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Jafaris is finding his feet

Wednesday, 8th May, 2019 4:42pm

As he embarks on a headline tour in support of his critically-acclaimed debut album ‘Stride’, Dublin hip hop artist Percy Chamburukahe, aka Jafaris, is not letting success run away with him.

It’s a rather appropriate philosophy given that the album, released in March by independent production hub Diffusion Lab, was created in what the artist says was a period of deep reflection.

“I’m a super introspective person, and I was really in a mode of thinking about my flaws and weaknesses and all that stuff,” he tells me over the phone before his gig at Cyprus Avenue.

Born in Zimbabwe before moving to Ireland aged six, Jafaris was raised in a devoutly Christian family, abandoning his faith as he got older before returning to his roots in recent years, something he says heavily influenced the making of ‘Stride’.

“I’m heavily surrounded by Christians, my friends and I talk about the Bible and pray, and this was the first time in my life I pursued that for myself, as opposed to being brought up in it.

“It’s different for everyone, obviously. I still know people who were brought up in that world who haven’t lost it, but who I wouldn’t say really know it for themselves. It’s more like they’re still doing it because their family wants them to do it, it’s more like a religion than a lifestyle.”

He says it was partly thanks to one of his now best friends re-engaging with his faith that he himself was brought back.

“His mother is a pastor and he went through his own circumstances, and it was actually through being around him a lot that my heart and soul saw that there is more to this than what we were taught in church, or by our parents. I now believe wholeheartedly, and even though I still have my faults and things I need to work on, it’s something that is progressive for me. It didn’t need to get to the worst part of my life for me to be like ‘yeah, this is good for me’.

Spirituality runs deep within ‘Stride’, a storming 30 minutes of neo-soul, trap, hip hop, gospel and other influences. Closing track ‘Ghost’ blurs the lines between the performer and a lost soul who needs saving by God, while in ‘God’s Not Stupid’ sees the artist shun the lure of riches. There’s also the appropriately named, grime-influenced ‘Found My Feet’. Has Jafaris found a way to handle the success?

“I actually had to sit my friends down recently and tell them they have to be the ones that keep things normal, and make me forget that I have an album or all of that. I’m getting praise from outside my friend groups, by my family and my friends, which I’m super grateful for, but at the same time I know what it will do to me in the long run, so I needed to be real with myself. If I change, it’s down to myself, but also down to how people are treating me, which is natural.

“My friends just said ‘relax man, you’re not even that big anyway!’ But I still had to say it.”

‘Stride’ has seen the Dubliner garner attention from the likes of international outlets like NME and The FADER, and led to the misguided perception that an Irish hip hop scene has suddenly sprung up out of nowhere.

“I’m aware of it, but I don’t really try and keep an eye out for it either,” he says of the outside attention on the scene. “There’s certain strands that have a lot of external attention. In my field, there’s a lot of industry attention, the labels and A&Rs etc, but fans-wise there’s still a lot of groundwork to do. But then there’s the Irish drill scene, which is capturing a lot of fan attention but not a lot of industry attention. So it’s discombobulated in a way.”

A lover of dance and sometime actor (he appeared in Irish music drama ‘Sing Street’ in 2016), Jafaris adds that it was music, and more specifically performance, that helped him overcome the shyness he had as a teenager.

“I’ve always been the guy in the corner, watching everybody. I didn’t know that I could perform music, and discovering that really got me out of myself. Once I started, I realised people are just people, and that I just need to be okay with the fact not everybody is going to like what I do, but that a lot of people will.

“Finding that balance in life to be who you’re gonna be, and accepting the fact you are you and some people will like you and some won’t, that in itself gives you a confidence.”

Jafaris plays Cyprus Avenue on Saturday 11 May. Tickets are €10 and are available from Eventbrite.ie.

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