Whether it’s playing out in a club or to family and friends, musicians have their ways of evaluating their new sounds. salute, meanwhile, has a simpler litmus test: Uber drivers. “I’ll play it amongst other tracks that I’m enjoying at the moment, just to see how the driver reacts,” he laughs. “Just recently, actually, I was in one and the driver turned round and was like, ‘What is this? This is so nice!’”
Twenty-year-old Felix Nyajo, AKA salute, is fairly new to these British streets. Just two years ago the producer moved from the global capital of classical music, Vienna, to another musical hub: Brighton. Growing up in Austria, his school gave him a thorough education via weekly orchestral concerts, but he learned the most from his older brother’s stacks of Notorious B.I.G and Tupac, as well as Dizzee and Wiley Sidewinder mixtapes from 2002. It was the drum ‘n’ bass scene that he first entered, though, as a producer, but left when he felt like he’d exhausted the limits of that frenetic percussion.
Now settled in the UK seaside town, he admits he doesn’t miss his homeland much. He got stabbed there when he was 14 - an experience that left him unable to leave his house for a month afterwards. “Two guys who must have been five years older pushed me against a wall and pulled a knife to my neck. It made me so aware of racism, which is why I’m vocal about it now.”
Brighton, with its enviable quantities of live music and, of course, The Great Escape - where he debuted his full band live set-up last month - seems a good home from home. Mini-album ‘My Heart’ (out in August) is salute’s mission statement: seven cuts of chopped and screwed electronica and R&B, with even a peek from Felix’s D&B past on surefire crossover anthem ‘Storm’.
“The reason it’s called ‘My Heart’ is because it’s showcasing all the influences I’ve had in the past 10 to 15 years. I wanted to start out with the music I listened to as a boy - gospel, R&B. Then the second half is what I got into when I was older - guitar music, indie.” And salute’s nailed the formula, too: “Songs work well because of contrast - that’s what makes people go, ‘Oh my God!’ It’s just contrast.”
WHERE: Brighton via Austria
WHAT: The lovechild of Kaytranada and HudMo: textural, bumping neo-soul
GET 3 SONGS: ‘One More Chance (ft. D.R.A.M.)’, ‘You Owe Me’, ‘Colourblind (ft. ABRA)’
FACT: He’s clearly wise beyond his years, as he was born with a bunch of grey hairs on his head.
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Words: Felicity Martin
Photography: Sophie Mayanne