Two years ago at the University of Canberra, I made my way to in Building 2 for the class Narrative Non-Fiction. This class was all about writing things in a way that would grip the reader, so it’s poetic that smack-dab in the middle of the room, slouched in his chair was local, triple j Unearthed favourite, Kofi Owusu-Ansah, who’s better known to the public as Genesis Owusu.
It feels strange knowing Kofi as a 19-year-old Journalism student and not as Genesis Owusu, who plays at GTM and gigs all over Australia. Online, there’s pictures of him screaming into a microphones and jumping up and down on a stage in front of hundreds of people. His name is splashed over triple j, YouTube, and Vice Australia. Hell, he’s even important enough for Google to autocorrect his name.
Now, he’s set to play the last leg of his tour at Transit Bar this weekend, February 23, after playing in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I caught up with him and finally got to hear about the other side of his life: his music, tour, influences, and other interests.
What is the origin of your stage name, ‘Genesis’?
Well, back in Primary School my older brother and I shared a bus, and everyone called me Coffee instead of Kofi and his friends were like ‘oh, what’s your brothers name?’ and he said ‘Coffee’ and they just didn’t believe him, for whatever reason. So he just apparently made Genesis up on the spot, and since then it’s just stuck.
What is your musical inspiration?
I try to take inspiration from everything. Everything I listen to. Everything I see. I’m from a Ghanaian background, which is Western African, so growing up, my parents listened to a lot of African music. I listen to a lot of hip-hop, jazz, and some psychedelic rock stuff. I try to take my inspiration from everything, really.
You have a song called ‘Sideways’ which you sing in Twi for part of, a dialect spoken in Ghana. Why is it important to you to maintain your culture within your music?
I feel like where I live in Australia… It’s a predominantly white space. It can be easy to lose yourself and lose who you are, or even try and forget who you are for the purpose of assimilation and fitting in.
But I personally believe I need to be myself. I need to be a stand-alone figure. So by honing in on my culture, it’s really solidifying who I am.
Where are some of your favourite places to perform at in Canberra?
Transit bar is like my second home. I perform there a lot.
Groovin’ The Moo is such a great festival to perform. They treat you like royalty if you’re an artist. I got a massage there once. They have the artist section with a massage parlour. I got like, gourmet Moroccan chicken, too.
What are some of your favourite places outside of Canberra to perform at?
Well, I just performed in Brisbane for the first time. I’m currently on tour actually, so I just did my own show and it was the day right after Brisbane Laneway. Mac DeMarco, Anderson Paak’s band, and some other guys who were playing there just happened across my show.
Did you get to talk to any of them?
Mac DeMarco was actually really drunk. Like, they were all saying what a sick show it was and Mac DeMarco was just freaking out because we were wearing the same coloured clothes.
You have quite a good sense of fashion. You actually make your own clothes and have your own fashion line. Tell us a bit about that.
Yes, it’s called Pur (pronounced pure). We make some basic stuff, like the name says, and then some one-off runway stuff too.
You major in Journalism at UC. I hope this doesn’t sound rude, but why?
I’ve always liked to write. The whole point of uni, honestly, was a backup. The most conventional type of career that stems from writing is journalism.
So we talked about Transit just before, which you said is like your second home. You have a show coming up there, on the 23rd of February. Do they approach you to perform, or does your agent do that?
Um, well my label and manager try book out venues in certain cities, and Transit is always my number one. I always say ‘when I’m in Canberra, I wanna play in Transit.’ It’s like my default.
What are you most looking forward to about performing at Transit?
The Canberra crowd is my favourite crowd, obviously. They’re the best. Hometown vibes. Nothing can beat it.
Do you have any pre-show routines before going on stage?
I do my vocal exercises. They’re super goofy to do in public. I also get weirdly quiet. I get like, in my own little space. And then I go on stage and I just wild out.
What is your favourite song at the moment?
Opps by Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples, off the Black Panther soundtrack
If you could switch bodies with a celebrity for a day, who would you pick and why?
Frank Ocean. Just because he’s Frank Ocean. No explanation needed.
Your celebrity crush?
A guilty pleasure song?
I don’t think I have guilty pleasures anymore, I just own it. I own good taste and bad taste.
So Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani?
That’s a banger. How could that ever be a guilty pleasure?
Your favourite spot at UC?
Those little blue seats outside the library. Are they still there?
Your favourite class at UC so far?
Maybe… What was it? True stories? Narrative Nonfiction. That was good.
What is your favourite thing about yourself?
I don’t know… I like my blackness. Let’s say that.
What’s a movie you’ve cried at?
Grave of The Fireflies, the Studio Ghibli one.
Who is a celebrity that everybody else seems to love, but you’ve never been able to get behind?
Maybe Jennifer Lawrence. She’s like ‘I’m so relatable’… no you’re not, you’re rich.
Who is an artist, living or dead, who you’d like to collaborate with?
And final question: do you keep up with the Kardashians?
Uh no. Unless it has to do with Kanye.
To see Genesis Owusu at Transit Bar, tickets are available here.
Featured image by Matt Sandford.