Fuse ODG is currently one of the leading lights in new British Afrobeat. His debut album T.I.N.A. consolidates the rapid progress he has has made over the last eighteen months and features no less than four top 10 singles on its tracklist. Growing up in South London during his teens, Fuse began making garage and grime music but felt a desire to explore his background further and made the journey back out to Ghana to deepen his knowledge.
Whilst in Africa, Fuse realised his experiences with his surroundings and the people there were nothing like what he’d seen on TV back in the UK. He saw people in the fashion, technology and business industries, as well as music, doing their thing and being successful at it. It’s clear from the second you press play that T.I.N.A (which stands for This is New Africa) is out to show you this other side to Africa, and Ghana specifically, that Fuse experienced with the aim to relay it all back home.
“I’m making music because I’m proud to be African, I’m making music because I want to change the perception of Africa,” Fuse says at the end of album opener ‘Letter to TINA’. The images of “kids with flies around their mouths, hunger and poverty” are the perceptions that Fuse notes as the ones he saw growing up and is setting out to replace these with ones of optimism and hope, believing if the media don’t show it then it’s up to him and others around him. The perceptions that need embracing are the ones that make the thread that holds this album together.
It’s an album full of joy and life that frequently mentions success with a sense of humour as Fuse quips, “you know me brought the paper, we hustling for the cheese to be greater” on ‘Office Work’. It’s an album that has a single minded, focused goal which is simply to make you want to get up and move. The Afrobeat production and vocal styles meet the more South London sounding delivery at various points throughout the record seamlessly and interchange fluently throughout.
Following the success of his huge debut single ‘Antenna’, Fuse picked up the 2013 MOBO award for ‘Best African Artist, which he also collected at the 2014 awards in October. After picking up numerous other awards and nominations, it’s no surprise to see huge names like Wyclef Jean and Sean Paul lending their reggae/dancehall orientated expertise on ‘Keep on Shining’ and ‘Dangerous Love’, the latter of which went to number 3 in the UK singles charts earlier this year.
The album follows an intelligently laid out tracklist that gives the listener room to reset themselves, with songs like the reflective break-up track ‘Over’ following the more high octane tracks like ‘Antenna’. T.I.N.A. is an all out feel-good record with an overwhelmingly positive message full of emotion and laden with infectious rhythms and grooves.
Fuse knows the importance of standing out, treading your own path and simply finding your own sound as he notes, “we all can’t be Waynes, you can’t be Sean Carters, I’m just trying to bring change, surrounded by Obamas” on ‘Bucket Full of Sunshine’. And he’s definitely done that, it’s a clear, focused album with a precise, unwavering sound. The feel and theme is decided immediately and by the end of the sixteenth track the message is clear. This is the side of Africa that is often missed out.
Words by Ainsley Walker (@ainsleywalker)