Culture

Obi Psalms: Journey of a multi-disciplinary artist

10 Mins read

The filmmaker, musician, poet, and events curator expresses and expands his consciousness through his art, and thinks you should too!

The Nigerian-British artist Obi Psalms is currently engaged in a variety of works ranging from visual arts, music, and poetry to film and interior design.

Obi also runs a series of poetry, film screening and community discussion events for the young art community in London and he uses the events, called Crystal Hearts, to open a wider conversation for the community on issues that matter to them.

In addition to his work, his philosophies and spirituality left me with lessons to consider in anyone’s journey as an artist. I had a chance to sit down with the artist and discuss his journey, his artistry in general as well as his events, community work, and the importance of artist relationships, growing up and self-discovery.

Presenting feature artist
Obi Psalms after the first Crystal Hearts event in Peckham, October 2023 [Lena Teshome]

Obi’s artistic journey started in 2020, while studying interior design in Norwich. He suggested that he had always been aware of the creativity within him, even before entering his journey in art.

“I was always a creative person ever since I was young. My creativity was misunderstood. A lot of the time, I was always compared to people who were more academic and because of that, people couldn’t see my true value.”

While attending college, Obi established a foundation for himself as a multi-dimensional artist, studying English language, graphics and fine art. Understandably, he had an interest in expanding his own creativity and the creative mind itself. 

University and interior design only enabled the artist to further his freedom with art: “When I was in Norwich, I started to understand space, how the interior design can control how a person perceives a space or how comfortable they are in one. This all goes into my music as well.”

The year 2020 was a big year for Obi’s artistry, and that was the year that marked the start of his music journey. Drawing inspiration from artists like Madlib, MF Doom and Flying Lotus, he embarked on a musical journey which, for him, was a spiritual journey in its own right.

Reflecting back on how it started, Obi muses: “I’ve been working on this piece of music, this album for three years, since 2020, that’s when my music career and my whole creative journey started in earnest.”

After this realisation and a deep exploration into his own artistry, Obi opened himself up in other mediums of art in addition to his music and interior design work.

In a short span of time, he created a clothing line, held his first creative event, hosted his own radio show and started making videos, which became his first taste in filmmaking.

With the knowledge he acquired, he came back to London and he realised that it was now what he called “activation time”.

Obi sparked a big intrigue for me, as a fan of art crossing genres and topic bases; I was intrigued by his extraordinary rise as a multidisciplinary artist.

When I had asked the young artist if he finds himself being multifaceted, in the sense that he derives a lot of inspiration from various places, he answered: “I think about many things and I think about making new things. I’m a musician. I’m a poet. I’m a film director. I’m a clothing designer. I’m an interior designer. I am not in a box in any of those fields.”

Music video capture
Still from the music video Faith, by Obi Psalms and Lynx Cane

One thing many may notice in the artists of today is that when they explore several mediums and ways of creating art, they find themselves bleeding those interests into one another while eliminating the idea of boxing oneself into any one specified field.

Obi’s contributions to art exceed the expectations of those mediums while ignoring the standards the world of art has set for the expression of creativity.

When discussing the artistic circle Obi has found for himself, the concept of not being boxed in and being a multifaceted artist also applies. He explained how he came across other individuals who are on similar journey to him both artistically and spiritually.

”Earlier this year, I found some brothers, and it was like we were all on this multidisciplinary journey. There was a name that came to mind, the Polymath, which also means multidisciplinary, it’s interesting because all of these brothers, we’re on our own spiritual journey, a spiritual path.”

Obi believes in the value of his close relationships and how enabling progress for each other is immensely important as artists.

Godspeed 03 | Pound and Yam radio show with Obi Psalms, Miro, Dochi and Cyber Papi

This speaks volumes in terms of the ecosystem in which artists operate. After having several conversations with many artists who don’t have a support system as well as friendships to discuss their work, I can say it is crucial and not only as an artist but as human beings.

“We study together, and we’re growing in the spiritual journey together. That stuff is core value; it is everything. So the work that you produce is soaked in a much deeper essence.”

Obi elaborated on wanting to find his tribe, people in his life he could grow with, people he found who he considers brothers.

“When I first met my brother Dochi (@dejaz.I.am), it was a deeper connection, I felt like I knew him before, when I met Miro (@miro.jpeg) I knew we didn’t just have a deeper connection, it’s like I had seen his face as a child.”

Both Dochi and Miro are also multidisciplinary artists. After being shown and seeing the work they all produce, I began to understand how rare and beautiful their brotherhood is, as well as the amazing quality of each individual’s artistry.

What the discussions revealed is that the trio truly and proactively support each other and enable growth for each other, which again is reflected throughout Obi’s work.

Many might question how smooth going or easy these interlinks of interest and ideas are for multidisciplinary artists? Obi further detailing his overall journey and path in art said: “it’s not always too smooth for me, but a pathway is always there”.

He elaborated on his post-university experience, more specifically, how he continued to create regardless of the circumstances: “After university I decided I’m going to go work for a firm, I sent out all my information, done hard work for like, three, four months trying to get into a firm. Nothing,” he said.

“So what happened was that I said, No, I believe in myself so much, that I’m just going to keep creating, creating music, creating clothing, creating events, creating anything.”

Album artwork
Artwork for Obi’s first track A Day’s Journey
Faith cover
Artwork for Faith by Obi Psalms and Lynx Cane

The creative industry can be ruthless and with the rise and fall of our economic state as well as its competitive nature, it doesn’t seem easy for many to land jobs post-graduation, unfortunately leading to many young artists giving up on their goals. What Obi Psalms chose to do was not fall in the hole of giving up.

Throughout our conversation, Obi spread many positive words of affirmation not only for himself but for all artists who live to create, but have been given reasons to halt their artistry.

Through perseverance and self-belief, Obi managed to continue creating as much as he can, which led him to only creating more and attracting an audience who relate and believe in his ideas, which at the very least, is admirable as well as encouraging for both myself and young artists.

We also talked about film and philosophies. Again, as an avid art lover, I always questioned what keeps artists motivated, driven and inspired, especially those who have their toes in so many ponds as Obi has.

He explained his spiritual relationship with God, how that unbreakable foundation has helped him over the years, even highlighting how God led him to create, along with inspiring him.

His forthcoming film Seeds, which was shot in 2022, derives from a parable in the bible, Matthew 13 to be exact.

He detailed the meaning of the film “There was a sower and he sowed seeds. Some seeds landed upon the thorny road, some landed upon the side road, and the bird ate it. Some landed upon the rocky bit where there was no rooting. I feel like those seeds wherever you’re sowing them will start to basically infect other people, and it will start to multiply. That’s how the light extends to the world.”

Trailer for Seeds, directed by Obi Psalms

As you can tell, Obi works in great detail and doesn’t fail to leave audiences with great meaning. With his personal experiences, his journey, his relationship with God and an understanding of his own objective, his films leave you feeling self-reflective as well as spiritually energised.

Another short picture by the artist himself, SoWer, is also filled with amazing writing and stunning visuals crossing the boundaries of colours and editing.

In Obi’s film Seeds, a piece of spoken word was dedicated to his neighborhood. “For that film, I wrote a spoken word piece to my neighborhood. That was the first official, proper spoken word piece I made and then from there, just kept writing.”

Poetry is clearly something big for the artist as he closely identifies with it as he muses that he “understands himself deeper as he writes poetry”.

Presenting artists film stills
Stills from the film Seeds [Obi Psalms]

When it comes to writing, Obi has an interesting approach to his poetry starting his writing journey through creative writing from abstract stories.

“I first started off writing abstract stories about adventures, for me that was my experience.” As time went on, Obi started to write ‘psalms’ in university, he doesn’t call these pieces of writing poetry, he calls them psalms.

“These were songs to God and that was where my name came, from when I used to write.” This is only another example of God being present in Obi’s creative process.

Obi still owns these psalms and plans on using them in future art pieces: “I still have all of these songs on my laptop, these are going to be art pieces. They will be massive A1 pieces, something to put in your house, in your room, anywhere.”

I found this intriguing as this also relates to his work in interior design, only another way the artist has combined his mediums.

When asked about his music production alongside his poetry, more specifically what actually is an Obi Psalms song, the artist answered: “I make music so I can feel like goose bumps; it’s a very vulnerable experience. I’m really just trying to convey a deeper part of my heart.”

After having a chance to listen to some of Obi’s music, I appreciated the raw and real lyricism alongside the beautifully layered production, presenting a unique and heavy felt feeling.

I really admired the fact Obi claimed that “my music is not for everyone”, understanding that his sound is specific to some, those he described as individuals who feel chosen, who feel guided and who felt misunderstood for the majority of life.

Even after mentioning some influences earlier in our conversation, Obi discussed the influence of other music he has listened to throughout his life and elaborating on spreading his experience through this accumulation of sounds.

“I have music, some music that isn’t out yet, which are salsa and bossanova related. There’s more jazz, more hip hop, I have a lot of different sounds, even in the orchestral world. I’m just trying to use my soul experience with the things I’ve soaked up, then capture it and then release it.”

With the release of one of his first tracks A Day’s Journey in June 2022, Obi later released more tracks such as Faith in 2023, continuing the creation his diverse sound.

One thing that is key to the musical side of Obi Psalms; his music is sound that truly encapsulates experience, whether it is in the production or lyricism.

There is more to Obi Psalms, though; He also works within the art community in London. In late October 2023, he held an interactive Crystal Hearts event in Peckham Levels; he detailed what would take place at the event during our discussion on his many artistic escapades.

The event entailed several film screenings from talented artists active in the underground art scene in London, along with live poetry by another group of talented individuals who are spoken word artists and lastly a big discussion with community members on various topics. 

presenting feature artist and artists at event
Obi Psalms and fellow spoken word artists YEBBZ (Immanuel) Ashanti and Tumi (FEJIRO) after Crystal Hearts [Lena Teshome]

Obi exclaimed the motto for the event is “Be the change you want to see”, he further explains his plans for the discussions: “they will be about the world, about community, about spirituality, about friends, about consciousness, about awareness, questioning why our world is like this right now? How can we change that? How can we create solutions? Yeah, I want to create those solutions,”

I have attended a number of events in creative spaces in London, but not one has made me as deeply self-reflective and left me in great thought afterwards. Not many events leave a group of people highly energetic and brimming with positivity.

Obi wanted to create a space for free discussion amongst artists that would help them reflect on themselves and their community. “Crystal Hearts will be basically a gathering of people who want to make a change. We are going to be showcasing this through our work, our creative expression through our journey.”

In addition to the great space provided for young artists, Obi also aims at blurring the line between the audience and the performer through an interactive and conversational experience. ”It’s going to be an immersive place, an immersive exhibition in a way. I don’t want there to be a difference between the performance and the people who are attending.”

Through Crystal Hearts, there is a range of talent and expression in the room that I could tell inspires many that were surrounded by the artists at the event.

Obi explained that every artist was handpicked by him stressing that: “Every single person that is going to be performing deserves their own headline show.” This was the third event hosted by Obi Psalms and he is keen and planning on producing a space like this again for the community.

Obi is indeed an artist to look out for. Not only does his art speak volumes but so does his philosophy as well as his reasoning for creating and bringing a community together.

When I asked the artist where he would like to go with his work and where he would like to be he spoke about building a kingdom and finding more of his tribe, more like-minded artistic individuals.

“I know I must create homes for people. These homes are going to be spiritually inclined. So I’m going to be finding more of my tribe. Yeah, more of the soul family, going to be expanding and I can’t wait to see the beauty.”

In the discussion on being yourself and his advice for others who want to find the truth for themselves and consequently their art, Obi shared a beautiful proverbial saying that another individual had once told him on how to understand your own creativity: “you create how you think, how you think creates how you feel and how you feel creates your vibration.”

Along with the goal to create homes and creating another Crystal Hearts event for the community, Obi is also working on new music that will be released soon.

The EP The Deepest Shalom will present a wider perspective of Obi’s musical style as well as a purposeful and intentional message.

If you want to be in a free space of conversation or want music that sounds both  interesting and gives you a meaning to think about after a listen, be sure to watch out for Obi’s next Crystal Heart event as well as The Deepest Shalom which will be released in 2024.

You can hear more from Obi Psalms on Soundcloud.


Featured image courtesy of Obi Psalms.

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