“I also consider myself a versatile musician. At a recent function for MTN, I noticed there were lots of foreigners so I ended up playing songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra and co.”

Femi Odewole

Femi Odewole is a guitarist, musician and leader of a popular highlife group, The Guitar Band. While studying Chemical Engineering at the Ladoke Akintola University, Femi had the opportunity of playing for popular names like Jimi Solanke and Gbenga Adenuga and from that point on, he never looked back. Even though he releases singles from time to time, most recent being Unlimited Ariya, Femi Odewole prioritizes his crooning efforts on his juju/highlife band and owambe events. We recently sat down with the man as he describes his brand of music, why he wants to fuse modern music with the old and why music bands in Nigeria don't get as much recognition as they deserve.

When did you develop an interest in music?

Music for me started since my childhood when I grew up listening to the likes of Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade. Even though I enjoyed other artistes as Coolio, Kool and the Gang, Mark Morrison and such, it was highlife and juju that really sparked my interest. Later on, I would go to the department of music in Obafemi Awolowo University to play and also learn from the students there. Truth is at that point, I never knew that I would one day have a band of my own.

What made you start your own band?

I was 21 when I decided to form my band. Before then, I was playing for the legendary Jimi Solanke and later, Gbenga Adenuga. Before forming the band, I decided that I wanted to do things differently so I started rehearsing different old English songs and playing them with African beats. Afterwards I recruited people in my age group with the same vision and told them what I was trying to do. It was not easy in the beginning but things smoothened out eventually.

What makes your music different?

What makes me different is that I try to mix both new generation music and classic ones together. I also consider myself a versatile musician. At a recent function for MTN, I noticed there were lots of foreigners so I ended up playing songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra and co.

What is your genre of music called?

I call it Crossover music. It is a blend of different genres ranging from R&B to reggae but still borders on highlife and juju. This means I focus more on live performance but I do release singles from time to time. I however consider myself a contemporary highlife musician rather than a juju artiste.

Which instruments do you play?

Professionally, I play both the lead and bass guitar but I am also quite proficient on the drums and keyboard.

Which kind of events do you play at?

I love weddings so I do a lot of that but I'm also into corporate events for companies, birthday parties, burials and so on. If it is an owambe, you will surely find us there…(laughs)

What’s your take on the highlife/juju band culture in Nigeria?

Bands in Nigeria tend to survive largely on referrals since they don’t have the commercial appeal of artistes on TV. When it comes to contemporary highlife, I can say we are not many in Ibadan and the few that are around don’t get the recognition they deserve.

You are also an indie artiste too right?

Yes. I have been writing personal songs for a while now. My first single was titled Africa and the most recent is Unlimited Ariya which is a fusion of Calypso and highlife. I release singles because I also enjoy doing that.

Which do you enjoy most between playing with your band and studio time?

I prefer live performances most as they are much more fun for me.

What habit do you have that has brought to where you are today?

Consistency! I don’t care if there is money, I love to work.

What do you like best about Ibadan?

I love the fact that the cost of living in Ibadan is not much, with little amount, one could be comfortable to an extent.

Which is your favourite Amala place in Ibadan?

I like amala a lot and my favorite place is Skye lolo (beside Sky Bank). I drive from Oluyole to the place almost every time.

How do you relax in Ibadan?

Most of the time I relax with my family but sometimes I go out with my family to the cinema or Chinese restaurant.

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