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The Guest List: Osunlade calls out for grooves from a higher calling

The Yoruba Soul Records founder shares 10 tracks behind the label's spiritual journey

  • Arun Ramanathan
  • 30 May 2022

Highly revered and globally acclaimed producer, DJ and label honcho, Yoruba Soul Records founder Osunlade has the midas touch of spiritual and soulful essence when it comes to music. His injection of ritualistic philosophy connects his music back to earth — from the use of bata drums to Yoruba priests, Osunlade productions invoke an intimate connection to spiritual dimensions.

His career spans over four decades and could easily be regarded as a godfather of the global Afro-house scene — a self-trained musician that taught himself everything from the piano to drums, Osunlade started out by attempting to hack the music industry in Los Angeles in the late 80s, and did so with plenty of commercial success, including composing the soundtrack of children’s cult television series Sesame Street. But Osunlade wasn’t fully satisfied with the industry and took a two-year hiatus that led him on a spiritual journey that started in Ifa; an ancient religion with roots in Yoruba culture from modern Nigeria. Yoruba Records was born from that spiritual excursion where there was high appraise for rhythm and groove.

Fast forward to now, the African-American artist has an impressive back catalogue of critically acclaimed singles and albums on high profile labels such as Soul Jazz, BBE, Strictly Rhythm, and of course his own ,Yoruba Soul. He has a wide and diverse remix track record that includes Nightmares On Wax, Roy Ayers, St. Germain, 4 Hero, United Future Organization, Salif Keita and DJ Jazzy Jeff. His most recent output is his Yoruba Soul remix of Casbah 73 ‘ Let’s Invade the Amazon’ which drops on June 10.

In praise of his musical accomplishments which includes 20 albums and countless singles and remixes to date, we asked Osunlade to share 10 tracks that invoked a deeper and a profoundly spiritual inspiration throughout the evolutionary curation of Yoruba Soul Records — your Yoruba journey begins here.

​Osunlade 'Oshun’s Arrival'

I guess I’ll start at the beginning. 'Oshun’s Arrival' was on the first release and pays homage to Oshun, the Orisha of the River, the sweet waters. My intent here was convey sweetness as well being new on the scene it was important to stamp my sound, this allowed for the more quiet & inviting moods.

Osunlade 'Cantos A Ochun Et Oya'

This one being one the better-known songs on the label — it is as traditional as it gets! This canto sings to Oya (the Wind) and Ochun (the River). Call and response is the foundation of most indigenous communities, I coupled that with African and Brazilian rhythms and the rest is history.

​Sin Palabras 'Yemeya'

This one is quite special as I recorded this with Sin Palabras, a band of ordained Yoruba priests. This is important as this tradition is passed down verbally however there is a multitude of literature. This song is paying reverence to the mother of the world, 'Yemeya' (the ocean). Again, call and response yet this time we have the sacred bata drums which are considered Orishas as well.

Osunlade 'Ser Al Santisimo'

This one is a bit chunkier in sound, a bit more sparse but the same formula applies: traditional canto call and response.

​Kiko Navarro & DJ Fudge 'Babalu Aye'

'Babalu Aye' is our healer. Kiko and Fudge delivered a beautiful tribute to that literally heals souls. I’ve seen it happen on the dance floor!

​Sunlightsquare 'A Celebration Of Oggun'

This one is to Orisha Oggun. The Orisa of irons, metals, motion, and foundation. He is known in folklore as a fierce hunter that carries a machete. As with Kiko & Fudge, Sunlightsquare delivered the perfect song catered to Yoruba’s sound.

​Mike Steva 'Kecak'

Now this one isn’t a Yoruba song, but it shares the same formula. 'Kecak' is a traditional Balinese dance and ceremony where call and response is key and quite amazing! The fifty or so men sing in units and vary in tempo and chant, in sync. I’ve been to about a dozen ceremonies and took Mike to a ceremony, I recorded the chanting, Mike took it home and this is what came from it.

Drala 'Olokun'

Drala, a protégé, handed this in as his inspiration for Olokun and Orisha grew. It’s a more ethereal sound and vibe containing again traditional Lucumi (Yoruba language).

​Hallex M 'Oggun' ft Carlos Mena

Another for 'Oggun'. Notice the different spelling; this derives from the varied lands slaves arrived and languages they had to adopt. Regardless, the Orisa recognise this.

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