Photo: Justin French.

The Indie Artist You Need to Listen to This Month: Fusilier

You need to listen to Fusilier.

This series features most exciting independent and alternative artists from Africa and its diaspora. Black artists are complex and multidisciplinary. Every month, we'll introduce the hottest, boldest musicians out there that you need to listen to.

"Queer art is so good because we don't have to be or do whatever's expected. It's about breaking down walls. My first exposure to queer culture was sneaking into gay bars in Midtown Atlanta talking to queer people realizing that we were all stitching together our own identities and we can be whoever we want." reveals Blake Fusilier aka Fusilier, a New York-based indie black punk R&B artist. His new song, "Upstream," has just been released.

He describes his sound like "the sound of a scythe dragging across a hardwood floor. There's anything interesting within the walls of 20th century racial constructs that we call genre. I just chase emotions and colors so that every song gives the listener a particular feeling."

And feelings we go through, indeed, while watching his art. His song "Make You" is a hypnotic one, his beautiful voice almost a whisper in a song infected with '80s pop rock and heavy drums. In the music video that he wrote and produced himself, Fusilier, takes on many masks and appearances like a chameleon.

The inspiration came from Chicago's Cell Block Tango. "Maybe the video is about the expectations and limits, both real and self-imposed, put on race. The characters have different personalities, but ultimately they're all pressures that I feel to be or not be one way. I'm interested in what other people think the video's about because I put so much in it—violence and blood deprograming of white supremacy and anti-blackness."

In a music industry where it seems that black people can only be black, and queer people only be white, an outspoken artist like Fusilier stands out. But being at the intersection of two complex identities mean that it's harder to fight for representation and, for Fusilier, it means making the kind of music that show that queers artists are versatile and can make anything. "For most people, queer is it's own genre that's only about night life.There aren't an army of queer Black execs and agents. They take time to understand what you're doing, or if they don't get it at all they want you to prove that people with better taste get it. The worst of it is that people are lazy."

The ability to move around space as a black queer singer has allowed Fusilier to connect more with people. Once someone that everyone was seeing, he is now is spaces where he belongs and he is the norm. "I think you're going to see more and more collaborations and a community that continues to grow."

Fusilier is an Atlanta transplant in New York, which gives him the ability to be around outsiders like him. "Instead of some vague idea of writing for the outcast, I've been able to say 'I feel like that too. I've been working on a song about it.' It's a lot more inspiring to go through life establishing lasting connections like that." He explains, regarding his writing process.

However, being in a city where everyone is hustling towards their dreams of making it in the industry has given him the confidence to resist having his sound be changed.

His hometown is still on his mind, especially how culturally relevant the black mecca has been for the past decade : "I still sound like Atlanta. Everyone asks why I don't do rap and trap, but I kind of do. I grew up listening to Andre 3000, Project Pat. There's so much more sing song-y melody in the Dungeon Family and Three 6 Mafia than people give them credit for. You can hear it when Future and Migos sing. When Missy came out and started blurring those lines I saw a little of me as well., with songs like 'Beep Me 911' and 'She's a Bitch.' Is she rapping or singing? I think my affinity for '80s and '90s alternative is the reason I memorized all of MEMPHIS when it came out. There's a sound of fear and desperation and being backing into a corner and heat, intense heat. That's usually where I write from."

His inspiration is diverse: from the Rod Stewart and Queen songs his mom made him listen as a kid, to the soul train reruns on TV he would faithfully watch. "I guess I never internalized that they were different. It's the artist's job to create something new from the world around them. It's hard to grow up in this country and see one thing on the TV and another when you open your door and go outside and not have both in your heart."

Fusilier is lucky enough not to feel any pressure to fulfill his family wishes of having a so called "proper job" instead of fulfilling his dreams. His family is a huge source of support, encouraging him to chase his own happiness: "They all made a video dancing to 'The Moment' when it came out. It's really all unexpected and beautiful. I think it helps that I chose our family name as my artist name. I'm representing them."

As for what's next for him, career-wise, Fusilier has an EP coming out soon and a full length album at some point. As an indie artist, the pressure is there to release something quick that audiences are really going to buy into. However, he's not worried: he is here to stay.

Image courtesy of Lula Ali Ismaïl

'Dhalinyaro' Is the Female Coming-of-Age Story Bringing Djibouti's Film Industry to Life

The must-watch film, from Lula Ali Ismaïl, paints a novel picture of Djibouti's capital city through the story of three friends.

If you're having a tough time recalling the last movie you watched from Djibouti, it's likely because you have never watched one before. With an almost non-existent film industry in the country, Lula Ali Ismaïl, tells a beautiful coming of age story of three young female Djiboutian teenagers at the cusp of womanhood. Dhalinyaro offers a never-before-seen view of Djibouti City as a stunning, dynamic city that blends modernity and tradition—a city in which the youth, like all youth everywhere, struggle to decide what their futures will look like. It's a beautiful story of friendship, family, dreams and love from a female filmmaker who wants to tell a "universal story of youth," but set in the country she loves—Djibouti.

The story revolves around the lives of three young friends from different socio-economic backgrounds, with completely varied attitudes towards life, but bound by a deep friendship. There is Asma, the conservative academic genius who dreams of going to medical school and hails from a modest family. Hibo, a rebellious, liberal, spoiled girl from a very wealthy family who learns to be a better friend as the film evolves and finally Deka. Deka is the binding force in the friendship, a brilliant though sometimes naïve teen who finds herself torn between her divorced mother's ambitions to give her a better life having saved up all her life for her to go to university abroad, and her own conviction that she wants to study and succeed in her own country.

Okayafrica contributor, Ciku Kimeria speaks to Ismaïl on her groundbreaking film, her hopes for the filmmaking industry and the universality of stories.

Keep reading... Show less

Stogie T Enlists Nasty C, Boity, Nadia Nakai and More, for ‘The Empire of Sheep’ Deluxe Edition

Stream the deluxe version of Stogie T's EP 'The Empire of Sheep' featuring Nasty C, Boity, Nadia Nakai and more.

Stogie T just shared a deluxe version of his 2019 EP The Empire of Sheep titled EP The Empire of Sheep (Deluxe Unmasked). The project comes with three new songs. "All You Do Is Talk" features fellow South African rappers Nasty C, Boity and Nadia Nakai. New York lyricist appears on "Bad Luck" while one of Stogie T's favorite collaborators Ziyon appears on "The Making."

Keep reading... Show less
"Kata" single cover.

Listen to Tekno's New Single 'Kata'

The Nigerian artist and producer returns with a melodic banger just in time for the weekend.

Nigerian artist Tekno is back with his second single of the year, "Kata."

The heavyweight artist and producer delivers a melodic track that sees him singing about his devotion to his lover over drum-filled production from Phantom. The track features subdued vocals from. the artist, and a beat that's easy to move along to. The song follows the track 'Beh Beh' which he released earlier this year.

Keep reading... Show less

South African Jazz Artist Nduduzo Makhathini Releases Highly-Anticipated Blue Note Records Debut

Listen to South African jazz artist Nduduzo Makhathini's new album 'Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds.'

South African pianist, composer, and healer Nduduzo Makhathini has released his Blue Note Records debut Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds. The 11-track album is characterized by Makhathini's trademark piano keys, hissing percussions that collide with expressive vocals. As is always the case with Makhathini's work, spirituality is a huge part of the album deals with humans' connection to the ancestors and the spiritual realm.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox