Abuja-based singer Brumeh Dennis Oghenekaro, better known as Brum3h, was in his final year at the University of Ilorin studying Physics when he released his debut single White Collar Man in 2017. Carrying personal echoes of that period in academia, and arriving at the crossroads of wanting to do music in Nigeria and the acutely familiar atmosphere that frowns at such interests, White Collar Man captures the conflict and angst over booming drums and rock-inspired guitar.
”I was scared that they [my parents] wouldn’t support me. So I started music without their permission, while studying physics in university. It was very frustrating. Thankfully, when I eventually told them, they were in support.” Brum3h explains.
The 25-year-old singer would later take a break from music after graduating to improve his songwriting. He achieved this by writing poetry, doing object writing exercises and staying away from internet. Prayer For You marked his return in 2018, fusing RnB and soul in ways that are off-kilter and lyrically blunt. The single sonically laid the groundwork for his 2019 debut EP The Big Blue, which he was working on while performing at shows in and out of Abuja, coming in as a supporting act for artistes like Tems, Davido, Wizkid, MI Abaga and others.
Brum3h plays the guitar, started playing the instrument before admission into the university in 2012. From Delta and the first of five children, his RnB, jazz and soul influences comes from a wide pool of artistes he listened to as a child. From Brandy, Diana Ross, Celine Dion, Usher to Ron Kenoly and Don Moen. ”As I got older I dived into Yanni quite a bit. We had an uncle staying in our house who loved Jazz. And I quickly became a fan. And artists like J Moss, Deitrick Haddon, Mali Music and the Jonas Brothers were artists I consciously tried to imitate at some point growing up.”
Independently released, The Big Blue is a meditation on love, nuanced along themes of desire, rejection, trust and hope. The opener Who Are You, a numbing, haunting ballad employing spoken word from poet Feranmi Okafor, is a winking signpost to Brum3h’s vocal range. The project was also a foot in the industry, putting him on the Abuja music radar and gaining massive airplay on radio. Signed to The Kreative Kollective Company run by Ife Diran, Brum3h has been with the label since last year December. As coronavirus halted world affairs for most of 2020, Brum3h spent time putting together his sophomore project Typewriter Vol 1, but not without challenges imposed by the pandemic.
On the cusp of the EP’s release, YNaija’s Bernard Dayo speaks to the singer-songwriter about the hurdles in making this new body of work with single Criminal already out, circling back to The Big Blue and discussing mental health.
Noticed that the The Big Blue had many collaborations. Was this intentional?
Honestly, it just kind of happened, I’d be halfway through making a song and realize “hmm, this person would sound great on this song” and I’d just send it to them.
You didn’t release music for a large part of 2020 and with the lockdowns from the coronavirus pandemic, what did you get up to?
I spent most of the time bonding with my family. That’s one thing I’m grateful for in 2020. My family grew closer to each other. I loved that.
Criminal is the official single from your second EP. What are the themes you are exploring and how much can you say about this project?
Yes, Criminal is the first and only single off my next project. It’s called “Typewriter Vol. 1” and I’m essentially journaling. I’m letting out a lot of things I didn’t say to the people I should have said them to. Mostly significant others, but also friends, myself too. It’s like I’m leaving notes for people I care or have cared about, but written as songs.
How long did it take you to make Typewriter Vol 1.?
I started working on the project almost immediately after I released The Big Blue. So well over a year. The biggest challenge for me was losing my computer. It crashed on me about twice in 2020. And both times I lost a significant amount of data. That and not being able to go the studio during the lockdown. That pushed it back by a lot. The most beautiful moment for me, was when I played the songs on the project for a few of my friends a couple of weeks ago. They were genuinely awestruck, that was very satisfying for me [Laughs].
What are you currently listening to at the moment?
Right now I’m listening to Lucky Daye, Wizkid, SG Lewis and Beghofromthematrix.
In your opinion, can you draw a relationship between making music and mental health and how this has affected you?
Music for me has always been an outlet for me, it’s my equivalent of therapy, and it’s my happy place. I definitely wouldn’t be as mentally balanced as I am without it. It’s helped me process a lot of stuff in my life.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.