Hyenah:"We need to be aware of what’s going on"

Hyenah secretly sneaked on to the scene in 2014 and quickly acquired a worldwide fan base, spreading its calling across several continents.
Preferring to keep it's his identity hidden and let the music do the talking, Hyenah has thus far delivered music on labels such as Freerange Records, Watergate, MoBlack Records, Last Night On Earth and many others. His beats made it into the sets of many big DJs like Ame, Dixon, Mano le Tough, just to mention a few.

We spoke with him about his career prior to his Slovenian debut which will be 27th December at Klub K4 in Ljubljana.

You are known only as Hyenah, but who is Hyenah - as an artist, human and activist?

Hello, nice to meet you! ooo, You are going straight to the core... But I'm happy that you understand that there is a deeper meaning and message behind the Hyenah idea. I actually do consider myself as some sort of activist. In times of waves of populist right-wing parties gaining power and support, in times of growing racism and xenophobia, I feel that it is important to spread positive and unifying messages and create a more objective approach to what we know as reality. And I do love Africa. I feel like it is being misjudged way too often. Too many times it hasn’t been considered for what it really is: a culturally very rich continent. Especially when it comes to its musical heritage with dance music. When it is about groove and rhythm, Africa is ranking number one. I want to help to make that particular picture more visible, want to emphasize on Africa as the diverse and culturally inspiring place that it is. And the best way to do that is by creating experiences. That’s what I do: I am letting people all over the world experience the richness of African music.

On top of that I - we, the RISE crew - created a nightlife spot that is celebrating exactly that. We invite African artists and have a lot of people of color joining our events at Watergate in Berlin but also at our showcases all around the globe. These showcases mostly happen in venues where there is normally not too many people of color. So we wanted to create a safe place and again create a better reality, create pictures that are stronger than prejudices. You know, most people do have some sort of racist thoughts or feelings within them, even if they don’t consider themselves racist. I consider myself Anti-Racist. I am acknowledging that racism exists in people and I know, that it is not enough to not be racist these days. we have to fight racism. Even within ourselves. And the smoothest way to do that is to make people in all shapes and colors come together and experience joy together. Once you have partied with a mixed crowd including Africans it is very hard to keep up those prejudices. That’s my way of activism: anti-racist, pro-humanity.

How would you introduce yourself to the Slovenian audience?

To be honest, I don’t really like to talk about myself that much. I rather let the music do the talking. Very short:
I am Hyenah and I play African House Music and I want you to come together, be who you are and enjoy the moment.

You are described as an artist who fights for Africa and for our planet. How would you rate humanity at this point? Are we completely hopeless or not just yet? Where can you see some improvement?

You really do not ask the regular electronic music interview questions. I do like that ... You are right though: There are many reasons to give up on humanity these days. Left and right, front to back things seem to be getting worse and worse. democracy getting weaker and weaker, big money gaining more and more power and influence. Racist propaganda and fake news are beings spread without limits via social media and (especially older) people can’t see what’s real and what’s fake. Societies are being more and more divided. People seem to not listen to each other anymore. This can seriously make you feel hopeless.

I do see improvements though. The kids these days are amazing. For example, the Fridays For Future movement is so powerful. They have so much energy and grew so quickly. They - and others - pushed the awareness of so many topics to the forefront that we can’t ignore them anymore. It is really impressive. More and more people are waking up and realize what time it is. Even though our politicians don’t always reflect that. There is a new generation growing up.

It’s always exciting to get so many positive reactions at my shows, to experience the feeling of togetherness first hand. All those people celebrating life and music. No boundaries, nothing limiting them. And people on this planet are so much more alike than we can imagine. Music really is a magic thing. And in the end, we are all just human beings that want to have a good life. All over the world.

What can we do to get better? What can any individual do?

First of all: I think it starts with awareness. We need to be aware of what’s going on. Climate change is real. it is happening and there is not much time left. People need to react and start changing their lifestyle.

I see that we need to tackle this problem on two levels: the individual level and the systemic level. The good thing is, that you don’t have to be perfect on an individual level to demand systemic change. Even though climate change deniers and populist media is trying to push exactly that narrative: Shut up if you are not perfect in your everyday life. So: even if we are not vegan, even if we use plastic products, even if we use airplanes and do bad things to our planet we can and must demand systemic change. Rules have to be created that support a sustainable lifestyle and punish wasteful behavior. This will make people change the way they live. We can’t wait until it is too late. So the main thing we can do as individuals is to demand systemic change and be ready to cut back on things we are taking for granted and that we are enjoying dearly these days.

And there are the obvious things: Buying less. if we consume, it should be sustainable. eating less meat. flying less. using smaller cars. doing video conferences instead of traveling places, eating local food, buying local in general. I think the list is long...

What do you think of Greta Thunberg? Do you agree with her message or are you on the side of people who think she is just a puppet of capitalists?

The assumption that she might be a capitalist puppet is crazy already. How can she be a capitalist puppet by saying again and again: We need to cut back? capitalism is about growth, not about cutting back. How can she be a capitalist puppet by basically saying: Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists, listen to the best available data we have and take it seriously? When all she says is: Wake up and let’s save our planet!

Who would actually believe that the fossil fuel industry and big money interests who are making money with the status quo is seriously defrauding a worldwide conspiracy of almost 99% of all scientists in this field who came together to lie to the world and decide for a strategy to use a 15-year-old Aspergers kid as their main figure? I mean, come on...

In short: I do agree with Greta and I think the crazy stories about her are there to distract from what really matters.

What kind of message do you want to deliver through your music?

People always ask me why I'm hiding my face. So I wrote a very short manifesto, which basically is my message. Here it is:

“I don’t care about how much money you make. I don’t care about what you own. I don’t care if you are fat or skinny. I don’t care about the color of your skin, about if you are black, white or yellow. I don’t care if you are gay, straight or something in between. I care about what you have to offer. at’s what is important to me. What we all have to offer is what is important. Our positive vibes, our warmth, our respect for each other, our love. Right here and right now. Not a click away. at’s why I do what I do. I want you to come together. I want us to RISE. at’s my mission.”

When and why did you decide to not reveal your identity? I hope I answered that question before, didn’t I? Do your parents know what you do and that you're the artist Hyenah?

haha, that’s a funny question. My parents are also keeping their identity secret so I also don’t know who they are. :)

Will this be your first show in Slovenia? Have you ever been here? 

It's my first show in Slovenia, yes! So I'm very excited to be there for the very first time. I have heard very good things about it. It is supposed to be beautiful! So I can’t wait to get to know you!

Interview by: Branka Grbin, SIOL.net 

By Saša, edited on 26 December 2019