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Runtown The side of Nigeria’s sound god that mere you need to Experience


Runtown is at home where there is music, he is an enigma in the works – but he does not carry himself like the star that he is.

Between the time we spent calling his manager and setting up the kind of lights you need to capture these moments, we had been waiting for almost one hour when Runtown walked into his room.

As his eyes adjusted to the bright lights of this white space, fresh from the darkness of his new and unfinished home studio, we could tell that he could see the impatience that was slowly melting off our faces.

Sorry for keeping you guys waiting

We’ve been rehearsing. You know I’m going on tour“.

One of the first things you learn when you begin to fall in love with music and the people that create it is that they tend to believe their own hype.

Musicians blow up, get love and money for their troubles, and become divas. Divas do not apologise to mere mortals like young enthusiastic music journalists and a camera team.

Still, here he was. He didn’t have to say much, what mattered was not the words. It was in the way he said them, the way his eyes moved from one person to another, like a long conversation with one and all of us at the same time.

You can hear that feeling in his music. Whether he’s singing of throwback parties on “1980” or telling the continuing story of his success on “Lagos to Kampala“, Runtown is believable.

playHis latest hit, “Mad Over You” put Runtown on everyone’s lips as we left 2016 (Youtube)

Few things can compare to talking to a creative in his own space, but we had expensive cameras waiting to capture these conversations, so we put chairs in their place, props were set and men sat and took positions.

Everyone has a face for the cameras. There is a voice that speaks our pidgin with reckless abandon behind closed doors, but when the bright lights come on, it gives way to accents that are as confused about their origin as you are.

Joey Akan is music editor at Pulse, and since he began telling stories like the one that brought us here, he has had iconic conversations with the industry’s finest.

As he and Runtown continued to share laughs and inside jokes, it became obvious what was happening – the cameras had started rolling long before but the conversation that we were now watching was no different from the one that had started when he walked in.

playJoey and Runtown acted like old friends; a shared love of music filled the void that many years would have created. (Segun Akande/Pulse)

We had come here to interview the guy behind Nigeria’s biggest song at the moment. He was sitting before us, sharing his own unique narrative – we were curating history and everyone was acting like it. Everyone except him.

Runtown does not carry himself like the star that he is.

He walks as he speaks, with a cautious self-assurance, like a newly adopted child in a house that he has been promised will become his own when he grows up.

To some, it is a problem, but apart from his ability to create melodies and songs that stick with you like a lover, it is his biggest blessing.

playWhen he gets in his zone, Runtown needs no help to own the place. (Segun Akande/Pulse)

His apathy is the most understated form of confidence you will find.

By allowing you drive the conversations you have with him about himself, and being the guy in the corner with sealed lips and dim glances, he owns every space he is in, effortlessly.

For him, it is second nature – his aura is unforced – like the music that has taken his name from 042 to the favelas of Brazil.

When the questions were done, Joey asked him to give us a taste of the experience of creating his newest hit, “Mad Over You”.

Runtown has a mini-studio near the foot of his bed. It’s not much, the basics – amplifier, laptop, speakers, studio monitors and according to him, the microphone he recorded his hit song on.

playRuntown’s mobile studio sits by his bed; sometimes magic comes from the least likely sources. (Segun Akande/Pulse)

He told Joey that he bought it at a place called the Guitar Shack, fresh off a flight to the city of Los Angeles – but now, in Lagos, with that microphone and his ‘studio by the bed’, he recreated one special moment in our presence, with all its intricacies and quirks.

First, he broke down the beat into layers and sang over each element – the way he likes to record. Then he played that recording in patches.

Ghana girl say, she wan marry me eh

I hope she sabi cook wache

Hope your love go sweet pass shitor 

It was easy to imagine him bringing this song into existence – slapping his mini piano’s keys, changing pitches, recording those almost-voiceless adlibs, losing himself in this process until he called forth the music he had been hearing his head, like a sound god.

playWhen the instruments speak and Runtown begins to create music, he is at home. (Segun Akande/Pulse)

Runtown is a creator; where he does not invent, he re-shapes, bending individual elements into brilliant soundscapes and melodies.

Later, when the interview ended and we had flattened the small electronic jungle we created in his room, he told us about collaborating with Sarkodie and more than a dozen songs he has recorded with Wizkid.

The conversation was coming to an end, because while this banter was going back and forth, we were inching towards the door in that shaky inconsistent way you do when home begins to whisper to you.

Then I remembered a question I thought about when he told Joey he had not been playing a lot of Afrobeat.

I asked him what song he was listening to at the moment.

There’s this guy, Stromae ” Runtown said.

Then he grabbed his laptop and turned on the speakers again.

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