Interview with Funsho Ogundipe
Q: You've started quite late in your life with playing musical instruments. In fact you've never played the piano before you were seventeen. Please tell me how music have changed your live. Was there a certain situtation or moment when it just made click and you know music is your calling?
Funsho Ogundipe: Music has always been there. To me it was only natural.
Q: Where do you see your progress as a musician in the ten years with your band Ayetoro?
Funsho Ogundipe: Interesting. The journey is really the reward in itself. Meeting musicians from different countries and performing together is fantastic. Also learning how to be a band leader and adjusting to the different processes involved in playing live and recording albums in the stuidio. As a musician I cannot be still. I have to create. so the journey has been good for a man of my temprament.
Q: Although you've formed Ayetoro in Nigeria The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I were recorded in London (UK). Why?
Funsho Ogundipe: I recorded in London because I now live there. I keep two formations for touring and recording. One in lagos and another in London. If I recall Keith Jarret once had two versions of a jazz quartet. The American and the European. But seriously right now I have access to some of the best players in the world who are based in London and I intend to use that for the benefit of the music.
Q: One of the songs on the album is called The Revenge Of The Flying Monkeys. Is there a story behind this rather obscure title?
Funsho Ogundipe: Evolution allows the oppressed to defeat the oppressor!
Q: The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I album has the subtitle The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat. In which way is this album different from the other Ayetoro releases? And how do you describe the sound of Ayetoro?
Funsho Ogundipe: It is perhaps a bit different in that for the first time my piano voicings on the rhodes and also the arrangements were reflecting the roots of the music in modal jazz. Stuff like rootless voicings and arranging some horn riffs in fourths. Ayetoro's sound is the Ayetoro sound. As the composer i cannot objectively describe my sound. But you the listener can. Probably!
Q: You've also worked as a lawyer and head of corporate finance for the Prudent Merchant Bank. So I guess you may have a deeper insight into Nigerian politics and economics. What do you think is wrong in Nigeria, a country that has large oil fields but is still a third world country with most of its people being poor.
Funsho Ogundipe: Both the leadership and also the people have to take responsibility for the current state of things. Our path to nationhood has not been helped by certain tricky issues like corruption, tribalism etc. but I feel these issues are the test we have to pass before we can emerge as a nation. A lot will depend on the genuineness of the intellectual class.
Q: And what would you do change to enable the majority of the people to participate in the wealth of the countries natural resources?
Funsho Ogundipe: Pass a law mandating all offficial and academic instruction be done in Nigerian languages. A lot of Africans complain about their inability to understand affairs of the state when these are conducted in colonial languages. That is true but even more damaging is our refusal to educate ourselves in our own languages. This will allow us to share global concepts and ideas and relate to them. If we do that a lot will fall into place. Trust me!
Q: Your website mentiones a live DVD of a concert in Lagos and a volume II of the Afrobeat Chronicles. Please tell me more about these releases. Are they already available?
Funsho Ogundipe: The Live in Lagos DVD will be available as an import in europe from October this year [i.e. 2006]. Vol 2 of the Afrobeat Chronicles has just being recorded and release date is 1st July.
Q: What do you think of remixes of your songs to attract a wider audience? In my opinion especially the track Yoruba Boyz Club would be a good choice to benefit from an extended version or a remix. I think this song has the potential to become a cross over hit.
Funsho Ogundipe: We'll see.
Q: As an independent musicians what do you think of the state of the music industry these days? Do you think there's really a need for major labels with the internet as a way to get one's music directly to the listener?
Funsho Ogundipe: It is still too early to tell. Most artists seem to use the net as a way of getting signed by a major. Sure there are some of us who dont but I think the key issue is whether you want a label behind you or not.
Q: Your myspace profile already features four new songs from Afrobeat Chronicles Vol II. One of the songs, Oga, even features vocals. Who sings on Oga and what's the reason to extent the sound of Ayetoro with vocals? And when will Vol. II be released?
Funsho Ogundipe: I sing on Oga! It is not first time I have done that. On a compilation called The Original Afrobeat I have a tune titled Our Man Is Gone (A Tribute To Fela Kuti). Also in Nigeria I scored a top 50 radio hit with a song called Something Dey which has an accompanying video which can be seen on my website. So the Ayetoro sound has especially in Nigeria had at least one vocal track on an album. There is a Nigeria only album titled 6000 Miles And A Minute which features at least three tracks with vocals.
Q: On first listen it sounds to me like Ayetoro's sound is going more into a jazz direction than into an afro(beat) direction. Where do you see the difference and your growth as a musican between Vol I and II?
Funsho Ogundipe: This direction is Afrobeat as I know it. Afrobeats roots are in jazz and then funk in that order. I share that with Fela Kuti that my first love is for the jazz music. If you listen to throughout his career he was able to move stylistically acrooss genres. Afro Cuban, funk, psychadelia etc. In fact listen to Fela's tune titled Ololufe on the Los Angeles 69 sessions and then also Eighty One by Miles Davis on the ESP album and you will hear that they have similar basslines. They are both blues based song forms. There are also anecdotes by people like Lester Bowie to the effect that when he first met Fela to prove he was a jazz trumpet player, the Lester Bowie from the states, who he, Fela, dug he had to play along to the blues on a Jamey Abersold long player. Now what is different is the degree to which we use the techniques. Fela's music is his interpretation mine is mine. But we are still playing the same music. As a keyboard player he dispensed with chromaticism and other pianistic techniques because he wanted to get a certain sound that of early missionary churchs will were popular in West Africa then. I feel the language of jazz allows me to play both sophisticated and primal music at the same time. Also like tropicalia afrobeat is also a musical canivore.
Vol 1 was recorded in an afternoon while Vol 2 has been a more planned and detailed process involved with different players and more instrumentation that I am hearing like bass clarinet, cello and other kinds of stuff. Also for Vol 2 I believe my chops are still getting better. As a piano player my articultion is getting better while on the eletric pianos, like the rhodes and the wurlitzer, I am able to draw out more in terms of sound and mood. You know like adding colour to a painting. You can make it sparse or rich depending on your vision.
Q: What else can we expect from you in the future besides Vol II of the Afrobeat Chronicles? Will there be gigs to promote the new album? If so, where?
Funsho Ogundipe: I hope to do an orchestral album and work with some choirs in Africa as well. There are some gigs lined up. Details will come later.
For more infos visit ayetoro.com, sternsmusic.com, cdbaby.com, Funsho's blog and read my review of The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. I (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat).