By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Inusa Dawuda.
Inusa Dawuda from Hamburg, Germany feels he has a lot to offer in the morning. The electro-funk singer/saxophonist/producer has somewhat of a routine in the wee small hours centered around creating music. He’s not cut out for the whole “staying out, sleeping in” lifestyle which may come as a shock to some considering he’s known to move many a European dancefloor like nobody’s business.
Dawuda is a self-professed “early bird” who likes to spend his downtime when not on tour trying to get inspired by other people’s music and practicing his first love (the sax) in his home studio. His nickname is the “Black Pharaoh” in the circles that are so invested with his work in house, afro, and soul music. BTR had a chance to catch Inusa Dawuda during his much-needed downtime as he had come back from taking care of some non-funky business, a trip to the doctor’s.
As a solo musician, Dawuda gets to enjoy the luxuries of working alone in his studio which he relishes to the fullest. He likes to work on “pre-production and everything at home before sending it out to the cats outside in the high-end studios to do the last touch.” Working on your music by yourself gives you a sense of control that is just not feasible when with a band and Dawuda realized this early on.
“It’s like someone writing a book, he’s going to write it alone and never ask people about the story. It depends on the project—sometimes it’s a collaboration with others or if I’m stuck and I need someone to give their input. Sometimes you need people to criticize you, to say, ‘It could be this way.’ You have to be open and you get better results,” says Dawuda on the difference in creative process.
Almost needless to say, Dawuda does not stand for “yes men.”
Originally from Accra, Ghana, his family later re-located to Hamburg, where Dawuda became enamored with the saxophone, when Dawuda’s family made the move, it was his father’s intention for his son to be a doctor. To this, Dawuda says, “Now I’m doctoring with music.”
So he didn’t outright disobey Papa Dawuda, but that doesn’t make his mother any less pleased. When his career began, she said she thought musicians were “lazy, bad boys.” He immediately started taking private lessons with a tutor. Which, if you think about it, just seems like a roundabout way to prove his mother wrong.
Dawuda would show up to jam sessions in Hamburg where one could “just take your horn” and start feeling out the people that he was playing with in a club or bar. Most of the guys he was playing with did not feel confident enough to sing, so Dawuda had to step up to the plate against the timid Germans.
At the time of those Hamburg days, Dawuda’s three primary influences were James Brown, Bob Marley, and Fela Kuti, and he would try to bring a little bit of those three into whatever he was doing at the time, most notably with The Godfather of Funk and Soul. Through some mellower filters, he eventually formed what would become his own sound by becoming a sort of “reggae James Brown.”
“That’s my sound now. It’s also my voice and approach to music. It’s funk music and reggae music and then there’s house music, it’s polyrhythmic. It’s actually an afro sound. I wasn’t thinking of doing something different, just doing music. That’s what came out. Sometimes I think I’m doing this but it sounds different. That’s my sound and sometimes when people hear some kind of music they say, ‘Hey Inusa, this is your sound’ or ‘Is it you?’ It’s not me but because it sounded like what I used to do. It wasn’t my intention to force or mix these sounds, it’s just what I do and this is how it sounds,” says Dawuda on his seamless melding.
Dawuda says this happens to him quite often where people will hear another musician who sounds like him and they’ll get them confused. Trying to figure out exactly what it is that makes up the “Inusa Dawuda sound,” he says it’s “the sunshine in my voice… it feels like it’s always summer.”
But music isn’t the only way Dawuda takes it easy. Before he ever picked up the saxophone, he had a different means of “getting it out”—amateur boxing. He says this hobby came from a “table tennis” game he was playing, where a friend said that the stance he was taking made him look like a fighter, wondering, “Why don’t you go and box?”
He initially joined a boxing club just for fun, but eventually became a heavyweight champion in Hamburg at the amateur level. Although he insists he “wasn’t made for professional boxing,” it somehow found his way into the sounds he was making in the studio, which he began exploring at roughly the same time.
“I took a lot from this sport because it’s something similar. For example, when you have to go onstage to rock the people and to perform for your audience, it’s nearly the same like, waiting to be called into the ring; this moment. Then you have to face your opponent but this [music] is different because you’re going to knock anybody out. Maybe you’ll hit them with your music. It’s a discipline.”
It seems that whatever Inusa Dawuda takes on, whether it be electro-funk or boxing in the ring, he approaches it with the same kind of vigor and concentration required to dominate any stage.
Luckily for him, his music won’t leave him with a concussion to show for it.
Get in the ring with Inusa Dawuda by clicking here.
Check out Inusa Dawuda’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.