Stourport-on-Severn's BEKAH will continue to fight her corner - unsigned column
'I have vowed to myself I will never go back to being ashamed of or hide who I am'.
These are the words of BEKAH, a musician and record producer based in Stourport-on-Severn who has battled a lot in her own mind during her short career and strives only to look forwards when thinking about her music.
Her soul-searching has been channelled through the 27-year-old's creations, and BEKAH - real name Rebekah Selena Buffong - hopes they can act as inspiration to others facing their own dilemmas. Starting by proudly displaying the rainbow symbol on her social media profiles.
"I have struggled with my sexuality for as far back as I can remember," the musician originally from Redditch says. "Growing up in a very strict Seventh Day Adventist household, with my dad being a preacher and church elder, this was something I found very difficult to accept about myself and saw it as something that was wrong and needed changing.
"For me it was even more difficult because it wasn’t just my sexuality I was struggling with but also my image. Being an androgynous female, I have never felt comfortable or confident dressing feminine and attending church every week I would be made to do so. Since coming out on New Year's Eve 2015 to my family I have vowed to myself I will never go back to being ashamed of or hide who I am.
"There are times this message is portrayed in my music as I believe it’s not just a struggle I have been through. I know there are so many others who aren’t able to comfortably be themselves. Being half Montserratian and half Pakistani I know in both sides of my heritage homosexuality is still very much frowned upon, which is why I feel the need to advocate for it."
But not in her latest material. The artist, who mixes rap, RnB and dance among other influences in her work, decided a Christmas single was next on her to-do list. The result is Santa? Help!, a big-beat festive treat that features BEKAH writing her letter to everyone's favourite gift giver in the hope of getting everything she wants.
"Honestly, I just wanted to make a Christmas song I could listen to each year and know I’d made it," she continues. "I started off wanting it to be a banger but as I started listing the various things I wanted from Santa it very quickly became more of a comedy song where I stopped caring and managed to get more of my humour across, which I love.
"I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from people who’ve heard the track. A few people I’ve played the song for in person have been in absolute stitches, which for me was mission accomplished.
"I was going to put a parody-esque music video out this year but I figured as Christmas happens once a year I can wait instead of rushing the process. That’s the advantage of being independent. You get to do things in your own time."
But as we have seen many times in this column there are drawbacks to that independence too. BEKAH has previously been vocal via her Twitter account about the lack of support booking agents can show upcoming musicians. But like everything else, she has tackled that head-on.
"I am currently working on a series of seminars and workshops to take to various educational establishments specifically designed around the challenges independent artists will face and how to best deal with them.
"I will be drawing on all the experiences I’ve faced over the decade I’ve been releasing independently and on the experiences of other artists I’ve met along the way.
"There are many flaws in the current way the music industry is run but I’m very much a ‘less problems, more solutions’ kind of person, so I feel it’s necessary to offer people viable solutions they can use to get around them."
And there's always time to chill out by listening to her influences between tasks too.
"Performing has always been where my heart is so I look at artists who I consider to be great performers for my inspiration," she adds. "Artists like Michael Jackson and Beyoncé.
"I have been heavily inspired by artists like Ryan Leslie and he has also inspired me when it comes to music production along with the likes of Scott Storch and Timbaland - producers who, in my opinion, have all managed to transcend genre and create their own individual sound. Church music has also heavily inspired my songwriting process."
Her last EP Transience came out last year, and she has some exclusive news for fans who have been waiting for the follow up via this Star Unsigned column.
"I have a new EP being released in April," she reveals. "I’ve not yet told anybody the name of the EP, but I can reveal it is called Advent. The EP consists of five tracks and it takes the sound back to my gospel roots - but done my way. Many will listen to the EP and assume the songs are written about God. All I will say is, whatever you want to take from the songs is your truth.
"I will be performing on WCR FM on January 6 where I’ll be talking about my plans for the upcoming year and performing a song off my Advent EP.
"I plan on completing my workshops and seminars, getting the foundations in place so I can start delivering them in the new academic year. I also plan on getting my ARLTB (All Roads Lead To BEKAH) fashion brand officially up and running before Pride month where I’d like to start selling the brand at various events across the UK. I have a couple collaborations up my sleeve too.
"I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen. But I plan on being, happy, healthy and free."
And that, we can drink to this festive season.
BEKAH can be found on both Facebook and Twitter @ARLTBEKAH and she also has her own website where her music can be purchased and previews of the ARLTB clothing range can be seen at www.bekah.co.uk/ - updates on her seminars and workshops will also be posted via these channels. To hear all her music, check out her Spotify page.