Meet Eugh Nyakabau, a 21-year-old musician from Harare, Zimbabwe.
Eugh spent his childhood in Botswana. He was the third black Head Boy in his South African high school’s 45 year history. From 2016 until 2017, he was a medical student at Anhui Medical University in China. As he puts it, “I was in med school with good grades and a future designed by my own fears. The road to being a black man in a white coat; furthest away from being a black man in control with a mic as the key and the vision.” In his second year at medical school, his father lost his job when Botswana’s biggest mine was shut down, and despite his perfect grades, Eugh had to drop out of medical school. On the day his visa expired, Eugh left China.
He started writing music while he was at medical school. But it was the turmoil of leaving his dream of being a doctor behind that led him to commit to his music as his new purpose. Two days after leaving China, he recorded his first song by himself, based on YouTube tutorials in his room in Botswana. It was titled Alien (https://soundcloud.com/oreighn/foreighn-alien-prod-by-young-taylor). The song begins, “I am starting to feel like I’m from another planet. Yeah, like an alien I landed. God just blessed me, from day one I was outstanding, screaming ‘Foreighn Boy, your future boy I just planned it.’” This is the song that birthed his stage name - Foreighn.
“I’m Foreighn, because it’s in my identity, it’s who I am as a person. Wherever I go, people haven’t accepted me as their own. I’m always that foreign kid. That’s what foreigners are – aliens. We’re aliens wherever we go. Even here on planet earth, human beings are aliens, just passing by. With everything I was going through, my background and circumstances, I just felt like an alien, I didn’t belong to any particular place, but everywhere.”
His track, Msft (https://soundcloud.com/oreighn/foreighn-msft-prod-travzki) is what he describes as a “confessional statement…I tried my best to be as vocal about my inexplicable differences as possible. I know I’m not the only one who has felt what I have with regards to being deemed a ‘cultural label.’ Welcome to my world.”
His work, and journey, speak directly to the goal of AMI – to facilitate a process of unlearning the narrative that, as Achille Mbembe articulates it, Africa is “the world par excellence of all that is incomplete, mutilated and unfinished.” He tells us, “Msft is about how I felt being a misfit in my own skin, being a misfit on my own continent. I got emotional, but it was liberating writing that song. I’ve written close to 100 songs now…but out of all my songs, Msft is very personal, it hits the spot for me. It’s about the victimisation of a small kid who knows nothing, and the culture we as Africans had been raised with. It was terrible. And I wanted to get that message out because it still happens today.”
Foreighn talks us through some of the lyrics below…
Growing up I used to wish my daddy was American.
Life would be a hustle, but I still wouldn’t be African.
Then the people wouldn’t call me names because of my President.
Then the people wouldn’t pick on me because I’d be relevant.
My mother is my biggest fan. She was very much aware of what was happening because we were foreigners in a foreign land. Her son was always alone. And she started asking me questions at a very young age, asking me if I understood what these things meant. She’s asking me why I have scratches on my face, and I’m telling her these kids are making fun of me because I’m taller and darker. They enjoyed it. It was like a sport for them. They were children – they’ve been taught this. I didn’t understand that. I only understood they hated me because I was foreign and darker than them. It hurt even more because yes, I was learning what racism was, and it hurt even more to experience it from people who were black just like me. I have relatives who were mixed race. I never saw the difference until it was pointed out to me.
Oh, you speaking English? You decided that you better than.
I was only eight but all I heard was all the negatives.
In the picture-perfect world, we were painted as the savages.
The world was painted white.
When did Africa unite? We’re separated villages.
When it’s Foreighn, it’s different.
"My little brother was made fun of…that’s another reason I wrote Msft because my eight-year-old brother was going through it too. This time not because of his skin colour – he is light skinned – but because of the cultural difference. He is a Motswana, born in Botswana but Zimbabwean by origin and the kids knew that. They used to roast this little guy, but he’d come in crying, then go back out there…he forgave them, but he never forgot how it made him feel."
Had to clear my mind of this world, it’s imperative.
Because I started hating who I was, just the narrative.
I was only blacker than the sun no comparison.
See the people fear what they know to be different.
We the first generation to see the mountains we carry cut valleys too deep.
“We’re a different generation and we’re branded with the sins of our fathers. It’s not our fault but we have to deal with this stuff.”
Misfit, you different.
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