Making Music The Brymo Way
I walked in slightly late to the photo shoot and found Brymo in his car. He wound down the window and said, “Hi, I’m Brymo, I was hungry so I thought I’d have some lunch,” he explained as he cracked open his chicken bone. The first thing I noticed about him was his smooth deep voice, a unique element which he brings to the table with his music.
Brymo, also known as Olawale Ashimi, is a songwriter and composer, who was signed to Chocolate City in 2010. The musician is recognized for his hit songs, Ara, Good Morning and his feature in Ice Prince’s Oleku. When asked to tell us something most people didn’t know about him, he said, “I like to learn new things but it’s all a mirage; people make it seem like it’s difficult to learn things but you get in there and see that it’s really not that hard. Also, I am eternally stubborn; when I have my mind made up, I rarely go back.”
The singer, who talks about drawing his inspiration from the likes of Fela, John Mayer and Frank Ocean, describes being zealous about using his music to talk about social issues that are passionate to him: “My music is an analysis of myself and my immediate surroundings.” Furthermore, he emphasizes his gratitude to the great Fela, for paving the way for artists like him who now have the freedom to express themselves through music.
“Music was always in the shadows”
The artist, who has a knack for using his music to tell stories, explains, “Music has provided an avenue to be able to express that without so much repercussion.” He talks about music being a mode of communication for not just him but also for his mother, who would sing to his father when he was a child. Brymo talks about the role music plays in his life when he says, “I wrote my first song when I was 14, and from that day on, I kept doing it… my ability to put lyrics and melody together, I think, was influenced greatly by my mum.”
Music was always there in the shadows; I didn’t even know it was there. My mum is a huge music fan, so she had a lot of favourites: Fuji music, Fela, a lot of local genres. She would take popular songs, put in her own lyrics, keep the same melody and she would do that to sing for my father. When they would fight, she would sing a song and when they were good and happy; she would sing another song and those songs were almost originally composed by her, except someone else composed the melody.
What does music mean to you?
Music is the means through which I express myself. I feel like if I were a politician, I would be a tyrant, so I needed to find a different avenue through which I would express myself without so much repercussion. Music lets me bring conversations to the table; it lets me talk about even my own ills and letdowns.
Starting off strong
Brymo was thrown into the limelight with his single Shawty in 2007 and his fame became official when he featured in Ice Prince’s 2010 hit, Oleku. According to the musician, “I was scared at first, like what’s going on? And now, I am still very slow to accept fame because no matter how hard you try it changes you.” His rise to fame was later propelled after M.I talked about liking his song Shawty on TV, and subsequently, Brymo managed to bag a contract with Chocolate City. Talking about making it into the industry he says, “I have always wanted it so bad, that the desire to be what I am becoming keeps pushing me forward, one step at a time”.
Tell us about your first studio experience?
It was a disaster! We had a group called The Aliens. I thought to myself, ‘we have to bring a sound that nobody has.’ Back then, our boy band models were groups like West Life and Nsync, so we started tailoring our songs to sound like them. Eventually in 2003, we went to the studio for the first time and it was a disaster.
How does one break into the music industry?
I can only tell you that I wanted it so bad, and I still don’t have what I was looking for. When I recorded my first and only demo in 2006, I took the song and packaged it, went to the bookstore and I got cardboard. I made envelopes for myself and sent it to Universal Records and after two months the package came back, and they said they didn’t open it because they didn’t know what was in it. So, it got to New York but the label said they wouldn’t open it. I was happy [at least] that my CD got to New York.
Music business in Nigeria
It’s no secret that the music business has major shortcomings, as the business can prove to be somewhat complicated. From piracy to album sales, there’s a lot of room for improvement that can largely benefit the artist and protect their creative work. According to Brymo, “the government needs to step in and end piracy. Luckily for most of the artists, piracy is online and we as artists can do a lot to mop it up ourselves… the music industry must exist as an industry that takes care of itself all round.”
How can the players improve the business operations in itself?
First of all, a lot of people that parade themselves as PR people, artist managers and claim other similar roles, do not even know how to do business generally. Then you now come into the entertainment business, which is even more delicate, because when you’re upcoming you probably don’t have money to give anybody. So, it is a very complex business because how do you go from being nobody to becoming someone everyone wants to pay? That, is always the task to solve.
I can say for sure that from the very beginning, I have always wanted to be an artist that gets paid. I would always ask, ‘How many records can we sell?’ ‘How much can we get from rights?’ ‘How much can we earn for royalties and gigs?’ If we don’t have that, we don’t have a music business. Currently in Nigeria, I find it very amusing and saddening that there are so many “A list” artists who claim to be international when their albums are still being sold for N150.
Brymo, who is in tune with using his music for freedom of expression courtesy of his rebellious Fela-inspired trait says, “Not only did I listen to Baba’s music (Fela), I have also paid attention to his life and I have been able to put out some facts about the music business and facts about Nigeria.” When asked, ‘will there be another artist as daring as Fela in our generation?’ Brymo’s response was, “Yes, I’m daring… the only difference is that he had enough information to criticize the government and say the things he said”.
While his sound is not considered to be mainstream and is subsequently underrated, his fans patiently await a new album release slated for next year. On whether to expect collaborations with other singers in the new album, the protective musician says, “Artistry and song writing is very important to me…. in my line of business people judge you by affiliation… It’s easier to make my music on my own, my voice is one and my thoughts are in sync.”