Jason Derulo is a singer, songwriter and dancer who has become embedded in the fabric of international pop culture. Our returning columnist Anyiko Owoko chats up the “Swalla” hit maker, who is born of Haitian parents, about his favourite Haitian food, music and what he can whip up to perfection.
What the one meal that you can whip to perfection?
Jason: Eggs! I like to experiment with them. Whether it’s an omelette or adding peppers and mushrooms or a scrambled egg, I try and get it done right but that’s as far as my cooking prowess goes (chuckles)
Tell us about Haitian Food?
Jason: The most popular traditional Haitian food is called Griyo (Fried Pork). It is served with lots of rice and fish. It can also be served with cabbage salad or spicy pikliz (pronounced pick lees) a vegetable pickled relish.
What Kenyan food have you had at the Stanley Hotel?
Jason: I had a lot of food and all the proteins and meat dishes remind me of Haitian cuisine. The meat and sauce accompanying it is very well seasoned just like Haitian food. The only new thing is how Kenyans cook the lamb; it becomes tender, almost like chicken.
How has your experience in Kenya been so far?
Jason: My biggest eye opener was the difference in music throughout Africa. Everybody has a totally different vibe. It’s been really good to dive into everybody’s style and mash it together. I only wish that the world would take note on how music is doing in Africa and how African music is mashing up the world. Our planet would be a better place if it treated itself in the same way music does.
What’s the secret to making hit songs?
Jason: I try to make music that speaks to me – whether it makes me want to dance, laugh, fall in love or remind me of love- that’s what most fun to me! [Maybe] it’s that the number of songs that I am writing is a lot because at the end of the game, when it comes to song writing – it’s about a numbers game. The more songs you write, the more chances you have of making a great record. I write many songs but the ones I like the most end up being the big songs because if it speaks to me – chances are it speaks to somebody else because we go through the same things.
Did you know that “Swalla” would become such a huge record. The song’s YouTube statistics currently stand at 480,347,898 views in just 3 months
Jason: Swalla is one of those songs that you either love or you hate it. It’s such a pulverizing song – when it comes out it stands out among other tracks and I love the fact that it provokes emotion the way it does. It’s amazing to make people feel something. The song does that. Having Nicki Minaj and Ty Dollar $ign adds to the appeal of the song. I thought of Nicki first because of her Caribbean roots and Ty never disappoints with the melodies.
What’s the Coke Studio Africa experience been like?
Jason: I feel like the fact that Coke Studio Africa has brought all these artists from different places to collaborate is amazing – there is no better give back. This is the start of something even bigger than music— it’s a merge of people. Through the show, we will be more exposed to different cultures and music. To me, that’s what is most beautiful in the project – I’ve been able to dive into cultures that I would otherwise never have gotten into.