An Interview with Dell Richardson of Osibisa

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Image credit: Jeff Moh. Courtesy of Glass Onyon PR.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with veteran Afro-Rock stalwart, Dell Richardson. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, Osibisa’s newest music, his opinion of the music scene today, and what he’s looking forward to the most once COVID-19 breaks.

If you would like to learn more about Dell Richardson, head over to his website, and dig in. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Dell. Cheers.

Andrew:
Dell, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

Dell:
Stayin’ alive as they say. Lockdown was the worst thing that happened to me in a long time along with losing my band, Osibisa. That aside, I’m optimistic and new doors have opened. Working on my chops again, singing and working on new material, and recording new songs is keeping me busy.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?

Dell:
My mother and my father would insist I go to church, and in church, you have to sing in Antigua. Also, a large library of great music surrounding my mother and father influenced me greatly. When I got to England, I started listening to my mother’s music library, in particular, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole. I loved the track “Lipstick On My Collar.” Also, Ella Fitzgerald again from my mum. She made me buy “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences?

Dell:
George Benson, Wes Montgomery Jack Mcduff’s Rock Candy, Junior Kerr — Bob Marley turned me onto that.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events. Tell us about your new release, Sunshine Day: The Boyhood Sessions. What can fans expect?

Dell:
The album introduces alternate versions of deep cuts from years gone by, some more modern interpretations, as well as a new song, “Abele,” which was recorded for a new album. The new recordings have been held back for later release due to the recent band, and management shenanigans that resulted in a truly awful release that I had nothing to do with, thankfully.

Andrew:
These tracks were originally curated as the soundtrack for the film, Boyhood. Tell us more about that, and why you chose to re-release them now in 2021.

Dell:
It was put together by our producer, Rob Corich, and Teddy Osei after we had a version of “Sunshine Day” used in Richard Linklater’s award-winning Boyhood movie. The album was an excellent way to tie over while we were recording material for a new album. That’s why we added “Abele.”

Andrew:
Going back now, take me through the formation of Osibisa. How did things get started?

Dell:
When I first went to hear what became Osibisa it was with Reme and Peggy Salako, in an attic at a house, in Finsbury Park with Teddy, and Sol there. We jammed and gelled instantly. The next day, Mac (Tontah) arrived with bed on his shoulders, and with Spartacus with his hair sticking upwards towards the roof. The gelling continued. We knew we needed a keyboard player, so I called my friend Robert Bailey as we were very close back then. There, in that house, in Finsbury Park, were the elements that very quickly became Osibisa. Live we started playing a tennis club, and the name was decided on just before the first gig.

Andrew:
The genre of Afro Rock music is vast and varied, that said, Osibisa is immensely important and influential. Looking back, what do you feel the bands legacy within the genre stands?

Dell:
Unknown to me I’d found a genre I could belong to without competition. Who knows? Maybe we even invented it.
I was the only Afro-Rock player on the circuit playing the Blues, and I know the first Blues came from Africa.

Andrew:
Osibisa where an important part of the Afro-World Music scene which was prominent in the 1970s, and beyond. If you can, take me through what it was like coming up within that scene.

Dell:
There was some part that time that was ugly — the racism with reared its ugly head. This was particularly ugly in America — especially during the time in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King. All that aside, we wanted to be the best even though we were just starting out in 1971, and ’72. In 1970/71, it was rehearsals…settling in for the band members. I’d come from a band called Sundae Times with Fuzzy Samuel’s who went on to play with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in America, and Conrad Isidore. Teddy, Sol, and Mac had come out of the defunct Cats Paw. All of the equipment and the transport came via me from Sundae Times after we all went our own ways. This helped set Osibisa up for gigging.

Andrew:
Osibisa is well known for its seamless incorporation of different genres into its Rock mix. In that vein, what are some of your favorite albums, and artists? Who influenced Osibisa the most in the early days?

Dell:
Fela Kuti was a natural who influenced us all. I was also influenced by Berry Gordy, Chris Blackwell, and later Richard Branson on the business side. In fact, Richard turned me on to Joni Mitchell while on a little boat in Little Venice. Thank you, Richard.

Andrew:
I wanted to touch on Osibia’s first three records, Osibisa, Woyaya, and Heads, which were recorded by the original “Beautiful Seven” lineup. Those records are so highly regarded and are truly watershed moments that would come to define the genre. If you can, take me through the recording of those records. Looking back, what made them so special?

Dell:
Well, the first album had Tony Visconti drafted in as producer, and that was so important and special to me. We were both new to the game, that’s for sure. We used a friend I suggested called David Howells who suggested using Roger Dean as an artist for the album cover — it won an award for one of the best covers of the year, I believe. I was also loving Carlos Santana’s Abraxas, which was out then, and in fact, our third album cover (Heads) was done by the same artist, Marti Klawein.

Andrew:
Which album within Osibisa’s catalog do you feel is the most underrated, or most overlooked, and why?

Dell:
The best album for me is Black Magic Night, our first live album. Not enough has been said about that one. I returned to Osibisa in ’75 because Kofi and Kiki met with me, and dragged me along to the studio (Roundhouse), where we made all the hits on Welcome Home, and Ojah Awake.

Andrew:
I also wanted to make note of the incredible artwork featured on early Osibisa records, which was rendered by Roger Dean (before he became widely known). How important was the artwork to the overall aesthetic, and vibe of Osibisa’s music?

Dell:
Those were days to look at artwork while listening to the music. Smoking days…stoned enough, and floating off gazing at all that colorful artwork. [Laughs].

Andrew:
I mentioned earlier that Afro Rock is a deep and complex genre. This said, for someone just jumping in, what are some underrated, less heard of records you would recommend for someone who wants to dive deep?

Dell:
As I said earlier, I admired Berry Gordy and all he did. Marvin Gaye, 70s Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Free, Traffic, Sly & The Family Stone. Of our tracks, I love things like “Phallus C,” “Che Che Coule”…so many tracks. Issac Hayes was also big for me, along with Quincy Jones, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, and Grover Washington.

Image credit: Jeff Moh. Courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with veteran Afro-Rock stalwart, Dell Richardson. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, Osibisa’s newest music, his opinion of the music scene today, and what he’s looking forward to the most once COVID-19 breaks.

If you would like to learn more about Dell Richardson, head over to his website, and dig in. Once you’ve done that, check out this interview with Dell. Cheers.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Dell:
Photography. I did a course, and I still love it.

Andrew:
In your opinion, what is the state of the music business these days? Should artists be hopeful? Scared? Both?

Dell:
Hopeful, as the younger generation has “stolen” the Blues and called it Rock ‘N’ Roll. Hip-Hop developed on its own, and it was actually hard to steal. I like it mixed with fantastic keyboards and computations.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the post-COVID world?

Dell:
Recording new material. I’m currently working on a new solo album that already has some stellar musicians that will amaze you. Also, putting nice touches to previously recorded but unreleased Osibisa music that has yet to see the light of day. Watch this space. Making videos to my music, maybe speaking about global warming. We have to all turn away from our nasty habits, and dirty ways. Add to that COVID which is changing everything.

Image credit: Jeff Moh. Courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Interested in sampling the work of Osibisa? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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