A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

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Faces to Watch: The Young & The Gifted
By
AKON: UNLOCKING SUCCESS

When seven year old Akon Thiam moved to the United States from Senegal, American popular music certainly was not on his list of favorites. Son of legendary Djembe percussionist Mor Thiam, Akon explained that "When I first heard hip-hop I thought it was rubbish because I did not understand the concept of people talking over music." However, after growing to manhood in New Jersey, Akon has developed more than just an appreciation for American pop culture.

A traditional percussionist in his own right, Akon began to experiment with other musical genres. "As I started growing up, living a little and listening to rap lyrics, I realized that I was going through a lot of stuff these rappers were talking about and I could relate." After a few run-ins with the law that included prison time, Akon developed his life experiences into his R&B and hip hop influenced debut album. "TROUBLE evolved from the struggles I went through and what I did and what I'm still doing to correct those things," he explained.

His debut single, Locked Up, is set for top 40 heavy rotation. With the album sitting strong at the top of Billboards Hot 200 chart for several weeks, Akon has proven that trouble is not all bad, as long as its channeled in the right arena


SIJI: GOD-GIVEN TALENT

The spellbinding lyrics and sounds of John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, Fela, and Stevie Wonder prove that a great musician is one of the most powerful forces known to man. Afro soul recording artist, Siji, not only recognizes this power; he embodies it.

Nigerian born Siji developed his love for music after his father returned home with a rare collection of Country, Soul, Gospel, and Blues albums. After moving to London in the mid 80s, Siji found himself in awe of the rare groove scene supported by underground radio stations.

Though he earned a degree in Architectural Engineering, Siji's passion for music developed into a career. The self taught bass guitar and piano player started his own recording label,IVY Records licensed to BBE Records in London. In 2000, Siji moved from London to New York City.

As an independent, Siji enjoys dodging the creative set backs that come with representation by a major label. There's always the pressure to conform and to play the game by the rules and this always involves some kind of compromise being made. Being independent has enabled me to do what I've always believed in and wanted to do musically.

God Given, his hypnotic debut album, is a perfect blend of jazzy soulful sounds punctuated with traditional Yoruba influences. It's first released single entitled Sanctuary, captivates with the soothing thumps of the Nigerian Talking Drum. I felt a strong inclination to show off my ethnicity within the record and this led me to explore how I could fuse all of my musical influences into a whole body of work, he explained. God Given is scheduled for release on November 2.

Visit www.sijimusic.com


GODFREY: PRINCE OF COMEDY

"Comedy is the hardest form of entertainment because if you are not funny, your audience gets so angry," Nigerian American comedian Godfrey Danchimah confessed. "Most actors that see comedians say, wow, I wonder how you do it."

Godfrey has been doing it, and doing it well for quite some time now. After completing a degree in Psychology at the University of Illinois, Godfreys open MIC performances at Chicago comedy clubs included the Cotton Club hosted by veteran comedian, Bernie Mack.

After moving to New York City, he became the first comedian of Nigerian descent to do stand up comedy on American television with his memorable performances on BETs Comic View. "The reason I did Comic View was to show that black people should laugh at something different," he explained. As a Nigerian American, Godfrey's performance drew on the differing views between himself and his father who, like many immigrants, had a sternly traditional perspective on life. "As a black man in America, it's a great thing to be able to get on TV and talk about your father being an authoritative figure in your life," he explained.

He has also made appearances in films such as Zoolander, Johnson's Family Vacation, Chain Reaction, The Cookout and regular appearances on VH1s I Love the 80s.

Perhaps his most noted work is his part as the witty 7 Up Guy in the company's ongoing television campaign. With his two year ad run ending this year, Godfrey plans to focus on other career moves. When a company trusts you to represent their product, that's a cool thing, he said. But as an entertainer, I have to avoid being typecast.

He is currently working on a film with comedian/actress Monique, entitled Fat Girls, scheduled to release next spring.

Visit www.godfreylive.com
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