Interview: Amaeshi

Well-tenured bassist and composer, Amaeshi Ikechi has been a consistent and conscientious figure within the local jazz space having led and shared the stage with some of the country’s finest and most accomplished musicians and artists including amonst others Zonke Dikana, Marcus Wyatt and Thandi Ntuli. The Nigerian, South Africa based, musician’s light has also shone on a broader scale having worked with reputable figures beyond shores.

Prior to beginning his studies at the Tshwane University of Technology, Amaeshi had long been exposed to music and performance from much earlier on in his life given his church based background. He has a passionate approach to his craft as well as a clear respect for the art form as a whole, this combined has allowed him to broaden and further tap into his further ability both as an instrument player and bassist.

Amaeshi is now set to release a new body of work titled, Travail, a 10 track album recorded by the studio of a good friend of his, Peter Auret. The album is set to be launched on the 7th of Ocbober and features a beautiful, mellow and comforting tone that can be traced on featured songs, Prayer and the eponymously titled Travail. Amaeshi also shows an ability to move past conforms and explores the New Orleans-esque feel with the shuffle sound of songs such as Uche’s Bounce also featured on the album.

Below we got to speak to Amaeshi to get a feel of the album prior to it’s release…

Having grown up in a church and Christian background, how much of your music knowledge do you credit to this given background?

I can’t credit much of my music knowledge to the church. I would however say my sensitivity to the power and impact of music as a whole comes from church.

When did you first pick up the bass and why this choice of instrument?

I was thirteen years old when I first conceived in my heart that I would learn to play bass. Of course, it was another year or more before I could touch an actual bass guitar. I learnt with an acoustic guitar.

Many consider the bass as one of the primary components of a composition, how important do you think your contribution [to compositions] is as a bass player?

In my words, I would say the Bass creates the context for a piece of music. Theoretically, the bass plays a duo role of harmony and rhythm. For most styles of music to be recognized for what they are, the bass line plays a paramount role.

You are about to launch your new album, Travail, why now? What is the thinking around that?

The project has been in making for sometime and it has finally come together now. I had intentions to finish it earlier but it didn’t work out. This year it became my number one mission and I am glad it has come full circle.

How long have you been sitting on these compositions and who have you worked with on the project?

Every single tune is influenced by my environment and experiences. My work from years of study at the TUT Art campus can also be heard clearly, more especially the tunes that I wrote much later into my studies. I am a Nigerian living in South Africa and I have not made a deliberate decision to try and bring a Nigerian or West African sound. I have allowed the sound to flow naturally, and I would say it actually says more of South Africa, my home for the last 16years, than my West African country of birth. This goes to show how much of my career I’ve learnt and nurtured in South Africa.

What do you hope for with this project? And how do you expect the audience to receive it?

I hope that someone would listen to my music and say, “I was depressed and this music got me out of that state” or, “I was sick and I became whole again listening to the music from Travail”. God did the same to me when I started playing bass. It changed the trajectory of pain and depression that I was on as a teenager.
Ever since, I have known what God wants me to achieve with the music he would have me write – beyond the right notes and beats – there is a spirit behind the music. [Reaching] that is my greatest desire.

What is success to you?

Success for me is becoming an instrument of change and transformation that will have an impact beyond my local environment, race and religion.

Be sure to catch Amaeshi’s launch of Travail on the 7th of October 2023.