Reconnecting to intrinsic culture with REMI


Emma Hardy: How would you describe your connection with your culture?
I guess I’d have to say loose. My connection to language, the land, the people—it’s loose. I’m much more connected to family, like the Nigerian cats I grew up with through my pops. But as far as my connection to the birthplace of my dad, it’s very separated. I’ve only been there one time. I can’t speak Yoruba. I definitely feel it; there’s stuff you can’t explain, certain music that you may like, things you’re drawn to, ways you may act. All of a sudden, that’s something Nigerian that’s just buried. But that’s as close as I get.

EH: It’s said that music influences culture and culture influences music. Do you think that your work as an artist plays into that dynamic?
R: It’s really hard to say. If it does play into that, I think it’s subconscious and intergenerational for sure. I definitely gravitate towards trying to find as much Yoruba music as possible, listening to that, hearing what people like Fela Kuti may have heard when they were coming up. But my family influences my music more than culture really does. Hopefully that’s something that will change as I grow. I hope to reconnect with it more for sure. At this point in time I think it’s my immediate community, my family and my environment that inspires what comes out.

If we really want anything to change, we need to come together.

EH: It sounds like there’s some longing and uncertainty there.
R: Definitely. At school I was the only black kid there until my little brother rocked up. My suburb wasn’t super white-washed or anything, but it definitely wasn’t African. So it wasn’t until the last few years that I started hanging out with more African fam who’ve been going through exactly the same shit as me, and on top of that might even have answers. Having that family around you makes you want to be more involved in that ‘other’ part of you. I’m mixed-race, so it’s definitely that ‘other’ part. I know plenty about the past 200 years of my mother’s ancestry, but I don’t know shit about my pops’.

EH: Now that you’ve got a platform and so many different people are listening to your music, is there anything you aspire to do or aspire to change?
R: If we really want anything to change, we need to come together. I want to create platforms for as many different people and have as many different voices and perspectives out there as possible. So many people feel like they don’t deserve to be heard.

We have a really predictable narrative in the media. We need more diversity. The more faces we have, the more colour, more vibrance, more knowledge, more everything—we need that. We’re too blissfully ignorant. We don’t feel like we need to educate ourselves. We need to learn more, that way we can make and take criticism. We have too many ignorant people saying things who can’t be told when they’re wrong. The more and more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know shit. Once we get to that point, maybe we’ll be able to grow as people and be able to celebrate our culture a little bit more.