Beatport Next: Amémé is the Future Face of Afro House
Beatport Next: Amémé is the Future Face of Afro HouseApril 8, 2022
One of the hottest acts to hit the Afro house scene in recent memory, Beatport Next artist Hubert Sodoganji (aka Amémé) is an act brimming with an undeniable talent and raw ambition that has dance floors everywhere taking notice.
Hailing from the West African country of Benin, Amémé spent the past decade splitting his time between New York and Berlin, determined to carve a space of his own in these two essential club culture hubs.
In New York, his One Tribe party-turned-label and cutting-edge fashion brand got its start at House Of Yes and quickly turned into one of the city’s most cherished Afro House parties. In Berlin, he came into his own as a producer, crafting an alluring and unifying sound that has landed him on imprints like Watergate, MoBlack Records, Abracadabra, and more.
These days, Amémé finds himself jet-setting around the globe, hitting party after party with his tribal melodies and impeccable style as he prepares for his debut performance at Coachella and an Ibiza season that is bound to bear fruit.
Having just dropped his latest single, “Wait No More,” on Nic Fanciulli’s Saved Records, we caught up with Amémé to learn more about his musical history, the community that he’s built around his sound, and what the future holds for this exciting up-and-comer.
You grew up with parents who were constantly playing music at home. Tell me about growing up in Benin and the early artists that first made you fall in love with music and rhythm?
So my mom is from Nigeria, and my dad is from Benin. The cultures are very close but very different simultaneously, which is sometimes confusing. My mom comes from a very, very big family — nine sisters and three brothers. And my dad comes from a very traditional family that’s very cultural and always puts on lots of ceremonies. The thing about African ceremonies is that they’re very musical and rhythmic — lots of drums, clapping, percussion, etc.
When I think back on it, my musical journey started from when I was a baby and got these rhythmic blessings and chants from my family members. Fast forward, my mom was a big fan of French old-school music. My dad listened to a lot of African music from Congo and the Ivory Coast — lots of different music from lots of different cultures. Growing up, my brothers and I listened to a lot of French rap and R&B. The musical blend that I’ve got from the time I was born to the time I left Benin when I was 17 was very diverse.
When did electronic music first enter your life?
I first heard electronic music through my brother after he returned from his time living in Lyon, France. He came back with a different hairstyle (mohawk) and wearing skinny jeans. This guy used to dress up in super baggy jeans, ao I asked him, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ And he tells me, ‘Yo, I discovered the new style of music is called tectonic,’ but he also really connected with the progressive house scene.
He left me a few CDs, some compilations, and that was around when I first moved to New York City. One of my best friends from Switzerland, living in New York at the time, brought me to my first rave on Halloween, which was Robot Heart. I had become familiar with more EDM artists like Avicii, Afrojack, and Martin Solveig, but I had never experienced anything like that. It was a mind-blowing experience. I loved how far removed it was from the bottle service club culture. Everyone was just there to have a good time and dance. That was the first time I started vibing with the sound and the scene.
Tell us more about those first few years living in NYC and the first time you hopped behind a pair of decks.
In my first year in New York, I went out a lot, just going to English school, meeting people, practicing my English, and getting into the nightlife scene. After that, I went to Hunter College to get into a pre-med program. I came to New York in the first place to get into medical school because I studied biology and chemistry when I was in high school. I did two years before deciding to switch to finance, but I’ve always wanted to be a DJ ever since I was a kid. I eventually bought my first Traktor setup, and every single day after school, I would run home and play with it for hours. I became very anti-social. After two months, BOOM! I knew how to DJ and started volunteering to DJ parties.
When I started playing bigger clubs, I didn’t have access to CDJs, so what I would do is show up one or two hours early before the club opened to practice. Then, I just kept experimenting over and over until it felt comfortable. Because of how my brain thinks, I’m always trying to expand whatever I have in front of me. At this point, I am very technical behind the decks, and I am probably able to do certain things with the CDJs that many people can’t really do.
You had a dream of what you wanted to do and a love of music, but early on, your technical skill wasn’t quite ready to allow you to make that leap. What steps did you take to correct this?
When I first started making music, I spent days on YouTube trying to figure out Ableton. After that, I bought my first keyboard and spent a whole year in my room in Brooklyn, learning everything I could, from design and production to the mixed down and mastering.
One of my friends who worked at Guitar Center had a studio, and we would go in there, start messing around with plugins and try and get everything sounding clean. Learning how to perfect the mixdown is essential, especially with Afro house, because you have so many different elements and frequencies. So even though I’ve come to a really good point with my productions, it’s always a journey, and I’m actively learning every day. Also, moving to Berlin changed a lot for me.
Speaking of Berlin, what prompted you to move there, and what did the city offer in terms of giving you the tools to succeed as a musician?
My ex-girlfriend is German, and she wanted to move to Berlin. I feel like I hit a bit of a plateau in New York, so I moved out there with her and met my friend Michael Maddie at a fundraiser. He’s produced with everyone from Black Coffee to Madonna, and he introduced me to everyone I needed to meet to help drive my sound and skills. I couldn’t get a gig, but I was out there, in cold Berlin, just making music and trying to learn how to put this thing together. And that was the beginning of it.
From there, what was your first breakthrough moment in terms of getting your music out into the world?
When I first started trying to get my tracks released, nobody was signing them. That’s when I decided to create my label, One Tribe NYC, and started sending out my first single, “Talk To Me.” We did our research and began to learn about distribution, publishing, put a strategy and place, and created all these accounts. Next, we had six premieres — Electronic Groove, Deep House Amsterdam, etc.
I’m in Benin in December, right before Corona, and my friend calls me and says, “Black Coffee is playing your track right now.” It was an incredible feeling, and four days later, my track broke into the Top 10 in Afro House on Beatport.
Tell us about some of your latest remixes.
I recently did a remix of Yamil and G.Zamora‘s “Cosa Buena” on Connected Frontline, which has been doing quite well on Beatport’s Afro House page, and I also just put out a Jan Blomqvist remix of his track “Back In The Taxi” on Armada. I met Jan last year in Berlin, and the whole thing came together really genuinely.
I worked on two versions, one for darker moments on the dance floor, and the other is more oriented towards sunset vibes. Both versions are very percussive, but I wanted to showcase the range of my sound. Even though I am an Afro house artist, I play with guys like Jamie Jones and other big tech house artists. So my range is extensive, but there is definitely a common denominator of percussive, rhythmical energy that keeps coming back no matter where I’m at.
You’ve just released your new single on SAVED Records, “Wait No More.” Tell us a little bit about the process of putting this one together and how it compares to your past original productions.
I’ve never really created a track that’s bassline-focused, so with “Wait No More,” I decided to focus on the bass and make it the song’s lead. I found a great bassline on Splice and started messing, and before you know it, I had created this rhythmical, Detroit-influenced bassline. I went to Tulum and had a brainstorming session with a friend because I was still looking for the right kick drum, and that’s also where I came up with the lyrics, which developed around this idea of just waiting and how much I hate waiting. Not just me, but everyone waiting to get into the club, waiting in line for the bathroom. You have to wait, but eventually, you’re going to end up on the dance floor.
What has been your biggest takeaway since first breaking into the music industry?
My biggest takeaway has been that as a human being, you control your own narrative. I had the mindset of becoming an artist, but I didn’t have any keys to this. I didn’t have the education or the knowledge, I came to New York, and I didn’t know anybody. So it’s all about thriving and learning how to create opportunities for myself — taking cheap ass gigs in Mexico, going to Paris to play and sleeping on couches. If you put your mind towards something, nobody can stop you. You control this.
What are you most looking forward to later this year? How do you feel about your upcoming Coachella performance?
The fact that I’m playing Coachella this year is definitely a dream come true. I never expected to be here, so I’m really excited about it. I’m also really looking forward to my Ibiza introduction. This is my first year where I’ll have some proper shows with A-list DJs and producers. I think this summer will change my whole life and career forever. Just being exposed to that Ibiza crowd and having a real European summer, I think I will be in a great place by the end of it.
I mean, only God knows. The sky’s the limit, and I’m not trying to put myself in the box. But I think it’s something that’s going to make all the difference.
Amémé’s new single “Wait No More” is now available via Saved Records. Check it out on Beatport.