Drizilik breaks silence on the stereotypes

Benjamin Menelik George, professionally known as Drizilik, has broken his silence on the stereotypes surrounding the Entertainment Industry in Sierra Leone which said stereotype labels musicians as ‘idlers’ and ‘unserious’.

Drizilik is one of Sierra Leones’s best known rappers and a new school sensation. Drizilik has succeeded in breaking some international barriers and gained praises and respect beyond the borders of West Africa for his multi-lingual lyrics incorporating bubu, gumbe and milo jazz elements into his songs. He has become influential in the industry and has released albums depicting the everyday struggles of youths in Freetown.

He is signed to Shukublay Inc, which is co-owned by himself together with one of his managers and a friend. His manager is Eminence Africa, an event management company that also has a record label and produces and promotes live music. This company has succeeded in rebranding the face of entertainment in Sierra Leone. Young, talented, determined and driven by his passion for music, Drizilik embarked on his UK tour in August 2019 together with the Freetown uncut band where he had an exclusive interview with the BBC. And earlier this year, he was featured on the Africa Day Virtual concert hosted by Idris Elba where he performed alongside other African superstars.

Drizilik, in an interview with Sierra Eye, talks about his background and what inspired him to choose music among the many other things he could’ve done and what has made him exceptional in the industry following the release of his hit single ‘pop collar’ in 2015.

As a boy; he grew up in Central Freetown. He attended the Tower Hill Municipal School and later proceeded to the Albert Academy Secondary School. He chose music among the many other things he could’ve done to be a change maker and also wanted to live his truth through his music. Apart from music, he is also interested in fashion. And since the release of his hit single ‘shukublay’ in 2018, the musical prodigy has increased the demand for shukublays (a Krio name for a small basket for keeping miscellaneous items). Now, young Sierra Leoneans are proudly seen inserting this culture into their modern wears and it has helped in rebranding himself as an artist.

Drizilik is able to throw light on the controversial topic of mixing politics and the Entertainment Industry. It is a fact that local politicians are influencing the Entertainment Industry, tapping into the fan zone of these entertainers especially during electioneering periods. Drizilik acknowledges the fact that there is some level of political influence in entertainment. “There is the issue of politics and entertainment because it is obvious that musicians get mass appeal easily and that is what politicians are obviously looking for. So it’s business for them and you cannot blame someone for wanting something but as a musician, the decisions you make affect not just your music but they affect an entire industry as well as your tribe (fan zone). Honestly, it’s a give and take scenario and some artists maybe right if they chose to support certain politicians but personally I may support a politician privately but I don’t think I’ll do that publicly”, he says.

Another major problem affecting the Entertainment Industry in Sierra Leone are the stereotypes being heaped on these entertainers such as being “unserious”, “idlers”, “illiterates” etc. It is not hidden that society always tends to bring musicians down because in Sierra Leone, if you are not able to secure a white-collar job, it is assume that you are less than the person who has one. It is this narrative that has made Drizilik to walk on a path which many artists do not want to walk.

Drizilik has been a victim of this stereotype even as a boy going to school and managing his own music. “My parents were against my music; even my grandmother she loved me but she wanted something different for me. I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing from my parents’ perspective and that of society and I wasn’t going to argue with them about that. So, I just found my space and did my thing. I wasn’t prepared to change people’s perceptions about me or what I chose to do”, he notes.

 However, using his platform and his influence, Drizilik has managed to change this narrative and has inspired the youth by demonstrating that one can do entertainment and that it can be done differently. As one of the most talked about artists, he knows and acknowledges the fact that the youth listen to his songs as well as their parents, so he is always careful about what he is putting out there. There is one saying that has been the pillar of his faith: “know watin you want, know watin ee worth n know watin yu willing fo do fo get am”; a Krio saying which means that it is not just enough to have a dream but there should be conscious steps to achieve these dreams. He also throws light on gang violence in the music industry and he acknowledges that the reason he is able to keep a large audience is because he has not associated himself with any gang or ‘clique’. 

For many years, the Entertainment Industry has always had the problem of breaking international boundaries like the Nigerians, Ghanaians, South Africans, etc. Is it that Sierra Leone does not have musicians who believe in originality? Is it that emphasis is not being placed on entertainment? Is it in the attitudes of the entertainers themselves? This is another topic that Drizilik passionately emphasizes on. For him, the threat or problem in the Entertainment Industry, particularly with the music industry, is the attitudes of the artists and the lackadaisical attitude of the government. “It is not just enough to want something, we all want international breaks but there are prerequisite steps for achieving them. Self-discipline plays a major part. Music is an art, a discipline like any other academic discipline and Sierra Leonean artists should treat it that way. Our artists are not passion-driven, and as a result a little statement from a critic may cause them to lose themselves and their purpose. In this industry you have to trust yourself and your instincts, you have to be able to look in the mirror and find yourself. Many artists are just floating with the waves and anything that comes to the shore they are content with. Music is also not just about talent, like other disciplines. Music needs proper administration and structures to thrive. If the Government pays more attention to music, as they do with other disciplines like the legal field, medicine, accounting, economists by building educational institutions to groom these artists, managers etc.; then music will thrive. In other countries, that is what they do and that is why they are succeeding,” he intones.

He points out that, “If I could do collaborations with any three international artists; it would be Kanye West, Nasty C and Tiwa Savage. One thing, he says, he loves about his job is the reactions of his fans when he gets on stage. He loves the fact that the fans are enjoying his music the way he also enjoys their enthusiasms for his songs.

In the next five years, Drizilik sees himself ‘twice as tall’; more international outings, and hopefully try to make sense of the kind of artist that he is and his impact in the music industry. The best advice he has been given as an artist is to be himself and to sing in “Krio”. And his advice to youths is that: “It is not just enough to have a dream, you have to walk towards achieving these dreams, blind your eyes and deaf your ears to negative people who constantly tell you that it can’t be done. Be yourself, find your purpose, the sky is the limit”.

 He mentions that the new generation coming up like the likes of Capii Ty, Simplay, and other artists like Joel, DJ Rampage are the future of the Entertainment Industry. His next album will soon be out. It will be titled: “Ashobi”, and he assures his fans that it will be his best yet!

“It’s a heavy duty to try to do everything and please everybody. My job was to go out there and play the game of basketball as best as I can and provide entertainment for everyone who wanted to watch basketball. Obviously, people may not agree with that, again I can’t live with everyone’s impression of what I should or what I shouldn’t do”- Michael Jordan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.