Music Needs No Visa

Still taken from Blinky Bill’s ‘ATIE’ video

OneBeat 2013 Fellow Blinky Bill (also known as Bill Sellanga) is a Kenyan producer, songwriter and member of the trailblazing collective Just a Band. We asked him to look back on his musical inspiration and experience at OneBeat 2013, as part of our upcoming OneBeat Zine.

 

“Growing up, my diet was a disparate musical cocktail made up from the Congolese Lingala music listened to by my father and my mother’s predilection for gospel music of any kinds. My siblings and I ingested this, yet we yearned for more. We took to stealing my father’s radio from behind his locked bedroom door so that we could listen to pop music over the airwaves: a mix of Michael Jackson and American Top 40 alongside funky African musicians like Chicco and San Fan Thomas.

Cameroonian pop star San Fan Thomas

I graduated from the OneBeat Class of 2013 and it’s been one of the highlights of my musical journey so far. See, I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, but had for some reason I’ve always had the desire to reach an audience wider than my country’s borders. The self-discovery that I experienced during OneBeat filled me the self-belief to go forth and make my best music yet, collaborating with many gifted artists from around the globe. However, the world operates off an undeniable hierarchy of ideas, giving priority to musical ideas from the US, UK and Europe, rarely with an emphasis on Africa. 

Blinky Bill hard at work in his home studio

By contrast, on the continent we are often very open to international music (good or otherwise) particularly from the US; visiting any country here, you might truly be bemused by the amount of American music you’ll hear. This said, one of my least favorite terms is the box of ‘World Music,’ where for years the music from the ‘Other’ places has been lumped together. It’s likely that those who coined the phrase meant well and probably had a genuine positive desire to concentrate exotic sounds for the curious. However, it’s simply impossible to contain all the world’s disparate cultures, sounds, ideologies and genres into one phrase. Great ideas can come from anywhere.

With the world being way more connected than it’s ever been, the power of genuine global collaborations can generate a huge impact when you let different perspectives have a voice. Bjork, someone I consider a visionary in the music industry, understood this a while back and on her 2007 album Voltawhen she collaborated openly with Congolese band Konono no 1, one of my favorite producers Timbaland, and Malian Kora player Toumani
Diabate
. 

 

 

Currently, I’m in studio working on my first full-length solo album, Everyone’s Just Winging and Other Fly Tales. I’m excited to bring together all my varied ideas and influences and I can’t wait to connect to audiences from whichever part of the world that they’ll come from. And that’s the beautiful thing about music, it needs no visa.”

-Blinky Bill

To hear more, visit blinkybill.bandcamp.com/

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