Video: John Riziki performing his original song, “Dear Old Friend” at Blakely Hall, as part of this interview. He will perform this song at Open Mic at Blakely Hall this Friday at 6:30pm.
Meet John Riziki. John is a 21-year-old Issaquah Highlands resident and musician who was born in Ghana. A friend of mine met him when he performed at Open Mic at Blakely Hall. She was so moved by his story she told me I need to share it. I sat with John at Blakely Hall and asked him about his life and he played this song for me. Here is his story as he told it to me.
I like telling stories about people. I get ideas for songs from personal experiences and the world I live in, and from other people and their lives.
The world I live in is African food, spending time with friends and family, and making music. It is my perspective. It is my life. Other people have their own lives and perspectives. Sometimes I know their worlds. I know their struggles, and their positivity.
Songs about having these kinds of struggles can really speak to people. Sometimes I play these songs and someone will come up to me and say, “I can relate to that song.” People have cried from my songs.
I write songs I because I want to say something about my life, the world and the people around me. I lost my dad before I was born. I lived in a refugee camp with my siblings. It was rough. It wasn’t easy, going through that trauma. A few years ago, I had another trauma, a depression that lasted years. The song I sang at the last Open Mic, “Save Yourself,” was about a friend going through depression, and anxiety. It talks about him, and it talks about me.
I write songs because I want to create; I don’t want to destroy. People have added to my world in a positive way and I am very grateful. I’d like to do that for others.
I didn’t know I wanted to be a musician until I got into the 9th grade. Before that, I think I wanted to be a doctor or something. But I always loved music. I always loved watching American Idol and singing in the choir.
I fell in love with music more as I got older. My grandparents were moving, and I was working for my grandpa. He offered me money or an old guitar as compensation. I choose the guitar because I wanted to start playing. I taught myself to play that guitar and ukulele. More recently I’ve picked up the piano and writing songs.
I wrote my first song when I was 15 or 16. It was about a girl I was dating and had fallen out of love and broken up with, and about my sister leaving for college, and about life in a different country, and about a girl I had been in a relationship with for a few months. I mixed the topics to make one story. The song is better than what it sounds like it might be – ha ha!
In my opinion, a good song stands up even if you take away all the production and things that make it nice to listen to, like in pop music. If you just play the song acoustically, and the song still has quality, then you know you have a good song.
I have wanted to make a career from being a musician for a long time. I think if I work hard at music, I could get something out of it that makes me happy and satisfied. If it also means a career as a musician, that would be great, too. To be a professional musician I not only have to work hard and pursue it, but I have to be a little lucky, too. Some people say if you get out in the world as a musician, that will make the luck you need.
I love Issaquah, honestly. This is home! I like it here! I am 21 now. If I did not like it, I could move. I like it here. I go on nature walks when it is sunny and listen to the birds in the trees. In the city I can’t relax, which I need to write. When I write, I am very reflective.
You can sometimes hear me play in the parks in the Highlands on a sunny day. And I love doing Open Mic at Blakely Hall. I have produced two songs in Issaquah Highlands in the last month.
If you come to hear my songs at Open Mic, you will hear emotional things, stories. You will get an experience out of them. Not all my songs are sad or emotional. “Dear Old Friend” is just a song about life. What happens in life? Life gets in the way. I am going to play this song Friday at Open Mic. I am also thinking about playing the one about my friend who went to rehab. And I am thinking about playing a new song about the world. It goes, “I am tired of this place, the empty hearts and beaten souls are symptoms of this space.”
Hear John Riziki this Friday:
You can also find John Riziki on YouTube.