Arts-Matter is a new cultural-programming and social-impact platform that presents salon-style conversations and experiences. Recently, the platform hosted Ghanaian-Australian hip-hop musician Genesis Owusu for an intimate jazz set in a private home overlooking Sydney Harbour.
Guests - including Flex Mami, Alice McCall, Ngaiire, Tanja Gacic and Milan Ring - sat down for a candid conversation moderated by Vivid music curator, FBi regular and music industry veteran Stephen Ferris. The duo discussed Genesis' experience growing up in Canberra, his creative journey and process, and how the personal is usually political.
Moving to Australia as a small boy, Kofi (aka Genesis Owusu), a natural born performer, found inspiration in his family with a Gospel-singing mother and 90s rock-loving brother Citizen Kay. Music was always on the agenda - finding inspiration in musicians such as Ray Charles and Bob Marley, Kofi recalls using a Michael Jackson "Greatest Hits" DVD as a creative reference for “trying his best to move" like the 90s pop icon.
“As I got older I think I initially gravitated towards hip hop because I felt like I was finally hearing music and stories I could relate to and had never heard. Starting out writing poetry as a child, hip hop was the easiest way to transition from poetry into music,” explains Kofi.
When discussing his music in relation to the current political climate, both here in Australia and the US, Kofi says “the things I talk about and that are currently being spoken about, I’ve been talking about my whole life. The spotlight is just on them now because of external factors”.
“I’ve lived with a lot of bitterness but not explosive anger. You just can’t live like that – it’s too draining, but this seeps naturally into my music and that’s how I get it out”, Kofi explains.
“Right now I feel like people are more eager to learn and figure out what’s going on. On the other end of the spectrum it’s 'cool' to be aware about stuff right now, so we’ll see what happens when things die down.”
Kofi riffed on what inspires his writing style and content explaining that “nothing is really pre-meditated like that, I just like to roll with what's happening around me and the opportunities that come up”. And when you are one of Australian music’s rising stars, opportunities come up.
Arts-Matter guests were treated to a one-off performance with Genesis playing with a hand-picked jazz band for the very first time, including 80-year-old pianist Mike Nock who once jammed with Miles Davis. With six sold-out shows coming up later this month, and performing for the first time in public with a live band, Ferris remarked “the timing is just right for Kofi”.
Arts-Matter is a new programming and social impact platform founded by Michelle Grey and Susan Armstrong. The platform celebrates the arts through a series of conversations with creative minds shaping our shifting culture.