Hype List 2024: Sekou: “You have to work, work, work for everything that you have”

With ridic buzzy co-signs, rising teen pop phenomenon Sekou‘s ambitions are sky-high. 

Words: Jamie Muir.
Photos: Alistair Mcveigh.


When you think of first shows, many artists cringe at the mere thought of looking back to a time when so many lessons were still waiting to be learnt. But what if your first set was arguably the biggest of them all, Glastonbury? For Sekou, it set the bar for the sort of game-changing takeover that only the most significant festival on the planet can bring, and it fit him like a glove. In the space of months, his towering voice has already signalled for the superstar stages, just waiting to be marked with his name. For a future pop phenomenon, look no further. “I know it’s easier said than done, but I need to be the biggest artist in the world.”

Ambition is writ large in the mind of Sekou, and it’s clear from the first note how huge things are about to get. Since that debut show at Glastonbury, rooms have been stacked, and plaudits have flown in for a voice that cuts through the noise. “It’s just a whirlwind,” he notes. “Really quick. It’s been all over the place. I’ve been working on music for about two years, and I remember when it was January, thinking about how I wanted to release my first song and how it would all roll out in my head. Now it’s really fun, but bigger things keep happening each time.” 

Growing up on a mixture of soul, alternative pop and superstar divas in the small market town surroundings of Ashby in Leicester, a desire for performing meant there wasn’t any other option but to follow the voice he found himself honing at church every week. “Honestly, I’m not good at anything else,” Sekou laughs. 

“I didn’t get any A-Levels or GCSEs. I tried to do food tech, but even that didn’t work… don’t expect any cooking skills from me!” Watching Whitney Houston’s Super Bowl Halftime show cemented it. “I was like, I need to do something like that. I want to perform for that many people. Ever since then, it’s always been about that goal.”

“I was and still am really supported by my hometown,” he notes. “My friends and family knew I wanted to do music, but I was really just doing my own thing. It was when there started to be this reaction outside of my hometown that people started to see where I wanted to go. I was working hard to get to those places and get into the rooms I needed to get into.” 

“That’s all I want, to do music. Whether for 1 person, 10,000 people or 100,000”

sekou

With attention drawing in from clips he was posting online (whether that was performances in a car park or cover versions of tracks which began to draw legions of fans), it was clear that the big leagues were destined to call. After all, the co-signs singing his praises read like a welcoming party for ultimate pop supremacy. Dua Lipa? Yep. Sam Smith? Yep. Anderson Paak.? Yep. Bruno Mars? Yep. 

“Honestly, it was so weird,” smiles Sekou. “People were saying these things before I put anything out and when I was just sharing clips on Instagram or TikTok. Each time, it felt more and more surreal from people you just never expect to even know who you are. Listening to someone’s music for a large part of your life and then actually meeting them and having a real conversation…”

Of course, Sekou was ready for the conversation with Bruno Mars, as you’d expect. “I didn’t know what to say! We ended up speaking for 30-40 minutes, but I’m 6ft 7, and he’s in the 5ft range, so the height difference was crazy. We laughed about that for a while, haha.”

Finding his voice proved to be a pivotal moment. Moving to London, “it was really difficult to understand what I wanted to do,” he reflects. “I didn’t know what I wanted to sing or what I wanted to say, but I knew that I loved to write. I knew that I loved to tell a story, but working out what genre that fell into was difficult.” 

Embracing his raw and vulnerable side, the result found him more connected than ever. “I knew when I first wrote ‘Better Man’ that it was the right song and the right thing that I was trying to say,” he recalls. Three minutes with just Sekou, a piano and a soaring choir, it’s a timeless, knock-out track of jaw-dropping emotion. 

Debut EP ‘Forgiving Myself’ jumps across potent grooves, effortless R&B and electric alternative twists as the world slowly turns into Sekou’s playground. It’s a desire he’s not taking lightly. “I only just turned 19, and I’ve got to make sure that I’m on it,” Sekou states. “You have to work, work, work for everything that you have, and you’ve got to be prepared to work that extra mile because there’s always going to be others willing to if you don’t.”

“I honestly make music, will continue to make music and want to make music for the rest of my life to help people,” he notes, taking a moment to think back to those early first steps and where he now finds himself on the cusp of. “That’s all I want, to do music. Whether for 1 person, 10,000 people or 100,000 people, you know? You may have a song that can change somebody’s life like songs have done for me, and that’s amazing. I felt like that many times; when I needed it the most, I go to listen to Adele, and I’m ready. I’m ready after that.” 

Taken from the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of Dork.

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