Nigerian-Canadian artist Asuquomo dropped a fresh new four-song EP, DIOBU, in June, just in time for the summer heat. Since 2014, the Ottawa-based musician and producer has, until now, released his hip hop tracks under his given name—Morris Ogbowu.
His decision to move forward with a new name for his music project wasn’t the only thing that changed. For one, it’s the first time he’s used original instrumentation and beats, with no samples whatsoever. Even more, Asuquomo explores new sounds and inspirations on DIOBU, tapping into his Nigerian roots and putting the more typical hip hop beats to the side. This is no more apparent than the first single “Yahweh,” the album’s opening track that explodes with energy and modern afrobeat rhythm.
One thing that has not changed through this transition is his ability to convey his message through poignant lyricism and sharp delivery on all his tracks. I chatted with Asuquomo recently about the new record, and life as a musician during a pandemic. Read the interview and stream the new EP below.
What have you been doing to keep your creativity sharp during these COVID restrictions? Anything in particular help you channel your artistic side?
As far as channeling my artistic side, it’s the default way I try to live. With restrictions and social distancing due to COVID-19, I have been doing a lot of cooking, biking, and some online learning on production and marketing. I just put out my debut EP as Asuquomo, DIOBU, so I haven’t been creating as much music since the release. I have spent more time on journaling ideas that can’t be worked on instantly, and relaxing into other expressive forms like writing, painting and sketching.
You have a unique ability to communicate stories through your music. Can you talk about what your driving force is behind DIOBU and how you approached the album conceptually?
DIOBU is a four-track EP, based on growing up and the making of my first memories. The project title is geographically based on my place of birth, the first neighbourhood I grew up in, Diobu, in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Conceptually, it’s a contemporary album of African folk written from fragmented memories, and inspired by emotions and intuitions from my early childhood experiences. Growing up on my grandfather’s estate, depending on which relative’s room I slept in the night before, in the morning I would wake up to video marathons of Michael Jackson’s top hits, Fela Kuti or DMX playing on the highest volume the speakers could handle.
DIOBU is my first original record, meaning that it’s all original instrumentation and arrangements with no samples. The driving force behind my EP had to be the sum of my musicality and intention to mark my debut as Asuquomo. From the conception of the idea, I did my part and put a greater deal of trust in the co-creators and other artists on this record.
Your music doesn’t feel tied down by any specific sound, instrumentation, or influence. In writing DIOBU, how did your songwriting and experimentation with sounds evolve from previous projects you’ve worked on?
I appreciate the remark. In writing DIOBU, parts of the songs felt already lived when they came, so I knew roughly how they sounded, then slowly, with time, I knew exactly how I wanted things to sound to nail a certain feeling, therefore becoming a truthful expression.
Getting the feelings across, and that in itself, feeling right, DIOBU was clear in many ways.
Is there one message or sentiment you would like people to take away from DIOBU after listening?
Home is an all too familiar frequency around which we constantly vibrate—we carry home inside of us wherever we go
At-Su-Kwo-Mo!” is how you say it. The “T” is silent, my passion is not.