If music is a woman, a single note is her as a little girl – everyone anticipates her evolution into a nursery rhyme. As a teenage girl, she shows signs of promise but unsure of how to blossom into a melody. By the time she’s a young adult, she understands her potential but still needs context to become a meaningful musical phrase. As a resilient young woman, she is like an unfinished song – not fully formed but knows where she is heading. That unfinished tune evolves into a completed masterpiece which is like the essence of a woman – built from experiences that have shaped her.
Music is woman, we are all who we are because she is who she is.
From the age of 4, I was already singing along to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder CD’s my Dad played after school. Piano and violin lessons were initially a nightmare but I eventually took them seriously. I moved away to boarding school where I started writing songs and taking formal vocal training classes. At 10, my Dad bought me music production software and that’s when producing my own music became a daily routine.
I finished high school in England and began a new phase of my life studying Business Management in Imperial College, London. Being 1 of 2 musicians in a sea of Business-oriented students pushed me harder to create music outside of class. Luckily my degree didn’t suffer. I graduated and then applied for a scholarship to study Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Berklee was where I started to become more self-aware. I was experimenting with my sound; combining my evolving skills as a pianist and vocalist. My exams were so fun; they involved writing songs, performing them, conducting orchestras and producing concerts. Every day at school was magical. Bumping into John Mayer, Quincy Jones, India Arie in hallways was no big deal. Berklee really helped me build my confidence as a performer and composer, so when I graduated and moved to New York, I thought I was ready to become a star. Little did I know it really was just the beginning.
My journey has been like a classroom, a series of teachable moments every step of the way and I learnt the following:
Take The Road Less Travelled with Confidence
When you embark on a journey, everyone tells you that you need to know where you are going. No one ever really talks to you about your mental capacity and how your mind is really the driving force for a lot that will happen in your life. Being an artist that makes completely different music to what is considered ‘popular’ in Nigeria might seem like an uphill battle unless you truly believe in what you do and what your music can do for others. It takes a few believers to build a community and it takes a community to eventually build a world’s worth of supporters who are invested in your journey.
Stay Connected to Your Foundation
I spent 2 broke years teaching piano to little kids, playing shows in dive bars, restaurants and even doing odd jobs over and over again. It was so unfulfilling and demoralising, networking and performing didn’t seem to produce much fruit. I got prematurely impatient and moved back to Lagos. What helped with the transition was that I never lost a connection with home. Having been away for 13 years, I was always coming back for holidays; performing, meeting with producers, having studio sessions. I never lost sight of the idea that I may end up building a career in Nigeria. So when I came back, it wasn’t that I was a brand new artist from outer space. I had a presence already and that provided a soft landing.
I was always waiting for the perfect time, the perfect opportunity – always wanting every single thing to be aligned with my value system and standards. Life teaches you quite quickly that nothing can be perfect and you have to navigate around mediocrity a lot of the time. Once I started to be more flexible, I saw my career shift. I started to make room for things that were out of my control and became more capable of handling things better under pressure.
Be Intentional Amidst the Noise
In the age of social media, I’ve had my fair share of breakdowns when it comes to the ‘comparison trap’. “He’s doing this, why am I not doing that?”, “She has 10 videos out, I don’t even have 1”. What helps is being intentional. When I started to dig deeper into what makes me ‘me’, my output became more focused. And something amazing happens when you’re just being yourself – people start to connect with you on a deeper level.
Know Your Strengths and Delegate
My first degree gave me an appetite for strategy and marketing that helped a lot during my self- management years. 10 years of managing myself gave me a lot of confidence even with very little human resources. But I’ve recently learned how important it is to delegate and ask for help. No man is an island after all.
Tell Your Story
If you don’t tell your story, people will find a story that fits their perception of you and make it your story. Don’t let the status-quo be your guide when you’re making career decisions. People expect what they are familiar with; singles, music videos, an album. But every story is different so figure out what yours is and tell it in the best way that will resonate with who you are trying to reach. If back then I had known what I know now about becoming an industry expert, I would’ve acted on my creative ideas a lot quicker.
Dear Creative Entrepreneur,
You are a genius. That idea you have sleepless nights about, that makes you anxious, scared but also excited… that’s what you should be going after. It’s in you for a reason and you would be surprised how many people need you to act on it. Don’t see that as pressure. See that as purpose. Stop second-guessing and just act. Fall and get back up again. Yes. Fall and get back up again. Didn’t you know that’s what being a star is all about?! See you in the highest heights.
Kaline is a Nigerian Alternative Afro-soul Singer-songwriter/pianist and film composer. After graduating with a BSc in Business Management from Imperial College, Kaliné went on to complete a BMus in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music. She has won several singer-songwriter awards including Berklee College of Music's songwriting for social change (1st place), Tamezin Commonwealth Competition, England (1st place twice). She has been a supporting act for various artists like Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, Bob James and Fourplay, Somi, Asa, Bez and several others.