In Conversation with Hamisu Breaker and Namenj

Bside recently sat down with Hamisu Breaker and Namenj, two talented acts flying the Northern flag high.


It’s no secret that the Nigerian entertainment scene is not the most inclusive. For years, mainstream culture has only accepted and endorsed music from Lagos, Abuja and a few fringe spots in the Southern part of the country. In a way, this is just a reflection of the country, as several places not in the public eye or consciousness are forgotten and reduced to afterthoughts by both government and citizens alike. However, despite the lack of visibility, artists in the Northern part of the country are still putting in the work and making music for their home base while trying to crossover into the mainstream.


Two artists succeeding at this task are Hamisu Breaker and Namenj. A veteran of the game, Hamisu Breaker has been recording and releasing music for over ten years. A star in Kano where he lives and works, he’s now focused on making his music escape his geographical confines. Namenj on the other hand is relatively a newbie whose path into the industry differs from his older colleague. A beneficiary of Mr Eazi’s emPawa project, the Kano State native is definitely on the up with the successful release of his debut album.


Both artists sat with Bside to discuss their music, career trajectory so far, making music outside of the mainstream and their hopes for the future.


HAMISU BREAKER


Bside: Thank you for speaking to us today. To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.


Hamisu Breaker: My name is Hamisu Said Yusuf but I’m better known as Hamisu Breaker. I’m from Kano State. I was born and raised in Dorayi Karama in Kano. I’ve lived here my whole life. I attended Dorayi Karama Primary School then went to Dorayi Babba Secondary School for my secondary education.


How did you get into music?


I got into music from listening to music on the streets in my neighbourhood. I would spend hours humming different songs and just playing around with different genres of music. I would sing around friends and relatives; I’d hear comments like “Hamisu ka iya waka fa” which meant “Hamisu you can sing o”. I genuinely loved music, so I took that as a sign I needed to start my professional career. I started recording and releasing music over 10 years ago. In 2020, my big break came. My song “Jarumar Mata” went viral during the COVID lockdown, I think in March. That was it for me. I became such a popular figure in a short time. Prior to that, I was a tailor making male and female clothes.


You released your latest album in July 2021, how far have you come as an artist from your first project?


It has been an interesting journey so far. My latest album Alkhairi is a collection of songs that I’ve recorded over the past few years and I decided to put it out for my core supporters to enjoy and have a good time.


Does this album showcase your growth as an artist?


Yes, it does. But more importantly, it shows where I’m headed as an artist. It’s a product of consistency and hard work over the past few years. I’ve grown significantly as an artist and I conveyed it in my last body of work.


As an artist based in the northern part of the country, how important is it to you to break out in the mainstream?


It is extremely important to me. I listen to a lot of music from different artists across the world, many of whom I don’t understand their languages. This is something I want to see happen for Hausa music. A song in any language can be mainstream music. That is the beauty of music. I intend to keep putting in the work, investing in my craft and also having strategic collaborations with mainstream artists to draw the attention of people to our music.


After conquering your home frontier and audience, what should fans expect from you next?


The fans should expect more music from me. I’m currently working on an EP which I want to release in the first quarter of 2022 and what I intend to do is to explore different sounds from other producers from across the country. I’m also working to have one or two mainstream collaborations. So watch out for that as well.

Thank you.


NAMENJ



Bside: Thank you for speaking to us today, may we know a little more about you?


Namenj: My name is Ali Jubril Namanjo. I am popularly known as Namenj. I was born and brought up in Ibadan, Oyo State but my parents are originally from Kano. I spent some years in Maiduguri and Plateau States during my secondary education. I am currently studying Business Management at National Open

University.


How did you get into music?


It all started from listening to songs as a child and singing along. Growing up, I loved singing and writing songs. I will sing songs by other artists for friends and family. It wasn’t really something I was heavily invested in until 2015. I started making covers and I created a Hausa version of Adekunle Gold’s Orente which went viral. This got me some good traction and attention from my audience and I haven’t looked back since then.


How has the emPawa grant and mentorship influenced your music-making process? has it changed you?


Getting into emPawa is a dream come true. It has had a significant impact on my career. The quality of sound and visuals I’ve put out since joining emPawa has been much better. I have had a couple of hit songs up North and this is all possible because of the work we’ve put in with my team at emPawa. Yes, it changed me. I have grown as an artist and also an individual. The support from the emPawa family has been nothing but amazing.


You just released your debut project, how did it come about? What inspired you to create this body of work?


Yes, I released my debut album - The North Star on November 10, 2021. There were songs I’ve recorded a year ago. After dropping 3 successful singles, I decided to drop a body of work to build a stronger connection with everyone who loves my music. The album was inspired by love. I love love. I love to preach love to people and that’s what the North Star album is about.


How has the reception been so far?


The reception has been really good and that makes me really happy. Fans seem to have favourites though “Baby Nagode”, “Idanuna” and “Tired” featuring Joeboy.


As an artist based in the northern part of the country, how important is it to you to break out in the mainstream?


It’s very important because my dream is to be well known not only in my region but all over Africa and the world at large. Going into the mainstream is one of my biggest dreams gaskia (to be honest). I want to win major awards with Hausa Pop and I want people to know that Hausa music isn’t just for Northerners but for everyone, everywhere. Putting Hausa pop on the map is the dream I hope to accomplish in this lifetime.


So, your debut album is here and your stock is rising. What should fans expect from Namenj in the days to come?


The fans should expect more collaborations with mainstream artists, and more work towards making Hausa Pop nationally and someday, globally recognised.

Thank you.





Baside LOGO.png