XPN Fest Preview: Meet Rosemary FiKi, the force of nature kicking off the show on Friday - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Rosemary FiKi | photo by John Vettese

Need a compelling argument to get to XPNFest early this year? Two words: Rosemary Fiki.

The Philadelphia singer / songwriter / rock and roller / entertainer caught our ear this past year based on an eclectic assortment of streaming songs on her Soundcloud page. One moment, it was a vibrant nightclub bump with soaring diva vocals, another moment there was an acoustic guitar strumming and FiKi’s plaintive vocals doing a sensitive Feist / Laura Nyro kind of thing.

These days, she’s straddling both of those worlds; as we saw when FiKi recorded a Key Studio Session last fall, she’s currently backed by a high-energy three-piece band, freeing her to dance at the mic, shake her tambourine and work the crowd with relentless energy. That’s on prominent display in the fired-up “Come To Me,” which you can watch a video of below, and the endlessly catchy “Ooh” — but FiKi and the band also delve into a more nuanced side of things with ballads like “The Great Unknown,” and the groovy askew rhythms of “Pro.” Chatting with her over email, it sounds like her music is about to explore another direction still after XPoNential.

For now, read on below to get to know Rosemary FiKi — and make sure you arrive at Wiggins Park tomorrow in plenty of time to catch her 4 p.m. set.

[vuhaus category=”videos” item=”rosemary-fiki-come-to-me-the-key-studio-session” ][/vuhaus]

The Key: What were your musical beginnings like, and how did you get to the point of performing in Philly?

Rosemary FiKi: I moved to Philly from the Poconos to attend Temple University and to take a crack at making a career out of singing. I was definitely socially awkward in college but I used singing to express what I didn’t have the guts to say with words. I was that girl who sang the national anthem at the TU basketball games and belted Whitney Houston in the cafeteria for no good reason.

Like many budding musicians starting out in Philly, I took advantage of Philly’s thriving open mic scene. Fergie’s Pub was my preferred stomping ground. During my final semester at TU, I linked up with engineer and producer Karl Hicks and he produced and co-wrote my first two EP’s. He was also instrumental in crafting my live stage performance. Together, we created a live set that enabled me to gig throughout the city using my original music. Once I had original music and a band, I was able to hit the ground running.

TK: Your music spans a lot of styles – there’s high-energy electronic pop on your Soundcloud page and there’s also a lot of emotional singer-songwriter style recordings. Do you prefer one over the other?

RF: Yes, my first two projects definitely covered a myriad of styles.  I would have to say that until recently, I really felt connected to the singer/songwriter style recordings that were rooted in rock and peppered with soul. As of late, I’ve been delving into music of my Nigerian heritage mixed with the pop style that I have grown up with.

TK: You’ve got a three-piece rock band and they’re super funky and awesome. Tell me about who the bandmates are and how you began working with them?

RF: We got Lucien Dowdell on bass, Naeemah Maddox on guitar and vocals and Adam Brooks on drums. I met Lucien at Temple University. I was always singing around campus and I knew he played bass so the universe brought us together. Naeemah and I met through the open mic scene and I think she’s amazing…we always stayed friends and in contact with each other. I met Adam through a friend who recommended me to him when I was looking for a drummer. I adore my band…they are beasts and their chops are ridiculous!

TK: For the people seeing you for the first time at XPoNential, what should they look forward to?

RF: High-octane energy, soaring vocals and lots of unrestricted fun! My band I re-worked a couple songs in our set list that we’ve played in the past to make it fresh and give it new life so they can look forward to fun and all around good time…it’s going to be great.

TK: What’s next for you, musically?

RF: Well I’m excited to announce that I have a new single called “I Got It” that I’m officially unveiling this weekend on SoundCloud, social media and all streaming platforms. I’m really geeked because I’ve been working closely with an amazing producer & songwriter– A.R.T. to create music that merges my loves for pop music with my African heritage. It’s been a journey but so much fun to expand my current sound. A.R.T produced “I Got It” and it’s fun, edgy and will make you want to dance! It’s definitely a departure from anything that people have heard from me before and I’m super stoked for everyone to hear it!

Rosemary FiKi kicks off XPNFest 2016 on Friday, July 22nd at 4 p.m. from the Wiggins Park Marina Stage. Get tickets and information on the show here.

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