Saleka On Touring, Her Culture, And Her Music

Saleka will be performing at the Ritz on August 31st , opening for Giveon. But first, she sat down with us to talk about the tour, perform...

Saleka will be performing at the Ritz on August 31st, opening for Giveon. But first, she sat down with us to talk about the tour, performing in her hometown, her singles "Seance" and "Red Eyes," and her dream music festival.

You're currently on the road opening for Giveon. How's it going so far?
It's been good. It's been fun. Just finishing the first week of tour. It's been surreal. The venues are incredible, the audiences are so fun. It's been super fun and I'm learning a lot.

What can fans expect at your Raleigh show next week?
It's really fun. Because I'm an opener, we've changed up the way we're performing. Prior to this, I was playing in intimate acoustic jazz clubs, so this tour is much bigger. Doing a bunch of singles. Throwing a new one in there. It's very fun. It's very much inspired by Giveon. His audience is very musical, and lyrical, and likes storytelling and I feel very comfortable in that space.

The tour opened in your hometown of Philadelphia. What was that like for you?
It was really fun. It was nice to kick off the tour in my home city because all my family and friends got to be there. My family got to see the show and meet Giveon, so that was really nice.

Let's talk about your single "Seance." First of all, have you ever attended a seance?
I have not attended a real seance, no.

What's the song about?
The song is about my relationship with my culture, my heritage, my roots. When I was younger, I would push things like that away because it felt like I had to assimilate to be accepted. Those things made me feel different and I was uncomfortable with that when I was younger. Now as an adult, I'm feeling the loss of that and wanting to get it back. Metaphorically, I'm trying to reconnect with the old version of myself, the younger version of myself, when I was a kid and shameless about those things and more connected to my culture and heritage. I'm trying to re-vibe, so to speak, with that person and bring back my connection to my culture.

What does the brightly colored creature in the video represent?
In the video, we wanted to make it a little more universal than a specific relationship with my specific culture. Part of it is reconnecting with the part of yourself that is shameless and quirky. The monster kind of represents all those colorful and weird things about yourself that you push away through your life. At first in the video, we're all afraid of this monster. It's coming in and it's menacing. I think often you feel scared when you think about things we do different and exposing that to the world. It feels scary. But as the video goes on, everyone becomes one with the monster and there's a tango with the monster and we all connect with it. The outfits change and we all become colorful ourselves and it's fun and it's vibrant. It represents that journey of life, the things you push away, the fear of being different, the fear of being yourself. Once you get through that and you connect with it again, it elevates you.

You released "Red Eyes" at the end of last month. What is the meaning of that song?
It's a very personal one. It's about falling in love with someone in this world where everything is very fleeting and things moves so fast and the longevity of a connection is taken for granted, especially in my generation. Just grappling with those things and trying to reconcile what it means to live in this world where we have such an emphasis on instant gratification. How do you put those things together? How do you nourish something that lasts long in a world where we don't know how to do that anymore? It's very difficult.

I was very inspired by Giveon because he has a way of releasing singles that are intimate and lyrical and can be moody. Originally, it was supposed to be a deep cut on the album, but when I found out I was touring with Giveon, I was excited and inspired by his singles to release this one as a single even though it might not be the most single-y release.

Speaking of album, when are we getting a full album from you?
Very soon. This fall. I have one more single then the album.

What's been the biggest moment of your career so far?
This is definitely a huge one, opening for Giveon. It's my first full tour. I started releasing music during the pandemic so for me, performances in the first year of releasing music were not something that was happening at all. So this new world of going on tour and doing all these performances and meeting people face-to-face in a packed room is so exciting to me. I'm very grateful to have this opportunity to be here in person and be performing.

I think another big moment was writing a song for the movie Old, which was last summer. That was a huge moment in terms of songwriting and placement and it was a very special, personal one.

You're in charge of a music festival and can pick any five acts, living on dead, to appear on the bill with you. Who do you choose?
Can I replace myself? I would say for sure Amy Winehouse. I'm a big jazz person so Nina Simone. Sarah Vaughan is one of my favorite vocalists of all time. If I could get Bob Marley up there, that would be sick. Maybe Lauryn Hill.

What song do you all perform together as the final jam?
We'd have to perform one of Bob Marley's songs for sure. One of my favorite songs of his is "Concrete Jungle." I would have to pick that for my own selfish reasons.

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Strange Carolinas is the Travelogue Of The Offbeat, a wry look at the interesting, unique, and offbeat roadside attractions, people, music, art, food, and festivals in North and South Carolina.


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