Artist on the rise: Fuse ODG’s Afrobeats sound takes UK by storm

Noel Phillips

FuseODG Edit 300x200 Artist on the rise: Fuse ODG’s Afrobeats sound takes UK by storm As he continues to turn what used to be an underground phenomenon into an increasingly formulaic music occurrence, it’s a delight to meet a talent as impressive as Fuse ODG.

At 25, he is an undisputed trendsetter for his generation. He has the highest charted UK Afrobeats single to date, and for many of the 25 million YouTube fans who follow his music, it’s enough to help him legitimise a music genre.

Since his debut Antenna hit the upper regions of the national charts, he has been hailed as the saviour of Afrobeats by hardcore contemporary supporters. It’s unusual of late to find an artist with quite as much pulse, energy, and passion as the London-born singer. His next step is clear: to emulate his preceding success with new single Azonto and to continue carving hits alike with such ease.

Real name: Nana Richard Abiona.

Inspirations: The artists who continue to inspire me, not only through their music, but also through the things they stood for are Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Tupac, and Fela Kuti.

Childhood dream: I wanted to be really wealthy so that I would be able to look after my family.

Ideal dinner-party guest list: Michael Jackson, Wyclef Jean, Damian and Bob Marley, Wiley, Skepta, Sway, G-Fresh, Frekky, my manager, and the ODG crew.

You’ve had a very busy few months promoting your music and receiving various award nominations. You must be exhausted.  Do you have a canned speech prepared for me?

I’m not that tired, so I don’t have anything prepared [laughs]. I’m not usually the type to sit and write things down – but maybe I should start doing so.

Your music is making waves. How are you handling all the attention? Has it given you a sense of confidence, or do you feel more pressure?

I feel more inspired as all the hard work is actually paying off. It makes me want to aim higher, especially as my music is crossing over into so many different territories. In fact, it’s really inspired and encouraged me to continue on this path to spread positively through my music.

In terms of singing you’re clearly very talented and also well versed lyrically. I’m intrigued by your approach, because dancing seems to be a very important theme in your songs. Is it something that allows you to visually express yourself?

I don’t think music videos allow me to express myself fully. They provide me with a platform to inspire people. I want to elevate the continent of Africa and change common perceptions. You might not get that through my previous singles, but if you’re African, then you will feel a sense of pride that the music I’m making is from our great continent. I think if I’ve learned anything about music videos, they are more of a vehicle that allows you to communicate with people.

This ongoing theme of dancing features on your latest single Azonto. What are your expectations with regards to following-up the top 10 success of Antenna?

I would like the song to do well, but there are no deliberate expectations. I am releasing music and allowing people to enjoy it. If the single fails to perform, I don’t think it will be a problem for us to put another one out. You see, at the end of the day, my music is for the world, so if it doesn’t catch on here it might just cross into a different territory.

You have this great line in the song: “Drive yourself, you don’t need a license”.

Yeah. I’ve had to do a lot of DIY – learning to do things myself as a lot of people have let me down. You might be working with someone but if they don’t share that same passion or vision, then they can slow you down. Anyone can be creative, just as long as they are willing to take control and drive themselves. My manager and I are close friends so much so that we did a lot of things ourselves. I think it’s important to be self-motivated.

Are you familiar with the Cabaret Laws in New York that prohibit dancing?

You’re not allowed to dance? That’s crazy. I suppose most people are breaking that law on a daily basis. For example, sometimes when you’re walking it can appear as if you’re kind of dancing – does that mean you’ll get in trouble? What about if you’re waving to someone and somebody thinks you’re signalling the plane? [laughs]

Can we talk about your recent collaboration with Wyclef on Antenna, which was a huge moment for you, I’m sure. How did you wind up working together?

When we first met, which was before he had even heard my music, we connected on quite a deep level. We both shared the same views and aspirations – but I think when he eventually heard my music, he also felt a further connection and until this day, we are still working together. He’s a great mentor.

Imagine with me, for a moment:  you’ve won both your MTV EMA and Mobo awards nominations, everyone is cheering you, and the cameras are in your face. What are you going to say? Who will you thank?

[laughs] I don’t think those awards would be just for me. I would have to share them with the whole of the African community across the world. And of course, it’s mandatory for me to also thank god and my family.

Azonto is out now.

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