I had a quick chat with South African musician, Aidan Martin who in turn asked Msafiri Zawose to comment on a few of the questions. Watkykjy will keep an eye on this talented artist from Tanzania from now on and possibly dedicate a review, write-up or Q&A solely to his music alone in future.
Howzit bro! Hope all is well! I listened to the new single you sent me, and I fucking loved it. Before we get to the tune, what have you been busy with since the last time we spoke?
Hey man, I’m good thanks. Glad you dig the track! Well, last year was a long one I tell you. They all are, haha! I didn’t play much, but at least I got to travel a bit. After Tanzania I went to Europe for about two months to play some shows and did some sightseeing. It was a good time!
So, of course your visit to Tanzania was an important milestone in your career. Why did you visit the country?
Well, it all just happened by chance, really. A friend of mine met Jo who runs The Firefly Hotel in Bagamoyo. Jo said she would be interested in hosting me as the resident artist for the month and that sounded alright with me.
Tell us a bit about the country, it’s people and their music. How did it influence you, not only as a human being, but also from an artistic perspective? I mean, it obviously changed your creative direction?
The town has a great charm to it. Friendly people. I visited Tasuba College of Arts and ended up performing on their Friday night concert with one of the students. I also jammed with two of the students named Assa and Willy at The Firefly and a bar around the corner. It was low key and I just had a good time. I’m grateful to have jammed with Msafiri. It’s not everyday you get to record and jam with someone who plays the ilimba, kora, zeze, marimba, flute and sings as well. I must admit it was more enjoyable than Europe. The trip most definitely lifted my spirit.
Your latest single is aptly called Bagamoyo and, as you alluded to, you collaborated with Tanzanian multi-instrumentalist and composer Msafiri Zawose. Guys, what does this name mean and what is this song about?
It means “Lay down your Heart” in Swahili.
It’s all about a beautiful thing and the culture in the particular town. The song was influenced by the language we speak and the life we live.
That’s pretty cool. Aidan, how did you meet Msafiri and what was it like working with him?
Well thanks to Jo from Firefly Hotel, really. She put me in touch with him and he invited me over to his studio. I must admit that I tried to postpone it to the next day as I had a massive hangover but Msafiri said now or never. So luckily, I went. It was really easy working with him and inspirational.
It could be my untrained ears but I hear not only West African influences but also traces of East-African influences in the song? Can you guys give me some guidance on the origins of the music here if you don’t mind?
Well when I heard Ali Farka Toure’s album with Ry Cooder called Talking Timbaktu it had a great impact on me. I also got to see his son, Vieux Farka Toure live in Johannesburg a few years ago. Hearing Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara jamming with Robert Plant also influenced me. Been listening to lots of Fela Kuti and quite a few others. I’m not too clued up on it all though, but it’s mainly just different cultures with different languages which results in different sounds.
West Africa is francophone, which means they speak French. They also have a more Arab influence. They also receive more assistance for Arts and Culture development from the French government as the they provide financial grants and resources such as promoters and booking agents to musicians. Also the government benefits a lot from cultural activities and tourism. East African is anglophone (English speaking). Unfortunately the British are not interested in any cultural activities or to support the traditions. The government often use musical platforms for political campaigns. They prohibit people from raising their opinion and thereby preventing music and the message to benefit the people of East Africa.
That’s… pretty fucked up. So, Masafiri’s vocals feature on the tune but not yours, Aidan. What brought about this specific arrangement?
I initially sang on the track. We were thinking of doing a verse each but in the end his vocals suited the track way more! The initial takes I did are quite funny and not for public ears. He sent me his vocal tracks with harmonies which was enough to fill the track and if you listen closely you can also hear him chanting phrases. I had to rearrange the track and came up with a few more different guitar parts. You can hear an acoustic (signal) panned left and one panned right. I needed something strong for the chorus and came up with a cool riff that I double with the bass. It’s a very simple song with two chords but there are interesting things going on. It’s got a groove!
I’d love to hear the initial takes, haha! Aidan, you also worked with Graham Ward again on this one. The drums sound great. Graham recorded and produced your Refugee album, I think. What brought about his involvement in this project?
The track was basically done. I had a good mix and only had a kick drum going throughout which worked well. I thought I didn’t want to add too much but I was curious to hear what Graham would do and he nailed it, didn’t he? The drums really add a live feel to the track and bring it to life for me. Great playing! Three takes. Graham also helped mix and master the song further as well. He’s easy to work with and has a natural feel for taking a song in the right direction.
I’m sure this tune is the start of something bigger? Are you planning more singles? More colabs? An album? What’s on the cards for the future?
We are keen on playing some live shows. Msafiri is keen to come here… wait I’ll rather go back there, haha! We both want to do another track so I’m really looking forward to that. Would be great to play some shows together.
Ja man, that sounds awesome. Are you performing live anywhere in the near future that fans should be aware of?
Check out my website at: http://aidanmartin.co/ or my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AidanMartinMusic/
Thanks for the quick chat bro! All the best with your endeavours.
Thanks Rolbees, I appreciate your time. Chat soon!