Afrobeats is based on personal experiences, not vibes — Rela reveals

The last we heard from Rela, he reported to us a case of infringement on his intellectual property earlier this year. Fortunately, we were able to catch up with him once again, on the sixth edition of Hint A View.

Rela is a Nigerian Afrobeats singer in the diaspora. Last Saturday, we discussed the growth of Afrobeats in the UK with Rela and the singer provided us with the necessary vital information about the acceptance of the sound in his country of residency, the United Kingdom.

Rela also intelligently took us through what it feels like to work with a team as an independent artiste. He held nothing back, he was as plain as a river. Things got interesting with Rela’s display of the understanding of the current Afrobeats industry. Though fans excuse Afrobeats as a sound meant for vibes only during criticism, Rela opines that Afrobeats is based on an artiste’s personal exposure. Below is our interview with Rela:

Welcome aboard the 6th edition of Hint A View Rela

Thank you very much.

  1. When I first knew you, it was early this year. A fellow journalist had phoned me about your plight. Kizz Daniel had just dropped Buga with Tekno. The chorus shares some similarities with a song of yours published on Tik Tok. Did you speak directly to Kizz Daniel about it?

Good question because I actually never got to give an announcement to everyone that followed the story, on how the story ended. We didn’t hear from Kizz Daniel’s team but we were also not as pushy about the matter as we probably could have been. We just didn’t want to appear like we wanted to feed on clout but the reality of the industry is that clout is part of the game. 😃

  1. You seem to have a brilliant understanding of the industry. It appeared you were going to drop the particular song you accused Kizz Daniel of sampling. When Buga dropped, you started announcing Fadekemi which was later released three weeks ago. Will we still get to listen to the song you accused Kizz of sampling?

Well my understanding of the industry grows everyday, in the right direction I believe. I have been following the evolution of the industry since I was a teenager so it’s very exciting to be in the middle of things at the moment and to also currently be trying to break as an artiste.

I was actually not going to put that song out first. I just had a habit of putting videos of unreleased songs on my TikTok to be honest (laughs). Fadekemi was the first song I recorded and we already had a snippet out on Tik Tok that people were vibing and making videos to. So it just felt right to drop that first to ‘wet the ground’. Ololo will drop later on, next year. Fingers crossed!

  1. Safe to say you debuted your music career in the UK. We’ve had the likes of Asa, Tiwa Savage, WurlD and many others heading back home to begin their respective careers properly. While I hope you can tell me why the artistes in question have always resorted to coming home, I also wish you tell me if you will take a similar route anytime soon.

That’s an interesting question because to be honest, it pops in my mind sometimes. I wouldn’t know why the other artistes have truly taken that path but within my context, I would easily identify with a couple of reasons. Back home is where I can easily liaise with indigenous creatives who can understand the type of music that I try to put together. Also, back home is where you feel like it’s easier to ‘infuse in the industry’. Back home is where one can readily find an audience that already relate with the type of music being made.

But then again, it depends on how indigenous you want to go with the music. Music, and Afrobeats (especially) is evolving beyond just the borders of Nigeria and, in fact, producers out here are picking it up fast and learning how the music is made. Also, on the growth side, I fancy looking outwards and globally — which is something that has worked for me so far. Asides Nigeria, listeners from other parts of the world have reached out to me about how they love Fadekemi: people in the white community inclusive. These things encourage me to look outwards than just focus on the industry in Nigeria. Artistes in Nigeria are also looking beyond Nigeria as they make and market their music anyways.

  1. Your perception of this aspect of music is great, as an artiste in the diaspora. And as an Afrobeats act in the diaspora, what have been your greatest challenges? At your level, how well is the acceptance of Afrobeats in the UK? If you step into any club in the UK or switch on to a radio station, how well is Afrobeats being jammed or aired?

Afrobeats is quite big in the UK. Well accepted, I would say. For me, it’s like a perfect time to be in the industry because it feels like the world is waiting to hear more and various diversities of the type of sounds that constitute Afrobeats.

For challenges, a couple I have mentioned earlier about being aloof the industry in Nigeria, but I don’t see that as a major limitation either. A lot of times, I get to work with producers remotely, it’s not the best, but we try to make the best out of the situation. We are also growing our reach within the UK, so as time goes on, we will discover and collaborate with more talents over here as well.

  1. I have noticed the use of “we” in your expository responses. Does that directly imply you are signed to a label or under the control of a certain management? If yes, is the idea about “label pressures” true or nonexistent? If you are not under any authority, how have you been able to fund your music? You work? Or got a sponsor? If you work, what’s working in the UK like?

Well, I use ‘we’ because the milestones I have achieved since beginning my music career has been solely based on working as a team with a couple of important people around me. I like the idea of having a team that wants to collaboratively deliver, even though I am the artiste. I actually want my team to also grow to sponsoring other artistes which is a limitation I have had. Every project so far has been funded with personal funds. I feel like every independent artiste must pass through this phase, just like every other investment — capital first.

  1. Every independent artiste (Oh! They now call them ‘indie artistes’) faces the same challenges. Interesting! On to Fadekemi, your debut single released few weeks back, I had a wild perception of your toasting of whoever the song is directed at. (Laughs) You enthusiastically go on a long list of girls who want you, to impress Fadekemi. Don’t you think that’s you telling your intended (lover) that you have options? If this was a reality, how would you feel? (Laughs)

I actually believe in options and in abundance. (laughs) Fadekemi is an interesting song that tells a story about a lover that I cherish but the shakara glimpses from her is making me keep my options open. 😅

Man! Love ain’t a football transfer market. Love is a choice. Well! I get it from your angle anyway. The slightness of your Patois on the song is commendable. Do share the link to streaming the song in your next reply, in case anyone following this interview chooses to try your sound here.

  1. I personally noted a similarity to Jaywon in your flow on Ololo when I watched the snippet on Tik Tok. A part of Fadekemi also feels like the recent Sean Tizzle that is trying to retake his spot in the industry. How true are my observations? And have you been compared to any known artiste before based on your sound? Also I humbly demand you make a 5-star shortlist of your musical influences, dead or alive.
The link to stream Fadekemi is:

https://push.fm/fl/gwst9zls

Well, on Olololo (from the lyrics), I was just having a good time in the club and remembering how far I have come and this girl that was there for me at that time versus now when I’m in a party with so many pretty girls — black and white. (Laughs) You must be an OG to link that to Jaywon and the other to Sean Tizzle. (Laughs) Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever paid attention to who I may have sounded like, but I take it as a compliment that I sound like those you have mentioned. Hmmm! My biggest music influences at the moment are Kanye West, Drake, Burna, Wizkid and Fireboy.

Ta-da! And you too join the long list of singers who have Burna Boy and Wizkid as a poise. It has always been Burna Boy and Wizkid or Burna Boy and Davido, I have never met an artiste motivated by the duo of Wizkid and Davido.

Rela The Vibe
  1. Rela! Do you think Afrobeats is giving the world enough quality in terms of themes and issues raised with the genre? If not, what do you think is the way forward to improving this? Afrobeats revolves around love, women and money most of the time, and critics as well as singers, most of the time, tie it to the pretext that Afrobeats is all about “vibes”. Is that definition of Afrobeats acceptable to you? Is any genre of music limited to a cliche at all?

I think that every artiste has a theme that they probably want to cover with their music. I don’t necessarily think it’s about Afrobeats. For me, I write from the perspective of my personal experience. I like my music to relate to me.

Some other artistes have been through shallower or deeper personal experiences than I have and might be able to cover less or more topics than I cover. Some are able to write more about fictional issues or governmental issues. It boils down to the artiste, I would say, and the themes that he or she wants to cover. Generally Afrobeats is huge on melody though, I think that’s something we all generally accept.

  1. Man! You are intelligent, I must say. Insightful thoughts too. What’s your name in full? And what’s “Rela”? You are from what part of Nigeria?

Thank you very much. My full name is Favour Obele. I’m from the Southeastern part of Edo State. When I was younger, a couple of my friends used to call me Favourela, so it just became Rela over time. 😄

  1. No wonder your Tik Tok handle is Fave Rela. Great! This will mark the end of this beautiful interview. Rela, how did you discover music and how did you make music a career?

Oh! That’s my Twitter @Favyrela. Instagram and TikTok is @relathevibe. I feel like I have always resonated with music more than everything else around me. As a kid, I was part of a choir, I grew up playing the drums. I could DJ at a time.

I just kept myself growing in the ecosystem till I got serious with my personal goal of putting my own music out. Basically that’s how I took it up as a career. Thank you for your time. It’s been truly a beautiful and exciting one!

Yeah! It’s been a really interesting session with you. Do have a nice weekend. 💙

Sam George Mac is a music journalist known for the reviews of several music albums and songs. He is a singer and songwriter of Afrobeats, Dancehall, Highlife and RnB with the stage name SGM — a graduate of Mass Communication from The West African Union University, Cotonou.

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