In the week that sees the release of his latest studio album Peacock, renowned multi-instrumentalist Osunlade reflects on some of the keys pieces of equipment that have informed his musical direction over the course of his career.
This instrument has been not only a staple in my own music but in most soul, funk and jazz since the early 60s. It’s used by almost anyone relevant musically. Invented by Harold Rhodes originally as a rehabilitation tool for soldiers in World War II, this sweet, melodic instrument encapsulates the sound of soul. Unlike most electric pianos of its day, the Fender Rhodes isn’t harsh or aggressive. Most models also come with an amazing tremolo that warms not only the sound but gives it a distinct standing sonically. I’ve used this instrument in possibly 90% of my music; I own a collection, each one different in sound and palette. There are lots of emulators these days with VST plugins and other modules but the original Fender Rhodes cannot be duplicated, ever. The opening track ‘Jade’ on Peacock utilizes this instrument.
In the early 90s while producing for R&B artists I was introduced to several instruments that would shape not only my music but also my understanding of how to use different instruments to replace or emulate the sound of another. There is no other instrument I consider the master of this other than the Minimoog. A monophonic analogue synthesizer invented by Bill Memsath and Robert Moog, this beauty can be heard on albums from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock, Kraftwerk: the list goes on. What I love about this is the lovely tones you create: the idea of playing a synthesizer to replace a horn section or lead line, a simple melody or that ever loving fat bass is what the Moog gives you. And since only one note can be played at a time, it’s really great for doubling on harmonies. One of the most prominent uses of this on Peacock can be heard in ‘Better Man’.
This is one percussive instrument that not only brightens up an emotion but gives a specific rhythm to any song. From the very small to large shekere, to a rattlesnake’s tail a shaker is a key element in most Latin, Brazilian and African music as well as their religions. I believe it has something to do the sound calling the ancestors per say. It’s quite an abrasive yet subtle instrument depending on the make. A classic Yoruba tune using this instrument would be ‘Ochun’s Arrival’.
I was first introduced to this instrument back in the 90s at a Fishbone concert. I’d been a huge fan of theirs since my high school days and when I saw Angelo Moore bring this contraption on stage I was like “what the fuck is that thing?” When I saw how it was played I was astonished. This was actually one of the first electronic instruments, created in 1928 and consisting of two metal antennas and using radio frequencies. One hand controls frequency, the other volume and notation. An absolute amazing instrument. I have yet to release any music I’ve recorded with this instrument; however you can hear Angelo tear it here.
Roland Alpha Juno 1
This one was a little secret back in the day between a few of us young producers in LA. A small polyphonic synthesizer created in 1985, it was one of the first keyboards I owned with MIDI. The thing this synth had that made it a staple for me was the ability to create some of the fattest bass sounds ever. In addition the programmable chord memory is a huge bonus, which is a technique that can be heard on ‘Pride’.
Peacock is out now on Yoruba Records - order from iTunes
Osunlade join Terrence Parker, FCL, Luke Solomon and more for Defected In The House at London’s Ministry Of Sound 01 November – click for full line-up and tickets