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#HELLOAFRICA Episode 5 recap: Akon [Video]

One of Africa’s finest musicians, Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam was born in 1973 in St. Louis, Missouri, and most of his early life was spent in Senegal.

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The parents were both in the music industry; the mother was a dancer while the father was a percussionist. His foray into the music world started at an early age where he learned to play five instruments that ranged from guitar, djembe as well as drums.

Later on, the family moved to New Jersey where the parents later left him, and his older brother as the rest of the family moved to Atlanta. He initially had a rough childhood that saw him have trouble relating with other children.

His music talent seemed to grow during his three-year stint in jail where his abilities developed, and he was later introduced to Stephens by Lil’ Zane. Collaborations with other artists saw Akon’s fame rise quickly as he gained fame as his debut album titled Trouble, saw his songs reach top numbers on the Billboard becoming number one in 2005.

Akon lauds music as having played an important part in his growth as an individual.

“Everyone is put on this earth for a reason. Music was a just vehicle to what my purpose is. Music just opened the doors. My grandfather would always ask if God gave you a chance to speak to a million people, what would you say?” the singer asked.

And the doors that music opened included the establishment of his recording label Konvict, the title of his second album that enjoyed sales of about 286,000 copies in the first week of release. In record two months, the album had sold over a million copies, and it was declared as double platinum, and consequently triple platinum in 2007.

Akon has also engaged in projects aimed at giving back to the society, his exposure to the state of his home country influenced his efforts:

“I would go back home to my old neighborhood and visit family— cousins, uncles, grandparents. And the situation never changed. It was the same place I left 20 years ago. It was like, something has to be done. That was the thought process for why I wanted to make a difference.”

Today, 600 million Africans still don’t have access to electricity, particularly in rural areas. Akon along with leader Thione Niang and entrepreneur Samba Bathily, co-founded Akon Lighting Africa. This initiative aims to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that will provide African villages with access to a clean and affordable source of electricity. Akon Lighting Africa seeks to provide a concrete response at grass roots level to Africa’s energy crisis and lay the foundations for future development.

He posits that; “When we came on board, we already knew the politics of African governments. So we already had that to our credit. Secondly, we knew the biggest problem would be financing. This is the role that Samba played. He’s a finance genius. As quiet as he is, he always finds a financial solution.”

Governments were also put on board; “The key to our success is that we didn’t do it alone. We partnered with the right resources and identified the problems early and came with solutions. The most important part is the giving back to a society that has influenced his life in general. Life is like a hotel room; you’re just passing through.”

Also from that interview, Samba Bathily stated, “Talking about the Diaspora. It’s key to the development of Africa. So if you take a culture like India. India really starts with the return of its Diaspora. The one thing Africa has to leverage on….is the Diaspora. Today, we have millions of Africans all over the world with different experiences. If we can facilitate the Diaspora to come back home and work with the locals, I think as Africa we’ll go to another level.”                        

Thione Niang also said, “The notion of coming back home has never left me. When I left Africa I came here for a purpose. I came here to get the education and become successful, so I can take care of my family. I came here with such hunger; I came here with $20. I was frustrated with looking at my brothers and sisters without even a lunch to eat for 4 days. My grandfather not having food to eat for 4 days and passed away in the house. This was personal to me. And I had to make sure that I changed the condition of the family.”

This is a feature article by EbonyLifeTV.

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