OMWI & the shape of soul to come

by OMWI & J.Scott Stratton
OWMI interview for Hustle & Move

OMWI: FThe songwriting is very co-writing-ish, and we both overlap every role we can think of. Bashir is the singer and primary lyricist. Jakob works more with the tones and plays the instruments. We both write, play instruments and produce. Photograph PR

Copenhagen is one of those towns that seems a lot smaller than it really is. The scenes are small and tight, and chance meeting can easily become introductions to collaborate. Such was the case with the two masterminds behind the promising Danish R&B soul project OWMI.

For Jakob Miang and Bashir Billow (better known as simply Billow), one such chance meeting, turned into a side hustle, which started to blow up in 2018 – OWMI. Billow has been active in the city’s hip-hop and R&B scene for years, and first collaborated with Jakob nearly ten ago. And here it is, nearly a decade later, fueled with a lot of new ambitions, the duo formally came together again to found OWMI.

I’ll be the first to admit, that I did not know much about the duo, or their individual careers, before I heard their premier track ‘Slipping.’ But damn, if the first 10 seconds of beats and melody didn’t grab me by the ears and force me to listen. The first initial beat takes you into what you might think will be a dub track, but quickly slips into this mellow soul and funk – driven by Jakobs guitar work. It actually feel more like it was taking inspiration from early 80’s Motown. By the time Billow slides in with the vocals, you’re already well in it and hooked.

There isn’t much information about the band popping around on the interwebs, other than a view brief positive reviews of the track. As the project is still so new, and still riding on the DIY train, I wanted to reach out to Jakob and Bashir to dig a bit deeper into the collab, what drives the output of this project, and what we can expect for the future.

Press photograph of OWMI interview for Hustle & Move
OWMI: We both have an affinity for the melancholy – in both lyric-writing and production. We guess that’s partly the American blues tradition – that we’re both influenced by – coming through.

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INTERVIEW WITH OWMI

So first off, tell me how you both got the “band” together?

We met in Copenhagen almost ten years ago through a common friend. The hook up happened, because Bashir was looking for a guitarist to play his songs with. So Jakob showed up with his guitar for a jam. You could suppose the session went well – because we have been playing together ever since. In the beginning, we played Bashir’s songs acoustically before slowly expanding to a full 7-piece band. The band played for several years at local Copenhagen venues and around Denmark, but would eventually dissolve. Not long after, we began working on demo’s together – what would later morph into the project OWMI.

Tell me about the dynamic of the duo. Who does what?

The songwriting is very co-writing-ish, and we both overlap every role we can think of. Bashir is the singer and primary lyricist. Jakob works more with the tones and plays the instruments. We both write, play instruments and produce. Can you tell me about the development of your first full album? What was the tone you were both going for? The songs on the album tend to have a melancholic edge/glow to them. We try to make every song a new experiment and its own, but first and foremost they are an outlet for some expression. We think the album is definitely coherent, though the songs in the beginning of the process were not written specifically to be featured on the same album. Later on, we realized it made sense to bundle them up like this. Some unconscious album writing perhaps. More often than not, we don’t know where the stuff we are working on will end up. For example, a discarded c-part from a song was molded into the album outro. The same thing happened with material from the Slipping session. It ended up as the album intro.
Artwork for EP for OWMI interview for Hustle & Move

Electronic funk R&B isn’t a genre one would traditionally attribute to a Danish sound, so tell me about your connection to the roots of your sound.

We both have a pretty eclectic taste in music – and what we are drawn to at any given moment can change. But the good stuff you always keep circling back to. We both have an affinity for the melancholy – in both lyric-writing and production. We guess that’s partly the American blues tradition – that we’re both influenced by – coming through. However – we rarely talk about genre at all when we’re making the music. It’s much more of an experimentation that starts one place and can finish in a totally different one. The roots of our sound is also highly influenced by our musician friends who’ve contributed to the recording of our tracks – playing instruments like Yoruba Batá drums to Rhodes and synths among other things.

Listening to your newest single, it has a live band sound with the composition and choice of instrumentation. Tell me about the development of the song.

We come from a background of mostly playing live music on instruments and arranging in a band. So our first impulse with our new laboratory nitty picking project was to take our usual tools and experiment with them in a way that wasn’t possible in the rehearsing room. To find a more delicate expression, explore new ways, and make it a good vehicle for an exciting live performance. Also the live instrumentation is a tribute to all the organic, vibrant music that precedes and inspires us. Slipping was on a long journey. The song started out more as a soundscape with various melodies, rhythms, textures and lyrics. We had our Parisian friend Selma, who at that time lived in Copenhagen and was very interested in poetry, write a text (or a short poem if you like) for the song. We jammed on the concept of her lyrics to be sort of a luring Siréne. She then pieced it together and recorded it right after.

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