Interview: Five Minutes with Ray Okpara

Image Credit: Christian Dammert

Ray Okpara, a German-based DJ and producer has felt the effects covid and the impact it’s had on his local industry – just like every other musician around the world. However, the musician displays a unique positivity – finding humour and adventure in the moments that others have struggled with. Creating his own unique music since 2008, Ray Okpara would go on to launch his own label in 2010, named Ama Recordings as a tribute to his own middle name (Amaefule – which translates to “your name will never get lost”). With roots tracing back to Nigeria, the producer has made it clear that family comes first – finding small ways to display his love for them throughout his music and social media accounts.

Most recently, Ray Okpara has found himself releasing free music to the masses and creating remixes for intriguing labels, including The Bedroom and Rejekts. Naturally, we were eager to learn more about the DJ who has been striving to make the most from a difficult time. Find out what he has to say in the exclusive below.

You are currently based in Germany, where the music industry is in turmoil due to covid regulations. How has this impacted your own creativity?

OMG THE SITUATION. But you know what? A good friend told me the only constant in life is CHANGE. And that’s true, for me at least. That’s what happened – a huge change.

My DJ life is 0%. and I am going to be so happy if we start to have some events with dancing people. We had some private parties but then they stop the private parties as well. Now zero parties. We will have to wait until the regulations allow private parties again.

My creativity has not stopped, I have to say. I practice every day on my guitar. Now, I’ve also started a new project to produce meditations. It’s not me speaking, I am doing the music FQ in the background.

Soon, the spring season starts and I have to take care of my garden as well. Yes, I grow my own veggies & fruits. 

For sure there were some moments, days or weeks of frustration. In general, I feel very lucky. Actually, most of the time in my life. You just have to wait for the right moment and grab that at the right time. Things take mostly take the right turn and those which don’t, you learn from.

What really helped, at least for me for a while, here in Germany you get help from the government as an artist. I am very thankful for that. Besides that, I still had to find a job to be able to get over with monthly costs. I work in a museum now. I like to work there at the moment cause it fits my life as a father.

There are a lot of theories about what is really happening out there. I just know I don’t let fear overtake me. One thing is for sure: that its a time of change and things will not go back to the way they were.

Make the best out of it

Stay strong

Stay positive

Tell us about the upcoming remixes you’re working on – how did you become involved in them?

Ama Art & Music: I had an idea to give away a lot of my, unreleased music, for free and to combine art with music. So Katharina Bansah helped me accomplish that. My sister is a painter, so she let me use some of her art and Kat made the design. Matthias Heinstein mastered it. He is on all ama recordings releases as the mastering engineer. I thought its would be better in these times to share more free music cause we can’t dance to it together in the club. To give back a bit.

The idea for the track happened when I visited Beirut. Lebanon was such an amazing time, people, food, the land itself was just beautiful. AMA Recordings, my label is also on hold. Lets for how long.

You’ve recently posted about a jazz-infused, laid back piece that is totally unlike your usual work. How did you end up venturing into this musical space?
Yes, my passion is music in general but I walked on another path. Usually, musicians play and practise when they are young to get the music and the groove and the tightness to play in their muscle memory. I took a different turn and found my passion in my guitar first at 33. Then it took a while to start to play & practice regularly. Since then, I’ve played almost every day. 
It takes so much time to get better but when you do get better, it’s like magic and you are talking in another language. And you know what it helps too? Just to get your ears used to different harmonics, scales, sounds. I’m training my ear constantly. So I’m working on music every day.

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By Sarah Britton