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Forår 2011: Dansk hip hop møder Vestafrikansk hip hop
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Interview med VCR featuring VestAfrika/ AsOne

Interview med AsOne fra Guinea Bissau

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(Interview på engelsk - primært målrettet studieretningsforløb med musik og engelsk)

 

How old were you when you started playing music and how did you start?

 

I started writing music at about 16 years old. My first recording was in 2000; I was 15. I got interested in music because my older brother used to sing. His lyrics affected me because they were about things that we were living in Bissau. I’d take his lyrics and sing them around the house and one day my mom said “you really sing well, son.” So I kept going and started writing myself.

 

Tell about the process from “beginner” to where you are to day

 

In the beginning it was tough. There was no studio for recording in Bissau at that time and I would record on an 8-battery radio that I had at home at that time. So I would ask some taxi drivers who lived next to my place, I’d wash their car and put my cassette in their car just to hear my music on their car stereo. It was a way to hear what they had to say about my music.

 

Then I ended up joining a group. They only sang songs of other groups, cover songs. They would lip synch or perform songs from other groups. None of them were going to school and I was the best one at writing. So I would transcribe songs from other groups and write out the lyric for them and sometimes on the day of the show they wouldn’t let me sing, saying that my job was to write out the songs for them. But I was eager to sing and they wouldn’t let me.

 

Then in 2000 I recorded a song in a new professional studio, run by a friend. I had to follow him around for months to convince him to record me.

 

I recorded once before in a more amateur studio, where they only gave you one take and you had to get it right the first and only time.

 

Once I got the song recorded I’d take it to parties and give the song to party DJs, sometimes I’d have to give him a little change to convince him to put the song on. Then I would watch peoples’ reactions. Then after a while radio DJs started getting interested in putting my songs on the radio. I started getting invited to shows, where I’d make only a little bit of change for appearing. At that time I wouldn’t complain about that because I knew I was just getting started.

 

Then I started to feel the need to be part of a group. I wanted a friend on stage so we could animate things better. I started talking to a friend who was part of another group called Cientistas Realistas, about forming a group. We wanted to use a name that was tied into our own culture, so we chose Baloberos. One of my first songs criticized prostitution pretty harshly and my friend didn’t want to get involved on that, so I had to record the song on my own.

 

Then one day I was on stage and I saw a friend who said he wanted me to meet someone, a rapper who wanted to come on stage and sing background vocals for me. I said OK, and I joined up with Hayne, MC H. MC H at the time only wrote his lyrics but had never recorded. I liked his way of singing. We did the first song as a duet, not as a song of the group Baloberos. Once we did the song we decided we would form a group, Baloberos.

 

The formation of the band made me feel like a professional with a mission. Speak in the name of people, of my community. I decided I would take responsibility to sing more about society and real situations, and not so much about running after women, dancing etc.

 

 

Describe your music (both music and lyrics – is there a specific message, where do you seek inspiration etc….please ask for more details if the first answer is to shallow)

 

I make music to let out my feelings, positive and negative, about Africa. Today the songs I make are mostly about freedom, impunity of those in power, the lack of possibilities or hopelessness. The way that the more powerful impose on those who are weaker. I get inspired by books by great Africans who had great ambitions to see a free and a promoter of freedom, not an Africa that will only create opportunities for cruel people.

 

Some of the songs that most affected me…the first was called “prenhanta bu nega” it is the story of a man who got a girl pregnant and refused to recognize the child. After years of suffering the child managed to make a place for himself in society, the father tried to claim him again.

 

After that song came out lots of people talked about it. After then we started to make songs in same genre. There is one we did called “7 Minutes of Truth” that we recorded just a couple of days after a national incident here, where the President and the Chief of the Armed Forces were killed in the same night. The day we recorded that song I have to say it was like I left all fear of expression behind.

 

In sum, my source of inspiration is the suffering of others, their lack of opportunity and access. There are a lot of people with the same ideas I have but they don’t have a way to express it and transmit it to others. That’s way I take rap as my mission to expresses what I feel and what others feel.

 

Comment on the lyrics (of the transcribed track)

 

Destinodescribes someone who is in his last minutes of life. It is not exactly a real story but you can imagine such a scene. Usually here in Africa the man is the head of household. Imagine that that person who provides for the house, the kids, nieces and nephews, is in his final moments. It’s sad. Because the family will not be able to stay together when he is gone.

 

I feel like I’m in their situation when I sing this song. I imagined this scene and I decided to write the song to try to describe the pain the wife must be feeling in this situation. The children are not old enough to provide, and it’s the difficulty that will come in the future. Starting from the ceremony for burial and last rites and going on into other difficulties like paying rent or school for the children.

 

I also tried to sum up the importance of religion for people, because lots of people don’t understand how important it can be. So when I sing that the wife should hang in and depend on God, be it as a muslim or as a Christian.

 

How would you describe the role of hip hop today compared with 10 years ago?

 

Hip Hop today plays and important role in society. Lots of people hear things they wanted to hear for a long time, lots of secrets they needed to hear. In the beginning it was perceived as a sort of banditry. People would hide that they sang hip hop. If your professor heard, he could send a letter to your parents and they would intervene. People thought it was associated with banditry, alcohol, drugs… This is very different to what people thing today. The proof is that 90% of the young people like it and even older people like to listen in. Hip Hop as developed a lot. There are lots of Hip hop groups, and there are studios that work only on hip hop. Today it has a huge impact on society, it talks about intrigue and politics in our country.

 

 

Tell about the circumstances under which musicians in your town/country work (rehearsal, recording, touring etc.)

Access to sound equipment and instruments is precarious. There used to be capable technicians around but a time came when lots of people wanted to get into it, and lots of musicians are doing a style that’s not exactly rap anymore. All the sound equipment and instruments etc have to come from Europe. There is no where to buy it in the country.

There is not sound equipment for large shows, over maybe 3,000 people. There is one large venue that doesn’t have sound, so you have to rent it separately. Sometimes you show up for the show and find the microphone isn’t working or the speakers aren’t working.

At the radio stations new artists have a hard time getting their music to be played on the radio. The people who are there now you have to give a little money for your song to be played. Lots of people lost their motivation to do this work. The vast majority of the groups don’t have videos.

For shows it is hard to find places to print up promotion material cheaply, such as posters. We end photocopying our posters in black and white.

The majority of rappers have never released an album. We have more than 60 songs but not an album. If you make an album it will be pirated right away anyway. There is no real system for defending authors’ rights.

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