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Shalom Dubas Shares Her Heart in Each Piece of Her Art

Shalom Dubas Shares Her Heart in Each Piece of Her Art

The month of June began at a hopeful pace; everyone seemed to have outgrown the panic stage Covid-19 brought along, but the tension around the world was getting to its peak. However, on our own world, a few artistes were finding their voices concerning social issues, and a few were making moves towards helping the society through their platforms, one of which is Shalom Dubas, the prolific song producer, writer, guitarist, and rapper.

Shalom’s third solo project, Mint Green the EP is one through which she categorically sheds previously unassessed parts of self both sonically and lyrically.

I reached out to her, she responded, and we decided to have a go with this interview – one through we which we both attempt to bring to your consciousness the open-hearted effortlessly talented personality that is Shalom Dubas.

Shalom Dubas
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Hi Shalom, how’re you doing today?

Shalom: Doing good, how about you?

Great! Let’s begin with your music story; How and when did you realize “this is what I’m meant to be doing with my life”?

Shalom: So for me, what I really clicked with as a kid was writing – but I was gifted good at music that early as well, and I would just listen and vibe with my family. My Mom had so many CDs and DVDs of legends like Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, ABBA, Michael Jackson, Kirk Franklin, and all the Winans’ [laughs out loud]. My Dad would listen to Igbo Highlife, Ebenezer Obey, Chief Osadebe, or 2Face (which was my favorite), and then I was a radio rat any time we were in the car.

 I didn’t see music as my thing until many years later, around college time when I started playing and performing on guitar. By then I’d worked on writing, rapping, playing guitar, performing, and then I was like “oh yeah, this is my passion & in line with my purpose”

When trying to analyze artistes most people ask “what genre are you trying to make?” so it would be easier to put them in a box, but I would skip that; rather I’d love to know what you’re trying to inspire with your music? What’s its purpose?

Shalom: hmm… So currently, my whole goal with my music is to get as good as I can and make quality music that communicates real feelings and pushes people to communicate. whether that be within their own selves (unresolved feelings and what not) or inter-personally with their communities.

It’s a combination of that (intent) and then, vibes.

In 2017 you dropped your first project I-IV, the acoustic guitar EP. On the stand out track Fall to Rise you said “I can’t make up my mind on what I wanna do”; apparently I-IV is your first solo project as an artiste and we know a lot of doubt comes with starting up. Was it that doubt you were projecting on that song?

Shalom: Wow, yeah, I guess in some way. I’d been playing a lot of guitar at that period and felt like I had to put something down. 4 songs to parallel the 4 years. To try.

So Fall to Rise is basically about acknowledging that you are worthy of coming up after you plummet down. Maintaining yourself, regaining focus and then maintaining it even as you pivot.

The line itself comes before me saying “switching on the flex but I never switch on you”, so it’s basically me saying, I don’t know what to do about what’s been done. But I’m pulling myself up, God is pulling me up. I’m about to switch the flex on folks, but I won’t switch on who I am at the foundation – I won’t switch on “you”.

That’s good to know (smiles)

Moving away from the acoustic guitar vibe back to the afro infused production, in 2018 you dropped the Toyin Ores produced single ‘Vibe’. In it, you made references to 9ice’s “gongo aso” which to me shows how you are in some ways influenced by sounds from the motherland. Why did that come about and is that a way you intend to marry the homeland Sound with what your audience in the diaspora would appreciate?

Shalom: Yeahh! That’s a way I intend to do it for real [chuckles] – interpolating (street) jams.

I view interpolation as something that comes with music. It’s like – I’m an artist in 2020. For every contemporary artist there has always been leagues of music ahead of them, music that paved the way for their own but now is the first time in our accepted history that we have so much access to this amount of music.

To me, now more than ever, influence is a very quick thing – impact is harder, but influence is easy. So for me, when I hear a new beat, if I hear an old tune that works, we’ve arrived at the interpolation station and I love that place!

 On Holiday, I dropped one from Burna’s Tonight. On an unreleased jam, there’s one from Ole (Bushmeat) by Sound Sultan. And that was what brought about 7 Days (Flip); interpolating the chorus from the jam by Craig David, to make something new but familiar.

So yeah, I spent a solid part of my childhood growing up in Naij, listening to music, and downloading all these dope jams – not even on my computer but as an individual you get? Now, when I make music, I’m in a space where I can fully express myself and my person and so what comes is what comes. When the world hears my music, they’ll hear where I’ve been right alongside where I am and where I’m going. And yeah, I’ll be repping sporadically through interpolations [laughs]

Speaking of Toyin Ores, you both made a collaborative EP titled Oakwood Ave last year. The project actually welds the diversity of your different soundscapes and each song is a ride into different perspectives. At what point did you decide and agree to collaborate? What did you learn from working on this EP? Collaborations eventually yields a positive for each party… what was the positive you derived from this collab project?

Shalom: Yes, Oakwood Ave! Thank you, I love that project. Toyin and I went to university together in the middle (of nowhere) Pennsylvania [laughs out loud]. He was involved in ASA (African Student Association) and I was involved in being by myself so I only used to show up for social events when they’d ask me to perform. We got introduced by the ASA president at that time and we’ve been rolling ever since.

We shared a house for a year in 2018-2019 (Toyin, myself, and our 3rd housemate and friend Joe) and we basically used that year to figure out life. We were all post-grad or nearing. So, it was a year to just do and learn-to-do things well on our own and really try to identify where we’d be going after.

From Oakwood Ave, I learnt patience and the fact that you just have to put in the work, and you have to apply that work to the details and that having people around you who understand and propel what you do is key. From the EP itself, it was my first foray into conceptualizing an artistic vision for a body of work, executing on that vision, and then promoting it to make sure it gets heard by the right people/in the right places after all that. So that was really dope.

The benefits were that Ores and I really got to work on a project together, one that shows how we work, or how we worked at the time and I learned how to collaborate better [LAUGHS]

I gained experience on the business and administration side too, and then I made a dope EP with one of my favorite Artist-Producers. Oakwood Ave 4 Lifeeee!

Ha, it shows you really enjoyed working on that one!

On Oakwood Ave you featured two artists – Tim Lyre from Lagos and Femdot from Chicago. On the Femdot backed track 1,2,3 you addressed racism and highlighted how it leads to death of (black) people and the psychological effect it has on you. Why did you feel the need to speak on this?

Shalom: Yeah, that time was heavy because police brutality videos were on the rise both here (in the states) and in Nigeria. So I think it was just present for us subconsciously, and we wanted to face it.

That track came about cause Toyin had taken a road trip and during the trip he was scrolling through his phone and kept seeing police brutality videos on social media. When he came back, he shared that with me and the beat. We reflected and did our separation stage thing and then I wrote the song.

Femdot had just been in town that summer, cause he was the headliner at a concert I organized for the university and I knew if I was going to have anyone else on that 2nd leg, it was him. After he sent his verse and Ores and I heard it and did our thing with it, we knew we had the song.

It’s a feeling and a thought that every black skinned and aware individual in America in this time has whether consciously or subconsciously, if you are black skinned and aware, you feel it. Toyin and I are Nigerian, I’m Nigerian-American, I speak Igbo, Ores speaks Yoruba, but if a cop pulls you over and has prejudice towards black people, he doesn’t ask what village you’re from. He doesn’t send.

So it was our way and our time of having to describe the feeling. Cause we were feeling it, and we’ll feel it until things change.

Fast forward to 2020, a month ago you released your latest EP, Mint Green which you first put out back in April for only 24 hours. Why did you do that? Was there a strategy behind that?

Shalom: Mint, Green Baby!!! Yo, that project is so dope to me cause – I told you Oakwood Ave was my first time developing and pushing a project to the mainstream yeah? Mint, Green was my first time really doing that for a solo project, and it was during this lockdown (that we’re still in the middle of so I’m not too sure why I’m saying was, too be honest). I wanted to apply everything I’d been learning since the last drop to a project, and that was the birth of Mint, Green.

For the one day drop, I wanted to cater to the Shalom Dubas fans that’ll jam if I drop today, jam if I drop tomorrow. The people who are tuned in. I wanted to deliver them something. Also, I like to do productive things on April 20th. Last year, it was the concert I organized, Hub Lawn Revival, and this year it seemed right to drop a project since social gatherings were out of the question. At least for me [laughs and does the sign of the Cross]

In regards to the one-day drop, that was a way to deliver it directly to the fans for free streaming, to receive feedback, and to drive traffic to my Audiomack and Soundcloud pages – by giving them exclusive content. It was dope and really fueled me to bring Mint, Green. back a month later with even better energy!

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Shalom Dubas

That’s a strategy a few people think of in my opinion… So what future projects are you working on? (If you don’t mind sharing)

Shalom: Right now, we’re about to start releasing the visuals for Mint, Green. The first one is an animated video for Ride With Me that Tobi Peter did, and then the second one is the Official Video for One (For the $).

My team and I are big hyped for it, can’t front. And then, I’m working on the follow up to Mint, Green.

It’s great to see you putting things together even amidst the restrictions. What lessons have you learnt since the release of Mint, Green.?

Shalom: I’ve learnt that people are tuned in and so I just have to keep doing me, keep trusting God, and keep putting out dope things for my homies who are tuned/tuning in.

Also, that the main hack is to just start things; cause things will often develop on their own if you give them the space, and if the foundation is strong then finishing can seem like a breeze. But the start is all on you. (You as in me [laughs])

Yeah man, and that people don’t want my EP name to flourish [shakes head]. Folks keep having strong selective sight when it comes to the punctuation in the title but it’s cool, everybody’s gonna learn!

That’s why the name of the next EP is Deep, Blue. [laughs] (I got time for you all)

Really can’t wait for Deep Blue.

Going back to collaboration, most of the songs you’ve done as features or featured others I’ve noticed are basically with people who are remotely close to you. Do you at all consider collaborating with other artistes who are far and wide (both physically and relationship wise)?

Shalom: Thank youu! yeah, visuals this month, and then Deep, Blue. the month after, by God’s grace.

Hmm, that’s a good question. For me, I’m always down to work with people wherever they are – or where we are relationship-wise – based on if we share a mutual liking of each other’s music and/or artistry. To work in a deeper or stronger capacity though then yeah, I like to have built rapport for sure. Either by being remotely around each other, or keeping up conversations on the phone. Funny enough, it’s more of the latter – shout out to good communicators [laughs]

I’ve got one final question for you before we go – What’s the ideal “music industry” to you, whether in Africa or in the US?

Shalom: Hmmm… The ideal industry to me is one that adds in financial freedom and integrity to all the great advancements that artists currently have at their disposal. So many artists have come, and have done before us, and now there’s more knowledge then there’s ever been. But the access is still limited.

So I think in addition to all that knowledge, artists who need funding to progress should have access to said funds. And that’s anywhere. In some places that’s much harder to reach than others, based on the general systems in place. But yeah, with additional financial support for independent artists, artists can fund their visions & lives and then reach that financial freedom. With integrity present, financial support won’t be touted as a holy grail, and then the environment can be safer for creatives to create.

Cue Jay Z “All around the world!!!! Same songgg”

This makes perfect sense, and I would actually love to have a deeper conversation around this some other time but for now, we’ve come to the end of this session. Thanks for doing this with us Shalom.

Shalom: For suree, this was fun. Thank you for having me!

Shalom Dubas will go about her purpose, making music to spur communication (either with one’s self or with others) and for vibes. She will play her guitar from time to time, and sing in that heartfelt and artful manner that can’t but call on the attention of everyone who hears her sing, and we will keep our radr on her, keeping track of her every move till she reaches a place she can eventually call success.

Thanks for reading the June edition of Drummr Radr. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletters and follow us across all platforms (@DrummrAfrica) if you aren’t already.

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