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In Conversation With: Dele Sosimi

In Conversation With: Dele Sosimi
Adam Tiran

Dele Sosimi is one of afrobeat’s foremost patrons in 2015. Born in London to Nigerian parents in 1963, Dele’s involvement with the Afro-funk/jazz hybrid has been hugely prominent and longstanding. Moving back to Nigeria in the ’70s, Dele’s first major step on the ladder came through an appointment as band leader for the Egypt 80, the heralded collective of one Fela Kuti. Not a bad start, then.

The ’80s saw Dele take up a similar role alongside Fela’s son Femi Kuti with Positive Force, which served to further catapult Dele into the upper echelons of the afrobeat elite. He’s since started up his own Afrobeat Orchestra and today flies the flag high and wide in London with his bi-monthly showdown Afrobeat Vibration, which has recently relocated to Hackney Wick’s Shapes.

Now, Dele returns with his first solo material in ten years with the stunningly vibrant album You No Fit Touch Am on the marvellous WahWah45s. We caught up with Dele to see what he’s been upto for the past decade and to get his two cents on the recent revival of a sound he has played a fundamental role in shaping.

It’s been a decade since your last album was released. What have you been up to since then?

Loads of things, enough to write a couple of books, as I have been working consistently and diligently on building the sound, and development of the Afrobeat idiom, using my bi-monthly Afrobeat Vibration (now in its seventh year) as the platform for my Afrobeat Orchestra to perform regularly and be identified with a home, for building an audience and nurturing a following, teaching, educating and inspiring a new generation of Afrobeat musicians and enthusiasts wherever, (Dhaka World Music Festival in Bangladesh, MAD Festival in Ooty India) however (via talks, Workshops, Master classes & Performances) and whenever (alone if required) possible, also producing and co producing, collaborating and writing new materials with other artists (Ralf Gum, Afrobeat Poet Ikwunga).


Having self-produced and released Turbulent Times and Identity, my 1st and 2nd albums, I was actually prepared to release a 3rd album in 2013 and kicked it off by releasing the then proposed album title track single T.M.I (Too Much Information) which attracted quite a number of commissioned remixes by hi profile house music Djs which were released quite timely last year (2014) on hindsight, as my wait for the right conditions, [the] right record label at the right time ended on meeting up and signing with WahWah45s.



Afrobeat in London is in the middle of quite a resurgence right now – largely thanks to your Afrobeat Vibration parties. How does it feel seeing a style you’ve played such a significant role in developing have a second lease of life, and for a new generation?

It feels great really, to be able to see and be part the positive result of ones efforts, being able to reach and connect with a younger multicultural generation of listeners, audiences and Afrobeat enthusiasts, however I am not sure about the resurgence part nor will I take the sole credit. My view is that there is more media attention now than ever to the fact that there is a totally different live music scene, which has been and will always be vibrant and real but not in the mainstream glare. If you don’t go to WOMAD or other World Music Festivals in the UK watch Jools Holland, or read Songlines or Folk Roots Magazines you will most likely have to stumble upon the rich underground scene where a lot is happening.



With the FELA! Musical we had highly influential Black American people like Jay Z, WIll Smith, Jada, Quest Love, Spike Lee et al talking about the musical, Fela & Afrobeat music, some discovering it for the first time; others coming out openly about them having been afrobeat heads for years and these were mainstream American media statements which reached audiences far and wide. The Fela! Musical also got a lot of award nominations, drawing a lot of mainstream media curiosity and attention to the genre, thereby a resurgence declared? Those exposures definitely must have played significant roles in drawing in new Afrobeat converts. It is also a universal thing I guess to have these cyclic so called resurgences of style, fashion, art and music. There is an underground scene that exists worldwide but I can speak for London only where I am based.

In Conversation with Dele Sosimi

How do you tend to split your time between composing and performing?

Quite a natural thing for me as writing is always more of an inspirational process. Its like if you pay attention to the way your body speaks to you, flu symptoms before it becomes full blown would be apparent and you could take pre emptive measures to reduce its incapacitating potential. I would usually go away to write with my long time Brother form another mother and writing partner Femi Elias or write in bits like the way a squirrel would gather its nuts over a period of time. When I then can lock myself away for a couple of days sometimes 5 days at a stretch, there will be a sack full of collections waiting to be written. On the other hand performance is always a bonus to my creative process as the more the performances the more the in pour of new ideas, possibilities etc. Splitting time whilst not really a necessity is also is easier during periods where the live performances are less.

Which do you prefer?

Live performances back to back over long weekends with bank holidays on the Friday and the Monday definitely as I love the marathon aspect of the continuity.

In Conversation with Dele Sosimi

Tell us about your first encounter with Fela. When and where did you meet?

I met Fela in 1978/79 when he was staying at JK Brimahs house in Ikeja Lagos and it was a life changing moment for me. Meeting him was facilitated by initially being introduced to Femi Kuti and his family by Professor Ransome Kuti’s (Fela’s elder brother) son Dotun Ransome-Kuti who was a high school mate. The bond was instantaneous between us, as he was then playing the Alto Saxophone whilst I was a guitar and piano player. Femi introduced me to Fela as the son of the assassinated Banker (my late father Oyekunle Sosimi) they had told him about. Fela was immediately interested in the facts about the assassination, how my mother was coping with bringing up five children alone, and what kinds of support we were benefitting from if any at all. His genuine show of concern and offer to do all he could to get more support and compensations for my family as soon as he could, immediately endeared him to me and at that moment my destiny to took a new direction.

How have you seen Afrobeat change since the days of the Egypt 80?

Change for me is not the word to use looking in from the inside at an art form I would rather say its evolution is positive and constant in my opinion. For example on my arriving in the UK, I never envisaged playing Afrobeat with less than 9 musicians. I now perform as a Trio/Quartet/Quintet (An album coming soon) and can build it all the way to a full 30+ ensemble.



There are loads of Afrobeat bands springing up all over the world, new enthusiasts and interesting projects. I have been able to take it into higher learning institutions, communities, community groups, bands and ensembles both here in the UK and around the world with potential enquiries for more opportunities regularly popping up.


Dele Sosimi meets the Hot Club Afrobeat Orchestra from Damien Priest on Vimeo.


You’re best known as a keyboardist, but which instrument best satisfies your soul?

The Piano always.

Will you be touring the new album this Summer?

Yes I will and have already started with recent performances in Oxford and Bristol.

Which gig are you most looking forward to?

Whilst I always look forward to all performances the six upcoming Afrobeat Vibration four hour marathon sets on the last Saturdays of the Months July, September, November, January, March at its new home Shapes in Hackney Wick I really look forward to the most.

Dele Sosimi & The Afrobeat Orchestra’s No Fit Touch Am is out now on WahWah45s. The band kick off their Europe-wide tour on June 26th at Passing Clouds. Check out the full list of dates here.