Interview: Eff The DJ displays complexity in simplicity

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All photos via EffTheDJ’s IG

If you’ve ever been to any of the weekend raves that the city offers, you’d probably have danced to the playlist of one of the best DJs in the city. For years,  has built his reputation as not only a music head but a DJ with impeccable music policy that spans across the genres of hip hop, hiplife, afrobeats, pop and all that is in between.

A few weeks ago, the love extended to him on social media when he celebrated his birthday was enough attestation to his value as a person and a DJ. The Ashesi University graduate who happens to be the resident DJ for Serallio and nKENTEn’s ‘DecafLive’ podcast events describe himself in the following words: The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows’.

Djing wasn’t Eff The DJ’s first love, although he has been a music fan since childhood. He started out as a dancer: ‘I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music’. His attraction to the art of DJing happened after witnessing DJ K3V (his now #IFKR collaborator) and Kobby Ankomah-Graham playing at different events respectfully.

Days after celebrating his birthday, I got him answering a few questions about music and the DJ business in Ghana. In this interview, Eff shares his first DJing experience, tips on how to grow, Kendrick Lamar, how reading the crowd is a quality of a good dj and why he’d play a hype man for DJ Keyzuz in a DJ tag team battle.


For those who don’t know you. Tell us a bit about yourself

The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows (haters will disagree). I go by EffTheDJ, but my actual name is Franklin Digber. Love art, love music.

How long have you been DJing and what attracted you to choose this art form?

I’ve been doing this for about 4 years. I’ve been into music since childhood. I remember going over to my cousin’s place when I was young and taking their Michael Jackson CDs home to listen and dance along to the songs. So initially, I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music. We had the virtual DJ software on our computer at home but I never really used it. Fast forward to (Ashesi) University, we have a year group party and DJ K3V kills it. So I link up with him later and we started our small classes. My mind was made when we had another event at school and I heard Kobby Graham play for the first time. I said to myself, “this fire, I will play some”. And I never looked back.

The journey has been worthwhile I can see. With four years experience, do you remember the first time you DJ’d and how was your first experience like?

 (Long laugh). Very vividly. Yeah, it was another campus party. At this one, they shared “Poki” (you know the old ice cream thing, right?) I was so nervous. I’d say I hadn’t really learnt to read crowds yet so I came with a completely different vibe. You know how these things go, there’s a section of the crowd which usually is a wild minority waiting for a different vibe so I was feeling myself and all, then suddenly someone threw poki at me in protest . I’m still searching for the Person. Stress chale (laughs).

That obviously threw you off

It did. I was ready to pack up but Baylor and K3V encouraged me to stay, because these things happen.

Talking about reading crowd, how important is that awareness to a DJ?

Very, very important. Reading the crowd accurately makes your job up to like 40% easier. The rest is keeping your reading up, challenging yourself, and giving an experience — and depending on the crowd, challenge their ears.

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What exactly does a DJ look out for when reading a crowd?

(Hesitates), various things. I don’t think it can be standardly defined. For me, I look out for the ambience of the event, the personae of guests, what a day in their life is like, what they probably listen to, what they want to hear, what you feel they haven’t heard in a while, and what you think will make them go nuts if they hear for the first time.

How would you describe the Ghanaian audience? Are they hard to please or easy to win?

Ever since I started playing, I’ve been exposed to various audiences, so it’s hard to call this. But, I’ll say there are different audiences. Some are easy, some are hard. It really depends on where you find yourself flourishing.

For indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.

The first time I saw you was at The Republic Bar some years back. Your playlist was what gripped me. How do you curate a playlist for the events you DJ? Say an outdoor event and a private or indoor one?

Oh thanks. Truth is I hardly curate playlists for specific events. When I do, I note the kind of music I think will work for them and try it. If it’s working, I continue, if not, I wing it. And whether indoor or outdoor, it depends on the kind of people present. But usually for indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.

What has been the best event you’ve DJ’d thus far?

Best event. I’d say back in 2015. I think, one FXP Takeover night at Republic (probably the session that birthed #IFKR). If you’ve ever been there on a very wild concert night, imagine the same energy for a regular Friday night. We really made the waiters’ job difficult that night, and that was the first time I moved a crowd with hand gestures, and no mic. Never felt more powerful.

Let’s talk about #IFKR. You guys dropped two songs earlier. What’s going on?

Yeah, we hit a couple of bumps on the way but we’re on track now. The EP is on the way. We’re just wrapping up now. It won’t be too long.

 How much music do you have (bytes wise)

162 giga bytes

That’s some huge library. It’s understandable

(Laughs) it’s a personal thing. It’s hard to delete music

As a DJ what are some of the challenges you encounter in your trade?

As a DJ in Ghana, you are literally the party, but you can still somehow get taken for granted. You’re not well taken care of or you’re underpaid.

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With your experience as a party DJ and having been a radio dj, is there any difference? If yes, in which areas?

Playing for radio is a more controlled environment. There’s so much liberty in being a radio DJ. Also a wider opportunity to introduce the audience to new music, and also an opportunity for the DJ to build a fan base. Depending on the kind of party, you’re either playing what the guests came to hear, or what you feel like. As I said earlier, the audiences vary.

DJs are seen as the guys who can make or unmake an artistes. How valid is this observation?

Yeah, I kind of agree. Traditionally, music comes out, and DJs keep it on rotation for people to get used to, and then that makes the artist. But more recently, due to various channels of information flow, artists have been able to make themselves. There’re various ways but the seemingly more efficient ways are using the internet, and by using the street route. If people like your stuff on the internet, they’ll want it played and it might not have to do with the DJ at all. Same for music that’s hot in the streets.

That’s a very solid point. I also share the same view. How do you prep for an event?

I try to get a practice set in at least a day before, speak to any DJ I know who’s done a similar event for tips. And a lot of thinking

Aside K3V, which other DJs excite or challenge you to be better both in Ghana and outside?

In Ghana, easily Kobby Graham, Keyzuz and DJ Putin. Kobby’s crates are just wild, Keyzuz’ technique is impeccable, and Putin’s crowd control is unreal. Outside, Diplo (and Major Lazer) is/are my guy(s). DJ’ing and productions blend so many sounds and cultures together. It’s just beautiful. Not forgetting DJ Black. I listened to the ‘’Open House Party’’ while growing up and his consistency and keeping up with the times over the years has been amazing.

What does the future hold for you as a DJ?

I dey streets chale (I’m still grinding), I don’t plan on looking back anytime soon

Why should an event organizer choose Eff The DJ over any others?

I try to channel an experience through the music as much as possible. You know, umm, displaying as much complexity in simplicity.

What does music mean to you both as Eff The DJ and Franklin?

A tough question. Music is a form of self-expression. It means so much, ‘cos there’s a million things you pick up. And as a DJ, it’s a million things you express yourself with through the music, which connects with your audience and that influence their self-expression. It’s a million connections of emotions.

What advice would you give your son should he aspire to be a DJ?

Practice every day, Keep an open mind, Experiment more, Embrace Ls (losses), Mind your brand, Focus. Eat before your gigs. Drink water. Most important of all, have fun while you do it.

You’re one of the three stans of Kendrick Lamar I know. Can you share what exactly you like about him?

Ayy, who are the other 2?

@7Giocondo and @vinkyenkyehene

(Laughs) there’s @Kobby_Skywalker and @DaniellePrime_ also. But yeah, Kendrick’s writing, storytelling, feature and LP execution is just so great. You’d think it’s a different artist sometimes. Also love how well he stays out of the news. You usually only hear news about how well he’s doing with his craft, and has been able to achieve so much. Close to everything is thought through, through and through.

You listed some of your favorite DJs earlier on. If you should draft one to partner you in a DJ battle, who will it be? Reasons

Easily, my auntie. Keyzuz will play and I’ll be her hype man

Lastly, what don’t you like about GH artistes and the music out there? Last words

Your last question is a bit hard to answer. Apart from some artists making the same songs over and over (which happens everywhere else), there’s not much I don’t like about GH artistes. I like that the new crop are creating their own lanes, and aren’t necessarily playing by the traditional rules. And I love the new wave music out there. Can’t wait to peep the scene in the next like 4 years.

 

The Real Ones Are Never What You THINK: An interview with STRAFF

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”Simplicity is the hardest technique to pull off because it has to be simply beautiful in an artistic way plus it saves time and money”  – STRAFF

I’m inspired right now, probably because of Richard’s recent article or the euphoria in my eyes. Last two days have been a rush for me, it’s been a rush for the culture and I’m quite joyous and excited.

I met STRAFF earlier this week and it’s the best experience I’ve had in a while! I was so happy. I love what I do because I get to meet different people; it’s so fun being in the colorful world of Straff. I’ve watched him grow, admired his art, recently drowning in his music, with his self-directed video, he showed another edge of him that appealed to my film making senses, and lastly his ‘Thirst Merch’ coming soon (yes he’s into fashion too), he’s a ‘Thirst’ of creativity packed in one human body.

He’s completely self-confident in what he his, the ideas he creates with each project is a showcase of his mind, a bundle of himself sent to the culture to create. We’re having more minds in this generation doing what they love for the love of putting their expressions into the world. First odd thing was, Straff typed in all caps, “I JUST LOVE THE COOL APP TO TEXT IN CAPS” his response when asked why.

If that’s not enough to make you curious about other self-explained actions that built up his world I don’t know what will. The most I’ve heard from this squad man, (yes he’s always around with his mob ready to wave shit up) was an interview I read on Radr, it wasn’t enough but the visuals were incredible, a haven of his senses captured with his psychedelic use of colors. I’m lucky to dive into his mind, publishing our discussion is a pleasure.
(PS. I left all his answers in cap, yeah! I want you to feel his wave).


You’re visual aesthetic. Your music, art, production is all STRAFF. Tell me about how this aesthetic and persona was born?

Straff: THROUGH THE THIRST WHICH LEADS ME ON FOREVER AND EVER. YEAH I DO A BUNCH OF COOL STUFF. FIRSTLY THE VISUALS, IMAGES, VIDEO EDITS AND THE FAMOUS GRAPHIC DESIGNS. MAKING MUSIC OF COURSE, AND THE COOLEST OF CLOTHES. I GOT LIKE SCATTERED IDENTITIES AND REPUTATIONS BUILT AROUND THESE STUFF I DO BUT SOON COME TOGETHER AS THE BRAND BUILDS TO THE MOON AND BACK, IT’S SUPERLATIVE. THE WAY I FEEL IT SHOULDN’T BE IS THE BEST WAY I APPROACH STUFF

What draws you to approaching your art in ways not normally accepted?

Straff: CAUSE I HATE RANDOM SHIT, I LOVE TO LEAVE YOU THINKING AND GASPING TO THE LAST SECOND YOU GIVE UP ON HOW I MADE SOMETHING, ITS JUST WHO I AM. I CANT CHANGE IT. HOW & WHY*^ I MADE SOMETHING.

How did you get the name Straff and what’s the story behind your style of music?

Straff: STRAFF IS SHORT FOR STRAFFITTI, JUST A NAMED NICK BY A FRIEND I LIKED. NO STORY BRO, CAUSE THERES NO PRECISE STYLE YET. BUT I LOVE TO LISTEN TO THEOPHILUS LONDON, FRANK OCEAN, JOEY BADASS, POP STAPLES, AND LOGIC
Talking music, your last body of work was a brilliant piece of unorthodox yet perfectly curated sounds with a guest feature from MI. Tell us about vanilla sky and working with MI?

Straff: YEAH WUSS COOL. WORKING WITH M.I IS ONE OF MY MILESTONES ACHIEVED AT A REALLY EARLY STAGE, NOT TO FORGET THE FACT I WAS INTRODUCED THROUGH ICE PRINCE, LOVED THE WORK FLOW.
You’re very vocal about being different, being yourself. Do people find it hard accepting your art or music?

Straff: I FEEL BEING YOURSELF IS THE BEST FORM OF COOL. I MEAN PEOPLE THAT FUCK WITH ME AND LOVE ME, ENGAGE CAUSE I’M DOING STRAFF, I’M CREATING STUFF OF MY OWN IDENTITY & ALL.
Do you feel offended when people compare you to Tyler (The Creator)?

Straff: ME AND TYLER ARE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. I DON’T SEE ANY REASON FOR COMPARISON. I MEAN, HE’S A GENIUS NOT TO DISPUTE THAT FACT AND I LOVE WHAT HE DOES, HE INSPIRES THE THIRST IN ME.
You use a lot of colors?

Straff: CALEON FOX, ASAP ROCKY, JADEN SMITH, PHARELL WILLIAMS USES A LOT OF COLOURS. WHY NOT COMPARE ME WITH THEM? CALEON FOX IS ACTUALLY THE GUY TO CREDIT FOR MY COLOURFUL, INTERESTING LIFESTYLE, LOVE THAT GUY MUCH MORE. HE INSPIRED ME AND ADDED TO MY CREATIVE JUICES.
What’s the vision of your cinematography?

Straff: TO CREATE AND CONTROL VISUAL ELEMENTS IN WHAT YOU SEE FOR A VIDEO PROJECT, ALL IS STILL IN PROGRESS TILL THE GRADUAL TEAM DEVELOPMENT IS COMPLETE.
What will such videos look like?

Straff: BRAIN SUPPLEMENTS, EYE MULTIVITAMINS.
How would you define the creative scene around you presently?

Straff: UGH, I REALLY DON’T PAY SO MUCH ATTENTION HERE. BUT FROM WHAT I SEE THERE’S DEAD VIBES OVER HERE AND NOBODY IS REALLY READY TO CREATE MIND CHANGING STUFF. PEOPLE JUST WANT TO GET AWAY WITH PLAYBACKS. BUT IT’S COOL THERE’S ALOT OF COME UPS AND THE RESPONSE IS LOW.
Response is low?

Straff: ART INTAKE IS REALLY LOW. POOR STREAM LEVELS, CURATED SHOWS MUSIC/ARTS, POOR RESPONSE FROM THE CROWD, POOR FEEDBACK.

KEEP THE POSITIVITY VERY TIGHT AROUND YOU ALWAYS, LEARN MORE. DO ALL WHAT YOU CAN DO BEFORE YOU DIE, YOU DIE ALONE SO NEVER LET ANYONE DRIFT YOU.

What influences do you think can increase the acceptance?

Straff: THERE’S A LOT LEADING TO THE PROBLEM: POOR SYSTEM, YOU CAN’T EVEN CHANGE FROM THERE, IT’S AFFECTING EVERYTHING. NO INTERNET FOR PEOPLE TO STREAM. IT’S A LOT, MOST ON THE ROLLS IS ON ONLINE AND PEOPLE CAN’T EVEN GET IN HERE. JUST THE RESPONSE TO DOPE ASS STUFF OUT THERE, VERY POOR.
In the shit storm which is Nigeria, how do keep focused on doing your art regardless?

Straff:  IT’S WHAT IS, IT’S WHAT I LOVE SO I DO MY SHIT REGARDLESS. Y’ALL DO YOUR SHIT. KEEP THE POSITIVITY VERY TIGHT AROUND YOU ALWAYS, LEARN MORE. DO ALL WHAT YOU CAN DO BEFORE YOU DIE, YOU DIE ALONE SO NEVER LET ANYONE DRIFT YOU.
What is your aesthetic as a fashion lover? And plans do you have for maybe your own brand?

Straff: I LOVE PLAIN COLOURS MIXED TO THE PERFECT PALETTE. CLEAN WARM WHITE NICE SOCKS. ALSO PERFECTLY DESIGNED SHIRTS OF PATTERNS OF AN ELEMENT ARRANGED WELL. SIMPLICITY IS ALSO KEY TO MY DESIGN, BASICALLY OLD HELLS KITCHEN (NEW YORK + ITALIAN) FASHION RECANTED WITH COLOURS TOO, REALLY COOL. NEW THIRSTY MERCH OUT NEXT MONTH.
What’s your take on African fashion from the youths’ perspective?

Straff: AFRICAN FASHION? I PAY MORE ATTENTION TO OTHER ROOTS ROUND THE WORLD. I SEE AFRICAN FASHION EVERYDAY. NOT LIKE IT SUCKS BUT ITS NOT JUST WHAT I FUCKS WITH DEEP DEEP.
You talk about simplicity,  why does that play such an important role in your design?

Straff: SIMPLICITY IS THE HARDEST TECHNIQUE TO PULL OFF BECAUSE IT HAS TO BE SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL IN AN ARTISTIC WAY PLUS IT SAVES TIME AND MONEY.
What’s really important to you in life?

Straff: GOD OBVIOUSLY.

Exiting the land of hues that is STRAFFITTI makes me think this is what it feels like coming down from an LSD trip, awed by the spectacle, downtrodden by the monochromes of real life and definitely eager to pop another pill of STRAFF. Interview by @AdedayoLaketu for @MoreBranches

Interview: Music producer Likwid Ice talks about his craft

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‘A fan of music period!! Beat maker, Patriot. Entertainment’.

This is how Likwid Ice (Kobina Amoah) describes himself.  A couple of months ago, I was sent a link to an EP and upon listening, it was the production that got me screaming. That EP was Kwadjo SPiRi’s ‘’FLY EP’. An IT guy by day and producer by night, Likwid Ice’s production blends sampled classic highlife and hip hop. A self-taught producer whose interest for making music was inspired by the legendary RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan), Likwid Ice has been producing music since 1999. Mainstream success isn’t something Likwid Ice craves for at present. 

According to him, most attempts at creating commercial music had left him feeling empty: ‘I switched to the commercial side but I had no feel for it’. In the words of Kwadjo SPiRi, Likwid Ice’s major competitor when it comes to chopping up smaples for songs is DJ Juls. Few weeks ago, I caught up with him at the AccradotAlt organized ‘Sabolai Radio Set’ where we spoke about a wide range of issues-mostly about his craft.

Read on:

On Meeting With Kwadjo SPiRi

I listened to his first album, ‘Restitution’, which I think was good. ‘I AM’ was the first song he recorded and when he sent to me, I was shocked. To me, it was like a jump or a strong leap compared to what he did on his first project. I felt he couldn’t match ‘I AM’ but he proved me wrong. He’s a good artiste.

On Sampling

I love sampling. I don’t know how I do it sometimes. The Kojo Antwi ‘Medofo Pa’ sample was the first beat I sent him (Kwadjo SPiRi). Initially when I created it (the beat), I was thinking of getting a mainstream artiste to jump on it, but, I started listening to SPiRis album and as company mates, I felt he should have the beats instead. The creation was spontaneous. I was listening to some old tracks and it came on. I immediately chopped it up and slowed down the tempo and that was how I it come to be. Same went with the creation of ‘Ogya’. When the tracks are too low or high, I either increase the tempo or show it down to get what I really want.

 

How it started

I’ve been creating music since 1999. It’s a hobby; self-taught. I used to listen to Wu-Tang Clan a lot and my favourite producer was RZA. He amazes me with his work. KG (formerly of hiplife group KG & PM) had this software called EJ, which was the first software I used for production. I used EJ for probably a years and PM (The DJ) also sent me Fruity Loops (FL) 2. I started sampling probably in 2003 and the first sample I made was Osibisa’s ‘Welcome Home’, which SPiRi will probably put on his next album.

Producers Earning Respect and Money

Producers should be unified and demand what’s due them. They shouldn’t always be giving beats for free. Artists, after earning a hit off a producers beat will continue to live off it, yet the producer gets nothing. There should be an established structure to earning a beat as an artiste because the producer is the most important next to the artiste. Artistes I have worked with include Enek (he’s on Hitz FM now). He had a song with Wanlov and it’s off one of the very beats I gave out. I’ve also worked with Flippa as well as a gospel artiste called Billy Graham B who’s about to release his album.

Inspiration

I listen to a lot of old school music like those by Wu-Tang, Nas and Dr. Dre. Producers like RZA, 9th Wonder, J.Cole inspire me.

Achieving Balance

I can go five months without making a beats. After work, I pull my laptop, listen to old classics and try to create. And on weekends too. It doesn’t always work out good. I had a studio but dumsor (the energy crisis) forced me to shut it down.  But, anything can happen in the future.

Future Plans     

EL and Jayso were the people who inspired me when I started making beats. I admire them a lot because they went for what they believed in, so I always listened to them. I sent EL a DM (on twitter) even though I’ve never met him following the release of the FLY EP. He gave us a good feedback, probably he gave us the most positive feedback. I’d like to give him thumps up for that. I really like what he’s doing. I’m hoping for something positive to come up later.

 

The Interview: Kwadjo SPiRi reveals

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‘I dey fly high above the clouds/ You can always keep talking/ A brother gonna keep dropping hits after hits’

The above lyric is a declaration of intent. It’s a peek into the ambitions of Kwadjo SPiRi: a young rapper with a dream to become influential; to use his position and music to influence thoughts and inspire his fans-both old and young. These two pillars are the cornerstone of Kwadjo SPiRi’s musical odyssey. He considers art to be a powerful medium towards attaining this purpose. ‘You are doing nothing if your art can’t be assimilated’, he tells me. ‘I have come to a point where my art should make sense, should be able to shift someone’s conscience’, the trained chemical engineer adds.

A fortnight ago, after his set at the Sabolai Radio Set, an AccradotAlt initiative that provides platform for some of the city’s budding talents-rappers and singers-to share their works with an audience and generate conversation, Kwadjo SPiRi and his producer Likwid Ice gratefully accepted to speak to Culartblog about their collaborative album, The FLY EP.

Boasting just five songs, the well-crafted “FLY EP” had Kwadjo SPiRi and Likwid Ice creating some admirable piece of art. The sample-heavy project saw both Kwadjo SPiRi and Likwid Ice placing their foot at the door, announcing themselves to the ears who’d listen while making a forcefully claim that they are worth casting an eye towards. Blending classic hiphop beats and old highlife samples, courtesy Likwid Ice (the producer) with Kwadjo Spiri’s hard hitting, conscious littered rhymes, the EP is an exhibition of their creativity. The “FLY EP” is a precursor to an album- Akwantune (The Traveler) which the two are currently working on.

In this two-part interview, the two shared details on the making of the EP, their influences, the future, what holds them bonded and their objectives as artistes.

The first part of this interview focuses on Kwadjo SPiRi: the man, rapper and artist.

 Self-Introduction:

My name’s Kwadjo SPiRi, a hiphop artiste. I make conscious music. I blend science, philosophy and some comedy in my music (deep stuff). I read mechanical engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) where I graduated in 2007. After KNUST, I went into Aviation engineering. Currently, I’m a Fuel Retail Engineer.

Inspiration behind the FLY EP:

The beats inspired the EP. I didn’t really plan the EP, like planning the concept, tracklist, number of songs; features. Everything was very casual from day one. My friend and producer Likwid Ice drops the beats, I hear the samples in there, I get inspired and write accordingly – whether it’s about love, life, political or pan-African samples. The inspiration basically came from the beats. The name of the EP came after recording everything and listening to it. I can say the Likwid Ice inspired the EP.

 Working Together:

The chemistry has been there right from the start. Even when I didn’t know he made beats, I felt something striking about him. I told him I made beats and he rolled out his credentials as a producer too. That’s how we bonded musically. We also work together in the same corporate office-me as a fuel retail engineer and he, an IT person. So, after sharing with him my previous albums, he realized he does the kind of beats I vibe to-those 90s hip hop beats we both grew up on. That’s when we became very close.

When I dropped my first album- Restitution-the reaction I received wasn’t quite exciting because the album was strictly hip-hop. I didn’t localize the contents and that affected the reaction I received from fans. Also, I didn’t have money to promote it. The low response made me lose a little bit of enthusiasm for making music. But, Likwid Ice brought me back.  He played me some beats and challenged me to rap over them. So, I told myself, why not work with him, after all he makes good beats, he samples well, I fed him some ideas and he obliged, creating some beats along those lines. We initially wanted to do a seven (7) track project. But realized this was an EP so five tracks was enough.  Our meeting felt like destiny.

Growth:

“Restitution” and “The Journey”-my two earlier projects-were all hip hop albums. This EP took a different route. It’s more diffused in terms of sound. We incorporated a lot of African rhythms. And that’s why I think people are vibing to it more. I have grown a lot in the sense that, I’m trying to adjust my music, my art to suit people; the listeners. I believe you are doing nothing at all if your art or what you are saying can’t be assimilated. I’ve come to a point where I think I must make art that makes sense; that can shift someone’s conscience; that can make someone think differently. I should do art people can vibe with in their heart.

 ‘When its good music, dem dey choke am/Starving it of oxygen/ Dem dey dream say the junk go die/ so dem go fit spread dema trash/ radio became thee rubbish dump – We Go Fly/We Go Shine’

 If I compare the project with what I did in the past, I can see why people didn’t vibe with me back then. I was caught up in my own world, doing my own thing and thinking it sounds good to me so it’d definitely sound good to everyone too. You should be able to break things down because he who breaks things down for others to understand complex ideas is a grown or wise person. Those who are able to say the most complex things in the simplest ways are the grown ones. Looking at what I’ve done, I know I’m not there yet, I have a long road ahead but I think I’m coming to a point people will understand complicated things on a simpler levels whiles vibing with it.

‘I AM, a free spirit walking the earth/ I Am, a manifestation of life/I AM, intelligence wrapped in a black body/ I AM, magnificence’.

Themes on EP:
I talk spirituality in my songs. I try to inspire people with my music. In fact, the “SPIRI’ in my name is from Inspiration and not spirituality. I’m also a Pan-Africanist albeit not political. I vibe with those who laid their lives down for us like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Ghaddafi, Steve Biko. I’d love to see young guys like us take over the mantle and make this place (Africa) a better place. And I think the arts is one of the tools we can actually use to progress. The story can be best told through the arts. That’s why I fancy hip-hop since it affords you the platform to talk-say a lot of things within a short space of time which people grasp faster as well.

 

 

More Branches speak with UK based Nigerian rapper Fasina

Richard Ogundiya talks to UK based Nigerian rapper Fasina about his music, style and his hopes for the African youth for More Branches

For you Fasina, has music always been your thing? Or did you just jump on it along the way?

I’ve always been into music for as long as I can remember. I was always making bars from young days, the culture in south east (all parts of London tbh) was that guys kinda just spat bars all the time. My friends and I would form a circle and spit quick 8 or 16 bars. It was sick.

Oh, wow. What was the influence? Who did you listen to to while growing up?

That’s hella general. I listen/listened to a lot while growing up, I’d say the artists that have a major influence on me are Fela, Coldplay, Biggie, Eminem, Tyler, The Creator, Giggs, Sinatra, Sade Adu to mention a few. Growing up I listened to a lot of like Eminem, Biggie, Giggs. I probably shouldn’t have been listening to them during my young age but I was drawn to their persona.

Timing is everything, everyone is being recognised, all just for different reasons. If you’re average in your works, you’d receive average reception. 

Truth is, there’s still a fight for Africa’s new generation creatives as regards awareness, what are your hopes for the future ?

I don’t know, I feel like there’s a lot of mediocrity out there that’s being tolerated and promoted so I just kinda stick to my own people and make GOOD music. The current artists at the moment that I support and hold dear are legit visionaries who inspire me daily. Not even just the music but the creativity-the time put in for their cover arts/ pictures. Some guys I’ve met on twitter I legit hold in such high regard not just from their work, anyone can make good music, anyone can take great pictures. It’s just the drive and story behind it. The way in which they strike their differences makes them as good as they are now. If I mention names, I’d be here all day. Timing is everything. Everyone is being recognized, all for different reasons. If you’re average in your works, you’d receive avergae reception. But as for me, the plan is just to keep doing what I’m doing now,  progress from it. I’m in this for the long run.

Yesssss, I’m so happy to hear this! You’d agree with me that there’s this synergy between creatives here in Nigeria or Africa at large and those over in the U.K. Can you explain it?

Yeah of course. In the UK, especially London where I’m from, there’s a HUGE Afro-Brit community here as well as Caribbean, hence why you have the Nottinghill Carnival etc. So like in music, fashion, art in general, there’s a connection between us and the homeland. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience both worlds and it’s sick to see whats happening presently.

Being from the UK and obviously very much from Nigeria, I feel like with music I kinda have a duty to draw that connection from the homeland over here. It’s evident with my sound. Africa means the world to me and I’m just letting the world know.

I’ve to agree, there’s so much good stuff happening at the same time and it’s pretty awesome for us as a people, it’s a path to a whole new Africa that we should all be excited about. Now let’s talk about more music; Adara, 5 star (my anthem for days!). What inspires you to do this kind of music? You’re unique, I must add.

A lot of things inspire the music-experiences majorly. I kinda explained 5 star on Femi’s Reprezent interview (it’s on her SoundCloud page if anyone wants to like find out what drove it). But yeah, like most artists I guess my experiences drive the music. And thank you so much bro!

I’m definitely going to look for it! Where do you see your creative space/power in the next few years?

No idea but I’m looking to be one of the legends. Like GREAT. Still don’t know how it’s gonna happen but it’s gonna happen.

Definitely going to happen man! I must say, it’s been really nice vibing with you. I mean, I’ve seen another side of Fasina and it’s great. Lastly, what’s your advice to Africa’s youth?

My advice for the youth? Just keep positive, stay happy and be radical. The industry is changing a lot and it’s for the better, things are handled differently than before & you can kinda do things yourself without having to give into the powers that be. Stay true to yourself and  just remain cool man. I’m really digging Waffles & Cream by the way . Those guys are amazing. I can’t wait to get to lagos and tell them that personally.

This indeed, is the truth for the African boy and girl. I’m so glad you’ve been watching, they had a skate jam few weeks ago and it was amazing!! We really can’t wait to have you in Lagos 5 star guy. 

Yeah I know I’ve been on social media observing the whole thing. Love it. And I also can’t wait to there!

Interview Conducted by Richard Ogundiya.

An interview with Award winning Tunisian filmmaker Selim Gribba


If the law is retrograde, it is a duty to transgress and move the red lines

On December 17, 2010, twenty-six-year-old fruit and vegetable vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, from the  rural town of  Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia , was allegedly insulted and  slapped by the police because he refused to hand over his cart to the authorities. Humiliated, Mohammed marched to the front of a government building and set himself ablaze.

A peaceful protest led by Bouaziz’s mother few hours later, would birth  a wave of angry protests across the country, culminating in the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ending his 23-year long rule. 

Like many young Tunisians gagged  by Ben Ali’s decades long repressive regime, Filmmaker Selim Gribaa set out to reclaim his voice after the revolution – and he did so gloriously in his first short film, The Purple House (2014). 

This post-revolution film is set during the revolution of 2011 and follows the life of a middle-aged, unemployed man, Hassan. A typified disenchanted Tunisian under Ben Ali’s rule, Hassan visits Si Ammor, a local politician of the ruling party, to ask for a job. Si Ammor promises he will have a job for Hassan in about a month, on the condition that Hassan paints his house purple, because it is the favourite colour of the president. Hassan sells his wife’s jewellery to buy paint and works diligently to adorn the house in purple. But before a month is due, Ben Ali is ousted by the revolution. 

What follows is a troubled man’s light-heartedness and occasional heartbreaking quest to regain his dignity; and a community’s hopeful embrace of a new Tunisia.

“The Purple House” won the Audience Award at Green Caravan Film Festival in London in 2015; The Baobab Award for Best Short Film in the same year and a special mention at the 15th Festival Lumières d’Afrique 2015 in France.

I spoke to Selim about the Revolution, his film, a rebirthed Tunisia and the Ben Ali’s favourite colour.

Reggie Kyere (RK):  “The Purple House” is set in the days during and after the Tunisian Revolution. Did you join in the protests? 

Selim Gribaa (SG): Yes, indeed. I was in the streets of Tunis during the events of the revolution to demand the departure of Ben Ali

RK: In the midst of all that chaos, what really struck you about the revolution?

 SG: The revolution made me realize that the disgust I felt was shared by the majority of young people. And it ended up exploding in the mouth of power.

RK: Ben Ali’s government was notorious for its hardline stance against any form of expression. Can you describe how it was like being a filmmaker under his regime?

SG: Filming during Ben Ali’s rule was not easy. There were many subjects that could not be addressed. So we had to talk about it sometimes at the second or third level. The subjects who sinned were simply censored. Power only gave means to filmmakers to say everything was beautiful.

RK: This “Purple House” was made post-revolution, comparing with your previous works, would you say you were braver in your narrative because you weren’t afraid of offending anyone in authority? 

SG: Clearly yes. Today we are free to say what we want and we are not going to deprive ourselves of it. But beyond courage, cinema requires an environment of freedom. There must be no limits to creation. Otherwise we find ourselves making the cinema that we can to the detriment of the cinema we want.

RK: Towards the end of the film the whole neigbourhood reconciled. In solidarity to Hassan, they paint their house purple and Hassan gets a job in the bakery. Was the film set up purposely to send a political message of reconciliation and unity?

 RK: There is this message of reconciliation. But above all, I wanted to say that the neighborhood was more intelligent than the politicians. They understood that the purple was only a color and that they were free to do what they wanted. The colour purple came to mean the jewelry of Hasan’s wife. It is to support him that’s why they painted their houses purple. So Hasan wouldn’t have to erase the paint of his house.

RK: Is that what has happened in Tunisia; people putting aside their differences to unite behind a new leadership?

SG: Not really. The film is a sort of tale that ends well. But what has happened in reality is that the politicians have done everything to divide people -between those who are Islamists and those who are laic; those who are progressive and those who are traditionalists. There has been a lot of violence that has led to political killings by jihadist terrorists. Fortunately now it has calmed down a lot.

RK: Moving forward, what role do you think films are going to play in the reshaping of a new Tunisia?   

SG: Films and culture in general have a very important role to play especially by the culture that young people will move away from obscurantism and violence. It is through culture that the exchange of ideas and the understanding of differences between people occur. Culture gives access to the complexity of the world and makes it more comprehensible.

RK: Regarding obscurantism, there have been concerns about the rise of Salafists in Tunisia after the revolution. Several months after the revolution in 2011, Islamists attached TV channel Nessma for showing Persepolis, a film about the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Weeks before that, a theatre was attacked for screening a film about Tunisia and religion. The film Director, Nadia El Fani, was allegedly sent death threats. Fortunately, Jihad Salafists movement such as Ansar al-Sharia were banned in 2013. As a filmmaker, do you think even after the revolution there is still a big red line that artists cannot cross in Tunisia? 

SG: Tunisian society is a society where there are still many taboos. Artsists have a great role to play in confronting these taboos. Before the revolution, there was arbitrary censorship because it was not necessary to talk about politics. But politics is in every subject so censorship was omnipresent. After the revolution, the wind of freedom blew. Censorship no longer exists. There is the law and what it allows. For me, you can talk about everything in respect of the law. And if the law is retrograde, it is a duty to transgress and to move these red lines.

RK: Purple was for decades synonymous with the former ruling party and President. What were people’s perception of the colour before the revolution and how do they view it now? Are there still purple shops in Tunisia? 

SG: Purple was the colour of submission. If someone wanted certain privileges-from the ruling party- he painted his house purple or wore purple clothes. The first years after the revolution, the purple disappeared from the country. It looked like it never existed. People were afraid that they would be confused with Ben Ali’s collaborators. But lately people are starting to use the purple and dressing sometimes with a shirt or a purple jacket. In fact it is a beautiful color and it is normal to use it now.

RK: Are you working on any new projects?

SG: I am writing my first feature. 

Interview conducted by Robet Kyere, a film enthusiast. He is thr PR Officer for African Film Society. Find him on Twitter @memaamebaneme.  

More Branches interview with Dolapo Alade [Beat FM 97.9]

Dolapo Alade is an On -Air Personality (AOP) for Ibadan based Beat FM in Nigeria. She talks to Adedayo Lekatu (More Branches).

How has music grown over the years to you being a personality on radio?
Dolapo Alade : Music has grown immensely; to the point the international market has seen the uniqueness and beauty of it, to want to get with the vibe or associate with it.

The afro-pop music has become so dynamic that you can’t get just one “Naija sound”. The ability to have more than one category in one genre shows how evolved it has become.

What’s Afro-Pop to you and what impact do you feel it’s had on our culture both good and bad in relation to the new culture ‘new age’ music is bringing into Africa?

Dolapo Alade : The Afropolitan pop culture.. that’s the clear definition for me, nothing to personify. I won’t say afro-pop made an impact on our culture, It’s the other way round. The artists are able to use what’s happening around to project their art using the melody that suits the story. Granted we have our misgivings about some artists glorifying crime and whatnot but that’s what’s happening. You can only get good art when you can relate to what you’re creating.

The new generation’s music from Africa’s young minds is still fighting to gain awareness, how do you think their sound can be pushed out into the world more being an OAP?

Dolapo Alade : The manipulation of social media is very underrated for the unsigned. A great example is Chance the Rapper; he was able grow his fan base through Soundcloud and other social media platforms. Make use of any kind of exposure, there’s never too much exposure. The speed of information passed on social media is very fast. This depends on the content and the way it is designed. Here’s one example; Have an Instagram Live concert, collaborate with your fellow indie musicians and have a monthly concert. If they are able to use these tools to their advantage they would surpass the barriers keeping them from peaking. 

I’ve had friends who want to go into music and they always talk about how expensive it is to be an artist in Africa; how they have to pay to get their songs on radio and tv. What do you think about that narrative and how can it be changed?

Dolapo Alade : In my honest opinion, you really don’t have to pay for anything if the song is really good. DJs, radio presenters, media personalities and so on want to be associated with the next big thing. Payola is a problem when it’s not voluntary and can dissuade artists but if your material is good, you have nothing to worry about.

They have to know that every generation has its time, and what gets them the spotlight is to collaborate with the older ones to get their first spotlight and then eventually the older generation will want to emulate the trend as well – Dolapo Alade

Why do you think many of these artist have problems of getting their content then? Cause the sounds are good but I hear issues of how they still get billed. Is this from the system and is it a thinking we need to change?

Dolapo Alade : That’s where the power of record labels come in. They have the funds to handle the publicity and media interviews that push their new content, Yes it’s the system. It’s just how things work.

People often feel the need to come down to Lagos to make it. I’ve been to Ibadan and they have a growing culture for the arts and tech. From the music angle, what do you think about Ibadan’s scene?

Dolapo Alade : Ibadan is growing in terms of the arts and tech scene. There’s content here in Ibadan, but  evasive of the existent structure in Lagos, there’s more attention in Lagos. We can’t in anyway compare the culture in Ibadan to Lagos when it comes to arts and tech. Regardless of this; there are individuals seriously pushing out their content aggressively, a number of talents in Lagos started their craft in Ibadan. There’s room for growth and development a lot still has to be done in providing certain platforms for budding talents here.

How important is it for the music culture to allow the younger generation come into the scene fully? 

Dolapo Alade : The thing is there’s really nothing stopping the younger generation, every generation of music has its time and would eventually take over mainstream. It starts slowly, It’s only a matter of time and I truly believe that. 

In the entertainment scene the younger generation feel that the older ones have set a barrier or standard that makes it problematic for them to penetrate the industry. They have to know that every generation has its time, and what gets them the spotlight is to collaborate with the older ones to get their first spotlight and then eventually the older generation will want to emulate the trend as well.

Interview by Adedayo Lekatu for More Branches