By Jeffrey Pierre / Entertainment Director
In the early 60s, during his rise to prominence as a folk icon and reluctant spokesman of the time’s social unrest, Bob Dylan would tell stories about his adventure to take on New York City’s Greenwich Village and, most importantly, visit an ailing Woody Guthrie, Dylan’s musical idol and main influence in his earlier songs. Dylan, who vowed “to be Guthrie’s greatest disciple,” emulated him in many ways — with his own personal quirks added for embellishment, of course — and the result made him the quintessential songwriter. Lookman Adekunle Salami — L.A. Salami for short, and the name he takes on stage — says Dylan’s early music and songwriting influenced him to pick up the guitar five years ago. Three months later he start writing songs and taking on the London the stage.
“If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it in the best way that it could be done,” Salami said in a long distance call with FIUSM on why he chose to emulate Dylan. In one of Salami’s earlier songs, “The Scene,” he even makes a reference to “a tattoo of Bob Dylan on my arm.” Salami says no such tattoo exist, however the line is a metaphor about his relationship with Dylan, which he says is similar to Dylan and Guthrie.
“He had to take on his identity to find his own identity,” Salami said.
Salami, who, like Dylan, evades the “folk” label — and laziness labels altogether — writes songs, or rather evocative narratives, where he explores the art of living while telling tales of life in London, each song charming in its own way.
His songwriting ability has the maturity of seasoned artist, but for Salami, playing and writing music is a relatively new thing. He began writing and performing songs only three months after picking up the acoustic guitar and has been playing shows for the past few years. The presence of music was scant during his childhood home, which was spent back and forth between London and Kent, but Salami says music was always essential to him.
These days, he’s playing shows in London basements, bars, pubs, abandoned buildings, open fields and any place where people will listen. Joseph Hutchinson, the CEO of Camouflage Recordings, the London-based label that picked up Salami a few years ago, describes the singer-songwriter as work-horse.
“Until a few months ago, this was a man that was doing up to two gigs a day for 50 quid and a few bottles of beer,” Hutchinson said in an email response to FIUSM.
To do justice to Salami’s dedication, Hutchinson shared a story that recently took place at a show Salami was asked to play in support of Los Angeles-based artist Young & Sick at a in East London venue called Birthdays.
Hutchinson tells it best: “L.A. [Salami] didn’t show up at sound check, to the promoter’s dismay. Three minutes before his set, he ran in [still wearing his] work clothes. He’d been working a shift at a cinema that wouldn’t let him leave. He waited until the screening had started and then slipped out hoping to go unnoticed, swapped shirts –– he did a 30-minute set and ran back to work. He was doing two gigs a day and trying to hold down a job.”
Thus far into his career, Salami has released two EPs –– “Another Shade of Blue,” released in October of last year, and “The Prelude EP,” released in June –– and four singles. He says that he’s compiled enough songs for the three double-disc albums that he plans on releasing in the distant future. Salami says most of the songs will be with his signature acoustic guitar and harmonica, but listeners and fans should expect, “a louder sound,” with a full band.
“There’s going to be an acoustic side if you like that, but the picture is a lot larger than that; the colors are a lot brighter,” he said.
Salami’s talent as an artist is his ability to add color to whatever he touches with ease and simplicity. On the surface, Salami has the façade of simple man who plays and sings effortlessly. His serious demeanor is broken here and there with a smirk. His style is urban chic. By no means is he noisy or gaudy. And then, accompanying his simple finger-picking or strumming patterns, you hear his lyrics and you are given the chance to witness his depth as an individual. You are transplanted into his day to day life of being a struggling troubadour on his way up, moving through the underbelly of London.
“And as the fruit of tree of labor grow / my boots uproot the agony below / and the almoners and the ushers, they all know / that I’d pose as anything to be part of the scene,” sings Salami in The Scene, a bluesy-country ballad that stands as his deceleration to emerge as a notable figure in London’s music scene.
Hutchinson says after a Burberry Menswear show Salami played in Hyde Park, the support of BBC Radio 1 and other UK stations has been overwhelming. Salami has yet to play here in the United States; however, he sees a U.S. tour in the future.