Make way for Zikai, the rising pop songtress making her way on to your next favourite playlist. Raised in Sweden, Zikai dreamed of stardom, inspired by the success of Swedish pop icons such as Zara Larsson and Tove Lo. Fast forward to 2020 and Zikai is truly thriving in her element, with last year’s impressive debut EP ‘Make You Mine‘, the dreamy nostalgic follow up single ‘TwentySomething’, an award nomination, and even her own YouTube show.
This year Zikai releases ‘Stay This Way’, an upbeat track infused with Afropop elements, touching on her Swedish and Ivorian heritage. Originally written in 2019, ‘Stay This Way‘ is about a time in Zikai’s life that felt simple and free, but feels more relevant now than ever as we long for the blissful pre-pandemic days of the past. Zikai’s message: live for the joy of the moment and don’t take anything for granted.
We ask Zikai about the creating the new single, little things that bring her happiness, and for a message to her younger self.
Hi Zikai, thanks for chatting with us. To start with, could you tell us about your musical upbringing? Who did your parents listen to, do you think the artists that you listened to as a child have influenced your style today?
I grew up with my mother who’s Swedish and my dad who’s from the Ivory Coast so I really got the best of both worlds – Swedish pop and afrobeat. I do think it influenced me a lot, but I’m probably mostly inspired by the artists I grew up watching on MTV, and later on the ones I found on Soundcloud (Kehlani, Jhene Aiko etc)
What was it like growing up in Sweden, is there a good music scene there for emerging talent?
It was amazing growing up in Sweden! Pop music is a big part of our culture so I’d definitely say there’s a good scene for emerging talent. I also feel like watching young women from the same city (Zara Larsson, Tove Lo etc) thrive gave me confidence. They made me feel like my dream maybe wasn’t that far away.
Your previous single “TwentySomething” is such a relatable song, and must be an incredible feeling to connect with a whole generation living out their 20s. What was it like to get such a positive reception?
It felt great. The song and the lyrics came from an honest place and it’s always crazy when people connect like that. That’s exactly what I want to do with my music, I want people to feel like they’re a part of it.
It obviously hasn’t been the same since Covid and the live show opportunities are very limited so I decided to do something different as a way of promoting my song Twenty Something. I invited a couple of guests – a podcaster, a TikTok star, an rnb artist, a Swedish pop artist – and we talked about how they experience/experienced their twenties, a little bit about their careers, a little bit about mine, and basically just had a really great time and laughed a lot.
On to the new single, ‘Stay This Way’, you mentioned on Instagram that the song was written back in 2019, pre-covid! It definitely feels very relevant now, but what was the song originally written about?
I wrote it together with Kee Ingrosso. Before we wrote it she told me about when she was in her twenties and went on a road trip to Vegas from LA with some random new friends she’d just met. The story felt very dreamy and it was something beautiful about how she described herself being so present on that road trip. Being in the present moment and not thinking about the past or future all the time is something I struggle with, but there are moments where I do find myself being fully present and those moments are amazing.
How did you come to work with Kess Kross and producer Jim Ouma on the track? What was the creative process like in the studio?
I wrote it together with my fave top liner Kee Ingrosso, producers Jim Ouma and writer/artist Kes Kross. We had actually made a whole other song that day but Jim Ouma wanted to show us another beat right before we called it a day. Me and Kee looooved the vibe of that beat so we tried some melodies and words – 30 minutes later, ”Stay This Way” was born. Kess Kross recorded his verse from LA and I knew it was a perfect fit the moment I heard it.
Your music has such an vibrant uplifting sound, but besides music what brings you joy?
Being with my family and friends gives me so much joy and energy. I also enjoy listening to my fave artists when I’m on my way to the studio or a party. Just little moments like that.
What are the three things you miss most about pre-pandemic life?
Honestly it’s just being able to relax in a room full of people, sitting in a restaurant and have a glass of wine, not thinking constantly of getting sick or getting someone else sick. I guess I miss the simple things that I used to take for granted. And of course I miss performing in front of a live audience, connecting with fans and traveling.
What would you say has been the best moment of your career so far?
Hmmm that’s a hard question cause I feel like there’s been happening a lot of things lately that I’m grateful for. But the Denniz Pop nomination was an amazing thing that happened last year. I also did a performance on Sweden’s most watched TV show called “På spåret” and I was very proud of how it all came together.
If you could send your younger self a message, what would it be?
I would tell myself that everything will be alright and the problems you have aren’t actually that big in reality and things WILL make sense. I would also tell myself to stop dating those waste men cause you deserve better honey.