DJ AMÉMÉ on Creating a Global Community With Afrohouse Music and Good Vibes
Everyone remembers when their love story with music began. For DJ AMÉMÉ (real name Hubert Sodogandji), it was during a childhood with a soundtrack of cassette tapes with recordings of Makossa, Afrobeats and Ndombolo music. Introduced to electronic music by his older brother who resided in France, AMÉMÉ came to love French house music, which forms the foundation of his specialty, a fusion of electronic, African, and world music.
Born and raised in Benin in West Africa, AMÉMÉ spent his youth creating mixtapes and was even a member of a hip-hop group that toured across the country. All of this provided vital experience and skills that would come in handy for his chosen career as a DJ and producer.
Following a move to New York as a teenager, AMÉMÉ initially spent his early career focusing on academics; he was on track for pre-med studies and attempted to work in finance before deciding to pursue his dreams, teaching himself how to spin and perform. Today, the Berlin-based DJ’s Afrohouse and techno sets draw crowds around the world, from Miami to Mexico City. His energetic sets are fueled with sounds of African percussion, electro house and hip-hop, an amalgamation of all his geographical and cultural influences.
Born out of the Afro house parties that he would DJ at, his label One Tribe is a community-focused platform that includes a fashion line and an events hub, centred on unity and good vibes. AMÉMÉ has produced recordings and remixes of music under One Tribe, and his latest track “Carpe Diem” was released last November.
His profile continues to grow, and he has been recognized and supported by South African DJ, record producer Black Coffee, while his music has been signed to Watergate Records, Blond:Ish’s Abracadabra imprint and MoBlack Records. It’s fair to say that we’ll be seeing, and hearing a lot more of DJ AMÉMÉ.
The Folklore chatted with DJ AMÉMÉ about his unexpected creative process, personal style and what he has in store for 2022.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I would describe myself as an artist who finds inspiration in my surroundings while always keeping true to the values that have been instilled in me since childhood. My artistic expression is focused on building bridges between worlds and using my music to bring people together.
We want to know: where does your name AMÉMÉ come from? What does it mean?
My name AMÉMÉ comes from my grandmother’s dialect Ewe in West Africa. It represents resilience, courage, and never giving up. “AMÉMÉ” literally means the one person that stands out within a group of people through his excellence.
What attracted you to the music industry? Did you always know you wanted to be a DJ? How did you get your start in the industry?
What got me to the gateway of this industry is a mix of my love for performing in front of a crowd and my ability to connect one on one with people at the same time. I knew from the age of 14 that I wanted to be a DJ but because my mom was opposed to the idea at the time, I had to teach myself in my free time in any way that I could. From there I started to perform locally slowly building a name for myself before ending up in NYC where I was really able to take things to the next level.
You’re from West Africa, a part of the world that is famous for Afrobeats music but you specialize in house and electronic music. How come?
I grew up with many different types of African music: Ndombolo, Coupé-décalé, Makossa, Afrobeats and others. Electronic music wasn’t a thing for me early on. I only discovered electronic music because after studying in Lyon in France, my brother brought all of this new music back home with him. After hearing this new sound for an entire summer, I fell in love with it and that love grew even more after moving to NYC at the age of 17. But I never lost my love for the African music that I grew up on so all of those styles, including Afrobeats, can be found woven throughout the music I create today.
You were born and raised in Benin, and you’ve lived in New York, and now Berlin. Do the sounds of these places influence your work, and in what way? Why is it important for you to incorporate your culture into your sets?
Yes, each of these cities has had a strong influence on my work. In my sound you can find the percussions from Benin, the versatility and mixture of diverse sounds from Brooklyn, and the technical precision from Berlin.
What is your creative process for developing new set lists?
Honestly, I don’t do set lists. The few times I tried to create a set list, I got so bored after about three minutes I had to give up on it. The spontaneity of playing something in the moment is what makes this whole thing exciting for me and I love being able to bring something unexpected and new to the crowd every time I play a set. Now don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of preparation that goes into it. I spend a lot of time finding new music that speaks to me and making mental notes of vibes and ideas that I would like to recreate when I am playing a set depending on where I am playing, the time of day, and overall feeling of the event.
Tell us about One Tribe, which is more than a music label. It’s also a lifestyle brand. What was the inspiration for creating One Tribe?
One Tribe came to life from the need for cool Afrohouse parties in the electronic music scene of NYC. I knew then that I wanted to create a full-on experience, not just another party. So we brought in all of these different elements from percussionists to dancers to painters in order to make something really unique and special. From the events sprung the fashion line and music label as components that are as important to the overall vision of One Tribe as the events are.
What role does fashion play in your career? How would you describe your style?
Fashion allows me to express myself in a way that can deliver a message about myself even before someone hears me play. It gives me a sense of identity for who I am but also allows me to continue defining who I want to be. My style could be described in a similar way as my music, eclectic, non-conforming, and inspired by my experiences from around the world.
Do you wear any African designers? If so, which ones are your favorites?
Yes I do. Eldior Sodeck is a label by my very talented sister, Marianne Sodogandji, who has even helped design many of the One Tribe pieces.
When you’re not working on new music or DJing around the world, what do you get up to in your downtime? What’s your favorite way to relax?
When I’m not traveling I try to spend as much time as possible in Brooklyn with my mom and siblings. Just chilling at home eating my mom’s incredible food and catching up with everyone is my favorite way to relax. You might also find me watching documentaries if I’m in a learning mood or anime when Im just trying to shut off completely.
You have DJ’d in many great places including Tulum, Miami, London, Ibiza and much more; it seems like you’ve been everywhere but is there a dream gig on your bucket list?
I have truly enjoyed every moment of this journey and have been blessed to play in so many amazing places. There are many places I would still love to play but if I had to choose one, it would have to be sunrise at Burning Man for Mayan Warrior x Robot Heart.
Finally, what is the next thing we can expect from you in 2022? What are you working on right now?
2021 was very active on the road for me. 2022 will be more focused on music releases on some really great labels including my own and continuing the build the One Tribe label and brand through new music, fashion and events. I’m really excited for what’s in store.
We asked DJ AMÉMÉ to create a playlist of good vibes to mark the new year. Check it out below and on The Folklore’s Spotify here.