Gregg Kofi Brown is a singer and multi-instrumentalist who is a long term member of the pioneering African funk rock - fusion band Osibisa. He was brought up around music and sang in church choirs and various functions during his youth. In his teens, he picked up both the electric guitar and bass. While performing in London, Gregg was approached, and asked to join the band Osibisa, as their bass player. When they noticed Greggs vocal prowess, they immediately promoted him to lead singer. Gregg has performed all over the world in major festivals and fine music venues. Gregg has performed or recorded with artists with the likes of: Joe Cocker, India Irie, Eric Burdon, Lauryn Hill, Billy Cobham, and many others. Gregg has also excelled in the theater as an actor/singer, appearing in many productions in London's West end theaters. A new anthology CD of Greggs music has just been released titled "Rock 'n' Roll and UFOs? as well as an autobiography on his creative life. I recently asked Gregg some questions on his productive career.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your Autobiography & New CD Anthology “Rock ‘n’ Roll And UFOs”. How did you originally get involved with music? Did you come from a musical family?
G.K.B. - I was in school choirs whilst growing up in Southern California & Memphis, Tenn. Also sang in church choirs both gospel & catholic. I played cello at age 12 then switched to bass violin. My cousins & I used tosing vocal harmonies on the street corner in Memphis. My mother was a dancer & beauty queen who sang a bit. My step father was jazz saxophonist Arthur 'Fats' Theus, he played for Jimmy McGriff & wrote a minor hit for him called ,'The Worm'.
R.V.B. - Did you find yourself singing at first or learning the guitar?
G.K.B. - I was a singer first. I picked up guitar when I was 18. I played a bit of bass & sang in a soul band when I was 16.
G.K.B. - My mother was an entrepreneur & used to promote the occasional concert & the after party was usually at our house. I sort of inherited my networking skills from my mum. She worked for Doris Day & Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy at various times in her life. My first big break came when I was appointed entertainment director at my college. I had a $10k budget a year, an office & a secretary. I booked Elton John for our first major event, it was his first big concert in the USA with 1400 people in the audience. There is a bootleg album of the gig called ‘Country Comforts' he still lists it in his discography. My contact list grew from there. It’s all in my book.
R.V.B. - The musical group Osibisa is a very important group in the history of African music. How did you become involved with them and what do you feel that you added to the group?
G.K.B. - I was spotted by local London musician Lord Eric Sugumugu playing bass with Peter Green & he recommended me for a session with Osibisa. From there they asked to join the band as a bass player. I was promoted to lead singer....it was a bit much playing African bass & singing. After a few years I switched to guitar as it was much easier to play rhythm & sing. Once I got my singing chops together after 4 West end musicals I think I added to the vocal aspects of the band. Having had a number one billboard hit in the dance charts as a songwriter while I was in band, I feel I have up the game for their song writing.
G.K.B. - Osibisas' conscious laden lyrics & African rhythms has brought together a diverse range of people around world in the union of peace and harmonious social intercourse. I have seen fanatic racists come to us & reveal their epiphany during one of our gigs where they have been empowered to do good & love all peoples of colour.
R.V.B. - With your solo music, what do you feel that you are trying to get across to people?
G.K.B. - I know generally an album should have related tracks concurrent themes etc& usually mine do. My first solo album Gregg Kofi Brown & Friends ‘Together as One’ is a mixture of jazz funk, classical & world music. However my forth coming albums ‘Osibisa Tribal ‘ & ‘Osibisa Afro Mix ‘ are afro beat and afro house respectively. Now with my current Anthology album ‘Rock n Roll & UFOs' this reflects the various genres of music that have driven my career so with this you get funk, soul, rock, afro beat, dance & pop. Aside from the odd superfluous Lyric my lyrics reflect the human condition... love, hate, political & social consciousness, racial oppression & spiritual awareness.
R.V.B. - What are some of your performance highlights in your career?
R.V.B. - Playing bass with Joe Cocker at a ZZ TOP festival in Austin, Texas with 100k people in the audience. Playing in Sir Lanka with Osibisa to raise money for orphans from the war in that country. Touring with Youssou Ndour in Senegal & Gambia. Sitting in & singing with India Irie's band at the Capetown jazz festival. Performing at an event I organised for the Damilola Trust which featured Gabrielle, Des'ree, Courtney Pine & Roachford . Playing bass with Amadou & Marian at the Jazz Cafe London. Playing bass on tour with Eric Burdon supporting Grand Funk Railroad in America. Singing & playing rhythm guitar with Billy Cobham’s band at Ronnie Scott’s in London. Playing the Byron Bay Blues Festival with Osibisa in Australia. Sharing the stage with Akon at a private concert in Puna India. Performing in Kenya & Uganda with Lauryn Hill whilst making a documentary about her. Performing as an actor-singer in London's West end theatres for productions like: A Tribute to the Blues Brothers, TOMMY, The Buddy Holly Story. Performing as a singer with legendary jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan at the Dubai Jazz Festival. Headlining the Abu Dhabi Jazz Festival with Pauline Henry (The Chimes). Playing guitar & singing with Osibisa supporting Santana on tour. So many special moments performing, I couldn’t possibly mention everything but I’ve covered quite a bit of this in my book: ‘Rock n Roll & UFOs'.
R.V.B. - You have collaborated with musicians that transcend many different musical genres. How would you describe the sound of your music?
G.K.B. - My music is an eclectic mixture of African, soul, reggae, roots, jazz funk, Dance & traditional Blues.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Gregg Kofi Brown visit his website www.greggkofibrown.co.uk
Thanks to Billy James of Glass Onyon PR.
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