A fruitful leap of faith: CKay's journey to the world stage

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CKay
CKay
Photo: Supplied by Warner Music Africa
  • CKay, born Chukwuka Ekweani, has become one of Nigeria's most recognisable musicians, but it hasn't been easy.
  • His big break came when he signed to the record label Chocolate City, but it wasn't until the release of Container in 2018 that he would gain the attention of musicians and fans alike. 
  • CKay's next big hit would become his biggest song to date, and one of the most shazamed songs in the world.

CKay, born Chukwuka Ekweani, has become one of Nigeria's most recognisable musicians over the years.

Coming from a musical background, the singer-songwriter learned piano from his father, who was also a choirmaster at the church they attended in Kaduna, Nigeria, at a young age. 

As CKay progressed as a young musician, he formed a band called Cre8tive Music with friends, performing at shows in and around Kaduna while also learning music production. With the urge to pursue a music career growing stronger within him, CKay left home for Lagos, but it wasn't an easy decision to make.

"My parents never really saw music as a very stable career. I had to make the decision to either chase my dreams or regret them and spend the rest of my life thinking 'what if'."

In Lagos, the young musician would make ends meet as a producer, working in three recording studios. 

His big break came when he signed to the record label Chocolate City under which he would release his first single, Nkechi Turn Up, in 2016, followed by the EP #WTFiCKay in 2017. It wasn't until the release of the dance tune Container in 2018, however, that he would gain the attention of musicians and fans alike. 

Asked about his approach to creating the song and its overall reception, the star responded: 

"I think Container was an attempt to experiment because I like to try stuff out in the studio depending on my mood, and I made that song. I was not even trying to make a song; I was just having fun... I wasn't really singing, I was just vibing, but it dropped and was such a huge record."

After Container, CKay's next big hit would become his biggest song to date. 

Love Nwantiti was initially released in 2019 as part of his second EP, CKay The First. The song gained popularity on TikTok, but for a while, people weren't aware that the song was his, resulting in him uploading an acoustic version on TikTok. 

"Certain countries enjoyed the music a little too much and started to claim it was theirs. I appreciate the love, but, yeah, I had to go on TikTok again and set things straight," CKay said in a 2021 interview with Rolling Stone

In addition to being popular in countries including Morocco, India, and Portugal, Love Nwantiti has also dominated streaming charts, including YouTube's Top Songs Global and Spotify's Global Viral 100 charts. The song has contributed to exposing African talent worldwide, garnering over 956 million streams across platforms.

The star's winning formula didn't stop there, as the release of Emiliana in 2022 followed in the footsteps of Love Nwantiti and has amassed over 290 million streams. 

Not many artists can brag about having the most shazamed song in the world, but CKay is one of them, and he is just getting started. 

On Friday, 23 September, CKay is set to release his debut album, which he has said encompasses his emotional trajectory. Following the release, the star will headline his first US and Europe tours from 1 October.


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