Self-Portrait: Osunlade

A veteran DJ and producer, Osunlade has been crafting music for over three decades. Under both his own name and his inimitable Yoruba Soul alias he’s become synonymous with his ability to create entrancing raw percussive grooves. His productions are spiritual and organic, a characteristic that stems from his Yoruba traditions and his work as a priest of the Ifá religion.

This also feeds into the philosophy and mission of his label. Yoruba Records is deeply rooted in these traditions and has been a home for artists like Nadirah Shakoor, Boddhi Satva, Afefe Iku and Osunlade’s own material, which sits among his lengthy discography of releases for well-respected labels including strictly Rhythm, Rebirth, Talkin Loud, Souljazz and BBE.

To celebrate his latest release – two new remixes of Ayala (IT) ‘Sacred Piano’ – we invited him to record a mix for us which is made up of original Yoruba Soul material. This sits alongside an interview about his approach to production, his Yoruba practices and following the groove.

Osunlade’s Yoruba Soul remixes of Ayala (IT) are out on Sol Selectas.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

These pictures capture some of my earliest musical memories… 

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

I started playing piano at age 7, and from there I had several teenage cover bands.

What led you into music production?

I started writing music around the age of 12, picking up instruments from other bandmates as well as co-writing. It became clear that working alone was key to getting things done, as musicians usually don’t last long in band situations.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

Several, Prince was the main influence simply because I appreciated his independence and signature sound. He also did important cultural things to bring white and black people together, which in those days was unheard of, at least in my segregated town.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Not really, as I only create when I feel inspired, and never go to the studio with any intentions of trying to force the creative process. It has to be a mood or moment I’m trying to capture or a sound/idea that I’ve got in my head.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Sometimes, but mostly not, the only exceptions are when remixing.

Are you the type of artist to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

It really depends on the intent of the song. For an album or similar project, I definitely want to make it complete, but in no way am I a perfectionist. I appreciate the raw and more organic flow of things… that being said, I am known to have a song sitting for months or years before I revisit it.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

Most times it’s drums or rhythm that provide the starting point, then I’m looking for a sound or something obscure to add, if there is a vocal, then it’s often chords, but mainly it’s all about the rhythms to start.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

I’d say 90% is original, as I try to stay away from samples, as I can’t usually hear beyond the source where it came from. If I do use samples, then it usually chops or make small parts, but mostly I stay original as possible.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make an Osunlade / Yoruba Soul track?

Hmmm… probably the mood or feeling, most things are rhythmically chunky, but the tops are often soft and flowing. My music seems to attract a lot of women when it comes to getting people on the dance floor. Men seem to at first stand and listen while women don’t hesitate to start dancing. So, maybe it’s my choice of drum sounds, as those are always core to the groove.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Osunlade / Yoruba Soul material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

The mix is made mostly of remixes that I’ve done over the past few months. I love all the tracks equally, and I think they give a clear view of my variety, as I try to avoid getting stuck withing the boundaries of just one style.

You’re well-known for your remixes under Yoruba Soul, do you have a different approach in the studio with remixes compared to original material?

Yes, when remixing I usually never listen to the original, I usually just ask for the melody line or vocal, then work in my own sounds to create the remix.

How do you channel your own Yoruba practices into the music you’re making?

Yoruba is a daily thing, and not really a practice for me as much, as it’s the recognition of the balance I need to create in my life. Being in the moment, and accepting where you are in life is the most important thing for me. It’s understanding where I am, and how I want to manifest the next leg of my journey. Music is my diary, but all things derive from experiences, including words and almost anything that captures my interest.

You’ve just released a couple of Yoruba Soul remixes of Ayala (IT)’s track Sacred Piano, can you tell us about how the release came about?

Sabo is the label owner of Sol Selectas, and he sent me the track, as it’s signed to his record label. I got inspired by the live instrumentation elements it had, and felt inspired to create my own groove. I made two alternative versions with different percussive ideas.

Anything on the horizon for you or your own Yoruba Records?

Many things are upcoming for the label, one project I’m very proud of is Mr Flip’s album. 

It’s something I’ve mentored that’s quite different, as it’s sort of a new hip house venture. 

There’s also “Legacy” by OVEOUS and Don Kamares that’s being releasing on March 25th, and that’s a banger. There are also a few new Afefe Iku releases, and a new Osunlade house album called “Spectrum”. Kevin Reynolds is also dropping a debut album, and Anthony Nicholson is putting out his first release on the label, which will be titled “Nucelus Scene 1”. Nucelus Scene has remixes by myself featuring Miles Bonny. There’s more already being arranged, but those are the next wave of things.

01 Julie Pavoh “Weekend Ends” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
02 Reggie Dokes “Looking Back” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
03 IZY “They Don’t Care” (Yoruba Soul Mix) 
04 J.A.E. “Love Me Right” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
05 Sol Selecta “Sacred Piano” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
06 Loftsoul “Expansions” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
07 Charlotte Day Wilson “Stone Woman” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
08 Stan Zeff “Afrik Ami” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
09 Fred Everything “Alone Together” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
10 St Germain “Sure Thing” (Yoruba Soul Mix)
11 Kiochi Sakai “Wono” ft Afla Sackey (Yoruba Soul Mix)

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