A few years ago, Afrobeats was the well-kept secret of a few lucky listeners. The idea of hearing it anywhere other than your parents car or an aunts 50th birthday was unheard of. But a new wave of African artists have arrived on the UK music scene, bringing the sounds of the continent with them, one of these being 25 year old musician Fuse ODG. Arguably at the helm of the new found affinity between African music and the UK, he made history as he became the first Ghanaian artist to reach the number one spot in the iTunes World chart, is now nominated for a MTV Europe Music Award and even had the Prime Minster shaking a leg (albeit very badly). And that's what Fuse is all about- combining the modernity of the western world with the flavour of the Motherland. "When we were making 'Antenna' I kind of wanted to show how it was growing up in the western world, coming from an African background." He told Birthday magazine. "I knew it was going to do something, but in terms of how crazy it went, top ten in the UK... I was surprised at how big it was!".
The success of Antenna truly has been unprecedented and has won Fuse a string of nominations, global recognition and the opportunity to work with some of the industry greats. He recalls how his collaboration with ex Fugees front man Wyclef Jean on the song of the summer 'Antenna' came about:
"We had a show in Ivory Coast. I was telling him about where I grew up and how I'm inspired by being raised in London and being raised in Ghana as well. He connected with me because he does a lot for Haiti which is where he's from."
But it was hearing Fuse's hit song for the first time that sealed the deal for Wyclef and spurred the singer on to collaborate with the London born, Ghana raised musician:
"It was later on that night when we were having dinner that the DJ played 'Antenna', that's the first time he heard my music and everyone was going crazy! It was so mad, that he went on the mic and said "I want to do the official remix". I was like "Hell yeah, you can remix my song!". The next day we set out a studio in the hotel room and we recorded it in there."
In his upcoming remix of single 'Azonto' Fuse has joined forces with Dancehall legend Elephant Man to breathe new life into the track. What was his reasoning behind this choice?
"I feel like the way the music is heading, Afrobeats and Dancehall are going to merge. To me, that's how the atmosphere feels. I was thinking of who I could actually work with, because Afrobeats is actually taking over Jamaica at the moment, it's breaking through in the Caribbean. So, I thought the perfect person would be Elephant Man because to me, he's like the king of Dancehall."
Clearly a man after his name, Fuse is apt at fusing cultures, previously fronting a rock band in his youth which he thanks for his ability to adapt to different types of audience. His dual cultural identity as both a Ghanaian and British singer may have fuelled his tendency to mix things ups, and he feels that expressing this in his music is important.
"I think it's really important I show myself through my music, the whole thing about 'New Africa'; I feel like it's important to show Africa in a new light because when I was younger, the media used to portray Africa so negatively. It's up to us as individuals to show the other side of it. It's definitely important for me to raise awareness that Africa is also a beautiful place, it's not just about starvation!"
Changing the world's perception of Africa, a continent still often mistaken for a country (and one with a singular identity as a poverty stricken, desolate land) is something Fuse seems intent on, as well as connecting cultures across the globe through music-though this wasn't something he originally intended. "The aim wasn't even that initially." He admits. "The music inspired me when I realized what it was doing, it crossed over to so many different cultures! I initially just did it to bring dance to the UK."
But that isn't the only community this ambitious musician plans on making waves in. Amidst all the touring, interviews and time in the studio, Fuse finds time to work with ex-offenders and runs a youth group called 'Escape'. A firm believer that inactivity keeps kids on the streets, he does his best too keep them off of them with a variety of workshops and activities promoting creativity within the youth:
'We do a lot not just for the African community; anyone can sign up for free. We give activities for young people to do, from music to dance, to art to drama to poetry. We hire other young people to run the workshops as well and I usually do the music workshops. The idea is to give them activities so they can realize the opportunities they have and how to be successful'.
With many a finger in a many a pie and the impact of his music already palpable in Europe, there's only one place left to for Fuse's movement to conquer- the world.
Fuse ODG's single 'Azonto' is out on the 29th on September.
Read the full interview here, at Birthdaymagazine.co.ukSuggest a correction