Ray Okapra‘s Nigerian roots has always informed audiences with percussive, loopy, infectious sound.
One of the key artists to emerge from the Frankfurt and Mannheim scenes, Ray has been a staple of Mobilee, Area Remote, 8-Bit, and many others who have all released his work. In 2018, his It’s Ours party continues to be much loved round Europe. Now, Ray brings the second release on promising upstart imprint YET Records with “Violong”, a collection of dancefloor aimed tracks also featuring remixes from Andre Butano and Jee Bear.
Here, with the release available at the end of August, Ray discusses what’s new in his world, It’s Ours, YET Records, and much more.
“…either you swim with the flow or you do your own thing”
Hi Ray, thanks for taking the time to talk to Deep House London, I hope you’re well. It’s been a decade now since your first releases on Drumpoet Community and Area Remote. What have you learnt about yourself and the music industry over those ten years?
Hey guys, how’s it going? I’m in my kitchen and it just started to rain again in Mannheim/Germany.
So, about the music industry. It’s a big mess for sure but we all love it and make the best of what is still happening. It has changed in my opinion with a change of focus with more emphasis on brands/labels or social media/pr/etc rather than the music.
I think now either you swim with the flow or you do your own thing, which is more satisfying for me. Doing my own thing. Nothing lasts forever so if you are riding a wave try to stay on it. And I feel that’s what I did and still am doing. I learned to be more patient, ride any wave some small, some bigger just stay satisfied and try not to rush anything. Time is precious.
Your party series, ‘It’s Ours’ seems to be going strong in your hometown of Mannheim and beyond, tell us a little about the events, how they started and what you have lined up for the months ahead?
#itsours is my baby which I started 4 years ago and is more foucused on playing with my close friends, like: Okain, Nekes, Johnny D, Federico Molinari, Shane Watcha, Marko Nastic, Markus Homm, and loads of others. B2B sessions and having a good time with quality music. So now i have my small but very good residencies where i get my buddies to play with me. Like in Stuttgart we rock Climax and Munich we play in Palais. More afterhours feeling which we love <3 Named after and inspired by Bukowski’s poetic piece, ‘It’s Ours’. It was the late Charles Bukowski who once said, “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live.” Your Nigerian heritage has been mentioned in the past as a major influence on your music. Who for you are the greatest recording artists to come out of the country’s rich musical history?
Easy one. Fela Kuti. I think he has been the most popular and enduring artist.
But to be honest I don’t know if Nigeria is my biggest influence. I could not even tell you what my influences are, because I like and listen to all kinds of music genres. Maybe I am influenced but I don’t know it. Heheh.
With music though, I feel music always evolves. And is never standing stil but at the end it circles back to some point in time. Now somehow techno is coming back and a lot more is being played. I think this will disappear and all genres will be played all the time.
Nowadays, I play a lot guitar which helps fill my musical thirst. It helps so much on producing, frequencies EQing, harmonies, tuning and make the production more round. So I can say at the moment my music is a bit influenced by my guitar.
Your latest single comes via the fledgling Yet Records, a new label, how did you get involved with these guys and what made you feel this was a good fit?
My brother Leo from Mobius Strum in Costa Rica introduced me to the boys, one thing led to another and we’re already talking about the second ep, so all is working out great. Now we are working on a date to bring me over to Domenican Republic. I was super sick in May so I wasn’t able to fly. That I think was the third time in the last decade that I had to cancel a show. Now I am more than happy to be back at the end of September to play for YET RECORDS in Punta Cana. I will definitely put some quality time to it and stay some days to chill and bring some caribbean vibes home.
And looking so forward to the release of the ep. Huge remixes from Andre Butano and jc bear are gonna be a great add to the violong ep.
Mobilee obviously played a big part in your musical history with a host of singles and an album on the label. You moved on a few year back, are you still in touch with the team there?
Mobilee was a very good long ride. It was and is still a part of me. So many good times, releases, and parties. But it came to an end. Not to the label, to the booking agency, so all the artists had to look to where they would go next. I’m not really in touch because all the artists went their different ways.
I am still in touch with Re.You who is in on the same agency as I am, And.id who made the rmx for Steven Cock for the next Ama Recordings 039. The others I see and hear from quite rarely, here and there. Of course there are also moments of looking back to the past days. But there is so much to come of looking to the future. Lets see where the ride leads.
Germany has been your home for most of your life but you’ve obviously travelled extensively as a DJ. Where else on the globe do you feel an affinity with and could see yourself living?
Costa Rica, Mexico. I have thought many times about living there.
Now with my son in my home in Mannheim nothing can take me anywhere else. In fact I lived in Nigeria from my 2nd – 9th year of life. We left because of the political situation. But i have been thinking is it possible to go back also to live there. And, I think: YES. but not everywhere. My family’s village is in the countryside, there is a bigger town called Umuahia near by but i think it would be hard to try to live there. I was dreaming more of Lagos or Abuja. Abuja has been growing since the last time i was there and everyone tell me it’s so nice. Clubs, Djs, a scene is happening there now. So Nigeria too. You never know what or where life takes you.
You’ve done a small amount of collaborations over the years, is it fair to say you favour work solo? And are there any artists or producers you’d jump at the chance to work with?
I am a teamplayer so i do like collaborations but it’s not always easy to work with any artist. Everyone has their work flow, I feel it very easy to collaborate if I can work it out on my own. When I get the files in my hands I just work on them till I think it’s right. And opposite applies to. I work on a tune and send the tracks then the the collab-artist does his magic. Easy working flow. Works worldwide.
On the other hand it’s also cool to start some tunes directly together and creating at the same time. But that doesn’t happen that often from my experience.
Derrick Carter was & is one of my all time favs ☺
Are you a football fan? Any thoughts on Germany’s historic early departure from the 2018 World Cup?
Hey, we’re here for the music not for football. But my heart is bleeding. Also for Nigeria, they didn’t make it either. Then for my Costa Ricans, Mexicans & Colombians as well. I was cheering on Croatia, but it seems France have taken the crown 🙂
What’s on the horizon for you for the rest of the year, as we pass the midway point of 2018?
I have some eps coming. Akbal music, This and That, Half Seas Over, Ama Recordings, Embi music, Studio76, Minimood, Agora, Yet Records, some more #itsours shows, now working close with mannheims minimalistica crew. I never know where its going to or what is going to happen. I just know right now I a good time <3 “Violong” is available 27 August on YET Records