An Interview With Afrobeat Pioneer – Fuse ODG!
6 Dec 2019
Fuse ODG is one of the biggest pioneers behind the Afrobeat sound. Over the last half decade, he has helped shift the direction within the U.K. music scene. Growing up in South London he was leaning towards the sounds of Grime and Rap. When his parents took him back to his Ghanaian homeland that’s when he really started to soak up his culture musically.
Now several years later, Fuse ODG has built a primary school back in Ghana (which Ed Sheeran donated a bus to), a studio for local musicians, started an annual festival in Ghana, a clothing line, a line of dolls for children and worked alongside Ghana’s president as a trade ambassador – What hasn’t he achieved?! Giving back to his community runs naturally within Fuse. Having collaborated with the likes of Ed Sheeran and many more he is now back with his latest single ‘Lazy Day’ featuring Danny Ocean.
I caught up with the man himself and asked him a few questions…
E: What made you want to start a career in music?
F: I’ve always been interested in making music from early. I used to have a set up in my bedroom and people used to come to my house to make music. One of my first performances that triggered me and made me think ‘nah this is what I want to do for life’ was a performance in Croydon at Croydon Clocktower! It may have been a competition.. I don’t remember! All I know is that I was on stage and the buzz that I got from being on stage to coming off stage! Everyone was overexcited about the performance! The feedback I was getting – I felt so buzzed like this is what I want to do for the rest of my life! I was 15 at this point, so yeah that performance was the trigger for me.
E: You’ve done a lot to help the community in Ghana by building a primary school, dolls for children, opening a studio for local musicians and a lot more! Was this something you’ve always wanted to do in order to give back? How did this all come about?
F: I’ve always been someone that’s been community centred from early. Even with the set up I had in my bedroom and people used to come and record music. There was a time as a teenager, that a lot of teenagers were getting killed, a lot of black teenagers were getting killed. So, me and Andre decided to come up with the idea of creating a youth project, where I would take my music equipment into a youth centre and start teaching the young people that we’re all my age how to make music. Keeping them out of trouble but also changing the perception of young black youth. Not all of us are out there doing bad and we can get constructive.
We raised the money for the school that’s currently existing in Ghana right now – that actually started way back then in 2007! So yeah, I’ve always been someone who is community centred and wanting to use the resources that I have to help other people. For me, it’s more than music and I’ve always been inspired by my purpose. My purpose is – how can I help other people? I’ve always been passionate about changing lives, to help young children love themselves and help young people find a sense of self love. From the dolls, to the clothing line to the festival to of course the music..
E: Yeah! I was actually just gonna ask about the festival because it had a few big artists on it. Is this something you’re gonna keep on doing?
F: Yeah, it’s gonna be an annual festival! The first one had a lot of big artists on it – Skepta, Stefflon Don, Sneakbo, Lethal Bizzle, Sarkodie from Ghana and Kojo Funds. It had a lot of superstars there and it was a beautiful moment. It’s an annual event and it’s happening again on the 3rd of January. The idea was to bring world class artists together in one place but also a common ground for anyone that loves Afro-Beats to come and enjoy themselves and have a great time! The same way you would go to Ibiza because you love Dance music or to New York because you love Hip-Hop it’s supposed to be common ground for an Afrobeat lover or someone who is inspired by Africa. If you want to visit Africa its a great excuse for you to come!
E: You’ve played a large role in pioneering the Afrobeat’s sound. How has the sound changed since you first started? Do you think it’s gone in a more positive and bigger way?
F: Yeah! Definitely! It’s evolved greatly! When we were starting even my first album T.I.N.A (This Is New Africa) we were actually exploring different sounds. I did Afro-Dance and that was more with Antenna, then I did Afro-Dancehall and that was more like Million Pound Girl. So I did explore the different sounds and tempos and I’m glad that there has been so many waves that have burst out of the Afro-Beat sound – Afro-Swing, Afrobeats as it is now with the slowed down tempo’s, Afro-Soul. I love how its evolved with the new generation!
E: Yeah because its really prominent now within the U.K. scene and it’s very mainstream…
E: You’ve worked alongside some incredible musicians i.e. Ed Sheeran.. which is insane?!
F: Hahah yeah very!
E: Did you find any pressure to collaborate with someone as big as Ed or was it more natural for you?
F: I don’t think anyone feels pressured to collaborate with Ed, I mean he’s like the biggest artist in the world but it was more of a natural relationship. I met him and we clicked really well and he let me know how much he loves the Afrobeat sound and that he’d love to come to Ghana. So I just said to him ‘yeah come to Ghana then, spend some time and I’ll show you around, come and see the school and let you experience my culture’. He followed through and spent time in Ghana, we got really close and he’s a very close friend of mine now. So the relationship is how everything started.
But of course, he is someone that any artist would love to work with. When the relationship was built, straight away the first day he is was in Ghana he was like ‘yeah let’s make some music!’ and I was like ‘woah!’ because I wasn’t even ready for THAT! To work with Ed you really have to prep yourself but when he said let’s make some music there was an idea that I already had down. I muted the vocals that I had and he loved it and that’s how we started ‘Bibia Be Ye Ye’, the song that actually made it on to his album. So the first song we made, actually made it on to his album! From there, we were making a couple of songs in a day and it was just flowing naturally because he was seeing and experiencing my culture in Ghana.
E: Is there still anyone that you would still love to collaborate with from the UK or over seas?
F: In the UK, I would love to work with Skepta actually because we haven’t made any music yet!
E: That would be a sick link up!
F: Yeah I would love to work with Skepta because I know we would come up with something different. Me and him are obviously both African origin and we are both proud of our culture and are both pushing our cultures.
E: So talking about ‘New African Nation’ it covers various topics. For example, in ‘Quality’ you mention legacy a lot referring to people like Malcolm X. How important is it for you to teach people of your culture through your music? Because you represent and portray Africa in a more positive and vibrant light as to how mainstream media usually would…
F: Yeah I mean the main mission for us it to change that, not from a slavery perspective. Going to school, in secondary school you are really taught from a slavery perspective. So, black people were slaves and it wasn’t so positive the way they told our history which makes you kinda want to disassociate yourself from your past. But really you need to know your past to understand who you are as a person because that’s who you are! BUT! The problem is, that wasn’t who we were. We were not slaves, we were kings and queens, we were doctors, we were architects. For a song like ‘Quality’ I wanted to take it back and remind the listeners and our black people that you are from a royalty background so they cannot break you! You’re quality and that’s what that song is about. But definitely, it’s very important for me to remind our people that history does not start from slavery but royalty and strength!
E: You’ve also released your latest single ‘Lazy Day’!
F: How bout dat hahaha!
E: Hahaha! It’s sick! It’s so vibey! How did that all come about?!
F: Thats the song I wrote with Ed in Ghana! We were literally just drinking, dancing, drinking and dancing…eating and drinking! We went to sleep late and woke up with headaches, thinking ahh mad hahah we really turned up! So that day, what we were supposed to do that day we didn’t instead we were at home, chilling and watching TV. Somehow we ended up in the studio and the song was about having a lazy day! The idea started and Ed straight away caught a vibe and that’s literally how the song got made, from having a lazy day from the night before that was very turnt up haha!
E: Creatively, what’s your process like? Do you get the beat or lyrics down first?
F: It’s mixed, sometimes we have something on the guitars and the idea’s just start to flow. We actually did the whole song [Lazy Day] without any drums. No drums, literally just guitar and some chords. I can get a whole song done without any drums, I don’t wait for the beat to get done. Get the guitar and some chords and that’s how ‘Lazy Day’ was done that’s how ‘Boa Me’ was done, that’s how ‘Antenna’ was done – a lot of my songs are done like that.
E: So a lot of the hits were done like that which is sick haha!
F: Yep yep hahah!
E: Who have you been listening to recently?
F: I always listen to Damien Marley. Him and Nas and the distant relatives, I love listening to classic albums! In terms of more current people, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ghanian artists. There’s a guy called Quamina Mp he’s very sick, when I went to Ghana I actually did a collaboration with him on a song called ‘Serious’ and killed it! So you guys should check him out, Kwesi Arthur he’s from Ghana as well. Check out Article Wan and M.anifest these are all Ghanian artists that are killing it that I really want the world to get to know about. I like the ‘Gangsta ‘song by Darkoo..
E: Oh yeah, that’s a tune!
F: For the UK massive! I like Sneakbo’s new single with Dappy called ‘Oh La La’ that’s a banger! Obviously NSG, I love NSG actually there sound is hard.
E: What more can we expect from you in 2020?!
F: Oh my gosh…expect the takeover! I’m so excited about 2020, expect the takeover we are starting off very nicely with ‘Lazy Day’. Definitely expect some great music, great vibes! Expect the dolls (Nana Dolls) my beautiful black dolls to takeover all the stores in the U.K, Africa, U.S and also a tour! I’m excited to get back on the stage and engage with the fans again.
Fuse ODG’s new single Lazy Day ft Danny Ocean and his Road To Ghana EP are available now.