The Music Works GCODA Members Talk … New Music

GCODA is made up of a group of young people who took part in the ‘Knife Angel’ programme …

Lights Out’ and the Knife Angel sculpture were installations hosted by Gloucester Cathedral in 2023 created by young people, in collaboration with The Music Works and Squidsoup.

Young people took part in a series of workshops to produce a small-scale, intimate light and sound installation. The work called ‘Lights Out’, featured the voices and sounds of local young people interested in social change, whose lives have been affected by the issues raised by the Knife Angel sculpture.

We spoke to GCODA about their new album and the inspiration behind it …

Please introduce yourself …
ESSEM: Vocalist and songwriter, care support worker.
TRAY: Spoken word artist, rapper, care support worker, freelance community worker.

Why GCODA, why did you work on it / how did it come about?
ESSEM
: I’ve never done music before, but I have had circumstances that I wanted to share about knife crime and violence.
TRAY: Opportunities from The Music Works led to me knowing about the Knife Angel project and it led to us having funding to work on a project led by young people.

Tell us about your team …
ESSEM: Manon and Cal as they made the beat. Manon recreated a beat I liked from YouTube channel ‘That Afrobeat’, it was the first time she created an Afrobeat production and she smashed it. I liked working with her as she was knowledgeable and also explained things that she felt the track needed, she would correct me with recording vocals and was supportive the whole time.
TRAY: The person I was really close to on this project is Cal (14jk) who created the majority of the beats. At one point I was provided with a monitor as his laptop screen was smashed. I also spent time with Shivan the mix engineer with the album and it was good to see and understand the process of making the album really good.

GCODA’s Tray

What does the album mean to you personally?
TRAY:
To me it was inspirational and I had a connection to the community and the team. I was able to build a group of friends I can call family. Working on the album and what it has done has made me take music seriously.

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through it?
ESSEM:
There was a moment where one of the guys was so disrespectful and said something I felt was out of hand and I said to him if we were not in The Music Works it would be dealt with differently.

Tell us a memorable moment from the journey to making the album and getting involved with The Music Works?
ESSEM:
I loved going out for the meal with everyone.
TRAY: My first spoken word performance and the reaction it received was phenomenal and I genuinely was not expecting it, to see my peers tearing up from it, it was mad. Going to the Brits was amazing but I was more excited about The GCODA release date event.

Which song best defines what you love about this project?
ESSEM:
Should Of known with Curtis (intent) before we did the recording for this I met with Curtis and I was like. “I want to do a collab” and Curtis pulled up a tune and said “I have a tune and I want you to come on it” I felt a quick connection to the track, the production was made by Cal (14jk).
TRAY: Doing the most, the vibes that everyone has to that song is great and I feel how I have grown and developed as an artist from that tune. The other track is Bengal Tiger as I talk about doing your thing and not being affected by the negative environment you are around.

GCODA’s Essem

This time last year you collaborated with The Music Works for a showcase at Gloucester Cathedral As part of the ‘Knife Angel’ programme, which was shortlisted for the Social Action Award at the 2023 Youth Music Awards. How did it feel to be a part of the programme and be selected for the award?
ESSEM: The whole experience was amazing and to travel in a minibus with staff to the event was good, to be nominated for a project we worked hard on, it was a big opportunity and it helped build my confidence and give me more drive to pursue music.
TRAY: It boosted my motivation to do more and it made me proud as well of where I have come from and the people I met on this programme. It showed me the power of bringing people together to work on a project.

You have not had the easiest start in life but have persevered and turned the negatives into positives how has music and being mentored by Mikel helped to overcome these challenges?
ESSEM:
I just had a conversation with Mikel and opened up to him about personal trauma I had dealt with and he talked about opportunities and he really encouraged me to get involved as I had never performed before or done music and I wouldn’t talk in public.
TRAY: Belief in my story and having the confidence to use my ideas and believe in my performance, which gave me self-empowerment. Mikel has been good at giving guidance to use my personal strengths to develop as a person. He also helped to put me in situations to develop my character for me to be the artist I desire to be.

Thinking about your career goals and intentions where does being a part of The Music Works Project and GCODA where does this sit on the checklist of what you want to achieve in your life going forward?
TRAY:
It has helped me secure paid opportunities and freelance work. I want to establish new, stronger foundations for people to join. I feel GCODA is the start of a collective we will have as a foundation and can still pursue solo projects but having this group is a key step for me building as an artist and a person.
Essem: To have more opportunities in life, I’m currently networking and more open to speaking to people and letting people know what other skills I have.

What’s next?
Essem:
When I was in Nigeria I used to be a Polo player and this is one of the good things in my life I have enjoyed. Since moving to the UK I haven’t been able to have the opportunity to ride a horse again, and as a black person it’s so difficult to have a connection to meet people who have horses and I don’t think people would even consider me to know about handling and riding horses at a professional level. So I want to make those connections.
TRAY: I just want to be able to grow and develop, make music and do more freelance and community-led projects

How do we keep up to date with you and your work ?
GCODA – Gcodaofficial (instagram)
ESSEM – sixteen_essem (instagram)
TRAY – tsantana_0 (instagram)

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