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Yasmin Kadi (interview)

Originally from Sierra Leone, Yasmin Kadi brings to the world fun loving beats with a layer of messages that resonate the importance of always being your true self. Having had to flee her home land at a young age Yasmin learned that the world can be a cruel place. She never gave up though and fought to do what she loved which was making music and helping others. I contacted Yasmin who was kind enough to tell me more about her upcoming album, her activism and some Sierra Leone music recommendations.

 

For those not familiar with your work, who is Yasmin Kadi?

I’m an Afrobeats/pop singer-song writer chosen by BBC Introducing as some of Londons best new music. And I’m originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa.

How did you get into making music?

I’d always written songs from a very early ago and even though I didn’t produce beats then, I constantly wrote top lines and melodies.

How much music was around your youth? Did you grow up with a strong presence of music around you?

My dad was a huge music lover, and always played the likes of Bob Marley, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers etc. He used to play a whole mixture of generations and in every genre of music. Good music was good music lol.

“If musicians are looking to make positive change in the world through their music, I would say stay true to your own sound and who you are. Do not try and sound like the current and biggest selling music if that is not you. Diversity and difference encourages people, especially the young generation. It encourages them to be themselves and be OK with being themselves and feel they are good enough.”

In previous interviews you have spoken about having to flee your home country of Sierra Leone with your family when you were young. Do you direct those events and the events since then into your music or do you rather use the music as an escape from that? Or a mix of both?

It’s a mixture of both. As artists and writers, some of our work is biographical and some fictional. Mine is a mixture of both. Depending on what I’m feeling and issues that I feel responsible to highlight in my work. It also depends on the production and how I’m feeling in the studio or where ever I’m writing.

How much of your music and lyrics is direct activism? Do you prefer to partake in socially conscious activities outside the music?

Music is subjective, so I leave it to the audience to decide how they perceive my work. Because each listener has a different life experience to the next, every individual’s uptake or interpretation will be different to the next.

Out of my music, I work with a few charities that help some of the issues we face today like the refugee crisis and the mudslide and flood victims affected in Sierra Leone. So I’ve work with ‘Help Refugees UK’, ‘Women for Refugee Women’ and ‘Street Child’. I think my time is better spent doing something and helping organizations who are actually doing productive work, helping people and making good, positive changes, rather than ones who just shout and point fingers without doing anything.

Love You For Life

What do you hope to achieve with your music?

If I had a choice on how my work is perceived, I’d say it’s to give hope and highlight issues the underdogs in every walk of life faces. Highlight the issues in a fun loving criminal way.

What advice do you have for young musicians looking to change the world?

It depends oh how they are looking to change the world? Is it for the better or worse, to spread love or hate, to divide or unite people? If musicians are looking to make positive change in the world through their music, I would say stay true to your own sound and who you are. Do not try and sound like the current and biggest selling music if that is not you. Diversity and difference encourages people, especially the young generation. It encourages them to be themselves and be OK with being themselves and feel they are good enough. It also highlights that they don’t have to be like the boys and girls on TV – the unrealistic picture perfect images we get bombarded with daily.

What are some of your favorite socially conscious musicians out there, active or not?

I’m a fan of Billy Bragg. Google him. He’s great! I also like Alicia Keys. Apart from the fact that she is a great writer and vocalist, she is advocating and putting her money where her mouth is and showing that we don’t always have to cover our face in make up! Or war paint as I call it sometimes ha ha. That is a HUGE message and she is doing it by being a living example and not wearing makeup.

What should someone who knows nothing about the Sierra Leone music scene check out?

Sierra Leone music is a lot of fun. It’s a shame a lot of the artists don’t have the platform to be heard. I was very lucky and never gave up. If people want to hear more SL music, they should check out the likes of ‘Emmerson’. He is a Sierra Leonean artist that mainly sings in Creo/Patwa (our native language) but he is very socially conscious and not afraid to call out very high profile members of the SL community, who he feels are doing injustice to the people and the country as a whole. Just google Sierra Leone musicians, you might be pleasantly surprised.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is a lot of artist don’t have control on the work they put out. For me, I own all the rights to my work, I fund it with help from people who support and buy my music, so I can put out what ever I think represents me as an artist.”

Looking at the state of the world today, do you feel like musicians are using their voices to the maximum or do you feel there is a lack of awareness among musicians?

I honestly don’t think musicians are lacking in awareness on issues that we all face in the world today. What a lot of people don’t realize is a lot of artist don’t have control on the work they put out. Especially those signed to labels. Obviously some major artists have a lot of creative control but a lot more don’t. Its simply a business to a lot of the labels and they have to cover costs, overheads and big wages, so generally they have to put out what they think is going to sell the most. For me, I own all the rights to my work, I fund it with help from people who support and buy my music, so I can put out what ever I think represents me as an artist.

What is on the horizon for you? When can we expect a new album?

We can expect an album in the next few months and it is going to a lot of fun. I’m a bit of a workaholic and have work extremely hard on it, with a lot of passion and love and I’ve worked with some of the best producers who have produced for the likes of Stormzy, Rihanna, Emile Sande, Arian Grande, Wretch 32 etc. So I’m super excited and proud that I stayed true to my self and made the type of music that I wanted to make!

Thank you for participating and for the music you make! Anything else you would like to shout from the rooftops?

Thank you very much and feel free to stay tune on my work, life and the new album via my socials below. Lots of love and God bless.

 

You can check out Yasmin’s social media below:

http://www.yasminkadi.com
https://soundcloud.com/yasminkadimusic
https://www.youtube.com/user/yasminkadi
Instagram: @yasminkadimusic
Twitter: @yasminkadimusic

Andy White (interview)

From Belfast comes Andy White who has a love for music and strong opinions about the societies he lives in. We contacted Andy and learned more about his music and about his future plans of wearing sunglasses more often!

 

First off, for those not familiar with your work, who is Andy White?

He’s an Irish songwriter/troubadour from Belfast City. He writes words. A lot of words. Sings, plays the acoustic & electric in public. Bass, piano in private. Knocked on the door with ‘Religious Persuasion’ some years ago, and his new album is ‘The Guilty & The Innocent’.

“Growing up in Belfast it was obvious that someone had to say something. Making something beautiful out of chaos is what my Mum taught me.”

How did you get into making music and especially protest music?

My grandmother played the piano, taught the piano, loved the piano. I listened to The Beatles, T Rex and Bob Dylan on my Dad’s Pye Black Box record player. Scribbled poetry. Knew during punk that anyone could do it. Growing up in Belfast it was obvious that someone had to say something. Making something beautiful out of chaos is what my Mum taught me.

Are you a part of a strong, like-minded scene in Belfast? Or do you feel alone at times and that more people need to use their voices responsibly through their music?

I played at Tom Robinson’s Power In The Darkness 40th anniversary show last week. I had been at the first as a schoolboy. It was like when the Sex Pistols played Manchester – everyone at the gig went and formed a band, started to write music, or ended up in rock’n’roll.

There are no rules of art, and ‘responsible’ doesn’t feel right – though it should just ‘be’. Use your own instinct to select. Do what feels right and watch out for what’s not.

Can you share some of your favorite political/socially conscious/protest bands or musicians, current or not?

Kendrick Lamar, Courtney Barnett, Tom Waits, Sinead O’Connor (always). John Cooper Clarke, Billy Bragg and Tom Robinson. The Streets.

Do you partake in other activist activities outside the music?

Demonstrations.

What do you think you’d sing about if the world was all of a sudden kind and full of empathy between all people and animals?

Ha ha dream on!

How do you feel people are receiving political music these days?

With earbuds.

What is on the horizon for you?AW_LP1_04PhotoSquareNoType

Wearing sunglasses more often! Touring this album, I want people to hear the songs.

(insert from Shouts: Apparently when one writes ” 8) “, as in the question number, in the chat on Facebook it automatically changes it into a sunglasses wearing emoji.)

😎

Thank you very much for participating and for the music you make!

Thank YOU!

 

SB (interview)

Out of Chicago, US, comes an fresh voice that calls himself SB and he has a very focused and organized mission to change the world through his hip-hop music. We interviewed the man behind the initials and learned about the Chicago music scene and what sets his music apart from the rest.

 

For those not familiar with your music, who is SB?

I’m an artist first and foremost. Most people know me as socially-conscious hiphop recording artist but I’m actually a multi-media artist, music is one of the many forums I express through. I also draw/illustrate, write, paint, act, etc. My main goal through all expression is to bring people closer to God and in alignment with His purpose and will for their lives. I see my role as an emcee as a derivative of the griot tradition of West Africa. The griots were singer/musician/historians that passed on the morals, values, ethos and history of the people through the oral tradition. I look at my role as an emcee to be one and the same.

“Things really took off when I had a chance meeting with Bushwick Bill… He said I had the “skills to make mills”.”

How and when did you discover you could use music to get your message across?

As a teenager. Growing up I spent a lot of time listening to my parents’ music collection. Listening to artists like Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye (circa “What’s Going On?”) showed me the impact that music could have on people for good and really inspired me to do the same through hiphop. Things really took off when I had a chance meeting with Bushwick Bill from the legendary rap group, The Geto Boyz. He was staying at the same hotel where we were holding our annual family reunion and one of my cousins invited him to join us for dinner. He ended up hearing me freestyling with my cousins as we always do at family functions and urged my Uncle Gill to get me into a studio to record a demo as a solo artist (I’d recorded a demo before as part of a three member group). He said that I had the “skills to make mills” and I figured since he was in the industry and had built a great career for himself, it would probably be a good idea to take his advice.

Describe the hip-hop scene in Chicago at the moment? Is it very socially conscious?

I’d describe the music scene in Chicago as very diverse. It’s very much a reflection of the people and always has been. Some are socially conscious individuals and so they express that social consciousness through their music. Others are not and so they may speak more to doing what they feel they need to do to improve the their lives and the lives of their loved ones. But the common thread is that it’s all politics. It’s all tied to to the human struggle. And that is universal. That being said, Chicago has always had a rich tradition tied to social consciousness so I think there will always be a strong element of that in the not just the music but in all art forms as it is reflective of the culture here. For example, Chicago has always been very much a paradigm. On one end, it is a city that was founded by a black man, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. But the majority of Chicagoans are either unaware of this fact or fail to acknowledge it. It was a city that promised hope, job opportunities and freedom from the outright racism prevalent in the South. But many of those that migrated from the South during the Great Migration found that they’d left the South only to have to fight the same battles against the ugly reality of racism in the North. The history of the struggle for equality goes way back in Chicago so it most certainly reflected in the culture.

“I believe music is one of the most powerful mediums we have at our disposal… And I believe that with power comes responsibility.”

Your latest effort is titled REVOLUSEAN. Has your work always been a fire to start a revolution?

As a solo act, yes. When I was part of a group it was more about showing skills and being as unique as possible.  But when I decided to leave the group and go at it solo, it was very important for me to make music that would inspire positive change. I believe music is one of the most powerful mediums we have at our disposal because of it’s ability to influence people physically, mentally, psychologically and even spiritually. And I believe that with power comes responsibility. When I look at the world, I see much that we need to change for the better, not just for ourselves but for future generations. Music is my main forum of choice because I believe as the great Fela Kutionce said, “Music Is the Weapon”.

hob32

How important is it for you to use the right political words versus the words that make a good flow, rhythmically? Do you find it hard to make that balance when writing your lyrics?

I think it is extremely important. And it’s certainly more challenging. But I think it’s worth it. In my humble opinion, rhyming for the sake of rhyming isn’t a difficult thing to do. We all grew up reading Mother Goose rhymes when we were kids. But expressing one self with skill and substance is different….it takes mastery of a varied skill set. So I definitely think that artists that strive to strike that balance with their lyrics should be honored as part of the upper echelon when we are evaluating lyricism.

You mention on your Bandcamp page that your music is different from other hip-hop music. What makes it different and how do you feel your peers in the scene are taking your music?

First and foremost, my music is different because it is very much gospel driven. I don’t label it as gospel music or gospel hiphop but if you listen to it, that’s what it is. It’s based very much in leveraging gospel lessons, values, etc., and applying it to our lives. Secondly, it’s profanity/vulgarity free. Which means that all generations, kids, parents, grandparents, etc., can listen to it at the same time and enjoy it. I think these characteristics make it  not only universally appealing, but even more commercially viable than the music that is typically marketed and promoted. A good example, would be much of the content that Disney produces. Their content speaks directly to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Hence, when people go to see a Disney movie, they aren’t going by themselves or simply with a date. It’s usually a family event where multiple generations are present. Not only is that a beautiful phenomenon to witness and partake in, it also quite profitable.

What are some of your favorite political musicians, current or not?

Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye(circa the “What’s Going On Album”), Lauryn Hill, KRS ONE, Public Enemy, Common, Yassin Bey (Mos Def), Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Andre 3000, Erykah Badu, Amel Larrieux, Dead Prez, Lupe Fiasco, The Fugees, Tupac, etc.

What do you hope to achieve with your music?

I hope to motivate and inspire people to be aligned with God’s purpose for their lives. I hope to inspire people to be agents of positive change not just locally but globally. I hope to get people to embrace their global citizenship and by doing so, be better stewards of the world. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Oppression anywhere, is a threat to freedom everywhere”.

Do you take part in any activism outside of the music?

I do. In many ways I live it. Sometimes I speak in public forums and lend my words and public profile to causes. Other times, I may march in solidarity or petition. Most often though, on a day to day basis, I think my activism is rooted in where I choose not to put my dollars. For example, I strive to commit to a vegan diet and I’m very committed to purchasing organic, non-gmo foods. So certain businesses will probably never see a dime from my hard earnings. I think with most businesses, organizations, and even individuals, the strongest messages you can send involve where you choose to put your dollars and where you choose not to put your dollars.

hob54

What is on the horizon for you? Any live shows outside of the US for your international fans?

Right now I’m working on a trip to S. Africa that will involve performances, collaboration with local artists/musicians and a documentary capturing the experience. I’m also working on a LOT of new music and looking to start touring globally soon, God willing. So lots of good things on the horizon!

Thank you so much for participating and for the music you make. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

Thank you so much for reaching out to me and for providing a forum for artists like myself! As for shouting from the rooftops, please share this verse with the people for me: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”