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UD Low Down: Raye x Flames @ BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend

Flames Collective joined RAYE for her epic headline performance at the 2024 BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend. Vocalist Orobosa Okundia-Best takes us behind the scenes…

Flames Collective, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend

My name is Orobosa Okundia-Best, I’m 19 years young and I am a singer/ songwriter who joined Flames Collective in January. Finding out earlier this month that I was going to be a part of the group performing at RAYE’s headline show at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend on Saturday was truly amazing. I had never done anything like this before so I was – and still am – beyond blessed and grateful to have been given such an amazing opportunity to perform with RAYE as part of the Flames Collective.

Orobosa, Flames Collective

The Flames Collective have worked with RAYE previously, doing gigs such as the sold-out Royal Albert Hall, alongside the Heritage Orchestra conducted by Tom Richards, for the recording of the live album, My 21st Century Symphony, the BRIT Awards, the sold out O2 show in March, the Jonathan Ross Show and a secret gig at the Hilton Hotel. Oh and let us not forget the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury last year!

Glastonbury 2023

A lot of the members that performed at the Big Weekend had worked with RAYE prior so had a lot more preparation in learning material and lyrics. However, I and a couple of the members who joined in January and April, had a quick turnaround to learn the songs and the vocal arrangements for each of the songs. I can’t speak for the rest of them, but for me it was stressful! Thankfully, it’s safe to say that we did a good job in our learning.

Approaching the week of the Big Weekend our musical director, Andy Gilbert, organised a Flames-only rehearsal on Monday at the Talent House, just so we, as a collective, could feel confident going into the main rehearsals on Thursday and Friday at the Metropolis Studios in Chiswick.

On Monday, we went through the set list, which contained the majority of the songs on RAYE’s album ‘My 21st Century Blues’ and her upcoming single ‘Genesis’. Thursday approaches and we’ve arrived at the Metropolis Studios. However, since the rehearsal on Monday, there had been some set changes made to the list which incorporated some of RAYE’s dance songs such as ‘Bed’ and ‘You Don’t Know Me’. We went through the new additions before going downstairs into the studio to run through the new set and the arrangement.

On Friday, we were again at the Metropolis Studios and RAYE had arrived to rehearse with us and rework the newer songs added to the setlist – the new arrangement was absolutely incredible. At this point, all of us were excited and we couldn’t wait to perform what we all had worked so hard for on Saturday.

Before we knew it, the big day had arrived. The Flames Collective and the band had arrived at Hammersmith Apollo at 4pm to get on the coach so that our driver, Peter Walker, could take us to Stockwood Park in Luton where BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend was being held.

When we arrived at the venue around 5:30, it didn’t feel real. We were backstage and we were surrounded by so many incredible artists who were performing on Saturday, including Charli XCX and Griff. We walked to our dressing rooms and were given backstage access and our dinner passes (of course we headed straight to the artist catering section to eat). It
was an hour-long journey and we were hungry!

After we ate, we had a quick run-through of the songs to make sure we were ready and soon after we were getting ready for the show. At this very moment, you could feel the buzz in the air – all of us getting changed, the girls
putting on their makeup, taking pictures, putting on our packs and in-ears.

It was about 8:30pm now and we were being taken to the main stage. We were so exhilarated. I was so nervous. Everything that we had worked for was leading up to this moment. We were now backstage and arranged ourselves in the order we had stood in when we were rehearsing at the Metropolis Studios. One by one, we walked on to the stage, with Kadi, the Assistant Tutor and Project Support, and Andy wishing us luck and encouraging us. We had gotten into our positions and I was amazed at how many people were there, cheering for us as we got on stage.

RAYE arrived on stage and the energy went through the roof. It was a feeling like no other, it was almost euphoric. There were tens of thousands of people in the audience, going back metres and metres from the front to the back, from the left to the right.

One moment I will never forget during the performance was when we got to ‘Escapism‘, one of RAYE’s viral hits, and I looked at Ella-Mae, a fellow member of Flames, who stood beside me and we both took out one in-ear and we were dumbfounded, hearing the tens of thousands of people singing RAYE’s lyrics back to us. It was sensational and in that moment I took in the fact that I was actually singing on stage with RAYE, her incredible band and with my family, the Flames Collective – a moment I will honestly never forget.

After the show, we were given pizzas by RAYE’s team (thanks) and we just soaked in the moment, doing our group pictures and just taking it all in. On the coach ride back, BBC iPlayer was streaming RAYE’s set and so most of us were watching our performance in awe of how far we had come as a group – it really made me feel cemented in the group as part of Flames and I’m so grateful!

We are so honoured to share the stage with such talented musicians and the gifted, lyrical and soulful RAYE. It was and still is such a blessing and something I’m sure we won’t be taking for granted. Her journey from being signed to a label who wouldn’t let her release one album to her now being independent, making history winning six BRIT Awards in one night, performing to a SOLD OUT O2 Arena and headlining BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend is nothing short of inspirational.

I can’t wait to see what happens next for Flames Collective – and RAYE – I’m looking forward to this journey we are embarking on as a group.

LISTEN TO RAYE’s full set from BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend on BBC Sounds OR WATCH ON BBC IPLAYER.

Words: Orobosa Okundia-Best. Orobosa is a full time law student at Brunel University London and a singer/songwriter. Follow him on Instagram HERE.

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