Meet Akosia, the rising star with a penchant for smooth R&B tunes

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Meet Akosia, the rising star with a penchant for smooth R&B tunes

Akosia - image by Amy Dellar
Words by Augustus Welby

‘Don’t Say’, the first single from Melbourne-based singer-songwriter, Akosia, is a restrained pop/R&B number with a melancholic, wistful air.

It might be Akosia’s first single, but the songwriting, production, music video and visual presentation are all representative of a thorough commitment to her craft.

Akosia’s upbringing laid the foundations for this assertive first step.

“My father and my mother were very influential in my music development,” she says. “My dad loved and was obsessed with B.B. King, so I grew up around a lot of blues and soul music. My mum was very passionate about music and she would always get lost in music.

“I grew up going to church very frequently, so that was a weekly dose of being around certain chord progressions and the whole experience of immersing yourself. They sing songs and you get washed into this emotional state of music and I try to carry that through with my music now.” 

An extremely arresting and colourful music video accompanies ‘Don’t Say’, featuring a raft of scene changes and wardrobe variations. The video was directed and styled by Ntombi Moyo, who also worked as the stylist on Sampa The Great’s ‘OMG’ and ‘Final Form’ videos.

“It’s nice to see the kind of work that she does and also taking into consideration my style,” says Akosia. “I like to be graceful and with this project it was definitely something where I was trying to share the emotions that one person feels during a break-up. Sometimes you feel empowered, sometimes you feel vulnerable, and she was really able to capture that with all of the different wardrobe changes.”

Akosia lists her among her influences Sade, Nina Simone, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse, Moses Sumney, Hans Zimmer and Beethoven, among others. Her appreciation for the artists she admires goes well beneath the surface.

“I really like a full body experience,” she says. “I like to strip back the layers and truly understand how I feel emotionally about a song. So the first time I hear a song I might be like, ‘Ok this is a good song, it makes me feel happy or sad’, but I will listen to that song repetitively. When Moses Sumney released his single ‘Doomed’ [in 2017] I spent literally the whole day listening to that song and trying to understand everything.

“When you write music, you’ve got the lyrics on the top, then there’s the way the music itself, and the chords and the rhythm, is presented to you. It’s telling you a story that sometimes is in opposition to what the lyrics are saying and it gives you a deeper understanding of what the artist is trying to say or what the artist is hiding.”

‘Don’t Say’ is a tasteful and well executed production. Working with 22-year-old Melbourne producer, Julian Steel, a lot of effort went into restricting the arrangement to just the necessary parts – it’s not over the top, which suits the substance of the song.

The lyrics centre on the dying days of a relationship. On the one hand, the vocalist displays strength, acknowledging she’s been mistreated and committing to making her exit. On the other hand, Akosia admits to feeling heartbroken and still loving the person she’s leaving behind.

“Nothing is as simple and one sided as we often present it,” she says. “When I wrote that song I felt like I was helping myself realise, yeah I was hurt, but I now have a responsibility to myself to be my own ticket to the place where I want to go.

“I don’t need to wait for someone to say it’s over or to say goodbye to me because I have my own choice and I’m going. I have a destination and I’m going to help myself get there. Life throws things at you and you just have to know that you’ve got your back and you’ll be ok.”

Akosia’s stunning debut single ‘Don’t Say’ is out now. Check it out via streaming services.