KL-based Romeo Shagba is better known for his works as an abstract portrait photographer, which has an impressive oeuvre that would shame most local photogs. But as it is in the nature of most talented individuals, he is a bi-talented polymath; Romeo’s nom de musicien Major Distraction is the lesser known half of his body of works. As this persona, he composes self-styled ‘narrative’ tracks that are decidedly moody – imagine the less aggressive beats off Young Fathers’ records sans the rapping. His two talents, however, don’t exist separate from each other. As Romeo puts it, the music is “kind of like the unlicensed soundtrack” to his photography works; “[They] complement the photographs I create in the sense that they follow the same themes and emotional structure.”
Despite being a photographer by trade, he was a music aficionado first before delving into the world of still images. “Being a pretty expressive kid, I was hunting for ways to release [my emotions] and music turned out was a very good way to do so,” shares Romeo. And just like other artistes from the producer scene, he was similarly autodidactic in his training – Romeo lacks the full technical knowledge of music creation. This isn’t by any means a flaw to him, he sees it as an opportunity to put himself in a certain state of mind and “let the noises and influences in [his] head lead the way.”
Elaborating on his compositions, Romeo describes them as a non-linear process (“You could call it the ADD creation style”), often time conjuring scenarios in his mind first before making the music. “I live in my own world most of the time and the music is basically how I see everything around me,” he tells us. This is truest on tracks he sung on, namely ‘Assimilation’ and ‘Abyss’, both served as a peek into his psyche with unflinching emotionality.
While Major Distraction isn’t the only Nigerian act in Kuala Lumpur JUICE is familiar with, he is refreshingly one of the few who didn’t opt for hip hop as his genre. Instead, his influences range from the likes of Yosi Horikawa and Jon Hopkins to Cid Rim and Flying Lotus. He has also integrated himself into KL’s burgeoning producer scene in the past year, revealing to us that he’s impressed with the amount of good music running beneath the surface of our city.
“I see a wave of great music coming our way – we have the superman VMPRMYTH doing his thing and he is one of the many superheroes we have out here.”
While Romeo Shagba the photographer will remain as his primary calling, Romeo Shagba the musician isn’t exactly something that’s on the side line. It’s still a welcomed, and major, distraction in his artistic pursuit.