Getting to know a man who proves that it’s never too late to follow your dreams! Pahjo gives us an insight on his profound but humble beginnings as a new soca artist on the UK scene.
Firstly, what made you choose ‘Pahjo’ as your artist name?
The name Pahjo came about from a friend of mine, a close friend. We were talking, and I didn’t know what name to go with. I asked her if I should use my nickname from the army, and she just said, why don’t you just say ‘Pahjo’. ‘Pa’ are the first two initials from my first name, and ‘Jo’ are the first two initials from my last name. Then people were still saying ‘pay-joe’ but I wanted it to sound different, which is why I added the ‘h’. So that’s how the name came about. It stuck, and is something I can identify with.
What inspired you to start making music?
My inspiration for music came from a very young age. I was part of a school choir, and it’s something that I always wanted to pursue but I never had the confidence in my early teenage years because of peer pressure – you listen to what your friends say. Also, opportunities didn’t arise. In my late teens, I moved up to the UK, and my 20’s was basically family life, surviving, trying to make ends meet in a new country. And music, I didn’t even think about it, to be honest. It’s something I put on the back burner and I did not consider even getting into it at that time. But in 2019 a very close friend of mine, Joel Brown – quite a talented producer from Guyana – we connected, and he started to send me some of his beats to listen to. Because we had that rapport, I would give him my honest opinions about it. He sent me one riddim which I wrote a song to very quickly, and sent that back to him. He said he thought it was a vibe, that I had a good tone, and told me I should consider doing music.
But later in 2019 a friend of ours from the soca community, a really good friend of mine, passed away from cancer. One thing he used to always say to me is, “If you’re gunna smoke you smoke, if your gunna drink you drink, whatever you wanna do in life, do it with no regrets because life is short”. So, I reached out to Joel again and said, let’s do this. He agreed, so I got into the recording studio. It felt so comfortable getting in there, and my journey began. I released my first song, Ah Mas, in February 2020.
What has been the highlight of your journey so far?
I think the journey so far is learning from a close friend of mine about my talent for writing – that’s what I enjoy the most. The process of creating music and content, actually challenging myself, is something that I didn’t realise I would have been able to do. How to make a song sound better, about hooks and catchy phrases and singing about things that people can relate to. The ups and downs, the criticisms in general, these are the things that make me better. I am a student of music, so I’m still learning, and this is the part of the journey that I’m enjoying the most. I’m just happy to keep learning, and that’s what I want to do.
How has COVID-19 impacted upon your career in music?
COVID-19 came as a big shock to everyone. For me it was because I had planned that 2020 was going to be my breakout year, and obviously COVID had its own plans. I am part of a team that market Guyana Carnival and host some other events in Guyana, and I had already released a song that was targeted at those events – but those plans got cancelled. But this whole COVID period has allowed me to actually reassess my thinking, write more and I realised a lot of songs that I wanted to release back early in 2020 after Ah Mas were actually not ready. As you learn you start to be able to criticise your music much more. So, one thing COVID has taught me is not to rush production, to soundboard off people who are equally as interested in quality music. As negative as it is not being able to perform, my music is still getting out there and I’m just able to take more time with the songs and the production process. So, I’m extremely grateful for the time that I’ve had and the lessons that I’ve learned over this period thus far.
What part of the creative process do you enjoy the most and why?
The part of the creative process that I enjoy is the writing: coming up with content, sound boarding, working with other writers and actually knowing when we’ve got something. I think that’s the best part of the process for me, it’s not even the release of the song. It’s actually working and constructing a song to make it what is should be, or taking what we’ve got in our heads and bringing it out there.
What would you hope to have achieved in the lifespan of your career?
For me, I want to have music that lasts. I don’t want to have music that is just for the now. I want to put out quality music and have a fruitful career. I mean, I’m starting my career a bit later than most artists, especially within soca. But for me, I want to capitalise on the time that I’ve got now to put out content that will raise eyebrows and make people say “who’s this guy and where has he been? This is great stuff, a great body of work that he’s putting out”. Just remain consistent in my craft and to keep learning from people who are great and continuing to find the motivation to keep writing.
Has your home country, Guyana, had any influence on the music you make?
Guyana definitely has a big influence on my music. Guyana is still home, and I long to go back because I can find so much inspiration at home, especially because of the Caribbean culture. You go home, and automatically feel inspired to be creative – and it’s not a process that I’ve actually had the chance to go through as yet, because of COVID. I haven’t gone home to write. I’m definitely longing to go home, the influences are definitely there in my music, especially in some of the word play and in certain phrases. So, I stay true to home. Guyana is home, home, home!
What makes Pahjo unique as a soca artist in the UK?
What makes me unique is that I am a student of soca so, for me, I am constantly learning. I get passionate from other people’s music; everyone knows me as a junkie for music. I am constantly sharing other people’s content and vibing off of it. I just enjoy music more than everything. I don’t think that makes me unique, but I am just a happy go lucky guy. Thankful for life, thankful for the opportunities that I’ve got and hungry just like everyone else. I am that guy who’s just humbly looking to better himself.
Have you had any experience of the Caribbean soca scene? If not, is this something you would wish to do?
I have experience as an event organiser in the soca community; I’ve been hosting parties in the UK for the past 10 to 11 years and in Guyana the past 3 years for the Guyana Carnival. I have worked on a lot of concerts over here with other teams. In terms of the Caribbean soca community, I’ve definitely got some sort of experience within that region. But it’s my passion to keep the culture growing, and to get it a bit more recognised everywhere we go. Soca is still not a full genre, and it’s something I want it to be classified as, so I’ll do whatever I can to contribute to that.
So, what are you currently working on and when can we hope to see more music from you?
There’s a lot of stuff I’m working on at the moment to be honest with you. I’m working with a UK producer who goes by the name Shaker HD, and he’s like a brother and a mentor in a way, in terms of my music. Since I’ve teamed up with him he’s taught me, from his experience working with other artists and from producing, how to create, critique and construct my music. I’m continuing to work with Joel, so we got some projects coming there. I’m working with some producers out of Toronto, and also on a song with a DJ that we should probably release this month – but we’ll see how it goes. We are constantly reviewing our stuff and making changes so it’s as good as it can potentially be. I dabble in dancehall too, and some hip-hop stuff, so I’m not just fully soca; I’ve got a lot of multi-genre projects that I am working on also. So, look out for some of that!
Soca News is thinking of bringing back its / UK Soca Monarch competition in August, is this something that you might be interested in?
The soca monarch would be amazing. I think I would definitely be interested in being part of that, to showcase what I’ve done over the past few years. I can only learn from an experience like that, it motivates me to be better and I think it’s great for the culture. Kudos to Soca News for bringing that back, I think it’s definitely needed.
What advice would you give aspiring artists to help them kickstart their careers?
For artists now kickstarting their careers, my advice would be to just go for it, but be willing to learn. Be willing to take the criticism, be willing to take time. Timing is everything. Don’t just rush music for the sake of rushing it. One thing I’ve learnt is that you do not want to put a song out there when you are going to regret not making that change, because it’s going to be too late. For me, I’ve got music out there, and after months of listening to it, you can hear subtle things to change because, as you learn, you realise you could have done certain things better. If you had waited a little bit longer you could have done it better. Don’t be afraid to say also to a producer, “This does not sound right”. Speak your mind. With music you cannot lie. Music does not lie, it’s clear as day, so be confident in your work and don’t rush your production.
Finally, how can fans connect with you on social media?
You can find me on all social media platforms as @Pahjomusic – that’s including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, Soundcloud. Also, in a few months my website, Pahjomusic.com, will be up, and there you’ll be able to see all my music, my projects and what I’m working on, some of the creatives processes etc. For bookings, it’s Pahjomusic@gmail.com.