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INTERVIEW: Rak-Su speaks to The Voice

IN THIS TOGETHER: Rak-Su – formed of, from left, Mustafa Rahimtulla, Myles Stephenson, Ashley Fongho and Jamaal Shurland – draw from each of their experiences during their songwriting

FOUR-PIECE band Rak-Su are inspired by the likes of Rihanna – who they hope to have their dream collaboration with at some point in their career – and American collective Soulection, but their biggest inspiration has always been and will always remain, each other.

Speaking to three of the four, they tell me: “While our professional in uences are groups like Soulection whose sound impact what we do, on a personal level it’s just each other. We don’t wake up in the morning and think of any other artists besides the boys.”

Becoming the first group since Little Mix in 2011 to win the X-Factor in 2017, the quartet – Ashley, Jamaal, Myles and Mustafa – place emotions at the centre of their songwriting. Delving into their sound and its evolution, they say: “Our sound is universal. We’ve never narrowed it down to one thing.

“Even in our early days, we never focused on a distinct sound. Whatever emotion we get from the instrumental is what we run with, but we’ve never stuck to one sound. It’s always been about the lyrics for us. Whether the vibe was trap or R’n’B or soul, our main constant was lyricism.”

However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t learning or evolving. Adding on, they say: “Now that we are full time musicians, we are concentrating on learning to connect with different sounds and writing lyrics with more depth.”

This ever-changing sound means that every song they produce is a little different from each other. And this means that narrowing down on a single message for the listeners is difficult for Rak-Su.

After a lot of conversation and introspection they finally settle on a message, saying: “Overall, it’s just about enjoying music and enjoying life. Music means different things to different people – it gives people such good feelings and makes the world a better place. As far as a message, all we want is for people to appreciate music.”

While their message is open ended, and left to the interpretation of each individual listener, the same cannot be said for the lyrics. There is no fantasy story-telling involved in the band’s songwriting – their music is about them.

Going into depth about the personal element of their music, they say: “There’s four of us involved in our song writing process, and that’s a lot of experiences to draw from. Our songs are therefore almost always based off personal experiences.

“We share our thoughts, emotions and feelings and find ourselves inspired by that. There’s never any need for creative liberties with us, because there’s a pool of experiences to choose from.”

A prime example of such a song would be Blood Ties, a track from their latest EP Rome, released last month. The track that details the personal ties of the band members with each other, sees aforementioned lyricism shine through.

An upbeat song with a catchy track and lyrics that emote their bond, it comes as no surprise when the band – who are “brothers for life”, as the song suggests – say that the track has been on repeat in their own personal playlists.

As the song gives you a sneak peek into their journey, Rak-Su reminisce about their many career highlights.


They have had countless memorable moments as musicians – from performing for the rst time at Jingle Bell Ball, to performing at the O2, to touring with Little Mix, standing in front of 20,000 fans – but the one moment they’d love to repeat is the one that started it all; the night they won the X-Factor.

Moving on from past success to future aspirations, the band have a massive wish list from collaborating with Rihanna and performing at Coachella and Wireless. But as they tell me what they have coming up from a tour with Olly Murs to music videos and more singles to a possible album release later in the year, their wish list seems hugely achievable.

With immense and a friendship that only serves to make their music even better, the foursome charm you with their sense of humour, laughing at both themselves and each other.

And as they answer my final question about what they wish they were asked by more interviewers, with, ‘Do you want me to buy some food?’, it can definitely be said that I laughed with them.

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