To celebrate this exciting announcement we asked our friend, music journalist/documentary maker and founder of On The Corner Records, Mr Pete Buckenham, to dig deep and tell you all about the legendary Dele Sosimi…

Dele Sosimi signs

There’s been some big news coming out from Wah Wah 45s HQ of late. As the label celebrates its 15th birthday, an opportunity is presented to reflect, take stock and look ahead to the future. Signing Afrobeat King Dele Sosimi is a statement of intent for what’s to come.

Ramping up a label that’s renowned for its parties, cross-cutting genres and a catalogue inflected with soul, is not a task to be baulked at. The Wah Wah 45s team have stepped up to the challenge with the latest acquisition to their eclectic stable.

In preparation for the announcement, Dom and Adam invited me to write a few words, something I don’t need to be asked twice. I met Dele on Dom’s Radio show earlier this year and had the opportunity to hear more of his tales. I also caught up with him as he sound-checked on the tour of Ginger Baker’s A Drummer’s Tale – not my average Saturday afternoon – and at the end of the day I was certain Wah Wah45s’ party fire was to be well and truly stoked. I was also, in equal measure, relieved and disappointed at coming away unscathed from an encounter with ‘the terrible’ Mr Baker.

I learnt the lines and told Fela I could play, ‘really? Go on then’ he said

On the radio with Dom, Dele recounted how he had stepped up to Fela with the intent of sharing his stage – “I learnt the lines and told Fela I could play, ‘really? Go on then’ he said”. His skills and nerve held, and from eventually becoming musical director of Fela’s band to leading the Afrobeat orchestra in the acclaimed Fela stage show at the National Theatre, it has never let him down since.

We discussed the set he was to play with Ginger later that day and it was clear his hunger and belief had grown with him. He had been brought into A Drummers Tale to play on Egbe Mi O, from Fela Kuti’s Live! album featuring Ginger Baker and Tony Allen; a legendary piece of recorded history.

Dele confirmed “I’m playing on one, Egbe”, he took a breath and quickly followed with “I’ll play on no more than two”, his broad grin subsided into a languid, thoughtful look. I witnessed Dele getting caught in a reflection of self that he settled with and then the wry revelation emerged, “I think I’ll do three.”  The assured young pup that jumped on to Fela’s stage is still there in bounds, and that drive, passion and desire to entertain is still at the heart of the man.

Dele has a bunch of accolades and unique qualifications. Schooled and raised in Fela Anikulapo’s limelight and stages of the 70s and 80s, he was exposed to people like Dizzy Gillespie at the Jazz club of Nigeria. He was still a young man when sharing Fela’s Glastonbury stage in 1984, and became both Musical Director for both Fela and Femi Kuti and a cornerstone of The Positive Force’s sound.

Dele returned from Nigeria two decades ago (he was born in Hackney and left when he was just four-years-old) and has since carved, with diligent patience, his own Afrobeat crown. His Afrobeat Vibration all-nighters are charged with his passion, labours and life. The night is a staple in London’s party calendar and delivers Fela classics alongside his own compositions from two studio albums, Turbulent Times, and Identity.

A New Chapter

If a melody starts rolling I’ll loop it for a few days then leave it alone. Not in a hurry, let it marinade then switch it on later. If I like it I’ll take it to the band, then the live experience can go take it in any direction – I learnt that from Fela…

As a new chapter dawns, Wah Wah 45s & Dele are the party professionals, conducting nights of guaranteed quality and authentic good times – It’s in their music, spirit and soul. Dele’s invocation is of party evolution rather than a political riot. “I love the live thing man, I like Wah Wah 45s’ attitude. They want the best and the real me, they said ‘do your thing, let’s hear it, let’s get it out there’… they’re like minded and represent diverse bands and serious musicians”.

Dele’s excited by the future and lives his art form in constant evolution. His writing process and inspiration has developed as he has gained life experience. “If a melody starts rolling I’ll loop it for a few days then leave it alone. Not in a hurry, let it marinade then switch it on later. If I like it I’ll take it to the band, then the live experience can go take it in any direction – I learnt that from Fela… Playing at the Shrine (Fela’s legendary club spot in Lagos, Nigeria) was heaven and can’t be replicated.” Dele’s enthusiasm is complemented by a supporting orchestra that believe in the project and allow him the freedom to create.

King Of London’s Afrobeat

He talks with the analogy of the creative tap and not forcing those drips but to get a recliner and wait, “I don’t know it’s there until it comes out. I write naturally when sitting at a piano – a line, idea or sentence, slowly playing with the building blocks…if it’s gushing then get me a bucket and another – I‘m innit for that ride.” He’s philosophically calm and brimming with self-confidence “if it ain’t happening move on, wait or keep at it….. Eureka, there it is.”

Spiritual brother to Femi and a surrogate son to Fela, Dele is the scamp that hustled onto the master’s stage, matured with force and  now lives his own legend. He is the king of London’s Afrobeat and with hand-picked, like-minded musicians, represents the song and party of the city’s melting pot – London simply swings to Dele’s beat and his Orchestra’s vibrations.

Check Dele’s interview with Dom below, plus live dates that include a return to Soundwave Festival in Croatia, where Dele and his Orchestra have been voted back as a crowd favourite, and his first major show with Wah Wah 45s at The Jazz Cafe on August 29th.

Conversations 33 – Dele Sosimi interview by Wah Wah 45s on Mixcloud