Which is your favourite percussion instument?
My favourite has to be the three headed agogo bells. This was the first instrument I was allowed to play during my early learning period with the great Nigerian percussionist/composer Gasper Lawal. One had to be disciplined to stick to the required part. Make sure that what was being played was what we call ‘locked in’, meaning it grooved properly and had a swing to it!. Any good musician worth his or her salt knows how important this is. Finally, because the bells had notes, I was expected to make them sing within the composition. It took me a long time to master all these concepts.
Would you say that your african roots heavily influence your music?
Without a doubt my Yoruba background has been fundamental. This was the first sound that I remember as a child. It was in the language that my parents spoke at home. The first music I heard was from the traditional drummers accompanying the contemporary Nigerian artists of the time. The drums always caught my ear, firing my imagination and distracting me from my homework!!
What made you change from Djing to percussion?
The change was brought about by the new music that came on the scene around the late eighties. Electronic music, body-popping music became the rage. The emphasis on live music and musicians changed. I wasn’t feeling this new electro, drum machine sound. This inadequate (for my ears anyway) replication of an acoustic power! When Gasper Lawal invited me to join his band – The Oro band, I heard through that music something very powerful and timeless. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be part of that creative spirit. I began to hear the kind of music I would like to write for myself and maybe others to get off on! Even today, I listen to all these so called Dj superstars and wonder, ‘is this it’ ? Of course times change and with that music changes and in some cases, the music reflects the social changes. I guess I’m a little sceptical about the quality. What is the qualitative standard of the popular music being disseminated today? What are we feeding the next generation on? Harmonically ,melodically and rhythmically, there’s a lot to be desired in my humble opinion!
What was your reaction when you were asked to be in Jamiroquai?
My first performance with Jamiroquai was at a live show in Paris called Taratata in 1996 I think!
I was flown over on the day of the show without any music to listen to. The tour manager at the time had forgotten to send me a CD!
So, live on stage, with the band, the only person I had met from the band was Derrick.
Lights,camera rolling, we kick into the tune Space Cowboy. I have never heard the piece, so I simply make up what I’m doing in the song as we go along! I manage to get through the 3 min performance without it looking as if I do not have a clue!
Jay immediately approaches me and asks ‘ have you and Derrick played together before’
“No” I say.
Jay looks a little surprised!
A year later, Travelling Without Moving is a massive world wide hit, Jay calls myself and Simon Katz into his hotel room in New York.
“Guys, I want you in the band as full inner circle members”. I look at Simon, he stares back at me, we say thanks to Jay. We are more than happy to accept!
I and Simon leave the room, speechless!
Why? Because we were both stoned out of heads! So, that was my reaction! A mumbled thank you because I could barely put two words together! Too much Skunk weed and champagne on a fantastic night of partying in the Big Apple!!!
What are your other favourite hobbies?
I love reading the classics, western and others. Going out to the theatre and playing classical piano pieces at home. Bach has captured my imagination at the moment!
Studying Yoruba poetry and history.