Collins Oboh, aka Colloboh, is a Nigerian-born, Los Angeles-based musician and composer. His latest offering, Saana Sahel, is a world-stretching aural journey that pushes our feelings and ideas in every direction. Veering between post-rave morning music, soulful renderings, effusive jazz ecstasy, and everything in between, Saana Sahel does a lot and travels far in a short, impactful space. Throughout his work, themes emerge and withdraw, leaving empty, open spaces for listeners to sit and fill in with their own reflections. Colloboh sets the mood, and hopefully, we’re there to revel in it.
Saana Sahel is out now on Leaving Records. Pick it up HERE.
I always like to start at the beginning, so what are some of your earliest memories or experiences related to music or sound? What are some of the real formative things from when you were young that have stuck with you?
I lived in Nigeria for the first 7 years of my life, so I have memories of listening to music from my native tribe (Isoko), which is located in the Delta State region of Nigeria. I was born in Lagos, though, so I also heard a ton of pop music both from Africa/locally (i.e., Awilo Longomba, Brenda Fassie, Lagbaja, etc.) and the Western world (Luther Vandross, Craig David, Kenny Rogers, etc.).
Nothing really stuck with me until I moved to America, and I remember hearing 808s and Heartbreak, and that recontextualized my love for music. I also owe a lot of my getting into electronic music to the early works of James Blake- I was a big fan.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician?
Nope, I actually wanted (and still want) to be a filmmaker. I fell in love with film in middle school when we were made to watch 12 Angry Men for a class. It was really fascinating to me how captivating how such a simple story conceptually could be.
At what point did you start playing an instrument and creating your own works? Was there a particular spark that pushed you to start?
I pirated FL Studio during High School and started making beats for my friend. We ended up creating a rap group, and even though that didn’t work out, I was already deep in the production world.
And when did your interest in electronic music and synthesizers first begin?
After producing on FL Studio for a couple of years, I wanted to get a more tactile experience while also learning about basic synthesis, so I bought myself an Arturia Minibrute. I still have it. Then after using that for a bit, I stumbled on a random video on YouTube of a person using the Minibrute with some Eurorack modules. That’s what truly started it for me.
I was listening to your first EP the other day – Entity Relation – and then digging back into the new release, Saana Sahel, and was struck by the evolution of your sound in such a short period of time. I’m curious how your approach and mindset with these two releases differed, or if there’s something, in particular, you attribute these differences to?
I’m pretty beholden to my current mood, and both EPs are a sonic reflection of certain times in my life. Entity Relation was created during a time of a bit more ease and structure. It was my first full-on modular project, and I love dance music, so it was natural to explore that style through my own lens. Saana Sahel was created during a very tumultuous time in my life where a lot of life changes occurred. Creating the music felt like a place where I could process my emotions. I think that is reflected in the music as it feels much more personal than Entity Relation.
With Saana Sahel, I love in the description of how it talks about Saana Sahel being this imagined universe you created. And this music is so, so transportive in that way. I’m curious, how has music been a medium for creating these worlds that can become spaces for shared experience and connection?
Not entirely sure if I understand this question, but I really enjoy thematic records. Not necessarily albums that tell a story but albums that intentionally set a mood. One of my favorite albums is In the Court of the Crimson King, and I love that although there isn’t really a straightforward narrative, there is most definitely a mood being set sonically, and that album takes you through its universe and all the colors it has to offer.
If you had to describe Saana Sahel – the place – with one word, what would it be?
What were some of the things that challenged you when making Saana Sahel?
The classical interpretations of Pavane and Arabesque were somewhat tedious since I am not a very good pianist (in the classical sense). I had to dissect these pieces into “voices” suitable for my modular rig and then play each melody little by little for each voice which took some time. I’m happy about it though because it was a good exercise.
What surprised you?
I enjoyed how organic all the collaborations turned out for this project.
This release, as with Entity Relation, is on Leaving Records. How did you get involved with the label?
From what I remember, MatthewDavid (Leaving Records founder) stumbled on my Instagram. This was around the time I was creating Entity Relation and was sharing short clips of me recording the EP (That EP was recorded completely live in stereo, so no stems). He offered to release that EP on Leaving, and that was that.
You’ve got a handful of performances coming up in May – including one with Suzanne Ciani. What are you most looking forward to about these shows and creating Saana Sahel in a live setting?
I’m excited to perform at a different pace than I have been. Performing Entity Relation led me into more club/dance spaces, so I’m excited about the kinds of performance spaces Saana Sahel will open up for me.
What else are you looking forward to and planning for the remainder of 2023?
I want to do as many shows as possible and travel a lot. I also feel more mental clarity than I did while creating Saana Sahel, so I’d like to make a more dance-oriented track- maybe see how I can organically blend both worlds or even explore some uncharted ideas.