M3NSA & Elo Morton are cooking up a storm with their intercontinental musical adventures
As any self respecting West African will know, Red Red is a tasty mix of beans, plantain, onion, tomato, palm oil and spices. This tasty meal is the kind of irresistible street food that feeds the soul. So it makes sense that M3NSA – Ghanaian hip life legend and one half of Fokn Bois with Wanlov – and Elo Morton of Hungarian reggae collective Irie Maffia, have named their musical partnership after it. RedRed is a musical melting pot of dirty house, trap, afrobeat and hip hop with a heavy garnish of pop synths, and as their debut London show at Rich Mix as part the Film Africa programme proved, theirs' is a dish best served after dark. With a playlist bubbling over with their infectious 2015 debut release, Ghetto featuring Sarkodie, the reflective cut Sisimbo and hard-hitting track, How Far, Nataal popped backstage to find out what’s cooking.
Nataal: You don’t see musical collaborations between Ghana and Hungary too often. How did all this come about?
Elo: We met in Accra in 2009. My wife (musician Sena Dagadu) introduced me to Wanlov and M3NSA and we invited them to play with us at a show in Budapest. That led to a crazy four days session, during which we did three concerts and recorded the album, The FOKN DunaQuest In Budapest. That album was the best. We peaked early! It was ahead of its time.
M3NSA: After that we just started sending each other ideas and songs and soon enough we decided to do a band. I ended up moving to Hungary for two years.
Elo: I was already into a global bass sound and our idea was to make club music with a heavy African influence. Now it’s become a fusion of everything and a little more artsy. We certainly don’t sound like anyone else.
M3NSA: It’s also a good platform to sneak some devious ideas in. Afrobeats is usually just singing about champagne and partying but I can’t help but be introspective and push social actions, while also helping people to dance.
Nataal: Tell us about the latest track, Switch On.
M3NSA: We recorded it in one take and just shot a video for it in Ghana. It’s a sarcastic song about our situation there. We have so many issues but it’s such a religious country that all we say is ‘Pray for Jesus and it will be okay’.
Nataal: How have you brought the RedRed sound alive on stage?
Elo: It started off just the two of us doing shows but we didn’t enjoy that so we formed a band, which creates a different vibe altogether. We have keyboards, drums, sampled sounds and four different synths. We’ve toured Hungary, Holland, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Sri Lanka and we played Glastonbury this year, too.
Nataal: What’s the best thing about Hungary for you, M3NSA?
M3NSA: It’s two things. One has been a very personal experience for me. I needed the time away from everybody and everything to re-learning myself. That was something Hungary afforded me. Then there’s the fact that Hungarians have a very dense language and culture but once you break the ice, they are a very funny and clever bunch. I find them intriguing. Also I love the hot spring baths, which are really cheap. So that’s three things!
Nataal: And how about your favourite thing about Ghana, Elo?
Elo: I love the people in general. They’re poorer and have so many more problems than we do in Europe, yet at the same time they live a more natural existence, which we should all earn. I also like the food, the weather, the ocean, the surfing….
Nataal: So who cooks the best Red Red out of you two?
Elo: I’ve never cooked it in my life, which is funny. We have had competitions with jollof rice, though. I’m pretty good at that.
M3NSA: We’ve had two jollof wars so far - I won one and he won the other. It’s a draw.
Nataal: What’s next for RedRed?
M3NSA: New music – we have so many songs ready now so the album is on its way. More gigs, more videos, more black-eyed beans.
Published on 14/12/2017