Presented with the opportunity, we get a rare peek into the life of a mysterious artist that we’ve all looked up to.
Honestly, I didn’t know him but it seemed every kid in Abuja that grew up within their transformation era knows this elusive figure. He’s something like Kanye before “I hate Kanye” became a thing. I don’t know if you get that but this was special.
I am pleased to write this piece. I want to explore his mind, but considering his elusive nature, he seems to know what to say, and what not to say. Yet, I craved a deeper understanding of this man who speaks of things I’d mostly dreamed of.
Yes, he’s a model for those who see beyond. A self-sustaining light; shining by virtue of his own strength, and our ears give him hope to bleed more and say more for us to be more. At least that’s how I felt when I heard his song “Ravager’s Gambit” and his new goth-trap “30,000 Ft”.
“A starting point. Let me vibe as best as I can. Somewhere between my days of dreaming and years of doubt, I actually saw the Kyrian I did not want to be. It is something hollow, borrowing experiences from people who never experienced anything extraordinary themselves. A breeze of a life that does nothing but carrying dust. You know, it’s a curse to live but not be alive. Somewhere here, introspection was seeded. I’d always looked within myself, but not like this. This was rather different. For you to understand this tiny phrase clearly, we have to dial back a little. Like most children, the world revolved around me. My good and bad were there to serve me and my interests. It was all a rollercoaster that I built for myself. And then I started to dream.
Now that I think of it, it was agony, agony that made me smile. Among many things, I wanted simply to understand why people were the way they were. Why certain things were just different. I was so fixated on growing up that I forgot to learn about my own damn self. Can you imagine? I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say I wasn’t the most open person, so no one could really ask me anything worth replying. I did not learn about myself until I had nowhere else to look.
My mother probably does not remember this. I’ll be surprised if she did because she was half asleep when she said it. She said something that echoes in my head till date. “You can smell food. You want it. You’ll go far to get it. But the real question is, are you hungry?” Now, I know what she meant by that, but it triggered something else then. I think, perhaps, that it was the very first time I asked myself if I do things because I want to or I need to.
It is a very heavy thought for a child, especially for one who never understood the importance of consequences very well. Even after the introspection, I had trouble accepting structure -or prioritizing- but I knew who I didn’t want to be.
The question now was, what was I willing to sacrifice? What “wants” was I willing to turn into “needs” and vice versa? Almost everyone wants the same things really, but me, holy sh*t, I NEED to be the version of ‘me’ that I dream about. What comes next will be my lesson to learn. And I’ll proudly say I went out there and learned it, instead of sitting beside the fire and listening to other people’s stories. Now here I am with a full understanding of myself first, and it’s been a f*cking journey, I’ll tell you that.
Lol, I’m rambling, but don’t get me wrong. I love a good story. I love learning what needs to be learned. It’s all part of it, I guess. I just don’t want to be a guy who doesn’t look inside himself as much or more than he looks at what’s outside himself. My life revolves around that right now.”
After this, he asked me to direct a question his way, and thus, our interview began. Things became a bit quiet, but the spark wasn’t lost as you’d expect from him.
Kyrian Asher: Ah, not a very easy question to answer. For me, music is a universal gift, if you know how to use it well. I can’t give you the blood in my veins or the bones in my body, but I can give you music, humble and undemanding. As a creator, music is a cure in my case, really. At a time, it was the only way I could let some things out, and in return, because of how I honor my ability to communicate that way, I find myself feeding off the stories of others. Music can define how my day goes. It’s that powerful.
Kyrian Asher: I can’t remember the last time I wrote what I didn’t feel. They seem intimate and pure because I write exactly what I’m feeling at that moment. Same thing happens with my composing unless I’m engineering for someone else. And even in that, I like to know exactly how my client is feeling, and I vibe with that. I make myself feel it like they do.
At this point in the interview, I pressed on but I was calmed by his wind, he had his plans to share himself on his own. Basically, it felt like the end of the interview but we came back, it was “meow” and I understood his direction, readjusted mine and we went on.
An Abuja resident, he holds contrasting views to the everyday urban youth in Lagos, “A lot of Abuja artists I know go to Lagos to get work done. According to them, everything’s fast paced there and is somewhat beneficial to them. So, to me, there’s some mixing going on. Culturally though, Abuja and Lagos differ, but not as much as people think. I personally think alternative music is rooted deeper in Abuja.
The canvas is still being filled. Artistically Abuja is similar to many young things; it’s a culture that’s still somewhat unsure of itself. But the vibrancy is crazy. There’s a producer for almost everything here. EDM, Neo Soul, Trip Hop, Punk Rock, you name it. Fashion and lifestyle are witnessing their own rebirth as well. Unlike Lagos where things roll pretty fast and are out the door, Abuja is leisurely to either overhaul the craft or leave it altogether. The former happens more, but it still needs a buffer.” My mind was planted to his words, to his environment and I seemed to navigate in the tempo of his heart and that of the Abuja youth.
“Well, what I see as the music culture in Africa is a bunch of divides that are only now being bridged. A potential grid of sorts, a melting pot of tones, messages and melodies that is finally realizing what it is. Long before now, you’d hear or read about artists, activists, and/or writers speaking about African unity, but without much of that unity taking form. With modern music, allied with the Internet and the need to be respected, African culture is recognizing itself as one massive force.
And music from the New Age paves a way but it’s not just a thing to cover yourself with, it’s more of what you wear with your sound, an identity becoming an expression really. I like to believe the new age gives way for other genres to shine and find their market, instead of keeping one standard. A spider catches more flies with the web than with one silk strand, after all. As a culture, we will do a lot better with Africa infused into other genres, instead of only Pop.”
Kyrian Asher is a quotable man with a lot of heart, beating in the direction of change for his people while using his art as the tool for this private warfare.
The PGM Club: Ravager’s Gambit, can we have a minute to talk about that song. It really inspired a lot in me; your words, the delivery, the form, the education. Can we talk about it, the title, and the conception?
Kyrian Asher: of course. The title is simpler than people think. For days after I released it, people kept asking what it meant. It’s exactly what the title says. The destroyer’s scheme or stratagem. An advantage, a deal to move beyond the current station.
The conception is pretty simple too. Doubt; our worst enemy. Beings who destroy things faster than they build them tend to do the same things to themselves. That destruction comes in the form of doubt. The song points out that this can be suppressed, for the sake of one’s soul, or hope. I’m glad it inspired you. That was the intention.
Kyrian Asher: Oh, I listened to a crap load of records. Momma had stacks, and I started building my own collection not long after. Billie Holiday, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell, Queen, Sade, Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Howlin’ Wolf, The Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Bongos Ikwue, Jay Dilla, and a lot more. Basically, I connected with the sentiment of the time and mixed it with the grittier sound that came after. I found myself enjoying the work of Common, Clipse, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Florence + The Machine, and many others not long after.
But the definition of my music is something I haven’t settled on. It’s a harder question to answer than folks think. Lol. At a time, I was just a rapper who was lucky enough to find favor in a world full of millions like me. I was that way because that’s what the people wanted me to be. As time rolled on, I shed that approval thing, and became the Kyrian of irregular stripes, searching for his own sound.
The PGM Club: Listening to your music throughout the years, you haven’t featured a lot of artists. Surprising, as there are a lot of brilliant talents that reside in the political capital. Why haven’t you collaborated with them?
Kyrian Asher: Oh, that’s about to change. Just you wait. My issue with collaboration is finding something for the other artists to actually do apart from just sing a chorus, or just being on a song because they could. I’ve started forming bonds, so the wave is about to change.
Kyrian Asher: I was just tired of getting sh*tty deals and less-than-average work. I started practicing, but the resources that make my work what it is did not come until a little later. I used to paint, so I didn’t have a hard time picking my colors. The rest is nature and practice.
Kyrian Asher: Pushed? I was damn near forced. But that’s a story for another day. Never let it happen again. I make my art on my terms, and that’s no joke.
Things appear balanced again so I used his words to fuel some more rage. His last words to me:
“Religion is a business. Society is cruel. Politics is a game. And here we are, under the lash of it all. What’s on my mind is resistance. First with self, then with those, I surround myself with. I came into this knowing nothing. No real plan. I just wanted to be me. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I knew, however, that no matter what I choose, the fans, those who really need my music, would find it.
To dream is to wander. To wander is to see. But to turn your dream into something tangible is to use what you see. Plant your seeds instead of simply hoping for trees.”
Edited By Douglas Jekan