Didier Awadi Interview
By Birgit Quade
BQ: Tell me about your latest project?
D: My latest album is called Another World is Possible (Un autre monde est possible), and I am doing a tour with the crew, doing the promotion of this album, we are about to go to Paris.
I am also working on my next album, which is called African Presidents. We have the audio-speeches of the great African leaders, the influential pan-Africanists of the 20th century, like Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Kwame Nkrumah, and we are trying to make a connection between them and our generation. It is going to be featuring between Mandela, Skwatta Kamp (SA) and Awadi. I went to 20 countries and in all these countries I take rap group, or R’n’B, depends, or sometimes I mix. I put the audio-speech on the track. So we try to keep the ideas of the founding fathers of Africa. They had some dreams. What are all the dreams about today in 2007? So we try to keep their fire burning.
BQ: How far are you with the project?
D: It is already recorded; at the moment we are mixing it. The project is nearly finished. I will release the album in September 2007, inshallah.
BQ: How many bands have you collaborated with for this record?
D: Oh, more than 20. At the moment, I have like 23 or 24 tracks, but in the end I want to release 20 good tracks. Best to record more to have a good choice.
BQ: So who is producing this?
D: Me, I have a label called Studio Sankara and we are producing artists like Carlou D, Baye Souleye, Big D, Da Brains, Doug E Tee, Assane Gaye, Khady Mbaye.
BQ: You said you are going on tour soon. Apart from Paris, where are you going?
D: Yeah, I am going to Niger, and Burkina Faso, and I am touring with Phat 4 in France, Belgium and Spain.
BQ: Do you always travel with the same crew?
D: Phat 4 are from Switzerland, we meet-up in Paris, and after everyone goes back. But they come to Senegal too. In Europe, I also collaborated with German crews like Torch from Heidelberg or Adé Bantus from Cologne.
BQ: I really enjoyed your gig last night, and for me personally I really liked the combination of rap and traditional kora. Tell me about your use of traditional instruments and elements.
D: I use traditional instruments like the kora, the djembe; sometimes I use sabar [drums] and the balafon. We are really open, and our kora player can play many different African traditional instruments. He is a real griot, so he knows how to play all these instruments. It is important to integrate our culture. I am not 50 Cent. I am not American and I do not want to sound like them. I respect what they do, but I want to sound African. That is my identity. I have to come with my real identity. That is what and how I really feel.
BQ: Have you worked at all with East African bands?
D: Yeah, I have worked with Mr II and with "Jackie", a girl from here [Jacqueline Ntuyabaliwe aka "K'Lynn"]. In Kenya, I have worked with Gidigidi Majimaji, UkooFlani maumau. Every time I come, I try to collaborate with others. For me it is important that we have a real connection between East and West. We are on the same continent, but we do not really know each other. Our generation has to work on that and make sure that we appreciate our cultures. I really believe in African unity, and I think our cultures are the basis of the pan-Africanism.
BQ: Where do you see yourself going music-wise? Do you have any new projects and ideas?
D: New ideas, I do not know. I just do what I feel. I do not have real plans, I just do what I think is important for me to do. As soon as I have the idea, I have to find the ways of doing it and to be independent while I am doing it, because sometimes the ideas I defend are not politically correct. So I have to make sure that I am independent enough to do it.
BQ: I have just read an article from last year saying that sometimes there is trouble with censorship or that some of you guys are being threatened because of the message?
D: I do not have too many problems. Other people know that I am in the same position for many years now. People understand that this is my position. I have to say what is in the heart of a lot of people who do not have the opportunity to take a mic and say it. But the point of view of the young Africans today, I think, it is important. If we had only one point of view, it would be the point of view of the politicians. We need other point of views too. And that is what I am trying to do. The point of view of the street, the youth generation, the voice of the consciousness generation. What I mean by consciousness is that today we know exactly what happened in history and what were the processes that took us to independence - if we can say that we are independent. We know exactly what is happening in the world, we are informed. We have a lot of books, we read books, use the Internet; we know what is happening in the world. Our point of view is important, so people must listen to it whether they like it or not. And we are trying to be respectful to people. We make a real point. Politics and people are different. If I say ‘I hate George Bush’, it is the politics of George Bush, but I love Americans. I am not racist; I make a real difference between the politics and the people.
BQ: In Senegal, where do you think are at the moment the biggest issues for young people?
D: We are about to have elections in two weeks. So, the big issue is that people have to vote if the want to change the system. And the system that we have is very, very bad. So, my point is, to make everybody go. If they want a change, they have to vote.
BQ: The lyrics of your songs, are they all written by yourself? Do you work with other people?
D: In hip-hop, you need to write your own lyrics. I can discuss and share ideas with people, but it is important to write it down to be able to give it back in an honest way. I have to write my own lyrics. And the day I will not be able to write down my own lyrics, I will be a producer and no longer on the stage.
BQ: Do you support young artists who are not as well known yet?
D: Yes, I do it a lot because I was one of the pioneers of hip-hop in Africa, so I have to do it. I am producing a lot of artists, not only from Senegal, but also from all over West Africa. And I am trying also to boost some other guys in Central Africa. I have a little recording studio in my bags. So if I can give someone a chance, I will do it. It is my duty.
BQ: So who is your hottest tip then, who's up-and-coming from Senegal?
D: Oh, there are a lot from Senegal, but the one who is killing me currently is from Mauritania, and the name is Waraba [Brahim FALL aka "Waraba"]. And there is also some fantastic rap coming out of Ivory Coast at the moment.
BQ: Didier, thank you very much.
D: It's my pleasure to be in Zanzibar
Chavda Hotel, Zanzibar, 13 Feb 2007
Up dated on November 22nd, 2011.