Sarz: Still Not Your Mate
If you are an avid follower of the Nigerian music industry, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “Beat By Sarz” or “Sarz On The Beat” quite a number of times over the past couple of years. But like most sound producers, you probably aren’t familiar with his history or thought process because they [sound producers] aren’t as spotlighted as musicians yet you can affirm that they play a very key role in the outcome of a track.
The art of sound production is a skill that can make or mar any song because if the production is off, the track is an automatic miss.
Osabuohien Osaretin better known by his stage name, Sarz is a music producer and musician with over a decade worth of experience to his credit.
Sarz arrived The Guardian Nigeria studios relatively early [well as early as one can arrive considering Lagos traffic] and he was just as cool as you’d expect him to be. He was ushered into the studio and headed straight to fittings followed by a photo shoot and finally an extensive interview where he opened up about his humble beginnings in the music business, the global acclaim of afrobeat and his unwavering belief that “Sarz is not your mate.”
Right from time, Osaretin had been intrigued by the music business but unlike most people, he wasn’t attracted to the musician role but rather felt drawn to producing.
“I’ve always loved music as far back as the 90s, I was a big fan of Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Pharrell and also a big fan of beats. I wasn’t really big on artistes at that time, I was always looking forward to the next Timbaland production or the next Dr. Dre production because I’ve always been into instrumentals.”
Although he loved the idea of sound production and beats, Sarz never saw himself becoming a professional producer.
“I never thought I was going to be a producer, I thought I was going to play basketball professionally or be a software developer.”
But as fate would have it, a casual gift from a friend would alter the course of his life forever.
“One day my friend brought this demo version of FL Studio[sound production software] and he thought that since I was so keen on music producers, maybe I should try music production and see if I can do it and the first set of beats I made were good enough to sell. I remember selling my first beat a few days after producing for about three thousand Naira in 2005 so I thought, since I enjoy it and I can actually make money off it, I should run with it.”
Because of his talent and persistence, the gospel of Sarz began to spread and although he was still a rookie at the time, he was already generating buzz.
“I kept meeting different people, kept meeting different artistes and one artiste introduced me to the other because they just felt I was really good.”
Sarz fondly recounts the memory of his first time in a professional studio, many years ago when he just wanted studio time to listen to some of the beats he had already produced.
“I remember putting my beats on a diskette because I wanted to hear my beats in a proper studio environment where the sound would be isolated so I went to a studio and I asked the producer for five minutes so I could play my beats and he declined saying that he was busy. So I decided to wait till he was less busy and eventually I handed him the diskette and he played just five seconds of the beat because it hit so hard, he was obviously intimidated. I guess he didn’t want me to pull his clients but the artistes in the studio at the time were blown by the snippet they heard so I invited them to my house to hear more.”
Regardless of his current high-power position in the industry, he remembers the person who put him on and credits Lord of Ajasa for his first major breakthrough.
“The track See Drama with Lord of Ajasa was my first big break in the industry and from there I met Jahbless, Reminisce, 9ice, Ruggedman, Shank and I just kept meeting people and then everything materialised.”
As a producer, Sarz had risen to the top of the music production chain and naturally wanted to explore new frontiers in music. But of course, human nature and the uncertainties involved in change delayed his decision but ultimately didn’t stop him.
“As human beings, we are reluctant to change and that applies to me too because I was reluctant to change because I was very comfortable being a producer, being behind the music and also God has his timing for everything. While producing for other people, they would point out that my beats were good enough to be released without lyrics and it would still be a hit so after thinking through it, I eventually decided to put out my own music.”
Sarz is popular for having a unique sound peculiar to him that can cause even the stiffest person in the crowd to nod along to the rhythm. When asked about the inspiration behind his sound he answered,
“I can’t say there’s one particular thing that inspires me. Other producers would probably say they like getting intoxicated or they like serenity but for me it’s about pushing myself, breaking limits and topping what I’ve done before. That’s what keeps me going.”
In April 2019, Sarz made an audacious statement through his album Sarz Is Not Your Mate which was a direct reminder to his colleagues in the music industry and the general public that he was a seasoned producer with the records to back up his claim.
“Everyone in the industry knows that Sarz is not their mate but they’re all subtle about it so I just wanted to put it out in everyone’s faces and they all know. I would like to humbly point out that over the last decade, i don’t think there’s any Nigerian producer out there that has been as influential as me in regards to the sound because the music that I make is a template for other producers and they know because they often take ideas from me to replicate on their own tracks and such tracks may even score bigger hits but they all know where the source came from and if this doesn’t define that Sarz is not your mate, I don’t know what will.”
Sarz commands the respect that he does because of his organic growth and the authenticity of his work. As a sound producer, he has been active in the Nigerian music scene for over a decade and managed to stay positively relevant.
“To stay at the top, you have to find ways to reinvent yourself, you always have to push yourself, you can’t settle because you feel what your doing works because if you do, people will eventually get tired of you so you have to try new things and don’t be afraid to fail and even if you fail, you have to be ready to try again and honestly that’s what my career has been about, you have to stay fresh and consistent.”
As a result of the years of hard work invested in developing his sound and pushing himself, Sarz has not only worked with some of the biggest artistes in Africa, he has equally collaborated with some of the bigwigs on the global music scene including Drake, Skepta, and Chris Brown.
“It’s an amazing time to be alive and relevant in the industry today because we’re getting attention from all over the world and personally before this phase i had already felt like a shark in the pond because I had worked with almost everybody and I was already looking out for what’s next because I had already made my mark in the industry so this is a great phase because you have so much room to operate as you’re not just playing for the Nigerian or African market, you can take your dreams as far as you want.”
True to his adventurous nature, Sarz has recently tried his hand at disk jockeying and ‘DJ Sarz’ might be headlining the next major concert you attend [if you’re lucky].
“I’m comfortable performing as a DJ and so far it has been really amazing because DJing is something I’ve always wanted to do but the idea of change slowed me down a little bit. Earlier this year I played my first major DJ set at Gidifest and it was amazing.”
After taking his time climbing up the ranks, Sarz is concerned with continuity and leaving a lasting imprint in more ways than one.
“I have producers that i’ve mentored and within a year, they’re Grammy nominees and it’s just amazing. I want every producer in Nigeria to be able to achieve their dreams in such a short period of time and be able to make a living off music production.”
In an effort to give upcoming producers a headstart in the music business, the Sarz Academy was founded.
“The Sarz Academy is an academy that trains creatives, producers to get better in their craft and also know their rights. We train them on the music business and the legal side of music so they’re well armed when they get into the industry and so far we’ve been able to push out amazing creatives in the industry and there’s one i’m especially proud of, his name is P Prime, he’s seventeen and he produced one of the biggest songs on Fireboy’s album.”