Kaestyle is a Nigerian Music producer and recording artiste who enjoys creating music spontaneously. Based in Lagos but from Port Harcourt city, Kaestyle’s music are reflective of his persona – relax, chilled and unbothered. In a recent conversation with the artiste, we get to unfold his beginnings in the music world, his creative process, his take on social issues as a Nigerian young adult and more…
Hi Kaestlye. How are you? Tell me about what you are working on this week
Hi June. My week so far has been regular so far. I have just been recording, you know, just making music.
Oh, that’s calm. So when you say you are recording, what’s that process like – are you collaborating with producers in their studio? DO you have fixed time frames for your sessions?
Well, I am a producer myself. I also have a couple producers around me because I run a production house or collective if you’d prefer that term. It’s called Tunes Factory and while I like to be hands-on in my approach to production, I also get inputs and contributions from other producers in the collective. We carry out production services for some of the popular musicians you know.
Tunes Factory is an in-house thing. I also have a studio in my apartment so I might just wake up, go to the living room, explore the studio and just make music. Some of my friends who hang around are creatives as well so we just exchange ideas and create together. I think it’s accurate to say that there’s a level of spontaneity in my process.
Given that you’ve mentioned your collective, Tunes Factory, I am very curious as to how you approach working together in the collective. Are projects approached from a collaborative or business perspective?
I’d like to admit that we approach creating and working together from both points of view – collaboration and business.
That’s only fair. You have a record titled Moving Mad which seems to be one of the most successful records you’ve had so far. You also have released an Extended Play titled ‘Kaes Study’. Over time your songs have a track record of you, as an artiste, making sure that the most intricate parts of your personality shine through. Why’s this important to you as an artist?
Making music for me is a natural reflection of myself. I can best describe my records as my mirror. It is impossible to give out what you don’t have.
One thing I keep telling people around me is that we as artists need to consistently consume what we personally would define as good music. I think my style comes naturally to me. I don’t really have to think of a direction while I create.
Everything that has changed my life and shaped my experiences since I started making music are reflected in my records. The simplest way to put it is that it comes to me naturally.
I appreciate that you have just made mention of the experiences that have shaped you into an artiste. Can you give a little insight into those experiences? How did you come across music production and recording? What sounds have influenced or triggered your quest to learn and attain mastery in music making as a craft?
I think my story is very similar to almost every R&B artiste’s story. I started singing in church, immediately after high school, I got into track recording. Truth be told, I got inspired by a guy who also sings in my church at that time. He had one of the most amazing voices I had heard. One day, I heard his jam on the radio because he got signed to one of the biggest record labels in Port Harcourt at the time.
Subsequently, he traveled abroad and had a couple international collaborations. Seeing all these things happen to him first hand made me believe that anything could be possible in this world given that we basically grew up in the same church and were choristers in the same choir.
I decided to try recording for the first time after school. I remember that the first time I went to the studio to record, although I wasn’t much in tune with what the producer did, all I took note of was that he (the producer) was only playing the keyboard and building beats elements out of it. I played piano in the church so I knew that that would make production easy for me to learn and practice. That day was the last time I ever paid money to anyone for production. That was how my production journey began.
In my learning, I never gave any one more priority over the other between producing and recording.
I can deduce from your last response that you grew up in Port Harcourt and you began your journey into the music world there, and then consequently, you had to move to Lagos to map out your career even further. At what point did this change become a priority for you and how has living in both worlds impacted your experiences in navigating the world of music?
When I was at PH I took recording and producing music pretty seriously as it was something I did constantly. I’d say the only thing I did wrong was not putting out my music then and it really affected my range as an artiste. I think it also had an effect on the number of people who were spying attention to me and my craft. At some point in 2020, just before Covid was when I made a decision to put out a project because I had recorded a lot of songs that I hadn’t put out.
The reason why I had no records out then was because in PH we get to hear a lot of songs from Lagos and you know how properly mixed and the songs are. I felt that my songs at the time fell short of that standard so I was coy on releasing, just patiently waiting for the right time, the right moment. I had to do some self talk to be able to take the bold step.
I put out a new song, and it got some attention, playlisting on DSPs even, I didn’t even know what it meant to get into editorial playlists at the time but it just felt good so I decided to keep going. I put out some more singles and in 2021, I became conscious of the fact that people’s attention on me was rapidly increasing. I already started getting radio plays in the city without even going to the radio, that sort of thing.
In 2021, when my manager came to PH basically to scout talent, he was opportuned to come to my studio. He actually did not come to listen to me, he came to listen to someone else but we connected more.
So, I came to Lagos not as an indie artiste but with a record label and I’m not gonna lie, the grind continues. It’s an eye opener for me, and some things that I may not have had the access to learn or do as an independent artiste – things like planning for a song, coming up with a release strategy, planning a budget – I’m getting firsthand knowledge of and it feels fulfilling. I used to just put out songs whenever I felt like it but it’s different now.
Now I understand the business more, and the city itself has a different reception to music than my city. It has also shaped the ways I think in regards to creativity as well.
I think there are some similarities between PH and Lagos in regards to how urban both cities are. Over time we have also seen some crossovers from your city to Lagos, cue Omah Lay and Burna Boy. I think that’s good for the Nigerian industry. It could get better for the industry maybe if artistes are able to tour across states and cities – cue an artiste doing 15 Nigerian states comfortably. I think there are lots of stumbling blocks to that and even to creating generally here in Nigeria. So my next question spurs from that.
We’ve been experiencing a lot of social issues in the country, most commonly the inhumane profiling and aggressive bullying of young people by policemen. What are your thoughts on these issues, and how do you find yourself as an artiste in that vacuum? Do you see it as your responsibility to use your voice as an artiste to speak up?
I have been a victim of profiling a lot of times, especially as an independent artiste in Port Harcourt. I know what artistes go through. I know what creatives, generally, go through with profiling and its ugly cousin, police brutality. It’s crazy because I’ve had a lot of bitter experiences where I’ve been in a cell and had to do some explaining just by being profiled by policemen, I’ve had to spend money that’s uncalled for.
I however feel like what changed for me is realising that a lot of these people that speak up – I’m not even trying trying to be in support of the police or anything so don’t get me wrong – I think that a lot of we creatives who face these issues need to have a better manner of approach. I mean, we know that this problem is not one that can be solved immediately, especially not at the scene where you are already the victim so I think that how calm a person remains in that moment, and how they are able to relate publicly will help in those situations.
On the other hand, I think the government has to make the police force a proper thing. I believe that the force is being really underrated in this country and anyone can just get into the force, and it’s not something so decorated that people with high values and standards would want to be a part of. I don’t think we have a proper police academy in Nigeria and these policemen don’t even get informed properly, they get underpaid and this is why the masses are bearing the effects of that. We might be blaming the police but the root of the problem is the government.
Obviously as an artiste I feel like my voice is a tool and I’ll definitely lend it whenever but I think we need to get to the root of our problems as a people because most of these songs that people sing about the government, yes, they tell the stories but they don’t really change anything. I think that getting ourselves in political positions like the recent transformations that are happening in the political scene, I think that the proper way to reform anything is through our actions. Basically actions speak louder than words.
I know artistes and creatives have their voices and their audiences but when people start getting into these spaces and changing these things it will get better. I’m not saying I have political ambitions now or for later. I’m just saying we should put ourselves out there more and try to do these things ourselves, try to sensitize the people more.
Speaking on platforms and audience and occupying spaces, we’ve had creatives going into these spaces and having trouble creating changes to the problems they had claimed to have solutions for. We’ve had actors going into political spaces and there’s nothing to write home about, and it’s a recurring issue. All of these things are more about personal values than the craft that gave the creative their platform in the first place. That’s just my two cents on this conversation.
Let’s break away from the political talk. Are you currently working on any project at the moment?
Like I already said, I’m always working on something. I can’t even call it a project. When I worked on Kaes Study I wasn’t working on a project, I was just recording and when it was time to put out the project I had enough songs to then select and pick an angle. This is the only hint I’ll give; I am the kind of artiste that puts out something major every year, so yes, people can expect something from me this year. I’m always working on something.
Interesting. How do you approach collaborations as a producer and as an artiste? Which do you prefer collaborating as the most – producer or artiste?
I just like to make music. However I’m going to render my services, I don’t really care as long as I get to make music. If my services are called upon as a producer, I’ll come through – for the right price though – I’ll come through as a songwriter, as a producer, as a recording artiste. I’m down. I really love to collaborate and it’s not just about the connection. I really love to see the creative processes of people I have admired and learned from over the years. That also inspires me so I’m always open to collaborations.
I have two more quick questions for you. Let’s start with this. We are experiencing African music doing really great globally. What’s your prediction for the next five years? Do you think we still have ways to grow or are you of the opinion that we have attained our peak and we can only leverage from there?
With Afrobeats, we are just getting started. It seems like we are peaking but then we have the Latinos and other guys getting really bigger so I feel like there is more. There are still lots of discoveries to be made.
There are still artistes who are going to light the torch for the next generation. The latter is always going to be greater than the former. That’s how it always is. In my time and the people after me, I don’t think anyone is playing so, yeah, it’s only upwards from here. There is still a lot of African music that has been untouched. Think of all the fusions of genres still to be fused with Afrobeats. I think we are still getting started.
My final question is this, what matters to you the most and why?
What matters most to me is my happiness. I’m selfish. I have gone through emotional breakdowns and I’m not even talking about relationships now. I have been through a lot of mental stress and a lot of people in this part of the world are going through that as well. I feel like being happy is one of the most important things to me. Making money brings happiness to me so, yeah, my happiness matters to me the most.