Somali-American Songwriter Rayzak Details The Immigrant Experience In 'The Garden' | Okayafrica. Okayafrica.
born into a musical family in northwestern Somalia and moved to the United
States at the early age of 9, before the outbreak of the Somali Civil War, where
he lived across Texas, Kansas, and Ohio. This constant state of motion is the
main influence behind his debut Born In Transit EP, which consists of 7
tracks that thread traditional Somali music through a contemporary pop and
blues frame, and see Rayzak stepping out into the limelight after touring the
globe alongside close friend and collaborator K’naan.
Stream our premiere of Rayzak’s “The Garden,” the lead single off his upcoming
EP, and read our interview with the Somali-American songwriter below. “The
Garden” is available now on iTunes.
Okayafrica: Tell us about your Born In Transit EP. What was
the inspiration behind it? When did you start writing it?
Rayzak: My upcoming EP, called Born in Transit was
inspired by my musical experiences from my childhood up until now. What
influenced me most while growing up was a compilation of music from East Africa
as well as North America; whether it was Motown or Blues and Somali Music, my
early exposure to music was from traditional Somali music and Somali plays.
OKA: What are the Somali influences on your songwriting? How do you
reconcile them with the influences you’ve picked up living across the
R: What really blends the two cultures together are the
melodies I’ve picked up from both cultures. Many melodies come from traditional
Somali music. I merged the two and they seemed to work together. My love for
Motown and Blues made it easy to blend the two because to me, they are
OKA: The songs on the new EP present several different immigrant
stories. Are they all stories you’ve lived or seen yourself?
R: Yes, they’re experiences that I have either experienced
myself or by people who I know very well.
OKA: Gives us a little background on “The Garden.” What was the
inspiration behind the song?
R: “The Garden” was inspired by the time I spent in
different North American communities where Somalis now live. Hearing their
stories, I noticed that they all shared a common theme of young kids gravitating
to the new culture and the parents were struggling to understand the new culture
yet trying to coexist with the differences at home. I found it interesting how
it came full circle for me, in my experience here. It’s not only the Somali
immigrant story but it really applies to any immigrant story. It’s that balance
of having to adapt to a new place, making it home, while dealing with the issues
that come along with it…All while keeping the integrity of ones’ roots and
OKA: If you could name three artists that influenced you the most on
this EP, who would they be?
R: A big part of what inspired me for this EP were the same
people who inspired me to do music in general. I credit a group of artists
called Wabbari; they do plays and they sing. In Somali culture there are
different groups that fall under one umbrella of arts, they can do theater and
songs and they collaborate from different regions in the country. But if I had
to name individual artists who’ve influenced me most, they would have to be: Stevie
Wonder, Mohamed Wardi, Miriam
Makeba, and B.B King.
Catch Rayzak playing live at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto on July 10. “The Garden” is available now on iTunes.