I got my first taste of Femi Koya and his band at the last Park Acoustics for 2017. The energy was intoxicating; the beat magic. At some point during the performance, sitting on our picnic blanket and having numerous conversations at once, I looked over to a friend that is usually rather reserved and not prone to dancing along to just anything. “I see you Sorelina,” I said, seeing her shoulders pop up and down. “Let’s go!” she responded and up we got, dancing our way into the crowd. Femi Koya’s set was one of my most memorable out of all my Park Acoustics memories. As I later found myself telling him, his band gives me hope. I felt alive, dancing to their Afrobeat sounds and breathing in the air of diversity, culture, and a profound love for Africa. Femi moved the crowd. I saw white girls dance like I’ve never seen before and I felt myself moving like I have never felt before – in a very natural sense. I had to fight with the bouncers to get backstage (which is just a tent set up next to the stage) because I had to ask for an interview with Femi. Below, dear reader, I share with you his responses and sentiments. I urge you to find out about Femi Koya band if you don’t yet know about them.
Tell me about Femi Koya – how would you describe yourself and your music?
Femi Koya is the new face of the African Renaissance, a very versatile and dynamic saxophonist and singer. I am a Nigerian-born, South African-based fashionista, entrepreneur, activist, music composer, and producer.
My music may be well described as world Afrobeat music, a combination of Jazz, Highlife, Afrobeat, and Sophiatown sounds. My musical fusion demonstrates the path to a new and culturally integrated Africa in which a common heritage is reinforced to meet the needs of today’s world
When and how did you start your career in music?
I started my music career about twelve years ago. Three years prior in Lagos I was juggling between playing football and learning a musical instrument but music married me when I experienced the compelling love and healing of music. Ever since, I haven’t looked back.
You play with a Pan-African band. Where do your band members hail from and what brings all of you together?
I play with a Pan-African band because I believe in the possibilities of all things African. I see my band and myself as part of the new Africa on the move, where home is not just one place but a multiplicity of places and influences. My band members hail from DRC, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana. What brought us together and united us is the love for the African cultural heritage and music; we have a common belief in peace for Africa and for the world.
What is it about Afrobeat music that attracts you?
Afrobeat didn’t just attract me; I AM AFROBEAT. It is the most comfortable and pleasant genre which allows me to be and express myself. It’s effortless in passing messages across. Afrobeat is political but can very well carry the message of love. It is very personal, it’s the mother of all sounds, in fact – Afrobeat is the now and the future. The percussions, horns, and rhythm sessions make Afrobeat my favourite.
What narrative do you have to tell in the African context?
My narrative is that Africa will have its true homecoming when people see themselves first and foremost as Africans in the context of peace, love, and Ubuntu. Until then, I will continue to make music suggestive of this homecoming and what the future holds if Africans unite. It is, I say, our destiny.
As a Nigerian currently living and performing in South Africa, what is home to you?
Home to me is a space of tranquility, a place of serenity wherever it could be that I set my foot upon and I feel calmness, that’s my home. With regard to Nigeria and South Africa, I am half and half.
Why did you choose South Africa as your current base and do you see yourself moving to a different country or even back home in the near future?
South Africa is the United State of Africa at the moment. Other African countries will spring up soon and in the past it was Nigeria. The united of Africa is a place where many Africans and non-Africans congregate; perhaps they find peace, or a better state of living, conducive for business or for refuge. South Africa is a better place to launch into the world. I am not sure about moving anywhere but for now only God knows what tomorrow will bring.
What is your biggest goal as a musician?
My biggest goal as a musician is to create my own Music Club where I can be dishing out new music every week, a home for local and international musicians and conscious people.
Where will you be performing next?
On next, we will be performing at Orbit Jazz Club in Braamfontein on the 25th of January and at the Republic of Mieliepop Festival from the 21st to the 24th of March. Between the 22nd of February and 29th of March we will be on our release tour for our new album, Village Afrobeat. where we will take our hot and chili music to Durban, Capetown, Johannesburg, Swaziland, Mozambique, and also Nigeria in July 2018.
We’re dropping our first single for 2018 “Time na Money” before the end of January in anticipation of the big hit love song single “Lerato” in time for February 14 which will pave the way for the Village Afrobeat Album. All details will be on www.femikoya.com.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
The legacy of peace, hope, and love.
Photo credit: Henry Engelbrecht