Bezhiwa Idakula, popularly known as Bez, has carved a beautiful niche in the Alternative Soul industry in Nigeria. With songs like Stupid Song, Zuciya Daya, There’s a Fire and You Suppose know, Bez been able to pull huge support from a very specific target audience. This is apparent in the type of crowd he constantly pulls to his Bez Live concerts. The best part about his music for most fans is the raw, organic nature. Vocals, instruments and sounds always sync to make amazing music. It is for lovers of good music.
Bez released his debut studio album, Super Sun, in 2011. He went on to release a second album, Gbagyi Child, in 2016. These albums portrayed the excellence that is Bez’s music. If you have ever watched him perform live, then you know he brings it like a rockstar every time. The attention to detail is top notch.
On Saturday, 13th April 2019, Plat4om had a chat with Bez about what was coming. Apparently, the talented artiste has been putting in a lot of work. He spoke on a new album getting released in June 2019. He has been silently working on this album and intends to hit us with a compilation of great music without any warning. Any other information about this album is in the wraps until later. The plan is for his fans not to see this one coming. About the new album, Bez says, “I think it will be one of my most impactful albums.” But that’s not all! He intends to continue working on another album by January 2020.
Apart from working on releasing this new album, Bez has been doing shows. He will be in Kenya next month for an event. He is now the founder of a new startup called Rtist Hub. According to Bez, “Rtist Hub is a creative hub built to help young music artistes build a sustainable and economically viable career.” He explained that they will help artistes achieve their goals through “programmes that will directly solve the problems that creatives face.” These programmes include “sound lighting camps, workshops on publishing and music business, and a lot on live music performances,” he explained.
On why he decided to give back to the music community in this way, Bez says that this came from a realisation that a lot of people were yearning for great performances “and there are a lot of artistes who are very talented that are not able to give great performances.” “There are so many people around me that have asked me to mentor them. I also see a lot of artistes around me who do not know how to start or create a path for themselves,” he added.
Bez explained that many things happen in the business and the tech worlds where investors help startups to grow through incubation. He thinks this same process that helped people in these other careers to grow companies and achieve their goals can be incorporated into this new initiative. He says the idea is to achieve the same results “using tech methodology and also startup methodology to create something similar and help artistes grow.”
At this point, Bez says they are yet to have a perfect business model to help the startup be sustainable. But he thinks the trick is to start first and they can learn as they grow on the new project. He says, “By the time we start and start moving forward, we would fill our way through and find a solution for both the artiste, us and to create sustainability for everyone.”
Music and technology
On incorporating music into technology, Bez says, “For a very long time now, the only way to produce is by using Digital Audio Workstations software, and that is technology in itself.” He discovered that to make performances and sound recordings better, there is a need to “utilise technology to make sure that it comes out the best way.” “There is more great technology coming. How do we utilise these to help [artistes] perform better and to help us present the music better to people?”
It is also important to know “how to solve the problems that musicians are facing in Africa and in Nigeria with technology.” “So, we are talking about how we create platforms for distribution. Do we create an app that distributes music to radios as oppose to artistes making the rounds to radio stations for promotion?” There is also a need for lighting tech people and great sound engineers who will help with creating better performance experiences. It is also great for performers to use technology, like the Ableton Live software, to perform. He adds that “Rtist Hub is trying to make sure that we use all these tools, to make us stand out.”
Bez explains that the “vision is to make sure that we are on par with our international contemporaries.” The incubation programme for Rtist Hub is to begin in June 2019 with six artistes. The plan is to concentrate on the artistes for six months. They can be singers, rappers, musicians and the likes. They will build them up and prep them to be better performers. Bez also says they intend to learn from them during the programmes. This is because there might be artistes with specific needs that have not been catered to during the course.
On the future of Rtist Hub, Bez says he sees them “churning out artistes that are not only doing amazing things and bringing out mind blowing content, but also people who are very concerned about helping other people in their communities.”
He says one of the questions potential participants will be asked is, “If when you succeed, are you willing to also help the younger generation of musicians?” The Super Sun crooner adds that he sees “Rtist Hub growing to become an arena where we can have mind-blowing concerts, festivals and events.” He also sees the startup growing across the continent to help African artistes.
“Many [people] feel like African artistes are not as great as European or American artistes, but no, they are. They are amazing when they go there. Sometimes, they even perform better. But we find out that we don’t have the kind of structure or platform that they have or the kind of tools that they have. So why don’t we create our own platforms and arenas and get the world to come to us.”
For artistes to join the Rtist Hub, because it is free, participants need to show commitment by already having a following and have time to spare from June to December. They also need to be able to play an instrument and play live. They would need to have the community at the back of their minds too.
Highs and lows
The biggest challenge so far in Idakula’s career is “dealing with an industry that is mediocre.”
“I remember my last album, Gbagyi Child. I went to my village and I recorded local drummers because I needed a genuine, organic, rich sound. The rest of the recordings were then done in American because of the level of excellence we could find in America because people there take their crafts extremely seriously.”
“My biggest challenge was contending with mediocrity, after creating such a body of work and coming to perform it here and not having the best sound people to recreate the work and sometimes it might come out sounding funny.”
After putting together the Bez live shows, he learned that the major problem was dealing with technical people who were unable to work on his level of expertise. He said, “I think I have amazing ideas with my team, we’ve travelled and we’ve also watched what’s going on YouTube. We see the level of concerts and shows that are put out everywhere in the world.” He wonders why we find it so hard to put up such content here. He also thinks anywhere he performs in the world, it would be amazing, even in Nigeria, but more production value can be gotten. The plan is to solve this problem with Rtist Hub and build a team that can execute world-class production in Nigeria.
Bez says the highlight for him so far has been the Bez Live concerts. He said,
“Even with the challenges, we were able to create a show and get people to love it. We were able to create our own kind of show. We were also able to create a movement. When we started Bez Live in 2016, we were the only other people who were doing shows every year. After, Bez Live, the next year everybody was doing a show. It was like so Bez can do a show, let’s put one together too. We did Lagos in December and Abuja in February, and they were all packed.”
Bez ended by saying “I see myself as a pioneer and its something I am very happy about.”