atta Lenell, in July 2014. In December 2015, Jessica Bongos was placed on the Spinlet sound of 2016 list alongside 19 other Nigerian artistes including Kiss Daniel, Adekunle Gold and Tekno. Her debut album is scheduled for release July 2017.

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

Describe the atmosphere the first time you sang with your dad and the first day you sang professionally?

I’ve been singing with my dad for as long as I can remember so if I’m being really honest, the first time I sang with him was probably when I was a child on a random evening at home in our living room. The atmosphere was a chilled out, laid back one with family. The first time I sang with him professionally was in 2006. It was a studio recording where he asked me to record some harmonies on one of his songs. I carried on recording more backing vocals on most of the songs on that album and anytime he had a live performance, he would ask us
(my sister and I) to perform with him. It wasn’t until seven years later in 2013 that I decided to write and record my own music. The first time I sang professionally as a solo artiste was at a popular music event in Abuja called “Acoustic Night”. I was so nervous. It was my first time singing with a band by myself, not behind my father but by myself. The audience was looking at me like “Who is this person?” Honestly, I don’t know how I got through that performance but I knew for sure that I had a lot of work to do on myself musically after that.

I know one of your sisters also sings, tell us how it feels to live in
a family in which music runs in their DNA?

Haha. It feels normal I guess. I haven’t really thought about this
before. I’m used to it. I guess it’s nice to have people who
understand you as a creative person. I can talk about music to them without sounding like that “annoying person who only talks about music”. It’s also good to have easy access to people like my dad when I need advise on music whether it be creative advise or business advise. It’s nice to have that.

What was the conversation like the first time your family knew you will be doing music officially?

I don’t think we ever had a round table discussion about music being my chosen career path. It just sort of happened organically. After I recorded and released my first single, I knew I wanted to do music full time. I don’t remember having a serious discussion with my family about it. My parents always wanted me to do music so it was
easy. I think it was actually more of a “Thank God! It’s about time” reaction from them than anything else. My parents are very supportive of my decision till this day.

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

How is the journey so far as an artiste?

The journey has been a very interesting one. I’ve met a lot of
talented creative people who have helped me through this journey so far. I also generally understand music more. I understand the process
of composing and creating music much more than I did in the past. I think I understand the Nigerian market a bit more now as well. Being an independent artiste with no major sponsor has definitely been a challenge though. Building your brand and creating content is like starting a business. It requires a lot of money. You put a lot of money into it and have to be prepared to wait a while for your
investments to show returns and profit. When you’re spending money and you’re barely making any of it back, it can be discouraging. Recording music, shooting videos, photo shoots, concerts, promoting your songs and albums, all these things require a great deal of money. But I just have to keep working, learning, growing and staying focused on the end goal. One thing is for sure, I have learnt a lot throughout this process and I’m thankful for growth.

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

Jessica Bongos / Mystreetz Magazine

What are your views of the music industry in totality and what will
you and your music be bringing to the table?

The Nigerian music industry has grown immensely over the past couple of years. It’s amazing and it’s also gotten a lot of global recognition, which is great! I’m also really excited that alternative music is now considered a real genre in Nigeria and has become music
worth making here. I really just want to make meaningful music that people can genuinely connect with. That’s what I hope to bring to the table. Good, meaningful music by the grace of God.

Name the artistes that inspire you in this country and your most memorable day as an artiste?

Asa, Bez, Cobhams, Banky W, Praiz and TuBaba. My most memorable day as an artiste honestly would have to be just a couple of months ago when I
opened for Bez in his Abuja concert. He’s one of my biggest
inspirations in Nigeria, so that was a big deal for me.

Sesan Adeniji

Culled from Mystreetz Magazine

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