When Bill Sellanga makes sounds people listen. There is a lot going on in his music, details, lyrics, all sorts of audio adventures that make you feel like the tracks sound a little bit different every time you listen to them. Blinky has just released a brand new EP, We Cut Keys While You Wait, and excited reviews and overall exclamations of joy are all over social media. We’re pretty excited too over the dope beats Blinky has left us with to step to. And we’re even more excited that he took the time during these hectic days to share some of his thoughts, feelings, inspirations and much more (even the word “farmer” comes up) with MeanwhileinKenya.com. We’ve been wanting to get inside this brain for a while to see what goes on in there. Hope you enjoy this dancefloor conversation about sounds, joys, life and Nairobi as much as we did. Meet Blinky Bill, creative wonder de luxe.
How would you introduce yourself to someone who is not familiar with you and your music?
BB: My name is Bill Sellanga, also known as Blinky Bill, or Blinky. I am a musician, producer and DJ and the cleanest way into my sound and how I see things would be through listening to Just A Band which has been my main musical project alongside my collaborators in the band for the last few years. It’s a mix of electronic music, hip hop, African music, and so many other things that I possibly don’t even consciously think about.
How would you describe the new EP?
BB: This EP is an idea that hit me a few weeks ago, because I wanted to make my album this year but it’s taking me a bit longer to work on it and I don’t want to rush it, so I felt like the EP would be a great way to test the scene. It has 6 songs, some very personal, like “Don’t doubt”, it is a song inspired by losing two friends in 2014 and 2015 to depression, and continuing to learn about its crippling effects. Same as the song “Rise” with Sage. It’s a mix of fun music, with some messages that I feel strongly about.
The first video for “Kwani Iko Nini”, is shot at Prokraft Africa and features not only an epic lady with a burning hula hoop but also amazing art by for example Mutua Matheka. How did you come up with the idea for this video, how did you choose the location and where can we find this lady?
BB: I was DJ-ing at an event in Lamu and Mwanase, the lady who is on hula hoops was performing, and I loved her performance and we decided to work together and she delivered an amazing performance. My friends Zack Adell and Joe Mathai helped me put the video together, the first of the vids from this project and from the upcoming album.
How do you choose who to collaborate with on your projects, this EP as an example? What makes a creative collaboration successful? Is creative collaboration important or can art be created entirely in solitude?
BB: I think that as soon as I start working on a song I have a sense of who will be perfect on the track, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have goodwill with them so it makes it easy to work. Creative collaboration is important, because you don’t know everything, and I just like to have a fresh perspective. For example, we’ve been talking about working with Shappa for forever, and finally it happened and I’m so happy that it did, same with everyone else on the project. Can art be created in solitude, I think so too, just depends on personality and the art form amongst other things.
What were the major sources of inspiration for you during the creation of this EP?
BB: Life and the feeling that time doesn’t stop for anybody, and if you have ideas that could be contributive to society then put them out and let it find it’s audience.
Eclectic progressive music always gets people trying to define genre(s), how do you feel about that? Do you yourself feel there is a genre that matches your music? Does music have to be placed in genres?
BB: I think that most of my musical heroes are not defined by genre but by feel of the music. Quincy Jones is a jazz musician who also worked on some of the greatest pop tracks we’ve ever heard, same can be said of Pharrell. I don’t wanna be boxed in by genre, I love electronic music, I grew up listening to hip hop and lingala, I wanted to be a jazz musician when I started playing guitar and will probably form a jazz band in future. I spend all my money buying music gear so I can fiddle with it. I’m too many things to be one thing.
I’m too many things to be one thing.
Do you have a favorite sound that you always find yourself returning to or wanting to add? (Relieved Blinky doesn’t seem to find that a weird question!)
BB: Haha, there’s a way I like my drums to sound, my drums and bass, so maybe that’s the common thread, it would be that : )
Have you already been playing some of the tracks during gigs to test them out? Isn’t it hard to keep the new music to yourself for months?
BB: That’s gonna be the plan for the Album, it’s very hard. I have a lot of music that’s not on the EP that I wanted to share but I still have to craft it. Will test it out soon, I’m having a show in November and I can’t wait to try out some new stuff on the audience.
Has music always been a path that felt natural (or even the only) for you to pursue?
BB: Not the only, but it’s felt very natural : ) I wanna make films one day, obviously inspired by my JAB bandmates who have taught me a lot. I could also be a farmer.
“I could also be a farmer.”
What character traits or mindsets/perspectives in you are most important to you as an artist?
BB: Honesty, willingness to try new things whether it will succeed or fail, fearlessness, beautiful grooves and melodies.
How does the creative climate of Nairobi influence you?
BB: It’s a good time to be here, Nairobi has such a vibrant creative energy right now and it’s fueling me. So many talented young peeps coming up and creating such beautiful art is giving me hope for the future.
What gives you confidence? Is personal confidence and creative confidence the same?
BB: A little bit of both, I create to be at peace with myself and so I have to release what I have to make room for new ideas and to grow. The confidence I have is that I haven’t even worked on my best project yet. Also, a little bit of my confidence comes from naivete (haha) and my mama’s prayers.
Do you have a dream project?
BB: My Future Jazz project.
Where do you look for inspiration? What (or who) are your main sources of influence and inspiration? And when you feel uninspired, do you embrace the feeling or try to find inspiration?BB: I’ve mentioned some of my influences, Quincy, Pharrell, Flying Lotus, J Dilla, Hugh Masekela, Ogopa Dj’s, Kaytranada, Imogen Heap. So many actually. : )
When I don’t feel inspired, I walk away for a while, consume other people’s art, watch movies, spend time with family and my close ones, then hopefully whenever I come back, whatever the time period will be, I will have found it.
What is the purpose of music?
BB: Music is everything, so necessary for every facet of existence. For me, it’s what keeps me sane.
Asante Blinky for sharing your thoughts, for always doing it your way and for inspiring. These ties stay here like whoa.