Kele Okereke

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Kele Okereke
Okereke performing in November 2018
Okereke performing in November 2018
Background information
Birth nameRowland Kelechukwu Okereke
Born (1981-10-13) 13 October 1981 (age 40)
Liverpool, England
OriginLondon, England
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
Instrument(s)
Years active1999–present
Labels

Rowland Kelechukwu Okereke (born 13 October 1981), also known mononymously as Kele, is an English singer, songwriter, and musician. He is best known as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the indie rock band Bloc Party.[1]

Early life[edit]

Okereke was born in Liverpool on 13 October 1981,[2][3] the son of Nigerian immigrant parents.[4] He is of Igbo descent and was raised Catholic in London.[5] From 2001 to 2003, he studied English literature at King's College London.[6]

Music career[edit]

Bloc Party[edit]

Bloc Party performing in January 2006

In 2005, Bloc Party released their first studio album, titled Silent Alarm. The album reached number three in the UK Albums Chart, and propelled the band to fame. Despite this, Okereke continued to study English literature at university. Until the release of Silent Alarm, he had kept his musical activities secret from his parents.

The band released their second album A Weekend in the City on 5 February 2007 in the UK and 6 February in the US. The album debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 with 48,000 copies sold, and reached the No. 2 spot in the UK Albums Chart. For the album, Okereke chose more personal and political subjects for songs. A family friend, Christopher Alaneme, had been murdered in a racist attack, while London bartender David Morley was beaten to death in a possibly homophobic "happy slapping" incident. Okereke has claimed that these events, combined with the 7 July London bombings, "galvanised [his] mindset" and prompted him to make the lyrics "dark, bigger and quite abrasive".[7]

It became available via the UK's iTunes Store a day ahead of schedule, on 4 February. The first single, "The Prayer", was released on 29 January, having been made available on Myspace on 22 November 2006. It reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart, still the group's highest placing. The next single, "I Still Remember," was the album's first in the US. The album was produced by Jacknife Lee.

In the build-up to the release of the album, Zane Lowe aired a live set from the BBC studios at Maida Vale featuring a mix of old songs and new ones on his evening radio show on BBC Radio 1 on 30 January 2007. The band also scheduled their first gig with the second album at Reading Hexagon to coincide with the UK release date. On 1 February 2007, A Weekend in the City was made available to listen to for free through the band's official Myspace website.

The third album released by the band Intimacy, was initially only made available for purchase on their website as a download on 21 August 2008. The record was released in compact disc form on 24 October 2008, with Wichita Recordings as the primary label. It peaked at number 8 on the UK Albums Chart and entered the Billboard 200 in the United States at number 18.

In October 2008, Okereke moved to Berlin to seize the city's music oriented spirit.[8]

Okereke made a guest appearance on Tiësto's song "It's Not the Things You Say"[9] on his album Kaleidoscope, released 6 October 2009 and also Martin Solveig's 'Ready 2 Go', after which Bloc Party went on hiatus.

In 2011, Kele Reunited with Bloc Party to record the band's fourth album, Four, which was released in August 2012. Both the album and its lead single - Octopus, released a month before - peaked in their respective UK charts at number three.

In 2013, the band released an EP called The Nextwave Sessions and went on an indefinite hiatus.

Bloc Party reunited in 2015 with a new line-up. They released their fifth album Hymns on 29 January 2016.[10]

Solo career[edit]

Okereke performing in 2009

Okereke released his first solo album, titled The Boxer, produced by XXXChange, on 21 June 2010, through Wichita / Polydor in the UK and Europe and Glassnote Records for the rest of the world. The album was released under the name Kele, dropping his surname. Okereke explained the album title, saying "as a boxer, you have to rely on nobody else but yourself to achieve what it is you want to achieve. Even though you take hits, you have to keep focus on your priorities and keep going. I thought that was an inspiring image."[11] The first single from the album, "Tenderoni", was released on 14 June 2010.[12]

On 13 September 2011, NME and Wichita Recordings announced that Kele would be releasing a follow up to The Boxer; an EP titled The Hunter.[13][14]

Kele released the single "Everything You Wanted". It was remixed by South African producers DJ Qness and DJ Mujava, who brought in a fusion of pop along with their traditional South African Kwaito music.

Kele features on Sub Focus' single "Turn It Around" from his second studio album Torus. The song was released on 22 September 2013.[15]

On 23 July 2014, Kele announced his second solo album, entitled Trick, to be released on his own label Lilac Records via Kobalt Label Services on 13 October 2014.[16]

Okereke released his third album Fatherland on 6 October 2017 under his full name (whereas his first two albums were released under the mononym 'Kele').[17] Two tracks, "Yemaya" and "Streets Been Talkin'", have been released from the album as of July 2017.[17]

On 19 March 2018, the Bloc Party Facebook page put a picture up indicating they were doing a tour of six shows in Europe performing songs from their first album, Silent Alarm.

In January 2019, "Leave to Remain", a new musical written by Okereke and Matt Jones debuted in London. Announced in September 2018, the musical about an interracial gay couple was preceded by the single "Not the Drugs Talking" which showed a move back towards beats following the more acoustic Fatherland.[18] Telling a love story through the Prism of Brexit, the new show is accompanied by a tie-in album of new songs. Speaking about the subject matter and his feelings on the UK in 2019, Okereke claimed that "It’s not a time that I’ve been proud to be British. It’s an ugly time. The opportunity to tell a story about people from different cultures coming together and finding love in the shadow of that is an important thing to stand up for."[19]

In November 2019, saw the release of Kele's fourth album, 2042.[20] The title is a reference to the year that census data predicts ethnic minorities will become the majority in the United States.[21] Much of the album tackles political themes such as the Windrush scandal, Grenfell Tower fire and Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest. Musically, Kele fuses funk with experimental electro, glitchy guitars and West African beats, according to NME.[22] The album was released under the name Kele, again dropping his surname.

In May 2021, Okereke released his fifth studio album entitled The Waves Pt. 1.[23]

Personal life[edit]

In March 2010, Okereke came out as gay in a BUTT magazine article.[5] He then gave an interview and appeared on the front cover of the June 2010 issue of Attitude magazine. He had previously been reluctant to discuss his sexuality, though he had compared himself to bisexual musicians Brian Molko and David Bowie. He has also compared himself to Morrissey, whose sexuality remains speculated.[24] Additionally, he has discussed the homoerotic story behind the Bloc Party song "I Still Remember" and its semi-autobiographical nature. In June 2010, he was named as the "Sexiest Out Gay Male Artist" by music website LP33 in its annual survey.[25]

In 2010, Okereke launched his personal website at iamkele.com.[26]

In a 2014, interview with NBHAP, Okereke told that he is "excited about the future". He said, "There is a lot going on, a lot of upheaval but with change comes the opportunity for rebirth, which is my favourite kind of experience."[27]

Oasis feud[edit]

Okereke responded critically to comments made by Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis in early 2007. Liam called Bloc Party "a band off of University Challenge" while Noel dismissed them as "indie shit". Okereke replied, "I think Oasis are the most overrated and pernicious band of all time. They had a totally negative and dangerous impact upon the state of British music. They have made stupidity hip. They claim to be inspired by the Beatles but, and this saddens me, they have failed to grasp that the Beatles were about constant change and evolution. Oasis are repetitive Luddites."[28] When Oasis cancelled their headlining set at the Rock-en-Seine festival in August 2009, which would lead to the band's demise, Okereke and the band's tour manager Peter Hill announced to the crowd that Oasis had cancelled their slot during Bloc Party's own set and sarcastically declared the breakup to be a shame. He then announced to the crowd, "So I guess by default, we are headlining." After bandmate Russell Lissack played a brief part of the Oasis song "Supersonic", Okereke mockingly dedicated the Bloc Party track "Mercury" to the Oasis fans "who really, really wanted to see those inbred twins".[29]

Discography[edit]

Solo Albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
UK
[30]
UK
Dance

[31]
AUS
[32]
AUT
[33]
BEL
(FL)

[34]
BEL
(WA)

[35]
FRA
[36]
IRL
[37]
SWI
[38]
The Boxer
  • Released: 21 June 2010
  • Label: Wichita
20 2 35 71 41 89 174 42 98
Trick
  • Released: 13 October 2014
  • Label: Lilac
99 9 92
Fatherland
(as Kele Okereke)
  • Released: 6 October 2017[17]
  • Label: BMG
2042
  • Released: 8 November 2019[39]
  • Label: Kola
The Waves Pt. 1
  • Released: 28 May 2021[40]
  • Label: Kola

Soundtrack albums[edit]

Title Details
Leave to Remain
  • Released: 25 January 2019[41]

EPs[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
AUS
The Hunter 79
Heartbreaker
  • Released: 25 November 2013[42]
  • Label: Crosstown Rebels
Candy Flip
  • Released: 31 March 2014
  • Label: Crosstown Rebels

Singles[edit]

Year Song Chart positions Album
UK
[30]
UK
Dance
AUS
[43]
AUT BEL (FL)
[44]
BEL (WA)
[45]
2010 "Tenderoni" 31 6 63 58 54 64 The Boxer
"Everything You Wanted" 93 17[46] 79
"On the Lam"
2011 "What Did I Do?" 83 The Hunter
2014 "Doubt" Trick
"Coasting"
"Closer"

Featured singles[edit]

Cultural influence[edit]

Online code school Bloc offers an optional API programming project called "Kele", named after Kele Okereke.[47]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bloc Party plot new Move". Clash. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  3. ^ "Rowland Kelechukwu Okereke". Companies House. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  4. ^ "Biko". Retrieved 1 June 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Bloc Party's Kele on coming out to his parents". PinkNews. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  6. ^ "Kele Okereke". www.kcl.ac.uk. Retrieved 8 June 2022. Kele read English Literature at King’s between 2001 and 2003, becoming a member of Bloc Party while he was still studying.
  7. ^ "Bloc Party: Ultra-violence and hedonism have fuelled this album". NME. 17 August 2006.
  8. ^ "Backstage – Berlin Musik". ARTE.tv. 31 October 2008. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  9. ^ Dombal, Ryan (4 August 2009). "Sigur Rós's Jónsi, Bloc Party's Kele Okereke on New Tiësto Album". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  10. ^ "Bloc Party unveil new single 'The Love Within' and announce new album Hymns".
  11. ^ Harper, Kate (28 June 2010). "Kele Okereke Relies On Himself for The Boxer". Chartattack.com. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  12. ^ "Bloc Party's Kele Okereke working on solo album". NME. 4 November 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Bloc Party's Kele Okereke to release new solo EP". NME. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  14. ^ "Kele releases The Hunter EP". Wichita-recordings.com. Archived from the original on 28 October 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  15. ^ Sub Focus 'Turn It Around' ft Kele (Radio Rip). YouTube. 22 July 2013. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  16. ^ "Bloc Party Frontman Announces Solo LP as Kele". 23 July 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  17. ^ a b c Morgan Britton, Luke (5 July 2017). "Bloc Party's Kele Okereke announces solo album 'Fatherland' and shares new track 'Streets Been Talkin". NME. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Kele Okereke soundtracks new play Leave to Remain". The Line of Best Fit. 4 September 2018.
  19. ^ "Bloc Party's Kele Okereke: This is not a time I'm proud to be British. It's an ugly time". The Independent. 24 January 2019.
  20. ^ Trendell, Andrew (4 September 2019). "Bloc Party's Kele Okereke explores "public racism" with 'Jungle Bunny' from new album '2042'". NME. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  21. ^ Cliff, Aimee (8 November 2019). "Kele: 2042 review – Okereke's most political work yet". the Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2022. So named to reference the year that census data predicts ethnic minorities will become the majority in the US, 2042 is perhaps Okereke’s most directly political work to date.
  22. ^ Aubrey, Elizabeth (6 November 2019). "Kele Okereke – '2042' review: Bloc Party frontman wows with politically charged funk and experimental electro". NME. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  23. ^ Williams, Jenessa (26 May 2021). "Kele – 'The Waves Pt. 1' review: a meditative pandemic-induced experiment". NME. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  24. ^ McLean, Craig (7 January 2007). "Kele Okereke: 21st-century boy". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
  25. ^ "top 20 sexiest gay male musicians". LP33. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  26. ^ "Exclaim! Music". exclaim.ca. Archived from the original on 11 July 2010.
  27. ^ Fleischer, Norman (7 April 2014). "Interview: Kele Okereke – 'The opportunity for rebirth'". NBHAP. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  28. ^ Swash, Rosie (29 March 2007). "Bloc Party attacks Oasis with thesaurus". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  29. ^ "Footage of Bloc Party announcing Oasis split onstage in Paris emerges – video". NME. 1 September 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  30. ^ a b "Kele | full Official Chart history". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  31. ^ "2010 Top 40 Dance Albums Archive: 3rd July 2010". Official Charts Company. 3 July 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  32. ^ "Kele – The Boxer (Album)". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  33. ^ "Kele – The Boxer". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  34. ^ "Kele – The Boxer". Ultratop. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  35. ^ "Kele – The Boxer". Ultratop. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  36. ^ "Kele – The Boxer". lescharts.com. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  37. ^ "Discography Kele Okereke". irishcharts.com. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  38. ^ "Kele – The Boxer". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  39. ^ "2042 by Kele". Apple Music. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  40. ^ English, Laura (28 March 2021). "Bloc Party's Frontman Kele Shares New Single 'Smalltown Boy' & Announces New Album". Music Feeds. Evolve Media. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  41. ^ "Leave to Remain - Amazon UK". Amazon UK.
  42. ^ "Heartbreaker EP - Crosstown Rebels". www.crosstownrebels.com.
  43. ^ "Kele – Tenderoni". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  44. ^ "Kele – Tenderoni". ultratop.be. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  45. ^ "Kele – Tenderoni". ultratop.be. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  46. ^ "2010 Top 40 Dance Singles Archive: 28 August 2010". Official Charts Company. 28 August 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  47. ^ "Bloc". Retrieved 28 April 2016.

External links[edit]