Hypnotic Afro-Caribbean Sounds Meet Manchester’s Underground Club Scene | Obeka
Obeka’s music seamlessly blends the Manchester underground club scene with the hypnotic powers of Afro-Caribbean moods and atmospheres. The result is a powerful, hypnotic music mantra that sounds altogether primaeval and futuristic, exuding a mystical force that makes Obeka’s tracks truly stand out.
Born in Bermuda but having lived in Manchester since he was 16, Obeka has been able to masterfully combine the ancestral energy of his native land’s rhythms with the bass music that galvanises UK dancehalls.
And so was born an addictive Afro-electronic vibe that amalgamates electronic beats, West African percussions, and intricate electronic layers that speak volumes of Obeka’s skills as producer and percussionist.
Obeka’s work focuses on studying the intersections between cultures, and thanks to the support of MIF Sounds, he’ll be able to expand his sonic palette further and blend sounds from South America, Africa, the Caribbean, and the UK into his new works.
From Bermuda to Manchester, your sound is a really intriguing blend of cultures. What do culture and identity mean to you?
My culture and identity from Bermuda gave me an early understanding of how to express my artistic imagination from a very young age. It is my most accessible inspiration as it’s all I’ve ever known and trusted. This realisation also gave me a regular motive to work with other creatives who share and respect a similar importance of heritage.
The pandemic really posed a challenge for creatives who depended on live events and tours to further their career. How has the pandemic affected your work and process? What’s the biggest lesson you’re taking away from that experience?
The pandemic allowed me to chip away at the existing obstacles to my art. After leaving hospitality work, I focused primarily on drum percussion, music writing, and poetry. During the lockdowns, I had the opportunity to work more on my creativity, which enabled more consistency and better workflow with finishing projects, time management, and technical skill sets required to give the content a polished result.
How does it feel to be included in the second round of MIF Sounds artists? What do you hope to achieve with their support?
It’s an incredible boost for my career, especially after a global pandemic! Opportunities like this provide great support and confidence many artists need to push on in this industry, so it’s a huge blessing.
I aspire to complete my largest musical output since I began making music alongside highly prosperous collaborations with artists based in Brazil and Portugal!
How did you find your sound? What was that journey like?
My first musical exposure was the never-ending sound system, drumming, and DJ radio culture back home in Bermuda. As I got older, I’d always create drum progressions and notes which were never recorded yet always stuck with me. After discovering recording tools and computer programming as a teenager, I finally understood the process and self-taught myself to apply this musical library to a digital/live medium.
And how would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard your work?
My sound is basically experienced as a week-long trip throughout the Caribbean Islands during carnival season. It’s lively, hot, culturally mixed sounds that make you want to dance and journey into outer space at the same time.
In your experience, what’s been the biggest barrier as an emerging creative?
The biggest challenge as an independent artist is productivity and focus.
The most difficult aspect is to financially keep afloat when heavy amounts of time and investment never really pay themselves off unless funded by labels, commissions or commercially produced. These come around here and there, however, it’s all the drive and effort in between which is so important – and can prolong for months before other people can fully support you. The motivation you find is vital to every process.
How does your visual design background influence your sound?
Throughout my travels and relocation to the UK I discovered that visual happenings I see or create have a similar reaction sonically – they run parallel and manifest together, therefore, creating a language I use on a daily basis. It provides constant inspiration and confidence to try new and different things every chance I get.
How do you personally discover new music or artists? Are there any local artists, events, or trends that you want to share with everyone?
I discover music by researching online platforms and music forums like Pan African Music, Worldwide FM and NTS Radio whilst placing myself in physical spaces as much as I can manage. Environments which have had the most impact are White Hotel, Band On The Wall and SOUP in Manchester alongside Hope House + Cosmic Slop in Leeds which I recently visited!
What excites you the most about The Factory opening in Manchester?
The most exciting elements created by The Factory are the vital spaces, support, and facilities provided for the endangered grassroots that thrive in Manchester. As a promoter, we’ve found that high-standard music spaces are becoming fewer and fewer, with endless closures due to the events’ climate. The Factory will be immense for current and upcoming creatives around the Northwest.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to the next generation of emerging artists?
It is essential to always trust and grow your artistic identity.
Finding alternatives to fund yourself through grants, commissions, and collaborations will make you regularly active and can massively improve what you dish out without having to drop or drift away from what you love purely because of monetary income. Yet from experience, a 5-year bar job is something you may have to grind out on the side so be tactical when needed!
Tell us about what you’ve got in store this year.
Currently, I’m travelling for arts and music research in Cuba this summer which I’ve been working towards for a very long time. Alongside this project, I’m building more A/V live shows focusing on percussive and electronic fusions within Afro-Caribbean music styles such as Dembow, Dancehall and Kuduro. Plus, tons of networking and collaborating which is always my most insightful process!
Rising Sounds: in a collaborative series between Sound of Life and Manchester International Festival, we’re visiting MIF Sounds: an incubation programme for some of the UK’s most promising emerging creatives. Join us as we explore the unbound creativity of Manchester – sometimes hidden, sometimes on the fringes – from corners brought to the light by MIF Sounds.
Cover Credits: Manchester International Festival & wacomka/Shutterstock
Writer | Marco Sebastiano Alessi
Marco is an Italian music producer, composer and writer. He’s the founder of Naviar Records, a music community and record label exploring the connection between experimental electronic music and traditional Japanese poetry.