With his ground-breaking fusion of R’n’B and Afrobeat, Robeal Yohannes, also known as Wauve, is on the verge of releasing new music for the first time in five months. “I haven’t dropped a single in a while, since like October times,” Wauve tells me. October saw the release of ‘Sweet Time’ which saw the artist at the peak of his talents, whilst previous 2019 releases ‘Stay Dreamin’’ and ‘For You’ saw the debut and consequential launch of his recording career. He recalls, “After all eyes were on me after the original ‘Stay Dreamin’’, my phone was going off a bit so I just wanted to show people that I didn’t just come with this one tune, but the fact that I can do other things as well. I love singing; singing is kind of a relatively new thing for me, like singing and performing. I came from the producing world and that side of things so I’m trying to explore as much as possible. I’m basically showing everyone the breadth of that.”
Wauve’s past is firmly rooted in production with early successes as a recording artist not straying far from his humble beginnings. “I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for people telling me ‘yo, you’re an artist’, because I used to be in my shell and shy I guess you could say. I used to love good music and be a music nerd, in my little pocket and my own world of music
that I used to listen to.” He continues, “When I started creating I bought a microphone to record other people, but I ended up using it for myself. I didn’t have that many connections and I ended up coaching people on how to say things, ‘say it like this, say it like that’, but in the end I thought I might as well just do it myself.” He goes on, “Create what you want to create and be the best you that you can be in that world, in that realm. If you think someone is hot, make it the hottest it can be and just put it out there into the world and it’ll connect. If it doesn’t connect it will be evident why it doesn’t and you’ll know yourself.”
This DIY mindset has brought Wauve into a nostalgic path in himself and within his music output. He reflects, “Just [the process of] making songs and my music has changed drastically from when I started to make music.
The amazing thing when you start making music is that you become conscious about yourself and how you change as a person. You’re creating a representation of yourself, your mind and your soul. When your music changes you start realising that I used to be this person back then and acts as a place marker, ‘I used to be like that, like this guy’.”
Wauve is opening a new chapter on his career as a recording artist on April 9th when his new single ‘Fee Fi Fo’ gets released into the world. The underlying sample in the new track brings together his overall vision for the sound. “The thing I’m most excited about the song is the fact that I used a very big sample from a big song. I won’t give it away yet but it’s a song that I really love, and from an artist that I really love. It hasn’t been sampled before which is crazy, but I’ve had the chance to sample it and have it cleared.” He explains the process, “I made this track in my bedroom, I must’ve been going through one of those phases listening to throwbacks and going through that nostalgia thinking why no-one has sampled this song.
Think that’s probably where it started, and at the time an Afroswing wave in the UK was popping. A lot of those throwback songs are of similar tempo to Afroswing. Luckily I was able to find a way to skew the production to merge the old throwback R’n’B song with the new afroswing bounce. I felt like that’s what gave it the UK sound but also a throwback. There’re a lot of people in the UK listening to those types of songs, so that’s what gives it that same vibe and ambience when you hear it. You feel like you’re 10 years ago.”
He continues, “When people start the song they’ll hear it straight away, and it’s so distinct that it’s unmissable. I love that it’s a throwback Rn’B song; it really highlighted how I visualised my life 10 years ago for example, and perfectly encapsulates your community. It’s definitely to do with love and the harshness of it based on where you’re from; where I’m from.” It’s no secret that where you’re from can influence your sound, and this is no truer than with Wauve’s heritage. “I’ve got a bit of Eritrean so I’ve got the African heritage in me. The way I come across in the music will always have a little bit of that vibe to it. That’s what makes me different a little bit to the other artists who I do collaborations with,” he explains.
Wauve is looking to start the new decade with a bang by dropping a 3 track EP later in the year, a release that his devout fans have been waiting patiently for. “I’m trying to start [the year] with a bang, but also prolong the bang as much as possible. I’m dropping the single ‘Fee Fi Fo’ now then I’ve got another one coming out. I’m dropping a short EP because I feel like people have been asking for that since I dropped my debut last year. I want to put more stuff out there,” he says. Wauve also reveals his passion for collaborations in his upcoming material this year. “I’ve been working with a lot of people. I’m someone who loves to collaborate.
I used to just produce so I had to collaborate with artists. I had to be in the studio; I could holla an artist and say ‘I want to make a beat with you’ and they would come to the studio and we end up being on the same track. The collaborations come quite naturally. I’ve got a track that I really want to come out with someone from the Afrobeat world, and that’s something that I’m trying to get into as well because I love artists like Maleek Berry. The fusion of R’n’B and Afrobeat is a fusion of two genres that I love, and the creativity of finding different ways to merge them together. I love being creative with sound and merging.”
Touring might also be on the cards for Wauve, who admits he hasn’t been focusing on that until now. “Live shows are something that I want to start focusing on now. The other two tracks on the EP that I’m dropping are more R’n’B vibes. I want the show to be like an extension of the whole vibe to add to the imagery and everything. I’ve got another collaboration coming out with another UK artist and a UK producer which is still in the creative phases. It’ll be continuing with the R’n’B vibe with a twist that people aren’t going to see coming. It will create a whole new kind of genre which will merge two genres together and will make it easier for the whole of the UK to digest R’n’B. I feel like it’s going to be one of the best things that comes out of London in terms of music this year.”
Photo Niklas Haze
Styling Aurelie Mason-Perez
Words Stuart Williams
Grooming Laura Cotgrove
Special thanks to Layers London