The downside of the isolation is that there are more dark energies out there such that creatives are unconsciously documenting more fear, apprehension, anger, greed and lies.Rezthapoet
Ayamba: Hello, Rez. Thank you for making time for this interview.
RezthaPoet: Thanks for having me.
Ayamba: These are strange times for everyone. What changes have you been forced to make, and how have you been coping generally?
RezthaPoet: For me, it’s been more of a mindset; a heightened mental alertness driven by the need to survive. Whilst not being paranoid, I’m a lot more concerned about the mid-term – and the Will Smith movie “I am Legend” haunts me somehow. Besides all what is happening at the back of my mind, I’m locked down 90%, working longer hours from home and taking reflective evening walks while listening to soft music. The last time I had this evening-music-walk luxury was in my early 20s. Life was slower, and I was still at the university fully dependent on my parents. A lot has changed now.
Ayamba: Interesting. As a creative, would you say the isolation has helped you to become more productive or otherwise?
RezthaPoet: Yes. I have become more productive because the world is slower. It’s like living in slo-mo, so I can now capture a lot more mentally. The downside of the isolation is that there are more dark energies out there such that creatives are unconsciously documenting more fear, apprehension, anger, greed and lies. But then, that’s more norm than exception even pre-Covid. The point is, there is more to tap into, in a productive way as one is more present, and life seem slower.
We need the counterbalance in our consciousness though. An inspiring source or figure to drive the message of positivity and force hope into the public awareness. People are also more open to engage at this time. So, as a creative – for on-going productions, I’m caught in between creating and observing the changes in the consciousness of the society due to this Covid-19 situation. That makes for a productive process.
Ayamba: I can very much relate to this. You surely chose an interesting time to release your new album, Cold & Frostrated. Why did you feel it had to come out now?
RezthaPoet: The album spoke to me: it is my time. I do not have all the resources ready for the release. And though I am someone that plans and strategizes a lot before releasing projects, for this, I’ve decided to trust the process and let go of any control. The album had been speaking to me to let it go. So why not? Besides, Cold and Frostrated also seems apt for the times so….
Ayamba: Indeed. If Covid-19 wasn’t here and things were normal, what would you have done differently regarding the release?
RezthaPoet: That’s an alternate reality I’m not privy to. Undoubtedly, my approach would have been different. I was considering hosting a silent listening party so each attendee will have an intimate engagement with the project before release. Yes, the approach would have varied – though overall, I can’t really say in what ways.
Ayamba: Tell us more about the album and the inspiration behind it.
RezthaPoet: The album itself serves 2 reminders: one is that the reality of the young Nigerian hasn’t changed in 40 years, and two, we are not progressing as a people. The objective is to spark the mind and jolt that consciousness.
In the album, I have pieces I wrote 13 years ago. “Lines of a Young Man’s Wrinkle” and the verses are not dated. Why? No change has happened in that time frame. I wrote “Black is …” in 2011. The message still rings true. What has changed is that there are new topics to discuss, not because we progressed, but because we have new issues in the spotlight. And for most of them, they are topics we hardly discussed in the past due to cultural silences, not anything else.
There are bright sides to the album too – We Are (Awani) explores the heritage and pride we take in our identity. This has given us Nollywood and Afrobeats. To summarize, the album captures the reality of young people, what we are discussing or observing, and reminders on our responsibility to a future we feel entitled to.
So why release now? The album asked to be released at this time. I know it sounds weird. Maybe the audience stands a higher chance of listening now and the desired change might occur – who knows. I felt like God was speaking to me. What do I know? I’m only an evolving empath and poet sharing my gifts. Fingers crossed.
Ayamba: Well, you are right. More people have attention to spare in these times. Are you working on anything Covid-19 related, or you are one of those who prefer to let time fully germinate a topic before harvesting it?
RezthaPoet: I let time. I can carry an inspiration or idea for years. If it doesn’t feel ready to come, I wait. I have pieces I struggled with for 3 years before birthing them. It must flow smoothly in the writing and I must not feel like I’m forcing it. My poetry is documentary based nowadays. I guess it is part of growing older. Covid-19 is inspiring how I’m unveiling the album. I will let the unveiling speak for itself. A lot of work is going on in the background.
Ayamba: Obviously you’re investing a lot of energy into this and we really can’t wait to see it all come to fruition. I know for a fact that asides poetry, you are a good rapper and all-round wordsmith. Are you thinking of other art-forms right now or in the nearest future?
RezthaPoet: Ah! I’m not a rapper o. I played around with that many years back. I’m still a dedicated hip-hop aficionado. I mean, I’m really into the essence of the culture well beyond the rap art-form. I listen to a lot of music ranging from rap, poetry and spoken word, soul music, jazz, fuji, soft rock, and folk songs from around the world. They feed my inspiration, and I’m constantly looking to tap into them or to collaborate. Besides that, I’m not certain about practicing other art-forms anytime soon.
Ayamba: What are you feeding your mind with in this period to help you steady the ship? Magazines, books, what?
RezthaPoet: Mostly, music. There is a way it helps you tap into memory. This period and the reflections that come with it, is allowing me garner strength from different points in my past which I channel into the mid-term adjustments I spoke of earlier. Long term plans remain the same. I’m currently using music to navigate thoughts, fears, and concerns about the short term and the midterm. So now, I’m starting to take some risks in some quarters. Not even with new music, but with music that are personal timestamps.
Ayamba: Can you share with us some of these songs, or artistes?
RezthaPoet: Brymo, Terrace Martin, Agnes Obel, Adewale Ayuba, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Wana Udobang, Ex-O Magege, Ghostface Killah, and my own poetry recordings.
Ayamba: Wow! What a diverse mix. Moving on to my last question. Are there projects you want your followers to look forward to?
RezthaPoet: Possibly a second album this year, more collaboration with private and corporate individuals, and as well, a lot of visual expressions of poetry. Also, Griots and Bards is planning really big things.
Ayamba: Ah yes, Griots and Bards, your monthly poetry event. It is sad that the pandemic has robbed both you and your guests the opportunity to come together in that amazing space. I’m happy to hear there are big things in the works despite this. We are definitely looking forward to them. It’s been an interesting time with you, Rez. Thank you.
RezthaPoet: The pleasure is mine.
Adebola Afolabi (REZthaPoet) is a poet, a business consultant, and the convener and co-host of Griots and Bards (G.A.B), a monthly creative event at the Thought Pyramid Art Centre Ikoyi, Lagos. He has three spoken-word albums to his name: Exposit (2016), Beautiful Ones (2018), and most recently, Cold and Frostrated (2020).
The interviewer, Ibrahim Babatunde Ibrahim has his bio in the members’ profile section.