Babah Fly is a name
you have probably heard if you are in the know in the hip hop music scene of Denver, or are a consistent follower of the magazine, Westword. Fly has been in the music business in Denver for fifteen years so it is safe to say that he is a great person to talk to about how artists get themselves involved in the local music scene.
Babah Fly, born as Matthew Kelley, was hanging out in the basement/lounge underneath the Gypsy House Cafe, or "the Gypsy," located near downtown Denver on 13th and Marion.
As I walked in on Friday night the smell of hookah, coffee, and pastries entered my nose, encouraging me to just sit down and relax rather then finding a musician to talk too, but it had to be done.
I first introduced myself to a frazzled woman behind the counter with brown curly hair named Dena, who I later found out was the owner of the Gypsy. When I asked her who I could talk to about local musicians she led me straight downstairs to Fly.
Fly is smaller guy with huge brown eyes, a beenie on his head, and a calm, relaxed swagger. When I first approached fly he nodded and shook my head offering me a seat on an extra stool behind him. I dove into explaining what I was interested in learning about; how local musicians start playing gigs, who they want to be noticed by, and how they end up making money off of their music. Fly obliged my curiousity.
Fly had a lot to say, "I've been on the music scene for fifteen years, and I starting out playing gigs at coffee shops. I started out at the Mercury Cafe, where they did hip-up shows, and so did a lot of other old-school hip-hip artists. There are a lot of places to start."
Fly made it clear that each genre of music has their own scene. So if your into Reggae you find out where all the Reggae artists are playing. If you are into Rock you find out where the rockers are playing, and so on. Each type of music has their own version of the bottom and the top.
As far as getting noticed, Fly works with the college circuit, and has a booking agency in the South who sets up gigs. As far as monetary success, Fly is not focused on the big bucks, " In the music world today there are a lot more mid-level income people that are playing. As far as it goes, my aim is just to be successful. I'll take what I can get you know, the $100,000 thousand a year vs. the millions, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't take the million (laughs)."
"I've been doing this for awhile so, I do it for the pureness of the music."
Fly is not at all opposed to making money off music, but its not the goal; " Definitely go for money, everyone needs to feed themselves, but from a business perspective, if anyone's soul interest is just to make money then open up a marijuana dispensary, because music takes soul, so if you don't have that I don't think you can produce music that anyone would care to listen to, much less buy."
Fly also mentioned that because of technology and the power of the web, artists, like Fly, send their music over the web which makes it easier to make income. Fly explained, "It used to be that the marketing tool was the flyers people handed out and the product was the music, now the music is the product and the live shows add to the value. It is a different approach."
But before artists can even think about money, they need to think about where they can start and that usually tends to be in coffee shops, or any small clubs that do open-mics, which can include art galleries.
When asked what he would say to other local musicians just starting out he had wise words, " I would say try to think about who is going to listen to you, try to find out where they hang out, go there, and try and play. Love the music, and always think about being creative."
Fly was very helpful in revealing many important aspects of the music scene in Denver. It is clearly a tough venture though and without some creativity, love, and soul, a musician can't take flight.
To hear some of Babah Fly's music go to the following links: http://www.myspace.com/babahfly
Photos courtesy of Google Images