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Interview: Onipa bring FIRE to the Yellow Arch Studios

4 October 2018
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This Friday one of Sheffield's most beloved clubs is turning 21 years of age, happy birthday Yellow Arch Studios! To celebrate they're throwing a HUGE party for everyone who's been part of the clubs journey over its many years. With the bash spanning over all 3 rooms, and with an absolutely massive line-up including the likes of Dub Smugglers Soundsystem, Swindle, Onipa and many more it's turning out to be a shindig not to be missed. To get us into the birthday spirit we spoke to the extraordinary afrobeat duo Onipa : a legendary pairing of Kweku of K.O.G and the Zongo Brigade and Tom Excel of Nubiyan Twist

 

Hi Onipa ! We're excited to hear about your project, can you tell us how the collaboration came about? 

Tom: Me and Kweku met working on a track for a reggae project I co-run called Chief Rockas a good 5 years ago, we quickly got talking about our love of traditional African music fused with modern styles and we haven't stopped talking about it since!

You've both seen success in your own bands in K.O.G. & The Zongo Brigade, and in Nubiyan Twist respectively - what do you think your new collaboration brings to the table? 

Tom: Something raw, fun and full of energy.

More specifically, you've both come from similarly big ensembles with K.O.G. having 9 members and Twist having 10. You're now in a much smaller collaboration. How does this change your dynamic and the music? 

Tom: Big bands are amazing for showing off musicianship, with this smaller band we want to channel a trance-like energy with storytelling and visuals that transcend the individual musicians. 

Does it change the way you work and compose?

Yes, there's only 4 of us so we can compose very quickly, also having restrictions of fewer instruments can bring about interesting results as we have to push ourselves in different ways. Sometimes it's pretty hard as we're all multi-tasking playing multiple instruments each in one tune but it keeps us on our toes! 

 

Onipa means human in Akan, this sounds like a silly question - but what should we be looking for of this in your music? What does the 'human' mean to your music? 

Kweku: The connection with fellow humans through music by respect and love

I've heard on the grapevine that Onipa brings energy, groove, electronics, Afrofuturism, dance and fire! Is this what we can be expecting from you at the Yellow Arch?

Tom: YES! Our music is about losing yourself and connecting with something bigger, drawing from the past and looking to the future.

Am I right in thinking that this is a collaboration between Sheffield and London-based artists? How do you think the differing sounds and energies of these two cities fuel your music as Onipa?  

Tom: I'm in London and Kweku is in Sheffield however his roots in Ghana are also very prominent in the music. Someone once told us our music is like the sun of Ghana meeting the rain of London and making a rainbow, that sums it up for us - it's all about combining the dark and the light. 

What other influences do you think you are both channelling through Onipa? 

Tom: Anything from Opera to Sheffield Bassline. There are some broad musical camps that we often draw from such as African music, electronic dance music, jazz and reggae however on the most basic level we are just humans that like making noise, anything goes!

So what's next for Onipa? 

Tom: Yellow Arch! Then we head to Edinburgh for another 2 man show at Fiesta Do Samedia. We'll be playing a special stripped back show for Africa Eye in Bristol on the 9th Nov then back into the studio to record our next record with the full band. 

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Thanks guys! For anyone who wants to check out Onipa and the rest of Yellow Arch's wicked birthday bash, then tickets for the event are available from Party For The People from here: https://tickets.partyforthepeople.org/events/4243-yellow-arch-21st-birthday

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