Brimming with Afrobeat, the singer and producer has already got the attention of East Africa and the Nordic countries, and now he is to play at SPOT. The reason? He wants to be a star!
Today, SPOT released 20 more acts for SPOT 2020 – among them pop / Afro beat artist JJ Paulo. We talked to the confident and humorous singer in connection with the announcement. He is busy – because he wants to take his music all the way.
You have said that it was Michael Jackson who made you want to play music. What was about him that caught your attention. and how is it evident in the music that you make?
I was captivated by his performance. When you saw him live, it wasn’t a concert, it was a show! I was blown away by the way he danced and sang. When you see me live, you’re not at a concert, you’re at a show. I rap, sing, dance and perform acrobatics – all of it at the same time. Michael Jackson was the best performer in the world, and I’m up there with him. If you go to one of my shows, you’ll still remember it two years later. Gaffa (major Danish music magazine) just nominated me for “Best Live Act 2020”. I deserve to win that one, because the only one you could nominate in this category who is actually better is Michael Jackson, and as far as I recall, Gaffa didn’t nominate him (laughs).
JJ Paulo – visiting old home turf, Tanzania.
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What do you think is the most important thing about music? And how would you describe your own music? And what is it you hope to express and achieve?
The most important thing for me when playing live is to get a party going. I want the crowd to listen to my music and be happy. If you’re already happy, it’s time to shake your booty. I write, produce and mix all of my songs myself. And going through any of these processes I always keep in mind that what I do must reflect me and my personality. The lyrics are about what I have experienced, so if people listen to my music, they will get to know me just as well as if they sat down and talked to me. I’ m very honest in my lyrics, and I have written about anything from my mother dying of AIDS to how hard it was for me to sit still and stay focused in elementary school. I’m 100 % myself, and if you know me, you can hear it in my music, and that is probably my most important message: Be yourself!
You have been in Tanzania with your music and you have been on the radio and on the biggest TV channel there. How do they respond to your music? Are you a bit exotic down there, because you grew up in another country? And is it actually possible for you to have a career in East Africa?
One of my goals is definitely to break through in East Africa. Afrobeat has become a huge, global genre, and I can see myself breaking through in a lot of countries. In Tanzania, I have been lucky to get my music on some major platforms. Part of the reason is that I make music in English, which makes me stand out a bit in their eyes. But also because I live in Europe, and they see me as a bit exotic like you said. It has opened some doors which might have taken longer to open for people who live there.
I was lucky to be interviewed by a radio host called LIL OMMY on his show TIMES FM, and that is where all the biggest stars give interviews, so that was a tremendous experience. What’s more, they played one of my songs on East Africa TV, which is broadcasted in several East African countries. This March, the biggest star of East Africa Diamond Platnumz will be in Copenhagen, and I am to play support. I am going to tell him that we’ll soon meet at the top, because I’m definitely counting on getting a major breakthrough in East Africa in a few years’ time when I have graduated from university, etc. My music is African, my dance is African, I am African – so of course I’m going to have a career in Africa.
You have also played in the other Scandinavian countries. Are your ambitions international?
I am going to answer that briefly – saying this: I am going to be the first Danish rapper to get an international breakthrough. Just watch me and be inspired.
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career so far?
Being booked to play at SPOT Festival. Apart from that, the greatest experience is seeing my father attending all my concerts. In the beginning, he wasn’t too gone with my music and perhaps he even wished in some kind of way that I would give up the music and do something else, but now he believes in me and my music 100%. I just love seeing him in the crowd, because he has taught me most of the things I do on stage. So definitely, the best experience – besides SPOT – is my father attending my concerts. Well, he is often late, but what can you do? he is an African – ‘African time’ you know (laughs)
Michael Jackson and 50 Cent were among your old favorites. What music do you listen to these days?
I still listen to Michael Jackson and 50 Cent a lot. Apart from them, I also listen to Fela Kuti and Birthe Kjær (Danish popular singer who among other things finished third in the 1989 Eurovision Song Contest). Fela Kuti represents my African culture, and Birthe Kjær represents my Danish culture. I am very Danish and very Tanzanian – I say things like ‘mojn’ (dialect word used to greet other people in South Jutland) and hakuna matata.
What are your ambitions with your music? Where would you like to be in, say, five years?
In five years, I am going to be on a stage in front of an audience, because that is what I was born to do. In five years, I have bought a house for my mother and a range rover. In five years, I am going to earn my living as a musician. And in five years, I am going to reread this interview, and say, “Told you so!”….
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Photo top: Morten Rygaard.
JJ Paulo er også blevet interviewet i Tanzania af Lil Ommy på Times FM