Throwback Interview: Rene LaVice

As seen in DJ Mag

Take 10: Rene LaVice

Canada’s next big producer gives us the lowdown on his top 10.

Fresh from touring with UK act Spor, the Toronto-born DJ is currently touring Europe promoting his debut album ‘Insidious’ and his latest double-sided single ‘The Calling’ (feat Ivy Mairi) / ‘Freudian’. The 2013 LP set the tone for his unique approach to beat sorcery, which involves a melting pot of dance music flavours from DnB to jungle.

Rene first arrived on the scene in 2009 under Canada’s Stride Recordings with his four-track EP ‘The Future’, which led to various remix projects with Gremlinz and an appearance on DSCi4’s ‘Amen Warfare’ LP. The subsequent years were a blur of single and EP releases under the wing of hotshots like John Rolodex. But it was only when he hooked up with Ram Records in 2012 that his music really began to blow internationally.

The skateboard aficionado’s biggest single to date was ‘Headlock’, taken from his ‘Dimensions 5’ EP, which showcased his eclectic sonic direction to critical acclaim. Not only has his impressive catalogue caused a storm with fans worldwide, but industry heavy weights like Nick Grimshaw, DJ Andy C and Total Science (to name a few) are also lining up like Oliver for some more of whatever Rene LaVice is serving.

Stay tuned for the artist turned filmmaker’s second album, which may put Rene in the doghouse with his fans if it doesn’t make an appearance soon. In the meantime, here is his top ten…

  1. Squarepusher ‘Do You Know Squarepusher

“I was already a huge Squarepusher fan before this was released, but when a clip leaked, followed by the release of the track, I was floored. Even today it seems to represent UK culture, merged with sounds and techniques, beamed in from the future. Jenkinson hints at vocal hooks and loops [while] the track progresses, edits and [almost] destroys them. [Its ability to] occupy such a beautiful line between technicality and expression makes this a masterpiece.”

  1. Prodigy ‘Break & Enter

“I was the first person in my family to get a CD player, and I remember them being interested to see what I’d bought to play on it. This kicked in from ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’ and I remember my mom scrunching her nose in distaste, in response I thought ‘brilliant’. I was a fan from that moment on really, but this and subsequently ‘Fat of the Land’ are both timeless in my opinion.”

  1. Tenebrae ‘Miserere’ 

 “I don’t really get on with contemporary radio, but I drive a lot with Classical FM on. I headed out one morning just as this started and it totally changed the tone of my day. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and execution, and it’s basically a repeating motif. I like repetition. Apparently, as a seven-year-old, Mozart transcribed it without mistakes from memory.”

  1. Placebo ‘Nancy Boy

 “I watched Placebo being broadcast from Glastonbury in 97 or 98 and was hooked. It stood so strongly in opposition to the culture around me at the time and the tuning they used, combined with Molko’s sweet but nonchalant drawl, was a symbol for apathy and disenchantment to anyone who felt as isolated as I did throughout my teens. I worked in a bar and hotel for a few years, I remember drinking after my shift, playing darts and singing along. I went to see them at the Coronet in London in 1997 too, one of my favourite shows.”

  1. Queen ‘Who Wants To Live Forever

 “This seems [like] a fitting life-soundtrack choice. ‘A Kind of Magic’ was given to me by my Dad when I was very young on cassette. I think I almost wore it out. Soaring strings and classic Yamaha DX-7 back a song that provokes a lot of philosophical questions. It’s actually a topic that has fascinated me my whole life.”

  1. Radiohead ‘Everything In Its Right Place

 “Me and my friend bought ‘Kid A’ when it came out in 2000 and both went home to listen intently. I miss that jarring feeling of committing to a record so fully before ever hearing it, and from the very first cascade of ‘Everything’ I was unapologetically pulled into a world I didn’t know existed. I didn’t enjoy my school life at the time and struggled a lot emotionally in general; ‘Kid A’ quickly became something I would fall asleep to every night, a real means of escape.”

  1. Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Other Side

“I took this with me on a school trip to Canada [in] around 1999. ‘Californication’ was my musical anchor throughout the whole experience. I’m instantly reminded of looking at snowy Toronto through smoked coach windows, or the blast of crisp air as we walked towards Niagara Falls. This track was a standout to me.”

  1. Burial ‘Archangel

“This track is the rainy night bus window, or the pale sky as you step out of the rave, skin like sweat and cigarettes. It’s the orange fade in [and] out of passing streetlamps that stubbornly refuses to synchronise with the beat. That smudged half-reality viewed almost from the third person – I think anyone that has been a part of the UK dance culture in any sense can have these feelings evoked from this record. Beautiful.”

  1. Jai Paul ‘Jasmine

“When I moved into my house we installed Sonos gear all over it, and I did the majority of the decorating with Jai Paul playing. As I understand, he was really upset by the leak of this record. Who wouldn’t be when there’s so much innovation and raw talent crammed into it? Either way it’s all synonymous with change for me; it was my soundtrack to that.”

  1. Drake ‘Marvin’s Room

“My good friend was drunk ranting and said something to the effect of “you can tell through someone’s music whether they’ve been through much [and] had their heart broken, no matter what the genre.” I think there’s some truth in that. If you believe his lyrics, then by this definition Drake must be in really tiny bits by now. Humour aside, in more recent times these records have been a totally different direction that I’ve learned a lot from. I hope I keep finding more in the future.”

Like this interview? Check out my interview with fellow Toronto natives Melanie Fiona and The Airplane Boys.

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Throwback Interview: Joris Voorn

As seen in DJ Mag

Lucky 7: Joris Voorn

The Green/Rejected label boss plays us his Lucky 7.

The Dutch DJ started his journey to the EDM holy grail in 1997, experimenting with synth sounds and drum loops on his MC-303 Groove Box. Three years later he began mixing magic in his small studio in Rotterdam, which led to his first release ‘Muted Trax Pt.1’. Following this release, he produced a series of EPs, singles and mixes resulting in his debut album ‘Future History’ in 2003. Little did he know that this album would establish him as one of the hottest techno producers of our generation!

In 2006, together with the help of his friend Edwin Oosterwal, his second record label Rejected was born. This label focused on the contemporary wave of EDM artists, which proved to be a winning formula for international success. His remixes scored him cool-points from the likes of Sven Vath, Dubfire, Pete Tong and John Digweed. By 2007, his label Green dropped the sophomore album ‘From A Deep Place’, which became a crossover hit attracting fans across the EDM spectrum from minimal to trance.

Ever the creative genius, Joris has appeared on mixes for everyone from Steve Angello to Nic Fanciulli. His musical resume also includes a Resident Advisor Podcast and a series of club shows that aimed to mesh the worlds of visual art and music. Joris Voorn is currently on a worldwide tour, US fans can catch him in NY and LA towards the end of May. He also has a remix album in the works for ‘Nobody Knows’, so watch this space.

What track really sums up your childhood?

“Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’. I got to know the ‘The Wall’ album through the parents of a friend of mine; I was fascinated by the atmosphere and story that seemed to be present throughout the music. ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ was the album highlight for me and when I listen to it now I think it’s even better than I could have ever realised as a kid.”

What was the first record you ever bought?

“I’m really not sure, but it could have been a Queen or Dire Straights album, on second hand vinyl of course. I loved both of these bands to pieces and to be honest it’s the Dire Straights I’d still listen to today. Queen not so much, even though they will always be a unique and highly influential band in the history of pop music.”

What is the most embarrassing record in your collection?

“Well not sure if it’s that bad, but I do have a 1995 German trance compilation called ‘Behind The Eye’ [via] Sven Vath’s Eye Q Records; which I (ahem) still play in the car [every] now and then. It’s borderline Goa-trance and has the classic ‘Orange Theme’ track by Cygnus X, which I found [to be] a fascinating piece of music back in the day. It wasn’t cheesy, just good solid underground techno trance.”

Which track is guaranteed to make you cry?

“I really love Aimee Mann’s ‘Save Me’, most of all because it reminds me of ‘Magnolia’, one of my all-time favourite movies. If I had to choose a techno track then it would be the full 13.5mins of Choice’s ‘Acid Eiffel’. It just doesn’t get any better than that!”

What album are you currently into?

“The latest Flying Lotus album is amazing. It reminds me so much of DJ Shadow’s first album, although it doesn’t have the same depth to it.”

What is the most valuable record in your collection?

“It used to be the Dave Angel ‘Handle With Care’ EP, with the stunning ‘Airborne (Carl Craig’s Drums Suck Remix)’, until I dropped it on the floor one day and it broke in half.”

What is your favourite track of all-time?

“There’s no answer to a question like this, but I’m a real sucker for Weezer’s Undone ‘The Sweater Song’. I can drive my car and sing this out loud like there’s no tomorrow!”

Like this interview? Check out some of my other EDM interviews, including Morgan Page and Zoot Woman.

Throwback Interview: Hermitude

As seen in DJ Mag

Watch Out America, Hermitude Are Coming.

The Aussie top-dog producers are ready to take their piece of the American Pie.

Meet Luke Dubber (aka Luke Dubs) and Angus Stuart (aka El Gusto), collectively known as Hermitude, one of Sydney’s hottest producer exports. Since being signed in 2002 by Elefant Traks, their four albums and two EP releases have ranked them alongside Australia’s most sought-after touring acts. Most notably 2012’s ‘HyperParadise’, which won the Australian Music Prize among other awards, grabbed the top-spot on the HypeMachine chart and notched up over 7 million listens on its Soundcloud belt.

Sonically their music fuses hip-hop, EDM and bass; which reflects their dedication to the vibe of each song and its unique progression. Considering Sydney’s big hip-hop scene, the pair believes that “having a bit of both styles in our music helped” them to build such a strong following. Their latest single ‘Through The Roof’ bounces from light to shade on its journey; driven by the horns, it rewires a typical mariachi beat against a strong synth riff, drums and the chopped vocal fragments of Young Tapz to create a tune so epic that even the most reluctant of ravers cannot help but shake a leg. The single comes in anticipation of Hermitude’s upcoming album, which is set to drop in early May 2015.

Suffice to say, they’ve caused quite the stir down under and now they are taking their veteran performance skills stateside, fuelled by “star jumps” and “tequila shots,” for their US and Canada ‘Through The Roof Tour’; which kicks off this March and includes Austin’s very own SXSW.

First of all congratulations on your new single, we love it! Talk us through ‘Through The Roof’, where did your inspiration for the song come from?

“Thanks a lot! We wanted the first single on the record to be really fun and also to be a nice bridge between ‘HyperParadise’ and our next record. The inspiration for the track and lyrics came from this massive warehouse party we went to in Sydney. There must’ve been 1000 people in there. There was condensation dripping off the ceiling from all the sweat and every new room you walked into had a different sound system. As you made your way upstairs, you had a feeling that the building could collapse at any moment! When the cops came, it took them over an hour to evacuate the building; they had to shut down the six-lane highway where the party was. It was all over the news.”

Is there a possible video on the way? What can you tell us about the visuals for that?

“There is! I don’t want to let the cat outta the bag, but we wanted to retain the energy of the song, but change the context. All I can say is that it’s high-energy and has a lot of smoke!”

What can fans expect from your upcoming album? Are there any collaborations we should know about?

“We haven’t announced them yet. Some of the singers are lesser known, but have beautiful, unique voices that just slot into the music perfectly. There are some great vocal moments amongst that instrumental heat we’re known for.”

You are known for your high-energy stage performances, how are you hoping to step your game up with your upcoming North American tour?

“We’ll bring out some classics and throw in some new jams to road test too. We love bringing the party and like to think our music activates a gravitational pull towards the dance floor too, so the more getting down the better!”

How does touring internationally differ from your home-crowd in Australia? Where has been your favourite country to perform in?

“The home-crowd obviously brings so much love, so it’s hard to beat. Having said that we had some cracking shows last year in the US. Brooklyn was redonkulous! Japan is also a fun audience because they’re so enthusiastic!”

Were there any local Australian acts that you admired growing up?

“Hip-hop crews like Koolism and the Hilltop Hoods and Urthboy, rock bands like Regurgitator and Vicious Hairy Mary; DJs like Dexter and Danielsan and Sampology, live electronic bands like The Avalanches and The Bird, all the way up to electronic music today like Ta-Ku, Waveracer and Flume.”

Your platinum single ‘HyperParadise‘ was remixed by fellow Aussie Flume, have you guys got any plans to collaborate again in the future?

“No concrete plans, but you never know, the last collaboration went down pretty well…”

Who would be your dream collaboration for a remix be with and why?

“Love to get a Lido remix, that guy is just so tasteful and musical. His remixes are bad-arse! We’d love to get Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean together on a Hermitude track; that would be crazy!”

What’s next for Hermitude (other than the obvious world domination)? 

“Haha, well right now we’re listening to a bunch of tunes that didn’t make the record and they sound really good. Who knows, maybe once the record drops there might be some more music sneaking out as well; besides that just heaps of touring. We’ll be in the US a lot this year, which we’re pumped about, and also Australian and European tours galore!”

Like this interview? Check out my chat with fellow Aussie Anna Lunoe here.

Hermitude are self-confessed hip hop and EDM fans, but what kind of music are you into? Ever think about what this says about you? Take a look here.

The Female Commodity

Is a woman’s worth solely about the number of men that have been between her legs? Judging by how many conversations that are had on social media about ‘body count’ and the way the sex trafficking business is still booming around the world, you would think so. But I’ll let you in on a little secret; we’re human just like you.

It starts with the representation of women in the media. Physical appearance is deemed an integral part of our careers. We have to do it all and look good simultaneously or we’re dubbed lazy and frumpy. No one likes a frumpy chick. Television anchors have to be young and conventionally attractive to appeal to a wider audience, whereas male anchors are allowed to be old, as it signifies their wisdom and status as a successful member of society. No one wants to watch an old lady, by then we only qualify to be grandmothers and homemakers.

This crosses over into business in general, an opinionated and ambitious woman is labelled a bitch or ‘hard to handle’; whereas an opinionated, ambitious man is a catch. Take Meryl Streep’s character ‘Miranda Priestly’ in the film ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, the title tells it all, a successful independent woman? Naturally, she has to be the devil. We must look good and be amiable to gain any sort of respect in the workplace. Achieve greatness in silence to avoid intimidating the men, and yet they’re supposed to be the strong ones. Showing emotion in the workplace is seen as a weakness and laughed off as being a symptom of PMS.

In the year 2015, women are still being discriminated against by employers for being pregnant, as they don’t want to pay out for maternity leave and paternity leave requests are not taken seriously. If anything men are praised for their contributions to raising children, like that responsibility is only done as a favour to women. This ‘women are the nurturers and men are the breadwinners’ belief starts from infancy with the toys children are given based on their gender. Apparently, a boy deciding to play with a pram and doll is a laughable offence, but these little boys grow up to be fathers.

It’s not just looks and amiability that are important for a woman in modern society; she has to be sexy too. This single quality is way more important than her intellect and character, hence why everything we see now is basically porn. Sex sells and money makes the world go round. The advertising industry bombards us with sexually suggestive images of women on a daily basis; from film posters to detergent ads. Strong, frumpy females are never the protagonist in the film, female superheroes are seen as the lame ones and even in serious narratives the woman’s main aim is usually to get the guy of her dreams.

If looks, subservience and sex appeal rule supreme when it comes to femininity, it’s no wonder that we are seen as something for men to use, rather than respect. Our worth lies in our purity and virginity; which is why virgins sell for a lot more on the black market and why men are so hung up on the amount of sexual partners we have experienced. Crimes that affect women, like rape, child marriage and prostitution, are not taken seriously by our criminal justice system because men are taught from an early age that our only value is in the kitchen and to satisfy their need for sex. Victims hold the burden of proof and are made to feel like it is their fault, instead of men being held responsible for their cruel behaviour.

We are becoming desensitized to the suffering of women so much so that when prostitutes or strippers are abused or killed, the perpetrators are shown more sympathy and are given light sentences. Ipswich murderer Steve Wright felt it was ok to murder five sex workers back in the early millennium and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was released from prison within a year after murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. I dare say it would have been a different result if the roles were reversed.

This is a global issue. In the Middle East, female protesters are being sexually assaulted, as a way to silence them, instil fear and undermine their agenda. The Taliban have been vocal in their condemnation of educating women and would rather they stay ignorant and stuck in their roles of domesticity. In New York City a woman cannot walk down the street without being cat called and men don’t take well to rejection. Gang culture tends to recruit women to serve as sex slaves for their men and honey traps for their victims. Oriental women are fetishized for their stereotype of thoroughly catering to their men.

This brings me to the inspiration behind this article, the film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. A Geisha is defined as “a Japanese hostess trained to entertain men with conversation, dance, and song.” Not to be confused with “Yugos” who are Japanese sex workers. Geisha “go through intense training, learning only the traditional Japanese arts. Geisha are very respectable women in Japan’s society and would never routinely indulge in relationships with different men.” This idea that respectability comes from monogamy irks me.

The film taught me that Geisha women dedicate their entire lives to serving men and forgo their own needs, as their needs are deemed unimportant. In the film, despite the Geisha being the protagonist of the story, the narrative concluded only once the man came back to save her. His affection for her being validation for all she had gone through. This unsettled me because so many women around the world are taught that their needs come second to their male counterparts. Just imagine how different the world would be if women were seen as equally important by men and, mostly importantly, themselves. We are people, not products for your pleasure, remember that.

Fellow feminists read musician Espa’s thoughts on gender inequality here.

Author Chimamanda Adichie also speaks about #Feminism in her book ‘Americanah’, read my review here.

M&M Review: 90059 by Jay Rock

Johnny Reed McKinzie, Jr. aka Jay Rock grew up in the gritty projects of Watts, Los Angeles, where the temptations of street life created another statistic in his initiation into the notorious blood gang. Fast forward several years and the 19 year old signed a deal with Top Dawg Entertainment in 2005 and left the gang life for good. Ten years later and Jay Rock has released his sophomore album. “90059 be the zip” he was repping in his former gangster days. This album follows his 2011 debut ‘Follow Me Home’ and two musical offerings from super-group Black Hippy featuring label mates Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul.

The album cover depicts the 29-year-old MC’s handprint with light coming from his fingertips. This imagery translates to me an expectation of this LP being an authentic reflection of Jay Rock as a person, a rapper and as a native of Watts, LA. The illuminated fingertips also stands as a nod to his lyrical talents, as everything he touches should, in theory, turn to gold. Despite the positive reviews this album received from the music media, the twitter-verse expressed disappointment, which highlights that the Black Hippy member has some work to do on his next project.

‘90059’ emerges in an attention-grabbing, fast-paced, aggressive way with lead track ‘Necessary’. The song is rooted in the essence of battle rap with its competitive bars – “the struggle is real you gotta do what you gotta…when you live in America either kill or be killed” – and punchy delivery. It makes a statement that Jay Rock is here to stay and is still a prominent member of TDE that refuses to be overshadowed by the success of his label mates.

‘Easy Bake’ features Kendrick and SZA. The first half is all about consumerism and the insatiable thirst to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to the celebrity lifestyle. The lyrics, entrenched in money, girls, drugs and guns, play into typical rapper stereotypes and evolve into tales of self-growth and a reflection of how far he’s come within the rat race of life. The gangster-rap nature of the first half is reminiscent of early West Coast artists, but then the beat switches up and listeners are hit with the dulcet tones of SZA. The second half of the track contrasts the first with its soulful nature and more honest depiction of the rat race; money is a means to a better life. SZA discusses false perceptions of wealth and the value of quality time, bringing Jay back to what is important. The whole track is symbolic of the crazy outside world being a far cry from the peaceful solace home is supposed to be.

‘Gumbo’ is a pensive recollection of Jay’s thoughts on the industry and the world in general. His cynical outlook on people – “you either coming with the problems or coming for loot” – is telling of his experiences as an artist coming into real money and having to deal with the backlash of people always wanting something from you. Despite his cynicism, the song still has positive undertones of perseverance in the face of adversity – “they want you defeated but yet you still fight” – and wanting to bring the real back into music: “let me put some season in this gumbo”. ‘Wanna Ride’ features Isaiah Rashad and showcases Jay’s more mellow side. He observes how people tend to want to tag along for the ride when you’re doing well in life, but don’t want to put the work in and create their own success. He urges them to “look below your surface, I bet you find that purpose.” The track boasts cinematic imagery through the lens of Jay’s thoughts.

The Ways’ features Sir and offers lighter subject matter after the deeper messages of the former tracks. For his party track, he switches his flow into something more choppy, in a nod to the contemporary phenomenon that is the Future sound. The instrumental is more upbeat and fun than his typically darker singles. ‘Telegram (Going Krazy)’ features Lance Skiiiwalker and discusses his frustrations with romantic relationships. Trust issues and the temptation to cheat are the underlying themes with relatable sound bites of “question after fucking question… I’m about the sweetest chemistry.” Angelic melodies are contrasted by a strong bass-line and guitar strums in this vulnerable track.

Title track ‘90059’ takes a harder tone, telling a tale of street violence, hood imagery and his anger at the slow moving process of breaking the industry. The self-imploring theme of the album is shown with this displayed tough exterior and his description of always being alert and ready to fight, which says a lot about the psyche of a lot of young men growing up in poverty who have a lot to prove within society. ‘Vice City’ features his band mates from Black Hippy and explores his vulnerabilities including; women manipulating him with their feminine wiles, the need for materialistic gain, status making you a target in the hood, the difficulty of staying on his spiritual path, personal insecurities and good food. It is all in all an upbeat ode to the talent of the TDE roster.

‘Fly On The Wall’ features quick-spitter Busta Rhymes, who shows off his softer side on this solemn track. The song talks about personal evolution and makes a dig at the authenticity of contemporary songwriters. The contemplative lyrics are complimented well with the simple percussion and melody: “when you stand still you can witness it all, picture the vision from a fly on the wall.” The sequel to ‘Money Trees’ from Kendrick’s ‘good kid m.A.A.d city’ album, ‘Money Trees Deuce’, features Lance Skiiiwalker and serves as a reintroduction to Jay’s natural aptitude for rap. His swift delivery contrasts the soothing instrumental, as he discusses ambition, adversity, adapting in order to survive different situations and motivates listeners to work hard for their dreams. The clapping element of the beat is a recurrent theme throughout the album’s production.

The concluding track of the album, ‘The Message’, preaches the important sentiment of being more than the environment you were raised in and to push past any potential hindrances to your success to secure your future. ‘The Message’ was the perfect endnote to an LP full of thought-provoking introspective musings. Sonically, the album was very cohesive and showcased Jay’s versatility in terms of adapting his flow to the mood of the song. ‘90059’, being the zip of Watts, LA, was well represented with the presence of the TDE roster on the features and the original West Coast sound being honoured; giving the perfect balance of old school versus new school. In conclusion, ‘90059’ is a solid effort for rap fans and a taster for the future Jay Rock albums to come.

Like this review? Check out my review of Troy Ave’s latest album ‘Major Without A Deal’ here.

I also interviewed fellow West Coast artist Eric Bellinger, see what he has to say about the state of R&B here.

M&M Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Dear Chimamanda,

I was first introduced to your work, with a lot of the rest of the world, when Queen Bey referenced your speech in her track ‘Flawless’. Since then I have gone on to watch a lot of your TED Talks speeches online, I’ve watched Half of a Yellow Sun starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor and now I have also read your book Americanah. I am thoroughly inspired.

In this digital age, where social media influences more people than the news, it is frustrating when important movements like feminism are misinterpreted into something negative. Your work is helping to re-educate women and men everywhere and for that I am truly grateful. I love how your speeches about gender equality are reflected in your multifaceted fictional characters and how you depict Africa in such an honest way. Your descriptions of Nigeria in Americanah made me homesick for Sierra Leone, in a way that no other fictional story has.

The story is based on two high school sweethearts and told across three continents and many years of absence from each other. It analyses race relations in England, Nigeria and America and examines the experience of an African person in those countries. It covers all the niche topics that people generally don’t talk about when it comes to race and differing attitudes and customs. Having spent time in each of these countries, I could relate to a lot of the points raised.

It also opened my eyes to some of the constraints and reasoning behind immigration to the Western world. The media would have you believing that every immigrant leaves their country because they perceive the West as better and aren’t comfortable in their homeland. The reasons for immigration are really complex, sometimes the West appeals because of the attitudes of the people you grew up around who see America and England through rose-tinted glasses. Sometimes it is seen as a sign of status or a way to bring new knowledge to your community. Sometimes it is for love or just simply a new start. Not everyone wants to leach off the government and not everyone sees the third world as inferior.

Your words are a big part of the growing TINA (This Is New Africa) movement, which aims to change outdated and often negative perceptions of Africa. You tackle both the untold gems of African culture and the not-so-secret ugly underbelly. You also juxtapose traditional Nigeria and new Nigeria, detailing all the changes that have taken place in between. Your descriptions have helped me to understand a lot about modern Nigerian culture and the way things are done there.

I love the fluidity of the chapters and how the book was structured to reflect the personal growth of the characters, in relation to how their relationship has matured and the reasons for their growing separation. The main characters Ifemelu and Obinze were represented as realistically flawed, but deeply in love with each other. However, their open minded attitudes served as a severe contrast to some of the other supporting characters in the book, who represent more traditional views.

I was enamoured with Obinze; his intelligence, his views on women and marriage and his clear feelings for Ifemelu. Their bond was real and based on way more than the superficial, which most relationships seem to stem from these days. He loved her for her mind and spirit, that kind of love is unconditional. He respected strong women and despised pretence for status and gossip, having been raised by an educated, independent woman. African men usually have a reputation for wanting submissive wives who take on traditional domestic roles and I am so happy that he defied that stereotype, because it is untrue for a lot of men.

I noticed that in both Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, the matriarch roles were filled by women who gave sensible advice that went against the outdated notions of the 1950s. These women raised topics of self-love, protected sex and staying true to yourself even when you fall in love. They are great role models for any young girls reading these amazing texts. Sadly, these lessons are usually downplayed in favour of the ability to cater to your man and being a ‘good’ wife by fulfilling your duties in the bedroom and kitchen.

The protagonist Ifemelu was an outspoken naturalista who moved to the States to further her education and ended up educating the masses through the use of her blog entitled: ‘Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black’. Her blog served as a series of uncomfortable racial observations and enabled her to gain a fellowship at the prestigious Princeton University. However, Obinze’s experience of life in the West was less sweet, with him being deported from London for attempting to engage in a sham marriage for a visa.

I commend you for using mainly African names for the characters and celebrating their meanings as beautiful. A lot of African children growing up in the Western world seem embarrassed by their names, as they are deemed ‘unusual’ and impossible to pronounce by their Western teachers and friends alike. The terms ‘Freshie’ and ‘Aff’ are usually tossed around meant as a jokey insult, but no one wants to feel different during puberty. Young people don’t realise that being different is something to be proud of and having a name with deep origins actually makes you more interesting than the average person.

We need more academics and free thinkers from Africa to tell their unique stories and share their perceptions of being African around the world. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and contradict precedent. The world needs to see the hidden treasures of the original continent and its people to better understand the ways in which we can improve our globe and interactions with each other. The potential for improvement is astounding. Grab your copy now!

Like this review? Check out my review of ‘Calling Me Home‘ by Julie Kibler.

A good book always inspires me and makes me see the world a little differently, take a look at my countdown of other books and movies that have had the same effect.

What Your Musical Taste Says About You

They say that in life you should make a point of finding your ‘tribe,’ people who share your values and interests that you can be yourself with, in order to grow into the person you were meant to be. I am a firm believer in the saying that ‘everything happens for a reason’, so I do not believe that your tribe materializes by coincidence. Some cross your path to help you in your career, some teach you tough lessons; some offer a shoulder to lean on and some serve as a happy distraction.

Music, for me, can occasionally be as magical a force as love; so it is no surprise that a passion for music is high on my list of attractive attributes when meeting new people.  How indicative is a person’s musical taste of their character and compatibility with you? How can music help to guide you as an adolescent into the informed, opinionated adult you are today? Can your choice of playlist indicate mental issues that you didn’t realise were a problem? Stay tuned.

Researchers North and Hargreaves found that musical taste functions as a ‘badge’ people use to judge others and express their individuality simultaneously. Although your musical palette offers similarities to your peers’, people make a point of finding artists and tracks that are more niche in order to claim ownership and a deeper knowledge of the genre than their friends. This separate musical identity is something that comes with maturity, in stark contrast to the need children have to fit in.

Pop music for some is a sign of conformity to the mainstream and, in some cases, an indication of someone who is not comfortable thinking for themselves. Despite the effort modern pop music has made to broach controversial topics and speak out on the big issues, if you follow the crowd you lose street cred in the eyes of academics, rebellious teens and inquisitive 20 somethings alike. The messages are deemed over-simplified and ‘cheesy’, therefore it is a genre that many people associate with childhood and grow out of.

As a child, pop music is an integral part of your socialisation at school. You feel like you are part of something when you collect all the merchandise, memorise the lyrics and experience the concerts. In the 1990’s, when I was growing up, pop music was generally PG rated in terms of lyrical content. The hooks expressed ‘girl power’ and messages about love and friendship. These days everything might as well be X-rated, even the Disney Channel stars are half naked and behaving in questionable ways. Therefore most of the new generation is alienated from the experience of live music, as they can no longer relate to it, and this to me is so very tragic.

Content regulation before the watershed seems to be a thing of the past on the radio, internet and TV. Unfortunately, whether musicians like it or not they are role models to the new generation and their words can encourage premature sexualisation and even drug abuse in some cases. Although, on the flip side, lyrics can also help a confused adolescent find their way in the world and give them a sense of solidarity in their time of need. For instance, I remember listening to pop rock and identifying with that feeling of being an outcast, which they spoke about so frequently and it made me feel more positive about my own situation. Hip hop songs also gave me that escape from the interests of my parents and teachers, allowing me to explore topics usually kept hidden from me.

Scholars Rentfrow and Gosling carried out studies to analyse the effect music has on compatibility and found that blues, jazz, classical and folk music lovers were more liberal and open-minded. The Daily Mail went a step further and claimed that heavy metal fans were found to be more rebellious with a strong sense of social awareness. So people with similar beliefs tend to gravitate towards fans of these genres.

Musical therapist, Jennifer Buchanan, observed that people who tend to listen to music from a particular time in their lives seem to have unresolved issues related to their past that they need to address in order to move on and grow. Having negative association with certain songs that remind you of troubled times is unhealthy for your mental state and the tracks need to be avoided until the issue is dealt with, as they may cause you to stay trapped in that emotion. She advises substituting them with ‘happy playlists’ that remind you of better experiences.

As I have mentioned previously, music is a powerful stimulant for memories and for this reason Jennifer has found that her dying patients find solace in their ‘musical journey’. The songs that trigger happy memories and conjure up images of you at different stages in your life can help patients find the inner peace they are waiting for before death and give the world something to remember them by. At the end of the day, no one wants to be forgotten and your musical taste is part of your identity and mark on the world. Embrace your taste and the people that reflect it and enjoy your little slice of magic.

Did you enjoy this piece? Read more about the impact music can have on your health here.

Musical compatibility may be an important attribute for your romantic relationships, but take a look at some of the other ways music has helped us in our love lives here.