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Soul drumming with Uchena Ogamba

Par Elise Venet Rédigé le 28/01/2021 (dernière modification le 28/01/2021)

If you wanna hear about drumming, hear Uchena Ogamba ! Born in Nigeria, he has made his way up to Europe and more specifically to France. He is now teaching and recording in Paris, expecting to launch new projects despite the pandemic. Meeting with the man who drummed with soul.

Uchena performing at an open-air event / © U.O.
Uchena performing at an open-air event / © U.O.
E.V. Hi Uchena, can you tell me a bit about your background?

U.O. I was born in Nigeria Lagos in a family of lovely people, from Igbo. My mom is from the delta Igbo. We’re kind of a big family of seven children. I have five brothers and one sister. My drumming started from when I was in church, in the church where I started playing.

What do you like the most about playing drums? Why did you choose drums?

I love playing drums! Drum is something that if you’re sad, you know, you just hear it and it gives you some vibes, it makes me relax. I don’t know for other players. People go to smoke, drink when they’re stressed and do whatever crazy things. My own way to do crazy things is just playing my drums, you know. That makes me feel very good. Why did I choose drums? I used to play football. I was playing in a small team for a club in Italy. I almost went professional but I had been playing drums for years- I started when I was 5 years old- so, that’s what I chose. I’m happy when I see people happy. Sometimes kids are watching me playing drums at church or anywhere and they’re like « oh » and some of them really want to learn how to play. I have some students here in Paris that seem to enjoy watching me in church,

Is music connected to spirituality in any way to you ?

Of course, music connects to my spiritual life! When you talk about gospel music - like I said, I started playing in the church- it’s very spiritual. Gospel does the rhythm of a song they call worship (adoration), there is a sound of a piano. The pianist plus the singers create a melody that is so powerful. Even if you don’t believe in God, there’s something that you feel inside that frees your mind. It’s sad music but not sad. Sometimes when I’m playing gospel, worship, I’m not there. It’s another person. I feel like it’s something that I have never played before, the Holly Spirit.

What are your personal tastes like in music aside from your own practice as a musician?

As a musician, I am very open to all kinds of music or things that come around me. The most important to me is if the sound is really cool. The goal is to remain open-minded and it’s important to learn how to play very different things, not only one style. I respect people who play one or two styles of music but I believe that it’s important to be able to perform jazz, soul, funk, pop. I play everything. If you call me and give me the tracks, I am able to merge my own feeling into the original beat. I am able to play many different African songs because I listened to a lot of African music, same with Indian music. The taste of music is really good and I know I could do better, right now. Laugh.

What bands are you currently playing with ? Do you make a living out of it ?

Right now, I am working with a gospel band called “God worshippers”. We play all styles, especially gospel but with no voice. Except for this rapper. We are friends from different churches, we’ve been friends for years. We gathered just before the first lockdown. The baseman was like “let’s just play instrumental on video!”. I called 3 pianists and we started thinking about what to do. One of the pianists, Prosper, (I knew him when he was 14, he was so shy); his mother tried to push him, she wanted him to play with professionals. He never went to music classes, he just has the gift, he’s like my brother, so talented. He has his own studio right now, he records artists).

Ivan is the second pianist, never went to music school. He learnt by himself and he decided one day to go to America to give it a try. He was so good. He decided to join us in this project. The third one is Gaius, a good a pianist and a good singer, he gave us vocal lessons. Brisym is the baseman. Chidi is the rapper, every time we need a sample, he comes to help us. He is the one doing the pitches. I checked in France to see if any other band was doing instrumental gospel, with no voice. I saw that we could be the first to do that here. If so, that’s really something awesome.

Making a living with music? It depends. Some people can call you for a gig, you know, it gives you an amount. If not, like during the pandemic, I won't earn more than 500 to 600 euros a month. Not being famous yet makes it impossible to live with music. It does not bring a lot of income to me.

Who are the drummers that inspire you and that you admire in music history or currently living? Why?

No drummer inspires me. My mother made me love drum. She put some serious interest in drums into me. When I was young in Nigeria, they have this group of family meetings. Women meetings, it’s like a family union: people from Paris have an organization, where every month there is a party or a wedding when people come to perform traditional music. No keyboard, no drums. My mom played this instrument which name I don’t even know. It sounds like a bird; you know “coom coom, coom coom, coom coom coom”. I loved seeing her playing and it moved me a lot. Whenever she was not in the house, I would pick her instrument and start to play it. I started beating with my fingers on the table, playing percussions. I learnt the basic rhythm and then I watched the drummers at church and the face the made. I felt like I would give it a try. My parents are Catholic and we had a church under our building. I started sneaking to the Pentecostal church to watch drummers and I waited to be all alone to play the instruments. Next time on Sundays I’ll go again. The first sound I started learning was Calypso, I loved it! I started playing when I was five, I got really good when I was 10. The beating came from my mother, that woman! But even now, she is not aware of that. My older brother who lives in Stuttgart is also a drummer; he is very good. There is a product that I want to do with him next year. It will be the first time that we play together, some solos together.

Any challenge ahead?

My dream is to be a famous drummer. For the moment, I’m hiding and waiting for something. I want to reach young people through drumming to tell them they should be themselves and not jealous of anybody. The harder you work, the better you’ll get, if you want to be a musician.

soul_drumming_with_uchena_ogamba.mp3 Soul drumming with Uchena Ogamba.mp3  (909.96 Ko)



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