A chat with Adam Tensta
Friday, May 02, 2008
Gambia's hip hop trailblazer eyes Grammy Award
Since the release of his debut album (It's a Tensta thing) in September 2007, Tensta has now become a household name in the Scandinavia. He grabbed the same award the same year, making him the first Gambian to receive such a prestige.
Signed up by RMH Enterprise, which is the leading independent urban record label in Sweden, Adam started his music career from a modest beginning. He used to produce tapes and sell them to hip hop enthusiasts, building a buzz on the internet through Myspace, mail blasts and putting up posters of other artistes.
In this interview with Alieu Khan, former Daily Observer What's On anchorman, now based in Sweden, the young hip-hop prodigy talks about his music and his connection with The Gambia.
Tell us about your family?
I grew up under the watchful eyes of my mother. My father was away for many years due to legal issues and my contact with him has not been at its best. It's only in more recent days that I've tried to mend things between us since I've got four younger siblings in the family.
I have six siblings. My family is big but we do not live under the same roof when I was very young. I would love to have more time to see my family but right now its real hard to balance the recordings, touring and interviews and doing what a big brother. I do not have as much time for my family as I would like to.
Have you ever visited The Gambia?
I've been to The Gambia once in 1995, when I travelled there with my mother to visit all the family. I still go over there. And I have great memories of my visit there, being a 12 year-old setting foot in there left a profound impact on my heritage and experiencing this other part of the world is a life changing experience. What I remember most was when I had a stroll around the village together with my grandmother. She wanted to explain to me the reality of her life and even though I didn't understand a word from what she was trying to say. In some strange way, I could not stop smiling. I wish to go back soon and see how I would re-live things now that I'm a little bit older. Maybe I could travel there for a show. It would be a dream-come-through standing on a stage in front of a Gambian audience.
How do you see yourself evolve in hip hop music?
Definitely, I grow up as an artist with every new track I create, as well as for every interview I grant or every at every venue I performed. Being an artist is a process that takes time to get comfortable in it. I'm growing as a person and as an artist every single day I'm on the road playing for packed venues. Right now I'm on tour playing all around Sweden and I have been doing so since in November 2007, when I released my debut album (Its A Tensta Thing). I also have a full-time job working for Microsoft as an account manager, but since the album won the Swedish Grammy for "best hip hop/soul/dance album of the year" I have not had time for anything else but the music. I had to quit my full-time job to pursue this music dream.
You can say that I live and breathe 24 hours a day, but everything I do whether it's an interview or a TV-performance, I do it with pride since it has not always been like that. We used to perform in front of 10 people. It has been long and painstaking. My schedule is packed right now and I love it to the fullest.
Tensta is a suburb of Stockholm, which is about 20 minutes from the central part of town. I decided to include Tensta in my name because that is where I'm from. The name is to show the people that you don't need to be ashame of where you come from and where you live since Tensta often is portrait in a negative way every time you hear about it in the news. You got to represent your hood. Growing up in Tensta set me in tuned associate with people of every nationality and culture. More so than if I would have been raised in the inner city were the citizens mostly are of the same ethnicity, Swedish. The school system in this part of Stockholm is faced with cultural and language oriented problems that need more time and attention to overcome. Politicians seem to devote themselves more to other projects than getting students a fair chance to get integrated in society. So a lot of the problems you see with the youth in the suburbs are tightly linked to the feelings of belonging.
So calling myself Adam Tensta and naming my album "Its A Tensta Thing" is proof that you can make something positive to happen even if you've always been seen as an outcast. That's what the people need to see.
Is hip hop lucrative?
The market has grown enormously the last years in Sweden, but I wouldn't say that it's lucrative.
Share with some of your surprises.
(Laughs) I can't speak the language and I'm ashamed of that because it wasn't my fault. I didn't grow up with that around me.
Do you have plans of introducing your music to Gambia?
We have plans to go everywhere the music can takes us. For me it would mean a whole lot to introduce my music there. Hopefully, I can come over there real soon.
Did you ever work or collaborate with any Gambian in the music industry?
I've had some contact with Mohawk and the Fugitivz and I was planning a couple of things trying to do it big.
For more on Adam Tensta you can visit www.myspace.com/adamtensta. You can also watch his videos on youtube.
Author: by Sheriff Janko