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Aqyila: A Career in Full Bloom

The morning Toronto sun beams on Aqyila’s face as we exchange hellos on our Zoom call. Despite thousands of miles and a time-zone apart, her personality is infectious and welcoming. This is her first press stop for the day and lets me know very early on into our chat that all the sudden press and attention is a lot for her as she’s naturally an introvert, “I’m homebody, I love to play Sims 4. Like all I do is buy packs”. 

Sometimes it’s life’s seemingly mundane acts, moments of little significance, that have the most life-changing impact. It’s November 2023. Aqyila (pronounced A-key-la) is in her hotel room, drained from a day full of recording. She’s on the final leg of her month-long stint in LA and is itching to fly back home to Toronto. “I never got the feeling like, omg I would totally live here [LA]”. On a whim, as she does her daily TikTok scroll, she decides to post a video. “What is it you see in me? Tell me why do you believe in me” she lip syncs in the mirror, almost to serenade herself and her audience. She posts, closes the app and continues with her evening. 

She didn’t think it was going to blow up. Bloom wasn’t finished. It wasn’t meant to even be the lead single, she had recently released a Christmas song for the holiday season which was her focus. But this small act irrevocably changed her career. “I just wanted to gauge people’s interest. I was so overwhelmed I contemplated taking the song down”, she says frantically, reliving that overwhelming feeling.

As the videos to the sounds climb into the tens, and then hundreds of thousands, that same number of people flood Aqyila’s comment section, demanding for the full song to be released. But Aqyila is unmoved by the barrage of strangers demanding the song. She’s an artist settled in her craft, unmoved by the pressures of social media, beating the algorithm and constantly releasing music. “I wasn’t even doing that thing artists do where they tease the song for ages, the song just wasn’t done. I’m very intentional about music, and I need people to remember it’s my craft and I’m telling a story. I’m not just going to rush something for the sake of numbers”. 

Aqyila has a calmness and stillness to her that starkly contrasts with the rat race of the music industry she’s navigating. She admits she never felt any pressure or anxiety about the song not doing well after the full version was released, “I’m having so much fun creating, singing and doing cool things with my voice. People discover music everyday so I know they’ll find mine”. And after tasting the ups and downs of virality, she’s learnt her lesson and chuckles as she says will never tease an unfinished song again. 

As it stands, there are 440,000 user generated videos to her sound, and counting. There are videos with people appreciating their friendships, partners doting on their romantic love and Christians in awe of God’s love for them. For many listening, the song implied a religious connotation, but that wasn’t Aqyila intention when she penned it last year. “It was written with the intent of being a love song. I saw all the gospel content and thought it was nice and the song is very open to interpretation. Jhene Aiko - LSD is about her trip, but I listen to that song and think of friends who are no longer with me”. 

Bloom is a great example of how the worlds of gospel and R&B often overlap and melodically, they are two sides of the same coin. You wouldn’t have R&B without gospel, and some of the greatest R&B singers sang in their church choirs before they sang in stadiums; Brandy, Whitney Houston, Usher and Monica to name a few. “I saw a funny TikTok where a girl said she had to repent after listening to the entire song during her morning devotion, that made me laugh a lot”. 

What may appear as an overnight success, is almost a decade in the making. Aqyila started songs from as young as 6, “I had this book where I would write poems and I would sing them. It wasn’t until I got older I realised I was actually writing lyrics and those were songs”. From 2019, she started using Vine, Keek and YouTube to get her music out and reach a global audience. 

She’s tight-lipped as to when her album will be released, but assures her fans - new and old - that she’ll have a few singles this year. “My pen is getting better, my voice has improved. You’ll hear a lot of growth from my first EP. My music bends between R&B, and I’ve really looked to my musical idols, Brandy, Jazmine Sullivan and Fantasia, for inspiration”. 

Aqyila is sure to not put too much pressure on herself and wants to enjoy every moment. 

It seems, that just like a flower in spring, she’s in full bloom. 


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