BY CHUKS NWANNE AND ADEOLA OJEDOKUN
As younger brother of a popular Afrobeat artiste, Kola Ogunkoya, one would have expected Olufemi to feel at home with music, but that was not the case. Rather, he dreamt of becoming an international football star.
“I wasn’t interested in his music; in fact, that time, whenever he was rehearsing with his band, I saw it as a disturbance,” he recalls. “I didn’t just want to take anything music from him. I used to play football; I just wanted to be a footballer all my life.”
All that changed, when Olufemi encountered one of Kola’s trumpeters in action. By then, his brother, Kola, who tutored the trumpeter, had jetted out of the country.
“I saw him playing the trumpet, and I was like, ‘my brother plays this thing very well, let me even see if I can blow it.’ I went to the guy to tell him I wanted to try it out. He gave it to me and I played it well; I could play notes,” he says. “So, I decided to go into it and ever since I started learning to play trumpet, music took over every other things.”
“No more soccer at all; music took away everything,” he harps.
What of your football boots?
“My boots… I don’t even know where I left it; music took over my life,” he says amidst laughs. “I mean, it’s like a drastic change; I just left it and started playing music, and music is everything to me.”
AT 24, Ogunkoya’s passion and love for Jazz moved him to MUSON Music School, Onikan Lagos, where he was formally trained in music.
Initially, Olufemi started playing trumpet for the Redeemed Christian Church Choir, then he moved on to saxophone, flute, trombone, piano…
“Basically, I play all wind instruments. I sing as well.”
Did you play with your brother’s band?
“Yes, I played with Kola’s band; I did one of the albums with him. I did the Sweetie Baby track with him, where I played the saxophone. In fact, I did the recording with him before I left for Johannesburg in 2005.”
Unlike most young Nigerians, who troop to South Africa for greener pastures, Olufemi’s mission to Madiba’s country was totally driven by music.
“Johannesburg is closer to the world; it gives every musician a chance to be seen. At a particular time, I felt music was dying in Nigeria, I felt potentials wasting; there and then, I saw the need to unleash my potentials and to show the world what I have or capable of doing.”
He continues: “I left Nigeria in 2005, basically for music reasons. I listened to music from the Southern Africa and I really loved their style of music. For me, I’ve got the root in playing Afrobeat and highlife, so, I wanted to fuse the Southern African music with Afrobeat and highlife from Nigeria.”
IN South Africa, the Mushin-brought up developed his skills on the saxophone to the level of having his own jazz band, playing at different events in Johannesburg. Today, the multi-talented artiste has become one of the amazing saxophonists desinous of making Africa proud with his Afro-Soul fusion; a blend of the West and the Southern African rhythm.
Through the thick and thin of music, Ogunkoya and his team have been able to win the hearts of Jazz music lovers in Johannesburg. Recently, their band was in Lagos, where they performed at the 2009 edition of the CAF Awards ceremony alongside Nigeria’s Ego, Sammie Okposo, P Square and South Africa’s Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
“I felt very elated to have been given the privilege to perform in Nigeria; it’s a memorable one indeed. I did the national anthem with Ego.”
How did you manage to get into the bill?
“The organisers of that event is a company from Johannesburg; Globacom is the sponsoring company, but True Colour Event Company was in charge,” he informs. “I’ve been working with them and they know me as a musician. So, they listed me alongside Chaka Chaka to perform.”
OLUFEMI’s long experiment in the music industry has culminated into his debut album, Just In Newstown, which he’s currently promoting.
On the album title, the saxophonist informs, “There’s a place called Newtown in Johannesburg; that’s where things happen, it’s a popular place. So, when I got there, I realised there’s this energy of music around the place; you find musicians playing all sorts of music there. So, I found myself in a new place; it’s just like a new place to me, where I started to grow and develop. It’s a new upbringing, so, I decided to call the album Just in Newstown.”
Describing music as a life-giver and food for the soul, Ogunkoya informs, “my inspiration comes from God and by simply listening to music.”
Having taken his music to Switzerland, Republic of Benin and Nigeria, performing at events, Olufemi’s ambition is to push his album into the international market, while working in collaboration with Freiza – a South African artiste alongside his plan to move steadily on his African Percussion album.
He will be grateful to work with artistes such as Hugh Masekela of South Africa.
“That will be great for me,” he says. “For Nigeria, I can’t really pick one for now.”
ON his busiest day, Olufemi gets up at 6:30am and runs through his morning devotion as a Christian, followed by routine rehearsals that usually last into the evening hours.
When relaxing, he enjoys reading books on true-life stories, biographies and autobiographies, while chilling outside with his saxophone.