In conversation with Boddhi Satva
Talking about his “TRANSITION” album, staying relevant, being strategic, open minded, humble and getting paid. (Interviewed by Kengo)
Last August saw Boddhi Satva return to the UK to play an exclusive set with 4 to the Floor. This April saw the first “We Are Ancestral” in London and this coming week, we will see Boddhi Satva co-headline BBE x 4 to the Floor event alongside Osunlade. We had a chance to sit down and speak to him after our last gig.
How does your music bridge the gap between “house music” and “African music”
I believe by simply incorporating the African Elements that works the best with electronic music but not only. You see, it’s interesting to see that I have people from all over the world who don’t necessarily listen to House Music that actually relate to what I do because of the label I gave my sound, Ancestral Soul. House Music tends to be a word that somehow “scare” a lot of people, because they’ve gotten exposed to anything but what we may call House Music. With that being said I try to put in as much of my influences from Hip-Hop, to African Traditional and Modern Music, to Soul, Funk etc… So that it can be as appealing as possible to a wider audience
Yes. This last album was a tribute to my father, and although he loved my music, he asked me to make my music a bit more accessible to people. He said “you will not be able to make a living from art if you don’t allow people to understand the complexity of your music by simplifying the formula for them.” So even if some may consider “Transition” to be more commercial than anything I’ve ever done, I completely embrace that because that was the whole purpose of this album. In fact that has always been the purpose in me making music: bridging the gap between the underground and the mainstream. Working with the likes of Davido, Dj Arafat, Kaysha, Nelson Freitas, Les Nubians, Karun, Pegguy Tabu and more has been a true blessing. Sounds are evolving, so one must always be open to progress.
I get that with ancestral soul – in how people got introduced to your music through your Ancestral Soul Interpretations.
It’s true. ASI 1, 2 & 3 have helped expose my work a very global audience. Because of these remixes people started looking into Boddhi Satva and dig deeper into my music. I also gotta give thanks not only to my team at the time, but also the Dancers community worldwide for embracing my music and helping spread that Ancestral Soul sound.
With Ancestral Soul Interpretations there are artists from the popular American canon and with Transitions the collaborations are much more distinctly African. Is your identity as an artist shifting?
Sincerely I’ve always been very versatile and opened to different sounds. But one must give time to time in order to see things manifest when ready. I’m just trying to create music and hopefully those who’ve supported me since day one or the new fans will be able to keep up and still appreciate what I have to offer musically. For example I’ve just released a song I’ve done with Bilal untitled “Love Will” and the original version may not be the typical sound my fans may be used to, but I’m all about pushing my musical envelope.
He’s a very left field artist that’s always pushing boundaries
Exactly, and this collabo with him is like a true dream coming to life. He understands music so amazingly that how he laid his voice on the track truly elevates the song to a different realm. And maybe not everyone may like it, but I love a lot of different genres of music and I want that to be felt in my productions. Now will it confuse people, maybe yes, but this is who I am, I’m not going to change my progress or adapt it so that it suits a certain box where people feel comfortable putting me in.
Tonight you took it from rumba, dancehall, to even trap and hip hop – all different genres and tempos but it made complete sense to me in your delivery and interaction with the crowd. That’s something I really appreciate as someone who can get bored listening to house music all night.
The thing is if I’m playing just for the heads, I’m like yeah I’ll do a House set all night. But isn’t the point of playing music sharing? And giving people a great time? And making sure that the bar of the club is functioning? So that the owner/promoter will be like, come and do another event with us because the night was a success. I understand those DJs who come with their own formulas, and impose those formulas – it’s fine because it works for them, and it works in certain scenes. That deep techy scene, you can come with your formula and you can impose it and people will be open to it – because that’s what they want to hear. But in my case, I get to play for different scenes and audiences and this kinda gives me opportunity to really show my musical palette. From real underground parties to super mainstream venues I’m able to deliver my musical experience without compromising too too much. I couldn’t play that EDM sound for example; it’s just beyond my strength. Now when you play such different venues and scenes, some fans will say “Hey you didn’t play this tune or that tune” but you can’t satisfy everyone.
This is interesting because before you were well known as Boddhi Satva the producer and DJ, it sounds like you did those smaller bars and clubs to pay the way.
Man, I did all those – I was playing for 50 euros every Wednesdays in Brussels – in a club called “Le Cercle”, and it was a friend of my brother who gave me the opportunity – it didn’t last too long as I was really stubborn to play my own stuff and they wanted me to play commercial and other cheesy music, that wasn’t me. I really had that determination to do my own thing and whether you liked it or not that didn’t matter to me. Besides being stubborn I believe that those step by step progresses keep you humble and appreciate the importance of patience and resilience. I don’t want to stray away from the original core fans just because I have the opportunity to be making more money. So you guys bringing me is an honor as it shows me that as my peers you understand what I’m doing.
You’ve worked with some of the greats in house music including Louie Vega – was there something you felt you could bring to the music that has already such an established sound?
Yes, to answer that question. I did feel that there was something missing – not that I had the audacity to think that I could single handedly bring about that change, but I wanted to bring my contribution in pushing the genre and it’s envelope. Louie Vega, Kenny Dope. Chez Damier Ron Trent, Alton Miller, Theo Parrish, Osunlade… you name them, they have paved for us an amazing way and, It is our duty and responsibility to step up and just deliver.
Picasso said that good artists copy but great artists steal. What do you think of that?
It’s probably true because I was inspired by others to create my music and funny enough, I was having this conversation a few days ago: “Do I own what I do?” Truth is no one really owns anything and the moment you put anything out there to the world, you do no longer own the impact it has on people. And that can be scary and providing discomfort to some. But personally I want to make sure that whatever I leave behind me is taken by others and emulated and transformed and taken to the next level. What’s the point of dying with what you have created? It’s like hoping that you’re going to be buried with all your wealth.
In the UK, underground dance music for me changed with broken beat, and then again when the more afro flavours started coming in with triplets and sextuplets – it was definitely revolutionary in that it influenced the way that people danced so when that “ancestral” sound came in it was definitely something that made a deep impression as big as when I heard broken beat.
I’ve always loved broken beat. It gives me a buzz when I hear that deep bass and syncopated rhythms – Kaidi Tatham, Mark Force, all these guys. These guys have created something that has inspired all of us. The only other thing I always say is that you always need to know your history. Don’t just know Boddhi Satva, Djeff Afrozilla, Black Coffee, Culoe de Song etc… We are just the result of a strong and rich history to which indeed we recently contributed, but one must know the history and this is addressed mostly to my young aspiring producers, who are doing really good music but really need to open their creative palette. Knowledge of your art and openness will allow you to build a stronger sound. I mean why do you think Dr Dre is still hot in his sixties??? He’s very much in touch with what’s happening and still does what he’s known to do best for all this years.
Apparently he has a team of young producers producing for him??
Well if he does, I believe it shows that he’s smart and through those producers bringing fresh sounds to the plate, he touches more people. But between you and I, quite sincerely he has nothing more to prove when it comes to production and success.
Boddhi Satva will be playing alongside Osunlade on 22nd April 2017 at Kamio, Shoreditch. Get your tickets from RA here before they go