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Spotlight on Idahams: Innocuous Start to Progressive Continuum

Spotlight on Idahams: Innocuous Start to Progressive Continuum

by Abdul-Jabbar Obiagwu

 Idawarifagha Hart, popularly known as Idahams is a musician, singer/songwriter and producer from South-East Nigeria who credits his innocuous start and earliest sonic education to his dad.

“He (my dad) used to sing a lot. He loves good music. He taught me to play the keys. Since then music became part of me as a kid.”

While the parental lessons may have given Idahams his foundation, a lot more had to go into the tank to prepare him for the rigours of the industry and the world enveloping it. His deep connection to his background stretches way beyond the sonic influences his father granted him. All over TLC, there are moments that touch on his hometown.

Going beyond the surface, Idahams taps into many of the elements that define the South-South today. Pipeline vandalism and environmental damage are both the results of socio-economic conditions and deep-seated scars that the people in the region bear, topics that are not commonly touched upon and ever less utilised with such prowess.

Some of his earliest music came out in 2016 under the Grafton Music imprint and it wasn’t until 2019 that he would truly tap into his roots. Coincidentally, this is when his deal with Universal Music was inked and he started to appear on the radars of audiences and other industry peers.

“After I featured Teni on the remix of No One Else, I feel like people started to pay a lot more attention.”

“I make music for everyone, especially the youth. It’s easy for them to connect with me because they can relate to everything I say in a song…”

According to him, there has not been as much of a sonic evolution but instead a personal one between that time and the present.

“The Idahams sound (if I can call it that) has always been the Idahams sound. The pattern might change but the vibes and originality remained the same”. 

Aiming for the everyman more than most of his contemporaries, his ideal target market are everyday people.

“I make music for everyone, especially the youth. It’s easy for them to connect with me because they can relate to everything I say in a song. From the lyrics I use to the subject matter I choose, I try to hard be the voice of the ordinary man.” Idahams shares.

While that does not necessarily paint a clear picture, achieving product market fit amongst this demographic is something Idahams approaches like a founder building a company. Once an audience has been identified, it is important to double down on that crowd. This might be one of the reasons his music is not spun as often in the clubs, the value is lost when sandwiched between fast-paced party jams. However, he has found more success in the pockets where a new generation of more thoughtful African R&B/Soul records thrive.

What Idahams describes as the most validating experience of his music career so far mirror this sentiment. Someone once said “if you want them to love you everywhere, make sure they love you where you’re from first.” This could not be more true for another act.

“I remember this one show. It was a paid performance in Port Harcourt. The crowd were singing my song word for word. I’ve never felt anything like that.”

Rocking stages beyond Port-Harcourt has perhaps not had exactly the same effect but that has not deterred Idahams. Recreating that atmosphere is something he pursues with fervour and aims for with every body of work. This is the energy that can be felt throughout TLC, particularly at some of the project’s highest points. Bad Girl alongside his compatriots, The Ajebo Hustlers, reflects the sort of performance you can see crowds fervently singing along to. So does the album outro, Where I’m From, a stripped down ode to their home city. Other records display his versatility and the ease with which he can wear hats beyond Port-Harcourt native, his lead single with Kenyan Xenia Mannasseh, Hate That I Love You, explores his romantically vulnerable side, something he flips on Lovina into a more lust-filled narrative. 

For certain acts, this versatility could be considered a distraction at some level, however, Idahams considers it an edge.

“I like to think I try so much because I don’t know what my ceiling is. All I know is it is bigger and higher than me.”

His creative process is emblematic of this. Incorporating multiple instruments and varying chords to hone in on a handful, he eliminates what does not fit and saves it for another record.

“My creative process has always been the same. I play the keyboard and it’s very easy for me to pick melodies for a song. But what I do normally when creating music is first I get the melody and secondly I figure out what the melody is saying to me, I listen then I write and record. I try not to be wasteful, there are no bad melodies/harmonies. It’s just stuff I can’t use yet.” Idahams intimates.

This economical approach is also applied in his songwriting process.

“I’m 100% a songwriter. I use everything around me as an inspiration” he adds.

This is also what he considers his largest artistic edge.

“I’m really careful when putting lyrics together because I don’t like rinsing lyrics that have been used. I like introducing new phrases and words that give me an advantage over other artists, especially in this market’’. 

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“I’m really careful when putting lyrics together because I don’t like rinsing lyrics that have been used…”

However, writing great songs and having the best lyrics are only a few parts of the whole that is required to take a good artist to the next level. Resources play a big role in achieving greater visibility and this is not lost on Idahams. So far in his career, some of his biggest challenges have not been the traditional ones. Inking a major deal in a fairly early phase of his career, understanding the machine has been more important than just being a part of it.

“Promotion and execution is the deal when it comes to music business and sometimes I feel you don’t that have that big budget for a particular project so you just have to work with what you have but God has been faithful in all my works.”

When I ask if he would do things any differently, he doubles down on his current course.

“I will go for a major label. A major label has many more people working for you than an indie label. Major labels have many experts in different areas (marketing, promotions, playlisting, radio tracking, distribution, etc.) compared to an indie. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s a matter of understanding what’s offered. The important thing is that you want to work with people that have your back and understand your music. You want to work with people who seem eager to take you to the next level.” he expands.

His collaborative process has provided multiple boons to his trajectory so far. Working with Teni, Zach Zoya, Ajebo Hustlers, Peruzzi and Seyi Shay to name a few so far in his career, it is clear that his influence in the studio is both respected and required.

Curating his catalogue accordingly has provided him with a slew of sleepers that more established acts would be envious of.

“My collaborative process it’s not far-fetched because before I put you on anyone on a song, they’ve got to be dope and their style of music has to connect on the featured song.” 

His recording process lends some insight into how his records are put together.

“Most times I freestyle and play with my vocals so I can be able to write the melody. I can do that like five different times and pick the best after which I will start putting down the words”.

TLC represents Idahams full debut album and has been out for barely a week. In an era with limited attention spans and overloaded new music Fridays, Idahams project has been making all the right rounds.

“The album just dropped and it’s already making a statement on its own. A lot of people never expected such an outstanding body of work from me. It’s going crazy right now and I’m super grateful for the experience.”  

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