Conversations: OJO

Since the release of his first EP Last Summer, OJO has been steadily increasing his fan base, releasing singles, and performing around the city. His EP, Last Summer, is a project full of contemplative beats that takes listeners on a journey of longing and growth. Grounders sat down with OJO to discuss his evolution and the work behind his upcoming show, the Every Summer Concert on June 21st. 

https://open.spotify.com/embed/artist/5PRKNuGQzYJ0vDEfXqEDyR

 

Tell me your story.

Okay so, I am Nigerian. I grew up in Nigeria for most of my life I moved here when I was seventeen years old, which was five years ago, and I have been making music since I was eleven. When I was six years old I could give you the full lyrics of any song that came on. I started writing my own lyrics around thirteen, and that gradually built until I ended up being this guy – who is still building.

Did you always feel confident about releasing your work?

I was in a boarding school, so everyone knew what you were doing. It was like a wave. I was confident because people were gassing me up and then I did a performance that was terrible. It was bad, it became a joke for the rest of my time in school. So that was down, and it came back up again. Since then I haven’t had a down moment, at the very worst people will grow with me. I have been pretty confident about releasing things since then.

What built up your confidence after the performance?

I just kept doing it. I have a lot of excuses I could have given for the performance: the mic was bad, the hall was terrible, all kinds of excuses that helped me not take it too personally. Regardless of whether the performance was good or bad, people always thought I could sing. So that didn’t take away from what people thought my ability was. I was still singing, in the choir at school, you know a gradual process until I felt ready.

Tell me about the Last Summer EP.

The Last Summer project is almost like a review of my summer of 2016. Summer 2016 I had a girlfriend and we broke up, went through the regular recovery phase men usually go through, just being out and dealing with multiple people. I was just writing songs and I wasn’t really thinking about it as a cohesive project. Then I realized I could see my summer in every song I wrote. Last Summer became chronological order from breaking up at the beginning of the summer to the end when we never got back together. That was me and the producer T.E.A.Li, he went to school with me in Nigeria and he’s in Philly now. That was just us working and was birthed from the situation.

Do you have a favourite song from the project?

That’s hard. If I had to pick one, gun to my head, it would have to be “Forever.”

Why?

It’s a rap track for one, it’s the one I listened to the most and even in writing I feel like it is the strongest form of myself in that EP. A lot of it was a very vulnerable space and Forever felt …  rebellious in a way.

Rebellious to the vulnerability?

Kind of – It was very dismissive of issues that would bother me. The lyrics were like “I don’t give a shit” and that was the spirit of that particular song. The rest of the songs are moodier.

As an artist, what makes a good song?

Something that sticks. Not necessarily in a catchy way. You know when people say, “I don’t remember what they did but I remember how they made me feel.” I feel like if it makes you feel something it’s a good song. For one it must sound good, that’s the first gate. And then the lyrics are the second gate, that’s for the real music heads and critics. Once you get past those two that’s your great song right there.

How are you going to leave that lasting impression and feeling in your upcoming performance?

It’s about the connection. Lyrics wise I try to say things in my songs that I would say in real life. Because I find that the closer it is to me the more someone is going to hear it and not be like “that person is reaching.” When you start making music you’re just emulating people. I remember when I was thirteen and rapping about riding in Lamborghinis and stuff. [laugh] So it’s about speaking with my own voice and with the performance it’s the same thing. It’s understanding that I mean what I say when I say it, with the songs, and I want to give people a good time. I want people to see someone who is working for something and for them as well. And – of course – the bars are going to be on point, going to make sure my voice is on point, I’m not going to speak for a month – Beyoncé level preparations.

Is this your first show since the last one?

Yes, because the listening party, even though it was like a show, was by invitation. We did reach out to a lot of people so it was very show-ish, because we had a packed gallery, but this will be the first actual sold-tickets-concert-venue-real-life-show that I’ve done. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for months.

What are your plans for after?

I feel like every move I make at this point is an investment for the future. We work based on the opportunities that we are given. We are going to keep on making songs because that is an everyday situation. If the show goes how I want it to go, it could be a yearly thing. I’m thinking about dropping a project around the time of the concert too.

How would you say your new project is different from the Last Summer EP?

The new project is way more confident, it’s a different time and space. The last one I feel like there is a lot of turmoil and mental chaos. With this one I am more clear headed. It’s less moody and more confident. That’s the biggest difference in the tone and sound of it.

How are you getting new listeners and branching past your community of friends?

It’s about reaching out in any way possible. There’s open mics in the city, there’s people who are down to collaborate, hanging out with people, and trying not to be closed off. Before I was very in-house and about my people and nobody else. It’s about being more open to regular conversation with someone at a party and to meeting people, it generally spreads the word. And trying to be involved with entities like Grounders and Youtube people are big. I got a placement in a tv show which was wild – that brought a crapton of traffic

What kind of show?

It was a Nigerian show and apparently every Nigerian I know watches it. I didn’t know anything about this show until they used this song. I woke up and my phone was blowing up.

That’s awesome – Congratulations!

Thank you, it’s getting as far away from yourself as possible. It was the same thing for the listening party. When I was doing the invitations, I could have easily filled it up with my friends but then I thought “that doesn’t do anything for me because they know me.” I got five people on the outskirts of my circle and I told them to deal with the invitations. “If you think I know them, don’t invite them, I’ll deal with everyone I know.” That was pretty good for the listening party because a lot of people I know I’d just met for the first time.

How would you say Nigeria differs from Toronto in art and culture?

I left Nigeria when I was seventeen so I don’t feel like I was tapped in enough because I was in a boarding school and I don’t want to misspeak on their scene. But from what I’ve seen, it feels more accessible here. When I was in Nigeria it felt like such a reach to get a studio session or to find like minded people. Social media at the time wasn’t as easy to dm someone and link up, and I would say that’s probably still the case. As for the content of the art, it really isn’t all that different. Hip-hop is big down there, it’s big out here, afrobeats is big down there, afrobeats is pretty big out here, dancehall is big. It’s really such a seamless transition, everything feels pretty normal, except that it gets cold.

I would say it’s very similar. You have a lot of Caribbeans and second-generation kids out here. So, culturally, a lot of the traditions are similar; how people relate to their parents, how people work hard, and I feel like it bleeds into the art and culture of both places.

Would you move back to Nigeria?

I don’t think so. I like Toronto and given my style of music I think Toronto’s scene is more my scene. I will go back though because they like everything they like here but I don’t think it would be my main base.

Any last words for our readers?

I just feel like I believe in myself, everybody could do whatever they want to do as long as they put their minds to it. Might not necessarily be a top boy but you miss all the shots you don’t take.

Buy tickets for the Every Summer Concert here!

Follow OJO on Instagram and SoundCloud

 

Conversations: Plato Savana

After years of producing and writing, Plato Savana has finally started dropping his tracks. A carefully crafted sound, Plato’s lyrics are incredibly insightful. They speak to our generation – full of contradictions and people trying to redefine what success and happiness looks like. Grounders had the chance to interview Plato about his tracks Yeshua, Limited all Access, and the philosophy that drives him. 

Since posting the interview Plato Savana has dropped a new single. Check out “Canadian Warm” on iTunes and Spotify

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Plato Savana. What do I want people to know bout me? There’s not that much to say. The music will do me justice. My aim is neutrality. There is no “this” type of person for Plato Savana. It’s an essence – just a feel. It’s who I am. I’m not a rapper, I’m not a singer, I’m not this emotional guy, [Plato Savana] is a human being who goes through every single emotion. And knows how to gauge it, knows how to be optimistic, how to put it into perspective. I’m hoping to connect with people trying to find balance.  

What are you balancing right now?

I’m 26 right now but weirdly enough I don’t find myself getting old. I’m at a point where I’m fully in control of myself. A balance is – how do I stay stable but keep moving. It sounds like an oxymoron but that’s really what it is. Our parents think stability is buying a house, having investments, having a car. I don’t see it like that. I feel like we are in a time where we can run corporations off our cell phones. How do you maintain all that while getting healthy, spending time with your family, making sure your friends are good? We just need to wake up in the morning and not stress.

Do you meditate?

Too much.

Do you meditate intentionally?

I read and write a lot. What I’m reading now is so complex. It’s Aristotle “Rhetoric”, I just finished Plato’s “The Republic”

What did you think about the Theory of Forms? The one where there is one perfect of everything and everything in the real realm is a projection of this one perfect entity. 

Yah yah – you can’t be one of. You can only be that One. It’s a perfect theory. It kind of  represents being fake and following. You see this perfect image but really and truly you can’t see it because you aren’t it. It took me a while to get, I had to read it and walk.

Obviously philosophy is important to you, do these theories transfer to your music?

Definitely, but not in the sense of portraying knowledge. Just more by adapting and working through information.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/5wNmIbjwnVaaiQOz4YWKJS

Tell me about your singles, what are they balancing?

Yeshua is a prayer to God. Asking for great minds to converse with. In the beginning I’m saying “I’m not too sure the things I call blessings are good or do they need confessing.” I’m not sure, because I like some bad shit. So more or less it’s expression without going to Church. It’s just hoping that whatever, whoever is up there – as a supreme being, would understand my genuinity.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/2PMsD0eoZ00uOA9hutVet0

Limited All Access is going through emotions with the last few people I had interest in. I haven’t been in a dedicated relationship but we share interests and all that. It’s more being in a situation where you speaks with confidence and then things happen after. I call it Limited All Access – I want to give you everything but I can’t. I’m still being as open as possible but there are still things to it. And even though I can’t give you everything, you are the one making me stable, to know I have that person I can call and talk to and see at times. I’m being honest about going in a direction where I can’t promise you about settling down and not because I’m trying to play around, but that’s somewhat the present reality.

To me, that’s really powerful. I got into a series of similar relationships where you are emotionally bonding but neither of you are committed. Both people are moving too fast in different directions to fully obligate yourself. It’s cool because most songs are not about that, they are about “fucking bitches” or being in love. So I see what you mean about the balance. It should be a contradiction but it isn’t because we are a new generation.

Exactly, that’s why I feel like people will be able to connect. I’ve been studying music from a different angle. For me anybody can get up and rhyme and say the nastiest shit on the sickest beat, But there is this concept that less is more. How do you be straight up without being an asshole, and say it in a way that grabs your attention positively. Our generation, I believe, has a lot of music about “fucking bitches” and smoking weed. Slowly I’m seeing the neglect of education because it seems being knowledgeable is “lame” and you have a lot of intelligent people who just end up following or getting isolated. You get caught in the system where it’s like “okay there is nothing good that my friends are doing, but they’re my friends so I’m going to be stupid too” and you dumb down your intelligence. There’s a missing balance where you can still be cool even when you’re a nerd. With no brains you are going nowhere.

Did you go through that phase yourself? Of dumbing down your intelligence to do what felt fun?

Yah I was. Even my dressing. Especially after meeting some connects and they would say “N***” after every word and I realized I started using it as a conversation piece. But you surround yourself with those people and you find yourself doing that, smoking too much, drinking hard liquor, going out and doing stupid shit. Then I realized I couldn’t keep doing that and came back to my senses.

How can you realize when you are losing yourself?

The only way you can know is if you already have the will to step away for a bit. You get into that situation where you meet some people and you think “this is it, we are all going to make it.” But you have to know life isn’t rushing off anywhere. So if someone doesn’t want you around or threatens that if you stop, they are going to drop you, well that isn’t life. You were alive before you met them and you’re going to live after. So unless you have that courage to step away from the things you think are necessary to be popular, if you can do that you’re going to see all your mistakes.

These are great messages. Especially for young artists who think meeting people is the key to “making it.”

It isn’t at all.

What’s your plan for putting your music out?

Haha, I’m horrible at promotion. My thing is, I have to do what I know: making connects and talking to radio stations. For Toronto, I want to get connected with up and coming designers. To me, it doesn’t make sense to chase after artists who have already made it. It makes sense to bring a generation up and into the industry together. I want to connect with magazines too.

What’s your ideal consistency for dropping music?

I don’t want to streamline too much and too fast, my greatest asset is I’m over-prepared and overzealous. I trust my instincts and I’m always watching, so once that little voice says “drop”, its Go Time.

Where can we find your music?

It’s everywhere.

Find Plato Savana on iTunes and Spotify.

Any last words?

Yeah, I’m here now.

Stay up to date with Plato Savana by following him on Instagram

Conversations: Habibi Caramel Princess

Jude Mansour is an icon in the Vancouver scene. She is constantly planning events, supporting artists, and perfecting projects of her own. An outspoken representative for people of colour (POC), especially women, Jude’s work is striking for its visual honesty. Her social media is colourful, bold, and never hides the frizzy fly-away hairs or tries for flawless skin. It bears a striking contrast to the carefully curated perfection of most Instagram content and makes us, at Grounders, feel more confident in our skin. As Habibi Caramel Princess, Jude has branched into the music realm. Her mixes are an eclectic mix of worldly sounds with an irresistible dance beat. Grounders co-founder Ash sat down with Jude to talk about her experience as an immigrant and future projects. 

Listen to Jude’s newest mix Flutter

First off, tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am an immigrant, I moved here almost seven years ago from Alexandria in Egypt. I’m an Egyptian – born and raised – I moved here in Grade 9, and I live in Burnaby. My highschool life was miserable. There weren’t a lot of African Arabs, Middle Easterners, or Arabs in general that I could relate to in anyway. I experienced a lot of micro-aggressions as a Muslim woman of colour (WOC) living in Vancouver.

I started coming out to shows in Grade 12 and went to Emily Carr. And I started meeting people and making connections and that’s when my life started taking more of a positive turn. I’m so lucky to have met the people I know now. I’m an artist – I’m a DJ.

So why did your parents come to Vancouver?

Well growing up in a non-western country the goal is to get anywhere. My Mom always thought Vancouver was safe and it worked out perfectly when she got accepted into SFU. I was living through a revolution and she got accepted right when the revolution ended. It was perfect timing and we got the fuck out of there.

Growing up in a revolution, do you find social media changes things? How does it empower people?

I think social media is such an important tool. I was so uneducated even growing up as an Egyptian woman. I was so uneducated about myself. I didn’t even consider myself as a WOC, I didn’t even know what that was. But, when I moved here I felt “othered.” I didn’t know where that was coming from or why I was feeling that way. Going on Instagram, I saw a lot of people talking about the same problems I had and it really helped. I think it’s such an important tool, especially for women in non-Western countries to learn. Those resources are really lacking and WOC need to know what’s going on and why they feel the way they do.

I really vibe with that. I always grew up in white societies and I never realized what it meant to be a WOC – not until I came to university. But seeing people on the internet who talk about being a WOC and how they feel, realizing I related to them was such an important experience.

Honestly, shout out to Nazlie Najafi, my baby – my child. She saved my life. She is one of the co-founders of Elastic Collective. When I met her I was so insecure. I straightened my hair everyday, I was scared to go into the sun, and seeing her talk about that stuff online made me feel inspired.

Seeing how proud you are of your heritage now, it’s hard to imagine. Did you try to hide your heritage in highschool?

Oh yah, I was so embarrassed. Where I’m from we hate ourselves and each other. Even in Egypt, women suffer the most. Women of darker skin are the most oppressed. I hated myself so much as a woman of colour. 

When did you start becoming proud of your heritage?

I would say half way through first year university when I started unwhite-washing myself and my values. Because I tried to be that for so long. Again, social media, seeing beautiful women of colour who are so proud and outspoken. I thought, I’m like that too why can’t I be proud and like that. I’d say every POC country and society carry a lot of internalized racism.

photos by Shanice Bishop

Switching topics, when did you start making music?

That literally started last December.

That’s so recent wow!

Yeah, it all started when Rhi Blossom and Mairin Miller came up with Recess. One day I was at Rhi’s house and they asked if I wanted to try DJing and they showed me how and then asked if I wanted to do an event. And I thought “hell yeah!”

Wow, you jumped right in, were you confident about your first gig?

I kind of was, I was always a dancer so music feels like a part of my blood. So I went into it right away and Habibi Carmel Princess started popping off and I realized DJing is my shit.

Is that your go-to art form right now?

Definitely, I used to study photography at Emily Carr but I wasn’t really passionate about it. And every faculty in every university is normally male dominated but the photography department was very dominated and I was so uncomfortable.

Your mixes blend a lot of ethnic sounds, do you have a vision before you start a mix?

I usually do have a vision for sure. My art and music is mostly inspired by how vibrant and lively my culture is – it celebrates happiness and dance. I try and project that into all of my work, even if my mix is sad it’s still upbeat. My new mix is called Flutter. I’m also working on two other projects. One of them I want to release in the summer because it’s sexy and dance music. The mix afterwards is going to be all Egyptian artists, I’m so excited for it.

When does Flutter come out?

April 12th! I already did a photoshoot for it. I worked with Zuleyyma Prado on the photos.  

Listen to Flutter here!

photos by Zuleyyma Prado

In the future do you want to start producing your own stuff with beats and vocals?

Eventually yes but I’m very shy so hopefully in the future.

How would you compare the art scenes in Alexandria, Egypt versus Vancouver?

Alexandria is the second biggest city in Egypt after Cairo and it’s still pretty small. This shit doesn’t really happen there and I was really young. My life was school and sports, I was an athlete. I was a rhythmic gymnast and competed nationally, I was a competitive tennis player, I did equestrian, and I spent my youth in motion. I love to execute my feelings through energy and dynamism.

You’ve been pretty involved with the Elastic Collective, could you give me a quick rundown on them?

Hannah Turner, Rhi Blossom, and Nazlie Najafi are the founders and they are trying to make a space that celebrates art while including people who are often marginalized in society, such as women, BIPOC, and queer folk in Vancouver.

Are you guys planning to do anymore events?

Yah Elastic, Nazlie and I want to do a MENA party. Like a Middle Eastern – North African party with an art show and some poetry readings, maybe a DJ. Because Vancouver lacks a lot of representation in that region. 

Looking to the future, do you think you will stay and try to make Vancouver a more inclusive community or try to move?

I definitely plan to live here for a bit but I also plan to travel a lot. In a couple of months I’ll be going to Toronto and Montreal, hopefully playing shows.

What’s something else you want to say to readers of Grounders, POC, or people who moved here?

Stick to your roots, stick to what you know. You’re going to get confused in the long run. For immigrants, what you are is what white girls wanna be. You are what society is trying to profit off. You are magical and special, just glow and do your thing and no one can steal your glow because it’s impossible. 

 

To keep up with Jude follow her on Instagram and SoundCloud

FEBRUARY PLAYLIST

The year of January is finally over! After a brief hiatus Grounders is back and better than ever with the soundtrack to your month. Are you cuffed? Are you single? No matter what, this playlist is for you!

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Music 003: Kid Lucifer

Kid Lucifer is a garage band based in Montreal and originating from Vancouver, they just released a new EP “Black Moon.” Their sound is edgy, dramatic, and faintly reminiscent of indie music from 2012. We had the chance to chat with the band’s drummer, Quinn, about the band and EP. Click the link the photo to listen to the EP or check it out on iTunes while you read the interview below. 

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your history with music?

I’m Quinn, I’m 21 and I play drums in Kid Lucifer. I grew up around music thanks to my father, who was and still is a huge music fan. I was fortunate enough to constantly be exposed to amazing music at a young age-Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Rush and King Crimson were household staples. I’ve been interested in music since I can remember, but really started exploring writing and recording in high school after taking guitar classes. From there I fell in love with bass, started out drumming about five years ago and haven’t stopped since.

 

How did Kid Lucifer come together? 

Kid Lucifer is myself, Sam Schuette on bass, Henry Girard on vocals and rhythm guitar, Linus Heyes on lead guitar and Gabby Des on keys and guitar. Sam and I met in grade one and have been friends for over 15 years. Kid Lucifer in its first form started shortly after the two of us met Henry at a Pity Sex concert in Vancouver. We started playing together as a three piece and found an instant musical chemistry. Linus, Henry’s cousin, joined the band after we met him at a local festival in Henry’s hometown. The four of us moved together as a band to Montreal at the end of this summer to pursue music, and we met Gabby, our newest addition to the band, at our first show in Montreal.

 

Was there one point if inspiration for this EP? Does it tell a story?

This EP definitely represents who were are right now as a band and as people. We really discovered our sound and what we wanted to say musically around the time we were in studio, and we developed a lot creatively. It was our first time with access to a proper studio, and we recorded shortly after Linus joined the band. Having that experience along with Linus’ creative input on the songs took the whole project to a new level. We actually recorded a full-length album and cut it down to these six songs that we’re most proud of and excited about, so it’s definitely a good snapshot of where we are right now.

 

What’s your favourite song on the EP and why?

It’s hard to choose, but my personal favourite has to be My Girl. It’s one of the first songs we ever wrote, and I love how simple, but catchy and dynamic it is. It’s also a riot to play live, for myself especially.

 

Why did you choose to include the acoustic version of My Girl in the project?

The first thing we ever recorded as a band in my bedroom back in B.C. was an acoustic version of the song. We recorded the new EP version last minute on our last day in studio for this project, and we were unsure whether or not to even record it. In the end we just loved the laid back vibe of that first version so much we couldn’t resist revisiting it.

 

Any shows people can look forward to?

We’re finishing off the year with a show with fellow Montreal band Rough Gentlemen at Bar Le Repaire on December 16th in Montreal. Nothing is set in stone quite yet for the New Year, but we’re booking dates, working on our first full-length record, and planning tour dates for the spring. We’re keeping ourselves busy.

 

EDIT: Unfortunately due to publishing delays this article was posted on December 16th but we hope Kid Lucifer had an incredible show

 

Stay up to date with Kid Lucifer by following them on Instagram.