British underground bands - Ese & The Vooduu People - INTERVIEW - Ese Okorodudu


Ese Okorodudu is a force of nature, and GHG just had to get the inside scoop. She’s the talk of the town (London) right now, and sold out every UK tour date on their (Ese & The Vooduu People) tour of last year. Imagine jam band Jimi, meets soulful Amy Winehouse. That is Ese Okorodudu and she’s here to stay.

“Wonderful, unique sound, lovely guitar, lovely songs, a really great, beautiful voice...”
— Jools Holland, BBC Radio 2, 2019
“Playing like a combination of distorted Jimi Hendrix guitars with a husky Otis Redding voice, former busker Ese Okorodudu’s five-piece band has the potential to bring London’s soul scene from its new half-empty basement bars into packed venues and festival stages.”
— The Guardian, 2018


South Londoner Ese Okorodudu has seen it all, done most of it. Graduating from London’s most demanding performing arts school — the streets, as a busker — songwriter Ese (vocals, guitar) is backed by the incendiary Vooduu People: ex-Noisette Pharoah Russell (drums) and Basile Petite (bass) plus Sheena Ross (backing vocals) and Jackson Baird (keyboards).

She and her band are inspired by a range of legends, from Jimi Hendrix to Amy Winehouse via The Isley Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Prince, Alice In Chains, Skunk Anansie and Erykah Badu.

Signed to Quadrafon Music Industries, they have released six singles: Dynamite, Fairytale (both 2017), Up In Smoke (live in Brixton), Silver Spoon, Keep On and I Don’t Mind. The debut album Up In Smoke is released in May.

Ese and Sheena joined the lineup of Alabama 3 on their sold-out UK tour in November and December 2018 and are touring with them throughout 2019, with Ese & Sheena also performing Ese’s songs as the support act on many dates.

Ese was a guest star on Jools Holland’s BBC Radio 2 show broadcast on May 19. Aside from being interviewed about her career, she spins two tunes from her forthcoming album and performs a cover of The Stone Roses’ I Wanna Be Adored with Jools and his band including Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis.

Hey Ese! Thank you for talking with us today. Your sound is hella unique and we are SO here for it. Could you start by telling us who inspired your sound musically? Also, how did you get into music?

By listening to music, from ‘60s rock and soul groups to metal and grunge bands. I love Jimi Hendrix, Sly & The Family Stone, The Isley Brothers, Nina Simone, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Gil Scott-Heron, Prince, Shalamar, The Pixies, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse...

Given we’re an empowerment platform that focuses on equality in the music industry, have there ever been times where you’ve felt discriminated against in the music industry because of your gender or race? What helps you feel powerful again when something like that happens? 

As regards racism, I can’t say that I’ve experienced that in any obvious or subconscious way. And I can’t say I’ve dealt with out-and-out discrimination but I have been spoken down to as a female musician.

I’ve felt like I don’t belong in a scene, but I’m OK with being on the “outside”. I still don’t fit in.

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date? 

My debut album Up In Smoke, which we knocked out in two days in RAK Studios in St Johns Wood, London, a recording haven. It was a great experience of which I am most proud.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Touring the world non-stop!

Could you tell us a little bit about your song writing process?

The music usually comes first then the lyrics.

Do you write with The Vooduu People?

I write alone for the most part, although on Grenfell Blues, a track on the next album, was co-written by our backing singer, Sheena Ross — I literally borrowed her words for a chorus. So there’s a first.

Do you ever find times where you want to perform In a venue but there isn’t enough room for the whole band? If so, what do you do in that instance? We LOVE that you’re a five piece band out here makin’ rock & roll a thing again. 

We usually find room for everyone, but if not we cut down to the basic three of me, drums and bass, which is where it all started.

What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?

I read, swim, and go to live music events, but not that often. Sometimes I just chill out on my own doing absolutely nothing!

What are some of your favorite places in London? We’re always looking to give recommendations, especially for good venues and vinyl shops! 

I love the Prince of Wales in Brixton, Skehans in Nunhead and The Birds Nest in Deptford to hang. And to play my current favourites are the Rebel Inn in Streatham, Acklam Village Gate in Ladbroke Grove, The Railway Tavern in Tulse Hill, the Numidie and White Hart, both in Crystal Palace, the Bread & Roses in Clapham, and we’ve just played three new places we really recommend: the Rolling Stock in Shoreditch, Ye Olde Rose & Crown in Walthamstow and The Magic Garden in Battersea. These are all London venues.

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