The Face of the Alternative Nigerian Sound, Kah-Lo
Raised in Nigeria, a 16 year old Faridah Seriki famously known as Kah-Lo traversed to New York for study and began her musical career performing in cafés and coffeeshops, with a round the clock pursuit of approval from AnR’s and record label execs without any palpable results. Years later she exploded on to the music scene in 2016 with a Grammy nominated single, Rinse and Repeat that topped several charts around the world, blew her image to worldwide recognition and sealed her fate in the industry by securing a management deal with EntertainmentOne’s UK music division. A golden ticket hit with steely straight cut vocals masterly layered on a dance beat delivered by British DJ/Producer and frequent collaborator Riton, the Nigerian born New York resident who enjoys designing websites in her spare time didn’t foresee the success of her very first single with over forty million streams on Spotify alone.
The chemistry with Riton, what one may deem a spiritual connection, a vibe that’s rarely appreciable in the industry, inspired the birthing of Foreign Ororo, their first and recently released album together. The highly anticipated project, a fourteen track brew of party lyrics and “fire beats” collected over the last two years was laden with two remixes and five new tracks including their latest single Catching Feelings featuring Mr Eazi. Foreign Ororo is testament to the fact that they weren’t just a one hit wonder, with more iconic club bangers like Fake ID, Ginger and Fasta with the streaming numbers to prove it.
Pitted against the likes of Wizkid, Davido etc, it comes as a surprise to many that Kah-Lo is one of the most streamed artists out of Nigeria with a cumulative 140 million streams and counting, especially in such a male-dominated bracket. Proud of her background, she doesn’t take her success for granted and ensures her music is a saucepot of classic Nigerian slangy one-liners - nigerianisms as she likes to call them - “who has the Ginger?” “who wants to faaji?” “and it’s sweeting me like I have jedi-jedi,” - she’s innovative and distinctive, a talent apart from the rest.
The last leg of her tour which began in April and ended at the Birthdays venue in Dalston, London was a milieu of pure club vibes, nothing different to the general Saturday night atmosphere of the club. Henny in hand, her presence on stage was electrifying, the air rife with energy, she had us all dancing as she rocked the stage and poured up Henny for anyone who wanted the juice.
How’s the reception of your album Foreign Ororo since it dropped last month?
It’s been good. Glad to finally be dropping it. It’s been two years in the making, it’s like releasing a baby, took longer than nine months though [laughs].
What are some of your favourites on the project?
Catching Feelings is my favourite track on the album because it’s all different styles and tastes as it wasn’t just me on the track. It features Mr Eazi who also brought in some more nigerianisms and africanness, and Riton on production with the club sauce.
There’s a variety of styles on the album Foreign Ororo, what would you dub your whole genre as?
Yeah, all the tracks we released on the album have different vibes - some of it is 90’s house, some of it is more clubby, it’s very different and unique however, my sound will eventually evolve to pop. Growing up I always wanted to make pop, never wanted to make Afrobeats. I always wanted to be the Beyoncés, the Rihannas, the Normanis; and bring my own flavor into it cos Rihanna came and shook it up with her Caribbean roots and I have Nigerian roots. I don’t know anyone who’s broken out like pop pop with Nigerian roots so it’s [the industry] in for a treat. I’m in a unique space, there’s only one of me so there’s only so many people who could do what I’m doing. There’s only one [laughs].
What was the initial connection with Riton? What drew you to his style of music?
We met on the interwebs, on Twitter, he followed me by mistake. Googled him, found out he was a real person, listened to his stuff and loved it. I reached out to him as we both lived in New York at the time, and two years later we went to the studio and recorded Rinse and Repeat and here we are.
With over 40 million streams on Spotify alone, did you ever think Rinse and Repeat would blow up as it did?
We kind of made it for him [Riton] to use on his SoundCloud and I’d already moved back to Lagos because music wasn’t really working out in New York. We didn’t have any major push plans for it. I moved back cos not much had come out of anything I’d done so I thought let me go back home as I had more [music] connects there. And then when I got home a month later, labels were trying to snatch it up.
How many labels approached you and did any in your home market in Nigeria reach out?
It was a shit ton of labels and I had never been approached, never been with any label so it was overwhelming. I had to take a few music business courses online so I wouldn’t get played. Plus, at the time I was just about to sign with a label back home [Nigeria] and was making songs more the Catching Feelings type of vibe and that’s even where I met Mr. Eazi, at the label studio. I was about to sign just when all that started happening and I was like see ya! [laughs].
Rinse and Repeat was nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance Song in 2017, how did that change things for you?
Well now, I can pay my bills [laughs]. The Grammys were amazing! My family even flew in.
In a market that doesn’t have access to the most popular streaming platform, Spotify, how significant is it to you to be one of the most streamed Nigerian artists, especially in such a male dominated bracket?
I have to understand that its mainly people in the diaspora, not even necessarily Nigerians per say. Most of my plays come from Australia, New Zealand, LA, Chicago. It’s not a shit ton of Nigerians cos even when I go home [Nigeria], a lot of people are like who are you? [chuckles]. So it’s kind of like the music I make is not necessarily for every single Nigerian - it would be nice if they listened to it but I know it’s not gonna be everyone’s cup of tea cos that style of music too is fairly new in the industry there and because of the kind of stuff I put out, I get it
Do you think there’ll be a time down the line where your music will sit comfortably among the major players like Wizkid and Davido?
Nigerians are very open to pop music and with the new music I’m working on, I think they will. A lot of them because of the type of music I make don’t really believe I was raised in Nigeria; they think I grew up somewhere else and just happened to be putting the nigerianisms and the Nigerian accent on, that’s not true.
Who would you like to feature next?
I don’t want to feature for now, cos I’ve been featuring a lot of my professional career so I’m kind of just looking to do just me stuff. I’m working on my stuff to release next year, end of this year maybe. I fully want to know who I actually am as an artist and define my sound so people know who I actually am. I’ve been trying to do stuff on the underground scene like Odunsi and all those people but I just decided to do me now, then collab later.
And with Riton?
Obviously there’s gonna be more frequent collaborations because you can’t deny the chemistry is there so it’s gonna be like a Justin Timberlake/Timbaland situash (sic) where you work together often.
You’ve been touring since April, how has that experience been for you?
Yes, I have been, we opened for Sofi Tukker a few times, we did Reading festival, Leeds festival, SW4, some festivals in Australia, Europe, South Africa. I’ve only spent 8 nights in my apartment and that’s one of the reasons why I’m so eager to go home. This is my last leg of the tour.
Good luck with the show. Will you be available for a quick shoot later?
Yea, after my face is done. A bitch needs to look cute.
Head over to kahlomusic.com for tour information, merch and keeping up to date with the remarkable singer.