AMONG THE MANY by-products of the Azonto era is the birth of a genre which is unmistakably Ghanaian. The Azonto breeze blew across many continents resulting in many articles written and documentaries made in its honour. It nearly led to an ownership war between Ghana and Nigeria, thanks in part to Chris Brown’s mis-education and mis-representation of Azonto history.
Another by-product is that it offered many new artistes, hitherto described ‘underground’ to break into the limelight. The Azonto era blurred the line between who a credible musician is and who is not. Some talents were discovered for what they stand for; what they are made of. Others ‘died’ out like leaves in the dry season. They went as they came.
One of the artistes who rode at the back of the Azonto wind to win the hearts and minds of Ghanaians and other global fans, and by extension, helped put Azonto on the global music scene is FUSE ODG.
The 26 -year old Ghanaian born and London bred Fuse ODG- christened Richard Nana Abrima- busted onto the Ghanaian music scene with his hit track Azonto which featured Itz Tiffany and produced by KillBeatz in 2013.
Azonto peaked to Number 30 on the UK Singles Chart. That song catapulted Fuse ODG from a relatively known artiste into the glowing lights of stardom. He became a global brand.
To cement his new found status and not suffer the bug of ‘one hit wonder’, he churned out a series of chart topping songs. His biggest single came by way of Antenna, which saw WyClef Jean of the now defunct Fugees guest featuring on the remix.
Antenna, also produced by KillBeatz established Fuse ODG as a force in the afro beat circles. The song peaked at No. 7 on the UK Singles Charts and the Irish singles chart at 85. Before long, he released yet another top charting single Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad).
His T.I.N.A (This Is New Africa) album, set for release this year features another banger Dangerous Love which features international dancehall act, Sean Paul.
These are successes one cannot gloss over (the awards and nominations are an attestation) and for Fuse ODG, a glorified moment for his career. But that is not what is interesting. The exciting thing about Fuse ODG is not much about his music. It is about his fashion sense. Fuse ODG is selling not just music but African (Ghanaian) fashion to a global audience.
There has been an on-going debate within the Ghanaian entertainment circles regarding how well Ghanaian artistes sell their country’s culture compared to their Nigerian counterparts. Nigerian artistes, aside the easy to identify rhythms which surround the music, their costuming betrays them regardless of what genre of music they sing.
The current crop of Nigerian artistes such as Davido, Banky W, Don Jazzy, 2Face, Flavour, Omawumi are always representing the Nigerian culture flamboyantly. Watch Omawumi’s video
In the case of Ghana, the cultural disconnect occurred during the early ’90s with the emergence of hip life (rap). Many artistes adopted the hip hop gear worn by US hip hop artistes thereby ditching the traditional gear which used to be in vogue, though some may argue that the proponent of burger high life ended the promotion of the traditional Ghanaian wear. The difference is that, the highlife artistes did incorporate element of traditional Ghanaian costume. Hip life unfortunately widened the gulf.
But it is not this career ascension and international plaudits of the ‘Antenna” hit maker that is eye-catching. It is his attempt to sell African fashion to the world; his desire to be front runner or associated with the ‘This Is New Africa’ tag.
Fuse ODG’s T.I.N.A imprint, I suppose, is not only a medium to sell records but to also project the new face of Africa-it’s fashion and style and culture . And to this, he is succeeding.
A look at his costumes in many of his videos showcase a young man looking dapper in his African prints, which blends exquisitely with other hippy apparels. Fuse ODG is always spotted in a nicely designed African kaftan, a kente patterned shirt or his ‘Mac Tontoh’ leather cap (this type of cap was popularized by the former Osibisa trumpeter and high life legend Gyedu Blay Ambolley) as evidenced in his new video Dangerous which borrows its concept from Eddie Murphy’s 1988 classic movie Coming To America. Watch video below
Although the Nigerians have mastered this craft of selling their fashion style, Ghanaians of old like the likes of Akosua Kropper and Kente Man, Ambolley were showcasing the Ghanaian outfit, albeit the global reach was not as it should be. It is, therefore, exciting to see artistes young artistes such as M.anifest, Okyeame Kwame along with Fuse ODG at the forefront of this re-awakening; calling on other artistes to blend the Ghanaian (African) resplendent fabrics with the western style.
Watch M.anifest’s video Jigah