Sudanese-American rapper Bas (real name Abbas Hamad) is on an extended tour of Africa, and his first stop was Nairobi, Kenya, where he performed at the Jameson Concert at the upmarket, yet to be opened Waterfront Mall in Karen last weekend.
Based in New York, Bas has eight million fans worldwide, whom he connects with through his social media platforms.
His music has been streamed on Spotify 78 million times in the past year and he says he gets inspiration from travelling around the world but especially Africa, where the music industry has exploded and currently rules the airwaves on the continent, a far cry from 10 years ago when Western music was still the rave.
During his Kenyan tour, he sampled Nairobi's nightlife, held a press conference and hung out with fans and musicians.
“It’s a true blessing to be here. Kenya is more beautiful than I imagined. I’ve been to Sudan and Lagos several times but Nairobi is a different kind of city. If I didn’t know I was in Africa I feel like I could be anywhere in the world," he said adding,
"While my crew and I are here, we want to meet fans and musicians to find out what they’re listening to. The biggest influence on my music has been travel. Going to new places and hearing new sounds. It’s like a cultural renaissance is happening in Africa, with the beats and music having a global influence.”
Bas was born in Paris to Sudanese parents, lived in Qatar during his early years, and moved to New York at the age of eight.
He is the youngest of five siblings. His parents have maintained ties with family in Sudan and they visit Sudan regularly.
Although he didn’t start rapping until he was 23, in 2010, he says he uses his music to express himself.
“Growing up, I didn’t really have a creative outlet. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer, or an engineer or a doctor," he said.
“My favourite song at the moment is Tribe. In this song, I tap into love, of self and others. My biggest musical influence has been my elder brother DJ Moma. I used to open gigs for him." The other influence on his creativity are Jay-Z, Nash and Jamiroquai.
“When I was younger, we visited Sudan often with my parents. As an adult, I’m grateful that I still have my Sudanese identity and what I would call a home base. Now, I try to visit as often as I can,” he said in an interview.
Bas says he’s open to learning from others in the music industry.
“I like WizKid, and other African artistes. In the past few years, several labels have opened offices on the continent. I encourage young artistes to keep pushing the envelope. About 10 years ago, we would visit Sudan and about 90 per cent of music on radio was Western music. Now it’s the other way round. We hear a lot more African music.’’
Bas will have a break of 10 days in Johannesburg and says: "I'll get a studio and make some music. I’ll also reach out to local producers and artistes. I’ll have shows in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
“The show in Sudan is on January 4, so I’ll probably be there for about a week and then travel back to the US. We’ll be on tour until April.”