DELE Sosimi singer and former member of Fela Kuti’s Eqypt 80 band came to the UK to deal with a family matter but ended up staying.
In the years that followed he struggled to make a name in the UK music scene despite a stellar repertoire, but almost two decades later, he tells The Voice he has no regrets.
“I’ve come to realise you have to work hard to get recognition,” said the 49-year-old.
“I’ve built a strong following and I’m still independent because I chose not to be signed to any big label. I’m master of my own destiny."
He is indeed in charge of his own fate.
Dele owns all rights to his music, but life could have had a very different outcome if it hadn’t been for one chance meeting.
Meeting a legend
Not long after the assassination of his father, as a young boy on the verge of manhood, Dele met the man who later became a mentor and a friend: Afrobeat maestro Fela Kuti.
“Fela taught me so much. He introduced me to books, arts, music, politics and so much more,” Dele recalls of the legendary musician.
“I look at the positivity in his music, of his message and how what he spoke about is still prevalent in most African countries today."
To mark 16 years since Kuti passed away from health complications linked to the his HIV/Aids diagnosis, Dele plans to celebrate his friend's life by going into schools and teaching children about the Kuti legacy.
“I’m doing the groundwork now because I want to go into more schools next year to talk about Fela, present and perform the music to teach young people about Afrobeat,” he shares.
Referring to music of today, Dele says he often feels bad for the younger generation.
“Only certain music genres and artists are played on the radio. Never the underground and unknown artists - so where do you expect these kids to know about other types of exciting music that moves them?” he asks.
Afrobeat vs Afro pop
“Afrobeat is very deep and special and it is not commercial,” Dele says, as he tries to explain the difference between D’Banj’s massive radio hit Oliver Twist and what he considers to be 'the real deal'.
"Look for a Fela Kuti album, a Dele Sosimi album, a Seun and Femi Kuti album and find one track and listen to it. That’s what Afrobeat is. It is the combination of what we Africans have been through, where we are today and where we want to be,” the father-of-six adds.
These days Dele is celebrating the fourth anniversary of Afrobeat Vibration, an annual live London-based Afrobeat session.
“It has given younger musicians a platform to come and sit and play with us; an outlet where they can express themselves,” Dele says.
The man who expected to stay in the UK for a short month but ended up setting up home for almost 17 years says he is just happy to still be doing what he loves.
"The appreciation from my fans is testimony that what I am doing works and it encourages me to keep on. They teach me not to pay mind to the naysayers who tell me my music isn’t original because I’m based in the UK or because I have white players in my band."
You can catch Afrobeat Vibration with Dele Sosimi, Afrobeat Orchestra on November 24 at The New Empowering Church, 1A Westgate Street, Hackney, London, E8 3RL. Doors open at 9pm and tickets cost £12 at the door.
For more information visit Afrobeat Vibration