Born in London to Jamaican parents, raised in New York City and now living in the North Bay, classically trained pianist and songwriter Eki Shola brings a multicultural wealth to her original compositions and embraces music’s healing properties.
Working on her keyboard, and backed by digital effects, the multiple Norbay Award-winner for electronica crafts jazzy, ambient tones with ethereal melodies that often carry dreamlike messages of hope and a sense of gratitude for life.
In 2016, Shola first displayed that relaxing blend of jazz and ambient piano on her debut album, Final Beginning. A year later, the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa destroyed her home on Riebli Road. Shola turned to music after that tragedy. She decided to forego trying to recreate her already recorded songs and instead opened the floodgates of her creativity with a torrent of songwriting that led to a trilogy of albums.
That trilogy debuted in the spring of 2019 with the album Possible, followed by the release of Drift in late 2019. Now, Shola concludes the musical journey with the release of Essential.
Shola was in the process of mixing and mastering Essential at the beginning of this year when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the economy. With a background in medicine, Shola recently began performing disability evaluations for veterans in Sonoma County, though she’s been home since March.
“The extra time afforded me the time to reflect on our current events, the coronavirus, health care advocacy, and Black Lives Matter,” she says. “The album was extended to incorporate some of those events. The message was broadened.”
For Shola, writing new compositions while in shelter-in-place mode has been a therapeutic experience akin to writing music after surviving the fires.
“Between March, April and May, it was almost as if I was writing my own prescriptions,” she says of writing her new songs.
Shola is donating a portion of proceeds from sales of the album to the Freedom Community Clinic, which offers holistic healing practices for underserved people of color who live in the Bay Area. The community clinic provides free wellness and care and even during the pandemic, they are offering healing modalities like Reiki and acupuncture in socially distant settings.
Shola is also embracing the online platforms that many musicians and artists are flocking to until social gatherings can begin again, and she will be hosting an album-release livestream listening party for Essential on August 8.
“I know live performances are on hold for a bit but that pushes you to think a little more out of the box,” Shola says. “I’m excited to be doing different things, I’m looking at doing animation with my music and some online shows. I would have never thought I’d being doing that, but this has opened my eyes to other options.”