“Bumping into the advert for Social Ark’s Step-Up programme online, it was pretty much lightbulbs for me: this was my chance to do it. I’d always wanted to do it, but I just didn’t know how.”
Scrolling through online ads, Emmanuel “Manny” Ebokosia was looking for something. Autumn evenings were drawing 2019 to a dark, rainy close, but with a bold vision in mind, fuelled by his own experiences, he was ready to create something; True Cadence was on the horizon.
Rewind to 2003 – the Concorde was making its final flight, and Hey Ya by OutKast topped the pop charts; aged 12, Manny moved to England from his home in Nigeria. Far from London’s city streets, the soundtrack to his early years had been filled with music that filtered down from his parents’ love for the Country genre: Kenny Rodgers, Johnny Cash, George Jones. Starting school was a difficult experience. Even from as young an age as 12, Manny was targeted and mistreated, purely for the colour of his skin.
“I felt like I had to work 10 times as hard to be able to get the same opportunities as my peers.”
“because of my experience of racism in school, at times I had to leave school early because there were a bunch of guys – I’m talking 30-50 of them – waiting outside the gates to beat up black people.”
Grades suffered, each day was a battle and Manny let his anger define the music in his headphones: 50 Cent, NWA and Immortal Technique expressed an aggression that he resonated with.
“My only options were to find a way to let it all out or to hurt somebody… I had to try to nip my aggression in the bud and I found music, and that really worked for me.”
With the painful experience of school in the past, college was a fresh, clean start, a place of focus and hard work, where Manny’s clear potential was allowed to flourish. By the end of his diploma, he graduated as top of his class, with distinctions in all 18 units of the course, leading him comfortably to university in Hertfordshire, where he studied Human Resource Management.
Having started to write songs as a teenager, the dream of a career in music was never far from Manny’s thoughts. Having graduated uni with a 2:1, the next steps were unclear…
“I worked in HR for a bit… I just bounced around. I realised, though, sitting behind a desk was not really for me, my passion has always been music”
He decided to go for it, launching into the rap and hip-hop game under the name ‘S.O.P’ (The Seed of Perfection), writing and performing classical rap tracks with an Afro-beat twist, harking back to his roots. Gigs were becoming frequent and Manny was beginning to build an audience, the industry, though, can be a dark place.
A big opportunity arrived: the chance to support and open the show for an upcoming, hit-making artist. Manny seized it emphatically, taking his energetic, crowd-winning performance style to the max. Proud with the show and excited to see where the experience would take him, it was a gut-punch to see that the event was hugely misrepresented…
The bouncing crowd that Manny had whipped up was photographed and credited to the other artist’s performance; in fact, he knew that if he’d not brought his own cameraman, there would have been little evidence that he ever performed at the event. This was Manny’s first real taste of the music industry’s dirty politics – he knew that change was needed.
In his years spent pursuing a career as S.O.P, Manny uncovered barrier after barrier in the industry’s dog-eat-dog world.
“Once I started working with the right people, I picked up so much that I realised I wasn’t ready for the industry. I was not ready. I needed to learn a lot more, so I started doing my research and I found that the business side of the industry is tricky – it’s not as rosy as people think”
Tragically, in 2015, Manny lost his sister to cancer, which prompted a huge perspective shift in his life.
“I used to be a perfectionist. Losing my sister changed my perspective on a lot of things, like my idea of what perfection was. So, previously I had a plan of how I wanted my life to go from A to Z, but then I realised that, you know what? It’s never going to go how it’s planned… some stuff just happens.
So during that period, I went through a lot, I just had one lot of bad luck after the other and I realised that the only thing that I wanted to do was love life, that was all.”
Turning away from the strive for perfection, he rebranded himself as Manny Loveankh in 2016, taking inspiration from the Egyptian ‘ankh’ hieroglyph, which represents life, to symbolise his new pursuit. His own experience of the music world had taught him that young, budding individuals need help if they’re going to make it. He knew the industry and had seen how companies, labels and gatekeepers can act to distort the experience of fresh, exciting artists. If only, he wondered, there was somebody who could have helped him through these problems.
A vision began to form.
“no matter how intense the situation is, music always helps me, because every moment you’re spending doing something you love and being creative is a moment that you’re not hurting somebody, which you could potentially be doing otherwise.
“Imagine a young kid, in a poor neighbourhood; he’s always getting into trouble and people know him for getting into fights, for example. Someday, someone comes to look for him to have a fight with him, but he’s not there. Where is he? He’s in the studio making music, right?”
With this mission in mind, in 2019, he applied for a Master’s in Music Industry Management and Artist Development. Manny wanted to create a force for good: a reason to get people off the streets and into the studio, the help he wishes he’d had, the help he that knew some people need.
This is when Manny found Social Ark: ‘lightbulbs’.
Scrolling through websites, looking for a part-time job to support his Master’s, the Step-Up program caught his eye.
“I applied and got a call from Lisa. We had a sit-down, I talked about my ideas and everything and, you know, just from the very first meeting, it just clicked; I felt like I belonged at Social Ark. I felt like I was with family. It didn’t feel like an interview, you know, it felt like we were having a coffee date.
As God would have it, I was chosen to be part of the program and everything just pretty much took off from there.”
True Cadence is the result; a social enterprise with a mission to provide support, structured learning, mentoring, and tailored artistic development to young people from under-resourced communities; the vision is to get young people’ industry-ready. Manny’s heart is to unearth hidden talents from disadvantaged backgrounds, empowering youth in creativity while teaching entrepreneurial skills through the process.
Through a year-long program with Social Ark, Manny has been able to learn the ins and outs of social entrepreneurship. As part of ‘Step-Up’, Lisa and the team have guided him through the nitty-gritty business side of things, helping to refine and design the idea of True Cadence, which, we are thrilled to say, became a registered company on August 24th this year! When asked, though, Manny has highlighted the relational support of how Social Ark works.
“Where do I even start? I’ve developed a very close bond with everyone at Social Ark. Apart from the knowledge you get from the program, Social Ark is very helpful when it comes to moral support.
“Social Ark is there when you need Social Ark, and even when you don’t need Social Ark, they always pop up, saying ‘Hey, have you thought about this?’ or ‘This is coming up – you should apply for it!’. They have really been there as a guide, as advisors and, you know, as mental, emotional and physical support when needed.”
Launching his mission, Manny will run workshops and training sessions:
- Music Industry Masterclass: Seeking to give participants an in-depth understanding of the music industry, using all of the knowledge, tips and research from Manny’s own experience, as well as the input of expert professionals.
- Coast 2 Coast Masterclass: A song-writing, production and performance program, also touching on business elements of the industry, which is tailored to 13-25-year-olds. The program culminates with a celebratory performance event for all of those involved.
- String Along: A course of twice-weekly guitar training workshops, aimed at 11-16-year-olds of all abilities and skillsets, building towards a showcase at the end of 6-8 weeks.
Pursuing the vision, True Cadence will work specifically with vulnerable and underprivileged youths, such as young carers and those from Youth Offending Teams and Pupil Referral Units.
The conditions of Coronavirus, as for everyone, have caused problems for Manny’s big launch – but he’s not stopped working…
Adapting with the help of Social Ark, True Cadence ran ‘Kids Create’, an exciting and inclusive lockdown project which explored the emotional impact of the pandemic on children by encouraging them to write a song. Check the True Cadence website for the end product – it’s great!
“Having a background in the therapeutic benefits of music, I really wanted to explore the effects of COVID on young children, because we tend to think it’s an adult issue.”
Ultimately, Manny’s hope for the future is that True Cadence becomes a recognised educational hub from which young people can earn musical qualifications to use in the adult world. He wants to place value on music as a vocation, creating a welcoming gateway to those who are talented and motivated yet from underprivileged backgrounds.
Seeing the way that Manny’s life story has shaped and influenced the vision of True Cadence, we’ve got nothing but respect and excitement to see where this promising project will lead!