Ras Nas recently won the Smiling Faces Red Carpet Award in his native land of Tanzania and will shortly attend the Springtime Festival in Lebanon and Egypt alongside big names such as Benjamin Zephaniah. The Global Herald caught up with the artist in Berlin to ask a few questions:
How does living in Norway compare to living in Tanzania?
There are differences as well as similarities. When it comes to the weather for example, you have four distinct seasons in Oslo whereas it is sunshine throughout the year in Dar-es-Salaam. The winter season in Oslo is kind of dark and cold. This has its pros and cons. Winter is a good season for self-searching. I find this period good for creativity. Oslo also offers the opportunity to meet artists from other parts of the world. On the other hand I miss the vibrancy, spontaneity and a sense of belonging which Tanzania offers me, as this is the society in which I was born and raised.
Have you recorded any songs in Norweigan?
Yes, I did record a version of Bob Marley “I shot the Sheriff” once, with two Norwegian Dj’s, Apollo and Definite. The song was part of a compilation of Bob Marley songs in Norwegian.
What does it mean to win the Smiling Faces Red Carpet Award?
It means a lot in the sense that the Award shows that what one is doing is being appreciated. This gives me both encouragement and inspiration. The Award also serves to highlight my presence as an artist to the public and thereby increasing their awareness of my work. This is good for exposure and acceptance.
What have you got lined up for the Spring Festival in Lebanon in Egypt?
The band is tight and members come from different parts of the world. Here is the line up: Uriel Seri (drums, Ivory Coast), Dag Pierre (rhythm guitar, Sweden), Chuck Frazier (lead guitar, USA), Karlos Rotsen (keyboards, Martinique) and Larry Skogheim (bass, Norway).
Have you been to the Spring Festival before? If so, what can visitors expect from the festivities?
This is the first time I have played at the Spring Festival. The public should expect a show that is vibrant and music that is swinging and refreshing for the mind, body and soul. It feels great to play in Cairo and Beirut. We want to give the public a Ras Nas experience that they will live to remember.
How do foreign audiences receive music in a language they do not speak?
Music is a universal language and thus we have been able to captivate the audience that do not speak Swahili, for example.
Have you met Benjamin Zephaniah before?
I have not Benjamin Zephaniah before but he has been one of the sources of inspiration to me with his poetry. He is one of the artists that I hold high and I also respect him for his sheer originality.
Do you have any more projects underway at the moment?
I am currently working on a new album, Revelation Time.
Describe your latest work for listeners.
The latest CD is “Double Focus” which contains music and poetry. On this album I have worked with artists from Mali, Brazil, Norway and South Africa. Double Focus is based on an anthology of poetry that I published in 1989.
If you could go back in time would you skip your legal training to start music earlier?
I do not think so. For me music is a talent that I was born with while my legal training is something that I pursued in order to gain knowledge in order to function properly in a world that is increasingly competitive. I believe that musicians should also be well educated, because the two are not in conflict. In fact in today’s world a musician has to do a lot himself. The days that recording companies were taking care of the artist’s interests are slowly disappearing, which means it is an advantage for an artist to be in a position to manage his career.
Anything else you would like to tell us about your life, work or opinions.
I believe that it is important for mankind to strive to overcome all the barriers that have been set up due to racial and religious prejudices. The world will be much better without these.
Ras Nas plays at Sunflower Theatre in Lebanon 14th May and at El Genaina Theatre in El Ashar Park in Cairo 15th May 2010. Fans can buy Ras Nas music at: http://www.cdbaby.com or catch up with him at http://www.twitter.com/rasnas