Akio Speaks to Us Ahead of the Maribou State gig

AKIO will be on the line up with Maribou State this December. We’re still giving away tickets. AKIO is one of the coolest okes. He’s come from over the seas, via other seas, via the International Criminal Court, to build empowerment programs and make music on our shores…then he never left…even after 10 years. You should totally check him out but we’ve made it easier for you by asking all the important questions, like the attraction of South Africa and if he’s ever had a beer with Judge Rinder.

Richard Chemaly (RC): Dude! You’re like amazingly learned and well traveled. As a legal scholar myself, I’m particularly interested in your time at the Hague at the International Criminal Court. I won’t ask you about your position on South Africa’s withdrawal but there is something I do need to know. Did you ever have a beer with Judge Rinder?

Akio (A): *laughs* Naw. Never chilled with Judge Rinder, but I did meet Angelina Joile and Brad Pitt when they came to the Court. I think Jolie was low key giving me eyes.

RC: Your projects to use music as a fix for social ills is inspiring. Why did it lead you to the Cape Flats in particular?…not that we’re not grateful but it’s important to know what distinguishes our issues from those of other societies

A: This is a bit of a difficult question to answer as every community even within a city has different issues. Some might be drugs while others were violence or fetal alcohol syndrome. We tried to identify each one prior to each project so that we could tailor the message and focus on that.

RC: You’ve peaked on a number of national stations with your own music. How does this translate to getting influence and/or funding for your societal projects?

A: I haven’t been so involved in the development work since I moved to Joburg. I had a nice network of NGOs that hired me or helped fund my projects in Cape Town. Building that same rapport in a new city takes time and since I’ve made music my full time job, I haven’t really haven’t been able to commit establishing myself in youth work. Also, one of the biggest frustrations we had in Cape Town was getting proper funding for our projects. Even ’til this day, I don’t know what funders really want. In the “for profit” business I know exactly what they want so I find it easier to build my business and brand as an artist.

RC: For a hip hop artist, you suit up a lot…seemingly challenging the dress stereotypes. What in particular about hip hop accommodates your project and, more importantly, is it exclusive to hip hop? Understanding it’s audience specific, would it be possible to do what you do through rock in another place?

A: I think it could be possible to do through rock, but probably not in South Africa. Hip Hop is also one of the most accessible genres because all you need is a basic recording setup. From my side I’ll always stick with Hip Hop because that’s my first passion.

RC: There’s a lot to a name. When naming Kool Out Concepts, what thoughts and ideas went into the name?

A: The company name is based on the original event that I started in Cape Town in 2008 called Kool Out Lounge. At the time, it was a dry spell in Cape Town so I really wanted to create a platform for Hip Hop that wasn’t commercial and it wasn’t Hood. I wanted to make it accessible and be in the same spaces that the white kids would go for stuff like Dubstep parties.

At the time, none of the clubs on Long Street would give me a night, because they didn’t want Hip Hop. I eventually got the Waiting Room to give me the first Wednesday of every month on the premise that we would do a Beats Night. We eventually flipped it into a Hip Hop night and during our run there, we did bigger numbers than their Friday and Saturdays. The original name came from the idea that it was an event where people could come chill and vibe out so we called it Kool Out.

RC: Myself, I do a couple of local community projects and the best feeling is having kids (now adults) coming up to you years later, thanking you for the contribution to their success. In a lot of instances, they reach incredible heights. What’s the best compliment you’ve received from a product of your program?

A: I think the best compliment has been when kids from the program are now working in their communities on similar projects. Knowing that there is a sustainable cycle is the best reward.

RC: Reading through your other interviews, you seem pretty open to experimentation. What’s the most expensive “school fees” you’ve paid on your experimentation and what have you learned?

A: One of the things I really feel contributes to my growth as a person and DJ is travel. For the last four years I’ve been investing in touring in Europe. It started off with 3 shows in 3 cities and last year I was on 10 shows in 7 cities. Early on I self-funded most of them in order to build the network and establish my name that side. Now its getting to the point where it pays for itself.

RC: After ten years in South Africa, what’s the goal for 2018?

A: Personally, I want to add a Asian tour to the calendar. South Korea and Japan have been a target of mine for two years now, so really going to put in the work to get some shows that side. From Kool Out’s side, we want to build on the successful Alchemy Music Festival that we launched earlier this year. This has been a dream for years and a passion project. It represents the future direction of what Kool Out is trying to do as a business model.