Name: Bisola Olungbenga aka Aunty Rayzor
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Recent event: Aunty Rayzor is one of the artists performing at the Nyege Nyege festival. Widely recognised as Africa’s most adventurous festival, it takes place at the shores of the Nile in Uganda, on a new site at the majestic Itanda Falls. More than 300 performers will be spread across 7 stages, with a special focus towards new hybrid sounds from the Diaspora, music from the Caribbean and the most exciting acts in Africa. Click here for tickets.
Recommendations: Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil and The art of War by Sun Tsu.
If you enjoyed this interview with Aunty Razor and would like to find out more about her work, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing at a very young age, I was about 9.
My greatest influence was my mom. She writes every day and accompanies herself on the piano. Sometimes she asks us to back up the songs after we've finished school and the best writter gets a chocolate candy .Each time she would increase the tasks and ask us to write choruses, verses sometimes hooks and the reward increased, depending on how difficult the task was.
So one day I sang at my school party and everyone was wowed - from the grumpy school principal to the school bullies. It was then that I realised I could sing and I took it from there.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
When I listen to music, I feel free, liberated because music allows me to let out repressed emotions and unconscious desires. Its like having wings that allow me to fly freely for a while.
I feel like a bird soaring high into the stars: The deeper the inspiration, the higher I fly.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
It was not an easy task. In fact, it was the toughest stage on my journey as an artist, I had to go from being the loud ghetto artist to this classy versatile artist.
Most times I would wear myself out on stage because of the really high pitch in my voice that makes my flows a little difficult to deliver and makes me very tired after the performances. I had to listen to my co-artists and go back into the studio to practice more voice control and finally choose my own sound instead of just burning myself out on stage.
People always say I have too much energy so I try my best possible to use it properly.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Hmmm. Some people see me as a gangster and some see me as this sexy, seductive rapper. It depends on my mood but I see myself as an idea - I let my identity match my stage name.
Like razor, a sharp knife that is quite small but can really cut deep. I have a calm appearance but the moment I pick up the microphone I become the opposite and it usually leaves people with shocked looks on their faces.
My pen is my razor and the razor is me.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I draw inspiration from other artists like my sister. She writes a lot and I am always curious about the next thing she wants to write. She can go really deep and she encourages me to express myself without restraint.
I also draw inspiration from events, people, places and histories. It just comes naturally as words and I make it sound meaningful.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I would say I am very innovative and I like to experiment as well. And yes, I am interested in music of the future. In fact I am curious! But I am more interested in continuing a tradition because the true originality in music continues to degenerate with time.
Music is poetry but these days it doesn't really matter. People don't really use so much efforts and scrutiny to make music these days.
Rich music is rare, so I think essential traditional music should be passed down to keep the originality alive.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
My most important instrument is the piano. I don't play much but it helped me figure out a lot of stuff, especially my vocals.
I spent a lot of time in the studio just to have access to professional producers who are willing to practice with me and critically examine my vocals. It is possible to do that outside of the studio but it is really important to have all musical equipment available and an audience to guide you.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I'm nocturnal so I perform my most important tasks at night, from writing lyrics to recording songs. In the day I'm just me, a simple woman, working 9 to 5, hanging out with friends, spending time with families.
But when the sun goes down, I am Rayzor the Rapper.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
It's a bit difficult to describe my creative process because it's more a matter of inspiration than any conscious planning. MY music is real, it speaks of real events and real people.
I really love Bob marley's "Natural Mystic" from the album Exodus.
It speaks of real people, and real events even though it remains vague. But he performs the song with lots of intensity and emotions which is exactly what I like to do.
A song that is a little bit mysterious leaves people with lots of questions and itleaves the rest to their imagination.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I'll rather listen to music with friends and create music alone.
Listening to music or examining a piece alone can make me overly critical. I might not listen with an open mind so I like to do it with others. Creating music, on the other hand, does the opposite: Creating music with people can make the music come out a bit too playfull and shallow, so I like to do that alone.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
The role of music is to entertain, comfort, teach and also pass messages from generation to generation. It can take you on a journey and you can feel like you are experiencing other people's feelings.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I said a few things about that earlier. It's about how they project those feelings through music.
You can not write a sad song and laugh in between choruses. It's something that is not just heard but felt, through mood, voice and expression.
It has made me learn about a lot of things before getting the chance to experience them.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I think music has a lot of mathematical structure as well and there's a lot of science behind the music we're enjoying. Both science and music use “formulas” and “theories” to solve problems and to explore the intangible mysteries of life.
I think "science is the music of the intellect" "and “music is the science of the art".
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Wooww, this is a bit tough. I think it is different because music brings clarity and relief. It's like a therapy on its own.
Music allows me to express my innermost desires and allows me to accept myself for who I am. Mundane tasks can not do that.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Generally, I think our Iife is an instrumental. Everyone dances to their own beats and everybody has a message.
It's up to the listener to determine how he/she want to translate that message and what he/she wants to do with it.