One of the most prominent musical band in Finland founded and led by an African is Frankosun And The Family. The band is led by Oladele Franck Komolou who hails from Benin Republic. The band combines the 70s and the 80s style Beninese and Nigerian afrobeat with afro-funk and afro-rock. In this interview, Franck Oladele gives the real reason why there are no blacks in the band.
Please may we get to know you?
I am Oladele Franck Komolou aka Frankosun. I’m a singer/songwriter and composer. I’m from the Republic of Benin. I’m the founder of the group, Frankosun And The Family here in Finland.
When did you start singing & how and when was Frankosun & The Family Band founded?
In reality, I was born into the Nago royal family and from my childhood, I started recitation of songs until I grew the talent into what it is today. I’m passionate about music, so when I came to Finland it was easy for me to reignite my act. I arrived in Finland in 2011 and since then I have continued on the same path. My love for music and the vision I have led to the founding of Frankosun And The Family musical band in 2013.
Have you encountered challenges in your afrobeat music genre since arriving in Finland?
In a country like Finland, being an afrobeat artist you are bound to confront several challenges that plaque the music scene. It is not easy to establish and run a musical band in Finland because it requires money, time and finding the right people to work with. Commitment is an important thing and finding committed people to work with is an arduous task. Commitment and dedication are essential to any band or group. For example, some of the musicians in the band live in places that are very far, some of them live in Jyväskyla, Kajaani while the majority of them live in the capital area.
Where do you draw inspiration from and who inspired you?
I have always been a fan of afrobeat music, jazz and rhythm that convey a positive message and impact positively on the listener and create awareness. According to your question, I was inspired by the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti, B.B King and
The Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, a group from Cotonou in Benin, which mixes influences from afrobeat, funk, and soukous with voodoo rhythms. Afrobeat music is embedded with a message. I draw inspiration from things happening in the world that affect humanity for example one of my tracks talks about Malaria. We all know that malaria is endemic in Africa and some parts of Asia and America. The track raises awareness of how malaria is killing people and what can be done to contend with it. We have to raise awareness for people to know the malaise that’s troubling the world.
We heard that you are working on a new album. Kindly tell us how it’s going and what we should expect.
I had the first album and it was successful, but now I’m working on my second album which will feature a great Finnish musician Jimi Tenor and other musicians as well. Our second album will be produced by another Finnish record label, our first album was produced by Elossa records. The second album will be produced by a new record label because we got a better offer. We are planning to release our second album at the end of the year or the beginning of next year. Concerning our future plans, we are looking forward to playing on a bigger stage here in Finland and embarking on Europe and Africa tour. This is our plan for the next year 2023. We are working on many things.
Afrobeat is yet to gain ground in Finnish society what could be the reason and what is the way out?
In my opinion, afrobeat is gaining ground in most countries in the world, so Finland will not be left out. It will only take a matter of time but I know our presence will be felt someday. The Finnish young generations are enthusiastic about afrobeat music that is why you see them in African-dominated clubs and festivals.
Mention some of the festivals, shows, events and concerts that you have been been to?
Frankosun And The Family have performed at many places. We performed at the Tropical Concert in Siltanen. We have been there twice. We have performed at the Funky Amigo concert, which is like an outdoor event and we also performed at the World Village Festival during the coronavirus lockdown. The performance was visual, people watched us via zoom, May 21 this year we were at Järvenpää multicultural day event which was organised by Diaspora Glitz Magazine. We have also participated in the First Afrika event in Tampere. For the first time, we were invited to perform at Afro Jazz Festival in Alppipuisto in Helsinki. All the mentioned events are great, each of the events has its vibe and audience so it will be difficult to say which of the performance is the best.
Who looks after the band when you are not there?
I will say that each of us has our particular role in the band, even when am not there things will be done right. However, we have Ayla Brinkmann who is in charge of our finance and she handles our bookings and itinerary. like I said before, all of us have a role to play. There are some in the group that helps us in the logistics, so in summary, I can say that after me is all of them.
Why is it that only white people make up your band members when your music is African?
People have asked me this question several times but I’m happy that you have raised it again. It is good for people to know the history of Frankosun And The Family. I have been called names like racist, enabler of white supremacy. When I ask them why they are calling me racist, their response is “I have a band its genre is African music and my band members are all white, no black person in the band”. It is imperative to let the public know why all my band members are white people. I began my professional musical career in Finland in 2013 and my goal was to constitute a multicultural band. When Frankosun And The Family started, we had black musicians from different backgrounds. We had Beninese Cameroonian, Congolese, Senegalese, Malawian, Burkinabe and Finns. It wasn’t my initial plan to have only the Finns in my band but a lack of commitment and dedication from fellow Africans made it to be so. The prevailing circumstances which I mentioned made the band to be comprised of all white of which I’m the pioneer. As the leader of a musical band, you are expected to work with the people who align with the values and goals of the band. When the degree of responsibility that is expected of the supposed blacks is not forthcoming, finding those who are dedicated and committed, who share similar values becomes the best option. Regardless of the band members’ skin colour or race, the most compelling thing is that we are working together to make the dream work.