Our NEXT UP series is a music discovery initiative which showcases the next big things in Afro-influenced music from across Africa and beyond! In this edition, we speak to promising Nigerian Afrofusion artiste Phaemous.
Phaemous, originally known as Amaechi Chukwuemeka Bartholomew is a budding Nigerian singer-songwriter whose genre-bending afro-fusion sound is heavily influenced by r&b and pop sensibilities.
Only recently introducing his craft to the world via his debut compilation project, an EP titled PHÆWAY Vol. 1, the gifted crooner caught up with the Unorthodox Reviews team as he spoke extensively about his musical influences, career aspirations, and his peculiar experiences as a young act on the come up in Africa’s most vibrant music industry.
1. Hello Phaemous. could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how your musical journey began?
So my name is Phaemous. I am an R&B musical artiste from Abuja, Nigeria. Originally I hail from Imo state. I am the firstborn child and the only son of two children. I schooled my whole life in Abuja and later moved to study at the University of Ghana.
It was there that I first recorded a song under the name Phaemous. It was a feature and everybody was like this sounds amazing, you should start putting music out. So for the rest of my stay in Ghana, I was always just freestyling and writing songs, never really recording then I moved back to Nigeria.
I’ll say my musical journey started when I was in the school and church choir in Nigeria but I never really recorded. It was just me learning the sounds, I was actually the leader of the bass section of the choir and later on in the year, I started going to the studio after I met Ucee and we were recording. It was then I started creating my own type of sound. My musical journey has been here and there, trying to figure out myself and look at me now.
2. How would you describe your genre of music?
I’ll say my music is obviously a fusion of Afrobeats and rhythm and blues you know soul music. It’s me blending two different sounds into one. I always call myself the R&B kid with Afro roots because that’s what I grew up listening to. I grew up listening to R&b the likes of Michael Jackson, Chris Brown. Seeing as how I’m from Africa, there’s no way I can escape inputting the Afrobeats. That’s just me. Even before I fully had a grasp of my R&B sound, I could always get that whole Afrofusion vibe. We started in class when we were beating on the tables and we were just bringing up some kind of banter sound into the picture, just having fun so I describe my music as a fusion of R&b/soul and Afrobeats.
3. What inspired your EP, PHÆWAY Vol. 1?
My EP was inspired by a bunch of stuff to be honest—the people in my life, people who inspire me, where I’m trying to be in the next couple of years. I’m trying to tour the world performing my music everywhere. I was set to put out this EP a while back but because of a lot of things happening, I had to take my time just to put out a solid debut body of work for the world to listen to. So my EP was inspired by majorly me trynna just do it and show the world that I can do it instead of just talking. I just had to do the action and put out the music.
PHÆWAY Vol. 1 is an introductory body of work to show the world what Phaemous is going to be bringing to the table.
4. Who are your biggest musical influences in Africa and beyond?
First of all, I’ll have to say Davido. Davido is a hardworking musical artiste. He’s been doing it from time.
Wizkid as well. Wizkid is an incredible artiste. That’s our daddy, our first artiste from Nigeria to attain international prominence, and he keeps doing it even to this point.
Chris Brown as well. My first actual musical influence is Michael Jackson. He’s number one in my opinion. He’s the one I opened my eyes to as a baby. I saw him doing his iconic dance moves and making incredible music. I listened to all his tapes, from “Bad” to “Invincible“.
A lot of people even those who aren’t as big inspire me but for my top 4, I’d have to give it to Davido, Wizkid, Chris Brown and Michael Jackson.
5. What’s your philosophy in life that influences your creative work?
Man, this is a tough one! My philosophy in life that inspires my creative work will have to be consistency! Just keep doing it no matter how small, no matter how big… Every little thing, every big thing is going to push you to where you’re supposed to be at, to push you to your destiny. Just never stop, never doubt yourself, never limit yourself, never feel like what you’re doing is not enough. You can always do more. It’s never going to be enough. That’s why I’d say my philosophy is consistency. Just keep doing the work, you’re gonna get there.
6. What makes you the happiest: writing music, recording or performing on stage?
This one is even tougher than the previous question lol. between writing music, recording, or performing on stage, it has to be recording. Writing is really fun..it gets tedious when I experience a creative block but I have to say it’s recording because when I get in front of the mic, sometimes I don’t even write, I just press record and once I get the melody down, the words start to come in and everything just flows. It’s just like water flowing down the ocean which is just very peaceful and it fills me up, makes me really happy.
It has to be recording for me.
7. Would you like to change anything about your music industry?
Woah! I’d like to change a whole lot of things about the music industry. First of all, I’ll like to change how the industry affects women. There’s this cliche thing about how women have to do the most just to get heard or get their sound out there. I for one would like to change that.
Secondly, the way up and coming artistes are viewed when they are trynna make it. I know it’s not easy for all the gatekeepers to help people out but then again I think there should be more platforms and more things set in place in the entertainment industry to get people heard because we all can agree that it’s very lucrative yet there are a lot of people with talent never getting heard and never following their dreams because nobody believed and they don’t have platforms to get their stuff heard. I’d like to work on that as well.
Thirdly, I envision having a “Hollywood” in Nigeria, where we have a bunch of studios and large estate lands for people to shoot major movies and music videos, have all the setups ready for production of great quality content. I’d like to get something like that set up here in Africa, here in Abuja. I want to do a whole lot to improve the music industry that I don’t even know at the moment but what I do know is It’s going to be a plus having me in the music industry.
8. What makes you stand out as an artiste?
What makes me stand out as an artiste has to be my difference in sound delivery. I know a lot of people do fusion but my diversity and my versatility and how I deliver my sounds have to be my own stand-out point for me. Objectively speaking, I know that I am capable of releasing a lot of different sounds which is still me. When you hear that sound, you know it’s Phaemous. It’s great music. I’d have to say that’s my own stand-out point. I don’t know what other people see that makes me stand out to them but personally, that’s what I feel you know my ability to do anything.
9. What do you feel is the most pertinent issue in your society and what in your opinion is a musician’s role for being a force for societal change?
The most pertinent issue in my society has to be my government. They have no regard for human life or for the masses. They only care about themselves. As a musical artiste, when I make it big I’ll definitely want to influence that and change a lot of things. Get people out of the system or help them in ways that the system failed them. There are a lot of kids on the streets, there are a lot of people who don’t have an education, who cannot even provide the basics for their family. It goes deeper than poverty and lack of shelter. It’s bigger than that for me. Our government is a major issue here in Nigeria and I’d like to influence and change that when I have the power to.
10. What’s next for Phaemous?
In my plan what I have next is a lot. I’m gonna be releasing a lot of crazy music with a lot of collaborations. I’m gonna be releasing a lot of music videos as well. I’m gonna be touring the world. I just released my debut tape so next up is putting out a bunch of already recorded singles… I’m trying to get a couple of artistes on that. I’m always recording new stuff. As we speak, I’m about to head to the studio. I’m gonna be doing a lotta background works as well. So honestly, I don’t know what the future holds for Phaemous but be rest assured, you’re gonna be seeing a lot of Phaemous. There are going to be hurdles and maybe I may fail in some aspects of my journey but I’m definitely going to be consistent with it.
Thank you guys for the interview.