Nigerian Singer and Star Timi Dakolo Joins us in Episode 4
Words from the soul and a voice from the heart – you will enjoy this conversation with Timi Dakolo, a true original who is at the very beginning of what will be an extraordinary journey. Timi frequently breaks out into song to tell us about films and songs that have shaped his life…
Hailed as “the golden voice of Africa”, Dakolo’s soulful tenor is intoned with a melodic West African lilt. In 2007, a friend encouraged him to audition for the inaugural season of Idols West Africa, offering to split the cost of travel. Dakolo emerged winner, his victory scoring him a recording contract with Sony BMG.
Fresh from releasing his debut UK album Merry Christmas, Darling, 38-year-old Dakolo talks creative authorship. Christmas songs, he says, are “the hardest songs to sing” because a sense of public ownership creates pressure to deliver them “word for word, pronunciation for pronunciation, rhythm for rhythm.”
For Dakolo, sharing the experiences that shaped him is the essence of being an artist. “You can’t give what you don’t have,” he says. “I don’t believe in ‘fake it till you make it’. I have to define what music is to me. To me, music is the sound of my emotions.”
The Idols winner caught the singing bug aged 14, freestyling with friends during lunch break. His peers were listening to Chaka Demus & Pliers, Brian Adams and Phil Collins, but at home it was reggae records that were played on his uncle’s turntable. His grandmother “loved morning prayers” and her hymns were the young Dakolo’s alarm clock.
“If you grow up with an old woman, you become an adult at a very young age,” says the singer. “My grandmother loved education so much… She would say: “If you don’t want the life, if you don’t like what you see, all these men, if you don’t want to be them, you have to read, because that’s how you escape.”
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Especially at the end when the crowd sings ‘We Will Rock You’ because of the shared experience between band and audience.
From the world of cinema, Dakolo selects the finale of Bryan Singer’s 2018 Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek. Here, Dakolo muses on the idea of songs as communal experiences.
“At the end, when the crowd are singing ‘we will, we will, rock you…’” says Dakolo, “I’ve watching it five times and I’ve cried every time. I’ve cried because it’s not just the words. It’s not just the pictures. It’s the experience they share. The ability to exchange experience. Your pain is my pain. Your truth is my truth.”
A Star Is Born (2018)
Up next is Bradley Cooper’s 2018 directorial debut A Star Is Born, helmed by Lady Gaga. Talking about troubled singer Jackson (played by Cooper) deciding to quit music, Dakolo reflects on what can happen when the noise of the industry overcomes the craft itself.
“One of the big take-homes for me in that movie is how you can be so talented and yet miss it,” he says. “If you wish to do music, every other thing is secondary. He left what made him him to do everything else.”
Can’t Give Up Now, by Mary Mary
A beautiful, deeply meaningful song made even more so sung a cappella by Timi.
Hearing Dakolo break into an acapella rendition of Can’t Give Up Now by Mary Mary is something special. “There will be mountains that I will have to climb / And there will be battles that I will have to fight / But victory or defeat, it’s up to me to decide / But how can I expect to win if I never try,” he sings.
The track has been a tonic for Dakolo during difficult times. Here he uses the song as a springboard to discuss what talent can cost us, as well as the serendipitous nature of success.
An original song, by Timi’s Grandmother
To close, Dakolo selects an original song sung by his grandmother, a signal in his youth that there would be no food for dinner. Dakolo’s grandmother, a petty trader who sold in-season fruits and other goods, was a vital figure in his life. This song, which expresses anguish at having so little to offer a child in need, is a fitting tribute to a woman whose moral compass still guides his daily life.
“To me, music is the sound of my emotions.” – Timi Dakolo
In each episode we discuss with our What We Seee family the power of film and music – really getting into the details of great art. That Scene, That song is produced with generous support from the team at Another Studio. Episodes can be enjoyed on Apple Music, Spotify or wherever you find great podcasts.