KING GEORGE VIII
“I am coming back with a vengeance, better seek your repentance before I make my entrance...”
By Rebecca | 31st July 2020
CREDIT: IVANA BELIC
The title itself might inadvertently remind you of certain figures from history; a short Google search would reveal former monarchs with similar names, and of varying reputations. However, King George VIII is neither an antiquated ruler, nor a remnant of the past. He is very much brimming with life and colour, and creating a musical legacy of his own.
King George VIII is the moniker of 27-year-old Norwegian / Ghanaian artist George Kwadwo Ofori. His work as an independent music producer spans over eight years, with a passion for music that emerged in his early childhood. It is this period of his life that has inspired much of his creations and collaborations. With tracks clad in a sonic cloak of Afro-inspired R&B and electronic music, which he has personally dubbed ‘afrotronics’, King George VIII’s music aims to be a renaissance of West African musical genres like highlife and palm wine afrobeat.
George grew up in Trondheim, Norway until the age of 6, when his family moved to Accra, Ghana, in 2000. He fondly remembers “standing in the corridor with a remote control, [using] it as a microphone” as a child, and singing along to the hiplife and highlife numbers that he listened to frequently. He returned to Norway to continue his education when he was 13, and it was in 2011 when his youngest brother began showing him the ropes of record producing.
His craft and aesthetic has been heavily influenced by, and pays homage to, his multicultural upbringing and background. His songs are based on his childhood experiences, familial relationships, and interpersonal connections; poignantly, one of his father’s brightly-patterned shirts was featured in his latest music video. The cover artwork for his debut album, Queensland, is a series of reimagined still-lifes of his family photographs, all painted by Sudanese artist and designer Aala Sharfi.
A review of his band’s (eponymously named The KGVIII Band) recent performance for the acclaimed Trondheim Calling Festival this year described their music as having “delicious and catchy rhythms that take us all the way to Africa as we listen”, with their trumpet and bongo drums creating a smooth lounge feel filled with “vibrancy” and “flavour”. George aims to juxtapose his maximal approach to producing with the minimalistic style of the main Scandinavian genres and music scene, and to highlight and incorporate the diverse stories and sounds that have shaped him as a person.
When asked for his advice to fellow independent artists and music producers, he encourages making music that reflects who they are and what is important to them, and that “sounding like yourself is the best possible thing”. His music is piquant with tender references to his cultural heritage, personal memories, and his responses to events in pop culture and history; one can truly experience his personality and lyricism imbued in his music, as he seeks to share "the songs of his childhood, and the songs of his parents”, through his work.
In bringing his unique blend of artistry and storytelling to audiences both local and online, George introduces a contrasting world of possibilities to the mainstream listener, bridging gaps in the current offering. His brand of musicianship is unapologetically representative of his individuality, and that “completes his soul musically”. It can be inspirational to know, and realise, that it is not necessary to reject your identity or cultural heritage in the pursuit of success or recognition in the industry.
George has big plans for the future. He plans to keep touring at festivals and gigs; set up residences in both capital cities of Khartoum and Oslo; foster potential international collaborations and conversations; and offer his intercultural production talents and expertise to other musicians and artists. His commitment to empowering and supporting other creatives of colour is one that is exciting to see come into fruition. There is much to look forward to as he shares what he has in store for listeners, and the world of music.
Rise for the King, everyone — a revolution is in the making.
“Identity is how my soul wears its colours on the outside. I will always bear the skin of a Ghanaian man, but my identity will also be the colours of a Norwegian mentality, a Ghanaian bullish, warrior-like take on life (I am an Ashanti after all) - as well as a worldly, socialist and community-oriented way of living.”