Interview
Ahrt. Image courtesy of the artist.

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

Get into this South African-based Angolan act.

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

South African-based Angolan artist Ahrt is not afraid to share his struggles with mental health and his bi-polar disorder through his music. His songs come from a very personal place; at one point, he equated people judging his music to people judging him as person, even fearing releasing any new material.

Now, Ahrt uses his music to show people that it is possible to persevere through anything and to fight the stigma against mental illness. His therapist was the one who encouraged him to get back to making music. "Art was my way of letting it out. So, I have moved from not doing music because of [my mental health], to doing music because of it," he explains.

We talked to him below.


When and why did you start making music?

I started making music properly at 13-years-old with my older cousin who is also a rapper. Then I worked with a sound engineer, Miguel ''Cygas'' Faria, who coincidentally is now my sponsor & agent. The first rapper that I listened to was Eminem. Listening to "Hailie's song"... I cried... I really cried. I was shocked that a musician could tell such a sad, touching story with such immense skill.

I realized that I could express myself in music in ways that I never could outside of the art. I created an alter ego in my music and it became cathartic for me and helped me to deal with the pressures and struggles of growing up. Music became my escape, my home away from home.

Does Angola, your birth country, inspire you musically?

Angola has influenced my style in a very distinct and unique way. Dji Tafinha is one of the first Angolan rappers to produce as well as ghostwrite for other artists, engineer music and rap/sing. His influence in my career is very notable in the way I sing because he taught me how to use my voice and reach certain notes. My goal has always been to become Dji's equal and have him pass the mantle of Angola's best rapper/producer/engineer onto me, then to spread Angolan music to the rest of Africa and eventually, the world. I also love to incorporate Portuguese in my music, which is my mother tongue. It makes me unique and broadens my fan base.

How is your new single "On My Groove" different from music you used to make?

The beat to "On My Groove" was sent to me by an old friend, PhantomOTB, who wanted my vocals for his upcoming album. I had been away from music for four years at the time and felt it would be a very quick, but short return. After recording the song and being satisfied with the unmixed product, I mixed it myself. I always do that with my music because only I know how my music should sound. I am a bit of a control freak, always wanting to be involved in every step of the production process.

To a great extent, "On My Groove" is more mature. I wrote it at a time that I was not even rapping anymore. On this song I talk about my success, motivation, dedication & goals. I used to be insecure about my detractors but in "On My Groove" I embrace them & tell them that if they hate my success, they will find my next moves unbearable.

What did you learn from your time not doing music?

Patience. The best things take time. One thing about youth [is that] we love rushing things because we think doing things quickly shows skill, but patience is what defines growth and skill. Patience is really helpful because sometimes one gets writer's block and the creative juices are just not flowing. If you are impatient you will get frustrated and do some destructive things. Nowadays I just take a break and attend to other things without the pressure of having to finish a project.

I also learned to love myself and to accept my mistakes. I used to be hard on myself and compare myself to other artists and people. But now I love and support them even if it at times it is not reciprocal. Stepping away from music allowed me to mature and gain a clearer understanding of what I want in my life.


Are you afraid of being vulnerable and sharing such personal matters?

No. In fact it is the exact opposite. My fans can only support me if they can relate to me and they can only relate if I shed my skin and give them something they can relate to. And nothing is more relatable than your own pain—because contrary to popular belief you not the only one going through that or something similar. I want them to know I have been anxious, I have had suicidal ideations, but I still persevere and will be well on my way to be one of the best artists and entrepreneurs. I know my fans will accept me for who I am and find solace in knowing that at the end of the day it will all be okay.

What would you tell someone suffering from bipolar disorder and listening to your music?

Firstly, I don't believe someone "suffers" from bipolar, it's a state. You are bipolar. You're not suffering. I would tell that person to first accept themselves. Secondly, they should talk to someone. It is fine to have a psychologist. Even the most accomplished people in life have a psychologist. They shouldn't only seek help when it's too late, but even in the little things. Its okay not to be okay. Thirdly, people need to realise that one's responsible for one's own self. You need ways to deal with all the negative emotions and channel the energy into more positive activities whatever they may be.

What are your future plans?

I am shooting a video for "On My Groove" and then, I will release about five singles this year before I release my double album later on in the year. Part A [of the album] will talk about my success, with my arrogant ego at its peak letting the world know he did it against all odds. Part B talks about my failures, heartbreaks, vulnerabilities, pain and depression. I want my project to be reminiscent and be compared to the Mona Lisa. I want people to say this project is to Ahrt what the Mona Lisa was to da Vinci.

You can keep up with Arht on Twitter and Soundcloud.

Sports

Angola Is the First African Country to Win the Amputee World Cup

Angola earned the title after beating Turkey in overtime.

After an intense final match against Turkey, Angola's national amputee football team won the World Cup championship in Guadalajara, Mexico—making them the first African tea m ever to earn the victory.

After the game ended 0-0, the two teams faced off in a penalty shootout, with Angola eventually beating Turkey 5-4, after a Turkish goal was blocked by Angola's goalie Jesus, while a winning spot-kick was secured by Henio Guilerme, reports BBC Sport.

Keep reading... Show less
Arts + Culture

Diaspora Eats: 8 of the Best African Restaurants in Lisbon

This week, we're sharing some of the Best African Restaurant in Lisbon.

DIASPORA—The diaspora is brimming with a variety of restaurants that offer savory dishes that’ll  remind you of mom’s cooking.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
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
popular

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

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.