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face magazine July'23

Rema: The Afro-Rave prodigy cementing afrobeats on the global stage.

From church to ranking the Billboard at #3 with the banger Calm Down, this Nigerian star rose to stardom reinstalling faith in the quote ‘hard work pays off’. His journey has been true to his name, Divine Ikubor aka Rema, is a singer, songwriter, and rapper. The rising star’s distinct sound and music are cementing its place in global music conversations and charts. 

His debut 16-track album ‘Rave & Roses’ released last March debuted on Billboard World Albums at spot #7 and garnered over more than a billion streams across all streaming platforms in less than a year. Since its release, ‘Calm Down’ has enjoyed massive international success. It’s currently the most-watched Afrobeats music video on YouTube and it has also surpassed a billion streams across all platforms. The smash hit has also earned platinum plaques in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and other European countries. His global treks across Australia, UK, Europe and US marked a major career milestone for him as he proved himself as an artist on a trans-continental trajectory.

The Digital Artist of the Year’ 23 himself is a Bollywood fan and talks about his love for India and its culture. The “Calm Down” crooner offers insight into his upbringing, the childhood influences he had on his career, gliding through nothingness as an introvert, and his musical influences. Rema is a sensation and watching him perform is on everybody’s bucket-list right now. He speaks passionately about his desire to take his unique genre “Afro-rave” to a global audience, his career so far, and lots more.

Rema July'23

What’s the story behind penning down the song Calm Down?

I was at a party, and a couple of girls walked in, and I spotted a girl in yellow. I wanted to talk to her and her friends were being really stuck up. They didn’t really want to chat. And I was like, “hey, just calm down. Let’s talk.” And then she actually calmed down, and we started chatting and dancing. When she left the party, she was on my mind, and I wanted to see her again. That was it. I walked in the studio fresh out of that emotion and wrote the track.

Calm Down is a smashing hit worldwide, India being one of the countries wooed by your latest hit number, How was your overall experience in India? 

I feel very happy, honored and privileged to be here. Indians are very kind, amazing and loving. I loved performing for the enthusiastic audience. I would like to thank each and everybody for all the love shown to my track ‘Calm Down’. I received a warm and vibrant welcome in Mumbai; it already is my favorite city. Since childhood I know that India is a place of high cultural values and religion as well. I was welcomed with some garlands and a turban as well; it really made me very happy. I indulged and explored some spicy food, heard some new local Indian folk music, and met new people. I tried and loved vadapav, panipuri and chicken tikka rolls!

Do people back home listen to Bollywood music? Considering collaborations are integral to the art of music, do you have any Indian musicians you would like to collaborate with? 

Bollywood is very big back home and I love ShahRukh Khan and Salman Khan. Indian music has very emotional vocals, very high frequency; it makes you want to listen to it more and more. Regarding collaborations, I would love to collaborate with Badshah and AR Rahman, these are my two most favorites. 

Have you been able to analyze what led to the virality of ‘Calm Down’?

I am very thankful to God for everything. Every song is meant to do what it is supposed to do and I feel like Calm Down is just doing what it’s supposed to do and this is the perfect time for Calm Down. When I posted my first freestyle on social media and that kind of got me the attention from my label and everything and social media then helped me reach a wider audience and engage with fans all across the world. Without social media, I wouldn’t have even known how popular my music is in India. Social media is a very good tool to actually gauge your receptiveness and popularity.

 How did the collaboration with Selena Gomez come about? 

Selena is very amazing. We got on a video call before meeting each other. She came to my show and it was a very healthy and beautiful relationship. Working on the song was very easy, very simple. She was very communicative about it, keen on the idea of the song, and wanted to make sure that she complimented my verse. Her voice is just perfect and she adds beautiful soul into music. I was very elated and thankful we got to collaborate.

 How do you deal with fame and what keeps you grounded?

 I pray. I come from a very religious home. I pray, I live healthy, I eat healthy. I read a lot of books. I watch a lot of educational videos. I like to learn new stuff. I won’t say I travel a lot in terms of vacations but I travel a lot in terms of touring. I go from territory to territory. I learn a lot of stuff from everyone So, I just carry new traits from all around. 

Does its ever-increasing popularity also put some kind of pressure on you while working on your new compositions? 

I give everything to God because I am a very spiritual person. I pray a lot and I trust he will do what’s best for me. I don’t succumb to pressures because I believe every song will do what it’s meant to do. The only pressure I face is when there is a lot of workload, I’m not able to see my family often. It’s hard to keep up with a lot of people and communicate because everyone wants attention. I feel like that’s the only part that I find difficult but it’s not just for me to do, it is also for what all does to understand that this is where I’m at in my life right now. 

Can you share any of your upcoming projects with us

Umm I am not allowed to say but there is definitely great music coming and I just recently dropped ‘Ultra’ which is kind of like a deluxe version to my album. It has 4 new songs so yes; you should definitely listen to it.

How significant has the music industry been in promoting African culture on a global scale?

Music is a very important part and the fastest way for promoting and preserving African culture. And being in an industry that has the global attention right now is a great honor to represent my people and country.  It’s a great moment of pride when I see different people from around the world dancing to foreign language that belongs to Nigeria. The rise of our Music industry has put us on the global map. I believe in representation and flying the flag of my country high across the world! I feel like before I started getting global fame, my fellow Africans have been my huge propeller. They’re the ones who took me to the world and I owe it to them. Our culture is so much more to be explored, I am elated everyone is talking and wants to know more about it.

Tell us about your days before releasing Dumebi

I started in a church. I started doing 1-2 freestyles in church, in school. I had a group. Was into music for a while then I stopped because I needed to feed my family and then life just kept happening and I lost some people in my family that made my life really slow and I couldn’t find myself at that time but yes, music was my best therapy. I only felt alive when I was making music. Finally, I got to do freestyle and I got recognition and then I had to learn how to sing; because I didn’t know how to sing, until 2018. So I started working out ways to know how to sing, and while trying to find out how to sing, I found my sound, which is this, how I sound right now. To me it was just me finding my sound and making use of the African beats. 

Your music covers are interactive artworks. Do you suggest they be created a certain way? Where does the inspiration come from?

The inspiration comes from parts of my life; Different parts of where I want to be; different parts of how I want my stories to be told as the way they’re being told in music. There are certain things I can’t say through my music and certain things that people would understand more if they just saw a picture of it. That’s what I tend to do in my artwork. 

What motivates you towards success?

The way to keep my motivation is just to keep the family close because before the rest of the world gave me attention, the few people who kept my spirit high were they. I have to keep them fed, I have to keep them happy and I have to keep them inspired and motivated. Seeing them achieve whatever they want to achieve and seeing them happy is what would keep me going. Because really and truly, in the beginning of music, I just wanted to feed my family and it starts with family before the rest of the world starts paying attention. And I think the word family also includes my fans, my team. I have created a new whole family in India. So you all keep me motivated for the time to come.

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