I recently did an interview with Nigerian journalist Tony Ogaga Erhariefe. Check it out:
Tony Ogaga Erhariefe: As a genre, how is Afro beat thriving in the USA and on the internet?
Marc Gabriel Amigone: Afrobeat is on the rise in the US due to a combination of factors. While I'd like to take some responsibility for the rise of the movement due to my blog, my podcast, and advocacy for the genre, I think the band Antibalas Afrobeat deserves a lot of the credit. They got the ball rolling in the late nineties and introduced the genre to a lot of people. In the last couple years more specifically, Bill T. Jones' play FELA! has given the movement a huge shot in the arm, bringing the legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and afrobeat music as a whole into the mainstream.
TOE: What inspired your blog and your decision to search for and promote 'lost' african sound?
MGA: I started my blog in 2008 while I was working as a free-lance writer in Brooklyn, NY. I started posting all my work on a website as a portfolio and most of it was afrobeat related. People started requesting coverage on it, so I started The Afrobeat Blog to give purveyors of the music publicity and express myself musically and otherwise. I found that afrobeat music and most other contemporary African musics were not getting nearly the attention they deserved and I wanted to do whatever I could to change that.
TOE: What are the challenges you face promoting African music especially afro beat?
MGA: I think the biggest challenge in promoting afrobeat is introducing people to the music. While afrobeat is definitely on the rise in popularity and familiarity in the mainstream is growing, most people still do not know who Fela is, or what to expect when they go to an afrobeat show. Once that initial barrier is broken, however, people can't get enough of it.
TOE: Did you ever dream of being an artiste?
MGA: I've always dreamt of being an artist and am proud to be one.
TOE: How did you become such an avid lover of African sound
MGA: My uncle first introduced me to African music and Fela specifically. Once it got into my blood, it spread like a disease and I've never looked back.
TOE: As an African in the Diaspora, what's your view of the black continent?
MGA: I think Africa is a diverse, beautiful place. It has many faces and many facets that are rarely visible from the outside. I think it can be very duplicitous--inviting and hospitable while at the same time intimidating and dangerous. I think it's one of the most culturally rich places in the world, but I also think it's one of the most tragic. As Femi Kuti says, "Africa is the richest continent, and the poorest continent".
TOE: How can Africa use its unique brand of music to rebrand itself?
MGA: I honestly don't think Africa can use its music to rebrand itself. Africa has been exporting its music for a long time but western mainstream culture has a way of extracting the entertainment value without bothering to look past the exterior. For example, when King Sunny Ade plays in Central Park, the crowd loves it and dances like crazy, but when the show is over, 90% of the people don't go home and even bother to read about Nigerian culture on the internet. What Africa and African musicians should do to help themselves and the continent, in my opinion, is re-invest their success into their communities. There are too many people like Tony Allen who left Africa their first chance and barely looked back, and not enough people like Femi Kuti, who tour the world annually, but return every time to contribute to the community from which he came.
TOE: What drives you?
MGA: I'm driven by my passion for the music and my drive to contribute to the world. I'm driven by people like you who find my blog and validate my efforts to publicize this music and contribute to the growth of the afrobeat movement. I'm of the opinion that African music is one of the most beautiful things in the world and I've taken it as my mission in life to spread it as much as possible. My uncle, who turned me onto African music, was famous for sharing music, knowledge, art, etc with everyone he knew. When he died a little over a year ago, his good friend Michael Veal (who wrote THE book on Fela and was originally introduced to the music by my uncle) and I decided it was up to us to continue his legacy of sharing and promoting the gift of music and knowledge. So I'm driven by my mission to continue my uncle's legacy.
TOE: What are your dreams?
MGA: I dream someday of pursuing a career in Ethnomusicology, writing books and making films about African music. I dream of marrying a beautiful African woman, making beautiful music, and living a happy life.