He may be best recognised as the voice of the hulking Gorillaz anti-hero, Russel Hobbs, but the multi-talented Remi Kabaka has about as many sides as a sphere. Unable to be tied down to music alone, the mind behind Gorillaz Sound System (GSS) dabbles in anything from fashion to art curation. Before he blows our minds at Zouk on September 17, here are some fun facts that you may not easily find in Kabaka’s bio.
1. He’s not the first Remi Kabaka to be in the music biz
Google “Remi Kabaka” and you might be left feeling a little confused. That’s because Remi Kabaka (or more accurately, Remi Kabaka Jr.) shares the same name as his father, a famed Nigerian drummer – and a star-collaborator to boot. Having worked with The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, and a whole lot more, it’s easy to see where junior gets his musical and collaborative streak.
2. He performed in Bobby Womack’s Bravest Band
In the same vein as his father’s collaborative streak, Kabaka joined Albarn outside of the Gorillaz universe to perform alongside soul legend, the late Bobby Womack. Reimagining the “Across 110th Street” star’s groove for 26th and final album, The Bravest Man In The Universe, Albarn brought an atmospheric calm to the soul singer’s sound. Of course, he also brought his dependable buddy Kabaka to deliver the rhythm when Womack performed the album on-stage with the Albarn-led Bravest Band.
3. He makes tunes for charity
By now there’s no question that Kabaka and Albarn have a tight-knit relationship (we haven’t even gotten to their other project, Africa Express!). So when Albarn visited the Democratic Republic of Congo with a pack of producers to create a collaborative album with over 50 Congolese performers, you better believe that Kabaka wasn’t missing that flight. Under the name DRC Music, the group released Kinshasa One Two, of which all proceeds went to Oxfam to assist with the country’s humanitarian crisis.
4. He has a vision for visuals
GSS isn’t the only audio-visual experience Kabaka has delivered to audiences, and he’s certainly not afraid to experiment with his formula. In a collective comprised of past-Gorillaz collaborators like Elmore Judd, M.I.A. and Africa Express, Kabaka’s Blakkspring project was an ambitious live experience, where instruments make music based on visuals, and visuals are modulated to music. Trippy stuff.
5. He’s got a soft spot for history
Any self-respecting musician will have a wealth of knowledge about the shoulders of musical giants on whom they stand – but Kabaka shares that historical passion to the landmarks of his home in London. Together with Eliza Doolittle in a documentary by shoe brand, Palladium, Kabaka and the British pop starlet co-hosted a short documentary one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, Battersea Power Station.
6. He curates visual art on walls as well on stages
Not only an appreciator of art as an accompaniment to his music, Kabaka spends time outside of his own art-form to appreciate that of others as a gallery manager of London’s Lazarides art gallery. Coming full circle, the enigmatic Banksy – who is friends with Steve Lazarides, the gallery’s owner – illustrated the cover for Blur’s 2003 album, Think Tank, bringing Albarn back into the picture once again.
As a curator of art in its physical form, it’s no surprise that the musician also has a love for curating it in its digital form too. Launching his own Tumblr-esque culture site, Every 5ingle Day (or E5D), Kabaka’s online art portal feeds visitors daily recommendations, including visual art, cinema, music, and even food picks from the man himself.
8. He’s got an impeccable sense of style
When he’s not rocking a headdress of feathers as he blisters drums with GSS, Kabaka’s dress sense is as dapper as they come. Just like his multi-faceted artistic endeavours, his wardrobe is just as eclectic, pairing unsuspecting items to create a distinctive style that even caught the eye of MR PORTER.
Discover the enigma that is Remi Kabaka on Gorillaz Sound System’s audio-visual journey at Zouk on September 17. Get your tix here to avoid disappointment: pelago.co/gorillazsg.