- 07 Dec 20
Having explored a painful relationship break-up on his new EP, rising star Jafaris discusses emotional catharsis, Irish hip-hop, and his ambitious future plans. “I won’t be satisfied until I can facilitate people’s dreams,” he tells Kate Brayden.
From mile-a minute raps to smooth vocals, Tallaght-raised, Zimbabwean-born Percy Chamburuka, aka Jafaris, has woven UK and US rap, R&B, trap and soul influences into the Irish fabric of his latest EP.
Thematically, I Love You But I’m In A Bad... Mood explores the frustration of facing your feelings after making a monumental decision, with powerful expressions of regret, loneliness and hurt.
As Jafaris dissects the end of an eight-year relationship, he is left with a challenging question: how do you define yourself after your life was inextricably linked with another person’s from adolescence to adulthood?
“For me, the EP represents closure from my longest relationship,” says Jafaris. “This wasn’t a project that I wanted to make – it just all came out like a train of thought. After Stride, this type of music about heartbreak and frustration kept coming out. I was focusing on what the break-up actually meant for me as a person and who I was becoming afterwards.
“There wasn’t that much of a gap between the relationship ending and putting pen to paper – I went straight in and recorded it. After the break-up, it felt as if I was creating from her perspective; that was my way of trying to understand her feelings. She’s an artist as well, so I was trying to be empathetic.”
What was the production approach on I Love You But I’m In A Bad... Mood?
“With my debut album Stride, I was still trying to find my feet,” Jafaris reflects. “I was figuring out what type of artist I wanted to be and how I wanted to present myself. Going into this project, I had a solid idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. I had 100% control, because I was visualising it as the person going through the break-up.
“This EP has been done for a while, so I’m in a different headspace at the minute. It’s kind of irritating for me as an artist, because dropping this EP is going to make people feel like this is who I am right now, when it’s an old version of me. My newer tracks sound very different to what people have heard; I’m just waiting for the right time to release that side of me.”
Jafaris takes great pride in the achievements of Irish hip-hop, but acknowledges its identity is still in flux.
“London’s reception to the Irish hip-hop scene is crazy, they want to be here so badly!” he enthuses. “I think the only thing that we’re still struggling with here is our identity. The music sounds good, but a lot of what’s at the forefront doesn’t really sound ‘Irish’. It sounds like it’s from the UK or US. I don’t think that has as much longevity; we need to find out what our thing is, because there’s interest in what we’re doing.
“I would get asked why I don’t use my accent, but I think Irish identity in hip-hop is a matter of people being themselves. We have a unique accent – whether it’s got a UK or African twang – and we need to own these things, as opposed to trying to sound more ‘Irish’. Just be yourself. That’s what I’m trying to explore in my music – I’m just using my actual voice instead of the US sound I’ve mimicked for so long.”
With Covid-19 having decimated live music and damaged the arts scene across Ireland, does Jafaris believe that artists like him are being given the right assistance?
“Personally, I feel super supported here,” he replies. “I used to have the mentality that there wasn’t a big Irish music industry and that I needed to leave. Honestly, it’s never going to change if artists keep emigrating. The super talented people need to stay and build what we have here. Some artists don’t speak about what’s happening in the country and they don’t cater for the Irish crowd, but that will come with time. Some will leave, but I’m here and I want to build on what I’ve done.
“Some people try to put pressure on me to speak on certain issues like BLM, or do more about certain things simply because I’m Jafaris. I do feel an obligation and a responsibility to defend my race or my people, and build my community up in a positive light, but I prefer to create action rather than talk about it. We’re very good at pointing out the problems but nobody’s really thinking about solutions.”
From a creative standpoint, Jafaris’s method of exploring Irish identity in parallel with his Zimbabwean heritage allows him to remain open to new styles.
“I want to be more in touch with my culture, 100%,” he says. “I feel like the new music I’m making will shadow it in some way, shape or form. There’s certain percussion elements in my country that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. I’m educating myself on what the sounds are from the people I grew up with. It’s a case study or project of mine, but it won’t come out until I’ve captured it accurately.
“Music is something that I’m gifted to do and it’s something I hope will feed myself and my family, but this is not my end goal. I won’t be satisfied until I’m in a position where I can facilitate people’s dreams.
“I wasn’t brought up to be egotistical, though. My culture is all about humility, nobody is better than anyone else. I’ve surrounded myself with people of like mind, and I’m grounded enough to not lose myself.”
• I Love You But I’m In A Bad… Mood is out now.