Akenya, a 23-year-old performer from Chicago, announced on Wednesday that she will be performing at Dillo Day 2016 via the WNUR stage. The multi-genre artist’s music pulls from funk, hip-hop and classical music among many other. BlackBoard had the chance to chat with Akenya before her first festival performance.
BlackBoard: So, what’s your story?
Akenya Seymour: I was born and raised in Chicago. My mother raised me by herself. I moved homes and schools constantly, but mostly lived on the Northside (Uptown, Edgewater, Andersonville, Ravenswood, Rogers Park). Even though my mother raised me alone, and raised a sickly child at that (I had seizures all my life, as well as asthma, and kind of a weakened immune system in general), I still never thought of us as struggling. We didn’t have a lot of money, but she did wonders by keeping me in private school, giving me a lot of attention and care, and providing me with what I needed, and usually what I wanted too. According to my mother I used to sing myself to sleep as a baby. Of course I don’t remember that. I guess if I had to pinpoint an age where my musical talent became apparent, it would be 7. I had this toy keyboard that I had gotten for Christmas. One day my mom hears me playing “Lean on Me” by ear, which she thought was the radio. She put me in piano lessons immediately, and I excelled really quickly, but I wasn’t able to stay in piano lessons for very long, because we couldn’t really afford it. So, I ended up teaching myself classical pieces by ear.
BB: How did you get in touch with WNUR and performing for Dillo Day?
A: They reached out to me! I was very pleasantly surprised and honored!
BB: What are you hoping the experience of performing to be?
A: I’m hoping to be able to reach a lot of the Northwestern student base; building loyal fan bases at colleges is imperative for any young, up and coming artist. I also just want to have a blast; it’s the first festival gig I’ve been booked for and I’m looking forward to all of the high energy and excitement.
BB: What are your thoughts on performing at this PWI event where there will be a lot of spectators of different races?
A: This is an interesting question, because I don’t think a lot of my music is actually explicitly heavy in identity politics, but certainly is implicitly, since I write from a very personal place, and of course being a Black woman shapes my perspective. I actually feel myself ready to channel more of a direct, socio-political lens; I just think it can be difficult to do without seeming trite or cliche. I have no qualms about performing my music for different races, ethnicities, or cultures – in fact I embrace it. It’s that exchange of differences and varying experiences that is so enriching and can broaden our understanding of humanity. Music is quite possibly the best medium for that because it’s a universal language. Moreover, it’s a language that holds so many nuances in both how you communicate and what you communicate. Even the fact that a lot of my music is quite directly dealing with Black history and anthropology – exploring the blending of many Black American genres and how they inform one another – is rewarding for me, and I think certainly rewarding for listeners of all backgrounds.
BB: 2 of your favorite songs: Favorite song of yours and favorite song of another artist (can be famous or not)?
A: This is impossible to answer. I’ll try, though. Favorite song of mine that I wrote is probably Electric Truth. Favorite song of someone else…
I’ll just name a fave of the moment, because that’s somewhat doable. “Borderline with My Atoms” by Hiatus Kaiyote has been a favorite of mine since they released that album. LOVE them and that song is ridic. The whole album is ridiculous, honestly.
BB: Do you have your Dillo outfit planned? 🙂
A: Kinda. Maybe? 🙂 I have some options I’ll mix and match depending on my mood that day…and the weather.
BB: What would you like to tell your fans who have been down for your music beforehand?
A: Definitely to hear expect the songs you love. And DEFINITELY expect some surprises!
BB: Any last words?
A: Thank you for this lovely interview! And of course a huge thank you to WNUR for inviting me this year to grace their stage! It’s lit!!!
Don’t miss out on just how ‘lit’ everything will be, at Dillo Day on Fri. May 21! Akenya‘s performance starts at 12:30.