Amani G is the thirteen-year-old girl with the most awesome ‘how did you get into the entertainment industry?’ story. It’s hard to conceive of how much can happen in less than two months. On some random day in July, as normal as any other day before it, Amani’s out playing with her friends when they see children being given sweets by some Wazungus in a car. Amani and her friends run over there and they are given sweets. Amani, ever polite, offers to convey her gratitude through the song because “I had nothing else to give them”.
She starts belting out Alicia Key’s Girl on Fire one of her teachers had picked for her to sing at an extra-curricular talent based program. The occupants of the car are amazed so much so that they ask her to stop, take out their cellphones, ask her to start again and they start recording. Amani goes back to her usual life. One of the ladies in the car uploads the video to YouTube, it goes viral and a few days later someone lets Amani know that she’s trending online.
Alicia Keys shares it on her Instagram with the caption ‘Look at this beautiful soul! SHINE!’. Peter Nduati from Pine Creek comes across the clip and is sufficiently interested, speaks to his friend Rimbui and before long they decide they have to do something to help Amani along. They approach her mom and sign a 2.5 million KSHS recording deal. A week after she’s signed on, she has her first song and music video out. About three weeks after that she has her first collabo out and the music video to boot. Phew! What did you do between July and August?
I had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with her, her mom Christine Ambuso, her manager Damima Duffield and her project director Lenny Ngugi both from Pine Creek. I could just tell she is in amazing hands with people who care about Amani the person, not just the artist and/or brand.
She’s an absolute delight. Get to know Amani G from our interview below and plan to attend her debut concert in November at Alliance Française.
How did you meet the Pine Creek team?
I wasn’t expecting anyone to come to school. I was called by my head teacher, she then told me that I have five minutes to go and talk to my people. So I was wondering, my people? Who are they? So I went down, and I found a very tall man. I wondered, who is this man? I’ve never seen him anywhere. I went and talked to him and the other man he was with. One of them was called Lenny and also Peter Nduati. I socialized with them and they’re very nice, very friendly. We talked then we got to know each other. Then they went and talked to my mom. The contracts… It was all my mom’s work because I’m still a minor. I don’t even have a signature.angr
What’s the transition been like from amateur singing at home to breaking into the industry and becoming a professional performer?
It’s really a great experience for me. I’ve really learnt a lot but somehow it’s also hard and tiring. I have to balance between school and music, so I have homework and all that. I do the recordings during weekends. After the recordings and all that, I have to go back home, stay up and finish my work so that tomorrow I don’t get beaten up because I haven’t done the teacher’s work. I just have to keep up because it’s now my job.
How are you balancing school work and music?
It’s in my mind. I know that at this time I’m in school. I really have to work hard during school time. I stopped remembering that I have music on Saturday. I just focus on what I’m doing right now. Then on weekends when I’m in the studio I focus on what I’m doing so that I don’t lose my focus when I’m doing this.
Has your relationship with your classmates or teachers changed?
Maybe the first time, but now we’re just friends. I’m a normal kid at school. I’m the Amani they used to know but in a different way now. They’re actually afraid of me somehow. For the teacher, they’re still my teachers and when I make a mistake they must punish me. When I’m in school I’m Amani Gracious, a pupil. My friends at home, they’ve really changed. They don’t come to my house anymore. Most of the time when they come, they find that I’m not around, I’ve gone away.
What classes do you enjoy in school?
Science. Football. I don’t like French. I do enjoy Science, Mathematics and Social Studies. I want to be a scientist. The thing that interests me most is the reproduction in human beings and the solar system.
What do you do for fun?
I eat a lot. I also watch TV, it’s a hobby. I like animations and movies but not horror movies. I socialize with my siblings because most of the time I’m not around so I take advantage of the time I have.
How was shooting the Sitasahau music video?
I had friends around, it was so much fun. Those are my friends from school. Even during the video shooting, I would lose my concentration while I was filming and I would look away from the camera to my friends. So it was so fun. We had so much fun.
How long did it take you to learn the songs?
Two days. It took me two days to learn four songs. The fifth one took me a lot longer because I used to confuse the words. It was nice. It was fun. The words were in Swahili so it was easier to learn.
Who wrote the songs?
Lenny: We had a lot of bids for the songwriting. Sitasahau was the first song inspired by her story but written by Pitson. Pitson has had an upbringing exactly like hers. He pretty much had a humble upbringing and lived like that for quite a while before he joined the bank and started doing music later. So he understands the struggle. When she talks about her struggles and her dreams, those were his struggles and his dreams when he was growing up. So they connected really well. Pitson and Chris Adwar have written quite a few songs for her album and then Vivian as well.
Who else would you love to do a collabo with?
Pitson. Who wouldn’t like to do a collabo with Pitson? And I really hope that maybe I can do a collabo with Alicia Keys, maybe. It’s just a dream, I don’t know whether it can come true. I didn’t know that this dream could come true and it’s true right now.
So there’s a major album in the works?
In November, we’ll launch her first body of work, which is 8 tracks. She was signed, a week later there was a video out. Two weeks later there was another video out. And in a few months, we’ll have a record out and a concert.
What’s your dream, Amani?
I want to open a daycare for my mom. It has been her dream to open a daycare and a boutique.
I would really help kids on the street a lot. A lot. I really feel bad when I just pass by and see them like that, begging someone to help them and that person is like, ‘don’t touch me’. It really hurts. But I know one time, I’ll come to help them.
To, the Pine Creek team, what would you like to see happen with her?
We have three things that we’re looking out for. First, and very important to us, is that she’s able to grow into a woman that is respectable. We want her to be able to make her own decisions. We want her to be able to accomplish what she needs to accomplish. She needs to be able to make her own mistakes because that’s also important when you’re growing, that you’re able to make your own mistakes and that there are people who watch your back, people who are there for you. But also that we have her on the right path towards flourishing socially.
Also, we want to make sure that her education is well taken care of. Her record deal has a clause that we take care of her education all through whether she decides to go into music or decides that this is not her thing and she decides to do something else.
Finally taking care of her music by leading her, and letting her lead us in the direction she wants. So all of our musicians have the freedom to choose the direction that they want to follow with their music.
Final thoughts from her mom
My prayer is that she doesn’t lose the way. I want her to remain humble and focused in everything she does. I’ve been there for her and I will always be there for her.
Here’s a little something to look forward to: Amani G’s concert is set for November 2018 at Alliance Française. Further details will be communicated.
Associated acts: Atemi, Mankind, Tanzania’s JD, among others.