Bristol producer Omari Champagnie, better known as OH91, has been quietly making waves on Bristol’s underground scene since his first release with Coyote Records in 2013. Keeping circles with the likes of the Bandulu collective, and with mentors including Sir Sypro and Grandmixxer, it’s clear that he’s been marked as a serious talent, despite only a handful of official releases.

Keeping circles with the likes of the Bandulu collective, and with mentors including Sir Sypro and Grandmixxer, it’s clear that he’s been marked as a serious talent

However, don’t let the fact he hasn’t put much out fool you into thinking he doesn’t take his craft very, very seriously.

‘The people who are around me see me making music every day. But with me, I see music as art – you can’t rush art. When people ask me how come I haven’t released this or that, it’s my art – I’d rather it be good, than putting a piece of shit out. There’s going to be more releases – way more vinyls – but at the moment it’s just ironing, I guess.’

Nitelife Local Talent-OH91-Dominika Scheibinger

OH91 is an artist who is a bit too readily shoehorned into the label of a grime producer or a dubstep producer, but with a dad from Jamaica and a mum from Trinidad, plus all the influences of a youthood in Bristol, he’s a producer that draws on a variety of sounds and inspirations.

OH91 is an artist who is a bit too readily shoehorned into the label of a grime producer or a dubstep producer

‘I make music. One day I’ll wake up and I’ll make drum and bass, one day I’ll wake up and I’ll make house. It’s music – if it’s going to touch you in a way that you can connect with it, it shouldn’t actually matter what category it fits into. That’s how I see it.

‘People say they can hear bits of what I’ve been listening to in my music, and I do that a lot – referencing from other music, not copying, but referencing.’

It’s music – if it’s going to touch you in a way that you can connect with it, it shouldn’t actually matter what category it fits into

Having been working at producing from the age of around 13 after a couple of friends introduced him to FruityLoops and Reason, Omari explains how his first release with Coyote Records, his Stealth EP, came about:

‘That tune was actually half finished, but I’m really good friends with Royal-T – outside of music I’m best friends with him – and he was at my house when I was making it and he was like, “just send it, just send it – it doesn’t matter if it’s half finished”, and it got signed there and then within 10 minutes, so that really helped push my career up.

Nitelife Local Talent-OH91-Dominika Scheibinger

‘Before that, I never really had a reason to leave the city, but after that I was going to gigs in London, Birmingham, up north, down south; then in 2015 I played my first ever international gig in New York and that was sick – to have an experience like that and to have people coming up to me that listen to my tunes and follow me on social media from across the pond.’

We’ve seen a lot more of OH91 on the local scene in the last couple of months, including a prime time slot at Love Saves the Day, warming up for Clipz on the Lost Gardens stage; and he’s due to play Sequences festival at the end of July

We’ve seen a lot more of OH91 on the local scene in the last couple of months, including a prime time slot at Love Saves the Day, warming up for Clipz on the Lost Gardens stage; and he’s due to play Sequences festival at the end of July. But prior to that, the producer has been noticeably absent on local lineups for a good few months, despite being such a big part of the Bristol scene.

‘Last year, I kind of took a break to look over my music and sort of rebrand – to just look over my tunes and see what’s actually being played and not being played, and what I’ve got to finish. It’s kind of the same circuit, but doing it again, and doing it differently.

Nitelife Local Talent-OH91-Dominika Scheibinger

‘Sir Sypro – who I’m also really good friends with, he’s like my mentor – he would push me a lot and there was one tune I made and I thought it was shit, but he really liked it. He played it every grime show without fail and, again, that picked up the barriers for me.

Sir Sypro – who I’m also really good friends with, he’s like my mentor – he would push me a lot

‘How we became friends is a funny story. I used to see Spyro at Motion and stuff, and one day he stopped me and was like, “Yo, I like your face. You’ve got a joke face – it’s funny, it kind of reminds me of me.” This was at Motion years ago and then we had a show together in Manchester where we exchanged numbers and got mad close. He says, “Bruv, your mixing is like me – when I was young.” I was there when he made Side by Side, all those tunes… He’s a real good guy to know.

Nitelife Local Talent-OH91-Dominika Scheibinger
‘And I’ve got another mentor, Grandmixxer ­– he’s one of my boys. We have reasonings and talks for hours about the scene, not dissing or anything, just what we do to better ourselves and create a wave to get where we want to go.

‘It’s all about building relationships with people you can get on with and share information with – it’s not about getting a tune signed and thinking you’re clear, because you’re not, really.’

It’s all about building relationships with people you can get on with and share information with – it’s not about getting a tune signed and thinking you’re clear, because you’re not

This attitude is more than evident while we’re with Omari, as he stops every few minutes to say hello to another person around Montpellier; as well as just clearly being an all-round friendly and approachable character (who actually stops to invite us to his BBQ before we part ways).

Nitelife Local Talent-OH91-Dominika Scheibinger

‘Bristol is so small, you’ll be walking along and see Joker driving past in his fast-ass car, or you’ll see Mensah, you might see Kahn and Neek – it’s so close and it’s so small that it’s never going to be one of those cities where people don’t get along.

 Bristol is so small, you’ll be walking along and see Joker driving past in his fast-ass car

‘I went to Cotham School and there used to be a record shop called Rooted Records on Gloucester Road, big up Peverelist who used to own it. I used to go into that record shop on the way home every day after school – I used to bun lessons sometimes and go in there and buy records; I know I shouldn’t have, but I still passed my GCSEs.

‘I used to go there and talk to him and get information about certain Bristol artists that were releasing music – ones I didn’t even know were from Bristol that I was listening to already.’
 Nitelife Local Talent-OH91-Dominika Scheibinger

As a born and bred, we asked Omari what he thought about Bristol attracting new producers who may not have the same musical education as many of Bristol’s greats, with gentrification putting a dampener on the rave scene(s) that many of them came up through.

‘Bristol is always going to have that vibe though. It’s so open and everyone is so friendly that it doesn’t really matter where you’re from – if you come here you’re just going to get that vibe straight away.’

I’ve released seven vinyls now and I’m happy with all of them, but the work I put into this one was mad

With his latest track on the circuit, Shuttle, already lined up for release, Omari reveals that he’s also got a four-track grime EP on the way.

‘I’ve released seven vinyls now and I’m happy with all of them, but the work I put into this one was mad. I’m just trying to look for a home for it at the moment.

‘The four MCs I’ve got on it, no one is going to believe. It’s four grime tunes and people have definitely heard them – people are definitely going to be like, “Oh my god, you made this?” or “it was you that made this instrumental?” which has happened before.’

Other than that, Omari says that we can look forward more gigs, more tours and more releases, and potentially his own label on the horizon.

OH91 LIVE: 14 July – Blue Mountain29 July – Sequences Festival, Motion
soundcloud.com/oh91

Words: Rachel Morris
Photography: Dominika Schiebinger
Shoot location: Montpellier

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