British Nigerian singer, songwriter, and producer Dan Onkar uses music as a way to understand and celebrate his culture – “I really wanted to tell that story about the ‘Lagos Londoner’.” His latest project A Night Like This is a musical experience, taking you on a journey through a flourishing romantic relationship.
Influenced by ’80s West African music (highlife, afrobeat, & disco) and contemporary R&B, the six-track EP is a celebratory body of work. “Tales By Moonlight,” inspired by an ’80s Nigerian TV show that holds the same name, is a joyous glimpse into a date spent under the glistening night sky.
“A Night Like This represents the coming together of my two different upbringings across London and Lagos,” Dan shares, “and embracing that merger, not only in my music but also as a man, owning where I’m from and wearing that with pride and in love.”
Simply put, A Night Like This is a story of love – carefree and unconditional.
We chatted to Onkar about the release of his new project and the artistic influences in his work.
You’ve just released your new EP A Night Like This – could you tell us a little more about the project?
A Night Like This is a creative turn for me in genre, production, and writing. I wanted to create something that was fun, something that told you a story about something and didn’t burden you with anything. It’s a story about love – a love that’s fun and doesn’t hurt, a love that you’re sure of. Imagine you went on holiday to a remote island and you fell in love but you had only the duration of this holiday to enjoy this love. You’d do everything that makes you happy, void of the consequences of real life, like work or bills or anything that brings you stress. You would probably stargaze, something you almost certainly can’t do in London.
Do you have a favorite single from the collection?
“In The Morning” – I think the production is beautiful on that one. Nosa Apollo sent a 30-second clip to me when he started it and instantly I knew how I wanted the song to sound. Ultimately, it just carries the type of joy I want people to feel when they are listening to the project.
You mention artists such as Luther Vandross, Usher, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti as prominent inspirations in your work. What is it about these musicians that inspires creativity?
Luther Vandross has something in his music that forces me to play his entire discography every time I listen to any one of his songs. His voice, his story, it’s all amazing – sad and exciting at the same time. Usher has, in my opinion, the best R&B album with Confessions and Fela was, and still is, the voice of a generation. His music spoke for people that couldn’t speak their mind. He had a vision and a belief and he never swayed from it.
For me, art is about honesty, relentless unapologetic honesty. Nothing is more inspiring to me than an artist you can listen to and you can feel the vulnerability in the words but you can also feel how sure of their art they are, it’s not fabricated or doctored.
You grew up between Lagos and London – how important was it for you to incorporate both these cultures into your music?
It’s taken me a while to be able to comfortably merge both cities in the music consciously. My tone and melodies have always been inspired by these places but now you can hear it in the music itself. It’s something I’ve always done but never actually let into the world as its own thing and that’s why I really loved making this project. It gave me the freedom to explore my background and push myself as a musician. Also, I really wanted to tell that story about the “Lagos Londoner.”
Which 3 artists should we be adding to our playlists?
Do you write from lived experiences? Do you think it’s important to create songs this way or can elements of fantasy also inspire great songwriting?
My songs are really just a window into my mind, so more often than not they are about real lived experiences. I think as a base for creativity there has to be a connection to real life – something the creator actually connects with emotionally and then you can embellish, draw, design whatever from that, but it has to exist first. However, every artist has the freedom to write whatever story they feel. Fantasy helps my songwriting to create the world I want to see. So, for the duration of the song, you get to feel the world how I feel it.
CONNECT WITH DAN ONKAR
story / Bryony Holdsworth
photos / Courtesy of Artist