YEOJA Mag - BHM 2021 - Kayowa


Interview with the South London-based musician and producer

A South London based musician who not only sings, but also produces, mixes, and writes her own songs, Kayowa Morris (​@1kayowa​) creates music with a fusion of fierce feminine energy and thoughtful introspection. As part of our 2021 BHM series, YEOJA spoke to Kayowa about her music, the impact of her Nigerian heritage on her identity, and her reaction to the Black Lives Matter 2020 movement:

Tell us a bit about yourself. When did you start your journey as a musician and why did you start?
Kayowa: I’m an experimental R&B musician, and I started my music career in January 2020, although growing up I had always taken part in a choir, piano lessons, and drama. I decided to take music seriously because it’s my life force, it’s how I relate to others, and it’s how I navigate my way around the world. It’s my calling, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was super young!

YEOJA Mag - BHM 2021 - Kayowa

To those who have never listened to your music, how would you describe your music and your attitude when performing?
Kayowa: I would describe my music as fierce, unapologetic, ultimate bad bitch energy, vibey, and chill. As a person, I tend to feel things a lot more intensely than most and it’s an aspect of myself that I’ve only recently learned to embrace. This comes across in my music as I make sure to pour myself into my art. I have fun and don’t give a fuck about what the world, or anyone, has to say. When performing, this energy exudes from me and reaches the audience, so everyone’s having a good time. For live performances, I think it’s necessary to create an environment where everyone can let loose and just be themselves in the present moment. I want my supporters to enjoy being in my presence by feeling safe enough to dance, sing, and express themselves.

Is there a specific message you want to send out to your listeners?
Kayowa: You are not alone! Together we can create a better world and a better life for all of us.

YEOJA Mag - BHM 2021 - Kayowa

How much has your Black heritage influenced your creativity? What does it mean to you?
Kayowa: My black heritage is who I am and it shows in everything I do. There’s no direct link between my black heritage and my creativity, it just depends on what inspires me when I’m creating art.
I’m so grateful to be Nigerian because my culture is so vibrant. Artists like FelaAnikulapo-Kuti have taught me to be authentically and unapologetically me, regardless of whatever the fuck the status quo is trying to tell me. Regardless of any Babylon agenda, it is okay to be who I am, and I should never feel ashamed of being myself. I am a proud Nigerian and although it may not come across blatantly in my creativity, or my creative processes, you can see it in my demeanour, how I speak, and how I carry myself.

Who inspires you?
Kayowa: I don’t look up to anybody because I am in charge of my own life and am the protagonist of my own story. That’s not to say that I don’t listen to the advice of others, I just don’t like looking up to other artists or public figures, or people in general because nobody is perfect, and I think we idolise other people too much as opposed to taking our own advice.

YEOJA Mag - BHM 2021 - Kayowa

What is your greatest accomplishment?
Kayowa: Moving out of my house at 20. It was a very rocky time and I didn’t think I was capable of leaving my toxic family household.

How has the black lives matter movement in 2020 affected you and your mental health? How did you react to the situation? Lastly, how has racism generally influenced you?
Kayowa: My mental health hasn’t changed. I’ve been talking about this my entire life. It pisses me off how it took George Floyd’s death for white people to realise how ignorant and privileged they are; but we move. Yes I am black, no I will not indulge in a woe is me mentality because I have shit to do. I will always call out racism and injustice wherever I see fit.

I’ve been like that throughout my adolescence when being faced with microaggressions from white peers and teachers in secondary school. I’ve mainly experienced microaggressive comments when faced with racism; thankfully [microaggressions are] as far as it’s ever gone.

I’ve never felt uncomfortable in the presence of the white man because the power vested in me by my ancestors is stronger than any form of oppression. Regardless of any obstacle Babylon throws in my way, I will finesse this system and bring my brothers and sisters with me.

YEOJA Mag - BHM 2021 - Kayowa

What advice would you give to other young Black gxrls today?
Kayowa: Be yourself. If your white peers are being anti-Black, it likely stems from jealousy, lack of education [about systemic racism and white privilege], or both. Don’t bother with people who will always paint you out to be an evil person; it’s due to their own fears and insecurities.

You are loved, and there is a whole world out there that understands you! You may not be able to see it for a while, but as you grow in confidence and develop your inner world, you’ll one day realise that all the answers are within you!
Images provided by Kayowa. To follow Kayowa on Instagram, click here. For more interviews, click here. For more BHM articles, click here.