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Solarrio and Niniola on the cover of their collaborative new work "On My Mind"

Berlin hip-hop star collaborates with Nigerian artists

Solarrio is a notable name in the thriving Berlin’s hip-hop scene. His biography already marks him out, being the son of a world-famous conductor and, of course, his music, which brings together all of the influences he’s been exposed to as a global citizen, having lived in France, US and Germany.

The hip-hop artist, whose musical styles and influences range from hip-hop to pop to Latin music, was recently in Nigeria to seek collaboration in the country’s hot Afrobeat scene. I spoke with him in Berlin on his experience in Lagos and what fans should expect next.

David Barenboim, aka Solarrio, could be described as a true global artist due to his unique background. Born in Paris to an Argentine father and a Russian mother, Solarrio studied and has lived in Chicago and Boston.

Solarrio, who has been in Berlin for 15 years, started out as a hip-hop producer and has worked with some of the biggest artists in the country, such as Raf Camora, Ufo361, Sido and many more.

Tired of being in the background and wanting to do his own thing, he became a performing hip-hop artist in 2016. He released his first solo project in 2017, a self-titled EP mixing 80’s synthpop with house and hip-hop.

Numerous singles have followed as well as multiple collaborations with BlackLioN and First Name Shayne – two artists that Solarrio also produces. His latest releases are a mixtape called #getshitdone with BlackLioN, hosted by DJ Noize and an EP titled “Isolate”.

The son of famous conductor Daniel Barenboim, Solarrio’s foray into hip-hop could be described as unusual as both his parents are classical musicians. “I was always taken to rehearsals; I was very involved in my father’s professional life as a child but didn’t take special interest in the music. As a teenager, I was more into rock and hip-hop,” he explained.

“My first rap CD that I bought was The Chronic by Dr Dre in 1992,” he recollects. And since then, he’s not looked back.

Solarrio, whose former stage name is KD Superior, played in a rock band and founded a rap group in high school.  “We were doing songs and we needed beats,” he recollects. It was the need to produce beats to their music that brought out the producer in him as he started making beats which were well received.

On his music, Solarrio said he marries different musical experiences. “I want to connect the world. So, I bring South American music, rap, Afrobeat … together in my music.”

Even though he’s based in Berlin, Solarrio is constantly on the move to South America, Asia and now Africa.

“My whole mission is to bring the world together.”

On what were his expectations before his trip to Lagos?

“I didn’t have any special expectations; I was simply open as many people had warned me about going to Nigeria,” he said.

He’s been focused on Afrobeat for several years now and has been a big fan of Nigerian artists such as Niniola. “I like her Maradona song. So it’s a blessing to be able to collaborate with her,” he says. The collaboration single On My Mind with Niniola will be launched on 27 January.

So, he was excited to connect with artists in Nigeria, which he described as the global centre of Afrobeat.

“I believe that Afrobeat will influence pop music in the whole world,” he confidently predicts. “So, it’s important for me to go there and feel the pulse of the music at its source; I don’t believe in hearing music and trying to do it without going to the root of the music to experience it from the people doing it.”

On why Afrobeat is the craze now in the world?

“I think with globalization, with YouTube and the Internet, people can see that there is much more to music that what is in Europe or America,” Solarrio said.

“It started with Latin American music in the last years and now it’s Afrobeat. Afro communities are everywhere in the world and are listening to the music and people everywhere are getting used to the music.”

“Pop music needs a facelift every few years. I believe Afrobeat will be a big influence in the next few years.”

What influence is he bringing into Afrobeat?

“I hope to bring my little global touch to it.”

Solarrio and Niniola in Lagos during the recent Berlin-based artist’s visit to Nigeria. He will be going back in March or April for a promo tour/Photo: Afrobizgermany

 

On the future of the Berlin international pop scene, Solarrio says it’s difficult to become big within it. “It’s like you go outside and make a big impact and you will then get recognition in Berlin,” he explained.

“It’s difficult to emerge within the scene because if you’re doing something different from what is reigning here, you will find it difficult to get recognition.”

“So, if you want to do something different, you have to take it out and make it big outside and then you will be welcome here; that’s how it goes”.

What does Solarrio want to see changed in the Berlin scene?

“I want to see Berlin scene evolve its own identity. They simply take other people’s music and Germanise it. I want people here to do their own things, mix different stuffs, create their own unique styles. That’s what I want to see here.”

“UK is an example for Berlin. There, they do their own things and innovate.”

Solarrio is heading back to Lagos in March or April to do a promo tour for its collaboration with Niniola.

And his future plans for Nigeria?

“I look forward to working with more artists there. The collaboration with Niniola is only the introduction,” he promised.

Femi Awoniyi

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