Joshua Idehen blends humor with the heart on his beautifully intimate and insightful “Learn to Swim, Pt 2,” fostering a moment of raw human connection filled with poetic, memorable quotes and cathartic advice.
Stream: “Learn to Swim Pt 2” – Joshua Idehen
Some things will always be true: The sun always sets in the West, right now will always be as good as it gets, Romeo and Juliet is tragic, time is wasted on worry, and everyone is made of pure, unadulterated magic – except for Boris Johnson…
Joshua Idehen has plenty of words of wisdom for those willing to listen: “There are no solutions at the bottom of a doomscroll.” “Embrace your cringe.” “If you love doing a thing, and you’re not hurting anyone or yourself, do the thing.” “Recognise the difference between alone and lonely.” “Don’t be afraid to dress like an idiot at least once in your life.” And one of my personal favorites, “Don’t swim in the River Thames.”
Yet even more powerful than each of these nuggets on their own, is their combined impact all together in one song. Idehen channels his inner “uncle giving unsolicited advice” persona on the beautifully intimate “Learn to Swim, Pt 2,” blending humor with the heart to create a moment of raw human connection.
It’s enough to make you crack a couple smiles, while no doubt nodding along vigorously in agreement.
Stay cool, learn to swim
I only started learning last year
and now I’m forty two
And if you already know how to swim?
Good for you
This is for all the people behind you
Stay cool, learn to swim
Nah, mate, you’re not too heavy
Your bones are not too dense
Pennywise was right
In the end, everyone floats
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the Carlos Zaya-directed music video for “Learn to Swim Pt 2,” taken off Joshua Idehen’s recently-released debut solo mixtape, Learn to Swim (April 21, 2023). A spoken word artist and musician, Idehen has contributed poems to Mercury-nominated albums Channel The Spirits by The Comet Is Coming, Your Queen Is A Reptile and the MOBO Award winning Black Is The Future, both by British jazz group Sons of Kemet. Idehen has also been a founding member of bands in Benin City – Hugh and Calabashed – and collaborated with American producer Daedelus on the acclaimed 2021 album, Holy Water Over Sons.
While his collaborative discography is vast and extensive, Idehen’s standalone solo artistry is still very much in its nascence: He released the EP Hold Up Your Chin in November 2022, blending poetry with soul and lo-fi house music over three soul-stirring original tracks and three more additional remixes. Learn to Swim, A Mixtape is Idehen’s first longform artistic statement; he holds nothing back across its ten tracks, carving out his own breathtaking (and breath-giving) space over the course of thirty-six captivating minutes of poetry and musical magic.
Stay cool, learn to swim
Your skin will thank you
Your mind will thank you
And if there’s blood in the water
sharks will thank you
Don’t swim in the River Thames
nobody asked you to do that
Some things will always be true
The sun always sets in the west
Right now will always be as good as it gets
Romeo and Juliet is tragic
Time is wasted on worry
And everyone is made of pure, unadulterated magic
except for Boris Johnson
“Learn to Swim is a collection of songs written and recorded in the middle months of 2021, around the same time I started learning to swim,” Idehen explains. “I’d convinced myself my bones were too dense to float, and actually, they are, so I’d given up for decades, until an old Swedish teacher told me ‘so you’re not a jellyfish, you’re a shark, keep moving or die.’ Still can’t float, but I’m still learning.”
“All the lyrics in this album were based off the darkest period of my life, just after my divorce in 2017 and the years after,” he continues. “I had gone down a self-destructive path and would definitely not be here today, were it not for the friends who came to my aid when I needed them most. Although I did come out of the experience extremely bitter and vexed at all the real and imagined injustices I’d faced! I’d written a lot of angry, rant poetry about the world, the UK, my depression; flaming out, I guess.”
“It was only until 2020, just after the George Floyd protests, that the anger that fueled me for so long was somewhat calmed, and I came to a new place of thinking – that I had to do something positive with all the bad in me, and the bad around me. Thinking also about the state of the world and feeling, “I’m not reaching who I want to reach if I’m ranting all the time. I’m asking to be heard, and understood, how can I do that better?” Writing poetry that spoke of flaws and failures, true, but also spoke on redemption, and forgiveness, and the potential goodness in everyone that – in the ultra-tense times – we often forget exists in all of us.”
“This realisation was more reinforced by the birth of my daughter. As someone who came from a far from perfect family, I had an urgent need to not pass down any traumas I’d inherited unto her. And showing her how to be kind, to herself and others. In ways I’m still learning how cuz I’d not been taught, and how to be fearless, do things she once thought impossible, like learn to swim, age 40.”
Trans men are men
Trans women are women
Some things by now should be a given
It looks worse when it’s online
Facebook is not research
no matter the hours you spent on it
There are no solutions at the bottom of a doomscroll
and you’re never at your best when
you are looking at someone else’s highlight reel
Time heals all wounds and makes new ones but
a hot shower will cure 99% of bad vibes, trust me
You should be nice to yourself
You should be nice to people except for Nazis.
No one should never be nice to Nazis.
Call all the friends you’ve fallen out with, tell them you miss them; dying right is overrated.
Learn to Swim combines the three originals from Idehen’s 2022 EP with seven more stunning songs that span a wide array of genres and styles, influences and inspirations. Highlights include the soul-soaked song “This World’s a Madness,” featuring British vocalist Sharlene Hector, and the propulsive, achingly visceral “Last Time,” featuring London-based singer/songwriter Katie Dove Dixon.
Arriving about halfway through the mixtape, title track “Learn to Swim Pt 2” is an indisputable highlight.
A gentle, muted, brooding piano (courtesy of producer Ludvig Parment) accompanies Idehen on his five-minute journey through insight and (comic) incitement; “I only started learning last year, and now I’m forty two,” he admits. “And if you already know how to swim? Good for you. This is for all the people behind you.” So begins a wondrous, inspirational soliloquy of sorts – one that is sure to result in a few laughs, a few smiles, and a few lyrics plastered on people’s walls.
Let’s face it: Most motivational quotes are corny and terrible. Joshua Idehen has, in one song, revived a dead art form.
There are so many ways
to be yourself
don’t get lost in the options
All the paper straws in the world
won’t save a single polar bear
but making Amazon pay their proper taxes could
And all your idols will let you down,
except for Keanu Reeves
‘cause Keanu Reeves is
You don’t have to like Pink Floyd
You don’t have to like Prince
None of it is by force
Every elder is a village
but some villages are full of racists
and aren’t worth the visit
Idehen’s music video, delivered as intimately and raw as possible via one camera very slowly panning out from his face, enhances and intensifies his song’s already powerful, provocative mood.
“I wanted something simple, really: Just me and Ludvig on piano, reciting the piece in one take,” Idehen tells Atwood Magazine. “The poem had a lot of visual capital and humor, it was really tempting to do something extravagant or surreal, but in the end myself and Ludvig felt the performance was strong enough on its own.”
“Also we are poor, and didn’t have a lot of time,” he adds. “Gavin Maycroft, who works at Fasching, Stockholm was kind enough to lend us the space for the day, and Åsa Marie Cambert got us the suits. I’d put out a call on Facebook for a director – again, silly me thought this was so simple, just point and zoom out slowly, lol – and Carlos Zaya responded. The day of the shoot was the first time we met in person, although we spoke online frequently; I can’t thank him enough for his generosity, vision and expertise in uplifting this video to what it has become. One of the things he’d said while listening to the song really informed my performance: he said he’d heard it, imagining I was talking to a child. That’s it, I thought, I need to embody my Nigerian Uncle Giving Unsolicited Advice persona.”
Protect your peace
Cherish your joints
Eat your fruits and vegetables and mind your business
Don’t be afraid to dress like an idiot at least once in your life
Embrace your cringe, embrace your cringe
New York is nice, but you should try Benin City
If they won’t let you start
a union, join a mafia
The means you cannot seize
you should steal
If you love doing a thing, and you’re not hurting
anyone or yourself, do the thing
Don’t let anyone stop you doing the thing
If you love shoplifting from department stores, do the thing
Department stores aren’t people
You don’t have to heed Joshua Idehen’s advice, but you ought to sit through his music video at least once.
“Learn to Swim Pt 2” is like the human “Fitter Happier”; it’s a hypnotic, intoxicating performance of micro-thoughts, stitched together seamlessly and delivered with a calm, cathartic, melancholic warmth.
Experience this song the way it’s meant to be experienced: Intimately and intensely. Watch Joshua Idehen’s new music video exclusively on Atwood Magazine, and listen to his phenomenal Learn to Swim, A Mixtape wherever you get your music!
Yes, it’s technically unsolicited advice, but more than anything, this intimate poetry is food for the soul.
Recognise the difference
between alone and lonely
More often than not you won’t
resolve all loose ends, your life
isn’t that kind of movie, it’s more
of a rambling soap opera that’ll
eventually run out of budget
I hope you get old
I hope when you get old
compassion is cool again,
And if you’re lucky, one day you’ll
wake up, and you’ll be out of
the zeitgeist’s eye. You won’t
recognise the music, you’d rather
go to bed at ten. Your pleasures
will be gentler, movements slower,
goalposts shifted, your former
burdens slightly lifted,
and that’s okay, it happens to
most of us
Maybe by then you’d have stayed cool
maybe you’d could do something else
with your life
Like learn to swim
Stream: “Learn to Swim Pt 2” – Joshua Idehen
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© Carlos Zaya
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