Azariel: The aircraft engineer with a wicked ability to “spit bars”

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By Jarryl Bryan

“Tint”, the song by Guyanese artiste Azariel that shows him reasoning with “Police” to release him and his heavily tinted car has now racked up over 1 million views on YouTube, less than a year after being released.

It is a monumental occasion for Azariel, whose full name is Kristoff Azariel Sauns. Azariel is also a certified aircraft maintenance engineer.

The 25-year-old who hails from Crane, West Coast Demerara (WCD), currently resides in the Turks and Caicos Islands and according to him, “Tint” is a historical moment for the local dancehall industry.

“Tint touching 1 million views is monumental, given that it’s the first Guyanese dancehall track by a male artiste to touch 1 million YouTube views. That’s something that could never be forgotten, so I’m very proud of that especially given the negative comments I heard through the grapevine from some people in the Guyanese entertainment space,” he said.
Azariel had a busy 2020, with the release of his debut studio album “Lwlss”, dropping a well-produced music video for “Tint” and even feuding with popular local DJ Magnum.
But where did his musical journey start?

Azariel credits his cousin and local artiste Stiffy Stiff, whom he has since collaborated with on a few songs, with getting him into the studio.

“I use to write music but I use to just write it and record it with my phone and send it to people on WhatsApp and ask them what they think about it. I use to send it to my friends and some family. And my cousin Delon Garraway, Stiffy Stiff, heard it and he had already been recording music. So, he said ‘yo, you should come to the studio. You got talent. You should come and leh we put in some work’.”

Azariel said that at first, he was reluctant to make that professional leap since he was still studying aeronautical engineering. But he decided to give it a try and the result was his first song, “Gym Body” featuring Stiffy Stiff.

The young musician writes all his songs and that is something he prides himself on. However, his musical journey has not been without its challenges.

“Some of the major hurdles faced with music in Guyana is getting recognised. Getting your music out there, played on the radio. Those are some of the initial stumbling blocks. Because it was really hard to get some DJs to play your music,” he said.

“Most Guyanese artistes can tell you, the DJs in Guyana are foreign-minded. That’s just how it is. But I guess we just gotta network. That’s basically it, everything else is just promotion. But the fact that I have a career in engineering, I don’t get to put my 100 per cent into music. It’s basically me doing it when I get the time to do it.”

Tint

If you go through YouTube comments under the song “Tint”, which has over 16,000 likes, most of them are positive and in praise of the lyrics, delivery and video quality. Special praise has been reserved for Azariel’s embrace of the Guyanese accent, at a time when several Guyanese singers and DJs strive to emulate Jamaican patois.

According to Azariel, the song has somewhat divided opinion among actual Guyanese Police, with most tending towards the entertainment value of the song.

“Some Police found the humour in the song and some of them really like the song and a lot of times when I pull up on roadblocks, these guys would be asking me to sing the song so a lot of Police especially give positive feedback. However, there were still some that felt disrespected by it somewhat.

“That was not the intention behind the song. It was just for entertainment purposes. Music is an expressive art form and it was just me expressing things that people face daily and not just in Guyana,” Azariel said.

The music video featured famous Guyanese personality “Kunchi” as one of the Police Officers. Kunchi himself is known for Kunchi TV productions, where he releases comedy skits. According to Azariel, working with Kunchi was a fun experience.

“With Kunchi, what you see is what you get. The same type of person Kunchi is in those videos, funny and always got everybody laughing, always being in character, that’s the type of person Kunchi is and that was how he was on the set all the time, even when we weren’t filming.”

Feud

He also spoke about his feud with DJ Magnum, which saw the two men trading blows on social media and resulted in Azariel releasing his single “Belly”. According to Azariel, feuds are healthy for the musical industry once they don’t descend to violence.

“In the music industry music is an expressive art form, so a lot of people will express their feelings and somebody is going to take offense or not to whatever somebody says and they’re going to reply or not. So that’s just how it is and that’s the culture in dancehall music and most of these things don’t necessarily be personal.

“A lot of these things does be just music and I feel that is healthy every once in a while, once there is no physicality. Because anybody could get physical anytime. But that doesn’t make any sense. That’s jail time, that’s waste time. Them things don’t make no sense. Music is a way to express,” he said.

Looking forward, Azariel, who was featured on BBC Radio 1Xtra in the UK, “A Caribbean Christmas” hosted by Seani B in December, urged fans to expect more creativity from him. He promised to continue to make songs about trending topics, while entertaining.
Azariel, who produces his music with AJ Records owned by Guyanese music producer and engineer, Adrian Johnson, was hopeful that he can return home to make live appearances on stage when the COVID pandemic eases.

He also had some advice for singers now looking to enter the industry.

“My advice to somebody now starting out in the music industry would be to produce quality music. Promote yourself as much as possible and be patient because there will be a lot of things that will make you want to stop you. You won’t get a motivation to write songs some days, things like that but you just got to keep at it. Once you’re persistent then eventually things will happen. If you fail at one song, promote it, promote it as much as possible and if nothing is happening, try something else.”