- 16 Jun 22
Alice Esambe (aka Alicia Raye) is an Afro-Irish musician and rapper who embraces the genres of R&B, soul and trap in her powerful work. We caught up with the breakout talent to chat about her debut festival set on Friday night...
Cameroon-born, Drogheda-raised Alicia Raye recently released her groove-heavy single 'Sun' – a follow-up to the collaborative mixtape Alphabet, released in 2021.
Right now, she's getting ready to set the stage on fire at Body & Soul Festival. It's the singer-songwriter's first time performing at the Westmeath event. As it happens, it's also her debut festival as an attendee as well, and her nails are freshly done for the occasion.
"I wasn't feeling 100 per cent until my nails were done!" she laughs, speaking to me ahead of the event. The weather looks set to hold too.
"I've actually never attended a festival in my entire life," she confesses, "so it's going to be my first time for performing – and for going as a music lover.
"I'm not really into camping - I'm more of a glamping girl because I get really bad hay fever!" Alicia Raye laughs. "The whole idea of having my head close to the leaves? You lost me there. I wouldn't be able to stop sneezing. I've been taking loads of anti-histamines. That's part of my pre-show prep!"
The jam-packed line-up in Body & Soul Festival's Hennessy Stage this year includes the likes of Mango x Mathman, Jafaris, Malaki, Monjola, Aby Coulibaly, JyellowL, Strange Boy, Shiv, Nealo, Louise Chen, Negro Impacto, Celaviedmai, UNQ and many more.
Neo-soul, R&B, jazz, rap, pop, indie-rock, electronic and trap are all on the menu. Who will Alicia Raye be waiting in the wings to see up close and personal?
"Tomike is opening up the show on Friday, and I'm delighted because that's my girl! I'm definitely going to be having a few drinks with her, and will try not to roar my lungs out before I get on stage. I'm super excited for Ahmed, With Love too. I only saw him for the first time in Belfast recently, and I thought his show was unreal.
"I can't wait to see UNQ on Saturday, and Jafaris will be amazing. It's been a while since I've seen him perform, so I'm looking forward to that. Sunday is all about Celaviedmai, we all know that!"
The 'Go Ali Go' singer knows all about supporting her peers, having collaborated with the likes of drill and grime acts Dbo Fundz (A92), Smilez, Reggie, Larry Alabi, PROD SOLO, Evans Junior, U R O S, Celaviedmai, Erica Cody and many more over the past few years.
Alicia Raye is gearing up for a special performance.
"We're going for all the firsts this weekend, because it's also my very first time playing with a band," she tells me, excitedly. "Getting to hear a full band arrangement is completely different to my DJ set. I'm going to be singing a lot more. People on my Instagram mentioned that they wanted to hear my voice, so I've taken that on board. I've gotta give the 'Sunrayes' what they want!"
"I accommodate fans of pop as well as 'Alicia Tequila' the rap artist," she adds. "People aren't just coming to festivals to hear the songs based on how they sound on Spotify. They can do that at home. It's time to create an experience. It's going to be magic."
After eight years in the business, Alicia Raye has refined her approach.
"The first thing is appearance," she says. "The Sunrayes are colourful ladies! Our sound is lit, too. Every single trap, snare, drum, kick is just so impactful. My backing vocalists are great, so with all of these vibrant people on stage - we're bound to capture people's attention. Our outfits are like highlighters on stage, and people listen!
"I'm really focusing on trying to be everywhere this year. People should expect to see me in the most random places," the singer beams.
The rapid ascension of the nation's hip-hop, rap, drill and R&B artists has taken the world by storm.
"Really and truly, it comes down to dedication," Alicia Raye explains, when I quiz her on the astronomical growth of specific genres in the Emerald Isle and beyond.
"It's a ripple effect, if we see one person doing it, that inspires us. The infrastructure is growing and developing. We're not struggling or unsure, there are ways for us to get support and help with our goals.
"Jafaris was one of the people who really pushed me to go into music. Definitely in Ireland, there was hardly anyone else black doing rap music who was accepted, you know? It's because of people like him that I got excited to do this job. Hopefully there are music fans who see Alicia Raye going down this road and want to try it out too."
Catch Alicia Raye on the Hennessy Stage this Friday at Body & Soul Festival.