Born in Vienna to Kenyan parents, Dave Okumu lived in Edinburgh and Paris before settling in London and establishing himself among the UK’s most acclaimed and prolific artists of his generation.
Growing up surrounded by music enthusiasts, receiving mixtapes from siblings and friends sowed the seeds for a dynamic and diverse creative expression that lay the foundations to his musical life and career dedicated to creation and collaboration.
His decade-long collaboration with Jessie Ware began in 2010 where he co-wrote and produced her debut album Devotion (2012), which was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Okumu was also nominated for the 2009 Mercury Prize with his band The Invisible’s eponymously-titled debut album, which was also named an ‘iTunes Album of the Year’.
He has collaborated, performed and recorded with artists including Adele, Amy Winehouse, Arlo Parks, Beck, Bilal, Connie Constance, Grace Jones, Ghost Poet, Jessie Ware, Jordan Rakei, King Sunny Ade, Lianne La Havas, Nilufer Yanya, Paloma Faith, Rosie Lowe, St Vincent, Theo Parrish, Tony Allen and Yoko Ono.
One of the most revered musical directors in London, his seminal tribute to Gil Scott-Heron at London’s The Roundhouse gathered an all-star line-up of artists including Joan as Policewoman, Kae Tempest, Loyle Carner and Nadine Shah, for an unforgettable reimagining of a selection of Scott-Heron’s catalogue. Other re-imaginings include the tributes to legends David Bowie and Prince for a special 10th anniversary show at In the Woods Festival.
Okumu is a curator, musical director and band leader for the live event series ‘Played Twice’; which features playback of timeless records followed by a live interpretation with a new band. The series has popped up in iconic venues and festivals with interpretations of Bjork’s ‘Vespertine’, Pharoah Sanders’, ‘Harvest Time’ and Prince’s ‘Sign of the Times’, and Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’.
In 2018, Goldsmiths, University of London awarded Okumu with an Honorary Fellowship of the College, in recognition of his significant achievements and contributions to music. Today, he remains unrivalled in his ability to effortlessly span musical communities, genres, cultures and languages.