MEET: Blaze & Music Industry Mindfulness

Blaze is a fascinating phenomenon. We have wanted to go explore this mind for a while to find about more about the ten thousand projects (at least) that seem to be a constant in the Blazeverse. Blaze has many titles and he is working them all very well. But more than that, what really intrigues us is how this obviously busy man 1) always seems to be able to make time for more, and 2) never comes with stressed vibes. Blaze always sees you when he talks to you, and always brings a mood that is graceful and soothing. So we wanted to look deeper into his perspective on things. We’re really honored and happy to be able to share this conversation with you. It has everything from entrepreneurial zest to mindfulness and good advice. Meet Blaze. 

Blaze. Photo from Blaze.

How would you describe yourself to someone who is not familiar with you?
B: Ideas man. The Connect. Talent Manager.

Has music always been a path that felt natural for you to pursue? And were you ever attracted to focusing on being a musician yourself?
B: Yes, music has always been my natural pursuit. I always thought I would work in a record label or something like that. I did actually start out as a musician, but I was also very organized and found myself getting more work to organize things for artists and I grew from there. The rest is this. 

What are you passionate about?
B: I’m passionate about Africa and my travels through the world. Since I didn’t spend too much time in Africa when I was younger, I made it a point to go to every African country.

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Blaze with Kenyan fashion duo @2manysiblings in New York.

You’re the founder of SPARK Africa, tell us a bit more about this?
B: I founded Spark Africa as an urban creative agency. I wanted to promote new events, new ideas, new way of living. SPARK = Something People Aren’t Ready for in Africa. Look at what is happening in Kenya eventwise. In the early 2000s the only options for partying were either bars and clubs. But now there’s plenty of festivals and there’s other ways to party.

You have worked with Coke Studio Africa for several years. This is a well-known mega-success in Africa, but how would you describe the concept and success factors to someone who is not familiar with the show?
B: Basically, we figured that African musicians were not collaborating with each other enough, because travel in Africa is just too expensive. For example, an artist in Nigeria might want to collaborate with an artist from Tanzania but when you look at the travel costs, they just turn away from that experience. Coke Studio’s idea was to get all these different talented artists into one studio to collaborate and make great music. The rest is history.

Many of your projects are done by really amazing teams. How do you feel about working alone vs with a team? And how do you select people for your teams?
B: I love to roll with the flow. It all just comes together. That being said, I like organised people and people who have the same goals.

There is a saying; ”If you want something done ask the busiest person in the room”. That person must often be you. How do you create time for things having so much going on?
B: This is all so natural to me. I’m busy, yes, but in my busy schedule I find time for those I love and for relaxation. My favorite ways of relaxing are reading a book or taking a walk. I ride my bicycle a lot.

Multi-tasking – yes or no?
B: There’s no way I could do all that I do if I wasn’t a multi-tasker.

What’s else is going on in your life right now?
B: So much, do you have the time? (MiKe said “yes”. We always have time for Blaze.) A lot of things. Right now, every Thursday night I have an event with DJ Mixmaster Lenny called Any Given Thursday at The Alchemist. We are pushing the limits where we have a DJ play with a live instrumentalist. The future of live performances will be a mix of instruments and a DJ. That night is really catching on. And a few other things in the making.  

What character traits or mindsets/perspectives in you are most important to you for your progress?
B: The ability to see things way before they happen. The ability to be different and be comfortable with it.

 The ability to be different and be comfortable with it.

How does the creative climate of Nairobi influence you?
B: It’s the best thing ever to be surrounded by creative people. That’s the energy I live for. Everyday I wake up and I’m just happy to be alive in a creative community.

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Blaze and one of our favorite sources of happiness: Patricia Kihoro.

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Blaze and Octopizzo.

Culture and politics, are they related to you? If so, how? Can we push progress in culture without a larger societal perspective? How can we support young people’s progress through culture and creative expression?
B: Oh yes, of course they are related, that’s why I was watching the debate between Trump and Clinton while answering some of your questions. As a creative entrepreneur I have to know what’s going on in the world financially. One political move can mean a whole lot in terms of policy for the creatives. We can support young people’s cultural progress by investing more in education that matters. Not just book education but practical education.

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What concerns you the most right now looking at the world? And in Kenya?
B: The economy and the state of our children. I worry that the poor are getting more poor. People should not be living in some of the conditions I have seen them living in and this is everywhere. In USA, Europe, Africa. Children these days have so much information and not enough role models. I feel like they are too much in a hurry to be successful and have no time to go through the trenches.

What do you see as the main big steps for Kenyan or East African music to take moving forward?
B: Cultural collaboration.

You have brought some amazing artists to Kenya. What do you think has made them want to come and what have they appreciated about Kenya? Who else is on your dream list to bring?
B: With most of them it’s really about relationships. They came because I asked them to. They appreciated that Kenya is still in its organic stages of development and has so much to offer. I won’t sleep until Jay Z does a show in Kenya.

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Blaze and Yasiin Bey in Nairobi.

Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
B: I’m an extroverted introvert. I’m in the middle. I like people, but I also just like being alone meditating.

Where do you look for inspiration? What (or who) are your main sources of influence and inspiration?
B: Life, God, Good people.

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Your life is very intense, socially and with travelling and several projects happening at once. How do you secure energy? And what do you do to recharge?
B: I drink loads of water, eat lots of fruit, exercise a lot and when I sleep I sleep in good. I also keep my thoughts positive.

If you would plan a music event anywhere in the world. Where would it be and who would perform?
B: Mombasa, on the beach. Laryn Hill would be my headliner.

You can keep one track from your current playlist and have to delete the rest. Which one stays?
B: ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’ – Lauryn Hill/ Bob Marley

What makes an artist extra-ordinary?
B: Mastery of their craft, humble and always ready to learn.

Why do you love doing what you do?
B: I love doing what I’m doing because I feel fulfilled. I love seeing smiles on people’s faces. I’m a happy person so I love it when I see people happy.

What is your best general advice?
B: Always Stay Ready, Nobody owes you anything.

 Always Stay Ready, Nobody owes you anything.

What do you wish the world knew about Kenya?
B: I would love people to know that Kenya is a country just like any country and has brilliant people just like anywhere else in the world.

Hey Blaze, MiKe likes you sana. Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.

All images from Blaze.

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