Music
Photo by Amarachi Nwosu.

Yxng Bane Has No Other Competition But Himself

We catch up with the UK's Afro-Swing artist as he visits the continent for the first time.

Afro-Swing is a genre that takes influence from afrobeat, pop and grime music and is slowly becoming one of the most recognizable genres in the UK today. The rise of Afro-Swing comes a generation of young artists who are embracing their African roots, while shaping their own unique lane and sound. Among this new class is East London-raised artist, Yxng Bane, who has surged the UK charts with singles like "Rihanna" and features including "Bestie" with Yungen. He even hopped on Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" track, which caught Ed's attention and became an official remix.

While his sound takes influence from his first-generation experience being raised by a Congolese mother and an Angolan father, up until December, Bane had never stepped on African soil. Growing up in Newham, Bane had an enriching, multicultural upbringing. He especially grew an affinity for Nigerian culture via his close friends and his Nigerian-British manager. So it was only right that Nigeria be his first visit and show in Africa, where he performed at the NATIVELAND Festival alongside Skepta, Davido and Burna Boy.


Photo by Amarachi Nwosu.

Although he's new to the African terrain physically, his music has been able to travel and transcend borders, which was clear when many people sang his songs word for word at his debut show. Bane immediately felt a connection and described his time in Nigeria as being at "home."

"So, it's like, okay, you know you're African, but you've never been back. You've never been here," he explains. "I've been in Britain my whole life. To come back and to know myself—I'm coming back home with my shoulders high and my head high, you know what I mean? I love it here so much. I actually feel like I'm in Africa, like I'm home, this is me. No one can say to me, 'Go back home.'"

While many young people in the diaspora are beginning to shape new narratives on what it means to be first-generation and still proud to be African, this has not always been the common notion due to stigmas against the continent. However, Bane notes how artists embracing their dual identity has played a key role in the growing music industry in the UK, where most of the biggest artists in the urban music scene have roots from places like Ghana and Nigeria.

Photo by Amarachi Nwosu.

Photo by Amarachi Nwosu.

"It's almost as if the generation is so proud to be African, and that's where the birth of Afro-Swing has come from," he says. "Before that, it was just grime artists. Now you've got artists like Not3s, Kojo Funds; and they all come out and do an afrobeats song. Maybe as we are all getting to this age we are more conscious of who we are, and where we come from, and are proud of it, we just express it in every single way."

Bane also recognizes that he was privileged to have parents that supported his aspirations in music. For many young people with African parents, becoming an artist is a foreign thought due to the risk of pursuing an untraditional career path. However, he has advice for those try to break in: "Nobody will understand your journey better than yourself, that's something that someone said to me once and has stuck with me and has helped me get through this all," he says. "Some people, they don't have the luxury I had. You try doing music and your parents will tell you, 'No." But that's not to say that you shouldn't do it, because nobody will understand your journey better than yourself. Only you will know in your stomach what you're capable of doing."

Photo by Amarachi Nwosu.

When speaking with Bane, it's clear that his confidence and strong values are what's pushing him and has allowed him to develop a unique vision for himself and his music. He believes that songwriting is the most authentic when you don't omit pieces of your truth to please other people's idea of who you are and has rejected all comparisons to other artists.

"You have to take in everything that's happening around you," he says. "Especially with the places we've been and the things we've seen, when you go to the studio, being yourself naturally, you'll just express things differently. For me, when it comes to music, it's always been about self-expression and self stories—we are all human at the end of the day. I'm sure if I sing about heartbreak, someone in the world is going to be able to relate and connect. As long as I know I put out a song that someone is going to listen to, and it's going to make them think about a situation and help them, then I think I've done my job. I go to the studio to tell what I've been through and what I'm going through, hoping that once it goes out there it will touch someone in some way."

Photo by Amarachi Nwosu.

Bane also explains that blocking out comparison has allowed him to focus on developing his own sound, rather than worrying about what other people are producing. "I don't know why we live in a world of comparisons, we are all in our own lanes," he says. "I'm just trying to be better and make sure my next song is better than my last one. Everyone should be racing against their [own] self. At the end of the day, we're all serving the people. So we all have to just make sure that we're giving them the best versions of ourself; the best music for sure. Whoever you're going to try and compare me to, I probably listen to them and enjoy their music as much as a fan does, do you know what I mean? We're all working for the fan, so let's not forget that. We're not in a competition."

At just 21, Bane is already leaving a legacy and opening doors for more artists to recognize their value and possibility within music. In Bane's next chapter, he wants to continue to push his boundaries and develop a closer connection with his African fans and his fans around the world. He's been in the studio with Wizkid, Mr Eazi and Maleek Berry and will be releasing a new project as well as kicking off his UK tour in 2018.

Although Nigeria was his first stop in Africa, it is clear that he will be back soon with even more tunes to spread.

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Credits

Photographer + Creative Director: Amarachi Nwosu

Stylist: Prince Aday

Producers: Vivendii

Photography Assistant: Maj Delz

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Still from "Kasala!"

Meet The Nigerian New Wave Director Behind the Film 'Kasala!'

One of Naija cinema's new wave, Ema Edosio talks about what it took to film her exciting new film in the streets of Lagos.

Ema Edosio is the director of "Kasala", a comedy set in present day Lagos and centers on the lives of four young men who go on a joyride to a party in a Honda Accord one of them has taken from his boss Taju without permission. Their evening is ruined when one of them crashes Taju's Honda breaking the windscreen and denting the car's body. With just four hours before Taju returns home, all four boys hustle around Lagos to raise money for the car repair.

Taju, who is a struggling butcher, is faced with a big problem of his own: his debtor has just given him an ultimatum to pay back money he's long owed. Bitter and frustrated, Taju's retribution will be double-fold, if he returns home to find his Honda is damaged. The four friends do not need more another reason to expect the worse from Taju if they're not able to fix his Honda before gets home in the next four hours.

"Kasala" is a vivid portrayal of contemporary Lagos and a riotous combination of physical comedy, inventive turns of phrases combined with fluid camera work and committed performances from some of the young and bright African acting talents.

Written by Temi Sodipo and directed by Ema Edosio—who is also the cinematographer and editor—"Kasala" was chosen for the closing gala of the 2018 edition of Film Africa in London this November, out of a total of 39 films from 15 countries.

Edosio flew into London for the film's UK premier at the Rich Mix cinema to a largely pan-African crowd who lapped up the rollicking comedy. Ahead of her trip to the UK, Okay Africa spoke to Edosio about her debut feature, the joys and challenges of shooting on location in Lagos and the rise of Nigeria's so called "Naija New Wave" cinema.

Photo courtesy of Ema Edosio


The fast pace and energy in Kasala is constant all through the film. Was this a deliberate injection or did it come as a result of the writing?

I worked as a video journalist for the BBC and I would go into the streets of Lagos to film, and I would see everything that made Lagos what it is: the traffic, the smell, the dirt, the vibe, the energy, the people. And I wanted to make a story that is authentic and that is the reason why I decided to make Kasala this way.

All the four friends and main characters jell naturally it would seem. How did you get them to work well together?

When I conceived of the film, I knew that I didn't want to work with any "known" faces. I knew that I wanted unknown actors. So I put out an audition call and these boys worked into the room and I told them to read together. And immediately it was like magic.

Why do you think they're largely unknown to the majority of Nigerian movie watching audience?

I think one of the reasons is there's not a lot of movies written about young people. Most of the scripts are for a certain kind of male character: the superhero who goes to save the damsel in distress, and the hunk and a lot of roles are not written for these amazing actors and that's why they're largely unknown.

Tomiwa Tegbe who plays "Effiong" is a good comic actor and has been in "On The Real (Ebony Life TV)" and "Shuga (MTV)". What does Kasala bring out in Tomiwa Tegbe that these other directors and film material that do not?

The thing that made Tomiwa Tegbe and the rest stand out in Kasala is that I gave them freedom to act and I wasn't micromanaging them. They became very comfortable in order to do their best to the film.

The cast as a whole is largely new and young with Jide Kosoko easily the most experienced. Why did you cast him for the role and not yet another "unknown" face?

The reason is I couldn't afford to hire known faces to work in the film and I honestly didn't have the budget. I [also] wanted to bring in a sense of familiarity and that is why I got Jide Kosoko. Even though they're guys are unknown, and they're are fantastic "here is someone you know who is in this movie playing with these amazing actors" which is why I worked with Jide Kosoko.

The different locations in the film are those of back corners, mechanic garages, meat market, communal flats most of which have the red and brown of rust and decay gives the cinematography a visual harmony. How much attention did you give to finding the right locations?

I think I made Kasala with a vengeance. I've had the privilege to work with Ebonylife tv which was beautiful but Kasala kept pulling me in: the people I met in the streets, the things I'd done on the streets of Lagos, the visual aesthetic kept pulling and I decided to make that. I wanted to see Lagos, I wanted to see barbwires. I wanted to see gutters, I wanted to see the people. I knew that the location was a character on its own. And I wanted to be able to find the right location that would be able to represent that boys and the lives they live in Lagos. I'm forever grateful for the people there who let us film there.

Your camera adopts the often frenetic pace of the film and is rarely still for long. Why this visual approach?

I'm very influenced by Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. And I would always say to myself that "these characters in their films can be Nigerians". I think that the camera should be fluid, breathe, move with the audience showing us "oh yeah this is a wide, oh yeah this is a close up". My influence by these directors was what I put into Kasala. And this is what made the film dynamic.

Are there any interesting, unplanned events during shooting which you could share with our readers?

Shooting in Lagos is one of the hardest thing to do. You have these agberos [louts] who come to you and literally want to take your equipment. I went with a very small crew and I'm very petite and they would see me and say "who is this small girl? She doesn't have money. Leave her alone, let her shoot". I started bringing them into the film to act and it was very beautiful seeing them react to it. One of the most interesting things is the children in the estates [on location] who act in the film, the joy and the playfulness. In some ways we brought back some joy and some fun into the neighbourhood.


Still from "Kasala!"

Did you worry much about what may be lost to foreign audiences who may not be clued up the pidgin English and "Nigerianisms" used in the film?

You can't come to Lagos and make a film about the slum in English. I felt like the pidgin English was as important as the location. My mind was not about where the foreign audience would accept it or whatever. My mind was "how do I make a film that is authentic to Nigeria? How do I make a film that would show of Lagos?" It would do no justice to use English.

Who are the other key players in Nigeria's "nu wave" film and tv you would like to highlight?

When you talk about new wave key players you're talking about Abba Makama whose film "Green White Green" inspired me to make "Kasala". CJ SeriObasi, ImoEmoren, Jade Sholat Siberi, Kemi Adetiba. So many new directors are springing out nollywood. And they're new directors making amazing stuff. I'm really really excited about the future.

How did you raise the funding needed to make "Kasala"?

When I wanted to make Kasala, it was not the kind of story people would fund. I decided in order to bring this story to live, to use the skills I'd gained over the years—to produce, direct, shoot and edit. Not because I wanted to be in control, because I didn't have the budget. That is the sport of new director coming in now. We're fighting against all odds and it is now beginning to be clear that it's way beyond nollywood. Kasala has been to over 20 international festivals and counting. And there an audience for our films, there's an audience for our voices.

What are you expectations for it at the festival?

I really don't know what to expect. I just hope that they love the film. For the Nigerians in the diaspora,I hope that it brings back memories of Lagos. For black people I hope it gives them a sense of how we are back home to help them connect with us as Africans. For the foreign audience I hope that they see a Nigeria of passion, of community, of tenacity, of brotherhood of love.

"Kasala" will be released worldwide on December 7th

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Indomie: Unpacking a Nigerian Tradition

What does Nigeria's way of preparing this beloved brand of instant noodles say about the country as a whole?

Before I came to Lagos in September to begin a collaborative performance project, I imagined all the ways the place would challenge all I had read and heard about it, and all the ways it might remind me of my home, Trinidad and Tobago. Of all the kernels of similarities I've encountered so far, Indomie is perhaps the most intriguing.

Indomie, a brand of instant noodles originating in Indonesia, has become the household name for all instant ramen noodles in Nigeria.

As a child, I would make Top Ramen, but ours was far less intentionally adorned. I had never seen anyone add anything but Golden Ray. I would try to be fancy with my own and add eggs, but they never quite attained Naruto ramen standards.

Indomie was my first meal in Nigeria. I had arrived in Lagos about two hours earlier. In those two hours I had seen something of the character of the city. In the midst of the clouds of dust and engine exhaust fumes I saw a woman almost fall out the car she was getting into, I saw men sitting atop a truck, like wrinkles in the night sky fabric, I saw selling, so much selling and buying and haggling. It seemed to me that everything was happening here.

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Fela Kuti's 'Zombie' Is Coming Out On Limited Edition 8-Track

"Zombie" and "Mr. Follow Follow" are available in the nostalgic 8-track cartridge.

"Zombie," Fela Kuti's 1976 protest anthem and scathing attack on the Nigerian military, is getting an 8-track re-release.

Knitting Factory Records, Kalakuta Sunrise and Partisan Records have made 300 limited editions copies of Zombie/Mr. Follow Follow which you can pre-order now ahead of its December 7 release.

Fela Kuti's classic song uses zombies as a metaphor for soldiers mindlessly following orders. The song is thought to have triggered the Nigerian government's horrific assault on the Kalakuta Republic, in which the compound burned to the ground, Fela was brutally beaten and his mother, Nigerian feminist icon Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was murdered.

You can pre-order Zombie/Mister Follow Follow on 8-track now and read more about each song from Mabinuori Kayode Idowu's text accompanying the release below.

Purchase Fela Kuti's Zombie/Mr Follow Follow on 8-Track

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