A couple of weeks ago, I was in London attending an event. Afterwards I decided to take a walk. It was kind of a rainy day, but I wanted to check things out to see what was happening in the city. As I was walking through Trafalgar Square, I heard this beat. I listened as I was walking by and I was like...Hmm, I like that! So I turned around and went back to find out where the music was coming from and I saw Baliva there performing right near the National Gallery. I stood there and watched him finish his performance and then we talked. We talked about our favorite hip hop artists and it was cool. I was so impressed with his music so I asked if I could interview him and he said yes. Here's a bit of background on Baliva.
Baliva is a hip hop artist, writer, and speaker based in London, UK. He was born in Harare, Zimbabwe where he spent his high school days in a R&B/rap group. The group received national airplay for their first single “Love is Magic” in 2000 which led to many shows in Zimbabwe’s capital city. Baliva moved to London in 2001. You can learn more about him at his website here.
To give you a taste of his music, check out his song from 2012 called "On A Mission".
And now, without further ado, here is my interview with Baliva. Enjoy!
What made you choose the name Baliva?
I wanted a name that reflected who I was and at the time I was preaching about Christianity and I wanted to be remembered for something. But I couldn't think of anything. One of my fears in doing music was the bigger you get the more you might forget who you are. So a friend told me a story about a company in America that put their values into their business name, so that anytime they go to their business name they remember who they are and they stuck to those values so I thought okay, I'm a believer, but I didn't want to spell it in the traditional way so turned it into an acronym.
B stands for Believe; A stands for Achieve; L stands for Learn; I stands for Inspire; V stands for Value; and A stands for Authenticity. And those are some of the values that I always wanted to be a part of me no matter how far I got. And that became the name and it kind of stuck with me and that was ten years ago this year.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a performer?
I started in the last two years of school. Every break time we would memorize songs and then show off how well we memorized the songs on the playground. It became a common thing everyday to the point where we all memorized different parts of certain songs and we merged into a group. We progressed to a demo and then got into a professional studio and it was after that when I realized that this is what I wanted to do. I didn't really know if I wanted to do it as a career or not, but I just knew that I enjoyed doing it.
What artists inspire you? Who are some of your influences?
From the beginning, the first artists that I got into were like Coolio and Warren G. Then as I got older it was Jay Z, the Fugees, Lauryn Hill and later it became Nas and Cross Movement, who are a Christian hip hop group from Philly. They were a big influence on me and that's from the hip hop side, but then I've always listened to other genres. I love Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone and Michael Jackson. I consistently listen to Michael Jackson. He's been a big influence.
What led you to performing the style of rap that you do?
Music was more or less my everything and I made it more important than anything else in my life. I think when I became a Christian I felt that I needed to get rid of anything from my past, like chasing fame, so over time I became involved with music projects at church and it really built me up to do music again. But now where I see myself, I don't see the divide between secular and gospel. I'm a Christian and I believe in God, but in some songs I may not necessarily talk about God. I do songs that are more positive about different things, but I'll also write a song where I'm worshiping God. Now I'm at a place where I try to express what's on my heart. Like Bob Marley for example, if you listen to his music he shares about his faith, his love life, his political views and he also has a good time and you get an idea of who he was as a person and his values and that's more of what I want my music to be like. My music has sort of gone through three stages, so when it started out it was love songs about school crushes. Then as I got older it became more political, so I did songs about things like poverty in Africa and then when I became a Christian it became about me being a preacher and spreading the gospel through hip hop. And in the stage that I'm in now, I still want to talk about social issues...I want to talk about the gospel...so I want my music to be all-encompassing.
What do you hope listeners will get from your music?
I hope that people will feel empowered. I think we live in a world where fear is often placed on us in so many ways that people almost feel disempowered. So I think one of the things, especially with this upcoming album, is to empower people who feel oppressed. I want people to get so many things I guess, but I think hope is a big one and to just know that God is there and to use my life as an example of how God's been there. And I want people to feel free, because I think when you listen to music the worries just disappear and you're put in this whole other world. Often when I'm performing in the streets, you know, you'll see homeless people who will come and they'll stay for like five minutes and you can see for that moment in time they're free. Or kids will come and dance. Music just has that power.
Your previous answer leads to my next question. I met you in Trafalgar Square, what do you get from the experience of performing there?
The thing I always say to people...I perform in venues, I perform in schools, but one of my favorite places to perform is the street because you meet people and there's no stage, so people come up to you and you get to meet so many people from so many walks of life. And you really get to talk with them and hear their stories. But also the other thing is the smiles that you see on people's faces, especially when they catch the one-liners and it doesn't matter their age. You know, you get people in their nineties listening to you.
I went to a house concert where they had this touring band that were in the UK performing in someone's house and there must have been about fifty people there and the band was performing and just sharing songs. People were talking back to them and I think there was no sense of celebrity. I think that the whole celebrity kind of culture has robbed music of what it should be, which is a way for people to just connect with each other. So I like that about the street, because it takes away the barrier.
I see from your website that you have your third album coming out. When will it be released and what can listeners expect from it?
The album will be out on the 1st of September and it really is a very introspective album. It's sort of looking at different aspects of my life...dealing with things like rejection, dealing with issues like money, and self-worth...those are sort of the three themes. Love is a big part of it, so it's very introspective I think. People who I've played the album for have said that. I've been told by friends that it's diverse and personal.
What are your future goals that you'd like to accomplish with your music?
I'd say on a practical level, I definitely want to travel and be able to go around Europe and to Africa in the more short term. I guess with my music I just want it to be something that...like I know what music's like for me, like the albums I have in my iPhone that I listen to. They really help me make it through the day sometimes. Like when I'm really having a hard day and I know which songs to put on...like the words of the song are gonna make it alright. I want my music I guess to be a soundtrack to people's lives, you know, particularly those that may not have people around them who may understand them. I think when you share personal stories, people get a sense that, oh I'm not alone here, that actually someone else goes through what I go through. I once wrote something where I said that I'd like it to be the older brother for that young guy looking for an older brother or a friend for that person looking for a friend. So ultimately I'd like that to be my legacy...to be looked back at to find that encouragement. I mean, I'm listening to Michael Jackson's stuff and he's long gone and I'm really enjoying his lyrics. I never realized how socially conscious he was with his lyrics. So it's very encouraging. These days I'm trying to be more conscious of doing that with my lyrics. I mean, I've written stuff before that have torn things down but I'm trying to get that balance you know.
***As I mentioned before, you can find out about Baliva at his website balivamusic.com
You can also follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook .
Also, in a few weeks I'll have Baliva back to discuss his upcoming album that will be out in September, so watch this space!