Interview: K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade

Fronted by the vivacious Kewku Ouf Ghana (KOG), this unstoppable nine piece bring you a fusion of traditional West African rhythms and UK underground styles. After being shortlisted as a finalist for Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition, it seems the band are making waves on the festival scene this summer. We chat to guitarist Tom Wylie about playing live, the Sheffield music scene and what it’s like working with such a large group of musicians.

Are you looking forward to Tramlines?

It’s nice to be back in Sheffield! We haven’t been able to play in the city as much as we’ve wanted to recently. We’ve got so many friends and family in the area, so it’s nice to be able to play a gig to them.

What do you enjoy about festivals versus your own gigs?

You’ve got to fight for people to come and listen to you. There are so many things on offer, and when you’re further down the bill, no one’s going to come particularly to see you – they’ve come for the headliners. So if you manage to get a crowd in, you’ve done pretty well. Festivals are amazing because they bring so many people looking for a good time together, which is a good fit to our music.

So you do you fight to get people to see you?

By offering something pretty different. We’re African fusion, which is rare, particularly around these parts. We’ve got a massive amount of energy, with a lot of members and a pair of very energetic frontmen who definitely know how to get people dancing. We’re pretty festival-friendly, you could say.

Is it ever a problem getting so many members to work on the same project?

Not at all. We have a nice system in place. I’ve never really thought about it like that; everyone agrees that the formula we’ve stumbled across works, and we don’t want to tamper with it in case we all wreck it.

How did you form?

Our first proper gig was about a year ago now; just after Tramlines 2014. We got together through Kweku, who’d previously played with a lot of musicians, but was really interested in exploring his roots; West Africa and Ghana. We fuse that with influences from rap, hip hop and punk, and through trial and error, we’ve arrived at a good formula.

What’s your most memorable gig?

Glastonbury on the West Holts stage was spectacular. We haven’t been going that long, so getting an opportunity like that was ridiculous. We opened the stage, and a significant portion of the audience were probably still hungover, so to get the response we did was fantastic.

Why do you think you did so well in the Emerging Talent contest?

Authenticity. We’re fronted by someone from Ghana who knows his music, and I think the judges recognised that. Being exposed to African music has definitely awakened something in me, and with our fans as well. It’s pretty impossible not to dance to.

Hands down. Best Sheffield artists?

There are quite a few! I can’t single one out. There’s a band called King Capische playing on Friday who are amazing. Hot Diamond Aces also stand out – they’re on the main stage. There are so many gems in this city; it’s an exciting time to be in the music scene.

What’s next for you guys?

After we get the festival season out of the way, a second EP is on the cards, hopefully for an early 2016 release.

Catch K.O.G & the Zongo Brigade at Queens Social Club on Saturday July 25 at 10.30pm, as part of Tramlines festival.

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