Category Archives: Interview

Freemuse X Shouts Artist’s Voice: Nigerian Musician M-Josh

Artist’s Voice is a collaboration between Freemuse and Shouts – Music from the Rooftops!. The collaboration aims to provide a platform for artists to share their stories, in their own words, brought to light through interviews published on a shared blog. The blog is available on Shouts and Freemuse websites as well as on corresponding social media channels.

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Interviews are undertaken by Shouts managing editor Halldór H Kristínarson. All interviews will be published in the artist’s own words. Cover image: M-Josh (real name Matthew Joshua Chukwubuikem) / Reuse with modifications from M-Josh on Instagram.

Freemuse and Shouts believe that the right to freedom of artistic expression is a right for all and will work together to create a platform for these expressions.

Freemuse and Shouts cooperated on the below interview of Nigerian musician M-Josh. M-Josh was threatened by a member the Nigerian army for the song Movie In Aso Rock concerning human rights violations and the military in Nigeria.

Halldór: Thank you for participating with Shouts and Freemuse for this joint interview. For those out there that are not familiar with your music, can you please introduce yourself to the world? Who is M-Josh?

M-Josh: First of all, my name is Matthew Joshua Chukwubuikem. I am from Eastern Nigeria; I am a musician and an activist. I am not just an ordinary musician; I make reasonable music capable of bringing positive change to society.

Halldór: You recently received threats from Nigerian military personnel because of your song Movie in Aso Rock. Why did this soldier get so upset about your music and lyrics, in your opinion? For those of us who do not understand the language in the video, can you explain what the song is about?

M-Josh: In the first place, Movie In Aso Rock is a musical piece of art that I used to explain the drama in the Government of Nigeria. A lot of unthinkable things happen, and no one is held accountable. The politicians do anything they like and get away with it.

Halldór: Have you always made conscious music or used your music in protest? How did you start making music and using your voice to try to send positive messages out into the cosmos?

M-Josh: Initially, music was just entertainment for me. But there is a popular saying that ‘he whose house is on fire doesn’t chase rats’. I decided to switch totally to conscious music due to the decay in my society; music is a vital tool to reach out and bring positive change while trying to entertain.

Halldór: Are you worried about your safety?

M-Josh: Of course, I am. Nigeria, as it is today, is a lawless nation, shit happens, and nobody cares. Politicians commit all sorts of atrocities, and if anyone tries to speak up, they come after them with their police, army or even send assassins.

Halldór: What kind of security adjustments have you had to make recently?

M-Josh: Well, that is personal.

Halldór: How important is it for you to represent your culture in your music, and why? In your experience, how do you feel that people outside of Africa view the Nigerian people?

M-Josh: I believe history has not been fair on my people and the culture in general. Lots of deliberate attempts have been made to re-write the story and culture of the African people. Nigeria, the Eastern Nigeria has been hit hard by western influence, and only a few people are doing well to represent and tell the true story. I have watched my culture been gradually eroded. It is very sad to say that the Nigerian people are not well represented outside Africa. This is due to bad leadership and also a western conspiracy. I discussed that a bit in my soon to be released song Stories Of Africa.

Halldór: What is your take on music and activism, and do you think the two should be intertwined or separated?

M-Josh: Music is a vital tool used to get information across to people easily, it is entertainment, and it brings people together. If you want to sell an ideology, use music. Activism on its own is basically a campaign to bring about positive political or societal change. You have a big tool if you fuse your ideology into music and sell it to the people. I feel music should accompany activism.

Halldór: How does general activism fit into your everyday life? Is it all through the music or are there causes that you fight for outside of your work?

M-Josh: Even if I wasn’t a musician, I would still be into activism. I hate seeing things go wrong around me. I always stand up against oppression, be it in music or in my day to day activities.

Image: M-Josh (real name Matthew Joshua Chukwubuikem) / Reuse from M-Josh on Instagram.

Halldór: Can you describe the music scene where you live? Are there many musicians, like yourself, that use their voice for good?

M-Josh: Music is entertainment, and it is thriving in African and Nigeria precisely. There are lots of good musicians over here though a lot of them don’t feel it is important to use their music the way I do. Some do though.

Halldór: What is on the horizon for you? Musically or otherwise?

M-Josh: In the future, I hope to reach the world with my message. I like good things, and I have my personal goals too.

Halldór: Is there anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops to the whole world?

M-Josh: As much as you can, try to attract positive change. Let’s make this world a better place, let’s make it that heaven we all aim at.

Follow M-Josh’s work on his Instagram and YouTube.

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A Protest Music Interview: Louis Rive

Scotland and Barcelona; two places that are not only both fighting for their sovereignty but also two places that support each other. Louis Rive is a singer-songwriter that now has a relationship with both of these places and they have become, in part, what he writes music about.

Louis tells stories (with beautifully strong Scottish R’s), with the aid of his guitar and proudly keeps alive a path that artists before him lay down. He writes on his Bandcamp page that he has met “every type of person there is to meet” in the past decade or so because of his work. I contacted Louis from my temporary home on the other side of Spain and asked him about his music, his own story and his mysterious work that allowed him to meet such fascinating people worthy of being put into song.

Halldór Kristínarson: First of all, for those not familiar with your work, who is Louis Rive?

Louis Rive: I am a singer-songwriter currently in Barcelona but soon to be in Glasgow. If we are going down the nationality route, I am Scottish. My music is rooted in a folk tradition, but not about goblins and faeries or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional folk music, but my songs are there to narrate modern life; identity, political ineptitude, modern imperialism and the world of work.

HK: You mention in the text about your album The Cheap Part of Town that you have met a lot of interesting people, some of whom become part of your stories. What is this work you have partaken in?

LR: I’ve worked many jobs. Here are a few. Bell boy, cleaner, filleting chicken in an industrial kitchen, pot wash, bookie, Georgian-themed human statue, ghost in a haunted house, primary school teacher, translator, Christmas tree salesman.

There are more if I think about it, but these are probably a good start.

HK: You just released a new single ‘Where Do We Go From Here’. Can you tell us a bit about the song and its content?

LR: The song was inspired by events taking place in Scotland at the moment. Scotland has a dark past, one which clashes a bit with the stereotypical, tartan-tinged image of an indefatigable small nation. I have no doubt that we can become that nation, but to get there we have to acknowledge where we came from; it’s the basis for everything. Recent events in George Square, Glasgow, showed a face off between right–wing groups defending statues and left-wing ones advocating said statues’ removal. All the while the police maintained an uneasy presence in the middle. It was like Scotland in miniature; people focused on the past while others sought to define an alternative future, all the while the state maintaining a status quo that no-one benefits from. Past, present and future, ‘Where Do We Go from Here?’

HK: Has your music always been political or made in protest?

LR: Political no, not always. It started as a way to highlight the absurdity of modern life; this conveyor belt of work, consumption, kids, mortgage and death that I always felt was the elephant in the room when it came to modern living. The political aspect was an extension of this. Nina Simone, and I paraphrase, said that it is the duty of musicians to give voice to those faced with injustice. There is no shortage of injustice at the moment, especially in the UK, so the combination of Brexit, institutional racism towards BAME communities, police brutality, inept government and the financial impossibility facing young people at the moment brought out these particularly political protest songs.

HK: How did it happen that you moved to Barcelona, Spain? How is the music scene there, especially protest music, different from your home country the UK?

LR: I’d like to be honest about it. I ended up in Barcelona as a stop on the Caledonian lager train around Europe, it was coincidence. I was living a life of fairly meaningless nihilism and Barcelona catered to that. When I arrived I knew very little of either the music scene or the political situation. I don’t pass comment on things I don’t know well enough, but I will say this. Social change needs a soundtrack, whatever that may be. The Catalan language lends itself well to this, and pre-covid there were many cultural events that supported the independence cause; the two were inseparable. Music’s power should not be underrated with regards to social change, and I hope I can play a part in this idea of social change through culture when I return to Scotland.

HK: What is your take on music and activism and whether the two should be intertwined or separated?

LR: Well, it’s up to the musician really. I completely abhor the idea of people’s music being used to support causes that don’t represent the artist’ views, something very evident by the use of music at Trump rallies, and closer to home the Brexit campaign. On a personal level, I write my music with the idea of narrating the injustices of life and attempting to spark constructive debate, so I would say that my music IS my activism. However, it is each to their own, art is personal and it is up to each artist to use their art as they see fit.

HK: What’s your take on the socially conscious music scene in Barcelona? Do you feel there is a rich environment of artists using their voices responsibly or not enough?

LR: The issue with socially conscious music as you put it, or at least the issue that I find, is that it is very polarising: people either love it or hate it. Music, for a lot of people, is escapism and many people don’t want to hear about the drudgery of modern life when it is something that they live day in, day out. That’s their choice as the listener, and I respect that. In terms of musicians it is the same. There are plenty of artists here in Spain who use their voice to highlight social issues, especially in the world of hip-hop and rap, but the lines of free speech in the country are becoming draconian in their clarity, as can be seen by the exile of rapper Valtònyc and the jailing of Pablo Hásel.

See also: https://freemuse.org/news/i-am-explaining-the-truth-and-they-want-to-put-me-in-jail-interview-with-spanish-rapper-pablo-hasel

HK: What is on the horizon for you?

LR: I am taking my music to Scotland in July. The current situation isn’t amazingly hopeful, both musically and politically, but I feel I can become part of a scene that lends its voice to positive social change. I would like to record a new album this winter, restrictions permitting.

HK: Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

LR: Sure. It is a really tough time for musicians, many of whom are basically facing artistic extinction. If you like the music that I do, or it speaks to you, then I ask you to share it. Writing what is in effect protest music, is a grassroots game. Building momentum and listenership is crucial, not just for my music, but for thousands of other musicians whose words may go unheard. For this reason sharing is crucial.

Learn more about Louis’ work on Bandcamp ı Spotify ı Facebook ı Twitter

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A Protest Music Interview: Nejma Nefertiti

Killer rhymes, social activism, teaching and sound, clothing and perfume design. These are just some of the traits of musician and activist Nejma Nefertiti. Nejma creates art in order to create awareness. Her music is her sword as she fights for social justice and a more equal and positive world.

I interviewed Nejma once before as part of the Afro Yaqui Music Collective but now I wanted to learn more about her own music and her take on the turbulent times we live in, especially in her native United States.

Halldór Kristínarson: You just dropped a new video for the song ‘Blue, White and Red’. Can you tell us about this song and the motivations behind writing it? How was it rhyming over the piano played by Nina Kennedy and how did that cooperation come to be?

Nejma Nefertiti: “Blue, White, and Red” is a collaboration between myself, classical pianist Nina Kennedy, and producer Mike Gutta, who originally designed the beat. The track was re-created by musician/producer Brenda Alderman. It was released in 2019 to honor Juneteenth. Producer April Gibson, shot the video back then but there were complications that led to it’s editing and release being postponed till this year. Sometimes you have to trust the process and the universe because Juneteenth, 2020 was the perfect timing.

The motivation for the song was inspired by the systemic racism, oppression, and exploitation, of Black and Brown people in the United States and the rape, murder, and displacement of First Nation people. We wanted to make sure it was ready to honor and celebrate the legacy of Juneteenth this year. The core people of this project are all friends or family in some way. It’s a blessing to create with people you love and respect.

Rhyming over Nina Kennedy’s piano playing was classic. We mixed our genres together and put it on a trap beat which made it something entirely different altogether. Nina has a strong and interesting history in music. It was an honor collaborating with her. Check out her newly released book: Practicing for Love: A Memoir.

HK: More recently you released ‘Create A Path’, which has some brilliant, personal lyrics. Can you tell us about how it has been for you creating your career in the rap game?

NN: Lol. I don’t know if I consider myself to be in “the game.” To me the game is the industry and I’m on a different path, one I had to carve myself. It’s been a journey of ups and downs like everything in life and a process that’s ever growing. I’ve definitely received beautiful opportunities being an emcee and revolutionary spirited artist.

I would have never thought years ago, that I would be teaching Hip Hop Culture to students and becoming a resident of universities. I’ve traveled all over the United States, to Venezuela, Iraq, Montreal… it’s been incredible to practice my craft in such a way, and perform for many different audiences in many different settings. I’ve connected with amazing people and that continues. It’s all about having a platform and what you do with it.

My earlier years were filled with lots of struggle, which advanced my work but also set it back. Right now I’m in a strong place. I have my community to thank for that. The further I get, the more I change this “game.” I’m new to many things, but not rap. I deserve to be here and to be recognized as a woman contributing, building up, and advancing Hip Hop culture. The best thing about it, is that nobody owns me or my work. I am free to be exactly who I am. I’ve learned to work with people who believe in me and accept me for who I am. If they don’t, it never works out. It’s almost always disappointing but I realize every single time, that it wasn’t meant to be and that greater things come out of the process. The process is always bigger than the product.

HK: Much of your work is very activist driven, your lyrics, your music and your work outside the music. Do you feel things have always been the same in your country or do you see any changes on the horizon?

NN: I think this country has been through many changes over time, and in my lifetime, there has always been a struggle for peace and justice. But there has always been a broken system built off of greed, capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. We can see that in history way before I was here. This country is built off of lies, murder, and deceit. It’s gone on far too long and that’s why a revolution is taking place. This country also has a history of revolutionaries fighting for justice, equality, and freedom. That will continue until we see real change.

I see changes actively taking place right now and it will continue. Nothing lasts forever, not even evil empires. I think this all goes far deeper than we may imagine but truths are being revealed because the people are saying “Enough is enough!” Things are being recognized and people are awakening. I didn’t know if I would experience this in my lifetime, but we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

HK: For readers outside of the U.S., can you describe your feeling for the situation right now in your country?

NN: It’s about damn time and it’s just the beginning. I’m proud of our people taking the streets and the many things people are doing beyond that. There’s many ways to be a part of this. It’s part of our story and legacy. We are taking back what’s ours. The demands are clear and powerful. Now let’s continue to get justice for stolen lives and free these children from cages. The list of to do’s is long but I know that together we can make it happen. We ARE making it happen. Viva la Revolución!

Photo by Steven De Castro

HK: Do you feel musicians are using their voices in protest more now than before?

NN: I do. We’re in revolution. Musicians are inspired and feel compelled to contribute creatively and are also out in the streets protesting, making music, doing virtual live shows supporting the movement, etc…it’s beautiful, the solidarity. The world aligned globally for the first time when the covid-19 pandemic went into effect. We are still dealing with that. Then when George Floyd was murdered for all the world to see, it ignited everything you see going on now. Be careful which news sources you watch and read though. The media is also corrupt. This revolution is about years and years of systemic racism and oppression. It’s important to care about all struggles that are going on in the world, whether it’s close to you or not. It’s crucial to care about all children, not just your own. This is a unique and grand opportunity to evolve our world. Musicians have always played a part in that. Voices are being amplified as they should. Musicians reflect the times and are often ahead. I can’t speak for all musicians, because there’s a wide range of consciousness out there, but the musicians I know and love are fighting for justice, truth, and freedom.

Photo by Craig Thompson

HK: What other music projects can we expect from you coming up? How are your other business ventures going like your animal friendly shoe brand?

NN: I have several projects in the works right now that I’m really excited about. Voltage Contrlr & I got a nice body of work cooking. It’s a New York/Los Angeles collaboration. I love the sound we create together. This is gonna be a jewel for Hip Hop.

I got a project going on with Napoleon Da Legend. We are several songs in. He’s one of my favorite artists to work with and is also a great friend. You know it’s gonna be that strong boom bap.

There’s some cool collabs and singles coming out, and a few surprises. Ya Habibi Part 2 is a part of all that. Something to make you wanna dance. What’s a revolution without dancing?!

My vegan sneakers are in production permanently. The black and gold, and all black. It’s just the beginning of my endeavors in streetwear. I love working with and supporting independent clothing companies and I strive to have a few of my own fly designs out there. For me, that’s what being an artist is about. I like to connect anything I do to the path that I’m on. For example, the sneakers I designed are about “Walking in your purpose”.

My preference would be for revolutionary minded people to wear them. But anybody is welcome to. I’m working with a really kind family company who believed in my vision. I also create natural perfumes and beard oils. It’s all about layers for me. Whether it’s music, perfume, food…

I definitely gotta give my Afro Yaqui Music Collective fam a shout out. For one, that’s how we became acquainted because of our interviews with you in the past. Afro Yaqui is working on an album as we speak, and I’m on that. Also, we’re having a final event, which will be the premiere of our student’s jazz opera on June 30th from 7:30pm – 8:30 online.

It’s a multimedia work that combines jazz, hip hop, spoken word, dance, and visual art, animated and illustrated by students and guest artists. I worked together with Ben Barson and Gizelxanath Rodriguez’s “Artivism: Intercultural Solidarity & Decolonizing Performance” course students. The piece reflects themes of police violence, migrant justice, systematic racism, climate change, and visions of a new world. The performance will premiere on the UW-Madison Arts on Campus Facebook Page and will be followed by a live Q&A session with the artists. It’s been incredible working with everyone and you will definitely want to see this piece, even if you miss the premier.

Thank you for having me Halldór! It’s truly a pleasure. I appreciate the love and support you show us all. Blessings upon blessings…

Visit Nejma’s webpage for further updates and info:
nejmanefertiti.com

Cover photo by Roy Cox

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