Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting afrobeat duo Makola at The Camden Assembly where they played an amazing show and got all the attendees on their feet including me. Their beat rushed straight through me and even some of the most controversial songs such as ‘Crown’ made me really think about my own views on a few things that are happening right now in Britain. Read about my interview with them here, listen to their new song and watch the video that is out NOW!
Hey! I saw that your new music video for ‘Crown’ came out today! How has the reception for that been?
Well, there hasn’t been much reception yet, we woke up today an’ it’s out, so we don’t really know much about it yet!
So, what’s your inspiration behind making it?
Wiley accepted the OBE and I heard that and just thought about it, like what the empire is, what the monarchy stands for, and what it does for us today. And then we wrote ‘Crown’ and it’s a little bit anti-monarchy talking about slavery and what the British Empire stands for. There was the Royal Wedding and everything, so we wanted to talk about what that means as it doesn’t really mean anything to us.
Can you explain to readers about Wiley and the OBE?
It was in January and he got an Honour of the British Empire and he accepted it. Poets like Benjamin Zephaniah, a famous Jamaican poet, he turned it down, even David Bowie turned it down, so… And he accepted it? I’m not saying he shouldn’t have, it just made me think about what it stood for.
How would you describe your sound to new listeners?
An old school afro sound from the 60s and 70s and some hip-hop from the modern day. We don’t want to be just a retro act, we want some soulful and party vibes.
How did you two meet?
We met in Camden actually. Peter had only been in the country for about a month and he was a musician who could produce and I was singing at the time and we did that for like two years and that was alright but then I introduced hi-life music and it just sort of clicked. We wrote ‘This Is London’ and that was our first single. It came together quickly – we always had the influence in the background, but once we found our element, we realised how good it sounded. Since then we have been trying different directions so we don’t get stuck in one sound.
So, Peter, how come you came to London in the first place?
I was working as a music producer back in Finland and I got bored of the small music market over there and so I wanted to try something else. I had been coming here back and forth years before and I love the UK music scene.
What got you both into music?
Kwame: Yeah, I was born here, born and raised in the playground where I spent most of my days haha! Hi-life music influenced me as a child, hip hop too. That was all my parents – my father plays sax and he’s one of the guys responsible for bringing hi-life music to the UK. He played on the Ghana Independence track so he knows a lot of the famous hi-life guys. He is a massive influence on me making music. So, when he heard we were sampling music he was so happy. He thought I was going to discard it, and for a long time I did. But upon listening to it with fresh ears I thought this is absolutely amazing!
Peter: My mum and dad were musicians and I played jazz and blues and a bit of everything and then I listened to hip-hop and electronic as I got older. Then I studied music so there was classical, and jazz and I feel like I genuinely am a music guy. This feels like my home now.
Are you both multi-music talented? Can you play a lot?
Kwame: No! Haha!
Peter: I can play a lot of stuff!
Who’s on your Spotify playlist now and who would you most like to collaborate with?
Kwame: Jorja Smith, she could definitely do a chorus for us, if you could let her know!
Peter: I like the new Bugsy Malone album.
Kwame: Kojey Radical.
What are the challenges of the music industry?
EVERYTHING! I think Spotify runs the world a lot in terms of who listens to who. Something like 20,000 songs get uploaded to Spotify every month so you need to get on a playlist to really be heard. It doesn’t matter how good you are it’s just about getting heard. We have had a decent run and we are happy with what we’ve been doing, honestly. We have a lot for what we’ve done.
What are the great parts of being in the industry?
Festivals! There are around 10,000 people who get to listen to us. We didn’t plan to play live for a while but then we started getting offers. Everything is produced in my bedroom basically. There have been challenges but we have done some great shows. We just signed a partnership with Domino. This is getting us in the right direction, sometimes people don’t see the work that you do behind the scenes. Having a manager helps, we’re too lazy so we need someone!
Are festivals more fun than live on stage?
I wouldn’t say so. We played Boomtown and that was cool. We played Bestival in 2017 but it’s just different. At a festival, the crowd seems to be further down, and you don’t connect with them. It’s amazing when you’re live because you can see the energy straight away.
Do you have a dream festival you would like to play?
Glastonbury maybe. We need to be more professional at festivals though, because we go, play, and then party. But we need to leave a little earlier I think!
Do you have a funny story or a secret you can tell me?
You notice we’re not saying anything… Maybe when we’ve shared dorm rooms with bunk beds and our old sax player was sleeping above Peter and he was rocking the boat a little… yeah… But it didn’t stop!
Did either of you go to university?
Kwame: I went to Middlesex actually yeah. I did Creative Writing and Journalism there, it was good.
How come you chose music and not creative writing?
I did for a while, but I just love music and I think it’s fun. And I want to see the world you know! Plus, the journalism world is very competitive and not well paid. Even music is worse but it’s more fun!
If you weren’t doing music, what would you do?
Peter: I can’t even imagine that kind of scenario because there’s no way I wouldn’t be doing music. I wouldn’t be me. It’s in my DNA. And my dad’s and all my relatives.
Kwame: I would say the most cliché thing and that’s a footballer. Footballers wannabe rock stars and rock stars wannabe footballers. I played for a while so footballer, but I got hurt.
How did you get hurt and what team?
Oh no you’re bringing back the pain! ACL Juniors.
Is there anything you want to say to readers?
Thank you for listening and enjoy what we do. If you want to hear us come and see us.
Do you think you’ll have a tour?
If they pay! London is notoriously bad for pay. Going abroad is where it’s at.
See Makola live at the Leaf Music/Karousel showcase at headCRASH, Reeperbahn Festival, on 21st September.