Born Edwin Isaac Utere to a music loving family, Ed iZycs from an early age discovered his love for music, and eventually honed his skill in music making – a rather conscientious journey he embarked upon, using his mother’s restaurant as a platform to launch his career.
Though, not a singer, the Akwa Ibom-born musician basks in music’s realm as one of the very few composers in the country at the moment.
With classical music being the crux of his production, Ed iZycs infuses Afro elements into his sounds to appeal to his niche audience that appreciates African artistry. Prior to his newly released album, Gold, he was a regular performer at Calabar Jazz Festival, from 2012 to 2014. He was also an opening act for Lauryn Hill in 2015.
In this chat with the dread flaunting composer, he opens up on the concept behind Gold, and some of the unique challenges he faces as an act whose music isn’t mainstream. Furthermore, he highlights some of his musical influences and expresses his feelings on losing in a category at the 2017 All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA). Enjoy it.
What is the inspiration behind the Gold album?
Gold is a superb element of enormous value; my album consists of compositions that are beautifully crafted to perfection. There’s no better reference than Gold to my music, as gold is rare. It took me four years to build this particular body of work. It’s Gold quality.
Your musical style tends to be reminiscent of works by composer, Yanni. Do you draw inspiration from his works?
Yanni, yes! His mastery at creating the perfect melodies and compositions surely did affect my stance on my music. I started listening to Yanni from a really tender age, as my dad was an avid fan, he played it into the night as a lullaby for us and we even woke up to the sounds of the flute from his band. I fell in love with his style of instrumentation and wanted to create similar songs. He did inspire my sound
What other artistes influence your work, especially Nigerian acts?
As for the Nigerian music landscape, I had been greatly influenced by the likes of Asa and Darey. From Asa’s soothing melodies to Darey’s compositional dexterity, I couldn’t really be starved of inspiration. They have helped shaped my sound.
Your musical journey started as early as 2006 and progressed with your brother, LenriQ joining you in rehearsals. With some much familial support, do you think your growth as an artiste might have been stalled if they weren’t as supportive?
I don’t think ‘stall’ is the best way to go about it. Surely, without their support, it would have delayed the process but not actually halt it, because an important ingredient that was present in my growth was the passion I had for creating music. That superseded every other factor. Surely, it would have taken more time but it won’t have stalled it.
In today’s Nigeria, if you aren’t doing Afro pop, chances are you may never be booked to perform at events. How do you surmount this challenge knowing that your music genre isn’t necessarily mainstream?
One great thing I did for myself was letting me know from the beginning that this style (of music) wasn’t mainstream. I was ready for the drought and concentrated on being technically sound. Clearly, it may not be mainstream music, but there’s always a crowd for every type of music, as I have grown to find out. Targeting such crowd has helped me a lot to resonate my sound with the people who appreciate and pay for such experiences. Over time, I have done a couple of public events and private gigs for people that enjoy such music. So, yes it’s not mainstream but a lot unique in its own form. I am not bothered.
As an artiste who plays more than one music instrument, do you think the industry appreciates you for your raw talent?
Oh yes, totally they do. The industry diversifies itself quite well and it tends to need some unique services over time. I’ve built soundtracks and scores for movies, I’ve created signature tunes for brands, and performed at dinners for the corporate crowd, I even opened for Lauryn Hill when she came to Nigeria and so on. When a unique service is needed, I am there.
Since 2006, you’ve experienced a gradual but steady growth, what are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Challenges are seen as stepping-stones for me. Getting to play for the right people was an initial challenge, but with the team I have now, the music has been tailored to the right people. Another major challenge experienced was the lack of enough airplay from radio and TV stations because the music was mostly instrumentation and it didn’t fit properly with their regular day programming. But overtime, they have come to know that this is Ed’s style and we have to respect it. I have also adjusted and featured some beautiful vocals into some of the songs so we all can meet at the middle. It’s been an exciting journey.
You lost at the 2017 AFRIMA. How did you feel about this?
Firstly, for me, being nominated was already a win by a huge margin. To be nominated alongside people I used to listen to, such as Hugh Masekela, in the same category was a big win for me. It made me feel really noticed and that I am on the right track. It was really a great moment for me, one I will not forget anytime soon.
In your new album, you collaborated with Skales on a track. Tell us how this came about and your choice of him specifically.
Skales is an amazing artiste both in his craft and outside music making. So, it was rather a smooth process for us. After sending him the song, it took a very good evening to come up with the basics of the track and rounded it off solidly that same day. We traveled to Cape Town, South Africa and shot the video. It was an awesome experience.
If it wasn’t music, what else do you see yourself doing?
During this amazing creative journey, I had learnt a lot in the process. I had learnt to produce music, shoot videos and edit them, as well as create graphics. So, if I weren’t doing music, I would have been a video director and cinematographer or a producer or even a 3D graphics artiste. I would also have ventured into writing codes as a programmer.
You grew up in the city of Port Harcourt, how has this influenced your style of music?
I grew up in a town called Rumukwurisi, an Ikwere community that shared so much culture and vive amongst its indigenes and non-indigenes. This culture also affected the music from the place. They made music with some really wonderful instruments, locally made and I always loved to hear them. They inspired me. In my just released album, there’s a track that drew so much inspiration from the community. It’s called Zuri and it had all the elements of a really cultural and epic tone. The instruments used were also locally made and it turned out extremely melodious to listen to at the end.
Aside the new album, what are we expecting from you?
Now that the album is done, videos for all the songs have to be made, more unfinished collaborations have to be done and then get ready for the next phase. There’s a lot in store.
How do you relax? Are you an extrovert or introvert?
I am a full introvert. I really like my space and want to be indoors forever (laughs). But sadly, I can’t afford to. I relax by playing video games and seeing amazing movies. That way I can relax and be inspired at the same time.
Would you consider yourself an emotional person?
Yeah. Sure. I am. But there’s always a fine line that puts a good boundary so I don’t go overboard. I’ve made music most times over how I’ve felt over a certain issue and it turned out great.
Where do you see yourself in the next three years?
In three years’ time… wow. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Great music, great events, great collaborations and amazing interviews like this. It can only get better. And three years is a lot of time to get better.