The music industry in Nigeria is slowly embracing genres outside the dominant pop sound and of one those who is responsible for this is the African Gentleman, Ric Hassani.
The Port-Harcourt born artist has been on the scene barely two years and already, he is making out his own path and carving a niche for his sound.
Ric Hassani, who also runs his own independent platform, Riverland Records, released his debut album, African Gentleman in 2017, initiating a journey that is taking him to several stages on the continent.
The singer recently stopped by the Pulse office, where he spoke about his album, dream collaborations and how being versatile as an artist is a mere misconception.
He speaks on the impact of his album, African Gentleman
”All I knew was I just had to create the album, it is the album that is showing me its purpose.” He says.
He explains why he has not been able to release more videos to promote the album, ”First of all, I am an independent artist, which is not an excuse.
Being an independent artist is not a setback, but it is a different kind of timetable for people like us, we don’t have all the large budget, the large network and the marketing teams, we don’t have all of these at the same time, unlike these big labels.
We have to wait for it to click, but we are definitely working on more videos.
The major challenge as an independent artist is making plans, it is a little more complex because when you are an indie, it means you are the CEO, the artist, the manager, the investor rolled in one, so it is a lot more complex to deal with.”
On Alternative music in Nigeria
Contrary to what many think, Ric insists that the genre is appreciated in the country.
”It is definitely appreciated, I feel like people mistake appreciation for numbers… We have the audience that appreciates and understand us, even if it is five people, we have our five people, Wizkid has his own audience who appreciate his own kind of music, it just happens to be six billion people.
The thing is to find where your appreciation is, go there and stay there, and keep trying to multiply.
For me who has been growing organically, I just push out a song and if one person likes it somewhere, I make sure I go there, push it more, and that is how I have been doing it.
If I get as small as a tweet from Mauritius, the next day I am there, talking to the top ten DJ’s and pushing my song, it is a lot of hard work, but for me it is genuine, it is organic and it pays off in the long run.” he stated.
He goes further to speak on the importance of numbers
”There is this thing my Mum said, There was a time we did a show in Lagos in December, I put it on my WhatsApp, my mum is on my WhatsApp, then I put up the flier, the ticket was 1k.
She called me and she was very angry, like you are doing a show and your ticket is 1k, why? and I explained to her that I am not yet blown, so she said, I should think about it this way, ”If the ticket is 1k, for me to get 10k, ten people have to come, and I perform live, I still have to pay my band, I have to pay for lights, but if I get two people to pay 5k each, just two people, but I am getting 10k, paying less for logistics.
So it depends at the end of the day, build your music so ten people can pay 1k each, or be able to command a show where 2 people can pay 5K.”
On his parents accepting his music
”Initially it was horrible, my mum is a professor, my dad is a professor, my sister is a professor, two of my siblings are lecturers.
The funny thing is since I was a kid, all of us have been in the classical choir, but because our family was so academic, we didn’t see music as something we could actually do, music has always been part of us.
They didn’t just approve, they didn’t understand it… so I had to find myself and then explain it to them, so now they have fully come around and they are fully involved in my business.”
He shared his experinces as a new artist
”It has been good, it has been exciting, there have been a lot of mistakes, but if you love what you do so much, you will love the mistakes.
I feel like we new artists, because we are just coming into the industry and we see a lot of people that have blown, we begin to want to do it like others are doing it.
But the thing is nobody else is doing it as you are doing it. We, new artists don’t trust our self as much, sometimes I still get that temptation to do it like others are doing, so my message is to always do what you can do and don’t bother about those things you can’t do.”
On accusations that alternative artists lack versatility
”I feel like it is a huge misconception, I feel like versatility in this day and age is wrong, You should not be versatile, if you know how to do one thing, keep doing that one thing and just focus on making it better.
If you look at all the greatest artist right now, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, all their songs sound the same way, Adele dresses almost the same way, that is what it is supposed to be, true greatness is being fixated on one thing, versatility is wrong and a huge misconception.” he disclosed.
He speaks on his dream collaborations
”Every night, I always dream of me and Wizkid, so yeah, I am a huge fan of Wizkid and I would like to do a song with him.
I will like to work with Patoranking and Lil Kesh. He lists Styl Plus alongside Paul Play, P Square and the late OJB as his all-time inspiration.” he concludes.
As the interview came to an end, Ric Hassani chose the song, ‘Police’ as his favourite off the African Gentleman album, which he says it took him three months to put together.