I received an email a couple of years from an artist who introduced me to his music. That artist’s name is Larry Achiampong and the project was called Meh Mogya (Sample of Me). The sound is another flavor of hip-hop instrumental music with the sample palette being Highlife, a popular music genre that originated in Ghana. As he says about the title,
..“MEH MOGYA” or “MY BLOOD”, when translated from Twi/Akan (a principal native language of Ghana) to English symbolises my intentions of the concept that I originally titled “SAMPLE OF ME”.
Realizing that he was finishing his new project, More Mogya (which he’ll talk about in the interview), I knew I wanted to talk with him and share his music for the Makin’ Beats Q&A series. Enjoy the interview with Larry Achiampong and the music. Be sure to visit his web site link below to see more of his artwork.
JW: Where were you born? Where do you live now? Is there a rich, local scene that support the musical work you do where you live?
LA: I was born in East London and have grown up there. I have spent time in Dagenham and also Ghana, but I’ve grown up and still live in east London. There is a very dynamic and thriving community full of artists and creatives – the hustle and bustle is really thick and it is hard to stay away from it!
JW: What’s your musical background?
LA: I didn’t study a vocational qualification in regards to music, in fact my primary vocation is Art. I am an artist, and music happens to be one of the mediums that I use to express myself. I would add, however, that I received a form of education from my uncle who DJ’d a lot with vinyl when I was a kid – he played loads of types of sounds. My mum and dad listened heavily to (and collected) Highlife music as well, and then my brother was also into Hip Hop, he introduced me to one of my favourite Hip Hop albums of all time, ‘Illmatic’, by NaS. My father also played in the church band when I was a child, I remember that they never got to rehearse, as they all had regular jobs, but when they came to play at the mass, they lifted the roof off! You couldn’t help but absorb the fantastical energy in the room!
JW: Name of couple of specific classic influences on your music? What is it about their music that influences you?
LA: There are so many influences that I have, I could probably write a dissertation to answer this question! But if I had to narrow it down to two then Highlife music of course is a big one for me, artists like Alhaji K. Frimpong, African Brothers International Band, Ebo Taylor, E.T Mensah, City Boys Band….It is that sound of the sun, you know? It is unmistakable.
Hip Hop music has also played a huge role in influencing my sound. Madlib, J Dilla, Gangstarr, Common, MF DOOM, Mos Def and so many more artists have managed to capture my imagination with the way that they have appropriated classic genres using both old and new technologies.
JW: What new artists are turning you on at the moment?
LA: I’m really loving what Mo Kolours is doing by sampling Sega music, the music of his homeland, Mauritius…it reminds me of what I’m doing when I’m sampling from Highlife music. Very rough, rhythmical, strong.
I’m also in admiration of Blue Daisy, I think he has such an interestingly atmospherical approach to his sound. Very dark, crunchy and necessary.
JW: Outside of music, what are you passionate about/a huge fan of?
LA: Well as I mentioned before, I am professionally trained as an artist, so I love to work with other types of media, including painting, sculpture and mixed media. Another BIG love of mine is videogames! I have a large collection of consoles – Sega Mastersystem, Megadrive, Gameboy, NES, SNES, Atari 2600, Gamecube…I’m also a fan of a lot of the music that is programmed into these games!
JW: What’s on the “front burner” for you (What’s coming out next)?
LA: Good question! Well, with ‘More Mogya’ being the second project that I’ve completed that contains Highlife samples, I would like to conclude it with a third (and final) part where I generate the audio samples form field recordings. So I’m essentially looking to return home, to Ghana this year to do that. Maybe it will be done later this year, or released the following year, we will see. I have some stuff coming up that I’m working on for an art-based radio station called basic.fm. I will have some of my work aired on the station for a project called ‘Reuse Aloud’
I’m also exploring a range of other samples for my other audio project where I will assume the pseudonym: ‘Black Ph03nix’ – the sound will be different from any of the ‘Mogya’ projects and it will be fun to explore a differing sample pallet. I have a range of other projects as an artist that will be revealed throughout the year as well, so please visit www.larryachiampong.co.uk to find out as more shall be revealed!
JW: Everybody needs a recharge and artists especially so. What’s your favorite activity to clear your head and gain fresh inspiration?
LA: Hmmmmmmm….I love watching films, all types, both good and bad! I like to laugh a lot, as that helps me to relax. Reading, especially comic books is cool as well. As mentioned before, I absolutely love playing videogames, having that ability to reach into an imaginative world is something special. I also (most importantly) enjoy spending time with my son, he inspires me in a big way and helps me to see the simple, beautiful things that exist.