Osunlade is truly one-of-a-kind. The inimitable label owner, musician, producer and internationally recognized DJ differentiates himself from the rest with his approach to music, his faith and where he finds inspiration. As an ordained Yoruba priest and follower of the Ifa culture, Osunlade is a deeply spiritual individual connected to both nature and art.
His music as well as his being creates unified melodies manifested with balance, life and wisdom. He is a producer/DJ who truly understands house music and its many forms. He has time and time again produced work that epitomised and drew on his wealth of experience by creating something truly special. Osunlade has also been hailed as somebody who simply perfects a fusion of soulful, rich and engaging musical elements with simple, tech edged rhythms and production.
So when we heard that his next album release Pyrography was to be his very last one in his illustrious discography (and it’s been nearly four years since he has graced us with an original full length house album – his last was Elements Beyond in 2007), we thought it best to hit him up as a way of commemorating the unconquerable imprint he’ll be leaving the House community with.
“This is really the last House album I’ll ever do,” he says as I connect with him over the phone at home in Greece. “I’ve decided to stop because it’s time. I also think I’ve done enough for myself in the last twelve years working with House music. I have created a very decent ‘discography package’ that will illustrate my contribution to the genre. I mean there are only thirteen notes and how many times can one recreate the same thirteen notes (laughs). I wanna leave something that matters to me and not just do what is expected”.
Speaking to him I immediately get the impression of a guy with a cool and very lucid and eloquent demeanour simply by the manner in which he picks his words and conveys his thoughts. This makes me believe that the decision to ‘hang up his records’ came from a very sincere place indeed.
“I actually had made this decision quite a while ago, say four or five years back, but I guess the complacent guy in me was a bit hesitant to actually action it out,” he elaborates. “Over this time I’ve seen the industry evolve into a space or picture where I don’t see myself featuring in – besides as they say you get to appreciate and respect something the most when it ceases to exist”.
Researching more and more about Osunlade it soon became apparent to me that he’s the type of artist who has always made his own way in the music industry without following any pre-determined rules and was very much fuelled by passion for what he was doing. Deciding he would no longer work under the influences of corporate ideals and demands, he chose to quiet himself, find spiritual solace and honour his soul. This led him to Ifa, a naturalist ancestral culture based on divination, deriving from the Yoruba tribes of Africa.
“I don’t understand why people are shocked that I’m discontinuing my ‘House music work’. Quite frankly I do not care what they… everybody thinks,” he exclaims. “As I have said I have done a lot of music projects and Dance music has not only been the core of the work I’ve done, for me it has been that personal emotion that’s embodied in the music itself (in its general sense) and I feel I now need to channel that emotion into something else”. He pauses, then continues after giving his last remarks some thought, “Perhaps that’s also part of the reason why I’m leaving the game; everybody and anybody is a DJ and Producer now. It’s now about ‘I wanna be a superstar DJ’ and less and less about interpreting the feeling that emanates from the sound itself. You see I grew up in the 70’s… an era where music was explored in its original format, where you found guys like Barry White playing and singing in an orchestra exploring and finding joy out of the music notes themselves”.
It’s no wonder then that he’s in such high demand for production and remixes from labels and artists worldwide, I find myself thinking as he speaks. His passion is in Yoruba Records; maintaining its reputation for its unparallel quality in music. With its own family of talented producers and artists developing and bridging sound and cultures, the labels’ evolution is endless and bright.
“I receive tons and tons of promos and remix requests from South African producers, and it’s amazing how House music has manifested itself within the industry down there. This is where it becomes imperative that South African artists take care and show more responsibility to the House sound itself; you guys are currently ‘holding the ball’ when it comes to House music worldwide.” “I personally would like to see artists in South Africa invest a lot of effort in studying music, the sensibilities of the sound, listening to an array of sounds and knowing what the music is about. I say this because when I listen to the sound coming from SA (in fact everywhere) it’s the same ‘formulaic pattern’ over and over again. By having a culture of researching music it’ll allow your artists and producers to expand their understanding of the sounds that in turn will add a lot of ‘health’ into the House music genre – besides SA is the only country I know that respects and enjoys House music as it is”.
In addition to his latest album, Osunlade has teamed up with the amazing talent of Australian pyrography artist Scott Marr to create an original art experience much like the days when the two forms, art and music were one. The two have created a new view of the Yoruba Orisha Deities to accompany the sound and feel of the music. Pyrography translates to ‘painting with fire’ in which all the works are composed in an ancient fashion of painting onto canvas or paper with flames or hot objects like fire pokers. It is a truly magical process which creates earthy natural tones with actual flames and without using any brush strokes. All the materials used in the artwork have been sourced from nature and are wholly organic. It is a true celebration of the organic meeting the synthetic, and art meeting music.
What the future holds for Osunlade is unclear. Right now he is definite about one thing and one thing only; Pyrography is his last House album. He tells me he has taken up photography but does not elaborate too much, although closer inspection on his website reveals an array of interestingly photographed images available for purchase, all signed and numbered by him with an official Yoruba seal. One thing is for sure; Osunlade is a creative being and anything he sets his mind to is bound to be filled with the same love and care as his wonderful music that has graced our dancefloors all these years.
Written By Nduduzo ‘Smalz’ Ngobese