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Home > Lifestyle News > Culture News > Article > Calm Down singer Rema Mumbai feels like home because back home we are big on culture

‘Calm Down’ singer Rema: Mumbai feels like home because back home we are big on culture

Updated on: 13 May,2023 10:26 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Nascimento Pinto | nascimento.pinto@mid-day.com

In an exclusive interview with Mid-day Online, the Nigerian singer-songwriter delves into his Indian connection, collaborating with Selena Gomez, seeing his songs on Barack Obama’s playlist and a part of FIFA 21. He also talks about the rise of African music, christening ‘Afrorave’ and his meteoric rise to fame

‘Calm Down’ singer Rema: Mumbai feels like home because back home we are big on culture

'Calm Down' singer Rema will be performing in Mumbai on May 13 this weekend at the NSCI Dome

"Any time I make music, I believe it is for the world. I don't make it for one set of people. I don't think it is only for my people," says Divine Ikubor, better known by his stage name, Rema. It is an emotion that holds true because when this writer went to meet the artist, every person around was humming 'Calm Down', just as they got to know the Nigerian singer-songwriter was arriving in Mumbai for a performance as part of his ‘Rema Calm Down Tour’ on May 13. Interestingly, like many others, they didn’t know the lyrics of the song, but just felt good saying, “Calm Down, Calm Down”. Only proving Rema, who adds, “When I create music, I see it as something that can universally speak to anyone even though it is not in all languages, even though it is in a particular language. I believe that my music and frequency will tap into every culture and every territory.” 


If you are on Instagram, you have witnessed how the groovy song went viral over two years ago. Ever since, the song ‘Calm Down’ has become an earworm for many because of the many reels made with it and actually opened the floodgates of African music to a wider audience. Through it all, Rema, as he likes to be called, is having a whirlwind romance with his music because he is loving every moment. 


Surprisingly, it only started five years ago on a day when he posted a viral freestyle of D’Prince’s track ‘Gucci Gang’ that caught the latter’s attention. It eventually led him to sign a record deal with the fellow Nigerian Afropop artist. After that, there was no looking back because he went on to release his self-titled debut EP ‘Rema’ that showed the world his talent with the hit ‘Dumebi’. It is one that he intends to continue after having released his debut 16--track album 'Rave & Roses' in 2022; he will also be releasing a deluxe version of the album this year. This is apart from new music that he is making, which he is tight-lipped yet visibly excited about and can’t wait to showcase to fans.


The Indian connection 

While there are fans around the world, the 23-year-old, who is also a rapper, visibly has many Indian fans, and it is evident in the innumerable reels playing the song and trying a dance routine to it. However, it is not one-sided because Rema has a very special connection with them, so it was no surprise when he chose to perform in the country on a three-city tour in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He reveals, "I'm so happy to be in India because growing up I've seen my sisters watching Zee World (sic) and all the Indian movies and stuff like that." 

It is also the reason why Indian culture is very attractive to him. So, finally being in the centre of the culture and territory, the ‘Calm Down’ singer says the love has been huge. “India has been supporting my music for the longest. Finally, I get to be here. I appreciate the people and give them some love back because they have given me so much love over time.” Closer home, ask him what’s his favourite part about Mumbai in the few days he has spent here, and he immediately says, “So far, it's the people. They are very nice. They are very welcoming. They have a high sense of culture; it feels like home because back home we are big on culture,” he explains. 

Rise of Afrorave 

Rema does recognise a unique similarity in the cultures, but one can’t deny that he has been able to bring them even closer because of his music. It has been aided by India’s growing love for African beats, more commonly known as ‘Afrobeats’, while concurrently soaking in the Korean wave. However, the 23-year-old, who shot to fame with ‘Dumebi’, makes an interesting observation. He explains, “Yes, everybody is gravitating towards African music. I just feel it's the time. African music has been there for the longest, but I just feel like right now is the time. I also feel like the artists who are present right now in African music as well are helping propel, open doors for people to pay attention to us.

It is even more important for the Nigerian music sensation to carry this forward and that is why he has taken the liberty to classify his music as ‘Afrorave’, a sub-genre of Afrobeats. While it has been said that the music is influenced by Arabian and Indian sounds, it is much more for Rema. He shares, “For me, Afrorave is the freedom to be able to create music that is beyond what people know Afrobeats to be. It's kind of like rebellion. I want to rage. I want to take over the world and be free. I want to do something unusual. Afrorave is about doing the unusual, doing the abnormal, breaking the boundaries. Rave is another word for me just like that.” It is evident that the word has a deeper meaning for the singer beyond the varied connotations people associate it within the music ecosystem

Skyrocketing fame and collaborating with Selena Gomez

Such has been the popularity of his songs and hypnotic voice that Rema even collaborated with American singer Selena Gomez, who we know has a unique and beautiful voice. Their association was inevitable especially because of how their vocal ranges blend so perfectly together and can be seen in ‘Calm Down with Selena Gomez’. While Gomez has had her taste of success for a long time now, it was quite an experience for Rema, who has himself had a meteoric rise to the world stage. 

He shares, “It's a great honour because Selena Gomez is a legend. It's been a while since she did music and finally getting her to be on my song is a massive privilege. It means that she actually really wanted to; we are really good friends as well. The Nigerian admits that he is really happy that she accepted the opportunity because, “She's just the perfect person for the song and people love her and people love me and it's just the perfect combination of different territories and I really believe in the spirit of collaboration. She really complimented my verse. Everything I sang, she responded with a verse,” he adds. 

Interestingly, a collaboration with Gomez hasn’t been the only highlight of his career till now apart from topping charts because he has also been featured on former US president Barack Obama’s summer playlist in 2019 for his song ‘Iron Man’ and for ‘Calm Down’ in 2022. The fact that another one of his songs called ‘Beamer (Bad Boys)’ is also a part of FIFA 21, shows the kind of influence he has had culturally around the world in such a short time.

Even as the singer is having the time of his life creating music, ask him how he feels about this sudden rise to fame, and he exudes humility. “It's been tremendously amazing. It's been super-fast. It has actually forced me to grow up quickly. I've seen so much growth, not just in music but also in my sound and personal life,” he says, adding “It's a blessing though because the fans also give me time to grow, to understand that I was signed young.” From being a singer in his late teens to evolving into a global phenomenon today because of ‘Calm Down’, the last five years have been a dream, but Rema doesn’t forget about the most important part – the fans, without whom this would be impossible. “It's good to have understanding fans and have them watch me become the man that they love today,” he signs off.

Also Read: Afrojack on his love for chicken biryani and ‘project’ with Martin Garrix

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