A look at the journey through and to #StarkTheAlbum
– Titilope Adesanya
When one hears the word stark, most think bare. The first two results from google search for Stark is “severe or bare in appearance or outline” And “complete; sheer”
Bemyoda however sees this slightly differently; “I’ve had to answer the same questions many times over. What does Stark represent? Why Stark? Is the music bare? Or intense? Or dark? Yes, it is. And no, it isn’t. Stark is about hope and conflict, about life’s twists and turns, renegade men rising to challenge status quo in a failed system, about man’s need for God, about war, and about growth. Yes, Stark is intense. And spiritual” he writes on an Instagram post .
Stark is not this artsy Nigerian’s first body of work. Bemyoda re-released ‘Sketch: The Reprise – EP’ in 2015 which features a couple of singles like Shima Yam and Faded Grace.
Leading up to the official release of Stark worldwide, Bemyoda and his team took creatively strategic steps to share this work with people in as many different ways as possible and so Stark The Exhibition was born.
“The Stark exhibition was an innovative album listening experience conceived to add an additional layer of storytelling to the Stark album. The multimedia exhibition sought to create a richer album listening experience than usual by adding a strong visual element. Photos shot in black and white were displayed alongside song lyrics. Guests each had headphones provided by Silent Disco Lagos via which they could listen to some songs from the album, while seeking out their corresponding images.“
The exhibition hosted by the Red Door Art Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos ran from May 27 – 29, attracting well over 200 music industry influencers and super fans including renowned photographer, TY Bello, Chocolate City CEO, MI Abaga, Ade Bantu, Actor OC Ukeje and a host of others.
A little Chat with Bemyoda
Now, this is not the typical question and answer session you might be used to.
We asked that he sends recorded answers as this is mostly easier and gives us more depth. However while transcribing we realized there would be no greater way for you to get to know the artist and his artworks better than listening to him tell you about it.
So here goes, you can read his responses or listen to them.
Titi: Why Stark?
Bemyoda: Stark because of the things that I write about. Stark speaks to me of nakedness and vulnerability . SO the things I write about come from a venerable place. Saying things as I see them, I do not try to hide from the issues, that’s why it is called Stark.
T: Do you know exactly how long you have worked on this project? From the very first idea that eventually led us here.
B: I wrote complicated in 2012 so basically that’s when it started.
I didn’t know what it was going to be when I started, I was just recording and putting things together. From Nigeria to Nashville to Cleveland back to Nashville and then here we are. So I would say about 4- 5 years to put everything together.
T: It’s clear to anyone who knows even a fraction of the Nigerian (The west African or perhaps even more broadly the African) musical landscape that music like yours are certainly not commercially popular, does this ever bother you?
B: There are times I wish more people got it, that I had a bigger audience, but my focus has never being about Nigeria only. I am open to being where my music is appreciated. I also am not driven just by commercial success and understanding that for me makes it easier to manage my expectation.
T: Who would be your ideal audience for this?
B: I think my audience is any one who appreciates and understands my music, I have been told to move to Europe because ‘they get stuff like this, stuff like this will do well there’, they are not wrong but there are also people in this part of the world who get this style of music, even though it’s harder to find them.
I guess eventually the right audience will show themselves.
T: Let’s talk about Stark The Exhibition; the concept till the execution and the feedback from that?
B: Let me start by saying I am a story teller. I don’t consider myself an entertainer and each of the songs on the album is a product of a story and I figured that it would be nice to get people to see the images that expressed the stories told in the music.
I wanted to prompt people’s mind and not just have a standard listening session. I wanted to create something immersive.
It was a beautiful experience to witness, people saw themselves in the stories and for me that made it effective as I didn’t have to explain much. For some it was so powerful they even had to shed tears.
The feedback has been great and we are looking at taking it to more cities around the world if possible.
T: It seems rather guaranteed that you have very deep roots in the arts. Would that thinking be right?
B: I would say I was born creative. I used to draw growing up and my dad who was in a choir used to teach my sister and I songs which we would sing a lot. I used to write a lot, still do.
I had loved photography for a long time also growing up but funny enough I only got a camera like 2 years ago.
All in all I feel like I was raised to be creative and I held on to that.
T: Who came up with the concept of the video of I Told you?
B: I know an amazing cinematographer called Mohammed Atah and it was all his idea.
Funny story, we went out to shoot little clips to promote the album on Instagram, but we ended up just shooting for ‘I Told You’ instead.
There was no prior conversation or discussing the concept in relation to the song. It just happened.
T: On the production, how much artistic input / influence did you have on this technical side of things?
B: Quite a lot, basically on all the songs. I played & wrote to the guitar on Burn, Child Come, The Other side of fear, The way it is, and Long way from home.
So yes the producers did a lot of the work, putting the sounds together and all that, they pretty much built around the sounds I had already created and we worked together, going back and forth until we were all happy.
So it wasn’t left for the producers to just come up with something.
T: Loads of artists claim to write from personal experience. Are any of the songs from Stark a complete reflection of your experience?
B: Expressing personal experience is different for everyone. I think we have a connection if your recollection of your experience mirrors something that I experienced.
They are all mostly my experiences, with family, with my country and with myself. For example the other side of fear I wrote after I quite my 9-5. That was a scary experience and the song was about that, overcoming that fear; going all in and trying to walk on water.
So all the songs do have a part of me.
T: Perhaps basic, but one I find quite important. What do you hope to achieve with Stark? I see it’s not just an album; it seems to have a larger life than that. What’s your plan? Or your hope?
B: On some level I pray and hope that God finds a way to reach people as they listen to Stark. That they see themselves in the words and it gets them to the level where they have to face things head on.
I hope that by listening to Stark someone realises that there are times when we have to sit with a difficult situation and deal with it. I hope that it sparks conversations and gets people out of their comfort zone.
We are also looking at shooting something different for ‘Child Come’ – which was inspired by the killing of children in the North of Nigeria. So as opposed to a regular music video, this would be a documentary of displaced children and the track as the sound track.
……That’s about it.
You are very likely to think to yourself after listening to ‘Stark‘ that Bemyoda is a perfect movie score material, well you wouldn’t be wrong. He stars in highly rated latest Nollywood production ‘Isoken’ as himself where he performed ‘Renegade Soldier’; one of the tracks on Stark.
The movie was screened in London and Lagos and was released in theaters across Africa in June.