Gboyega Odubanjo (1996-2023). A tribute.

The poet Gboyega Odubanjo has died tragically early, at the age of just twenty-seven. A foundation has been set up to honour his legacy. At the time of publishing, it has already raised nearly £70,000.

“Gboyega, we will always treasure the honour of knowing and working with you”, write jazz musicians Raph Clarkson, Phil Merriman and Simon Roth, who were all members of RESOLUTE, a band formed around Raph and Bo’s poetry.

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Here is their tribute to an inspirational friend and colleague who,

Gboyega Odubanjo . Photo from the foundation

Raph Clarkson, Phil Merriman and Simon Roth write: Raph and Bo first met at a workshop at The Vortex Downstairs and Raph was struck by the sheer musicality of his words, his voice, his artistic expression. When he read there was lilting melody; hypnotic, sometimes visceral rhythm; playfulness alongside serious and critical observations about the world; and always a totally committed, intense passion that marked his art and the way in which he shared it.

One winter’s night Bo joined the three of us for an initial jam session at The Premises in Hackney that was unforgettable in its intensity. Bo brought fire, wit and total commitment. He inspired us to hit that rare spot as a group where we were making profound, spiritual music. While Bo was known as a poet and writer, he was also unequivocally a musician, and a highly creative one at that.

Over the course of a year we played a series of gigs across the UK under the band name RESOLUTE and one of these – shortly before the pandemic – was live recorded and became a self titled album. 

Bo, in our time together, you never wavered in your total commitment to your art. You always pushed and encouraged us to take the thrilling leap into the unknown that is group improvisation. And throughout, we shared laughter and friendship and ideas and reflections on the world and our lives.

Gboyega, we will always treasure the honour of knowing and working with you. You were giving voice to universal and especially black issues in a way that epitomises what art is about: finding a gracious and deep way to express your Self and present it boldly, authentically and without compromise.

The Gboyega Odubanjo Foundation is a beautiful way to honour your life and will be vital in helping young black writers in the face of systemic racism and prejudice.

We feel your loss so deeply and we send condolences, love and strength to your family and loved ones. Your work and legacy will live on and carry on shedding light and truth.

With all of our love,

Raph, Phil and Simon

RESOLUTE. L-R: Gboyega, Simon, Phil, Raph. Publicity photo

NOTE ABOUT THE FOUNDATION: “The Gboyega Odubanjo Foundation is being launched for low-income Black writers, with funds from this appeal also going towards the foundation. Gboyega always wanted to uplift and support his community, through mentoring young people, through gently praising someone at a poetry night about their star quality and through teaching in numerous places. His poetry and writing has been a beacon of light to many.”

LINK: Fundraiser for Gboyega Odubanjo
RESOLUTE on video

1 reply »

  1. I was so happy to release the album of Resolute on Babel. Bo was already such a talent even when the album came out. The relationship between the words and music seemed to flow so easily.

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