Our latest songwriting interview is with Michael Ekeghasi. Michael was born in Lagos in Nigeria and lived in Finland where he built a large and dedicated fanbase. Michael performed to an audience of about 15,000 people at the Pelipoikki rally in Helsinki. He shared same stage with the likes of famous Finnish rapper Paleface, Malang Cissokho and the renowned Helsinki Symphony Orchestra.

Michael Ekeghasi

He has now relocated to London where he has recorded a string of well received singles and written a host of excellent songs for our very own Positive Songs Project in 2020. He regularly collaborates with fellow PSP luminary Maya McCourt on the Flotsam Sessions.

1. What’s the first piece of music or song you remember hearing?

A piano rendition of “All my life” by K-Ci and JoJo. It is probably not the first music I’ve heard but it is a memorable one and that is because it led to my first ever recording experience but that is a story for another time.

2. Can we talk a bit about the last song you wrote… was there a specific intention when you began to write it?

The last song I wrote, before the latest one, stems from a conversation I was having a friend who happened to have co-written it with me. We did not set out to write a song. It was just a simple but deep conversation about the horrific situation in the world. How so many children are suffering from the lack of food, basic amenities, education and health care. The idea of writing a song only came when we thought could not do a lot about the situation but then realized that we both have a tool we could use to raise funds and create more awareness, and that is our song writing skills.

So we set out to write “Dying is not for kids”. It’s a very emotional song. I remember playing it in a song sharing group sometime ago and one of the audience told me he would not listen to the song again because he has a daughter and he can’t imagine her going through “all those sufferings”. But that is the reality of the world we live in today. My co-writer and I were able to raise some funds through donations on release week for Pelastakaa Lapset ry (Save The Children), an NGO in Finland which is dedicated to helping children and families from impoverished societies. The song was written in Finland and recorded in Poland.

3. As a follow up, is that your usual process and if not how does it differ?

Not really. Most of the song I have written starts from jamming, trying out new chord combinations, humming some melodies and then lyrics. Usually, I keep a note of potential song ideas which comes from observing my environment, listening to other peoples stories and from my life experiences. When a song comes to me, no matter how crude it sounds, I try as much as I can to record it using my phone or any recording devices at my disposal, otherwise I will forget it and the song hardly returns. I have some strange feeling that it goes to the next person who is ready to work on it as I can swear I have heard a song from a random artiste which I think came to me in the past but for some reason I did not capture it.

4. Is there a specific experience that you can bring to mind that has encouraged you to write music you wouldn’t have written otherwise?

Yes. There was one recent instance during the pandemic lockdown. I was introduced by a friend to a songwriting group online called Positive Song Project (PSP). In this group, there are weekly songwriting challenges that we go through. One of the challenges was to write a song from an animal point of view. I have never thought of such before, I wouldn’t on good day yet I find the ideas it quite fascinating. That week I wrote a song called “Hooman” which is how animal pets would call us as humans. It is a very simple song written with only 3 chords: a representation of how less complicated pets could be.

5. Tell us about your latest single, Blow. It contains a sample at the beginning and seems lyrically related to the concepts of family and friends.

“Blow” was also a product of PSP which I had I mention earlier. It was easy yet difficult to write as it was very personal, probably one of the most personal songs I have ever written. It is the story of a struggling artiste who chose to follow his passion but family expectations are holding him back. He feels trapped, almost like their was a spell on him which is preventing him from making it in his career and the only way to break this spell is to plead to his mother to pray for him. The voice sample you hear at the beginning of the song is a real life voice message from my mother.

I have had many people come to me after my live performances, some in tears, telling how they were touched by the song. How they could relate to it. I was simply crying out, expressing my ordeals the best way that I possibly could through music. But I’m happy to know that the song speaks to people in similar situations.

6. Give us a Michael Ekeghasi Oblique Strategy… Are there any special techniques you employ to get a new song started?

Nothing special. As mentioned earlier, I just starts jamming and freestyling. I try to record the sound as soon as possible. Then go back to it a later to develop it further into a song tapping from some of the song ideas that I have.

7. Take us through your gear list. When you demo new songs or ideas, what is your home recording setup for writing? For example, your favoured instrument? Any favoured FX pedals or plug ins? Which DAW(s) do you use? Which interface?

Here is some of my gear:
Two sets of JBL pro speakers
32 inches HP Monitor
Two channel focusrite audio interface
Focusrite CM25 MKII condenser microphone
Behringer ECM8000 ultra-linear measurement microphone (for my studio room acoustic measurement)
Behringer XM8500 dynamic mic
Two acoustic guitars – Ibanez and Faith. These are my main musical instruments.
A Gio Ibanez electric guitar
DT 770 pro headphones
Two 16-key midi controllers – M-audio and Novation.
An 81-key full weighted Yamaha p-45 digital piano
Millennium MPS-850 e-drum
Various percussions from Bonga to Cajuns and all sorts.
C-key Harmonica
A Boss loop pedal
These are the ones I can remember now.

When I demo songs, it’s usually starts with me, my acoustic guitar and microphone, then other instruments follow suits depending on what instruments I could hear playing in my head. I also like to experiment and play with various others sounds and instruments. I use a FL studio as my DAW.

Follow Michael Ekeghasi on Instagram to keep up with his latest releases.

Listen to Michael’s songs for the Positive Songs Project at soundcloud.com/michaelekeghasi

Jerusalem-born Avital Raz is a theatre maker and musician. Her first solo show My Jerusalem was derived from a controversial song. It combines live music with storytelling and projected images. A politically-charged tale of a drunken one-night stand, infused with stories of growing up in the turmoil of 1980s Israel.

Avital Raz // Photo credit: Jimmy Spaceman

Raz started out as a child singer of classical music. She studied at The School of Visual Theatre in Jerusalem and After completing degrees in vocal performance and composition, she shifted her focus to India where she studied the ancient art of Dhrupad singing with Prof. Ritwik Sanyal of Benares Hindu University.

This improvisational style led to a surge in creativity and Avital’s first album: Sad Songs About The End Of Love – 11 of James Joyce’s poems from Chamber Music composed mostly in Raag style and recorded in India and Israel with local musicians.

Her latest musical release ‘The Fallen Angel’s Unravelling Descent’, a collaboration with Keith Angel (producer) was given four stars by RnR magazine and high Praise in Folk Radio UK among other publications.

“There is no-one quite like Avital Raz in the world of music right now, and she should be applauded for the intelligence and singularity of her artistic vision. The Fallen Angel’s Unravelling Descent is a genuinely original musical statement, full of wise, exotic and gleefully mordant songs that manage to be simultaneously challenging and melodic.”

Avital spoke to us about songwriting and her latest show ‘Jerusalem’…

1. What’s the first piece of music or song you remember hearing?

AR: I don’t know if this counts as music… My mother had her own version of Mother Goose nursery rhymes. Some of them had melodies and some were more of a deranged chant. I remember my Mom, my sister and I shouting it for hours: “Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town, Upstairs, downstairs in his nightgown, Tapping at the window, crying through the lock, Are all the children in their beds…?” So, I’m going with original compositions by my creative mother.

2. Can we talk a bit about the latest show you are performing, My Jerusalem… The seeds of its creation are from one of my favourite songs of yours, The Edinburgh Surprise. The song feels so visceral and instantaneous. I remember hearing it for the first time and it made my hair stand on end. Was there a specific intention when you sat down to write it?

AR: I’ve got a lot to say about that but I’ll try to be concise…. Being an Israeli living in the UK, people made all kinds of assumptions about me so I guess I wrote the song to give a complex picture of where I stand. It describes a drunken sexual encounter between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man in Edinburgh. When I released it, it sparked some controversy on twitter not only from right-wing traditionalists but also from Palestine supporters and feminists. So rather than clarifying my political position, it brought up more questions which is why it ended up being the backbone of a solo show I started developing two years ago. I toured the show and adapted it to film during  lockdown. While performing the show, in one month I was both called an Israel-hating-antisemite and a Zionist racist. I started to think that the subject of Israel and me as an Israeli having my own narrative was so contentious, lots of people came to the show wearing blinders. So, together with Chris Davis, we created a documentary film to accompany My Jerusalem entitled Your Jerusalem interviewing Palestinians, Israelis and people in the UK about issues raised in the show (holocaust, occupation, Jerusalem, racism, gender politics…).


As this is a music blog, I should say the show is a mixture of songs broken up and infused with storytelling and projected video. I was getting fed up with gig life. I wanted audiences to listen to me as I put a lot of care into my lyrics and had too many experiences of performing as background music to people chattering. Perhaps for that reason my songs became increasingly filthier, so people would be shocked enough to stop their conversations!  I enjoy the attention I’ve been getting from theatre audiences and the fact that being thought provoking appears to be a strength. As a musician I  was once offered a mentoring session with a high level promoter in London who shall not be named. She told me, if I stopped swearing and didn’t go so political, I’d have a chance of “making it” with my pretty voice

3. As a follow up, is that your usual writing process and if not how does it differ?
AR: I’m not sure I have a writing process. I tend to either do something really reckless and stupid and then write about it or write because I’m so miserable, I need to unpack the emotions and sculpt them into something with beauty to be able to bare them.  Some songs have come about through wanting to have the last word, so they’re really written to someone specific and some from dreams. I’ve never been very disciplined or imaginative. I spent years in India studying Dhrupad, an ancient form of Hindustani music which is improvised. I think a lot of my melodies are influenced from singing in Raag. 

In the case of ‘The Edinburgh Surprise’, I was touring a lot and listening to a lot of Bob Dylan at the time. I had a long train journey from Edinburgh to Manchester and it just came out fully formed. Some songs are just like that, others take years of chiseling. 

4. The use of prosody in your songs has always struck me as meticulous. Do the lyrics come first and then you match the music to them? Or do you have the emotional base of the music first and find words to match that?

AR: I think in most cases the words come first. I often have a story to tell which is probably why I’ve found my way into theatre.  I mentioned songs that come from dreams…, there are quite a few of those and they usually have music, sometimes it’s only the music in a dream and I wake up and try to figure it out. 

5. Is there a specific experience that you can bring to mind that has encouraged you to write music you wouldn’t have written otherwise?

AR: I’ve started working on a new show, like My Jerusalem, it will be a mixture of songs and storytelling. It’s a ghost story and its main plot line in a woman in her 40’s is depressed after a miscarriage. One day, during lockdown, she manages to finally open the door at the back of the utility closet that would never budge and discovers her long deceased grandmother’s ghost standing over a pan of sizzling halibut. 

The show and the songs in it will focus on infertility and pregnancy loss with a backdrop of the pandemic exploring questions of life and death and family bonds. 

For the last five years I’ve been struggling with recurrent miscarriages. I’ve found it’s quite a taboo subject but after My Jerusalem, I feel equipped to try and raise awareness to it and hopefully through my show and songs provide some solace to women/ couples who often feel isolated and even ashamed to discuss what they’ve been going through.

6. Give us an Avital Raz Oblique Strategy… Are there any special techniques you employ to get a new song started?

AR: SUFFER! suffer in life, feel things really deeply, have your poor heart broken and then maybe you’ll gain insight into the fabric of being alive that will be worthy of an audience… but honestly, what do I know? My songs tend to offend people ‘trying to have a pleasant night out’….

7. TECH QUESTION! Take us through your gear list. When you demo new songs or ideas, what is your home recording setup for writing? For example, your favoured instrument? Any favoured FX pedals or plug ins? Which DAW(s) do you use? Which interface?

AR: I’ve recently started experimenting with a loop station. I’m hoping it will provide a musical soundscape for my next show.  Beyond that I use protools with a Mbox pro. I recently acquired a good condenser mic. I can’t remember brand names or any techie stuff. I listen to a lot of music recorded in the 60’s and 70’s, some of it in India, Sound quality is not something I care too much about.  The instruments I play are guitar, Tanpura – which is a 4 stringed Indian drone instrument that singers use to accompany themselves, glockenspiel and I create a lot of midi sounds mostly from what protools and contact have to offer. My house is a graveyard for dysfunctional instruments. People keep giving them to me and I keep thinking one day, I’ll use that accordion or fix that bass but I don’t…. 

Tickets for ‘My Jerusalem’ are on sale now for 28th May at The Duke’s in Lancaster:

And online everywhere on 30th May:

Listen to and buy more music by Avital Raz: