Let your mind wander away with Eli Fola, the saxophonist, DJ and Music Producer who’s bringing the techno afrique experience.
Born through a vision he had when he was seven years old of him playing the saxophone, Nigerian Eli Fola is doing things differently within the techno realms. He’s a DJ, Music Producer and saxophonist, first and foremost, and dabbles in different musical instruments like the local African drums, congas and the piano, which he learnt to play as he grew up. In his infectious harmonies he wonderfully amalgamates jazz and electronics to create a truly unique, atmospheric soundtrack – the ultimate chill out and relax artist.
Fola’s techno afrique sound and debut EP called “The Platform” is a whirlwind aural experience for you to feast on. In his songs you can expect to hear an abundance of his smooth sax, and add to that some incredible experimental, jazz, afrobeat, electronic and deep house. He calls it “Tech Afrique”, the same name of his newly launched label, which is a platform for releasing his projects.
Accompanying “Apocalypse” is his amazingly shot grey scale video. It shows him walking through places like the NTU Dolan Studio in a reflective mood and searching for the light. He tells Wonderland, “sometimes we are all looking for answers and clarity to issues pertaining to life we have no answers to”, and this nicely mirrors the disposition of the beautifully captured visuals. Working in a calm environment in his studio he refuses to stress about the process and always keeps things simple with his music. Wonderland spoke to him about his Techno Afrique label, his “Live from the Underground” series and how he takes control of his creative vision.
Talk to us a bit about your background and how you got into making music?
I was born in lagos, Nigeria. Music for me started from going to church as a kid with my family, where I joined the kid’s choir at the age of 7, by that time, I had seen a vision of me playing the saxophone. So I told my parents that I would love them to buy me a saxophone, but they couldn’t because they didn’t have the money at that time. I decided to learn other musical equipment that was available to me, the drums were easily available so I started playing the drums and also a little bit of the keys.
Does your Nigerian heritage strongly inform your music – touches of Afrobeat etc.?
Growing up in Nigeria to me is a blessing, because Nigeria is a musically diverse country. I listened to a wild range of genre growing up, from jazz to classical music, to Nigerian traditional genres such as Juju music, Fuji Music, and Akpala music. During my teenage years Fela Kuti was a big inspiration to me, I would listen to a lot of Afrobeat and Highlife music. Also growing up in Nigeria, I was exposed to European and American music. I remember I use to idolize artists such as Wyclef Jean and Will.I.am.
Tech Afrique is both your label and your sound: please tell us about the sound, how it was formed and why?
Yes, Tech Afrique is an imprint I created early this year as a platform to release my projects. The tech part is basically me being an electronic music artist and producer, I believe living in this era, technology places a lot in the production of music and the way we live our lives, also I have developed a love for techno music. The Afrique part is just me staying through to my identity as an African in America. So it’s basically how I see the music I produce and my experiences and things I have been exposed to influences the sound I am creating.
And then as a label – what made you want to set up your own imprint – and what are your future plans for it?
Setting up Tech Afrique is just me taking charge of my vision, I believe no one can fully understand your vision the way you do. So me setting up the label is just me being in control of the direction I want my career to go without compromising from other parties that could want to change that. Presently the label also serves as an event company, where I throw a monthly performance and visual art event called The Communion with Eli Fola and Friends starting this month. Our debut event would be in Brooklyn at the Stuyvesant Mansion on Saturday, May 28th from 10pm – 2am. I am working with a team of friends who are helping me put this together.
You’ve just released the video for “Apocalypse” – what’s the focus of the video and why?
The video is about me in search of a deeper revelation of life. Sometimes we are all looking for answers and clarity to issues pertaining to life we have no answers to. The experiences I have had in life so far as taught me that there is a light deep inside humanity, if we can all be humble enough to acknowledge this, we will have a revelation of this light.
Your music seems very wide ranging in influence, who are some of your favourite artists from the many genres that have obviously informed your own work?
“The Platform” EP I released in March was majorly influenced by my love for electronic and jazz music. I was exposed the music of Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins, and Derrick May – these cats are techno legends from Detroit. Prior to going into techno and experimental music, I was first and still into house music, I started Djing because of my love for house, as soon as I saw and understood the concept in the music of Osunlade, DJ/Producer and founder of Yoruba records, I quickly connected to the music. I would say Fela Kuti is a major influence to my music because of his originality.
Tell us about your “Live From The Underground” series
Live From the Underground is an electronic busking concept I started last summer, I had never seen anyone DJ on the subway platform, so I decided to start doing it twice or three times a week, and the response as been amazing.
What’s the next step for you?
I am shooting more visuals to the tracks on the Platform EP, two more videos will be ready in the weeks to come. I am also working on the follow up EP due out before the year ends.
What motivates you to make music – what kind of response do you want from listeners?
What motivates me is the passion I have for music, I believe music as the power to bring a positive change to the world and that is my goal, to be part of something greater than me and contribute something great to the world. I want them to feel inspired and encouraged about my music.
Talk us through an average day for you in the studio, performing live, or generally?
I put a lot of work into my music and performance, especially in the studio, a lot of thoughts and ideas keep coming, but want thing that works for me is just keeping my ideas simple and not stressing about the process.
Words: Lizzie Griffin