“To be perfectly honest, I never developed a taste for music until I was about 15 years old. Like most kids growing up, my parents played music in the house. My father is a massive fan of Fela Kuti and he knows every lyric and horn riff in all of Fela’s work. My mother is a big fan of highlife and juju music, musicians like Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade and I.K Dairo. I just let it all wash over me growing up, until our neighbour’s son whom I looked up to growing up, sparked my interest in music. He introduced me to hip-hop and for about two years after that I tried really hard to be a rapper. I got to know a lot of the rappers in my part of London, and spent a lot of time enjoying the marriage between hip-hop and basketball. I guess my lyrics were ok because they rhymed and my use of the English language was fairly ok but never inspired.
“One day I got into a lot of trouble with some local kids and mum said something along the lines of, ‘Right, that’s it. You will follow me to choir rehearsal every Saturday evening’. I guess that was the only day that I had room enough to get into trouble. Every other day was a school day or church on Sundays; this was her way of keeping an eye on me and keeping me from wreaking havoc on the family name. I remember attending a few of the rehearsals and thinking how lame and uncool everybody was, they didn’t even know about hip-hop or basketball.
“After about three weeks, I arrived at the rehearsal to find two young boys around my age playing in the church band, one playing bass and the other guitar. I was mesmerised, I always thought only adults could do that. The older of the two boys pulled me aside and asked if I was interested in learning to play the guitar, I nodded and he showed me two chords. I took to it almost instantly; I believe that is the moment when everything changed. At this point I was about 17 years old and just starting my A-levels. I would run home every day from college to spend as much time as I could playing the guitar.
“The kid who had been playing bass was Michael Olatuja, the bass player and composer. We came up together after that and I just remember my whole world suddenly lit up; I could not only hear the music around me, I could feel it. After a while I knew what was happening harmonically and melodically in all that highlife and Afrobeat I had grown up listening to. I was introduced to jazz through the music of George Benson. As soon as I heard his playing I knew I had to be something like that, it was like I had joined some sort of members only club. One in which the only way to stay a member was to practise hard every day. That’s exactly what I have been doing and here I find myself today.”
Thanks to Femi Temowo for the latest in our series of artist blogs. Femi’s new album Orin Meta is out now on FemiTone Records (check out that cover!) and you can catch him playing live at The Forge, Camden (28th Oct 2011) and the 606 Club, Chelsea with Adriano Adewale as part of the London Jazz Festival (16th Nov 2011).