Last month saw emerging RnB and soul singer, Dara Blaxx, release her debut EP Arrhythmia, which spins tales of vulnerability, heartbreak and intimacy. She takes the title directly from the medical term that defines irregular heartbeat, placing it as a parallel for the relatable themes she embraces in the project.
The result is confident, enchanting and quietly philosophical. ”There’s too much love in the world, from above and within that it makes no sense to beg someone to love you,” she muses on closing track Beg For It. Other songs like Before I Leave creates tragic beauty with warped vocals, reminiscent of the DIY aesthetic that runs in alternative RnB and indie pop.
The Southampton-based Nigerian singer, like most artistes, has a SoundCloud origin. The platform houses her earliest materials like Broken Pieces, Feeling Good and Fairytale. Fairytale stands out by leaning into house music and also a winking tribute to Southampton’s house music scene. Born Dara Ogedengbe, Dara Blaxx moved to the UK around 11-years-old and has resided there ever since. She studied Chemical Engineering for her Bachelors, which she didn’t like then did a Masters in Supply Chain Management, which she likes. She currently works as a project manager in Southampton.
Still on the music front, Dara Blaxx is an independent artist, unsigned to any label. ”I just couldn’t stop thinking about it to be honest, particularly when I was in uni,” she says on why she decided to do music, ”I felt and still feel so elated writing melodies and lyrics. I wanted other people to share in that and hopefully experience what I do creating stories and expressing emotions. I also feel like I owe it to myself and God to explore and utilise the gift I’ve been given.”
Arrhythmia finds her as the newest practitioner of soul and she speaks to YNaija’s Next Rated about her inspiration, influences and more.
How long did it take you to make Arrhythmia and what inspired it?
I’d say it took a year and a half in total. The first song I wrote was Slow Down which was in 2019. I didn’t have plans for an EP at that time but come 2020 when I started thinking of the tracks and piecing everything together, it just worked so well.
Arrhythmia was mainly inspired by situationship and friendship issues. I took specific moments and feelings that I’d experienced and then blew them out to create this journey through various emotions. It starts off with this doubtful and questioning mindset about the validity and strength of the relationship and my place in it then works its way through denial and anger to a realisation and reclaiming of confidence regardless of the relationship surviving. I know the inclination is to frame everything romantically but – with the exception of maybe Break My Heart – I want people to use the songs to reflect on their friendships too. Friendships evoke feelings that are just as strong and valid as those in romantic relationships.
What artistes/albums did you listen to growing up?
In my pre-teen/teen years it was a lot of grime – I was obsessed with Chip’s League Of My Own at some point, RnB/Pop and anything playing on the radio or TV basically. Then as I started to explore a bit further I discovered artists like Asa, Jill Scott, Nina Simone. I Put A Spell on You and Feeling Good were the first songs I’d heard scatting on and I was enamored! That’s when Neo-Soul and Soul was injected into my life.
As a UK-based Nigerian singer, how has it been navigating the music landscape in the UK? What are the challenges? What’s been the experience like doing music over there?
It’s the only place I’ve really done music so I have nothing to compare it to. Navigating any scene as a new and independent artist is challenging regardless of where you are. You have to learn the business not just the music because only the incredibly lucky or connected can just step in and see success out the gate. Like I said, you have to learn the business – marketing, social media etc and that has been the main challenge for me but I’m slowly picking this up, learning by doing and hopefully I’ll get comfortable doing it all till I have a team to support me.
Are they any Nigerian artistes you love to collaborate with in the future?
There’s a lot of people I enjoy listening to and would love to work at some point with but let’s say AYLØ, SDC, Tems, not an artist but Higo and then hopefully one day Asa. Her music and aura is just so incredible.
Making music comes also with the pressure to keep releasing singles and projects to stay afloat/relevant, how do you intend to manage this as a new artiste?
I do feel the pressure sometimes but I don’t ever want to put out music just for the sake of it. I always want to share what I actually love and would listen to. Sometimes when I share my music with people and I’m vibing to it, they’re surprised like – ‘Oh you actually really enjoy it’ and I’m like don’t all artists do this?
My plan is to run my own race at my own pace whilst challenging myself. My focus for now is finding my tribe. Growing and reaching the people who will ride for me and my music whether I release 7 projects a year or just 1 and that’s a journey in itself.
You mostly are into soul and RnB and it often comes with the stereotype of doing mushy love songs or heartbreak melodies, does this bother you or do you see yourself expanding into other genres of engaging with other themes?
RnB/Soul is like my base and love is one of the most beautiful things to write about, so no, it doesn’t bother me. I’m comfortable and happy doing it and writing the stereotypical stuff but I do see myself as more multi-genre. My main thing is creating stories to express various human experiences and that basically means, I will hop on whatever sound/genre matches the story and pleases my heart lol. I hope that as I release and collaborate more, people get familiar with all the different vibes and sounds that I put out and can get on board with all of Dara Blaxx.
How do you think streaming platforms has changed music consumption and how do you think new artistes like yourself can benefit (more) from this infrastructure?
I think the way in which we consume music is rapid and there are a ton of artists out there creating amazing music for all types of moods in all types of genres. With so many streaming platforms and options, listeners can have their fill of any and everything.
The good thing is the information and tools required to use these platforms to your benefit are becoming more accessible to new and independent artists and I think slowly platforms like Spotify are working to support artists. You can have your music out there with people listening from countries you’ve never even stepped foot in. I think the key is like I mentioned knowing the business and finding what works for you and your tribe because someone out there is waiting for what you have to offer.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.