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Dele Sosimi On 'You No Fit Touch Am,' His First Album In Nearly A Decade

We speak with afrobeat ambassador Dele Sosimi and premiere the stream of his new LP 'You No Fit Touch Am,' his first in nearly 10 years.


Dele Sosimi is one of the leading forces carrying the torch of afrobeat. A longtime keyboardist for Fela Kuti‘s Egypt 80, bandleader for Femi Kuti‘s Positive Force, and the founder of his own orchestra, Sosimi is preparing the release of his new album 'You No Fit Touch Am,' a 7-track collection of compositions that are steeped in socio-political messages and showcase classic 1970s Lagos songwriting. Okayafrica spoke with Sosimi via e-mail about the concept behind the new full-length, his first in almost a decade. Read our interview with Dele Sosimi and stream our premiere of 'You No Fit Touch Am,' due May 25 on Wah Wah 45s, below.

Okayafrica: Tell us a little about the background of You No Fit Touch Am? How did it come about and what's the concept behind it?

Dele Sosimi: [The] Literal meaning is “You cannot touch it.” On a conceptual level "the thing is too cool," "too tasty to be messed with," "you can't even come close," "it is beyond you." "The jam just baaad," "don't look at it with common eye," with regards to what I do, what we do, the experience we provide, the spirit of music. You can feel it, hear it, dance to it, be hypnotized, captivated, entranced and transformed positively or negatively and in some cases healed by it, sometimes also catch a glimpse of it in your mind's eye. [It's] based on Afrobeat Vibration, my bi-monthly event in London over the past six years (now in its seventh), where this realization became apparent following observations [and] feedback... resulting in the inspiration to write a song acknowledging the powers of the spirit or spirits you can't touch. It is also a clarion call to allow your self the luxury of being musically moved, grooved, rocked, funked, shocked, bathed, clothed and cleansed instead of resisting and hating.

OKA: How come it took 10 years for you to release another full-length?

DS: Having self-produced and self-released Turbulent Times and Identity, I had made up my mind the third time around would have to wait for the right conditions, [the] right record label at the right time with an offering of a clear development of the afrobeat idiom... an important restatement of what afrobeat is about, in the current scene where the term is used quite indiscriminately (and unfortunately confused with the rather more superficial “afrobeats”). I strongly believe this is now the case.

OKA: What message does the album title You No Fit Touch Am carry?

DS: It has a multi-faceted possibility of messages depending on which angle you look at it from. Spiritually: be open, tolerant and aware, appreciative and humble. Musically: there is a jewel of infinity contained here that will most likely be missed by many, who lack the ability to see the greatness in small things. On the other hand, beauty will be discovered and found here by many.

OKA: What are the socio-political influences behind the album's songwriting?

DS: Mainly the state of things worldwide today with songs like "Na My Turn" (elections worldwide with special attention on so-called democracy in Africa pre and post elections), “E Go Betta” (despite facing abject poverty the admirable spirit of resilience and resolve to carry on [and] soldier on with the song of hope for a better tomorrow), “We Siddon We Dey Look” (Ferguson incidents, Boko Haram, ISIS and most recently xenophobia), “Where We Want Be” (the intolerance prevalent in world society with the message being bring love back BIG TIME!), “Sanctuary” (in line with Fela’s “Music is the weapon of the future” message — in this case music being the 'Sanctuary' where you recharge your batteries to keep on) and “You No Fit Touch Am” as earlier indicated.

OKA: What do you think of the state of afrobeat today?

DS: I hardly think about it. I just appreciate the worldwide appeal, appreciation, influence and continuum as much as possible and, where practical, play a number of roles based on my commitment, understanding and experience.

Pre-order Dele Sosimi's 'You No Fit Touch Am' on Bandcamp and iTunes

Dele Sosimi Live Dates

Afropfingsten - 24th May ~ Switzerland

The Bullingdon - 29th May ~ Oxford

Album Launch - Afrobeat Vibration – 30th May ~ London

FMM Sines - 22nd July ~ Portugal

Afrobeat Vibration - 25th July ~ London

Horniman Museum and Gardens - 30th July - Dele Sosimi Quartet

Dimensions Festival - 28th -30th August ~ Croatia

Afrobeat Vibration - 26th September ~ London

Felabration - 16th October ~ London

Afrobeat Vibration - 28th November ~ London

Photos

This Is What London’s Felabration Looked Like

London was one of the first cities in the world this year to celebrate Felabration, the annual tribute to the legacy of Fela Kuti. View our photo gallery

London was one of the first cities in the world this year to celebrate Felabration, the annual tribute to the legacy of Fela Kuti timed around his October 15th birthday.

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Events

Celebrate the Legacy of Fela Kuti at London's 'Felabration' With Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra + Very Special Guests

Presenting London Felabration 2016 featuring the Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra and very special guests.

Every year we celebrate the life and legacy of Fela Kuti through Felabrations held in major cities across the globe.

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5 Women Doing Amazing Things Behind the Scenes in South African Hip-Hop

Behind every successful South African rapper of the last decade is a woman helping to get ish done. Helen Herimbi spoke to a few of them.

South African hip-hop had a great run in the last decade. As we start a new era, it's important to highlight the women who have played a pivotal role in the growth of the genre.

​Thuli Keupilwe

Thuli Keupilwe is the founder of LAWK Communications, an artist booking and representation agency that now works closely with the likes of DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small.

But she's not all about the yanos. Thuli has worked with urban music brands like Dreamteam SA and Homecoming Events, but in 2016, she cast her booking agent net wider and started LAWK Communications where she worked with DJs Capital and Sliqe.

The following year, Thuli received a phone call that would force her to level up. "Boom," she exclaims. "February 2017. PJay from B3nchMarQ called me. I was the one that pushed A-Reece to get onto his first Maftown Heights around 2014 and we're all from Pretoria so I'd known them since forever."

B3nchMarQ and A-Reece were gearing up to leave Ambitiouz Entertainment and when she agreed to be their booking agent, Thuli hadn't anticipated how much it would stretch her. Partly because the artists weren't initially permitted to perform their own songs—problematic for an agent who is meant to book them for gigs.

"I didn't see that coming at all," she says. "I was going up against the big guys, people I looked up to. I realized I needed to get a lawyer." Eventually, the artists were legally permitted to gig. "I had one of my biggest years with Reece after that. I am still with him till today."

A-Reece had managed to amass an enviable fan base size mostly from his online and streaming presence. Thuli works closely with him and counts using A-Reece's "Rich" song in a sync deal with the gambling website BET.co.za as a milestone in their partnership. "It was a good check," she chuckles. "And he was being himself and that's the most important thing to me."

Kay Faith

Authenticity has been the drive behind Kay Faith's work. The Cape Town-based engineer, producer and budding vocalist began her career behind the boards during sessions for the likes of Yasiin Bey, Nasty C and E-Jay.

She put out her own EP, In Good Faith, in 2017, and in 2018, she became the first female producer in the world to be featured on Apple Music's New Artist Spotlight.

She has also given us hip-hop bangers like "Slam Dunk" by Da L.E.S and YoungstaCPT. The latter is a frequent collaborator of hers. So much so that when his album 3T won the Best Album category at this year's South African Hip Hop Awards, she felt it was a win for her too. Especially since projects she'd worked on had been nominated and lost before.

Read: Meet The Woman Engineering Your Favorite South African Hip-Hop Releases

"When we started [the song] 'YVR,' I had this emotional feeling that it would be something big for Cape Town," Kay excitedly says. "From recording to mixing to mastering and featuring as a vocalist on 'The Cape of Good Hope' and 'KAAPSTAD NAAIER,' I was behind all of 3T. I even co-produced the 'Pavement Special' intro and the 'Outro' with Chvna.

"We spent 11 months crafting and him trying to get it to be perfect so it was a surreal feeling when we won Album of the Year. I even sent out a tweet saying: 'Can we just take a moment to realize that the South African Hip Hop Album of the Year was entirely engineered by a woman?'"

Kay's upcoming album, Antithesis is slated for a 2020 release. "It's going to be the first album of its kind, I believe," she says. "And I'm really trying to play with that idea of being the antithesis of hip-hop. I am a woman, an Afrikaans kid, in hip-hop. When I walk in, people don't expect me to be an engineer or a hip-hop producer and when I roll out my accolades, then they're like, 'damn, Kay's got game.' That reaction is what this album is about."

Phindi Matroshe

For Phindi Matroshe, the outside reaction to her work is not the most important thing. Phindi is a publicist and talent manager who owns At Handle, a PR and social marketing solutions firm. She was there before Nadia Nakai became a Reebok or Courvoisier ambassador and before she had sold-out ranges with Sportscene's Redbat.

She was also there when Nadia bagged a Best Female pyramid at the 2019 South African Hip Hop Awards. And she was right beside her when she scooped awards at AFRIMA 2019 for Best Artist, Duo or Group in African Hip Hop as well as Best Female Artiste: Southern Africa.

"Winning awards was never the mission," Phindi confesses. "Honestly, we have never done things to try and get awards. Nadia truly loves what she does and it feels great when that is acknowledged and someone pats us on the back for work we've done. I really love and respect what I do and don't see it as a job."

Having handled publicity for the likes of JR, Tumi Masemola (of Gang of Instrumentals), Shane Eagle, Major League DJs and more, Phindi pivoted to managing Nadia. She says: "Seeing the things we talk about come to life or when we're in the boardrooms signing those deals, those are personal milestones for me."

​Ninel Musson

Ninel Musson has been brokering some of hip-hop's biggest deals for over a decade. She co-owns Vth Season, a boutique full-service entertainment marketing agency with Raphael Benza.

A former party promoter and publisher of the wonted.co.za website, Ninel helped start a record label wing of Vth Season where AKA was their first signee. Together, they turned AKA into a mainstream success that the artist could bank on when he started the now defunct BEAM Group independent record label with Prince Nyembe in 2016.

Recently, Ninel and Benza, together with the Sony Music team, presented AKA with diamond and platinum plaques for several songs at a surprise dinner. "The music we went on to create became some of the best-selling records of all time in South Africa," Ninel says matter-of-factly. "When we started with him, the major labels said SA hip-hop would never go this far. We said we believed it would and then we did."

​Sibu Mabena

Cassper Nyovest seems to make it a point to work with women. In addition to Cassper's sisters running his Family Tree store, several Fill Up dates have seen PR maven, Sheila Afari at the helm. And while it's clear that the Fill Up series was always the brainchild of Cassper and his longtime friend and business partner, T-Lee Moiloa, bringing it to fruition has also included the skills and power of women behind the scenes. Women like Sibu Mabena, a multi-hyphenate creative entrepreneur who owns the Duma Collective.

"The day I landed back home from the EMAs, I went straight to The Dome," she remembers. "I said: 'yo, T-Lee, give me a job. I want to work on this thing.' He was like: 'bra, there's nothing for you to do.'" Sibu stuck around at the Dome, watching the production come together when a lightbulb went on in her head.

Read: Sibu Mabena Works Behind The Scenes in South African Hip-Hop, And She's Kicking Ass

"I thought: 'Cassper has 11 outfit changes. Who is helping him with those?' So Gareth Hadden from Formative, who was building the stage, said they needed someone to help with those changes. I forced myself into the Dome, and the next year I pitched to T-Lee to run the stage at Orlando Stadium. The following year was Fill Up FNB Stadium and there, I got a bigger job to run the talent operations. That's how we started doing the Fill Up Intern Search."

In the next decade of Mzansi hip hop, Sibu has her heart set on parties with a purpose. "All the things I have learnt along the way have led me to contribute to AKA's Fees For All Mega Concert," she shares. "I'm not coming on as just a creative or event organiser or marketer. It's demanding all of me. We're all tapping into a more philanthropic and less commercial role than we usually have so the pressure is that much greater."

There are plenty more women who've got game. From Lerato Lefafa, who has been a part of the team that brought us the SAHHAs and Back to the City to Bianca Naidoo who is a big part of Riky Rick's triumphant trajectory to women like Spokenpriestess, Caron Williams, Azizzar The Pristine Queen, Loot Love and way more who have, in the last decade, used their media platforms to lift up Mzansi hip-hop. In the next decade, women will still be a huge part of hip hop. It'll be interesting to see where that contribution takes the movement next.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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