DJ SPINALL; AFROBEATS FOR A BETTER WORLD
WORDS SOPHIE EMMETT - PHOTOGRAPHY JAKE HATELEY - FASHION JEN ELETO
If you know or appreciate anything about Afro music, the name Sodamola Oluseye Desmond aka DJ Spinall is one you must know about. Spinall has become globally known for his electrifying sound powered by his African heritage. We sat down with the Afro beats connoisseur himself to talk music and uncover his secret for success. During our chat, Sodamola shared his strong sense of pride being an African musician, his desires to not only grow his own career but to support and invest in his peers. Spinall's want for real recognition becomes effortless as he presents the world with a unique sound of Afro music.
Sodamola is one with a bona fide personality that makes you fall in complete admiration and love for him and his music. With an unpretentious approach to his success thus far, Spinall is inspiring and conscientious. Since our chat, which took place sometime last month, he has gone on to be booked as the first Nigerian act at Glastonbury and if his performance at Ends is anything to go by, this DJ, producer, and songwriter is in his prime and will not only make you want to get up and catch a vibe as you dance but support him and that of the global rise of the afro beats genre.
OPENING IMAGE: DJ Spinall wears jacket GEYM; jumper OFF-WHITE at WWW.MRPORTER.COM; jeans, hat and sunglasses TALENT'S OWN
Sophie Emmett: So how are you today? Dj Spinall: Great, chilling. The weather is good!
S.E: How has your time in London been so far? Dj Spinall: It’s been amazing! With studio sessions back to back and radio interviews which is good. I’m getting to meet more people, which is amazing and exciting.
S.E: What are your favorite things to do in London? Dj Spinall: Connect and network. Listen to the London sound as well. That's a big part of being here. I’m excited about the sound here in London. There is something fresh about it.
S.E: Favorite London spot? Dj Spinall: I’m African, you know, so anywhere that has good African food. [Laughs]
S.E: I know you are from Nigeria and you still live there; so what’s your favorite thing about it? Dj Spinall: The energy because it’s highly contagious and I think it is the only place like that in the world. Nigerians are the definition of lifestyle; they can switch up their accents very quickly from “hey baby” to “do you know who I am, are you mad”. [Laughs] We are beautiful people, and despite everything else, Nigerians are very hopeful. The war will show up and show out. When you come from somewhere that people don’t have everything they wish yet are still so optimistic about tomorrow, is something quite beautiful.
S.E: Yes. That's something impressive about Nigerians. It's inspiring. You have said that your music has been "inspired by the everyday things”; can you explain this further? Dj Spinall: Basically, I don’t make fictional music. My music is based on what’s going on in everyday life. It can be about someone who has lost someone they love or who is crazy in love with someone else; looking at a lady with admiration of how amazing she looks or it could even be about a party, you know, dancing or anything really. I try to run with the vibe of what I am experiencing at the moment. Catching vibes, from how I live, what I see and just my everyday life.
DJ Spinall wears jacket GEYM; jumper OFF-WHITE at WWW.MRPORTER.COM; trainers NIKE 270 at JD SPORTS; jeans, hat and sunglasses TALENT'S OWN
S.E: You’ve said it was your father who introduced you to music, right? What does he think now of your successes? Dj Spinall: He likes it now, I’m sure! After spending 7 years in university, telling my parents I wanted to DJ was like “DJ? What does that even mean?” or "Are you kidding me?" this all because I was doing engineering, which is a big deal and sounds important, and then I decide to DJ which is two letters- [laughs] so they were like “what fam?’ However, I think the most important, most genuine thing is to work on yourself and do the things you generally love.
S.E: This is so good! It was a big change and transition for you, right? I've read somewhere where you have talked about mentoring young DJ’s. I find it incredible that and nice of you to give back to your community and inspire the next generation of DJs. Dj Spinall: I’ve always loved to inspire people in whatever ways I could find. By building confidence in people, simple as that. Many people have expressed interest in wanting to become DJs and producers and they want to learn what I am doing. This is such a blessing; to teach and guide these people, showing them what I know so far, even though I am still learning. I feel it is very beautiful to impact people’s lives in different parts of the world. I was in London last year and actually came across one of my old students in a club djing. I was the first dancer on the floor and saying ‘That’s my guy' there’s no greater joy than that!
S.E: This is so cool! Do you want to give any of them a shout - out? Dj Spinall: DJ TAJ, shout out to you! DJ Hype in Japan. There is also DJ Hayzee who now works with Hard Rock Café and DJ George in Lagos. Shout-out to all of you!
S.E: WOW they are all over the world! Dj Spinall: Yes, it's exciting to see all their success. I want to continue to grow my students as working with them enables me to continue learning and growing.
S.E: Is there any challenge in nurturing and mentoring other DJs? Dj Spinall: Yes. Finding the time to do it. I've got a really busy schedule at the moment and that makes it difficult to be close to them.
S.E: What has been the most interesting of weirdest thing your students have asked you? Dj Spinall: Some of them actually ask the weirdest questions; like “when I’m drunk at the party; what do I play next?” And I say; "You can’t be drunk at the party! Rule number one!" [Laughs]
DJ Spinall wears shirt GRAVALOT; hat; accessories and sunglasses TALENT'S OWN
S.E: How did the name of DJ Spinall come forth? Dj Spinall: Well, when we started out we were trying to think of the perfect name for a DJ; I heard a lot of funny names like DJ Rice and Beans- [laughs] but I was like "no we are not going to take the silly name route" so I started asking my team and myself a few questions regarding names and we ended up having to look inwards, as in what do I like, what would I play at a party? I would play afro Beats and house, hip hop and then some other genres. I basically like a little bit of everything, hence DJ Spinall.
S.E: How did you and Wizkid become friends and begin collaborating? Dj Spinall: Well, Wizkid is really, really special as he is a really talented guy. We were always bumping into each other back in the day at various events. However, it wasn’t until he invited me to come on the road with him, to Cyprus, that we became really good friends. We were on a 7hour flight together- just the two of us - sat next to one another. Because we had a lot of time to kill during the flight we got to really talk and get to know one another. I cannot lie, since then we’ve become good friends, we catch up on life and what we are working on; I even introduced him to a few of my producers I’d been working with and signed to my company. He has since worked with them and has been very supportive.
S.E: That's so cool. Why did you want to have your own company (TheCAP Music)? Dj Spinall: I am open-minded when it comes to working with people, as long as it comes with no headaches such as politics, etc. I have no time for that. Music can come from anywhere. The right vibe can come from anywhere. so it doesn’t necessarily have to come from my company, however, I set one up so that I could protect the sound and where I can coordinate the kind quality of sound I am looking for. So that’s what I have done. We work from A&R to producing, creating music that is core to the African culture and Afro beats. I wanted to make sure that we were able to preserve, guide, and protect our musical heritage. We have now been able to work with everyone in afro beats from Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage and Tekno to mention a few. We want to grow the afro beats sound and make it really fresh.
DJ Spinall wears jumper OFF-WHITE at WWW.MRPORTER.COM; trousers PARRIS LDN; trainers NIKE 270 at JD SPORTS; sunglasses and hat TALENT'S OWN
S.E: Your new single “What do you see?” features Kojo Funds, and, I wanted to know; how did this collaboration come about? Dj Spinall: Kojo Funds is one of my favorite artists in the world. I’d always wanted to work with him but never had the chance to meet him in person and was waiting thinking that next time I was in London I would knock on his door saying “Bro, I really want to work with you!” So one day I was in the room, by myself, Doregoes (Mr. Eazi Manager) and Tolu (DJ Spinall's manager) and we were having a meeting with some producers and I mentioned how much I wanted to work with Kojo and they said “send him a DM” and I was like 'no way that’s like a groupie. Do you know who I am? I am an African!' [Laughs] Then I for real sent him a DM and he replied immediately saying ‘Bro let's do this the studio is in Shoreditch’ and we kicked it from there. He is a real genuine guy with a pure heart and that’s how we made the record.
S.E: Who from the UK and abroad would you like to collaborate with? Dj Spinall: To be honest, I’m very open-minded when it comes to working with people. As long as they see the value I am bringing to the table and understand my stance and approach to my culture value, I am happy to collaborate. Afrobeat is the number one for me. Making music that lasts a lifetime is what I am working for. At the moment, I am trying to work with as many Africans; Nigerians, Ugandans and so on, because there are a lot of Africans on this side of the world. Back home people do not even realize that these musicians are Africans too. So I’m trying to introduce them back to the culture and the people, so far it’s been amazing, a lot of people didn’t realize that both Kojo Funds and Stormzy are from Ghana. I am trying to be the bridge that connects Africans back home. But I also want to work with people of any race, basically, anyone who is interested in making good music.
S.E: How and what do you think needs to happen to bring African musicians to the main stage as you’ve mentioned that there is no infrastructure to support this; even though there is so much talent coming from your home country? Dj Spinall: First and foremost, the genre afro beats or Afro-pop- whatever they want to call it - needs to be created. Because every time we put out music, it goes into the category of world, trap or hip hop. We are not making hip hop; our sound is completely different. So if you go to iTunes you can easily find the newest US hip hop music in a lot of it. So in my opinion, until we have that genre specified, we aren’t getting the recognition we deserve. Also, I want to see a more serious investment and conversation about opening and establishing music labels, proper music structures in Africa, whether in South Africa, Nigeria or Uganda, I want to see more concrete, no more lip service. Not just one office, proper structures. Also if you look at it, there is no Spotify in Nigeria and the only way you might be able to have it is if you’ve opened it here in London or anywhere else, otherwise we don’t have access to it. It doesn’t make sense and I don’t care about challenges, you need to get out there and make changes especially when 60% of the sound is coming from Nigeria right now; it doesn’t make any sense.
DJ Spinall wears jumper OFF-WHITE at WWW.MRPORTER.COM; trousers PARRIS LDN; trainers NIKE 270 at JD SPORTS; sunglasses and hat TALENT'S OWN
I want to see more general love and mutual respect for my fellow African artists. I see a few funny industry politics at concerts, when musicians are being put on certain stages, because you don’t think they have what it takes, however, back home they sell out stadiums; they are legends, they are kings, so I don’t agree with the silly politics and I just want for our people to be taken seriously. I realize these processes might take time, but I just want everyone to get along and work together smoothly. Because afro beats can change the world.
S.E: Why do you think afro beats has become such a popular global genre? Dj Spinall: The sound is unique. There are no gimmicks and there is nothing out there that sounds like it. Yes; you might hear something you think is similar but it will most likely have been influenced by afro beats. We stay fresh. We create tunes that make you want to dance and vibe. There is so much drama in the world and the afro beats we create for the world is to bring happiness; it's meant to be music that lasts and which is relatable. I think that the funny thing is; afro beats isn’t just about dance. There is a lot of conscious music being made today. 'If' by Wizkid is a true confession of love. There so many more amazing pieces of Afrobeat music. Once you start digging deeper into it, you find so much of it.
S.E: You’ve discussed that your music is about more than women with big bums, and you’ve even discussed Nigerian politics. Why do you think it’s important to do this? Dj Spinall: I feel like everyone in the creative space must use their power and influence to do positive things. We should talk about the reality of things because it is important that we be a voice to people who have no voice. That we create a platform to shed light into the real reality of things out there. As an example, not a lot of people would ever have the opportunity to fly out here and talk to the press about our country and what is going on there. Look at what Stormzy is doing. It is very important, as he is talking about issues like Grenfell towers and issues that are affecting people everyday. So many people died but no one is in jail and these are really deep and intense issues. Back home we have issues with police brutally too and it’s just so important that we talk about it. It doesn’t always have to be through your music, it can be through your actions, through your tweets, through your support, going out to campaign. Using your voice is fundamental to being alive in the first place.
DJ Spinall wears jacket GRAVALOT PARKA; hoodie CHAMPION at URBAN OUTFITTERS; jeans, trainer, sunglasses and hat TALENT'S OWN
S.E: Preach! As a young musician who cares about your peers and taking Nigerian music to the forefront; what do you think the biggest issues are? Dj Spinall: I think some of the issues are the same as the people on this side of the world. As the police are being a nuisance all over the world it’s not only Americans having issues. I just want to see more love, you know? You can be a police officer and share love, whilst still doing your job right. I think love is just missing. There is so much killing in the world and brutally towards black people, in America especially innocent people are just driving and then if pulled over, there is a high chance you won’t make it back to your family which is crazy and it comes down to the fact that you are black, nothing else. So these are serious conversations, that we can no longer keep quiet about. So if we can come together and talk about it, maybe just maybe, we will be able to get ahead of it.
S.E: This is so true. And you are brave to so boldly speak out about it. It is truly inspiring. Okay, so, when can we expect the fifth album? Sometime this year? Dj Spinall: Here comes this question again- [laughs] You know what, I don’t actually know. I am in a different mind space; I really don’t know but you can be assured there will always be music.
S.E: We are going to keep our eyes and ears open for that. I want to ask you about our first headline show in London- why have you called it PARTY OF YOUR DREAMS? Dj Spinall: This is a series of parties I throw back home. This is the fourth year of doing them and last year we received a lot of feedback like ‘this party looks lit.' and 'Bring this party to London!' However, it's expensive to do it. I don’t think people understand, you know? But the whole essence of 'Party of Your Dreams' is to promote a fun vibe where people are actually dancing. Having played at many parties, this is my opportunity to throw a party that I think is cool. I feel like I’ve been to too many concerts and they are always about and/or for the artists and I feel like they are missing the point there. DJs can bring on performances that make people sweat. People are exercising and enjoying themselves at the same time- [laughs] so my party is for networking, having fun and to enjoy the beautiful vibes.
DJ Spinall wears jackey HI-TEC; tracksuit DIESEL; sunglasses VINTZ SHOP; trainers and hat TALENT'S OWN
The best thing to witness at my events is when people arrive looking disheartened or sad, yet, they leave looking as though they have found new courage to deal with whatever is affecting them. They are in a better mind-space. That has to be the most rewarding thing for me; that people are going home a little lighter, their batteries are re-charged and they are ready to face the world.
S.E: You’ve toured the UK and the US so far; where would you like to go to next? Dj Spinall: Back to Africa. There are a few cities I am keen to visit. I love to travel to different parts of the continent as I learn something new each time. There are so many places, that people don’t even know exist and so many vibes to catch within them. I like to go back home and I am eager to bring people like you there, to experience the Africa that a lot of people don’t see. The people I have invited back there have said their experience has changed their lives. I think a lot of people look but we all see differently. Until people start to change and use their IQ’S when they look at things, they won’t get the most out of experiences. People need to change their perspectives. A person with a face tattoo can be as kind as a person with a shirt and tie. Perceptions about Africa need to change because there are people without as much as you but they have the purest hearts and the best vibes. It’s something that I can’t explain, so I want people to come and experience it.
S.E: That is something I would love to experience. I can see you like your fashion as well. What are your favorite designers of the moment? Are there any Nigerian brands that we should look out for? Dj Spinall: There are a lot of cool Nigerian brands out there. I really like Orange Culture, Swanky Jerry- who is a stylist that also designs pieces. Angelic Touch, Ayo Van Elmar and J Reason who has just taken all my money- [laughs] his stuff is really cool. The lady making my hats is Banke Kuku and she is my favorite female fashion designer from Nigeran.
DJ Spinall wears jacket GRAVALOT PARKA; hoodie CHAMPION at URBAN OUTFITTERS; jeans, sunglasses and hat TALENT'S OWN
S.E: Your signature hat; how did this look come about? Dj Spinall: I just love anything that is African. Something that reflects our culture is the cap. It is our way, so no matter what, whether I’m wearing Gucci or other designer brands, you will always see me in my cap of African print. It’s important to share the motherland swag, as we have style too. I am extremely proud of my culture; someone even stopped me on Oxford Street to ask if I got the cap in ZARA- [laughs] ‘Ah no this is from Africa!’ Our prints hold a lot of importance to us. I have caps from all over Africa, as each has its own story through the design. Each one in my collection reminds me of the place I got it and holds a lot of memories to me.
S.E: That's fantastic. So, in 2019. Can we expect any new collaborations? Dj Spinall: Yes. There are a few. I’ve been working with a few different artists from around the world. I’m excited for what the future holds, but for now taking it one day at a time!
S.E: Last but not least; favorite F-word? Dj Spinall: Definitely Food & Fashion, these are my go to!
Words Sophie Emmett
Photography Jake Hateley
Fashion Jen Eleto