On the island of Cyprus, UbuntuFM's Ikenna Okeh meets up with music producer Ayo. In this exclusive interview, Ayo gives us insight into the music business in North Cyprus and how much the local industry interacts with the globe.
Hello Ayo. It is good to have you here. I am very curious: you go by a Yoruba name. How does that come about?
My name is Ayo. Ayo means ‘happy’ in Yoruba. It is derived from my original name and pronounced the same way. I am Yoruba in heart and by choice. So, Ayo remains my original Yoruba name. You can call me Ayo Babanla.
If I had grown up in comfort, I may not have been who I am.
How is the experience with being a sound producer? I guess it is a pleasant one.
It is not that good compared to as you will have it in other countries because people here want to get things for free. They want it without any effort, and quick.
‘Free’ in what sense? They don’t want to pay for your services?
Actually, when you tell an artist here the price for producing a beat, they often ask “what is the price for? Do you put gold in the beat? You are only making a beat”. To them, it is too simple and easy to attach a price to.
So you mean the business of music production is not good in North Cyprus?
No. The business of music production is not good in North Cyprus. It is not only the business of sound production that is not good but the entire music business.
Why is it not good? Is it there are no music concerts or other avenues for music promotions and sales here?
Actually, they sell music here, but it is the foreign musician or the very famous local musicians who have the chance here. In North Cyprus, there are very little opportunities for the upcoming artist. The audience here is not open to new things.
From the perspective of our listening audience on UbuntuFM, not much is heard about North Cyprus musically. As a sound producer, you sure know a great deal about what goes on inside the music industry locally. Will you consider the North Cyprus music industry to be a healthy one? Secondly, what is the reason why our audience has never heard of music coming from North Cyprus?
In my opinion, it is as I told you, the local artists don’t put any effort to do music. They just want to listen. Even when they want to do music, they want it for free. They expect it the easy way. That is why the industry here is like a circle.
I know some local artists who can do a wonderful feature with popular Nigerian artists like Olamide, Phyno, Davido.
There is so much Turkish influence to be perceived around North Cyprus. Does it affect the local Hip-Hop culture as well?
Yes. It heavily influences the music here in North Cyprus. North Cyprus is a Turkish country, you know.
Do you infuse elements of Turkish Hip-Hop culture into your sound selections and arrangement?
No. I don’t. I do it differently.
From what is known about you from your friends, you are originally from Caucasia, born in Turkey and raised in North Cyprus. Is that accurate?
Yes. Very accurate.
I love Nigerian music. I am listening to Asa and Tinie Tempah
Is there more to your background you will want to share with us?
I am from Caucasia. In my childhood and teenage life, there were many difficult and happy times. They are part of my experiences, and they are all good. If I had grown up in comfort, I may not have been who I am.
How did you come to be a music producer? Did your experiences shape this path for you?
Since when I was a child, I fell in love with music. When listening to some music, I would say in my mind, “I don’t like this part. I wish to change it”. And I did it better in my head. So, I started changing songs a little right in my head. At some stage in my life, I challenged myself to go into making beats, and here I am.
Since when I was a child, I fell in love with music. When listening to some music, I would say in my mind, “I don’t like this part. I wish to change it”.
For how long have you been doing beats?
In this while, what particular beat do you consider to be your most favourite?
My most favourite beat I ever produced is titled ‘Pass’.
Is there a particular artist you liked working with?
I liked working with Feyk as an artist. I still do. He is a rapper from Turkey. Very great artist. You can find his tracks on YouTube: Feyk Bpm – 15 Agustos.
Hanging around you for a while, one gets to notice your love for Africa and Nigeria in particular. You know almost everything going on with music in Nigeria. How far does this love for the country and its music go?
I love Nigerian music. I am listening to Asa and Tinie Tempah. Mostly, Nigerians do Afro, although I am very much on the HipHop side.
If our people do not change their mind, they will always lose out.
Have you worked with any African or Nigerian artists?
Yes. In Cyprus here I am working with Nigerians, Zimbabweans, and Cameroonians. And I must tell you that they are doing it real.
Do you think there could be a workable collaboration between a Nigerian artist you know and some Cypriot artist?
Yes. It is very, very possible. I know some local artists who can do a wonderful feature with popular Nigerian artists like Olamide, Phyno, Davido. In fact, it is very possible.
From a producer's standpoint, how would you blend both cultures musically in such a manner that will have both artistic and commercial appeal?
Nigerians like Afro. Turkish people are very much likely to have never heard Afro before. We can blend Afro with Turkish samples. They will be nice. It will be like listening to Afropop with Turkish samples.
I would like for us to know your opinion on how to make better the present state of the HipHop industry in North Cyprus. Is there some suggestion as to the things that should be done or put in place so that the world gets to hear of more coming out of North Cyprus musically?
Mostly, I will expose the people of North Cyprus to new things as regards music and the music business. This will help open their eyes rather than confine them to the things they have known for too long.
Nigerians like Afro. Turkish people are very much likely to have never heard Afro before. We can blend Afro with Turkish samples.
Do you think the North Cyprus people don’t take advantage of digitization? For instance, there is Tizzer, a Nigerian Hip Hop artist promoting his single, ‘Turn Up’. You see it on many North Cyprus blogs and on social media groups. You do not see the same being done by local artists. Why is that so?
I explained it before. If our people do not change their mind, they will always lose out. They want only famous people. In Cyprus there are many Nigerians artists working hard and they are not getting the level of acceptance that should rightfully be expected. This is so because they are not famous. If it were Davido, for instance, they will accept him more.
At the moment, what projects are you working on?
For now, I am working with some Nigerian artists here and Zimbabweans and Cameroonians. We are all in this together. We support each other in doing something good for ourselves as regards music.
We are UbuntuFM, and we have a growing audience majorly spanning across four continents, including Africa. Do you have any word for them before we wrap up this interview?
Yes. They should keep doing the good work of listening to good music on UbuntuFM, and they should work hard at what they do because no one has ever changed the world by doing exactly what the world tells them to do.
I am working with some Nigerian artists here and Zimbabweans and Cameroonians.
Thank you, Ayo. It has been a most insightful and pleasant moment with you. We wish the best for you in your musical achievement. Thank you.
Thank you, Ikenna, and thank you, UbuntuFM. I so appreciate your time and effort.