UD invited the Orii Jam crew to Takeover the Talent House studios for a three-day-long writing camp. Kat Friar went behind the scenes for a vibe check and caught up with Orii Jam founder, Fred aka Neue Grafik, host Germane and the artists, on all things Orii, music and UD…
Orii – meaning head, referring to soul and inspiration in Yoruba, has also found a new meaning in the sense of community that it’s brought to Hackney Wick and musicians in London. Now on two nights of the week – Mondays at Colour Factory, Hackney Wick and Tuesdays at Jumbi, Peckham – it’s given people something to look forward to when the working week starts again.
UD recently held a three day writing camp for the Orii Community where small groups would form and lock themselves away in a room to make magic. People would jump into different rooms and studios, to create with different artists, or they could take breaks from it all and just lounge in the members area for a bit, maybe order something off Deliveroo, and then get straight back into making music.
Set to give us a further taste of what they’re all about, Orii will be wrapping up the 2023 Industry Takeover at Talent House with a live music jam on the 2nd April. Tickets are free from UDtickets.com – don’t sleep on this one!
ud took time to speak to Fred – also known as Neue Grafik – about the creation of Orii Jam and more…
UD: What are the origins of Orii Jam? How did you create it?
FRED: It’s an idea that I’d had for a long time. My main idea when I did it and why I did it was [that] I had my own project, but I come from France, I’m from another country, and for a long time I wanted to develop, a big project with other artists which also left something behind me – like a kind of legacy. So I was thinking how [to] make a project which can let people play and be themselves. I really wanted to see people of colour making music with a soul. That’s what Orii means – if you’ve been to Orii it’s something that we say constantly, “What does Orii mean? Soul.” It’s a link between this idea and also my personal research of my Africanity. I made a lot of research on the Ifa religion, which is [a set of] beliefs coming from Nigeria. It’s a mix of different things that I wanted to put together and it came really naturally. I had this name for a long time. Everything clicked when I [found] the place.
UD: How did you develop a relationship with UD? And how is the writing camp coming along?
FRED: It’s going really well. The relationship with UD is coming from Nayana who works at UD (with really good elements of Orii), and she wanted to be more involved in the process of what we are doing there, and help to develop on the side another project called DA COMMUNITY. So, to do things together, plus the fact that we wanted to create music and not just constantly jam – we love to jam together but I think we just wanted more and UD in this context was – and is – really helpful, ’cause they help us to get what we need to write songs together properly. And the cool thing is [that] we have the studios, we have the main space, and it allows us to just take our time to properly make the music and plan on the long term [for] something a bit sustainable and we will be able as well to show the music that we wanna do [for a] larger audience than just Hackney Wick. Even if the jump for itself is a lot of people, it’s still cool to develop the artist(s) behind it.
The writing sessions allow us to see like all the artists [and] how we can complete each other. The first day of the writing sessions, we did a really good workshop ’cause we all wanted to be on the same wavelength when we’re talking. So it was cool to be able to get to just have like something like 10 or 12 people around the table talking about what they want to do, how they want to do it, and exchanging properly and see like who wants to do what and when. It was just really great and I hope [it stays like this] for a long time.
UD: How does it feel to have created this community?
FRED: You know what? I’m still trying to figure that out. Honestly, it’s still intimidating because when we created it was like 30 people in the middle of the club, and also it was post-Covid, so everybody had to sit down. It was so different, and it was a vibe [that was] more like artists for artists with some people coming [to] see what the vibe is about. But right now, it’s a place where people network, people fall in love, people break up. You have people come on stage, people sing. You have some people who [are on stage] for the first time.You have some people who just constantly come for the vibe, just to see the vibe, [to] see their friends. So it starts to be a proper community and sometimes I’m a bit overwhelmed by that, but I also love it. I also do my best to embrace it because I had what I thought was a strong idea, and I can see that people resonate with it [and] understand what we are [and] what Orii is about. And you also have some people who just come for the vibe, but you still have the people who come and vibe, but you have to get the mentality [that] it’s not just vibing. It’s more than that, you know? So it’s really cool to see how like you got an idea, you try to spread the words in the moment [and] people take it for themselves.
For me right now, Orii means something for people outside of myself, my house and my close circle of friends or Germane, the host. I feel blessed. I’m really lucky as well because what happened with Orii is – in my opinion – like a conjunction of a lot of good things happening at the same time. So it’s like finding the good place at the good time. Having the good network and the perfect musicians at the moment where I feel comfortable enough to play as I wanted to play, and all that together bring Orii and motivate people to be a part of it.
UD: What are your plans for Orii?
FRED: What I can say right now is we are really ambitious. What we want to do is shift the industry and have a strong ethos of the kind of artists that we want to develop and where we want to go. It sounds a bit arrogant because we are at the first step of what I have in mind… All the people of Orii, they know, because with all of them, I talked about my personal visions and we [also] exchanged their visions, so we all know where we want to go. All I can tell you is, the next six years are really exciting. It’s really exciting for what we are doing and it gives me faith as well of like humanity and just what can happen in the music industry if we do it well. What I can also tell you is if what we have in mind works, I think this is gonna be pure history. The legacy will be strong and we will all be really proud [of] what we’ll do in the 10 or 15 next years. It’s literally the kind of things like you can show to your kids like, “Hey, you know, dad did that when he was younger.”
UD: For anyone who hasn’t been to Ori, what would you say to encourage them to come?
FRED: If [on] Monday night you feel bad, you feel happy, you got some anger, your boss was talking to you like ****, your girlfriend let you down, your boyfriend is just a douchebag or whatever is happening in your life and you want to just let [your guard] down and make something close to prayer and try to stay connected with some other people on the same frequency. Come to Orii, that’s exactly what it’s about. It’s not just a club night or a live gig. It’s a mentality. It’s spirit. That’s just my opinion. It’s spiritual. What we try to do is really spiritual, trying to connect all the people who come together.
At the beginning when I was talking about Orii, I said to some of my friends who had a lot experience of live gigs in London. I explained [that], the most important [thing] is not the people on stage or the musicians. The most important is the crowd. So if you come to [Orii], you are one of the most important things that we need. And when I said that to my friends, they were laughing at me because they were like “Ah nah, it’s not true.” ‘Cause for everybody, you’re Michael Jackson, you’re on stage. The most important things is you. But in my opinion, what we’re doing in Orii is literally the opposite. The stage represents what happens in the crowd. So if you don’t give us the energy, the night will not work. It has to be a full circle. The thing is when you when you feel you are part of the circle of energy, it’s addictive and you want to come back, but to explain it properly, the best is to live it. That’s all I can say.
ud also spoke to Germane,
Orii Jam’s host…
UD: What does Orii mean to you?
GERMANE: Orii means the connection of the head and the heart, and that is spirit to me. That’s what it’s from the philosophy – the word. The jam itself has come to mean community and connection and a movement towards connection.
UD: Talk us through the writing camp, how is it so far?
GERMANE: So far so good, we’ve got a lot of people doing what they do best – making music. Some people who have never collaborated before are coming together, writing together. We’ve also got a shared goal now, so we managed to work that out and know where we’re going and what’s motivating us so that’s really important.
UD: What does it mean to you to have a community like this where you’re able to create music with like-minded individuals?
GERMANE: It’s emotional. It’s hard to describe what it means to people – to be part of something like this. I can’t really describe that one.
UD: What’s your favourite lyric you’ve written so far?
GERMANE: My reputation proceeds me/ It was written in the path in brail from the mountain to the deep sea/ My people feed me to tell my tale/ Don’t get too greedy/ I stay lit like firesides/ It’s still blurred/ Never neeky/ I light one up for ionine…
UD: And lastly, what do you think of the Talent House and the facilities they’ve got?
GERMANE: This place is pretty mad. I’m really glad that young people, especially young black people – especially young black people from east – have got an opportunity to be a part of facilities like this, without gatekeepers – so it’s good.
MEET THE ARTISTS
Kat Friar caught up with some of the Orii crew taking part in the writing camp…
UD: Okay, so describe what you guys made together today.
CHRYS: Disco, house-y jazz. Jazzy, house-y vibes. I don’t know what I had in mind today. Over the past few days, I’ve been feeling a bit on the negative side, so I wanted to make a song a bit more upbeat, a bit more kind of joyful, cheerful, kind of just upbeat, so that’s what I went with. Jaiye came and started just doing some melodies here and there. Some people came in and out and I think when Max came…
JAIYE: That’s when it picked up. I feel like Chrys’ idea first was change, and I relate to that cause it’s like [the] transitional period of what I’m going through now, but then I went to another room and then I came back and Max had a vibe for it. And then after he came in, it just kind of went together and she even left the room and [we were] still writing to it.
UD: What does the Orii community mean to you guys?
CHRYS: Family – belonging, like-minded beings. I think that’s so important, especially in London. London is so big. There are so many people and places, you kind of get lost in it, but I just feel lucky that I kind of stumbled upon Orii. Just a sense of joy it brings me every week, and to meet these wonderful people and to like make music together. It’s my dream really. I’m not from London, I’m from Newcastle, so it’s a very different life – and just coming to London and just like being around all these talented individuals nearly every day at this point.
JAIYE: It’s like the best thing about Orii is [that] you never know who you’re standing next to. You’d be like, “Oh, this is so cool,” and you’re fan-girling over someone. Then they get up and they shell it. It’s insane. It’s really quite cool. I feel like for someone like me, I went to Orii through someone that I used to work with, and then I ended up just having the urge – I was like shaking. If I don’t go, I’m just gonna feel like I did myself a disservice. I feel like it’s been like a year and a half now and I’ve just grown so much. I’ve always loved music, but it wasn’t a path, do you know what I mean? So it’s really everything, ’cause you can have an idea and then it just grows and being at Orii, it encourages you.
UD: How do you feel your experience of performing at Orii is translating through the writing?
JAIYE: The funny thing is we are all acting like it’s a jam. We’re bouncing around and we’re like, we’re gonna go here. We’re gonna go there. So I feel like for me it’s hearing what’s been done and improvising, but I guess everybody’s process is different as well, but it’s hearing what she’s created and doing my own thing on her thing, making it our thing.
CHRYS: The freedom to do what you want really and just put your spin in it, put your style on it. It just becomes this kind of amalgamation of people’s energies and auras, it’s lovely.
UD: What’s it been like being able to use facilities that they have at UD?
CHRYS: So good!
JAIYE: It’s nice ’cause you’ve got the people to show you what to. This is a lot for me, but Chrys and everyone here knows what to do.
CHRYS: It’s good equipment. It’s good quality equipment. It’s gonna last a while, that’s all that matters really.
UD: How do you feel about the freedom of being able to go in and out and create stuff with various different people and then come back?
JAIYE: I feel like it’s helping me create more. I feel like if it [wasn’t like that], I would probably overthink it, but because I can go in and run away, it’s kind of cool. It takes time to find it [what it] is what I’m looking for, but once I’ve found it, I can release it and let it go – it’s nice to be free as a creative, ’cause you just want to express and I think that’s the best thing about it.
CHRYS: I guess ’cause I’m one of the producers I was mainly doing my own track, but when I went to go in different rooms and see how different everyone else’s room was, [it] was actually really nice. [It was] kind of refreshing, ’cause when you hear the same thing over and over and over again, you need a break. And during those breaks, seeing what everyone else was doing just really [inspired me] to keep going. Especially when you hit a plateau. It’s just nice just to have that sort of inspiration, to get back into it.
UD: How’s the writing camp been so far?
MAR!K: It’s been really, really, really fun. Yeah. I’ve been enjoying it. Nice!
UD: What have you been making today?
MAR!K: I’ve been helping with some bass on some things. I haven’t done anything in terms of my own stuff yet. I’m open to do more of that tomorrow. I’ve just been floating between rooms, assisting where I can be useful, I suppose.
UD: What’s it like, like going into different rooms? Is it confusing or is it nice to see what people are doing?
MAR!K: It’s good to see what other people are doing because I feel like I’m one of the people who – because I’m at UD all the time anyway – I kind of understand how things operate already. So to see people experiencing the things I experienced when I first came here, it’s really cool to see, which is why I feel like especially today and a bit of yesterday, it was more like helping people get settled in and helping them produce some stuff. Yesterday I was working on some stuff with NK-OK, that was fun. Tomorrow I’m hoping to do more live stuff.
UD: What are those things that you mentioned that they’re experiencing for the first time?
MAR!K: Just the ability to have a space to be able to create, because it’s kind of hard to come by, especially as like a upcoming producer or artist or creative, it’s difficult to find those spaces where you are able to do those kinds of things, especially with such high-end equipment.
UD: So what does Orii mean to you? Like what was your journey like? Talk us through like the first day that you went to Orii and how you progressed…
MAR!K: The first person who brought me to Orii was NuAloe. We went there for the first time, I think, what was that, a year, two years ago? They came and we went for the first time and it was crazy. That’s where we were, Orii’s basically where we all met, so I feel like from there I started going more, singing, doing a bit of rapping, playing bass, and then becoming more familiar with everyone. And then from there it became like a, like a constant thing where it was like it was a part of my week. It wasn’t just something that I’d go to, it’s something that I was a part of. I was a part of that community, that family.
UD: So what’s it like being in a space with like-minded individuals? How do you feel like you guys bounce off each other to then?
MAR!K: It’s really inspirational because we’re all doing different things but in the same avenue, so we bounce off ideas. We inspire each other in a lot of ways. A lot of the music that we are making, some of us might hop on another person’s track. We’re collaborating at the same time and still helping each other out – whether it be with lyrics, production, playing, engineering, whatever it is, everyone’s helping each other and sometimes it’s not even conscious because you are just naturally connected.
UD: What’s the best bar you’ve written today?
MAX: The bar I walked in with, the first bar that left my lips today was actually perfect. I was like, “I wish I had the patience that Joseph had with Mary.”
MAFIO: I think my favorite bar for today is where I was like, “Old school days when I bopped on road/ I been trying to get bigger like I hopped on toad but I got speed like it was copped on track.”
UD: What have you guys thought of the Talent House studios that you’ve been using?
LIMA: I’ve been in enjoying the facilities, especially cause I’m so used to producing in my bedroom or Pirate Studios where half the stuff doesn’t work half the time. I come to the studio and now everything’s nice. If need to go like de-stress, I can go go to the drum kit. It’s actually a very nice facility, I can’t lie.
MAX: Yeah, it has been fun. When you record on like expensive mics or mics that are actually worth something, every song sounds professional and it’s not because you’re not capable, it’s just ’cause you ain’t got the funds or the equipment, but once you have access to the funds or the equipment, it really shows – it lets your talent shine. I feel like this studio and these rooms have made me feel a bit more worthwhile for my art.
MAFIO: I like the way it’s set out because you can be in the studio and then come out, go sit down on the sofa, go get something to eat, come back. It allows you to not feel like you’re just crammed in one room and you’ve gotta do everything in this one room and everything’s all over the place and [you’re] knocking over different stuff.
UD: Tell us about your first time at Orii…
MAX: My jazz friend invited me. We were on our way to somewhere else, but he said, “Oh, let’s pop in. I’m friends with some guy called Fred who’s running an event.” We came, we got in. It was the first time I ever saw Colour Factory, which became a mad part of my life. Walked inside the venue, went upstairs. It was like the third week so no one’s in the room. Covid is just kind of over and they were sitting down. Everyone’s sitting down and the gaps were massive, the gaps between people, ’cause no one knew each other and it was up to Germane to try and bring people in. I didn’t even perform the first time I went and people were asking me, ‘when you gonna go on’, I didn’t even rap like that [then]. Well, I did rap ’cause I used to do squat raves, but I didn’t rap like jazz stuff, so I wasn’t really on it.
I was watching all these people come and the time I’d say I was inspired was because this black man and his dad went on stage together, and they done like likkle father and son ting, and I was laughing so hard and it made me so happy. Every man’s bussing up and every man’s loosened up. And we all felt comfortable. After that, we all just enjoyed ourselves. And that’s when I felt like Orii for man began. I went, I left. I bought some stuff. I came back. Boom. I’ve been going Orii in Color Factory ever since. I went the week after. Then I went a week after that and the week after that. And the week after that. Then I had a girlfriend and we went together – that was our date night. Week after that, week after that, week after that. Had a fight in Orii Jam. Missed one week. Came back a week after that. Stopped going Orii Jam with my girlfriend. Week after that, me and my girlfriend broke up. Week after that, week after that, week after that. Then it hit – I’d done a whole year at Orii Jam. Got sick after that. I done my whole year, missed a couple weeks. And now we’re here. Grew up with the place – like literally.
LIMA: I’d met Fred like years down the line [at] Steam Down. I remember there was one time I was with my boy, and he was just playing instrumentals and we were just freestyling for like a good two to three hours, and Fred was like, “Yeah, you guys are good,” so I just remember, I kept watching what my friends are doing. From time to time we watch what I’m doing.
We haven’t seen each other for years now and then my friend told me, “Oh, there’s this little jam that’s happening in Hackney Wick, you should come Colour Factory.” So I go upstairs now, everyone’s seated. And I remember the mic was just there and someone’s just jamming. And then I was like, if they do what I think they’re gonna do on the beat, I’m hopping on this mic right now. They did exactly that. I just ran straight to the mic. I rapped and Fred was like, “Oh yeah, I remember you! You were freestyling for like three hours.” I was like; “Yeah man, I’m back.”
I had to come through and do my thing and express myself. And since then, I literally come in every week just to feel this sense of happiness and connection to music again. Monday is usually associated as being like one of the most depressing gloomiest days. And then for something as beautiful as Orii to be on that day, it’s made me excited for Monday. I’m not looking at a Monday like, “Oh, I gotta wake up and the weekend’s over.” Nah, the weekend’s just started!
MAFIO: The first time I ever went I was working as a security, the first couple of times, and that’s when I first met Max, Shabazz, Niz and D Wills, all on the same night… I think D Wills has got his security badge as well and that’s what we were talking about. And then Shabazz always used to come and he’d see me and then he’d buy me drinks on the night ’cause I couldn’t get drinks cause I was working. I’d just be listening to the jam, listening to everyone rapping and I had been writing myself for a couple of years, so I’d just be in my head, kind of spitting or whatever. And then Shabazz used to come over, we’d spend the whole night just spitting right next to the front bar and then I think after one week, I just decided to go up very quickly while I was at work. After that I was just like, “Yeah, this is what I need to be doing.” And I never worked another Monday again. I just kept on coming to Orii Jam and yeah, that was pretty much about it. It was a banging experience. I’ve been able to meet amazing people from it.
UD: what’s been your favourite part about creating music with your community?
LIMA: I think it’s just the moments. You know when you make a song and you just have that moment like, “Yeah! this is crazy. What the hell is going on right now?” I live for those moments where you make magic with people that you’ve known for a while and that you’ve built that bond with, and this is all natural and everything just syncs.
MAX: That’s hard. My favourite part of making music with the Orii community is that I like going on stage with people that I guess in normal society, people consider crazy, I love it. I love going on stage with someone that’s got like odd shoes on or someone who’s tattooed their eyes black. I love it, ’cause I’m in a situation where I get to know you better than an awkward conversation where we’re doing small talk and I can’t really [get to know you], and I’m gonna hear you sing your heart out.
Usually when people are singing or performing, it’s a part of themselves they show the world. A good artist will show a part of themselves in all their art. With me, I always do punchlines in my bars ’cause I like being funny. So through their art, I love to see that glimpse of them. It is so interesting to me, ’cause we could never get that from a normal conversation, but because you just sung your heart out, I know you’re so much better now in a way where it would be uncomfortable if we just done had that conversation over coffee and donuts. I wish I could do it with everyone. I wish I could pull anyone on stage and be like, “Yo, sing how you are feeling right now,” – on a High School Musical ting.
MAFIO: Mine is just that energy in general. The fact that some people don’t necessarily have the confidence to always go up and do what they can as an art form and just having all of that energy around you encouraging you to do that and seeing other people appreciate that energy and work off of it and do something with it. I think it’s just it’s beautiful isn’t it?
As you can see, the close knit community that developed as a result of a jam session is being well nurtured – the members of the community are building life-long friendships from their love for music and are finding new ways to get to know each other. They’ve treated this writing session with love and care and are creating something sustainable using the facilities at UD. We’re delighted we can host such a wonderful community and shine a light on their talent, giving them the space to make music with no limits.
Join us for Introducing… Orii Jam, Sunday April 2nd from 2pm at Talent House. Tickets are free from UDtickets.com
Words: Kat Friar Kat is a freelance journalist, DJ and photographer with a passion for music. She likes to cover all bases regarding music so whether it’s a new album, a rising artist or a gig, she’ll be writing about it.
Photography: Saadiq T