Amantle Brown Gives TRUTH an emotive Interview.
By Abigail Muzenda
As fans it is very easy to forget that the celebrities that we listen to on radio and watch on TV are actual humans. People with feelings and some with a journey and story to tell that can leave your jaw dropped. We forget that they were once like us, simple individuals with dreams and desires of grandeur. I was struck by Amantle’s honesty and sincerity.
TM What inspired the stage name ‘Amantle Brown’?
AB Well, I’ve always been known as Amantle since My Star singing competition. Soon after, I tried to release a few songs, which were more of Rnb in line with the likes of Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland. At the time I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and was undergoing a process of self-discovery. That is when the name Amantle BW came to be. I remember being with one of my friends at my house rehearsing with the band, a song would come up and I would dance to a point were my friends compared me with Chris Brown, saying I’m multi-talented in terms of my singing and dancing. They insisted that they call me “Amantle Brown.” I thought about it and “BAM” I liked it.
TM The music industry is a tough industry to breakthrough. What hurdles did you have to jump to arrive at this level of stardom?
AB I would make requests to have my songs play on radio because they were not played at all, the style of music that I did was not as catchy, and people really didn’t pay attention to that genre. It took me 3 years to break into the industry and be that brand that is respected, able to get bookings and have my songs play on radio. I remember having to do quite a lot of collaborations with artists that were already in the industry. Either way it was hard because doing a song with a brand that is already out there doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be appreciated for your input in the song, and they won’t push you as much as you would want them to. One other challenge for me was having to pause my schooling to pursue my music career and refine it to the way it has turned out today.
TM How difficult was it transitioning from a regular girl to this household name you are today?
AB It was difficult, having to place my schooling on hold meant no more allowance and I was not staying at home, I was staying with my producers, five men in a two and half room where we all shared a room and the other room was used as a studio. Sometimes we would go for days with no food and we strained to get simple things like toiletry, it was chaos! I struggled to find graphic designers to design my sleeves and when I did find someone, the work would be so below par and removed from the quality I needed to break into the market. I had no fashion style for my brand and as a girl who grew up as a tomboy that transitioning was tough. I didn’t know how to put things together to portray the image I was looking to identify my brand with. I just needed direction and mentoring on how to build myself.
TM There seems to be a departure from your original style of music (Black Mampatile) to your recent body of work like Follo. Why is this and how do you think it has increased or reduced your following?
AB I wouldn’t say there is a departure from my original style, because if you listen to Bereka “Mosadi” and “Sapelo” which are my recent singles, they portray more of Amantle Brown. With “Follo” and “Lagos” was when I felt I needed to test myself, to see if I had that capability to sound different and still be appreciated. The way people responded to “Follo” was what one would call a mixture of feelings, some felt like I was losing it while others liked it. Through that experience I gained fans and maybe lost a few, but that is not something that will stop me from experimenting. I am an artist and I cannot sound the same all the time, eventually people will get used to me. Consistency is important but in the same vain consistency without artistic freedom of expression does not allow you to grow as an artist. Hence, I always tell myself that I need to try new things, that is the only way I will grow as an artist. Experimentation will equip me to be ready to collaborate with bigger artists like Davido, R Kelly or Beyoncé should the opportunity arise. However, I will never depart from my style because this is what differentiates me from any artist out there.
TM It is now public knowledge that you and Juju Boy are in a relationship. How difficult is it dating someone in the entertainment industry?
AB Juju Boy and I clicked from the very first moment we met, we are people who have strong characters and have had to learn from each other on how to tone it down, to live and operate in the same space. A combination of two strong characters sharing, dating or in a relationship encounter a lot of conflict that arise because each will have his or her own interests. I wouldn’t say it is difficult especially when you have gone through a process of learning each other, I would say in a space of a year and half that we have been together we went through refining and seeing what we both like and dislike. We had to work around that information, how to live together, be in love, understand each other and appreciate one other.
TM Do you feel like your collaboration on Follo has strengthened the bond between the two of you?
AB Very much, when we wrote “Follo” that is when we started dating and how Follo came about was quite interesting because we both wanted to be in each other’s space all the time. The composition of this song was so beautiful and when we had to perform, everything was so real and natural because we lived the words in the song. Performing the song so many times around the country only made our bond grow stronger and stronger.
TM How has music impacted your life and your relationship with your family?
AB I live and breathe music. It changed my life in that it has made me grow quick. I’ve had to be responsible and learn about savings, business structures, and not just think that I can do what I want anytime I want. I’ve had to think about how my actions will motivate other kids in a positive or negative way. I must think about what I want to do before I do it and most importantly music has given me direction and forced me to be responsible. It came as a shock to my family when I told them I wanted to pursue my music because growing up I was a bookworm, I would pass with good grades and always topped my class. I got admitted at University of Botswana to study a course I liked but had to abandon it. It was not easy for them to accept this but with time they slowly opened to the idea of me being a full-time artist.
TM What’s your view on having a formal education?
AB Formal education is important, but our general view on it needs to change. It is offered to individuals to strengthen their minds, to give us the tools to think, create and navigate our lives. Most people have the perception that when you get formal education then automatically you will be successful but that is not always the case. I was doing Mineral Engineering at University of Botswana and I had a passion for singing and I am so proud that I managed to get my formal education from pre school to my current level. If I did not have that knowledge I wouldn’t be able to create in terms of writing, reading my contracts and communicating with my clients. The fact that I went through my formal education is helping me through my everyday life.
TM What’s your opinion on parents discouraging or not supporting children with a flair for the arts?
AB When I told my parents that I wanted to sing it was a big problem. I think they feared the unknown and whether I could make a success of my passion. Looking at our country, arts are not as appreciated as in other countries. The government will not be able to provide jobs for everyone, people need to start being innovative and creative to help or meet the government halfway. Our arts are that segment that needs to the tapped into to create more opportunities of employment. I would like to urge parents to let their children do what they are passionate about because success can be found in every field. The fact that I took that risk and went for my dreams has resulted in me living a better life and I believe that every child can live a life like mine.
TM What advice would you give upcoming musicians from personal lessons learnt?
AB As an upcoming artist, people always want what’s new and you’ll always have a chance to get people excited if you find the right piece of art. Upcoming artists are misled because they see someone on tv and hear your songs on radio and think it is so easy, but not realising that behind the scenes is where all the difficulties lie. I would like to advise them to read their contracts. Most people find a management company to help them break into the industry and neglect to read their contract thoroughly because of excitement. Not reading the contract leads to you being cheated and you will figure it all out when it’s already too late. When you are hot, everyone will love you and want to be associated with you not because they have your best interests at heart but because at that time they feel they can gain something from you. As soon as something new comes they will drop you. You must work hard, develop your brand, elevate your skill of writing and produce quality music. Being an artist may look like fun, but it is really a job and you need to start treating it like a job.
TM How much emphasis do you place on financial management as an artist?
AB I’m a person who likes living within my means. I’m frugal about my finances and always reinvest in my art. Artists rarely have proper business structures to account for income and expenditure and yet this is so critical. I have systems in place to make sure that I understand what is happening with my money. Financial systems to guarantee that I have rainy day cash when bookings are down and when I do get booking and need to negotiate with clients I bargain from a position of strength and not desperation. I take my art seriously, this is a business and I treat it as such.
TM Other than music, what business ventures or charities are you involved with?
AB I have two businesses that I am running but I do not want to talk about them, because I really do not want anyone knowing their mine. I am still digging to see what else I can invest in.
TM Care to give us a scoop on your latest musical project?
AB This year I released two singles and a video in January and after three months I released “Bereka mosadi.” I am also planning on releasing my album possibly in September, I’m still working on that body of work. So far, I have 6 songs and I’m working on having 13 songs to complete the album. Though I do not know what to call it yet, I want this album to penetrate other African markets.