Photography

Tarju Lesano

By Farhan Muhammad

05.09.2020

Tarju Le’sano has been a consistent carrier for raw artistry across the region. Cultivating early influences of jazz and neo soul has allowed him to control crowds and capitalise on any beat present. A truly unique artist with little to no fear of expressing his true thoughts and personality on his tracks.

Courtesy of @ibrahimrashidphotography

You consistently promote key members of your team (Era, Ellie and Ky), do you think it is important as a young artist to surround yourself with like-minded individuals; what impact do they have on your work?

I think it is very important, my team is a collective and together we support each other’s careers and each others moves. It is so important that everyone is doing their own thing, creatively. I spent years doing my own artwork and marketing and my own thing. It wasn’t until I met other people, where different kinds of energy fed into my creativity. They push me by just existing; people should collaborate and find your creative families. As much as I want to believe that I can do it myself, it’s a lot of pressure and it’ll take you 10x longer to do things if you’re not open to collaboration, they put so much time in, if I didn’t give them credit I’d be a dickhead.

You previewed the last verse of your song BLACK, wherein you find yourself battling with your own heritage. What is the importance of sharing unique perspectives to the public?

I feel like the media is portraying the movement as a black vs white issue – it isn’t, my heritage is a prime example that it ain’t. Just because I am mixed doesn’t make it easier, there aren’t enough folks carrying the torch for mixed raced people. I feel like colourism and microaggressions are so normal and It leaves me wondering am I the only one who is bothered by it? I feel like there’s a lot of opinions being shared but no actual experience behind them. Whereas for me, my stories, and opinions I share are a part of me. It is my story.

Your single ‘Mistakes’ highlights past troubles you’ve overcome, could you elaborate?

‘Mistakes’ was that song where I thought okay there’s the next step as a producer and artist.  I’ve reflected on issues with my heritage in the past. So, ‘Mistakes’ was that next step and acted as a catalyst for me to talk about things more relevant to present day me. So, the next stage of my career it’s not where I’m from its where I’m at. I have made plenty of mistakes, I’m a deep thinker. I read every situation and I think how should I learn from this? 

Can you reflect on some events that have helped define you as an artist?

I went to Atlanta, did a few shows; met a load of contacts, got to record in this studio that once had anyone that you could think of in the neo soul or rap genre there before.  For most of my life I’m trying to prove myself and my dad that I can do this. Being in that studio made it all feel worth it – it felt like success. I got to record a whole song in there, and since then I felt like I never need to prove myself again. Since then I’ve done a lot of festivals, I’ve collaborated with more and more artists from the US, I’ve really got to spread my wings a bit.

A few tracks have been sprinkled with references to food or food places. What influenced you to use or reference these dishes in your music? 

If there is one thing that’s apparent in my work, it’s my heritage. One thing that I wanted to introduce was elements of my culture. The UK has done a great job at exploiting a culture and capitalising on it. The food is what defines my culture and many others. On the ‘SAME’ freestyle I even drop a bar about rasmali. It just shows that Birmingham itself is a very diverse city, with me, I like to put gems in my work that only select people would understand.

You have been vocal on knife crime culture across the UK, with a clear message against it. What actions do you think could be done to lessen the violence on the streets?

Although I am an artist, I’m a voice of a generation that is shit on all the time. I think there needs to be more youth representatives talking about it. Police commissioners, the news, they’re always pointing the finger. There isn’t enough community outreach in places, there are programs, but everyone from a minority background doesn’t have a great relationship with the police. I think we need a lot more youth representation. People like Drill minister, an artist who focuses on social problems expressed through drill, is the type of representation that we need. These politicians in their ivory towers aren’t saints.  So it’s ironic that people telling us about knife crime has never experienced it. I think we are sick and tired of seeing undelivered promises. So, I would want to see more representatives of all types of communities to stand out.

What was behind the creative choice to sample your nephew in the track W.Y.D

I’ve come from a culture of hip hop and a lot of my favourite lyricists are teaching passing on the knowledge the same way people have invested in my future so that they can do that in the future themselves. So, I enjoy teaching and I loved sharing this experience with my nephew. I didn’t actually sample him, he literally made the song and I just helped, I copied all the elements on the song and put the mic stand super lower and let him freestyle off the top of his head, and used it as a hook.

Tell me about your future projects!

Of course, yeah. I’m working on a poem called Nature’s Chain, so that’s basically my perspective on not just the protest but more about the core values of why we are protesting; I’m trying to address the widespread ignorance in our country and our society. It’ll help illustrate how choking and restricting it can feel to be a person of colour to exist. It’s my creative response to institutionalised racism. I’m working on a new single called 846 with Thomas Ford on guitar and Jamal Augustine on the bass. It’s a reflection on situations going on with George Floyd and the reaction from the black community.

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