Four creatives share the playlists that keep them inspired

To end his takeover of It’s Nice That this week, Yinka Ilori invites a series of creatives to curate a mixtape on the theme of storytelling.


Like many of the stories we’ve shared this week, music was a huge part of my upbringing. It was one of the first things I fell in love with, especially Nigerian music for the way it tells stories so poetically and powerfully. Now, when I’m working, music is one of the first things I need. When I jump in the car in the morning and put on my ignition, that’s when my day begins. Without music, I can’t start the day. It’s my own ignition to get into the creative flow, my element, and express myself through my work – Yinka Ilori.

Music has the ability to tell stories, perhaps better than any other creative medium, if only for the fact that it reaches so many. How many of you reach to turn on the radio, your favourite Spotify playlist or maybe even a record before you do anything else in the morning? And then, throughout the day or as you get closer to the weekend, do you find yourself switching genre and tempo to reflect your mood or need for concentration? It’s a powerful and ubiquitous medium.

As part of our series The Power of Storytelling with Yinka Ilori, we wanted to explore just how crucial music can be both as a reference when creating, but also as a tool to motivate or incite amazing work. So we reached out to five artists for whom music is both an influence but also an output and asked them to each curate a playlist. Some reflect the tracks that keep them going in the studio, while others are more wrapped in memories of good times. Below, check out the songs that made it into the playlists of Foday Dumbuya, Peter Adjaye, Bianca Saunders, and Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian.

Foday Dumbuya

Foday Dumbuya is the founder and creative director of Labrum, a fashion label dedicated to telling the untold stories of West Africa and bridging the gap between African and British heritage. Foday spent his younger years in Sierra Leonne before moving to Cyprus and then London, and he recalls a working class family that loved to dress well and express their African heritage through their clothes. These memories and influences combine to create a fascination with craftsmanship, ornate detailing and tailoring. Having started the menswear brand in London in 2014, Foday has graduated from designing in his living room to running a brand that was recently awarded NewGen from the British Fashion Council for 2020/21.

It’s Nice That: Why have you picked these songs, what do they remind you of or make you feel?

Foday Dumbuya: I have picked these songs because they remind me of my childhood. As a kid, my parents were always listening to music in the house and in the car via cassette player, the same songs on repeat! My parents would also tell us about the history of the artist, the music and what it meant to them. They played a lot of Kanda Bongo Man, SE Rogie, Prince Nico Ebo Taylor and Osibisa.

These songs take me back to my youth when everything wasn’t so about social media and we could just enjoy the moment.

INT: When or where should this mixtape be listened to?

FD: I think the mixtape should be listened to at home, in the car or at work during the day. The music can be with you anywhere.

INT: Are there certain albums you listen to during the different parts of your creative process?

FD: I listen to loads of Highlife and palm wine music from Ebo Taylor, Pat Thomas and some Afro-house or electronic music throughout the day. Music helps me focus and reminiscing about past trips or gigs inspires me to create.


Ebo Taylor — Love and Death


Kanda Bongo Man — Le Rendez-Vou des States

Peter Adjaye

Born in Uganda to Ghanaian parents and having lived all over the world, Peter Adjaye’s practice is borderless and quite unlike any other. A musicologist, composer, DJ-producer (under the moniker AJ Kwame) and musician, Peter is a contemporary conceptual sound artist creating music for architecture. He responds to spaces and creates soundscapes accordingly, having done so recently for Toyin Ojih Odutola’s exhibition at the Barbican, in a piece titled Ceremonies Within. It’s a practice that began through collaborations with his brother, the architect Sir David Adjaye, in 2003 and which is a space for him to explore the possibility for a relationship between the experience of a building and a piece of music. It’s “sound architecture” as his brother once coined it.

It’s Nice That: Why have you picked these songs, what do they remind you of or make you feel?

Peter Adjaye: I have picked these songs for their storytelling, spirituality and healing. Music for me is an existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level, invoking emotional intensity that requires deep listening. These are some of my favourite artists, who I find incredibly inspirational.

INT: When or where should this mixtape be listened to?

PA: This playlist should be listened to in spaces where you can be completely alone with the music, to enable the activation of the deeper listening transcendence.

INT: Your practice is so unique! When and why did you become interested in the relationship between architecture and music? And can you explain how you view that relationship?

PA: I became interested in the relationship between architecture and music when I worked on the first project with my brother Sir David Adjaye. I responded to The Asymmetric Chamber at the Cube Gallery in 2003 with a soundscape called Echoes. This led to many more installations in galleries and pavilions along the way.

I view the relationship between music and architecture as two inseparable parts of the same origins. Architecture is a container for the music and the music is a manifestation of the architecture. When I am in a space, I can hear the space, I immediately know what the space should sound like. Sound is one of the most powerful forms of expression in the known and unknown universe and humans, just like the current revisiting of our history and values, have only just started to realise the vast potential of sound from and in art, architecture and beyond.


Alice Coltrane With Strings – World Galaxy


Pharoah Sanders – Thembi

Bianca Saunders

A fellow recipient of the NewGen award from the BFC, Biana Saunders is a fashion designer based in London and an RCA grad regarded for redefining notions of masculinity through her garments. Born in Catford, her creative interests were fostered by many family members and these same family members, including her father and grandfather, now act as inspirations for her work. With roots in Jamaica, Bianca also channels her heritage through her distinctive work, making reference to a collection of VHS tapes of dancehall parties she owns. It’s this that informs the sense of movement in her work. Her practice has also previously expanded into film direction, curation and more.

It’s Nice That: Why have you picked these songs, what do they remind you of or make you feel?

Bianca Saunders: Now that the weather is getting hotter, I love to listen to a varied mix of upbeat music to suit the summer days in the studio as we spend so many hardworking hours indoors.

INT: When or where should this mixtape be listened to?

In the Bianca Saunders studio! The team and I work from 9-6 pm, which means the days can get quite long. I like to keep the team motivated, and just listening to the radio can sometimes be so repetitive!

INT: How does music impact your creative output?

Music really does change my mood; I need to stay upbeat to get all my tasks done. So, I usually switch from genre to genre throughout the day.


Cleo Soul — Rose In The Dark


Duckwrth — An Xtra Uugly Mixtape

Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian

Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian is a French filmmaker with Algerian and Armenian origins who creates projects at the intersection of film, science, tech, theatre, politics and design. She is the founder of the International Space Orchestra, the world’s first orchestra of Nasa space scientists and astronauts; and the founder of the tuition-free university, University of the Underground. In 2020, she became a grantee of Sundance Institute and so her new documentary Red Moon – which offers an experimental vision and template for future diasporas beyond Earth – is currently in production. Set in Algeria, Armenia and France, the film asks: How will human inhabitants of the moon understand origin, borders and nations? For this film, Ben Hayoun investigates her family origins in Algeria and Armenia which led to the start of her radio show on Worldwide FM.

It’s Nice That: Why have you picked these songs, what do they remind you of or make you feel?

Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian: I’m working on a movie called Red Moon which is about old worlds decolonising future worlds, migrant bodies preparing to settle on the Moon and doppelgängers. Red Moon is an experimental vision and template for diasporas beyond Earth. Questioning how the first families of the Moon will understand origins, borders and territories. As a part of this, I’m doing some research on Algerian and Armenian music which is why this is a selection has been put together. The songs are also part of a radio show I do monthly on Worldwide FM which explores bringing together people who are challenging systems from within. You can listen to episodes here.

INT: When or where should this mixtape be listened to?

NBHS: This mixtape should be listened to in the evening or at night while watching the Moon.

INT: Was there an album or artist you listened to while making your most recent project?

NBHS: There’s an album called Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star by Shabazz Palaces that I’ve been listening to a lot! I’ve also been listening to a lot of Kid Cudi as we just released a video with Kid Cudi as part of the release of his new album. You can watch the video and find some more information here.


Hamid Baroudi — City No Mad


Paul — Siroum Em Kez

The Power of Storytelling with Yinka Ilori

This story along with many others are part of a guest edit of It’s Nice That by the artist, Yinka Ilori. To read further pieces from Yinka’s curation click on the link below.

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.

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