Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Arts + Culture Music Eki Shola: Best of the Bay 2020 Editors' Pick

Eki Shola: Best of the Bay 2020 Editors’ Pick

The physician-turned-musician—who barely escaped the wildfires—brought healing and intention with spacey post-R&B.


Throughout the rest of the year, we’ll be publishing our Best of the Bay 2020 Editors’ Picks, highlighting some of the tremendous people, places, and things that made the Bay Area shine during one heck of a year. See our Best of the Bay 2020 Readers Poll winners and our Readers Stories of Resilience here. See Eki Shola perform online this Friday at Club Closed.

Sometimes when the society presents itself in its most outlandish, dastardly configuration, a rectifying piece of truth arrives at the same time. Speaking, leaning in hard to the challenges of the day, presenting itself in an otherworldly form, cutting through the noise, directly addressing the many difficulties transpiring in this 2020 autumnal world…..

Listen y’all Eki Shola, “Eh-key sounds like Becky without the B, Show-lah” according to her website, creates music that arrives in multitudes. At times, it’s another sphere unto itself. 

Post R&B, spacey digital soul arrangements, instrumental runs of experimental bass music, pockets of jazz, stretches of broken beat, tucked away strains of dub, with the occasional drum and bass sprawl. It’s a foray, a trippy set that invites you into engagement, slowly.

It’s a specific kind of portal.

Shola accompanies those vast rhythmic components with ecological assertions on the disrespectful treatment of the environment and humanity. This country’s recent disregard for Mother Nature. All the ravages isolation caused amid sheltering in place, and how mental health became another plight. It’s the enterprise of connectedness that keeps us human. Matter of fact she addresses many hypocrisies residing within the health care system—she’s a physician by the way—and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement this year. 

In a nutshell, this London-born, Bay Area-based musician, singer, and poet built a record for this here moment of reckoning. Essential, which she self-released this summer, is 19 songs and 90 minutes of coping, but still leaving an open door for anyone to walk in and take part. It would be foolish to call it self-help, but it does camp out on that bookshelf. As she explained to me via email, it was a few years back while tending to her ailing Mother “trying to create and keep a quiet healing space for her” that something within Eki got modified. Sadly her “Mum” passed. Still, an unforeseen happening transpired. 

“While planning her memorial with my siblings and Dad in the Long Island home we grew up in, we took a break and decided to jam. We’re all musicians, but ironically we never played together as a family. That night, in my old bedroom—dad on percussion, me on my old keyboard, brother on bass, sister on violin—we jammed for several hours. It was the most cathartic experience ever and something flipped in me. That’s when I knew I had to do music.

“The decision to pursue it professionally was to come in 2017 when in California, my family and I barely made it out alive from the wildfires—we had to drive through flames for a few miles, to get out. The clinic I had worked at got destroyed as did our entire home, including music studio and three albums’ worth of unreleased music. The trilogy of albums I just released was inspired by the latter.

“I felt like this was a message sent to me to do my music full-time and that’s what I did and I’m so happy I followed my heart. I knew that I could reach many more through my music as compared to practicing medicine and that’s what has kept me fueled on this musical journey.”

It’s that type of manifestation, power of optimism,  that drives Essential. Her message of acceptance can help us all see the light. Eki’s music nudges our brains, in the darkest most downer moments, to remember this: Positivity is a preference. —John-Paul Shiver 

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