Barzini: For The Love of Chess And Music
David Nwobodo is more than a maverick in the Nigerian music industry. The Afro-fusion musician is one of the biggest chess hobbyists in the country.
Now, with his latest effort – a countrywide chess tourney for students, alongside a chess-themed music album – he is stretching the narrative of strategic thinking and mental development among youths. Speaking with The Guardian Life, the 28-year-old talks about his championing social change, mental health, music and more.
You are hosting a national chess competition among students to promote the game. What’s the motivation for you?
Chess is a lovely game filled with so much practical wisdom for life. I started taking the game seriously in the summer of 2019 and ever since it has become an integral part of me. Clear logic and critical thinking are at the core of chess. These are important life skills for dealing with almost every situation. This is something I want to share with my people. Chess is more than a game. It is a conversation that forces a person to think critically about who they are, where they are and what they are trying to achieve. The clearer one is with answering these questions, the more likely they will succeed in the game and vice versa. My motivation is to inspire young people through chess and the music I create, to critically consider who they are and what they want out of life.
You have also released a chess-themed music album at the end of the tournament. What’s this record going to feel like?
The album is titled “Beloved, Vol. 2 (The King’s Opening)” in honour of Bobby Fischer’s famous 1.e4 chess opening. According to the former world champion, it is the strongest way to begin a game of chess. When I was recording the album, I spent a great deal of time studying Bobby. This is why I named my album after that move. It is my own way of saying to the world and myself that my debut solo album is a strong career opening. As far as the music goes, it is a fine blend of Hip-Hop, high life and dancehall. I begin the 8-track LP with “God Not King” where I clearly state my intent of ascending to god-status through my art (as seen on the cover artwork). The album also echoes raw vibrations from the streets of PH, as well as reflections on my ambitions and how far I have come.
You’re very vocal about mental health and African history. Why do you feel the need to advocate for these things?
I am very vocal about mental health because here in Africa; we need more mentally healthy people taking up responsibility. A lot of folks especially young people, can benefit from quality information about their mental health and how it affects their communities. This is why we need the conversation to be taken more seriously.
I am also very vocal about our history because without it, who are we? It is my belief that the African man needs to be in charge of his own destiny. This cannot happen if someone else is writing our story for us. To write our own story, we must know and come to terms with who we are, where we are coming from and what we want.
I look forward to an Africa where we have numerous institutes dedicated to the documentation, preservation and propagation of African history, arts and culture. Something akin to the Smithsonian Institute but ours in every way.
What is your most profound life philosophy?
I am intrigued by the gift of time. The past is gone and static, it can’t be changed, and being there is a waste. The future is possible, but it’s not here yet, living in it is a form of delusion. All we have is the present moment, and it is our job to be in it wholly, fully, to the best of our ability. It is a good thing to prepare for the future – using both information from the past and the present, but I always remind myself to be present in the moment because that’s where all the opportunities and possibilities lie.
Do you have other musicians you look up to?
Yes. Jay-Z, Kanye West, Bob Marley. Here at home, it’s 2face and Burna Boy. Music is a beautifully complex thing and at some point, you can be inspired by whatever is real and true. But these names have always stood out for me, as far as looking up to people goes.
Tell us some interesting facts that happened while making this new album?
I learned to play the guitar by myself on YouTube.
My chess player rating increased by almost 100%
I started and completed the first season of my podcast: The D.I.Y Artiste Podcast
What’s your vision for Barzini?
To be a global symbol of African excellence in all that I do.