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„Open a history book!“ – Oddisee Interview

„Open a history book!“ – Oddisee Interview



Das Vienna Waves Festival bringt jedes Jahr einige Schmankerl nach Wien. Letztes Jahr war Kwabs mein Highlight – dieses Jahr ist es Oddisee. Während des Soundchecks dürfen wir eine kurze Version von „Killing Time“ hören – leider wurde der Song dann im Liveset ausgelassen. Aber so entspannt wie beim Soundcheck, gibt sich Oddisee auch im Backstagebereich des Porgy & Bess. Nachdem wir ihm eine Kostprobe Meinl-Kaffee überreicht haben, machen es sich alle auf der Couch bequem.

Ein Review zum fantastischen Konzert mit Bildern könnt ihr hier nachlesen.

Fotos: Niko Havranek (
Interview: Wanja Bierbaum (edHardygirl14)
Mitarbeit: Marlene Rosenthal & Thomas Kiebl (thomki)

The Message: Coffee has a long tradition in Vienna. The story goes that the Turks brought it to Vienna in war times. You love coffee and you also have a background of many different cultures. Why do you think people are so afraid of new cultures, especially now with the refugee crisis?
Oddisee: From what I can understand, fear and a manifestation of racism and prejudice is a defense mechanism. It’s nothing more. People fear that their resources will be taken, that their jobs will be taken, their culture will be diluted, their women will be taken – the list goes on. It’s mainly a defense mechanism for fear and that fear comes from very real things. Fear has been around since the dawn of humanity. That fear is why there’s so many carved up countries in Europe in the first place. This is mine and this is yours.

Do you think there’s a possibility to change people’s mind?
I always look back a bit to go forward – and again I can use Europe as a classic example of conquest and empires upon empires that conquered other people and invaded other people and assimilated people and used terms like Germanic and Scandinavian to categorize people together that didn’t wanna be categorized as together. But over time, through war and through peril and hardship came a progress. I don’t necessarily want to say that they’re hand in hand, but they seem to be that way with humanity, unfortunately. I think every immigrant who comes to a country has a hard time at first. For themselves being in a new land and for the people who are the natives accepting them. And then over time people see their benefits and they become a party of that society and a necessary part of that society. Look at America, the English settlers were very difficult on the Italians, the Irish, everyone. Now what is American food without the Italian influence? What is American culture without Saint Patrick’s Day?

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Donald Trump said yesterday that all Syrian refugees should be send back to their country. What do you think about that?
I don’t pay any attention to anything Donald Trump says. I don’t have time to even entertain anything that comes out of that man’s mouth. [laughs]

What would you say to the people who are afraid of those foreigners coming to their country?
I would say, open a history book and the amount of Irish that came to America doing potato farming, or Scandinavians who immigrated to Maine and the Great Lakes, or Italians from Northern Italy who came to Pennsylvanian Ellwoods areas to work in the stone quarries, or the English who left for religious persecution and escaped to come to the Americas. Open your history books! There isn’t a single country on this earth in the western world that hasn’t left their home due to war or despair or famine to go to someone else’s country to create something. And in fact through that cultural blend enriched that culture. It’s always been the case. You know, for everyone in Europe who is anti the refugees being here I would urge them to stop eating kebabs, because that’s offensive. It’s really offensive you know. [laughs] We want our food back. If you don’t want us, don’t eat our food.

Your father is from the Sudan. I think it’s one of the countries with the most “internally displaced persons”?
There are a lot of Sudanese living everywhere in the world. I’m a living testament to that – I have family all over the world, as a result of people leaving the Sudan. Sudan takes in a lot of refugees from all of the surrounding areas and has been for some time. Washington DC, where I’m from, has one of the largest populations of Ethiopians and Eritreans outside of their country and the majority of them I encounter say, “I lived in the Sudan before coming to America”. That’s how many we took in. The ‘Falasha’, the Ethiopian Jews, many of them escaped from Ethiopia and Eritrea to Sudan before going to Israel.


Obama tried to mediate and solve problems there to help in some way. What’s the image of the US in the Sudan?
The image of the US is one that is shared throughout North Africa, the Middle East and developing countries: Everyone loves American culture, everyone hates American politics. They love our food, our blue jeans and our rap stars but they hate our presidents and our bureaucrats and our red tape and our involvement in the destabilization of developing countries. And that hatred is grown to mythical proportions where they believe many things that they think America is responsible for that America is not responsible for. And that’s the exact same sentiment shared in America, where they believe so many things about the Sudan that are just not true. But both are being fed things trough propaganda.

There’s an arrest warrant for the president of the Sudan Omar al-Bashir and the situation is not really getting better. Do you think there’s the possibility of a revolution coming again?
No. I don’t think there will ever be a revolution in Northern Sudan for a simple fact that, and I will be ridiculed for saying that, I dare anyone to contest me, Sudanese culture is one built on apathy. That is why during the Arab Spring it wasn’t successful. Because Sudanese culture is a culture that basically says, “If I have food, if I have water, I’m alright. Let somebody else do the fighting. I don’t wanna ruffle any feathers, I’m okay where I’m at.” It’s a culture that is designed around apathy which is why there will never be any upheaval against the government. And I say that with great sadness. Great sadness.

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Speaking of fighting: Your album is titled “The Good Fight”. During every revolution everyone is so passionate about their fight and everyone thinks their fight is the right fight. So do you think there is any good fight?
I think that term is subjective. For me, I define a good fight as something that you’re doing that feels good and is so good that you don’t even realize you’re fighting. It takes another person to tell you, you’re fighting. And that’s what happened with me and my music. This is just the music I decided to make, but I’m told, I’m fighting to keep a certain type of music alive or that this music needs to be made and I didn’t know that it needed to be made, it’s just what I make.

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So is it also an explanation for the title?
Yes. That’s the sum of the record, things that you love so much – you don’t even realize you’re fighting for them. You know, you could be in an abusive relationship with someone but you love them so much you don’t even realize you’re fighting for them, it just becomes normal.

Do you think there’s enough love in the world?
There can never be enough love, you know. Never. [laughs]


What’s up with the J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar collaboration?
I don’t even wanna talk about that anymore. I’m tired of that even being in the news. I’m sorry that my good friend Peter Rosenberg had got ahold of one of those records and asked me and now its spread like wildfire on the internet and it becomes such a hot topic, but I wanna focus on my own stuff, if that is alright with you.

What about another ‘Odd Seasons’ tape?
I don’t like to repeat a lot of my projects. I like to touch on something in a moment and move on. I think that was a moment in time. You know what, people want me to make another ‘Traveling Man’, they want me to do ‘Odd Seasons’ part two where I do the seasons again, maybe I could ‘cause of climate change. [laughs] You know, they want me to do another ‘Rock Creek Park’, what is it the ‘Return to the Park’? I don’t know, maybe I should do a new park, Central Park. You know I just prefer to keep it moving. I love that people like those projects so much that they want to hear something in that vein, I do my best to come up with new themes that are just as entertaining.

It think that actually the better option, it’s very rare for the second part to be as good as the first one.

Except maybe ‘Run The Jewels’.
[laughs] Yeah, indeed, indeed.