Osekre Fever: The Highlife Punk Rock Ska AfroBeat Soukous Brew

Headlining the MPAACT summer jam, Chicago Credit: Scott Shigley

Needless to say, Osekre is a beast on the mic. The Ghanaian highlife rocker, who calls Brooklyn home, is slowly yet surely building a global vibe for his sound. We heard about this cat and his gangsta riddims, excited that he’s putting Ghana on the map again with an altogether different sort of beat. The musician, who braved the northern cold, chopped up new mixes live on stage all while paying his way through Columbia University with many a gig, is set to blow the back out of 2015.

We caught up with Osekre to smell what he’s cooking in the kitchen, learn what he misses most about Ghana and why hot chocolate is a serious must. Lucky Bastards, we are.

 

ADA: Tell us your name and what you like to do when you wake in the morning and there’s nothing to eat in the fridge?

OSEKRE: I pick up the guitar and practice. Then I check in on news to see what’s going on in the world, I check out Aputumpu and Afropolitans before getting my day rolling.

 

ADA: What do you miss most about Ghana?

OSEKRE: It’s a lot actually. Auntie Adisa’s waakye around Malata market, It’s the wele in that stew. Spicy Hausa koko with Too gb33, my friends in Kanda, “The Proof Producers”; Saturday and Sunday streetside soccer games; the smells of hot spicy kelewele with nkatie at Circle around Orion Cinema in the evenings; Homowo at Teshie Maamli; Maame Dokono; Osofo Daadzie; and Cantata on TV.

I miss boneshaker Trotro rides; hanging out on Legon campus, especially hanging out at Volta Hall, them fine sisters; boys hanging out at the junction, and just chilling at Kokomlemle; watching a FIFA U17 soccer game with all my buddies in someone’s living room; Aboloo and one man Thousand; KSM; Komla Dumor’s voice on radio in the mornings; Praise and Worship at church.

 

ADA: What is your music like really, if you have to tell someone who is totally clueless?

OSEKRE: A little Highlife, a little Ska, these days even a little Soukous and some punk rock with Afrobeat references.

 

At the Vanity Ballroom, Detroit, on set for an upcoming World Music Documentary called "Noise Next Door." Credit: Hawkhaus

At the Vanity Ballroom, Detroit, on set for an upcoming World Music Documentary called “Noise Next Door.” Credit: Hawkhaus

 

ADA: Your music has a grit that is mostly found in African music riffs. What is it like working outside the continent with folks who might not have a handle on some of the sound textures?

OSEKRE: Fortunately, the only thing it takes to be a really solid band member is to have some jazz/afrobeat and rock background. I have been lucky to work with a cool group of musicians who have some or most of those backgrounds. I bring the “jamma and highlife.”

 

ADA: What’s the sound Osekere is looking to create?

OSEKRE: One epic universal dance party!

Ironically, I think about emotions as a point of reference when I write, much more than thought. I do not worry much about sound from the onset. I am not as much concerned about thought and sound as I am about feeling when creating the substrate. Guided by feeling, I work out my melodies; guided by thought, I work on lyrics and then taste and aesthetic guide, outline and structure.

Some songs take a few years to arrive at a certain concentration level before I teach the band. Some are often instant ready.
Coherently, the verses are often immersed in rhythms that remind you of the past, the bridges are often reflective of our day-to-day chaotic moments and the choruses are usually prophetic wishes of joy for the future.

By the time you go through the initial verse and often the brief first chorus, you feel like you’ve lived enough already and are ready for a long, wild ride and this is where everything gets unleashed and we go on to higher highs when everyone jumps in an extended anthemic and sing along chorus and the party peaks. Think, “KCCGC”, “Azonto”,” Kpanlogo”, “Zouk”, and mosh-pit it all in one conversation of a dance party.

 

ADA: “Osekre and The Lucky Bastards” – Whose idea was that?

OSEKRE: Mine. Just been lucky to have friends who allow me to call them “lucky bastards” to play with me.

Headlining "CrestFest" for Converse Rubbertracks. Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Headlining “CrestFest” for Converse Rubbertracks. Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

 

ADA: What are you reading at the moment?

OSEKRE: I am currently reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath”.

 

ADA: Are there any artists on the continent who you might want to jam with?

OSEKRE: Hugh Masekela, Kika Djan (RIP), Angelique Kidjo. I have a track that might be my only studio-produced track ever that I’m saving for Sarkodie (verse 1) and Wiz Kid (verse 2). Nneka, Osibisa, obviously.

 

ADA: From where you are in the U.S., what’s the perception of the Ghanaian music scene?

OSEKRE: Earlier when I got to New York there was one word: Hip-Life.
These days, it’s Azonto.

 

OSEKERE 2
 
ADA: Coffee or Tea, and why?

OSEKRE: Neither. I’ve been messing around with tea a lot lately, I fux with coffee decaf but I am all about hot chocolate. The smell and taste of coffee reminds me of my favourite aunt’s kitchen in the village as kids.

But cocoa runs through veins, bloodlines, go places I didn’t know existed in my body. The taste, the warmth, the memories it brings every time I sip a cup is priceless. I almost get myself into trouble every time I drink hot chocolate. It feels so good it makes me want to sign treaties with my adversaries and cuddle my lovers.

While coffee is a relationship I love to tune in to from time to time to be refreshed and to even cure myself of nostalgia, cocoa is beginnings, endings, middle somewhere and all these things in between. It’s warmth. It’s a blanket and a sweet sleep in a beautiful dream. Hot cocoa.

 

ADA: Most embarrassing moments on the road?

OSEKRE: The contract to this one gig had said a 2 hour set but we didn’t realise it was a full 2 hour set rather than 2 one hour sets in a night. Boy, we did improvise.
On our first tour, we somehow didn’t realise till the middle of the trip that we only had one valid driver. Some folks chipped in but illegally.

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