After releasing his album, Trap Heaven, last year, engineering the production of the hit song “Kama Kawaida” and being the force behind the fast rising star of Steph Kapela, Atwal Adwok talks his music label, top 5 Kenyan acts and why we need to do more for international recognition.
Ruby: You’re very vocal about artists supporting each other and you do share a few links on your social media. What’s special about these artists according to you?
Atwal: I share music that impresses me in any way. It’s all about how good the music is, never about the artist.
Ruby: You recently opened the doors to Atwal Music and have signed Steph Kapela who’s a dope artist. Have you signed anybody else or are there any plans to sign more artists?
Ruby: Is Atwal Music ready enough to back him up and deal with the responsibility of an artist who’s becoming even bigger every other day?
Atwal: Definitely. Steph’s contract with us has a time period. We will do everything in our power to get him as far as we possibly can within that time period.
Ruby: What’s ailing the Kenyan music industry according to you? How do you hope to (help) correct that?
Atwal: Support. We don’t support the best acts we have enough. People like Steph Kapela, Fena & Dave Ndegwa have the ability to take KE music international. Attend all their shows, share all of their content and stream/buy all their music. Support such acts as much as possible and enable them to put Kenya on the international map.
Ruby: Without bias to Atwal Music and affiliated artists, top 5 Kenyan acts?
Atwal: I like about 15 equally. However, Steph Kapela is the best Kenyan artist by far. There is no comparison and there is no bias involved, many would agree. Next in line would have to be Timmy Blanco, Kiwango, Fena Gitu & Khaligraph in no particular order.
Ruby: Why do you think Kenya didn’t get a BET Nomination this year? Are international accolades important?
Atwal: I’ll be honest. Our music just isn’t that good. The quality of our mixes is poor, 99% of the market is stuck on this watered down version of Kapuka and not enough people are investing in the actual quality of their sound. We need to make content that can compete on an international level. I shouldn’t be able to listen to a song on Billboard and feel it’s better than my music as a Kenyan creative. Strive to be the best.
Ruby: What’s a regular day in the life of Atwal like? How do you unwind?
Atwal: I’m always working. I unwind whilst working. I wake up, make the best content I possibly can, supervise my team, and repeat the next day. My day off is Sunday when I go see my parents every other week. But even then I’m on call. I tell my manager never to hesitate to call me when anything considerable comes up.
Ruby: What’s the music creation process for you like? Say, The Man, from making the beat to getting Timmy Blanco as a feature and then finally putting it out?
Atwal: The original ‘The Man’ beat was created by one of the Atwal Music producers; Kaxi. He’s the most talented producer I’ve ever worked with, or met for that matter. I took the stems from him and added a few drums, strings and replaced the 808 sound, and The Man was born. Then I phoned Timmy and he recorded his verse at Ivan’s (Callivan). I then engineered the song to sound as international as possible. Next thing we knew, we had a masterpiece.
Ruby: When people hear or think Atwal Music, what would you like them to think?
Atwal: I want people to think of Atwal Music as a stable which produces the highest standard of creative content East-Africa has to offer, and Africa eventually.
Ruby: Have you always wanted to run a music label? What properly structured label do you hope to emulate?
Atwal: No. I only wanted to be a producer growing up but business became a necessity when I realised you need certain structures in place in order for your content to reach the heights that I aim for. If no one will build you those structures, you can either give up on your dream, or do it yourself. I chose the latter. I hope to emulate and improve the Cash Money business model. I saw one of their artist contracts before and was very impressed. I tailor the Atwal Music artist contract similarly.
Ruby: Is Atwal Music open for commercial use for other artists?
Atwal: We’re very open to work with any artist interested. Simply contact email@example.com and you’ll get a swift response
Ruby: You released an album last year with several features. What major milestone are you hoping to cover by the end of the year?
Atwal: This year we’re working on a number of projects but Steph Kapela is the most public one. We recently built a new premises so this year will be focused on releasing as much quality content as possible. We’ll see what happens next.
Ruby: Best advice you have ever been given?
Atwal: Expect what you accept.