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Mercury Prize nominee Dave Okumu gives guest lecture

Mercury Prize nominee Dave Okumu has given a guest lecture to Music students from New College Lanarkshire.

The internationally-recognised musician, songwriter, producer, band leader and music director spoke about working with artists such as Adele, Grace Jones, Jessie Ware, Arlo Parks and Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien.

Dave, who was nominated for a Mercury Prize as part of the critically acclaimed band The Invisible in 2009, recalled his time as a student in Scotland and working on as-yet unreleased material with Adele.

(Photo credit: Phil Sharp)

During the guest lecture, he was asked questions about his early career, his proudest achievements, his current projects, and the changing way that music is consumed.

He said: “It’s wonderful that you guys are pursuing your passion and your interests and if you work hard at that, and keep developing, that energy creates opportunities and it draws people to you.

“If you engender positivity towards yourself and your work, and you’re in touch with what you are inspired by, and you work hard at it, and you seek to connect with like-minded people, wild things happen – the most unexpected and inspiring things.

“If there’s anything that I’d want to convey it’s the importance of relationships alongside investing in yourself.”

Born in Vienna to Kenyan parents and ultimately settling in London via Edinburgh and Paris, Dave Okumu has also collaborated, performed or recorded with Paloma Faith, Amy Winehouse, Yoko Ono and Beck.

He was awarded with an Honorary Fellowship of Goldsmiths, University of London in June 2018 in recognition of his achievements and contributions to music.

Dave added: “By the time I left school I knew that I would be playing music even if I had to flip burgers for the rest of my life. It was like breathing.

“I studied French and Politics at Edinburgh and my music career had already started at that point, but I was just reacting to opportunities.

“It was a very personal choice for me: I supported myself through doing my degree by playing music, and at points getting frustrated because I would be asked to go on tour with my favourite band but I couldn’t because I had an exam or something.

“I always remembered what my guitar teacher had said to me; that these opportunities would come around again.

“I’m really glad I completed my degree. It was an amazing and at times challenging experience. I fell in love with Scotland. It was a very special time.”

The online lecture, on the theme of ‘Life in Music’, was attended by 48 students and five staff members, was organised by Creative Industries lecturer Bertie Fritsch.

Bertie said: “I thought the session with Dave Okumu was inspiring and informative with all questions from staff and students being discussed in an intuitive and positive way.

“Dave shared some very useful insights into developing a career in the music industry.

“He enjoyed the session so much that he said he would like to visit us in person in the future when the pandemic is over.”

Music and Music Business students from New College Lanarkshire have enjoyed a series of lectures from well-known industry figures recently, including Stevie Wonder’s manager Keith Harris, violin wizard Nora Germain, and Ivor Novello-winning songwriter Eliot Kennedy.

For more information on Dave Okumu, please visit his website.

Read more about our range of courses in Music and Sound Production:

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