BBC’s latest musical bash was called Pitch Battle. Watched by millions of people, Akin and the Leeds Contemporary Singers won hands down. Akin, a member of Hope City Leeds, wants to take the battle to the world. This is his story.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked when I tell people that I’m a singer and musician is ‘when did you start?’ Or, ‘how long have you been singing for?’ The honest truth? I don’t know. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been a music lover. Although growing up I had different career prospects in mind (one of which was becoming a pastor), music was the only thing I constantly gravitated towards.
My dad was a choir director, music lecturer and opera writer. I remember when I was little, I always looked forward to going to his rehearsals and performances. Most times I’d sit still and be mesmerized by the harmonies and rhythms and other times I’d just make noise and cause trouble, but those environments were some of my favorite to be in. My dad started to teach me to play the piano around the age of 5 and then I started singing in the children’s choir of our church around the age of 10. My very first public performance was with the children’s choir on Father’s Day. Honestly, I don’t really remember much about that performance but I was so nervous that my mum told me to focus on the door at the back of the church and not the people.
I remember when I was little, I always looked forward to going to his rehearsals and performances. Most times I’d sit still and be mesmerized by the harmonies and rhythms…
Choosing to pursue a music career was never an easy thing. Growing up in an African community, wanting to be a musician was greatly discouraged and was seen as ‘the easy way out’. I was told to pursue a nobler career that would land me a stable job. Someone once told me – as an argument against a music career, that only 1 in 3 people ‘make it’ in the music industry. However the defiant character within me caused me to ask an important question — who says I can’t be that one who makes it? The attitude that people I respected had about being a musician really discouraged me at times, but I’m very thankful that I held fast to my refusal to please them.
I’ve always valued having a good quality of life, yet I’ve done some outrageous things to go after my dream. Sometimes those things paid off, other times they didn’t. One of the times that it did pay off was when I used the last £15 in my account to travel, against my parents advice, to an audition at Leeds College of Music, where I later went on to study. This somewhat rebellious decision eventually led to my involvement in the prime time BBC One television show called Pitch Battle. Getting to meet and work with such high profile people and later winning the show is definitely the highlight of my career so far.
My vision is ultimately to change the music industry. I want to be instrumental in bringing real, authentic and meaningful music back into mainstream attention. I know this is a God-given vision because I don’t know how on earth that’s going to happen, but this is the very thing that drives everything I do. It drives my entire creative process. I want to make music that is relatable, because I think being relatable is one of the most powerful weapons of music. I want to write songs that will provoke people to think about their attitude towards life. I’ve always believed that music has the power to change the world and if I can change the way music is created and received, then I can change the world too!
My search for purpose and to have a meaningful life led me straight to God’s heart for me. Now that I’m finding fulfilment in my life, I’m learning to have more and more faith in him. My affinity for having a strong faith has been ever increasing, simply because from the moment I realized my purpose, I also realized that it would take crazy faith to see it happen. This thrust me into suddenly developing a hunger for crazy faith – so much so that I actually turned up to my music college audition without the required audition fee and I wasn’t even asked for it! I ended up getting the place with a scholarship. This all happened because I chose to have some crazy faith and God chose to honor it with a miraculous outcome. My lowest moments and hardest times have been the perfect breeding ground for my faith because God’s track record is undisputed – so I’m continually learning to trust him for the accomplishment of my dreams!