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Interview with Amkoullel


4 February 2011 3 Comments

Who exactly is Amkoullel?

Rapper, Singer, Beat-boxer, Songwriter, Producer, Actor, TV presenter, Cultural entrepreneur  and social activist.

It’s a blessing to be considered as one of the pioneers and leaders of the Hip Hop movement in Mali right now.  I guess this is notably because of my mix of traditional and contemporary global cultures plus my passion to promote education and social responsibility (I have set up the first Hip Hop dance school and other clubs, promotional and vocational platforms).

How did you get involved with hip hop?

I started rapping with my brothers as a young child. I was invited to beatbox on a radio show when I was about 12.  I offered to rap as well and provoked such negative reactions from the audience that I decided to work hard.  During my scholarship I organized a rap concert and then never stopped.

What subject matter do you deal with / write about?

Social life, school and education, democracy and what people do with it.  Work, children, corruption, emigration and most importantly Africans low self-esteem.

What releases have you worked on and which artists have you worked with?

I have been lucky to share the bill with artists such as Alpha Blondy, Tiken, Jah Fakoly, Keziah Jones, Rokia Traore and various French hip hop stars like Soprano, Oxmo Puccino and Manu Dibango.  I have toured with Check Tidiane Seck and featured on his last album Sabaly.

I have released four albums so far.  The track and video Farafina on my third album Waati Sera (It’s time!) was awarded a few times and released on various compilations.

My last album Ne Ka Mali! (My Mali!) was released in May and has four videos.  We are now thinking of an album of remixes and a new album with other international guests.

Could you describe the hip hop scene in Mali for us?

The Malian hip hop scene is inspired by American and French hip hop but deeply rooted in its Malian culture with traditional songs and instruments.  Consequently Malian society recognizes Hip Hop as a useful and important social tool.  It’s not a ghetto culture:  people from all ages and classes are appreciating it, even the President of Malian Republic.

A rapper is now accepted as a singer songwriter just as any other artist and we can express ourselves freely even if we are criticizing the political strategies.

Describe your lyrical style and flow and what artists influenced you?

I’m listening to everything and don’t feel influenced by any specific artist.  My style is a mix of rap and ragga, influenced by rock, soul, jazz, electro dance music and traditional singing. My flow is rather into the groove and I love to see people’s heads swinging on it.  My voice is medium high, like many Malian voices.

What is your view on the music scene in Mali/Africa?

Even if Malian music is recognized internationally, it’s not heard enough in the media.  It’s still in a specialized circuit and not accessible to anyone.  The richness of African music is recognized but still not available enough.

Who would you like to work with?

Nelson Mandela.  One of the biggest in history.

Where can people find your music?

On the following links Ne Ka Mali!! and Waati Sera on iTunes and many other platforms as my music is distributed online by this Afro-British label, 51 Lex Records through The Orchard.

My latest CD ‘Ne Ka Mali’ can be bought through Sante Diabete Mali website: http://www.santediabetemali.org/newsite/test4.php.

1 euro on each CD sale will be going to the NGO.  I’m glad to support their work against Diabetes, which is a growing disease in Mali.  I’m particularly sensitive to it as it is provoked by the recent urban life style and my own grandad died from it.

What is your vision with your music?

For me music is definitely not entertainment only, it has to be useful, to participate in building a stronger, more responsible and united Africa.  Definitely to change the mentalities in a positive way.  Music can give hope and strength and encourage people to never ever give up.  It brings self confidence and finally gives African people a positive image of themselves.

My goal is also to promote Malian and African hip hop around the world.  I’m very excited to go soon to the US for a six week tour of gigs and workshops.

I’m even supposed to share the stage with Ben Sharpa and Rattex in NY City.  I’m just discovering Rattex on your website and am a big fan of Ben Sharpa. NY, 8th April 2011.

Your biggest challenge?

As I want to stay in Mali, the challenge is definitely to survive with my art and to be able to go on making music.  Piracy and a weak copyright system are not helping, and we cannot expect local digital sales.  Foreigners come to Mali for traditional music, not for urban music and promoting myself abroad is a huge investment.

However the internet is a fantastic in this global village and I’m confident in the development of this Global Hip Hop and Social Change movement.

Any plans to come to South Africa?

We may soon be going to South Africa.   We just played at the amazing festival in the desert in Timbuktu, first time they were programming a hip hop act.  It was fantastic.  I met several great South African activist ladies who said I should definitely come to South Africa.  There is now a good project in the pipeline, with musicians and dancers.  You’ll be the first one to be informed.

What is your favourite hip hop albums of all time?

Notorious BIG -Life After Death

What are you listening to right now?

Mangala Camara ‘Minye Minye’, a traditional Malian artist.

Tata Pound, number 1 Hip hop band in Mali and King Massassy, the 1st Malian rapper.  They are my partners in crime notably in Bama Saba, the 1st Korerap mixing songs, rap and theatre and representing the Malian youth.  We are excited to tour all around the country especially the most rural locations.

Favourite songs of the moment?

Roots by Didier Awadi (guest on the track MaliSenegal on my last album Ne Ka Mali!!)

If people want to get in touch with you how do they do that?

The best is to contact my manager, MAB (Marie-Agnes Beau) at mab@clmail.co.uk direct.

Or to my personal address at amkoullel@gmail.com.  You can also check me out my http://www.facebook.com/amkoullel and  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amkoullel-lenfant-peulh/118314813083?v=wall&ref=ts.

You can also check myspace.com/amkoullel.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to AG, any last words?

I love South African music.  I believe your music and culture are amazing, especially vocal harmonies and percussion’s.  You guys have a lot to create with and still be at the heart of hip hop.

Thanks to you AG, let’s keep in touch.


Interview by Rushay Booysen

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