Kobi Onyame: 'I wanted to capture the call-and-response elements that are common with traditional Highlife'
- Ross McIndoe
- 17 October 2018
Glasgow-based Ghanaian hip-hop artist reflects on his hugely successful year and plans ahead
It is very rare that a star is born in the true Hollywood fashion: plucked out of anonymity to share centre-stage, bursting into existence all at once. Mostly, that's not how it happens.
The name Kobi Onyame has been floating around for a while now, drifting in and out of the mainstream orbit. He opened for Kanye West in Edinburgh in 2007, performed on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury in 2009 and spent the following years supporting the Wu Tang Clan, De La Soul and Nas.
The last year, though, has seen his name recurring at a much higher frequency. His latest album GOLD garnered glowing reviews, then a nomination for the Scottish Album of the Year award (SAY), then a nomination in the Scottish Alternative Music awards (SAMA).
Drawing from a life split between London and Ghana, GOLD harmonises the triumphant sound of West African Highlife music and spoken word poets, alongside modern, Grime-inflected sounds and his own protean voice, which shifts naturally from slick, sharp London tones into a deeper African burr. 'I wanted to capture the sound of traditional Highlife on my album whilst keeping a hip hop undertone.' Kobi explains. 'The afrobeat movement is so huge now but I wanted to capture the call-and-response elements that are common with traditional Highlife.'
One of the brightest points in a luminescent year came when Kobi performed at Malawi's Lake of Stars festival in September, an experience he describes as 'Probably the most fun I've had on stage!'. Designed as a way to both celebrate African music and bolster Malawi through tourism, the Lake of Stars is also supported by Creative Scotland and has served as an invaluable cultural connection between the two countries for over a decade now.
In Malawi, he performed alongside Dundonian pop star Be Charlotte, Kenyan megastars Sauti Sol and the globe-trotting US trio Major Lazer. As an artist blending West African, English and Scottish elements into a sound that could carry him around the world, it's hard to think of a more fitting stage for him to crown an incredible year on.
With the successes of the last 12 months receding behind him, Kobi's gaze is firmly fixed on the road ahead: 'I'm currently in the early process of recording new music which I hope to release next year. The plan is to take the music to a lot more stages in the next 12 months, release new music and nurture new talent.'
Now might be a good time to commit the name Kobi Onyame to memory. You'll be hearing it again.