If you come across the name Imani Hekima on YouTube, Spotify or SoundCloud, don’t just hover by.
Imani is an interesting lyricist and writes memorable material; mix this with his rhythmic grooves and a sweet-like-chocolate voice and he pulls you in straight away. He plays drums, bass and guitar and draws upon these skills as a writer/arranger. He has described his diverse sound as a mixture of some of Stevie Wonder’s older stuff with a reggae influence, soulful and socially conscious. It’s definitely progressive with the themes he sings on.
Imani’s first musical outing was back in the 80s with the Bradford ska/reggae band Spectre, with his two eldest brothers and school friends. Spectre supported Aswad, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Augustus Pablo and Junior Delgado on tour, before splitting in the early 90s.
He then did session work as a pianist and pursued an educational route, getting a BA honours degree in music. In the Noughties, Imani embarked upon a solo career, gigging and recording intermittently and in the past couple of years has released the singles “Shame”, “The Robots’ Rebellion” and “Just Beneath The Skin”.
In his debut album Imanifesto (2012); you can hear a lot of mixed influences from ska and reggae to Brit soul and Indian throughout.
Not surprisingly, Imani has a vast collection of records and CDs. He studies the artists he admires or anyone who is a master of the arts and he collects books on music, spirituality and metaphysics. He is definitely a soul singer; there’s a distinction in his tenor and falsetto voice, maybe because he uses it as a vehicle for social comment. Although according to him, that’s something he learnt from reggae:
“The reggae genre taught me about myself and about my history that I wouldn’t have learnt at school, so it’s all tied up with my self-development,” he said.
“Creatively I’d say I don’t want to promote sex and violence. I don’t swear in my music. There are no “N” words. And I suppose I don’t want to get personal with anybody. I might write about my personal experiences but I don’t want to channel anger. I don’t want to sing angry songs because music is something that I do to really quell whatever emotional feelings that I may have.”
He has toured with the album, released two videos and just before his album dropped, he was interviewed by club and radio DJ Mark Devlin as part of the Good Vibrations podcast series (which has featured Dead Prez, David Icke and Nesha formerly of 1xtra). Mark’s interest is the conspiracy angle of Imanifesto (microchips and terrorism are two of the subjects sung about) and where Imani will go next with his music.
Alongside his career as a singer-songwriter, Imani is an accomplished pianist. He has studied classical piano, is self taught as a jazz pianist and, reflecting his diversity, has developed a unique niche in performing renditions of Bollywood classic songs. His work as a Bollywood player was impressive enough to earn him a support slot to Raghav in 2009, and he plays at many weddings/events in the British south Asian community.
Continuing his piano endeavours, in 2012, Imani was featured on Specialized: A Modern Take on Special Classics , a charity tribute album to The Specials with various artists.
Check out his chops as a Bollywood Pianist: