Success for me aren’t the toys and awards – Kaze
Doug Kaze is an afro-soul singer and songwriter who has released two albums, ‘Doug Kaze’ and ‘Paradigm Shift’. Here, he talks about what music means to him, his musical journey, his two albums and more.
Weekend Magazine: How will you describe your kind of music? I call my music afro-soul or afrofolk. WM: What influenced your choice of genre?
My music is actually a body of diverse influences. I grew up paying attention to different kinds of music, each of which has eventually found a way into my genre. As a child, the normal sounds were those of Bob Marley and other reggae artists from my father’s cassette player. When I started secondary school at St. Murumba in Jos, I discovered the world of hip-hop and fell in love with the sound. I later also paid attention to R&B and soul, followed by rock music. At each turn I was obsessed with the genre of the moment. So, my music combines elements from these genres with local Northern Nigerian folk sounds.
WM: It’s said many Nigerians like songs they can dance to. Do you think yours can be danced to?
It’s true that a lot of Nigerians love to dance. It’s also true that there are many Nigerians who prefer to listen and think, or who would dance and still find time for lyrically-driven music. Maybe this music issues out of my temperament and my love for poetry. My best experience of music comes from music that drives me to listen rather than dance and I hardly ever consider myself a dancer. So while I don’t throw away the power of rhythm on the human body and the beauty of dance, I try to make music that would speak more through its words, and hopefully make someone tap their feet or shake their head in the process. But, I do think my music can be danced to.
WM: You have released three singles; ‘No Season’, ‘River’ and ‘Hard Words’. They seemed somewhat philosophical, if one can put it that way. What message were you trying to pass across?
The three songs, which are actually from my debut album, speak about different ideas. ‘No Season’ is about commitment in love. ‘River’ speaks of a desire to become more aware of those who struggle through life and the need to be a channel of love towards them. ‘Hard Words’ voices the heart of a person who is consciously choosing forgiveness over vengeance in the face of adversity.
WM: How did your journey as a singer begin?
For as long as I can remember, music has always been my dream. I started toying with songwriting as a child in primary school. I would sing them only to myself, though, because I was very shy. My songwriting started taking shape when I started secondary school. I wrote many songs during those years and started a group with my friends when I was twelve. The group never worked. After secondary school, I became active in my local church youth band. There I learnt to sing better and to play instruments. My early days in music were quite challenging as my parents never thought my love for music was something serious. I would trek to distant places within the city of Jos, looking for learning opportunities.
WM: How do you draw inspiration for your songs?
Inspiration, for me, comes in different ways. A song can come in a quiet moment or when I’m reading something or even in the middle of a conversation. Sometimes, a word can spark up a song idea. Other times, fooling around on the guitar can inspire a song. There are yet times that I set out to address issues that I find disturbing in society and begin to work out lyrics and melodies.
WM: Let’s talk about your first album…
My first album, self-titled as ‘Doug Kazé’, was actually released in 2014. My second album, ‘Paradigm Shift’, followed in 2016. The first was my attempt at solo work. My vision for the album was to introduce my sound, the fusions of soul and local sounds, and to address issues such as human trafficking and other social problems. The second album was intended to build on the first one thematically, advance in terms of the music itself and work out a more acoustic-based collection.
WM: What challenges have you faced so far as an upcoming musician?
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I hardly think of myself as ‘upcoming’ since I’ve been in this thing almost all my life. This doesn’t mean I think of myself as having ‘arrived’. And arrival for me isn’t the toys and the awards, but being able to make my art more competent and finding more fulfilment. So I think of myself as an artist who is already living the dream of making my art, yet with a lot of space for growth. I may not be famous, but I do make and perform my art, perhaps in a different way than others who are signed to established record labels. Also, there are people who believe in what I do. The challenge with being an independent artist means you have to be both the artist and the label, handling both the art and the business. It’s not been easy, but it’s fun.
WM: What was your first outing as a singer like?
It was in secondary school. The first time I stood before an audience to perform was during what we used to call Performance Workshop, a part of our music programme. Although I’d already written tons of songs by this time, I was literally forced and threatened by my classmates to the stage because i was too scared to stand before people. But I did it. The bigger one was at a Mr Poly show in Jos in the mid 90s. Again, I was scared but I did it. It became easier with time.
WM: This question may sound a bit strange, but why do you sing?
I sing because I was created to sing. I believe so deeply. I remember feeling low and deciding I’d leave music after what i thought was a poor performance somewhere in South Africa. But the following day caught me working at my music. Moreover, I don’t remember the particular time I fell in love with music. It has always been there since my childhood. Not to sing is not to be me.
WM: What are you usually up to when you aren’t singing?
I do a lot of things. I write poetry and fiction. At the moment, though, I give most of my time to completing my postgraduate research work.
‘Fooling around with the guitar inspires me.’
Kaze: ‘At the risk of sounding arrogant, I hardly think of myself as ‘upcoming’ since I’ve been in this thing almost all my life’