Bbop Introduces: Banwo The Poet
I spent part of my weekend catching up with the immensely talented 'Banwo The Poet'. A 'spoken word' artist, Banwo was able to fantastically illuminate some of the questions that I had regarding this relatively unknown genre and how he fell into the style. So without further ado, I give you Banwo The Poet:
So, thank you for finding time to talk to me! Tell me, how did it all start? When did the music begin?
So I have been doing spoken word and poetry from a really young age, I was probably about 10 when I wrote my first poem. I remember exactly where I wrote it, how I wrote it and what it was about. It was just about nature and things that inspired me. Growing up with my family I used to go to church a lot, I used to perform there a lot and I loved it. As I grew up and I went to university, I started to sharpen my skills and really dig into my love for music. Not just popular music but old school music, music from different cultures, such as Spanish and Latin music. Well, poetry is such a great art form, music is such a great art form; I love the two so I thought; can I bring them together? Post-uni, I took the jump on Christmas Day 2015 and released a record ‘About Christmas’ with T-rero and an amazing singer Ruth Ellen. We came out with something amazing… and the rest as they say is history.
Your music is very much spoken word as opposed to rap or R&B, was this distinction a deliberate choice?
It was completely deliberate. ‘Spoken Word’ is out there, it’s fantastic, it’s great but I don’t feel that it gets the recognition it deserves. I think it’s maybe because nobody is really out there trying push it in to people’s faces. Everyone is trying to push ‘music’ but music is already everywhere, it’s played everywhere, it’s advertised and promoted but spoken word artists… how much recognition do they get? So I thought to myself, “Is there something that I can do whilst staying true to the art form of spoken word? I’ll blend it in with the music and see if people can receive it in the same way that they do music.”
I think that it’s working so far!
It sounds like it, it seems like people have had a really good response to it. How do people react to something so different?
They have reacted well! With the guys at BBC3 3 Counties Introducing; I’ve been to them three times now and the reception is fantastic. Much better than I thought it would be! That’s forced me to think; well maybe I’m doing something right! (laughs) I’ve also been writing an entirely new album and it’s completely different. I think it’s something that people are really going to enjoy.
Who are you current demographic?
I think those who listen to my music generally listen to deeper more profound music or maybe very old-school R’n’B but it’s opening doors for people who have never actually heard this type of music before. They might hear it and be like “wow that’s different, what is this?” This, I feel, keeps me open to everybody. I call myself, Banwo The Poet, because I want it to be clear that this is poetry and spoken word and that I think may stretch the demographic from anywhere around 17 years old to 40+. Maybe more!
Your songs are so soulful, where do you take such profound inspiration?
It comes from so many places, it comes from being brought up in church, it comes from friends and family. It comes from the music, which I’ve been listening to recently. I’m a huge Drake fan, but on the other hand I’m a big Lauren Hill fan. I listen to bands like ‘The Gorillaz’ and even Coldplay! Their writing is absolutely fantastic and it’s so poetic.
So I guess it’s the amalgamation of all these things that has resulted in writing something completely different. It’s a unique sound and a unique vibe. The first time that I was at BBC Introducing they asked me “so what are you?” and I was like “I don’t know! What do you think I am?” (Laughs). That was my answer at first but afterwards I looked at it and thought, “If I can’t give a genre that I’m in, could I have created a genre?”
Do you feel that you have created a genre?
Yes I do.
What would you like to call your genre?
I don’t know yet! I’m still working on that one. (Laughs)
The song “Andrew weds Sharian” was performed for a couple’s wedding. Where you asked to write it or was it a gift?
That’s a new thing I’ve been doing lately and funnily enough it’s the biggest reaction I’ve had for anything on Facebook… so I thought to myself, “maybe people just don’t want to see my face in my videos.” (Laughs). I get so much from doing this for weddings because one of the main things that drives my writing is love.
Andrew was a great friend of mine from university and he got married in 2015; he married this wonderful woman Sharian. As soon as you meet Andrew you know about Sharian! He just can’t keep quiet about her and their story is just so deep, it was profound. So I wrote the song as a gift for their wedding … I was too cheap to buy them a real present! (Laughs) It was a sentimental gift! After I performed it, Andrew said to me “Wow, please record that and can you put this to something?”
I, of course, said yes but I hadn’t ever done anything like this, luckily I have an amazing producer in Southampton called Jo-Jo, I brought the idea to him and we put it together; After about 6 hours in the studio, we released it with the video and it had such an effect on people. I thought, “wow, I want to do more of this!” I have another wedding coming up in the summer, I hope I get more and more, I really love doing them.
What’s your creative process? Do you write lyrics first and then add in the music or vice versa
It’s very ad-hoc. I might be in my car and hear a song that I think is amazing and has a great message, then there is a spark and it all comes at once. If I have to write about someone or something specific then I sit down and I write it out steadily thinking about how that person or thing makes me feel. The words or the music normally come at the same time; I often write whilst producing music in the studio.
What normally comes first is the sentiment. The idea behind what I’m going to write. It can be a personal experience; it can be from talking to someone or even from listening to music. I don’t know the words yet but I know that the message has to come out.
So, you focused on love and relationships for your spoken word “Love Letter” series. What made you choose this subject?
Well it was my first inspiration to write. For my age I had such a fixation on Shakespeare. I loved The Tempest, I loved Macbeth and I thought that the way that he wrote was amazing. He is the one who taught me the flexibility of language. In my music there’s a lot of rhymes and word play. I like that because language is very fluid. It’s malleable.
And love is so encompassing; it spans from amorous feelings to heartbreak. Also there’s the emphatic stage, to those who have a love of God, and those who have a love of nature. I can put all that together in one series and let it relate to a huge demographic.
Your faith plays a part in some of your music and has produced some of your most epic and thought provoking work. Is this the UK’s answer to America’s gospel choirs?
I’ve had such a strange journey with faith. There are times when you question more and times when you question less. At times when there are no answers to the questions that we are asking and I’ve had to accept that. There may not be answers but I do have faith and believe that this world and this universe are bigger than us. I can’t believe that the beauty that I see in people and in nature can be an accident because it’s just too epic to be an accident.
I think on a more personal note I wanted to show that believers are not all boring bible-bashers; many are just normal people like you and I. That’s it, I love and accept everyone. I have friends from varied and diverse backgrounds. I am far from being a bigot; I don’t want to shove it down other people’s throats. I just want to share love.
In your freestyle you said that before you were ‘anti-relationships’. Something tells me that now that’s not the case, what changed?
I think in the past I lost a lot of hope in relationships that weren’t working and from what I’d seen people can just destroy each other as opposed to making each other feel better and encouraged and being a true best friend. Someone you can laugh with, banter with, make memories with and just love life together. I think I became very disillusioned with it and then steadily I started to see otherwise, I guess.
Love that line ‘Call me Dora because it’s exploring time, and now I feel like my powers are in range I guess it’s morphing time’. Did you feel good after writing that one? In fact what’s your favorite lyric?
I felt great after that line! (Laughs) I get little lines like that pop into my head all the time. I recorded that track as a joke; I remember we had 30 minutes left in the studio. I said to Jo-Jo, let’s just do something crazy. I remember there were some other lines that I loved in that song as well. I just got in the zone and I had this release of puns coming out one after the other.
What’s next? Where can we see you perform and when is new music coming?
For now, I’m really focusing on honing my sound, finding my sound and all of that will be coming out in the next series called ‘Samples’. Keep up with me on Facbook, Twitter and Instagram… all are under the name “Banwo The Poet”.
Even if you have any questions or want me to perform then email me on [email protected] !
Thank you so much Banwo for taking the time to talk to us and we look forward to seeing you grow in the near future!