Ryan Robinson, Zymbul Fkara, R.Flex — three different names for one man.
The fourth-year English major isn’t one for organization or cohesion. Instead, he chooses to mix, interrupt or distort established works to make his own.
“I love the idea of things being recycled,” he muses. “Every time we recycle something, we can never go back to the original. Think of a wheel — when it comes back to its original position, it’s always in a new place.”
Ryan, who has lived in London for seven years, has cultivated an attitude equal parts critical and affectionate towards the city. He notes the “WASPiness” of the city, for example, and how it's not entirely welcoming to people of colour.
“It’s hard for folks of colour … to find a rhetoric here,” he says. “It’s an attitude thing — nobody puts up signs that say ‘no coloured people here,’ but you do feel the atmosphere.”
This produced the moniker Zymbul Fkara: a “name [he] created in constructing a space for post-colonial queer folks of colour … which allows people to explore sexuality freely.”
He finds that London can be remarkably resistant to new ideas, which clashes with his drive to invent and reinvent. The usual concerts and music in the city, he notes, tend to be country or rock, with a very occasional splash of hip-hop.
Ryan has made it his goal to shake up the city in his own way — he’s taking what he calls “London soundscapes,” the work of local songwriters and singers, and putting his own “flux” on them.
“I got into music around the time of the Ferguson protests,” he recalls. “I was listening to an artist named Noise Level and I told him I wanted to interrupt his tracks, put my voice over them, to form a new space.”
It’s been said that there are only seven basic plots and every narrative is some new iteration of at least one of them. This theory aligns well with Ryan’s philosophy of remixing the classics, his English education at King's University College and his motivation: stories.
“Stories are something we can plug ourselves into — man’s oldest machine,” he says. “When I approach these songs, I look at them as machines that I get to re-engineer to my liking, but also to speak about different things that are coded in our everyday lives.”
Ryan is working on a new mixtape entitled Hologram. The record explores political aspects such as the lives of new immigrants to Canada. He focuses, too, on women coming to Canada and the suspicion they’re met with. The record takes a turn towards romantic love, queer love and exploring the potential of London as a city.
The mixtape doesn’t deal with the concrete and tangible, but rather the sometimes invisible attitudes that Ryan has encountered, thus the name, Hologram: something simultaneously there and not there.
What does the future hold for Ryan, Fkara and R.Flex? He hopes to continue to find and collaborate with London producers, perhaps even in Toronto and beyond.
“I want to remix the shit out of what I do,” he says emphatically. “There’s always an evolution, a feeling of renovation that’s happening. It’s going to be pretty dope.”