In this climate where individualism is a mantra exhibited by most modern contemporaries, the prominence of music bands seems to be waning. One can perhaps attribute this to the ‘quick fix microwave’ culture we see today. The music industry is now fixated on the cheap convenience of churning single after single, album after album and mixtape after mixtape with the least time and financial investment possible.
DrumPIPO Ensemble is a band that is all about the cause of “the collective” first. They are a body of work which encompasses a coming together of musicians from all corners, musically and geographically. The group is made up of members from different parts of Africa whose diverse sound is integrated in song. Since 2009 they have quietly established a tenured career as a band and have just recently released their second studio album titled Dreams Come Alive.
We caught up with Philip Sowah, who’s the face of the band. Philip spoke to us about the incredible story of how they beat the odds and managed to remain together as a unit, gaining traction and gigging around South Africa.
Lavatory Records: Who are the DrumPIPO Ensemble and how did you come up with the name?
DrumPIPO Ensemble: DrumPIPO Ensemble was founded by Philip Sowah in 2009 a band full of energy and diversity. The name PIPO came as far back as from my tertiary days at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.
This name is a short form or a nick name derived from “Philippo” which I simply added drum to become “DrumPIPO”.
LR: Can we get some background on the formative days of the band and how the band was assembled?
DE: After working and sharing the stage with some of the greatest musicians across Africa and beyond, including artists such as Kenny Latimore, Stimela, Lira, Judith Sephuma, Makhadzi Mphelo, Takie and Rofhiwa, the late Jay Hlongwane, Zonke, Go-Explo, Lebo Sekgobela, Jimmy Dludlu, Oliver Mthukudzi, Kunle Ayo, Kojo Antwi, King Ayisoba, Christiana Love, Soul winners, 1-Achord, Josh Laryea, Bob Pinodo, black prophet. These are just to mention a few. My inspiration started developing as I got into studio production along the way.
I then started writing songs and composing for DrumPIPO Ensemble which lead into releasing a debut album called Burning Desire in 2010. I have always loved diversity in my music, hence DrumPIPO Ensemble have always consisted of artists from countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ivory Coast etc.
In 2012 we took part in the Klipdrift Battle of the Bands held at Carnival City in
Johannesburg, where we came 2nd after competing with about 40 bands across
Gauteng. We then released a single, Afrikan Child, as part of our award package. This single is available on all digital download sites and on the newly released album Dreams
Come Alive, as well as on the Best 4 years Klipdrift Battle of the Bands compilation CD.
LR: How would you describe your style of music?
DE: Afro Jazz and Folk music genre.
LR: Are there any bands/artists from the past that you would pay homage to in terms of influencing your style? Who would those bands be?
Many artist and bands have inspired and influenced my composition and writing ability, but I would like to mention a few which include Richard Bona, Youssou N’dou, Fela Kuti, Salif Keita and Asa.
LR: You guys released your debut studio album in 2010 entitled Burning Desire, how has the band grown since then?
DE: After releasing “Burning Desire” I can honestly say that DrumPIPO Ensemble has grown a considerable amount of maturity, through the playing of instruments by band members including myself. I have been blessed by God with a professional recording studio which has made production much easier. Above all, the band has become more like a family.
LR: Your latest studio album is called Dreams Come Alive, what’s the story behind the title and how does it resonate with the band’s current reality?
DE: My dream as the founder of DrumPIPO Ensemble has always been to compose a unique African style of music which can be enjoyed across the globe. I would also say that after a few weeks of releasing Dreams Come Alive, there has been great response from all over the world.
LR: What can the people expect from this album, in terms of the sound and the message content?
DE: Dreams Come Alive has something for everybody to enjoy no matter your background.
LR: The band has toured around South Africa, which is not something many bands can claim. What has been the secret behind that success?
DE: I always say that when you listen carefully to your heart you will hear the beat. This means that, if you follow your passion it will expose you to the right audience.
LR: We know that many bands disband after a while, how have you guys managed to stick together? And can we expect to see you venture into solo careers?
DE: DrumPIPO Ensemble will always perform as a band because we believe in team work.
LR: What would you name as the band’s accomplishments so far?
DE: Having two solid albums is never a child’s play by the way (LOL). DrumPIPO Ensemble was awarded 2nd place in the Klipdrift Battle of the Bands 2012. We also have released a music video for the Afrikan Child single.
LR: Apart from the Dreams Come Alive album, is there anything else you have in store for your fans in terms of upcoming projects or events?
DE: We have an annual concert which is currently being planned and happening in April 2016. We have radio and TV interviews in Ghana which are coming up in March. There are also plans to release several music videos for most of our songs on the new album.
LR: Are there any special mentions you want to shout out?
DE: I would like to thank God for bringing us this far. To all our fans all we do is especially for you and thank you for supporting us all the way. To my greatest supporter who happens to be my lovely wife, Nicola Sowah – thank you so much for being part of a great vision.
Also make sure you purchase your copy of the latest Dreams Come Alive project by DrumPIPO Ensemble.