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22 Apr 2020

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22 Apr 2020

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OLAF Citizens: SirOJ.

25 Apr 2020

Last February, our music advisor Joris Titawano AKA SirOJ released his (second) album Among My Souvenirs along with a short film directed by Daniel Sumarna and Daan van Citters. Joris may be familiar to avid followers of Dutch Hip hop. Next to the songs he made with Yellow Claw, he also produced music for many Dutch hip hop artists like Hef, Murda Turk, Sef, Dio and Great Minds. But after his debut album Goed Ontmoet came out in 2010, Joris decided to leave hip hop behind him. The reason? “I wasn’t really interested anymore.”

Hi Joris, how come you weren’t interested in Dutch hip hop anymore?

“The last Dutch-language projects I did were Dio’s Benjamin Braafs Festival and In Kleur by Sef, which already weren’t straightforward hip hop. I had a few beats on the Great Minds album, but those were already made before that came out. I wanted to challenge myself more and make music I could play while DJ’ing."


It seems like Dutch hip hop became popular the moment you left it behind, how does that make you feel?

“I’m completely fine with that. Like I said, my focus was on something very different. Times have changed as well. Back then, we had to fight for airplay and DJs would tell us that they “already have a rapper between 4 and 6.” The whole industry was more traditional and conservative. You knew where to go for what. With my latest album, I learned to do everything myself, it’s a lot more challenging like that. Luckily, I knew this album wasn’t made with the intention of being a commercial success or having a hit single. So it was a nice and easy process for me in which I could experiment with friends.”


Track four of twelve.


Could you tell us a bit about your album, Among My Souvenirs?

“I see it as a reintroduction of the artist SirOJ. The last ten years I was working on finding my own lane. I produced for others, had Dj-gigs in clubs, and I was working on commercial projects on the side. The music that came out was made with the idea of playing in clubs. At a certain moment I started to do more experiments with different sounds, without any specific goal. Eventually that led to this. "


How did those experiments become a full album?

“I made the first demo for this album around five years ago. When I went into the studio with Dusty I slowly started to recognize a framework for what the album would become. It’s a mix of different genres, but I think it has a vibe that transposes throughout the album. It’s a bit moody. Most songs are in minor chords.”


How did you translate that overall mood into visuals?

“I had talks with my friends Daniel (Sumarna) and Robbert (Maruanaija) about wanting to make something together. When I collected the demos for this album, I sent them to Daniel and Robbert and they started working right away. Together with Since ’88 and director Daan van Citters we made this short film, as a collection of “souvenirs” or memories for each track.”


Track three of twelve.


So in a way these tracks are memories of the past few years?

“Not specifically mine. I worked together with a lot of different artists who all gave their interpretation of the set up I gave them. But you could see the demos as souvenirs from the past five years, which I translated into tracks and visuals together with others. I really enjoyed making this album. It was more about what I wanted, and how the process of making it felt to me. The title also references to that process. These tracks are the souvenirs of a great journey.”


The track Sky Concierge is an ode to one of your best friends, who was tragically killed in 2016, how do you process such a difficult event and how do you translate that into music?

“That was an extremely difficult time in my life, and making music was a way for me to deal with that. I spent a lot of time in the studio, trying to channel those emotions into music. It was difficult, but at the same time I really wanted to do something with it. So it also became a motivator. I decided to keep it stripped down, to let it be more about feelings than words.”


Track seven of twelve.


Besides that one, do you have a favorite song on the album?

“I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I think the final two tracks of the album are my favorites right now. I like that they’re bit more experimental and up tempo. It matches the state I’m in right now.”


How did your collaboration with Olaf Hussein came to be?

“Olaf told me that he already wanted to ask me for his first show, but he didn’t dare because I rejected some other project he did earlier. When I met Olaf in a club one day, I told him that I would love to do music for a show or campaign. He was super happy with that, so it really worked both ways. I did music for one of the campaigns, and we’ve been working together ever since. It’s nice because it challenges me in a different way. Curating a playlist for the brand is a constant back and forth between me and Olaf. It’s an interesting way of working for me.”


You’ve curated several playlists for Olaf Hussein, resulting in many new discoveries for many of us. Could you name a song, album or artist that recently sparked your interest?

“It varies, because the way I consume music has changed a lot in the last few years. One artist I really like right now is Ant Clemons. He’s part of the Sunday Service Choir, and recently brought out a solo project with guest appearances from Ty Dolla Sign, Timbaland and Pharrell Williams. I’ve also been delving into the lofi sound a lot lately. I think you should check out Mk.Gee if you have the time.