Nigeria is in the midst of a cultural rebirth. The world is beginning to stand up and take notice of a burgeoning group of potential game-changers – also known as the alté scene. The current crop of homegrown talent is gaining a significant amount of exposure thanks to young creatives who are fusing their African traditions with western influences in music and style.
Santi is one of the artists at the forefront of this paradigm shift. Strongly inspired by the ’90s Nollywood horror genre and directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, he has managed to merge these aesthetics to form the perfect accompaniment for his soothing lo-fi melodies.
The 26-year-old has already gained a cult following since the release of his self-directed visuals for Rapid Fire and Sparky, and now as Santi gets set to release his highly anticipated debut album – Mandy and the Jungle, he hopes to push the boundaries even further.
“All of the people in the alté movement are solely driven by a strong desire to create without limits, that’s all that matters to us,” Santi explains. “I want to use that freedom to give people an insight into what really goes on inside my mind.” Ahead of the release, the Lagos native talks us through some of the influences behind his most recent offering.
THE STORY OF SPARKY
“The video for Sparky is representative of how I grew up and the things I have been exposed to. The story centres around three girls, one guy and a traumatic event. A pact has been made between each of them following the death of a young boy – whose funeral you see during the opening scene. The visuals explore the aftermath and how they deal with the guilt, grief and rage and the consequences of their actions. I enjoy the intricacies of storytelling, it’s a great way to explore emotions and it’s something I would like to explore further.”
MANDY AND THE JUNGLE
”The album is about the power of thought. Mandy is a fictional character I created after I had just finished university. At the time I was coming up with the concept for the album and I was uncertain as to what I wanted to do. I was coasting through life, I felt like my mind was a jungle. Mandy represents the different experiences we go through mentally. She is unsure of her purpose and goes through life waiting to die, she thinks she is losing her mind because she keeps on hearing voices chanting her name wherever she goes. She doesn’t realise the power she possesses and I think a lot of people can identify with that feeling. Mandy is a metaphor for emotion, power and influence – she is actually depicted on the cover of the album but remains faceless.”
THE INFLUENCE OF ’90S NOLLYWOOD HORROR FILMS
”I was raised in a Nigerian household where Nollywood was a huge part of the culture. I developed a fascination for the horror genre and Helen Ukpabio movies in particular. She’s a controversial preacher who was also one of the most popular directors in Nigeria during the ‘90s. She directed End of the Wicked – one of my favourite films. Parents would warn their kids about accepting gifts or food from strangers, as the film was about witches initiating children into cults by luring them during their lunch breaks. There were a lot of kidnappings and blood sacrifices going on at the time so people would take these films quite literally.”
THE NEW WAVE OF NIGERIAN CREATIVES
”I strongly believe in divine timing and I believe the time for us is now. We feel like there are no rules, we are creating exactly what we want. Sometimes when we shoot videos we may have to go to places that are dangerous, but the satisfaction that comes from the finished result is worth it. There are so many gifted individuals in the alté scene and it’s great that we support one another. We all have one thing in common – we are just going for it. It can be quite daunting to show the raw emotion behind your work but it’s not about compromising your art or playing it safe. We believe in complete freedom of expression, so it’s a risk we are willing to take.”