SAN interview with George Omondi

Question: Who is Sanhedrin?

Answer: Sanhedrin is an emcee born, raised and based in Maseru, Lesotho. The name, which is of Hebrew origin, was given to me by a childhood friend who felt that it gave a fitting representation and explanation of the way I wrote and spat rhymes. As time went on, I took more to the production side of musical expression rather than solely emceeing. As a producer, I go by the name; SAN, the Instru-Monumentalist.

Question: When did you decide hip-hop was going to be your sport?

Answer: LOL! “Blood Sport” you mean?! LOL! I developed an acute affinity with the hip-hop culture starting from my early years of high school, circa ’95 – ’96. From my interaction with family members and fellow schoolmates around this time, I was exposed to a plethora of diverse musical genres / sub-genres, from RocknRoll, R&B, Kwaito, Soul, Blues etc, but none of them really made as deep an impact on me as what hip-hop through rap music did. I fell in love with the poetry of emceeing, the wordplay, the wit, the DJ, the break-dancer, the instrumentation, and above all, the sheer newness and uniqueness of this form of expression. Even though I didn’t quite know what it was back then, it made so much sense to me, so much that I knew I had to be a part of it somehow.

Question: How’s the hip-hop environment in Lesotho?

Answer: The hip-hop environment in Lesotho is very vibrant to say the least; the country is by no means short of talent when it comes to all facets of the culture, be it emcees and or producers, graffiti artists, urban street wear brands and designers. However, it’s important to note that the scene in the country is still very much at the grass roots level where the lack of relevant infrastructure impedes a more focused move towards the development of a fully fledged industry in this sector. It is for that reason that we do not see much longevity or sustainability in the art form nor can we immediately boast of a large export base when it comes to hip-hop from Lesotho.

Question: How’s the journey been thus far (how many other projects apart from “against the grain”)?

Answer: Through a management company called AUDIBLE BRAILE ENTERTAINMENT established in 2007 that I co-own with some friends of mine; I have been fortunate to release a myriad of musical offerings since 2007. The best advice I can give is for people to check out the company’s bandcamp here: www.audiblebraile.bandcamp.com

Question: What influences your art?

Answer: in my early years, when I started out, I wanted to be like RZA, like DJ PREMIER, like DJ MUGGS, like ERIC SERMON. Their style was so fresh to me; I wanted to emulate these people because I felt they represented what was at the very top of where I wanted to be. As time went on, not much has changed aside from the fact that I’ve learnt to add more of a personal touch to my own craft, to tell my own story and at the same time use those who came before me as a consistent source of inspiration.

 

Question: Against the Grain is a collaborative project by you and Elliott Niezel. How did the two of you hook up considering he is California based (brief breakdown of the making of against the grain)

Answer: How Elliott and I linked up was through the marvel that is social media. Frankly nowadays you don’t have to physically meet up with someone to work with them and at the same time develop a strong bond and friendship. I first heard of Elliott Niezel and caught glimpses of his work on a track called “Dream Catchers” off the “Cabin Fever” album by an emcee id produced for, the emcee was SOULOGIK. After listening to that track and liking Elliott’s style of lyricism, I decided to reach out to him with the purpose of teasing out the possibility of working together.

Suffice to say, Elliott was all in favour of the idea of collaboration, more so since it was premised on cross continental and mutually beneficial international exposure. Of course it was important that he and I develop a working relationship as well as establish a rapport that would be based on a common understanding and a fundamental appreciation of the benefits of consistent and clear lines of communication as they pertain to the planning of a process and the tracking of its progress. We worked very well and continue to do so in this regard. The fruits of this professional relationship are more than evident in the manifestation of our body work that we so suitably termed “Against the Grain”.

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Question: What inspired “against the grain” the track itself?

Answer: One thing that we knew we wanted to unequivocally achieve with the album was to present to the world a different take on street poetry. We wanted to tell a story of hardship, pain, loyalty, trust, betrayal, failure and success but with a very new perspective. In essence, we wanted to go beyond the generic, beyond the conventional and what would be termed the “safe route” to take. We wanted to go “against the grain” both in rhyme scheme and production.

Question: What do you think of the state of the rap game in the continent currently?

Answer: Africa is a very big place, it’s often easy to try and see it as one big country and then in turn run the risk of over generalising one’s conclusions and opinions on this and the other as far as the continent is concerned. However, I can confidently say I am proud of some of the milestones rap within the continent has managed to make. More noticeably, the “Arab Spring” of 2011-2012 that started in Tunisia and subsequently spread to countries such as Egypt and saw multitudes of youth take to the streets in protest was in a significant way ushered in and sustained by socially conscious rap music and rap artiste. Moreover, rap music continues to be a formidable force in the advocacy for peace in Africa, as evidenced from rappers such as Emmanuel Jal out of South Sudan.

Question: What’s next for Sanhedrin? (Current / future projects and plans)

Answer: I’m always working, always working on something new, multiple projects on a concurrent basis. At this very moment I have about five projects that are really top of my list:

  • An eight track beat tape I call “KING MAKERS” I look to release early if not mid December 2013 under Audible Braile Entertainment.
  • A ten track album called “FATAL DIAGNOSIS” I’m producing for a two man team of emcees out of Pretoria, South Africa by way of Zimbabwe that go by the name of “THE LOST VERSE” we look to drop early 2014 also under Audible Braile Entertainment.
  • A yet to be titled eP I’m producing for SLIM PICKENS, an emcee out of Boston, USA, we look to drop that early 2014.
  • The second instalment in a series of beat tapes between myself and my Brother out in Japan, a producer by the name of RONIN BEATS we look to drop early 2014 under Audible Braile Entertainment.
  • Recently came back from Seoul, South Korea and met up with a lot of gifted musicians that side, so, heads can look forward to a collab between me and a handful of the dope from that side sometime mid 2014.

You can get in touch with me on twitter: @iamSANhedrin

SAN

Listen to some of my works: www.soundcloud.com/iamSANhedrin

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