Ibu Sangyan interview
I still remember the first time I read Charles Bukowski’s poem about style… It made me think about why there are people with style and people without. Why is that? Where does style come from? Do you inherit it? Can you fake it? Does it depend on your physical constitution? How can some people have style opening
a can of sardines? I’ve never known where style comes from but one thing’s for sure: Ibu Sanyang has had style since the first day he stepped on a skateboard. Maybe you’ve never heard of Ibu before but it’s been ten years since that happened and his life has done nothing but get better and better since then. Also he’s about to be a dad… After his upcoming baby’s ultrasound scan I met up with him to have a chat and see how life is treating him.
Interview by Nico Cook Garcia
How did the ultrasound scan go? Do you know if it’s going to be a girl or
Ibu Sangyan: The scan has been amazing, 17 minutes of footy, damn! It’s a girl and she’s almost ready. I’ve seen her move, blink, move her hands, her reactions, I’ve seen my face ha ha; it’s been incredible. This ultrasound scan has had nothing to do with the previous ones, the others were in black and white, and we couldn’t even imagine how the baby looked. It was something more intuitive. The other day was dope, I was watering the plants and I began to imagine her. It was like a dream, I could see her face and I saw her dancing to reggae. It was incredible! Watching the scan has been amazing because I feel like she’s here but it’s still not a reality. I’ve seen her move but I haven’t felt her yet. I’ve also listened to the beat of her heart. It’s been incredible to be able to see her in real time with such good definition. It amazes me how it was to have a child in the past, you couldn’t know anything about your baby until he or she was born!
Yes, while they were doing the scan they were also checking everything, they checked the head, the length of the arms, legs and organs, they count the vertebrae… You can see everything. Everything is correct; she’s going to be a big girl.
Congrats! What’s her name?
We don’t know yet. Laia and I have some names in mind but we haven’t decided yet. I was thinking of calling her Rim or Nei because I want a short name.
I like them, they are not so common.
I’m looking for that but I don’t like when people ask me: ‘Will she have an African name?’ Trying to make me know that I shouldn’t do it because they won’t know how to pronounce it… I don’t care! Everybody tells me I should call her this or that… I just think, have your own baby and call it however you want and leave me alone! Many people have told me that if her name is African she will have problems, that I should give her a Catalan name because physically she will look similar to me. I was born in Catalonia but I don’t feel like I belong here, the world is too big to feel like you’re just from one place. If I look back I’m sure my ancestors were all around the world and finally they stayed in Africa and that’s why I’m black, so what? What’s the meaning of being from a country? It’s just a fucking ID, you will have some advantages depending on the country but that’s it.
And what about you? You have an African name and you’ve never had problems because of it.
Dude, they’ve been saying my name wrong all my life and I don’t care, they called me Gelo once.
Yes, an old woman that comes to the bar where I work. She couldn’t remember my name and I told her: ‘Think about the pill you take when you have a headache (IBUprofeno in Spanish) and you will remember it.’ A few days later she came back, and she said ‘Hi Gelo’, I was like. ‘Gelo? Why Gelo?’ And she answered, ‘Yes, like Gelocatil’ (Gelocatil is another drug for headaches) ha ha.
I still remember your face full of happiness when you told me you were going to be a dad. What goes through your mind now that you’ll have a kid at 23?
A lot things go through my mind, but at the same time things don’t change that much. It will change because she will be a person that will depend on me but I’ve been taking care of Ona, my girlfriend’s daughter and I already know how it is to be a dad. What I like about now is that I’ll have a daughter from her birth and also that I will be able to offer her things that I didn’t have when I was a kid. I come from a very humble family; I’m part of the first generation that was born and raised in Spain and I never travelled and went out with my family. I have to admit that the fact of having a kid being 23 scared me a little bit at the beginning… But days before knowing I was going to be a dad my aunt died, it was tough, my cousin was depressed. After some time I told him we were waiting for a baby and that was the best thing I could’ve told him, he told me: ‘My mom has died but a new life is coming.’
I was a little bit afraid of telling him about it but after his answer I thought that the baby was a new life and it was going to be amazing. I also thought that was awesome because I have my parents with me, and they will have a granddaughter. I don’t know, everything is happiness; a kid is all about that. Don’t know how to explain it.
Some people have asked me if I’m ready and I answer them if they are ready for life. We never know what’s going to happen. I’m 23 years old but I don’t think like most people my age. Partying, going out for lunch, going to the beach… All those things are not priorities for me, they are not even secondary. My priorities are the people around me and doing things that fulfil me. Partying is OK but I like it when it happens spontaneously and the baby won’t stop me from doing that. Laia can stay with her one day and next time I will stay with her. I know that most of the time I will stay with her. When my sister was a baby I always stayed with her, I don’t know, it’s just the way I am. Suppose I have to go to a wedding, I’m not thinking, ‘where can I leave my daughter so I can go?’, I’m taking her with me. We already took Ona to the wedding of our friend Cris, and we killed it on the dance floor, ha ha. When I’m skating the baby hypes me up, when I’m filming a difficult trick I think, ‘this try is for the baby’ and I try it with more enthusiasm. Like with everything it will be good and bad moments, nights of no sleep… But I like the fact of having her now when I’m young. I like it because I’m going to be able to do loads of things with her. I’m young and I have enough energy.
Seeing how new generations are growing nowadays, are you worried about the influences that your daughter will maybe have?
Yes, but whatever she does I’ll never know what will happen, at the end the beautiful part is to accept her just how she’ll be. What I’m sure about is that I´ll try to avoid her being addicted to TV, the phone, iPad… It will be hard, and she’ll probably be upset with me for three weeks but I will have to make her understand how things work. When I was a child my parents did so much for me, they came from Africa without knowing the language or the people and ended up getting a job and having four children. We were never rich, but we never lacked anything: I ate, I had a house, and I was never cold. For me those are the most important things. As a child I saw that my friends had cell phones and so on but I preferred to take a shower with hot water than having a fucking phone. All this technology is secondary and I think it’s important for a child to be conscious during his or her childhood.
What I know for sure is that I don’t want to influence her; I want her to discover what she likes on her own. When I was younger, my mother enrolled me in indoor soccer and told me that I would become a great player and I would take my family out of poverty. I liked the idea because I wanted to take care of my parents but even playing for Barca and the Catalan selection I saw that football was not my thing. I played because of her, but she couldn’t come to the games and I saw that all the kids went with their parents and had something to eat after the game and I always went back home alone. It didn’t upset me because I knew my mother was working so that I could play soccer. I liked playing soccer and I didn’t play only because she wanted it, it was just that I had to depend on someone else always to play and that wasn’t fulfilling me.
That’s why you ended up skating?
Yes, when I skate I only have to depend on myself. Football is like skate contests, I had to play when they told me and I had 40 minutes to play and win. I skate when I want. I can spend five hours skating with my friends without doing a single kickflip and I don’t care; I do it because I want and there’s no pressure.
A few months ago you told me you were going to start skating for a new board brand called Quotamine and lately you’ve been travelling to Paris to meet them. How have you ended up skating for a French brand?
My relationship with Quotamine started when I met Luidgi (Gaydu), the Cons French TM. He came to Barcelona with Kevin (Rodrigues) and Roman (Gonzalez) and there were good vibes since the first day. They invited me to their apartment, we skated together many days and one day I asked Luidgi about some dope drawings that I saw on his Instagram account; he told me that he drew them. That was cool because I also draw. I showed him some drawings I made during those days, and he also liked them. I can’t remember how it happened but after that conversation he ended up telling me that he was thinking about starting a new board brand called Quotamine. He told me that the project would take time, but he would like me to be part of it. I was hyped about the idea because of the good connection and he invited me to stay at his house in Paris to meet the other people that were going to be behind the brand: Elijah Cole, Christopher Walters, Vincent Boyom, Victor Campillo, Leon Piazza and Pierre Subra. I also met his family and got to know him better; he’s the man! After awhile he came back to Barcelona and stayed at my place… It was crazy because we didn’t see each other for quite a while but I felt like he had always been here, he’s a good friend. Since then, we have been drawing a lot and exchanging ideas and now Quotamine is a reality. I’m super happy with how everything is going. I like skating for a small brand with friends and I feel proud when I look at the board I’m riding. Also the boards are super good! It’s dope because before the brand came out there was already good vibes, we skated all together and then the boards came out. The connection between us is not the product; it’s the friendship and the good feelings that exist among all of us.
What’s the meaning of quotamine?
Quotamine refers to something minor that is everywhere but nobody knows its origin, something that has always been there but nobody knows.
You’ve always been into art and I’ve seen that some Quotamine graphics have a lot to do with African art. Are you involved in something else other than just skating for the brand?
Everybody that skates for Quota plays the same kind of role and we all decide what has to be done. Leon, Luidgi and I are more into drawing but we all have something to say in one way or another. We have a WhatsApp group and we’re always throwing out ideas, even the people that don’t draw suggest ideas.
You’ve been supported by Cons for a long time now and if I’m not wrong looks like they’re going to put you on the European team. How is it going with them?
Super good. Pali Negrin has been helping me out for many years. I like the brand, the shoes and I feel identified. I feel like I have freedom and that I fit just as I am. I’m happy they count on me because I never imagined that I would be where I am, actually I still can’t believe it. I feel like somebody likes what I do and that gets me stoked. I’m hyped on the idea of being a part of the European team. I look forward to skating with people that I’ve always looked up to, travelling more, seeing new places, different cultures… I want to try my best and see where all this goes.
That’s dope! Do you think you’ll be able to handle all the travelling when you have the baby?
That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I knew that I was going to have a baby. It’s a time of big changes in my life and I have to see how everything works out. At the beginning I will have to stay with her a lot but on the other hand I will be earning money from skating so I won’t have a full-time job, with a timetable and always at the same place. I know that I will have to do some tours and stay productive but I think I will have time for everything. It’s not like I’m thinking about quitting my job, I want to have something else besides skating because skating is not the only thing in this life. I don’t want to get obsessed. I like skating and working, when I’m working for way too long I start thinking about what I’ll try when I’m out skating. After working all day I probably won’t be able to skate for more than an hour and a half, but I skate focused and I enjoy it.
We’ve been filming together for a new video part and you’ve been filming in Paris lately… How is it to film with other filmers after filming with me for so many years?
It’s quite strange to film with other filmers. I like skating fast and up until now you’re the only one that can follow me, ha ha. In Paris I filmed with people that have been doing it for a long time like Romain Batard to mention one, he films good and he was super cool. I felt very comfortable from the beginning; he was cautious and everything he said was positive but I don’t know, it’s strange when a filmer that’s not you follows me because I don’t have the same confidence that I have with you. With you it’s not only about filming, you and Mango got me to skate for my first ‘sponsor’, Rokipa skateshop (RIP), and I grew up watching you skate. After so many years it’s weird filming with somebody else but not in a bad way, it’s just because I don’t have the same connection with other filmers. When I film with you I forget you’re there, I’m not thinking if you’ll film it properly or not. I also like when I film with you because you give me ideas, you know me well and you know the chances I have in order to try tricks. If I have a bad day you also know it and you don’t force me. Dude, you are in my tight circle of friends and we do other things besides filming, we skate together, search for spots, go round… You are one of the first people who knew I was going to have a kid.
Well we’ve been friends for a long time now and I know how high you can ollie ha ha. I love going to giant spots and telling you to try this trick or the other because I know your possibilities… What goes through your mind when I ask you to try some crazy stuff?
When we arrive at the spot and I see you next to it, comparing it with the height of your hip and knowing that the spot is possible for me I just don’t need anything else. I like it like that…
It still surprises me that you started skating when YouTube already existed and you’ve never stopped wanting to film at new spots and saving the footy for a video part instead of using the footy for a shitty video or for an Instagram edit. Why is that?
For me the best thing about a video is to search for new spots, save footy and do a project that will last for a long time and where you will be able to see some kind of progression. In order to achieve that, you have to work hard and be patient. It’s a bit like wine, you don’t drink it right away, if you want it to be good you have to wait for it. I like when I see a video part of somebody I haven’t seen for a long time and I think Instagram is ruining that, and it’s making skateboarding less interesting. I don’t check my phone too much, but if I open Instagram it’s because I want to see things I like and I hate not being able to rewind a video to see the only trick of a 30-second Insta edit that I like. When I post something it’s never at a street spot where I would like to film with a camera, it’s always a trick that’s kinda easy for me and that happens naturally when I’m skating with my friends. I work for so many hours and I don’t have much time to skate so if I have the chance to film something I like I don’t want it to be filmed with a fucking phone and even less posting it on a social network where the video will get lost in one day. For me Instagram is like a trend, think about Facebook, how many people used to use it and look where it is now…
Maybe not many people know you because you’re not an Instagram freak, but nowadays it is like you don’t exist if you’re not active on social media. What do you think about the Instagram madness?
For me Instagram posts don’t translate on how much you skate, when I don’t post it means I’m skating and when I post something it’s probably because I haven’t been out skating. Uploading videos constantly seems like you’re trying to say: ‘look at me, look at me, look at me’, I imagine somebody skating at a spot and saying ‘look at me, look at me, look at me’ ha ha. In many cases it turns skating into something predictable and I prefer watching something that surprises me. If somebody wants to watch me skate I prefer him to watch me in person. I don’t like how videos filmed with a phone look: I can skate fast but I always find that the video looks so slow, it’s not worth it, ha ha.
One thing’s for sure, Instagram sucks. I always loved the surprise factor, when I see somebody skating live for the first time I enjoy it much more.
I find it much more interesting that way, I like when I don’t expect anything from somebody. In fact, I follow people on Instagram that I discovered watching them skate live and after I’ve seen they’re kinda like me, they don’t post much and when they do I’m looking forward to watch it. When I see too much skating of someone it doesn’t hype me up that much. Dude, save some posts during a month and try to film a part, it will be way cooler.
You don’t usually skate around the centre of Barcelona, do you think that being from a town from the out-skirts of Barcelona also has to do with being unknown for a lot of people?
For sure, I used to skate around the centre when I was a kid and now I sometimes skate at Sants. I even posted a fun clip on Instagram skating with my good friend Jordi Clotet. I like skating at Sants, it’s close to the centre but I feel like I’m in the right environment and there’s also a tall ledge, ha ha. I don’t skate much around the rest of the city because I’ve seen almost every spot in videos. People go there to do the heaviest possible trick and I´m more about crusty grounds and lesser-known spots. Also I’m from a little town and the city has always stressed me out, not because of the people, it’s more about the atmosphere, the air you breathe… I don’t feel comfortable. Being in Barcelona and not seeing stars when I look up at the sky seems weird to me. I love lying down on the roof of my place and watching the stars for hours having a beer or smoking a joint, that’s peaceful. I feel like people in Barcelona are stressed and don’t care much about other people. It’s not like a town, I’m used to walking around my town and saying hello to everybody. All of that affects me when I’m skating; I don’t like it when there are too many people around.
Well I think is time to wrap this up, keep being yourself and say some last words if you want.
Chao la bise, ha ha ha.