Hyenah: it's not about my face, it's about us!

Member of the RISE collective and label co-founder Hyenah returns to his RISE imprint this July with a debut album: Love In Times Of Crisis. The twelve-track LP contains twelve individual collaborations, featuring a global selection of artists.

Hyenah is an artist creating musical transitions between African house music and the western scene. While creating his own signature sound, he has become a strong ambassador for diversity in the music industry. With his regular RISE events at Watergate in Berlin, Hyenah was one of the first people to push the sound in Europe and promote the movement by organising RISE showcases worldwide.

We caught up with the artist to find our more....
Hello Hyenah, very pleased to have you with us today. How are things with you?
— Hi! Thanks for having me - and thanks for asking. I am good. It just feels amazing to be out again and feeling the energy of people coming together. I really missed that. And I am super excited to see how people feel about what I have been working on over the last years. It almost feels unreal that my debut album is actually being released now.
This July, your debut album, Love In Times Of Crisis, arrives via your label RISE. What can you tell us about this album?
— It is an ode to the power of music. It is a magical thing that can do so much for and with people. Especially on the African continent there is this incredible appreciation for music, in all shapes and forms. I love this energy so much and wanted to play with it. Or at least with what I remembered of it in times of this global crisis we all went through. And I did not want to do that alone. I want to misquote Madonna here: People make the music come together. That's what I would start with.

Some of the songs on this album go wayyy back. And that's what makes the album so precious to me. It's a diary telling stories between the now and a past that feels like a lifetime away.
What inspired the creation of Love In Times Of Crisis?
— Making music and playing it to the people creates an endless amount of precious impressions and a sense of togetherness as human beings. That is a beautiful thing.It also means that inspiration can hit you on a daily basis. Selecting the most moving encounters and moments as the core of new creations is key. This focus on the most personal elements to me defines my artist's voice. It's all about canceling the noise first and defining my own timbre in between the daily buzz.
The album features an extensive cast of collaborators from across the globe. How did you go about deciding who to work with on this album?
— First of all: There must be a common ground. Artistically we must click somehow. Most of the artists I've collaborated with on Love In Times Of Crisis I have known and respected for a long time. They have been an inspiration for me in one way or the other. When it comes to vocalists, a perfect voice is not the main thing for me. What I am aiming for is a certain mood or attitude. I need to feel what the artist was feeling while recording. And that feeling needs to be aligned with what I had in mind. So it really is a collaboration. And it must be fun working with them. I am super grateful for each and every one contribution. Without my friends and artistic partners, This album would not be the same. The creative collaboration is somewhat the meta topic of LITOC.
You began creating the album during the onset of the pandemic in 2020. How much of an impact did that have on the creation of the album?
— I actually started even before the pandemic. Some of the tunes have been on my harddrive for quite some time. Unfinished. There was an impact for sure! A) I could not test these songs in a club environment and feel the full impact they might or might not have. B) As you might have realized, I also produced some tracks that are not aiming for the dancefloor. Actually I really enjoyed that. I freed myself from the pressure of making them work on the floor. Instead I tried to express certain topics or feelings. Some are also about recollecting a vibe of certain places I've been to and hold dearly close to my heart. It was also not too easy to collaborate long distance and mainly digitally and still share an understanding on where to take the song. In the end that worked surprisingly well, even though I prefer being in one room with other artists… So the pandemic did have quite an impact.
What was the creative process like for the album?
— It was a bit of a sensitive process. I love to really connect 100% with my dear collaborators, but at the same time all communication and interaction is meant to just happen online. To find common artistic ground first of all means to create a solid basis of trust - on a worldwide level. Discussing too many details in particular could just easily kill the vibe once and for all. So while I kept reconsidering my creative path, often it was what the collaborators came up with that eventually navigated me. I have the feeling that while social availability came short our social senses were strengthened. I hope not just me will experience this level of connection when listening to the songs on my album.
What feelings are you hoping for the listener to experience from the album?
— That is a good question. As the title of the album might imply: It is about love, but also about being in a state of crisis.I have heard - no idea if true or not - that the Chinese sign for crisis is a combination of disaster and opportunity. I quite like that. Coming back to your question: I'd love it if the listeners simply enjoy the beauty of music.I want them to feel optimistic and joyful. Even though some songs are political or at least politically motivated, I always intend to spread positivity, hopefulness and maybe a subtil excitement. In the end we are not that different. We are closer to each other than we might think - not only in times of crisis. And things are getting better. No matter what, there is much to enjoy out there. And the best way to enjoy it is to share.
Thank you Hyenah for speaking with us today. To round things off, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
— People keep wondering why I wear a mask. So I want to say a few words about that. For me the mask creates a lot of freedom and takes my person out of the equation. I can do things that I would not do without the mask. I can become someone else and maybe someday someone else can become me. I intentionally chose a visor that works like a mirror.. It always reflects everyone around me, the community and people around me is what defines the Hyenah story. No performer can shine without the listener, the crowd makes me who I am. It's not about my face, it's about us!