The rise of multi-instrumentalist artist Cassius Cobbson

4 Mins read

After the release of his first album SANKOFA, Cobbson talks to Artefact about his life and journey in the industry.

Multi-instrumentalist and producer Cassius Cobbson is rising in the music scene. Leading his own band in which he specialises in playing the piano/keyboard, they take you through a mixture of genres.

Born and raised in Enfield, North London, to Ghanaian working-class family, Cassius believes is what shapes him as an artist today.

When discussing whether he has found himself having to work harder in the industry because of his upbringing and factors which have shaped him, he said: “There are people who have silver spoons and are in a higher position, I haven’t had that. I’ve had to try twice as hard. Having not as much money was a motivating factor, all you can think about is how to get out of that situation.”

After being featured on The Robert Elms Show on BBC London Radio, we spoke about his journey through life and upcoming music career.

“It all started when I was 11, my mum’s cousin, Chris Cobbson, ex-guitarist for musician Courtney Pine, called my mum and told her there was a soul to soul concert in Ghana, where my family are from, to celebrate 30-years of independence”.

Picture of Cassius Cobbson
Cassius Cobbson [Iman Mohammed]

After recalling that he was “captivated” and “mesmerised” by this, Cassius continued further, and spoke about his realisation of wanting to pursue his dream of being a musician:

“I turned on BBC 4, the first person I saw was Santana, Carlos Santana, performing Black Magic Woman, I think everybody loves that song. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Cassius says his Ghanaian upbringing influences his music. His first single AKWAABA, which is a mixture of two key genres, afrobeat and jazz, he refers to as “his baby”.

He explained further, “You had the clapping pattern, the Ghanaian bell pattern, which comes from ‘high life’ music, a type of Ghanaian music.”

After discovering that he wanted to produce afrobeat music, which derives from Nigeria, Cassius wanted to experiment with Ghanaian high life music, and merge both together with Jazz, resulting in AKWAABA.

He highlighted the meaning of the name of his first single, and emphasised the importance of it. “‘Akwaaba’ means ‘welcome’ in my language in Ghana. I thought about this a lot before my first single was released. AKWAABA is welcome, welcome to who I am.”

The release of his debut album SANKOFA in September 2023, Cassius labelled as a very personal project for him.

Cassius explained the elements put together to create SANKOFA and how he incorporated his personal life with the music he was producing.

“I had my heart on my sleeve, and told my story through sound. The name of the album, SANKOFA, comes from a Ghanaian adinkra symbol, meaning never be afraid to look back in your past to fetch what you have forgotten, and what you need”.

Cassius emphasised the importance of the Ghanaian adinkra symbol and the idea of using it in his first album, giving listeners an idea of what to expect when listening to what he has produced.

Through a mixture of genres, the musician takes you through elements of afrobeat, amapiano, jazz and EDM.

“The mixture of genres was done deliberately. Growing up listening to a mixture of music and my mum being a lot older than most, I listened to many different genres, and music which goes back to the 60s. I wanted this album to reflect that, and be an introduction to me.”

Paying attention to detail, Cassius said he felt that SANKOFA needed to start with studio version of his first two singles AKWAABA and LDN, as these songs are where it all started.

When discussing the rest of his album and the idea behind his structure of it, he explained that “Beauty and Beauty’s testament takes people in a different direction to the first tracks and allows the listeners’ mind to be expanded to what is soon to come, I wanted Beauty to be understood early in the album, as it shows vulnerability, which is something quite new to me.”

Track seven was made to “slow down the album a little bit”, he said that he wanted to speak about social awareness through his music for more of a personal touch, and make sure the listeners understand that what he is producing is about “truths and honesty”.

Picture of Cassius Cobbson's latest album
SANKOFA album cover. [Instagram: @cassius_cobbson]

The end of the album, Cassius referred to as more “dance-y”, and expressed that his goal is to make the listener “feel something with the music”.

When talking about where the idea of new sounds stem for him, he spoke about how usual day-to-day activities fuel his creativity: “something as little as walking down a street, hearing a sound and thinking its really cool, then wanting to recreate it,” he said.

“It’s important to be aware of surroundings and what life is trying to teach me, it’s important which sounds I use and if the soundscape is true to what I’m trying to tell through my music.”

Performing at Boardmaster’s festival in Cornwall last year, Cassius told us, is the moment he is most proud of in his career so far.

After discussing the atmosphere and the difference in the crowd he was presented in front of compared to smaller venues he had performed at prior to this, he took us through how he gets into a creative mindset before performing live.

“I get stressed out pretty easily, because I need to be vulnerable with myself and my audience.” When discussing his attitude towards his true self being on show, he continued, “I let my vulnerability be present, and spiritually ask myself what I’m trying to do with the songs I’m performing for the audience. I rest the day before and try not to do anything too consuming.”

After visiting India in recent months, Cassius spoke about how life-changing the trip was for him, and how it changed and shaped many ideas for himself and his life, as well as his next album.

“The musical ability there is through the roof, much better than here. I met a singer there who was incredible, and will be collaborating with her in my next album”.

After being surrounded by a different music scene for almost a month, Cassius discovered new sounds as well as talent he will be showcasing in his future projects.

Cassius told us that he will be working on his next album this following year, and plans on doing writing sessions in Los Angeles later this year.

His next show will be in Brick Lane Jazz festival in April. Tickets can be purchased here.

Featured image by Iman Mohammed.

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