September 15, 1976 |
|Genres||Jazz, world, hip-hop, pop|
|Occupations||Singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, arranger, musical director|
|Associated acts||Amy Winehouse, Soweto Kinch, Courtney Pine, The Roots, George Benson|
Femi Temowo is a Nigerian-born British jazz guitarist, musical director, producer and broadcaster described by Time Out magazine as "one of Europe’s finest and most sought after guitarists." He is a current nominee for the Best Jazz Act MOBO Award (2012).
Femi Temowo was born in the city of Akure, Nigeria. Following the death of his birth mother when he was four months old, he lived with his grandmother in Nigeria while his father emigrated to the UK. Ten years later, in 1986, Temowo’s father returned to take his son to England, where they lived in Streatham, South London, with his siblings and step-mother.
Amidst an increasingly wayward youth, Temowo’s step-mother insisted that he spent Saturday evenings with her at church choir rehearsals. Aside from a brief experimentation with rap, Temowo had not seriously engaged with music. It was in the church that Temowo, aged 17, was taught his first guitar chords by Michael Olatuja, then 13 years old, who would later become a jazz bassist and solo artist. Temowo started experimenting with his brother’s acoustic guitar and fell in love with the instrument, practising ceaselessly and quickly becoming proficient.
Temowo attended Leeds College of Music for a one-year Music introduction course in 1996. That year, aged 20, he played in his first live jam session at the Paradise Bar in New Cross, London, alongside numerous up-and-coming musicians on the "New Cross scene" such as Shingai Shoniwa (Noisettes). In 1997, Temowo was selected to join the Paradise Bar’s house band, and also began gigging in London. He embarked on a Music degree at Middlesex University, and graduated in 2001.
1999-2006: Beginning Works
Work with Soweto Kinch
In 2003, Temowo met with saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch at a jam session in Uncle Sam’s, Hackney. The pair had initially met as teenagers at the same venue, introduced by jazz guitarist Alan Weekes. Temowo and Kinch had hit it off, playing the jazz standard "Caravan". By 2003, Kinch had already managed to claim the Rising Star category in the BBC Radio Jazz Awards and International Saxophonist of the Year at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and was signed to Dune Records. Upon reconnecting, invited Temowo to join his trio with bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Troy Miller to form his quartet. Temowo agreed, and they recorded Kinch’s debut album Conversations with the Unseen (2003), which was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Temowo continued to work and tour internationally with Kinch, and played on Kinch’s second album, A Life in the Day of B19: Tales of the Tower Block (2006) and Kinch's third album, The New Emancipation (2010).
Work with Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse was seeking a Musical Director after the release of her debut album, Frank (2003), when Temowo, now a regular on the jazz circuit, was recommended to her. Winehouse and Temowo met at the Spread Eagle pub in Camden, 2004, to discuss their musical ideas. Temowo worked as Winehouse’s Musical Director and guitar accompanist throughout 2004 and 2005, touring with her twice across Europe and the UK. Temowo ceased work with her in late 2005 and began to write solo material.
The Black Lily was a platform which showcased female talent bred in Philadelphia, born in the basement of Questlove’s (“The Roots” drummer/bandleader) house. The first series took place weekly at the Wetlands in New York (1999) and later moved to the Five Spot in Philadelphia (2000-05). “The Lily” grew to one of the most anticipated nights in Philadelphia. The Black Lily produced talent such as Floetry, Jaguar Wright, Lady Alma, Kindred the Family Soul and Jazmine Sullivan, and hosted impromptu performances from established artists such as Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, The Roots and India Arie. The concept was exported to the UK in 2003, where Temowo musically directed The Black Lily monthly nights at Cargo in Shoreditch. The Roots were hosted at London’s Black Lily twice, performing with Temowo both times.
2006-present: solo career
Temowo released his debut solo album, Quiet Storm, in September 2006 under his own label Femitone Music. Made with a modest budget, the album was recorded in one day at The Premises Studios in Hackney. Temowo spent nine months producing the record from his own home. The record established Temowo as a respected solo jazz artist, although he felt that he was merely "clearing his throat."
Temowo released his eagerly anticipated second album, Orin Meta, to critical acclaim in September 2011. Orin Meta, which means "Three Songs" in the Yoruba language, was inspired by Temowo’s study of the song culture of the early Yoruba people of his native West Africa. The record showcases Temowo’s distinct guitar style and exceptional arrangements through the Yoruba tradition of story-telling, fusing jazz harmonies and Yoruba rhythms. Temowo spent over a year meticulously producing the record.
In, 2009 Courtney Pine had invited Temowo to play at the first Lagos International Jazz Festival, part of the North Sea Jazz Festival. This was Temowo’s first trip back to Nigeria since his emigration aged 10, and prompted several revisits and an exploration of the music of his heritage.
Temowo explains that while "connected" to his Nigerian roots, he was exploring his cultural background from the perspective of someone born in Nigeria but living as a British person in the UK. The songs show clear personal meaning for Temowo – for example, "Felicia’s Song", which was written for his birth mother.
Temowo is a current nominee for the Best Jazz Act MOBO Award (2012).
Artists worked with
- Soweto Kinch
- Wynton Marsalis
- Amy Winehouse
- Andrea Bocelli
- George Benson
- The Roots
- Julie Dexter
- Jason Rebello
- Samantha Mumba
- Courtney Pine
- N, Chidi (9 September 2011). "Photo shoot with Femi Temowo". Proud to be African Clothing. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "Femi Temowo". Femi Temowo Official Site. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "Inside The Studio with The Ladies of The Black Lily!". Eventbrite. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- "Jazz Alive". Premier Gospel: Music for Life. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- Chris May (29 December 2011), "Femi Temowo: Orin Meta", All About Jazz.
- "Femi Temowo Launches Orin Meta at Under the Bridge". Jazz Wise Magazine.