The gift of music and the exposure of a widely read man are evident in the way Bemyoda talks, and in his general attitude to life. Knowledge and drive are traceable in his utterances and his demeanour. The blend of all these fine qualities forms the theme of the music he makes.
He makes music with consciousness; consciousness of his personal life, consciousness of the people around him and that of the society. He tells stories to his audience; through his music and the images he captures. He leads them to think, to imagine and to find answers to questions about life. His music is too beautiful not to be heard, his versatility would not let him resist the temptation of experimenting with different music genres, his goals appears too big for a small mind, art, is the best way to describe what he does.
Read his interview below;
Who is Bemyoda?
My name is Bemyoda. I’m a singer, a songwriter and a photographer. I’m based primarily in Lagos. My music is primarily alternative folk, even though sometimes I mix elements of other things; there is some Jazz in it, sometimes there are some elements of Reggae [in it] but primarily I make alternative folk music.
So what does music mean to you on a personal level?
Music is basically expression. Music is a form of expression. Unfortunately I’m not one of those artistes that when you ask “what is music?” they’d say music is the air that I breathe. Really, music is not the air that you breathe, if you take music away you will still survive. I feel people who make music are blessed with a form of expression that is powerful.
For you, how did music start?
Well, my dad used to be in the choir. He used to teach us their choir songs, he would make my sister and I sing, so from probably the age of 4 or 5 I found myself singing, although, it was nothing formal. The every once in a while singing in church was the beginning, and eventually by the time I grew up, I started to sing in youth groups. There was particular youth group I spent a lot of my teenage years with in Markurdi. We used to sing, we used to dance and do all sort of things. So by the time I got to the University, I pretty much had started to figure out that music was something that I could do well. For my university experience, it wasn’t the singing, it was the songwriting. We used to have this choir that used to have this concert, second semester of every session and we used to be the ones to write all the songs. It was a big choir; it used to be like a hundred singers. We used to be the ones to write all the songs and there was a music committee that would select songs that would be performed. The first time I submitted was in my second year, it was really good. Then I submitted third year, fourth year and even when I left the school, they still reached out to me to send in songs. For me it was the period of discovery, finding out I could do this thing well.
Listening to you, most people would put you in the category of those who make good music. Do you think there should be a classification between artistes making good music and others who do not?
I feel like if music is good, then it is good. It does not matter what genre it is. There are trap music that I have heard and I felt that the songs are nice. There are Afro-pop sounds that I like. Those guys [Afro-pop artistes] do something that not everybody can do. Some of those guys that we call good music makers, if they try to do it [Afro-pop music], it would not come out well. There is art in what they do. I feel if music is made properly, if it is good, it is good, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. Instead of us creating areas for every genre to be expressed and to be appreciated, it now seems like few are good music and most are the other kind of music. I don’t see anything wrong with it [Afro-pop music], for what it is, they [Afro-pop artistes] just want people to dance and be happy and it works for what it is. For the guys who are more conscious and more soulful about what they are singing, I just wish the platform was bigger.
So do you blame this on the structure that we lack?
I think it is not just one straight answer. It is a complicated thing. Same way Nigeria’s issues are complicated. There are different things. There is a fact that people are suffering, there is a part that people are going through issues, they do not really want to listen to music that makes them think, people just want to be happy, and they just want to dance, so they demand a certain kind of music. So, if you do not give them that, they’d be like, I don’t want. For a lot of people in Nigeria, music is an escape, not a place you go to meditate or something that makes you think.
On the other hand, there is the media that decides that this is what people want to listen to. There is the radio, the TV and co. that decides that if you do not fall into a certain category; they would be reluctant to list you on their playlist. They [media personalities] are powerful because they are gatekeepers, whatever they throw at people, is what is going to be loved. If you listen to something ten times, you would start to sing it whether you like it or not. On one hand this is what people want to listen to, on the other hand the media has a very big role to play in deciding the direction that music goes. With that, I feel like besides the people, there is also the media. The media here is inclined to promote a certain kind of thing. Conclusively, there are different angles to it.
You seem not to have featured any artiste, can you say why?
The people I want to work with are people who want to see that you have made something for yourself. It is an interesting thing, it is either you are paying someone a lot of money to work with them, which is the way the industry works. The people I want to work with are like up there and it is more beneficial to me that they work with me, than it is for them, because they already have the platform. It is almost like a trade by barter. So when I have built up something and it is valuable, it is easier to have those conversations.
Who would you like to work with after you’ve built up the necessary platform?
A lot of them are not Nigerian [laughs]. If I were to work with someone in Nigeria, it would be Asa, which is like standard. Outside of Nigeria, I’ve thought about Labyrinth. There is Vanessa Carlton.
What is the latest development with your music?
I recently released an album on the 9th June, 2017. It is titled Stark. It is available on digital stores.
So what do you think can be changed to create a better environment for more music genres to be appreciated in Nigeria?
I think it is changing gradually, it would only take time. Again I think another thing that determines the kind of music that the society enjoys is the average level of intelligence and education. For instance, in my Stark album, I’m talking about serious stuffs, I’m talking about stuffs that make people think, and an average Nigerian does not find these relatable. I find that the people that connect with my music are a lot of white people, Europeans. So, the average intellectual level of society determines the direction of the popular music. On one hand the people are disconnected, the ones that can connect with it, do not want to think about it.
Are you signed to any record label?
Well, it is called Quirk Theory. I am involved in it primarily because I did not want to sign directly to any Nigerian record label. I have had conversations with record labels in Nigeria, a lot of ones that I have had conversation with, primarily have a Nigerian vision and my vision is bigger than Nigeria. At the end of the day, they [record labels in Nigeria] want you to change your sound and I don’t want to do that. Quirk Theory is more like an imprint that runs my official dealings.
Is music a full-time thing?
Well, there is the photography. Also, I used to work at the bank. By the time I left, I was a digital marketing specialist, I still consult for companies.
Do you want to talk about your photography and how you balance it with your music?
So basically, I see Bemyoda as a storyteller not an entertainer. In my head, entertainer seem like I come to make a fool of myself to make you happy. I’m not an entertainer in that sense, that’s why I’m not trying to do everything just to get people’s attention. It is a corny statement but they say, ‘a picture tells a thousand stories.’ Photography, I see it as a powerful medium to tell stories. So recently, my album listening was a multi-media exhibition. It was not the usual kind of album listening. We held it at Belldog gallery. We took images that interpreted each song, people had headphones and they were listening to my music while they were looking at the images. It was like a double-layered story. We are thinking of taking the exhibition around, we are looking at doing Abuja, Accra, France, if possible. It was supposed to be just an album listening but it has become an experience itself.
How did you come up with this idea of this form of album listening
Well, if you really want to do something different, your mind gets opened and you start to think of strange possibilities. I’m happy it was a good experience. There were people who came for the exhibition and cried, just because of the connection of putting visuals to the music, they are looking at it and they see themselves in the story. It is like you are taking them to a time in their lives and you’re just reminding them of it. So it was a powerful thing.
Are you one of those people who have a ten-year vision for themselves?
There is a good thing about having a long-term vision. I am very God-God-God. If you listen to my music very well, you will figure out the kind of person I am. I think the picture is bigger than just my music, I don’t honestly do not know where it is going to end. I don’t know where it is going. What I’m trying to do with photography and music has not exactly been done; I’m interested in documentary, film making. There was a song on the album that was inspired by the children in that are getting killed north, the whole Boko Haram thing, so instead of shooting a video, we want to shoot a documentary for it, to sort of tell that story because nobody has told that story. I see myself as more than just making music for the sake of making music. You want your stuff to be appreciated, so I see work to have a bigger reach, to have more people connect to what I am doing and to influence more people. To tell my story, life, God and everything I’m interested in.
Culled from Issue 17