The Dreams Of Peace Film Festival Founder Talks 2022 Competition

The Dreams Of Peace Film Festival is the brainchild of founder Khaliph Young. The competition invited creators from the African diaspora to share stories about their identity with one-minute mobile phone films. The call went out in 2020 after the world saw the George Floyd death at the hands of the police which was captured on a mobile device. Young’s reaction to Floyd and the kind of race-splitting dialogue coming from then-president Trump inspired him to use the festival as a way to create a vision of harmony. The filmmakers presented their views of Black life with the moxie and brilliance of new auteurs determined to be heard in a world mired in white supremacy. In the following interview Young explains the origins of the festival and how the films will stream on the Volume channel via the Vskit and Ayoba mobile apps. 

 

 

 

What can you tell me about your company ZenZenMobile?

We are a digital entertainment company creating lifestyle content on different platforms like mobile apps, Smart TVs and things of that nature.

Is the Dreams Of Peace Film Festival all about making people familiar with the Volume TV channel and the Vskit app?

No it’s really just all about bridging the continents acting as a bridge between African-Americans and Africans by creating films during a time when it’s a lot of racial injustice going on in America everything with the Trump administration, the killings and just the George Floyd thing so a lot of those struggles are different in Africa. We’re all African throughout the whole diaspora so even though they’re there and we’re here they’re still Black, we’re still Black so there’s a common ground. We just wanted to create an outlet for filmmakers to be able to share their stories with the stories abroad. 

You said in your press release that independent storytelling is a pivotal tool in developing critical dialogues. Are there any films in the festival that are an example of that?

Yeah, I would think the film by Tony Strickland the smart social awareness art film. I think that kind of says it all and then there’s the film about S.U.N. the recording artist S.U.N. who we shine all the time it shows a lot of Black pride, Black connectivity, crossing the bridge, where we originated from and that sort of thing. So I think those two films kind of show that.

 

 

I see the competition requires content that deals with Black identity and it’s a competition, what is the prize?

The films were selected by our panel and then the film that has the most views on the different platforms will be selected as the winner. That filmmaker will receive an Adobe Creative Suite. That will be their prize.

I saw where the Vskit app has over 15 million users in Africa?  

Vskit is like Africa’s TikTok type of app. They feature a lot of comedy but because we have a verified media channel  our lifestyle content gets a lot of views. The Ayoba app has about 10.5 million users and our channel ranked 11th on that platform out of a hundred something other channels and we’ve had over a million and a half views we have about 200,000 active users for our channel. So that platform is like Africa’s Whatsapp. It’s a Whatsapp communication platform then it has entertainment.  feature a lot of

I saw the films will start to stream on March 12th how long after before the winner is picked?

We thought we’d leave them up there for a week and then select the winners at that point.

Where will the films post?

They will post in the Vskit app and they will post on the Ayoba app. The apps have to be downloaded you register then search for Volume TV.

 How can people keep up with you?

They can go to zenzenmobile.com everything we are doing is there.

Is there anything you want to mention?

Just that we’re excited to do our first  mobile film festival. It’s been done but this is our first one and we’ve done film festivals on a variety of different platforms. First internet film festival in ’99, then we went on to PBS, onto films on Palm Pilots and pocket PCs then on to Roku. So now back to mobile since mobile is really driving everything.

You said you’ve been doing this since ’99  do you think  there is a common theme connecting these mediums over this past 20 plus years? 

I think the common theme is that there is such a demand for content. That demand is just continuing to increase and it’s created a whole creator economy. Social media and all these platforms but going back through screen sizes is the demand for content and everybody loves lifestyle content. And now accessing that content on your mobile phone just propelled it even further because now right in your pocket you got music, You got video, you got stories you got everything.

For more information about the festival go to www.zenzenmobile.com.

 




S.O. Discusses Heritage & Inspiration For Larry Ginni Crescent Album

S.O. took advantage of the pandemic like most artists and used the tim to get closer to his muse. In this instance that well of inspiration came from his young daughter who he wanted to make sure would be aware of her cultural roots as a child with parents from Ghana and Nigeria but now living in Texas after spending time in the UK. S.O.’s previous Augustine’s Legacy from 2019 was harder and more stateside in its sound which contrasts the genial and worldly approach to the just released Larry Ginni Crescent album. The choice to delve into Afrobeats was a practical one because of the genre’s mismatch of Black pop from around the globe. S.O. wanted to connect all of his family experiences in song as a musical playbook for his daughter’s heritage. The album is like a sonic equivalent of honey and iron with its ambrosial melodies and words of gratitude and determination. In the following interview the rapper explains the how he planned the new music and the importance of knowing one’s history. 

“The first thing somebody thinks about Africa, one of the first things is the child who’s hungry with the fly in their eyewhere I could take you to Lagos and this looks just like New York.”

 

So I see that Larry Ginni Crescent is the name of the street you lived on during your childhood in Lagos, Nigeria. What are some of the things that you remember most about that time?

That’s a very good question. Things that I remember is just the community aspect of it. So you know Larry Ginni  when we got there we were like one of the few houses that were there. So as families started moving in and everybody kind of knew one another it’s kind of picturesque.

If you think about the movie when they go to a neighbor and hey can I borrow some milk? And I brought some sugar or hey, I’m going out of town for a little bit can you make sure that the house has been you know  like looked after. There’s no strangers.  I think that like a community aspect was like one of the main things.

I remember one time my neighbor’s dog gave birth in our house and so we had the puppies at our house. I have fun memories. Dad, my mom, my sisters, you know, like all of this stuff you can think of, like growing up in Nigeria in Lagos in the early ’90s at that time that’s the stuff that I was experiencing.

Who  was Larry Ginni Crescent? 

I have no idea who he is. My assumption is that Larry Ginni is the first person to build a house in that area. I actually don’t know. I’m going to ask my mom who is this guy? Crescent is the road that my house was on.

So the main thing that I’m hearing is the sense of community. How does this music reflect that feeling ?

I think that the music the intention of it is to get those who are in the diaspora. So like someone like me who was born in Nigeria raised in Nigeria and then moved to London and is now living in Texas like I’m part of the diaspora. So always, always having a sense of wanting to go back home wanting to connect to where I’m from you know what shaped me.

A lot of my friends are Nigerian. A lot of them are Ghanian and so we know what village we’re from we know our village name so on and so forth but there’s also like on the other end for my African-American brothers and sisters who like you know since being in America.

 As I was creating the music I was thinking how can I create songs? Sonically, maybe not topic-wise, but sonically that will at least encourage some of my brothers and sisters in the states to be like hey man let me go find out more about this Afrobeats sound or more about this language that you’ll speak.

What is Yoruba? but what’s Larry Ginni Crescent? Where is that? Can we go there? Like, you know what I mean? Like stuff like that. And so there was still that sense of community but it’s more on a global scale trying to make people hearken back to where they’re from so that they can appreciate it more because I was around when being African wasn’t cool. I still remember that or the teacher will pronounce your name incorrectly and the kids would be laughing.

Why was it so important for you to get back to your African roots? And also, why did you make the choice to use the Afrobeats sound this time? listened to Augustine’s Legacy and it’s very different.

It’s multi-layered man so I think another thing that happened is I had a child and I said I never want her to not know where she’s from. So what can I do to ensure sh stays grounded and rooted in where she’s from and the culture that raised her mom, raised her dad and will ultimately raise her as well. I had a kid and saw that I can’t speak Yoruba all that well I need to go learn it so that I can teach my daughter or you know we,we do great with the food, the culture, the dress, all that stuff. But that language you know what I’m saying, the language is necessary, you know? And so like one of the ways I’ve tried to do that is like if I’m singing it on certain songs she can sing along with me. She can understand hey this sound  this is from your dad’s land. This  picture that you see on the front cover of Larry Ginni Crescent this is your dad’s and your sister and your auntie in their house in Lagos like we can I can literally take you to this place.

Like my, most of my friends are either immigrants or first generation so there’s still that connection. People go home every year every other year twice a year. There’s still that sense of  hey we know where we’re from how can we continue to pass this on to the next generation so that it doesn’t get lost as they remain in the Western world?

Was your daughter born in Texas?

Yeah. She was born in America. She was born in Texas.

How long were you in the UK before you moved to the United States?

I just moved to America five years ago. As I started to do music a lot of my audience I start to realize was stateside and so between like 2011 and 2015 I was coming to America like every year, twice a year, so on and so forth. One day I was coming back into the states and you know  if you have a bridge four hours across what you’re allowed to come into the US on a visa waiver so you don’t need a visa. I was perfectly legally coming in but then they detained me. They detained me and said hey don’t come back until you have a proper work visa. And so when I acquired that work visa then and I just moved cause I know this is a place where the music is being consumed majority wise.And so this is a place that I need to kind of be to build and continue doing what I’m doing.

When did coming from Africa over here become cool, but first of all, what is the difference in how you were received over in the UK versus in the US?

I think because the majority Africans in the UK can trace exactly where they’re from my one family member or two at the most that’s different, right? Because the language is still being spoken to you. The cultural intricacies are still being that the food, the dress on us, like it’s even down to the musicians right now in the UK. Most of the Black musicians are either African or Jamaican and they know exactly where they’re from. They’re speaking the language and the music they’re intertwining it with the sound. So it’s like in the UK  to be African at least in this new era isn’t anything to shy away from.

Me and my mum had the conversation all the time. I’m like yo like you know why did you move me and my sisters from Nigeria to the UK. Like, why didn’t we just stay there?  Why didn’t we just remain as a family there and then come here and then go there. The reality of it is like there was this idea that the west America, UK and Europe was better both economically, financially, educational wise. And to a certain extent that is true. There is a level of truth in that but imagine what would have happened if we just remained where we were at and developed our countries.

So going back to the original question, it’s like yeah. Knowing where you’re from having that sense of connection with where you’re from is a lot little easier to be connected in the UK as opposed to being in the US where, you know, like for the majority of the black experience the connection has been lost, right? But what I’ve tried to do since being here it’s like how can I extend like some of my experience or my knowledge to people? One of the things I think is the easiest way to get people engaged is food.

What is the dish that always gets them?

Jollof Rice because they used to that I feel if you’ve eaten like Mexican food, they’re distant cousins is enough for that. Um, but then if you want to like go deep, deep, like pounded jam and spinach stew you could see like, sometimes we’ll make some of that for people but yeah like food and music.

Are there other ways for African-Americans to connect to Africa? 

It’s difficult to acquire from someone sometimes. They didn’t grow up in. So probably if I go to my African American family, like, Hey man, you should really go back and give back to where you come from. Like, bro, I don’t come from that. And I can’t fault them for that because they don’t like, you know what I’m saying? Like, I can’t be like, Hey man, you should really go. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s everywhere. Just get on a plane. Let’s just go to Ghana, Nigeria, like yo, because of everything they’ve seen on TV, because even though Black Panther is there, you still have the years of false information about the continent. That the content undeveloped the people live in bushes there you fight lions.

I can’t fault someone because of how media has portrayed Africa.  Media has done a terrible job overall.

In more recent years they’ve been doing better, but overall they’ve done a terrible job at conveying Africa. The first thing somebody thinks about Africa one of the first things is the child who’s hungry with the fly in their eye where I could take you to Lagos and this looks just like New York.

We already have shared experiences. We just call them different things. I’m going to the cookout in South Africa. That’s a brie that’s the same thing. Like, yo, I’m going to this it’s the same. We have the same experiences. We just call them different things. And so he would go there and realize Hey, these people aren’t as different from me as I thought they would be it becomes a lot easier to be connected.

Did you see the parallel with rap music?

Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that the rap music and Afrobeat. Like think there’s music coming from struggle. Like music, like hip hop was just what, 40 something years old. I think it just turned 40 something. Yeah. 48 years. Music birthed from struggle to speak against what is going on that’s what is being created that is what’s being made. If we look at what Fela Kuti was doing with Afrobeat he wasn’t just making you know songs about girls. And he was specifically speaking against the political powers that be and so like things like that. There was so much connectivity like so much parallel that you know if we just kind of like stop pitting one another against each other like oh, you’re this, you’re that? And I’ve been guilty of doing that too. We can learn from one another. 

So were you saying earlier that now in 2021, it’s easier to be African in America? Now what’s going on that, like, when did you see it?

Wakanda Forever.

Black Panther. Did it?

Yeah. Black Panther.  That was the straw that broke the camel’s back in a good way. That was the one that made people go, yo. Okay, cool. What’s this mean even though it’s fiction. Even though it’s not real people still felt like a level of connection. From that to the year of return in Ghana that was like a big thing. If you remember like in that Black Panther era people were wearing the dashikis to the suits to the movies.

And then I would also say like the influx of Afrobeats, um, like, especially in this go around, you’ve had like a first go around, but because of how the internet is now, it’s a lot easier. Um, so easy to be like, Hey man, I want to listen to a Burna Boy song or who is Burna Boy. And how streaming has kind of helped level the playing field.

Artists can collaborate with other artists. I just saw Wizkid has a song with Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber is the biggest artist in the word. Afrobeats has also helped them play the part in that. And I’ll say the internet has definitely made the world smaller so people can go and find out about other cultures without having to go and visit there.

What’s the most personal song for you on this new project?

My most personal song I think is “Good to Me”  is probabl the most personal song.  This album is dedicated to my grandmother who passed away last year due to COVID. So like kind of looking at stuff like that seeing what’s happening in the world you can easily lose faith. You could easily lose faith and be like, God, are you real? God, are you there? You know, so on and so forth. But once you kind of look at things from a different perspective, you start to realize even though my grandmother passed away.  She was sick and my granddad passed like maybe two or three weeks after that. But they had been married for over 60 years. Great.  They’ve had a wonderful life. Things of that nature where you could you could look at the negative but always having to look at the positive and say hey  God you are good to me regardless of what’s going on around the world.  Because what would have been worse really is for her to pass away and then for him to still be alive now because he had dementia his health was depleting and so it was actually better for him to go than to remain on earth.

I look at things like that and I’m like good to me. That’s my favorite song on the album. It just kind of like hones in that message in like just looking at my life and just thinking about where I came from and where I’m at now. Like there’s no way I can’t say that God hasn’t been good to me.

I really liked “Prosper.”

“Prosper” is one of those songs where I probably be performing that for a long time., I think maybe like a week after I heard about my grandmother, I wasn’t able to like, create anything, you know, like I just was like, man, what is going on in life? Like what is in the next verse just, you know, just kind of stuck with me. Like no weapon formed against you will prosper and thought this sounds like an anthem for people going through COVID going through, you know, life in general, like things that, that you don’t even know will hit you. Like, Hey man, we could be singing this and this could be our jam together. Like as well as with dancing, like pray, no weapon formed against you will prosper.

We’ve been down so long. That was time to prosper. You know what I mean? Like, and, you know, as I was writing that, it just came to me. So yeah, that’s it, that’s the chorus right there.

You know, a great survival anthem.

You know, there you go. 

Is  that actually your wife and the video for “Kinda Love?”

That is her. She is no video vixen but she’s beautiful. You know usually she’s really like heavy hands on with like some of the design and things like that. So I had to get her involved. Love & Basketball references as well. You’ve got the basketball scene. If you see the Love & Basketball DVD cover they put the basketball up and they’re both kissing. We recreated that scene. So we wanted to like show like iconic Black love. 

 

 

It just really feels like great music for the summer. Do you feel you conveyed what you were trying to do by bringing the Afrobeat ssound and having more of a sense of the diaspora. Do you feel like the music really expressed that?

Yeah, absolutely. Man. I think that the other I think it expresses, I think that the response has been that too. Yeah, I think that anything with melody always work, you know because it crosses generations. We went over to Maryland and I was playing, playing some of the songs like one of my aunts she was like I really like this. And I play one of the songs for one of my cousins who’s like in his twenties and he’s  like yo, I’m really digging this. So generation to generation singing and melody always works always hits and you know no one can be like Hey what are you saying? because cause if the melody’s catchy enough they’re going to remember it.

I think people are going to be playing this project be it if you’re of the diaspora, even if you’re not from the diaspora, like you’re going to just enjoy good music with universal themes about love, faith, prospering and surviving.

And so, you know, I’ve got to ask you about your producers.

TBabz is a young producer from Nigeria. I think he produced three of the songs. Um, obviously he’s produced Travis Greene and Da’ Truth but you know, I think with this project I was working with like one of my main producers name is GP he’s Grammy nominated.

He’s produced the majority of my stuff from 2011. But with this one I was looking for like younger guys that can you know feel in tune with the sound that’s going on in Nigeria and around the continent. That can pull me in and like school me on some stuff and help me like I think about the last song “Wonder.”

And that’s very ami pianoesque and I’ve never made like ami piano before but TBabz was like yo check this song out watch how they’re doing it. Like send me the vocals. I’ll chop up your stuff. He was really instrumental and stuff like that. He’s like super, super talented man.

I’m super excited for his future. Steve Rod who made your favorite song “Prosper” again I heard that song I was like yo, I need this beat. Like I need it don’t sell it. I just thought dope. Don’t do anything. Just send it to me right now. I’m going to see GP that’s my friend brother for life.

He produced three of the songs as well. It was just good to have that. Having the project mixed by one of the members from Team Salute who produced like probably one of the biggest Afrobeat songs, Adrugbar. He was super critical, super pivotal in helping me, um, Like singing and the melodies and even like how I would do certain things like, Hey man, that’s too wordy.

And you know, like I’m never the guy to be like, nice one to do it myself. I don’t want, I don’t want to create, I think it’s just always good to create a community, even if it’s a small community that you’re able to like share stuff with share ideas and be like, yo, what you think? How can it be improved?

 Are there any plans for any more visuals?

Yes. We have a visual for “Want You” that’s dropping September 10th. I’m toying with either shooting a video for “Prosper” of “Corner (O Ti De)” but for sure September 10th for the “Want You” video. We have a few remixes we’re dropping to continue the momentum.

Follow S.O. on his official website Instagram, Twitter and Facebook 

 




JAiRUS Talks About His New Single Groove & How He Got Here

Los Angeles by way of Maryland native JAiRUS is proudly representing for the funk with his newly released single “Groove.” The classically trained singer’s DC roots more than prepared him for the next stage of his creativity. As a student at the legendary Duke Ellington School of the Arts he started learning from the masters. The learning included all the sounds the city is known for including the warm conga funk of Go-go. Jazz guru Patrice Rushen started mentoring JAiRUS in DC and would continue during his time in college. Those sessions were extremely important to his emergence as an artist.

JAiRUS pulled the elements of “Groove” together and started planning for his EP after it seemed like we were heading for a post pandemic world with the reopening of businesses. His pure vocals within the scheme of rhythm from a blaxploitation soundtrack produced by Cole Mitchell comes across as a renewed flavor from a different time. He shared with me how he got this far on his journey and the source of his inspiration.

How did “Groove” come together?

“Groove” took about a year total to make. I was working with a producer and at the time we were just trying to write something new. I had the drum groove which is inspired by the sounds of my hometown Go-go music. We got as far as adding drums and guitar, but I ended up setting the song aside with the pandemic and my last year of college it wasn’t quite time. So months later, now working with a new producer I hit up my good friend Cole Mitchell and showed him my idea and we went to work! Reached out to my friends Eliza Petrosyan and Rani Adi to add guitar and bass and we’ve been grooving ever since!  

How long have you been singing and how to decide to sing professionally?

I’ve been singing since I was a little kid. I grew up in church and sang on the youth choir which wasn’t enough so as a pre-teen and teenager I was singing on the adult choir. I did community theatre because I love musicals and was in choir at school. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school I decided to do it professionally. I transferred to  the local performing arts school Duke Ellington School of the Arts where they classically trained my voice, my artistry, and musicianship. I fell in love with creating and the stories they could tell and the affect they can have on people and that’s when I knew I just had to do this. 

Who or what are your muses?

My biggest muses are God, universe, nature, and my family, friends: community. They inspire me, ground me, and motivate me to be my best self! I always feel most connected with myself when these things are in my presence or on my mind. Good music also is a muse of mine. I listen to a ton of music from jazz to pop to rock to hip hop and more but a good song can transport me to the unknown and really just inspire me to the fullest.

Were you mentored by Ledisi, Patrice Rushen and Bobby McFerrin and what did you take away from being around them?

So in high school I was blessed enough to experience master classes from great artist like Ledisi (a few) so I was able to hear directly from her about the voice and music and her approach to artistry. As for Bobby McFerrin I was given the opportunity to perform in, what we call a Legends concert, with my choir and to hear what he does with music and what he had to say was incredible something I’ll never forget. My biggest takeaway from him is improvisation. He’s a master at it and the sounds he’s able to create are breathtaking which inspired my improv journey. Now Patrice Rushen is a direct mentor of mine. I first met her at a show in highschool the jazz choir I was in opened for her and Ledisi at the Kennedy Center. What I didnt know is I’d meet her again at USC and she’d change my life forever. To be able to have multiple classes with her as my professor and getting direct feedback on my music changed everything for me. She gave me so many different things to think about and ways to go about creating and executing my ideas!  She also was teaching me piano and arranging which is her expertise, so to learn that on a one on one kind of setting is honestly once in a lifetime kind of thing. I could go on and on about the things she taught me but that be too long for this but she really took my foundation my seed and watered it and I can say now I’m beginning to bloom! 

What can you tell me about your forthcoming EP?

I’ll say get ready! When I do things I give it my all and then some. So this being my first collection of songs I wanted to release something timeless, almost nostalgic, and different but fresh! Some real deal music. And that’s all I’ll say. 

Will you be doing all the writing and producing?

I do all the writing myself and my friend Cole Mitchell does the producing! I am a believer the more creatives on the project the better it’ll be. So though I do all the writing I’m open to co-writes and collaborating but there’s no way in hell I could do any of this by myself it really takes a village. 

What’s next?

I’ve got a lot in store for the near future! Without giving too much away I’ll be back in August with a song that’s so special to me and one I’m really excited to share with the world. 

 

Follow JAiRUS on Instagram 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: Caleb Griffin and Domia Edwards



Nova Talks New Album, Afrobeats & Home

 

Nova like so many artists of the past year has used the seclusion brought on by the pandemic to enjoy and delve even deeper into his creative work. His last full-length project, the S.T.A.Y. EP was released in 2019. The native Nigerian has been living in Toronto and using his new residence to build upon his Afrobeats sound that melds sonic parts of the diaspora together into song. The genre which uses electronic sounds and acknowledges things like hip-hop is different from the organic horns and unaltered voices of Afrobeat which is credited to Fela Kuti and Tony Allen. As a millennial Nigerian Nova is an artist in the midst of both approaches. This year he is getting ready for the follow-up to S.T.A.Y. and today “Precious Diamond” featuring Katasha J is the first preview into the album. Nova spoke to me about his new music, the growth of the Afrobeats sound, life in Lagos, Fela Kuti and how Toronto has influenced him.

Is Precious Diamond about love only? And how did it come together with Katasha J?

It came together through my cousin I was hanging out with him and his housemate and he told me he just met this artist names Katasha. I had never heard of her before. He said it would be great if we could work and connect together and at the time I was in the process of getting my project together so I had a couple of beats I was going through I started working on this template for a song. I had the core idea down but I hadn’t spent much time developing that idea so I connected with Katasha I reached out to her and the day we met we were just vibing I played her some of the stuff I was working on I recorded a rough body for some and as soon as I played her that beat I hadn’t recorded it at all I just had an idea for the chorus it just seemed perfect from her vibe and my vibe as well and it felt like synergy so we started writing the song and we were actually able to finish recording it the same day that we met.

And what would you say the song is actually about?

It’s like that special moment for couples it’s like you have this connection and for me the chorus “I see I can’t help it I want you to myself” that was just kind of saying for me a lot of my music is about the millennial dating experiences right now and conversations I’ve had with friends about what they’re going through and some of us being influenced by lyrics so I kind of felt like we’re at a point where people are scared of connections instead of being vulnerable during the pandemic so the lyrics were about someone coming out of their shell and being like ‘I really want this.’

You speak on millennials and love during the pandemic what is your overall take on it?

I think it’s real interesting because the pandemic has been a really weird time for everyone. I think something that’s really important right now is to have connections with people. I find that with the popularity of dating apps now for instance it’s kind of a situation where you are talking to so many people at the same time and it almost becomes kind of difficult to cut through that void and to get those genuine connections that we all crave sometimes or maybe we don’t crave. So for me it’s an interesting dynamic of those people who create connections and the people who have this defense mechanism where they try to protect themselves from vulnerability so for me just explaining all those things from different perspectives and on the album that’s what I do. “Precious Diamond” is really leaning more into the vulnerable side I’m letting someone know that I genuinely value them.

I can see that you have Ghanian and American ancestry. You are born in England but raised in Nigeria. You have an international perspective on music who and what have been your creative influences?

I remember being 17 -years old in Nigeria and the criticism I used to get was that my music sounded very national I took that as a compliment because that was letting me know that I don’t fit into the sound but I do know how to process that information because a lot of my influences I grew up listening to people like 50 Cent, people like Lil Wayne, Lauryn Hill I also listened to people like Wyclef. My uncle was great at exposing me to music. I was listening to that music really young.

But then I grew up and I really started appreciating people like Drake, The Weeknd and people like Wizkid. I would say my favorite artist right now probably like Burna Boy and J. Cole. J.Cole is incredible. And to me, Burna Boy is just like another level the way he creates music and expresses himself.

How would describe the current Afrobeats movement that has people like Wizkid and Tiwa Savage and do you see your music as a part of that wave?

I told you I got feedback about my music sounding international so that’s was interesting so for me I have a really interesting background and that background has the ability to make music accessible and relatable to different places in the world and I’m in Toronto right now and Toronto is a city that is so diverse. When you are walking down the street there’s a strong chance the people walking with you are from different places around the world. So to me, that experience is amazing to be able to groom my sound and make connections with people from different backgrounds and different experiences. I feel like that influences me to want to contribute.

“Fela has had the biggest influence on Nigerian music having inspired a whole generation

I was going to ask you how Toronto is inspiring your sound because it’s so different from Ghana, Nigeria and America. How long have you been there?

I’ve been here three years and it’s interesting that you ask that question. I feel like me moving to Toronto was a risk but that’s something I’m willing to do I think you can here the influences in my sound  The first project I released when I got here was the S.T.A.Y. album which I released in 2019. I could hear the evolution of my sound hearing how the city influenced my choice of beats and how I speak about certain situations just experiencing my personal life and things I’ve been through and actually informed the way I do music compared to Lagos is where spent most of my life where I grew up and it’s a very very fast-paced city so everyone is moving at 100 at a very intense pace and there’s really no time to chill. Moving here is an interesting switch up because even though Toronto is a fast-paced city the intensity level is not like Lagos there is time to think regroup and process information. To me that’s been the most interesting thing getting to learn more about myself. I’ve been in new situations that I wasn’t in Nigeria. I really love the city of Toronto I enjoy being here so far and I definitely look forward to connecting with more people in the community here and the music community.

Isn’t there a house and hip hop scene in Lagos?

Yes, there is a huge Afro-house scene there’s also a very good hip-hop scene in Lagos which are super-vibrant you can hear so many sounds and you see sounds go from like bubbling under to crossing over into the mainstream. The club culture in Lagos is huge. In Lagos a night out with friends you’re definitely not going to one club chances are you are going to four or five different places what’s interesting about that is you get exposed to a range of music and you can go to a space that is predominately Afro-house you can go somewhere that is more international music.

Were you reared on Fela Kuti growing up?

I really don’t think there is any Lagosian that would not be familiar with his music. Fela has had the biggest influence on Nigerian music having inspired a whole generation. I also think about it like when Fela was younger he actually tried to run for president when my parents were teenagers. To me, that’s interesting because I try to imagine someone like Wizkid or Burna Boy running for president in my time. It seems far fetched but this is something that happened in their time that’s how amazing the man was he inspired a generation.

When I was younger his music was always a part of the Lagos lifestyle when you’re at home, when you’re in dinner spaces you hear Fela’s music it’s like it’s essentially the soundtrack to the city which is interesting because he is so very very relevant today. Unfortunately, things Fela was specifically talking about in his music we’re still seeing the government act the same way. The people that he was speaking of in his music are still in power. He is an Afrobeat legend the greatest to ever do it.

So “Precious Diamond” will be on your fourth album. What can you tell me about the album?

It’s been really interesting working on this project. The pandemic has been a delay for the entire world however it gave me a unique opportunity to zone in on my music and just like focus on that and keep an open mind. I collaborated with producers in Nigeria, producers in England and the states too. So it was a very digital process sending files back and forth and being able to build that connection with people who are not in the same environment as me. The only person I met in person to record was Katasha. Everyone else I worked with I worked with Bankyondbeatz he’s a producer I’ve been working with my entire career he’s based in Lagos, Nigeria. I also worked with Toye Aru, I recorded about four or five songs with Toye that are on the album he’s based in the states and he sent me the beats and I was like this is amazing.

I also connected with Otee Beatz he’s based in South Africa he’s also a Nigerian producer so that whole process of being able to connect with people virtually create content together was definitely an interesting process. Some artists that I worked with Katasha on “Precious Diamond” I also worked with Esquire Mst he’s also a Canadian-based artist as well from Nigeria. I also connected with Arenye he’s also a Canadian-based artist as well from Nigeria. They all add interesting elements to the songs because on the first three albums I didn’t actually collaborate with anyone in terms of artists like it’s just my voice on the entire album for me it was an interesting journey just being able to do that being able to take people on a journey. I felt like the artists who worked on the album were a perfect fit.

Do you have a title and release date for it yet?

Do you feel like the Afrobeats movement growing do you see it being bigger maybe even full-on mainstream?

I feel like this is an amazing time for Afrobeats music not just from the perspective of the Afrobeats artists but international artists as well. Something I’m starting to hear a lot as well is that one song targeted to the Afrobeats market from a range of artists. I’m seeing obviously Beyonce with The Lion King album, we’ve seen Drake explore that sound, French Montana and Swae Lee so we are seeing these collaborations happen more and more often. When it started about 10 years ago with D’banj signing to Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music that was a really pivotal moment in Afrobeats because I feel that really opened the door for Afrobeats artists. people like Wizkid and Burna Boy are just taking it to the next level and continued to gain momentum for Afrobeats.

Do you think people of the diaspora are connecting through this music but I know that is redundant because we just talked about these collaborations? And do you think the genre seeping into pop culture at this time might bring more attention to Africa?

That’s a really important question. What I’ve noticed more Being here in Toronto that people of the diaspora feel more connected to home and they identify more with their culture because the music has a platform and it’s not something that is within the diaspora space it has broken out of it.  You could meet someone from Europe or even North America who’s listening to Wizkid and Burna Boy’s music and they are giving you recommendations on what to listen to so that created a sense of community and a sense of pride among the diaspora here and made it easier to be proud of where you’re from and your background but also learning about what’s going on back home you know because people like Burna Boy are able to articulate the situation in the context of being an African so well and he did that amazingly on the African Giant album so I feel like Afrobeats has definitely played a huge role in making people identify with that and I think that things like that led to us seeing a movie like Black Panther being made I think music played an important role in that we can see how entertainment gives people that sense of pride and sense of connection.

I just did want to add one little thing I forget to mention that apart from the mainstream there is an entire subculture of people creating music in Nigeria who are pushing boundaries back and it’s unfair to confine to Afrobeats and they are really making innovative music in that space.  

Can you name some of those artists?

Tay Iwar is amazing he was featured on the Wizkid album Tems is also featured on the Wizkid album as well so those are two people who are incredible. One of my favorites is Santi his music is groundbreaking these are people whose music I enjoy because they are not trying to fit into a box. I’m just happy to see people continue to grow.

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