Visual arts and Music, two forms of creative art have always existed in a fine blend. The former informs its viewer’s mood through colours taken in by the sense of sight while the other could dictate its listener’s mood and thought through carefully arranged musical notes and lyricism, consumed sonically. It is a thing of wonder then, when both forms of art are employed to make the audience see what the music artiste sings, portrayed visually by the imagination of the visual artist. We meet Garey Godson and Ebube Onoh, two creative artists who have been employing these tools.
Garey Godson is a Nigerian born artiste and music producer based in Berlin who makes afro-fusion music. His sound is a combination of African rhythms, RnB and Trap elements. This year I released my 4th studio project titled Lucid Thoughts, a 6 track EP. The Creative Direction for Garey’s EP was handled by Ebube Onoh, a Lagos based digital artist whose works are inspired by a fine blend between the future and medieval thought processes. How then did these two creatives, of different mediums of expression, and unsimilar career trajectories come to work together?
They both tell the same story from two perspectives:
Garey: I was looking for a visualist who would be open to collaborating on several projects and one who was willing to bounce ideas and try out different ideas. I had been in conversations with other illustrators when my childhood friend Bidermann Akeze recommended Ebube Onoh. We had a short talk and it felt like he understood the direction I wanted my covers to go.
Last year in December we tried out the first cover together and he delivered beyond my expectation, since then he’s been the go to guy for me. Our collaborations have been inspired by an interest to do something unique and the will to tell stories which resonate with the music. One thing that I have really enjoyed about working with him is the communication, detailed eyes and hunger to out-do himself on every collaboration.
Ebube: A friend, Bidermann Akeze, told me that he had a project for me to work on. He introduced me to Garey and we all started bouncing ideas. Garey’s level of involvement and vision impressed me, so when he mentioned he was looking for someone to work with across several projects, I gladly came aboard.
We always have an open-ended approach to each project. We draw concepts from the overriding theme of the music then brain-storm ideas. Then we agree on style, direction and just go with the flow. We let the ideas push us to explore new techniques and approaches.
Since their meeting, Garey and Ebube have been able to work on three different projects as we speak, the visual artiste working on the artistic direction of Garey’s singles Tender, Mackin Things and now, the project, Lucid Thoughts. ‘What exactly is it about his artwork that makes you think Ebube has exactly what you need in terms of the Art Direction for your music?’ I ask Garey.
‘I think that he’s been able to find the right balance in terms of my tonality and artist positioning. As a creative it’s often a challenge to find someone who can translate ideas into reality beyond how one’s imagined them. Ebube manages to add his touch and individuality in his illustrations.
An element of surprise is also something that I look forward to in our collaborations. It sometimes feels like being a child again, the whole process I mean. Even with time constraints we are patient enough to go through the different layers of the expression to create a special experience for the audience. I guess the canvas is his playground and we are open-minded to bounce ideas severally until we feel like we have struck the nail. Going through the sketches and color schemes is always a thrilling experience.’
The fusion between Music and the Visual Arts has been on for quite a long time now. Music cover arts, ever since the vinyl days have always been bearers of some form of art – be it illustrations, paintings or photographs. Technology seems to be the driving force at the forefront of these collaborations. Now, digital art and illustrations are comfortably creating a space for more of this fusion, a testament of which is Ebube Onoh’s art. ‘With the rate at which new forms of technology is introduced everyday’ I ask him, ‘how do you see this relationship developing?’
‘Technology is definitely at the forefront of what we do. We have ideas that are sometimes impeded by the barriers that exist due to our current technology. As technology advances, it’ll become more invincible in our creative process, allowing us to curate more immersive experiences without limitations.’
There truly are limitations. I remember a time in mainstream Nigerian music culture, back in 2011 when M.I Abaga released an animated music video for his hit single, Action Film. Right after then, animations have become a way of expression in our entertainment culture where we now have animation films, animated advertisements and even animation comedy videos. However there are still shortcomings with Animated music videos. Why do you think much progress isn’t quite made towards that end? I ask
Ebube replies that ‘The music industry back here isn’t as diversified as it could be, although that takes time. Due to the scale of the industry, more emphasis is placed on the seemingly “important output”, which is the music. The production pipeline of an animated video could take months, sometimes a year to produce a quality animated music video. Artists would rather save themselves from the hell that comes with that process. Picking up a Red/Arri camera and inviting the crew over for a music video is a much more convenient task. Hopefully a time will come when Afro-music is given the right level of creative direction and visual treatment as its counterparts in the West world’.
Garey adds… ‘I think that in the last 2-3 years there’s been a lot of creativity particularly for cover arts. Many artists have coined their individuality and style and are beginning to embed them more into not just covers but also assets and creative directions for their music projects. I think that a huge catalyst for this explosion has been social media becoming more of a focus as a marketing tool and also the engagement aspect of DSPs.
Artists have realized that the quality of the music is a huge aspect of the package but the experience in general is equally important. So the look and feel of the product has to be visually in sync with the sonics.’
I then ask Garey if he thinks it is possible for visual artists to earn royalties through music for the designs they make for music artistes
‘I think this is certainly possible, and I hope the business develops to a point where this becomes the standard. As the digital product ages it becomes like fine wine. I think that a core element of the product is the look of it so yes! The artist should join in sipping from that wine’.
It is only reasonable that way. To get more visual artists in the process of finetuning the way music is perceived as a visual, then sonic product, visual artists could push to earn royalties through their works on cover art. ‘If this becomes the case’, I ask Garey, ‘can you foresee a more expansive juxtaposition between both forms of art?,
‘I think this is happening already but would even be bigger in the coming years’ he says. ‘The rate at which new technological developments are springing up is unprecedented. In this keen spirit I am excited about what the future holds for the different segments of the entertainment business and how music and art can even be further intertwined.’
Ebube adds that ‘the convergence is already in its early stage. Teni’s Wondaland had a Virtual reality promotion that although was exclusive, existed. As technology becomes more accessible and both creative industries grow, the recurring collaborations will only increase as time passes.’
As we witness more music projects being rolled out, it would be interesting to see ways in which music artistes can become the unexpected when they collaborate with visual artists who can bring their visions to the fore. As Ebube and Garey hope to keep working together, we are also interested in the things they do individually.
Presently, Ebube takes on commissions from time to time, and he has people like Garey who he always have open slots for, due to the formed relationship. He also makes out time for continuous experimental projects. ‘Most of the world’s prominent inventions came from open-ended experiments’ He says ‘I try to carry out exploratory projects with no specific goal in mind. This is a great way of broadening your horizon and encountering new forms of expression, you ordinarily might not encounter.’
Garey on the other hand is recording some new music, and also working on some collaborations with some artists He genuinely admires. ‘I can’t wait for you to hear what we are working on. Also certain that there be more coming from Ebube and I’ He says to round up the conversation.