AMÉMÉ Talks the Impact of Afro House Music & Shares an Exclusive Mix
Benin, West Africa-born DJ-producer AMÉMÉ, didn’t set out to become one of the pioneers of African electronic music, yet that’s what he’s become. From initially studying finance in school to his rise to fame as one of electronic music’s most promising artists, AMÉMÉ has traversed the globe playing at some of the hottest parties and clubs in the scene. He cites living in Benin, NYC, and Berlin among the influences behind his music which incorporates the hypnotic rhythmic beats from African music with swirling synths from house music.
Here, AMÉMÉ premieres his live set from The Shrine L.A. exclusively with EDITION – and we guarantee you it’s an entire body roll-inducing vibe you won’t be able to resist. We also caught up with the vibrant artist on Zoom to talk about the impetus behind starting the One Tribe imprint, the impact Afro house is having on all music genres, and the deep meaning behind “impossible is nothing.”
It's super cool that you've lived in all these different places. You’re from West Africa. You’ve lived in New York and Berlin. So, how have these places influenced your overall approach to production?
Being born and growing up in Benin, West Africa, gave me the rhythmical foundation that you can find in my music today. The essence of the music that I play and produce is tribal, Afro-related together with a lot of drums and percussion. There’s a lot of African vocals that I put into my tracks. That’s because, when I was growing up, my parents were playing a lot of African music from Congo and the Ivory Coast. There was one common denominator around all this music – the drums, the rhythms, and the vocals.
I discovered electronic music when I was around 17 years old when my brother came back from Paris. He went to Paris to study, and he came back and was like, “Hey guys, I discovered this new music. You guys should check it out.” Obviously, he being the older brother, had the authority to play music in the house. So, he played it all summer, and by the end of the summer, I was like, ‘This actually isn’t that bad.’ When I moved to New York, it allowed me to explore different types of electronic music. The one thing about New York is that it's the only place in the world where it gets to see so many different elements together. You’re going to have to adapt because it’s a melting pot, and it's a mentality that, at some point, you get to apply to everything around you.
So, when I discovered Afro house, I was like, ‘I love this, but I would love to make it my own as well.’ So, when I moved to Berlin, I was really able to add that German precision to it and explore the whole spectrum of Afro house itself and see how I could add that. You have to know something about German electronic music. They’re really specific with the buildups and with the methodology of production. So, when I look at where I am right now, I think it was just that ability to take all those three experiences that I've gathered from those three places and add myself to it.
That makes complete sense. It makes me think of your latest song, “Carpe Diem,” but also you can hear those different elements in your live sets.
Yeah, that's exactly what I mean when I talk about the spectrum of my music while having the percussive essence. On a track like “Carpe Diem,” I knew I wanted to have something very emotional and melodic, but then just have a touch of percussion. Now, when you look at the remix of Omah Lay that I did, I went straight up Afro rhythmical on it. So, when I think Benin, I think Brooklyn, and I think Berlin, it allows me to shift my vibe depending on what I'm trying to accomplish. That’s also the same thing when I'm playing. When I was playing with Black Coffee in L.A. at Shrine, then I opened up for Jamie Jones at Space; when you follow the set, you will find a common denominator – that percussive and powerful vibe. There’s always going to be a different twist to it because it's just not the same environment. That’s the part that I'm so excited about because it gives me such versatility but is true to my essence.
Absolutely. You brought up a good point about Afro house and how it's been around for some time, but I know Beatport recently added that as a chart, showing that electronic music culture is constantly evolving. So, what would you say has been exciting from your perspective with the evolution of the sound?
I still remember the day I went on Beatport, and I was just looking through it in general. I think I was looking at melodic house; then I stumbled on Afro house. I was like, ‘Okay. Wow. That's something interesting.’ When you think of Afro house itself, there are also different subgenres that come along with it – you have Afro tech, jungle tech, ancestral house.
With all these percussions and all these rhythms, you can see how Afro house is impacting every single genre. Actually, just African music in general from the beginning of time has impacted all types of music. You can hear it in the drums, the vocals, and on and on. Now, in electronic music too, you can hear it from tech-house and melodic house. Even guys like Afterlife are messing around with percussion now. I really see this thing becoming the norm because it's impacting so many other genres. Culturally, I appreciate that we’re getting our space. I definitely am excited about how this movement is inspiring so many other genres. You can hear it, and you can see it through all the collaborations and biggest techno and house music labels that have started an Afro house venture like Defected. So, there’s definitely a bigger story here in terms of the influence that Afro house and African music are pushing on the electronic world.
I agree with you on that. Speaking of labels, you started One Tribe back in 2019. Tell me a bit about the brand. What are some plans you have going into 2022?
So, I started One Tribe for two reasons. First of all, I was trying to release music, and nobody else was signing my music. So, I was like, ‘I’ll just do it myself.’ Second, I wanted to push an Afro house agenda in New York because I couldn't find anything that was doing it on that level. So, we partnered with House of Yes, and the rest is history. So, the goal with One Tribe was not to create just another label. We wanted to create a community, like a platform, where we'd be able to bring to life stories through fashion collabs, music releases, and things that would highlight positive vibes of where I come from. For example, most of the tracks that I release through One Tribe are really going to have a meaning behind them. “Patchido” is a really good example. It’s inspired by a traditional chant from Benin, where I grew up. “Patchido” means “fix it.” So, from the vocals, it means “when it’s broken, fix it. Don’t throw it away. Fix it.” That's a positive message that I wanted to bring to people that could be applied to so many different things. You can apply it to your relationships with people. There are so many things that, as a society, we can learn from it. That’s just the One Tribe way. We are making great music, but what else? “No Justice No Peace” that we put out was inspired by the protests, and we gave all the funds from the release to the Black Lives Matter movement. So, the goal with One Tribe is to do something bigger than just the music.
That’s a big umbrella. Kudos to you for starting this label! Long after you and I are here, I hope Afro house and electronic music will still be around. What impression would you like to leave on the next generation to come?
I think for a fact the thing that I will leave behind is that impossible is nothing. The story of my life has been full of challenges. I started playing at the shittiest bars in New York. Then, I slowly kept building, and the next thing you know, I was playing some of the biggest clubs in New York. Then, it was like, ‘Okay, New York is not going to be the only place I’m going to play.’ Then, I went to Paris and played for the shittiest fees, but I just kept building. Most people wouldn’t talk to me. I didn't think I was delusional. In the end, they look at me like, “Okay, he is quite interesting.” The one person that gets me is my mother. She’s been with me through the whole process. So, for me, I want to spread that message to the world that, hey, it's not impossible. It's all up to you. Music is a beautiful thing. Long after I’m gone, I would love people to look and say, “This guy really did this and look at where he came from.” Impossible is nothing. If you really want it, you can do it.