put your lighters up for mr afrobeats, fuse odg

Fuse ODG became the face of the new African pop movement with his awesome, addictive track Azonto. i-D grabbed the Ghanaian-British singer for a chat ahead of his sold out UK tour.

by Tessa Griffith
|
13 February 2015, 1:35pm

Raised between London and Ghana, Fuse ODG is a man on a mission to promote Africa, putting his TINA movement (This is New Africa) at the heart of his infectiously catchy afrobeats tunes. His breakout hit about the limb-contorting Ghanaian dance Azonto spawned hundreds of YouTube videos and he hasn't slowed down since, collaborating with Wyclef Jean and Sean Paul, explaining TINA to Paxman on Newsnight and beating contemporaries Davido and Wizkid to win Best African Act at last year's MOBO awards. Ahead of his sold out UK tour we caught up with Fuse to talk TINA, texting Wyclef and why, despite his 2014 ode to independent women Million Pound Girl, we can't convince him he's a feminist…

You've just got back from a month in Ghana. What do you miss about it when you're in London?
Right now, definitely the weather! It's so hot in Ghana right now, I just miss going out in a T-shirt. I'm wearing so many jackets right now! Also the people in Ghana - you can't stay in your house for too long. People come knocking, "Let's go and eat, lets go and chill…" It's just so nice - you just can't stay inside and I miss that.

You wear a lot of leather with kente fabric, is that your look?
That's the new African look. That's who I am. That's all I wear. TINA, This Is New Africa. They're all tailored as well. I need to start selling them. We're gonna launch another clothes line I'm excited about that.

Since you've been talking about new Africa do you feel anything has changed?
100%. I feel like the energy of being African in the UK has definitely changed. When I was growing up being African wasn't the best thing, but right now it's kind of the in thing. Someone's phone might ring in class and it's an afrobeats song playing. That would never have happened when I was growing up! There's still a lot more to get done when someone like Bob Geldof is still making videos showcasing Africa in a way that's not what it is.

Why wasn't it cool to be African when you were at school?
A lack of knowledge - they weren't teaching us anything about Africa in school so that didn't really help, and anything African that came on TV was just so negative. Being Jamaican was really cool back then because of dancehall - dancehall all over the place.

You've worked with a few dancehall artists, it's quite unusual for Jamaican and African artists to collaborate, how did that come about?
To me it was essential because I felt like afrobeats and dancehall are kind of similar and it would be nice to amalgamate the two and see what happened. As well as the music, it would be nice for people to know we're all one people, that we're all African anyway.

What was it like meeting Wyclef?
I listened to Wyclef soooo much when I was younger. It's funny: if you'd asked me who I wanted to work with, he was on my list. He's the type of artist that's able to move from genre to genre and still be respected. It's mad I was so starstruck I had to compose myself just to be able to hold a conversation. I learned a lot from him. I'm still in touch with him - we were texting a couple of days ago about the Ghana match

You've said that women are more powerful than men and they just need to realise it. Would you consider yourself a feminist?
Would I say I'm a feminist? Oh gosh, (laughs loudly) I would not say I'm a feminist but I come across like one.

Why wouldn't you say you're a feminist!?
(laughs) I just wouldn't. Same way I wouldn't say I'm an activist. I just believe in the power of the people. If we realised how much power we have as individuals then the decisions that we'd make would be so different from the decisions we're making now. For example I feel like the media is trying to stop us realising how powerful Africa is, the natural resources that we have, so the confidence is not there for us to just move by ourselves. I feel like if black people realise how powerful we are as kings and queens there's just so many things that we would say no to. You know you wanna invest, you wanna own land. You understand? Your decisions would be so different if you knew your title, and the same goes for women. If they realised how much power they had, this world would be in trouble!

I love Carnival. Do you think it's time for a proper afrobeats float? I haven't seen one yet...
We need a proper float, it would pop off like mad! We need to step up and make it happen.

@FuseODG

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Text Tessa Griffith

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this is new africa