Multi-platinum recording artist Akon has teamed up with RnB sensation Keri Hilson to produce Oh Africa, an exhilarating football anthem to help underprivileged African youngsters. With its uplifting catchy rhythm and memorable lyrics the song expresses a desire for world unity – something Michael Jackson would be proud of. We caught up with Aliaune Badara Akon Thiam to talk football, his aspirations for his native country and working with Michael Jackson.
Hi Akon, how are you doing?
So far so good! [Laughs]
We love you! Oh Africa is a great anthem. How did you enjoy working with the Soweto Gospel Choir?
They were incredible, Wow those guys! Their voices were amazing. They did everything they had to do.
Was it one of your favourite videos to shoot?
Oh absolutely, definitely. We had kids from all over the world that actually came in to participate – to see the look on their faces and the excitement.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest artists, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston – the list is endless. We love your version of Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Something for his 25th Anniversary Thriller album. Did Michael have to approve it?
Michael called and said, ‘Hey – listen I’ll give you whichever record you want to do – it’s yours. I want you to just feel free to – just do it!’ So I took it the way I would do it, as though it were my record – he loved it! He didn’t really get too much in the way of the creative side – he allowed us be ourselves.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Michael Jackson and my Dad – those are my two main inspirations and mentors in the business.
Who would you like collaborate with?
Well that’s the thing – I’ve worked pretty much every artist that I’ve ever dreamed of working with. I’m actually doing a lot of work with brand new artists – I want to provide that opportunity for them, help new artists get showcased and recognised.
Which one of your songs is your favourite?
Too many records man! But if I had to pick one from the last album it would probably be Freedom.
If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
I was always saying to myself if I had not chosen music as the main force, or if music didn’t work the way I expected to, I probably would be definitely focused on being a footballer – that’s all I used to do as a kid.
Do you follow the UK Premier League?
When I’m in the UK I normally go to all the Chelsea games – those are my guys! All those guys I know personally so they are always with us – they bring the news to me if I miss it.
We love your Konfidence Foundation. It’s very important to give back and help your native country. If you could paint a picture of the future Africa in the next five years, how would it be?
Africa is slowly developing [so] it’s probably going to take another ten years for it to develop; I would like to see all the countries merge together as one continent – like the United States. We own all the natural resources – we are wealthy and if all we came together as one country we would have the biggest dollar in the world because we have all the resources to back it up. With that dollar, we could fully develop Africa the way it needs to be developed – it’s just a matter of time.
What are your plans for the future?
In future I want to continue to sign more and more artists. continue to build the Kon Live brand [and]
make it the biggest label ever – then maybe branch off and do some Hollywood films, produce some and possibly even direct some!
For more information visit www.akononline.com
Interview by Kemi Giwa