Meet Ami Faku, the Rising South African ‘Modern Afro Soul’ Artist Who Is Fast Becoming a Household Name

We interview the budding singer ahead of the release of her debut album.

Ami Faku is one of South Africa's fastest rising stars. Her music, which she calls "modern Afro soul," blends soul with modern pop and traditional Afro soul sensibilities. Be it on a ballad or over a house beat, the adaptable Eastern Cape-born artist maintains all her traits and soul.

In the last year, it has been near impossible to avoid Ami Faku; her singles— "Love Drunk," "Ubuhle Bakho," "Ndikhethe Wena"—have been a permanent fixture on the country's radio charts and playlists. "Into Ingawe," a single in which she's featured by Sun-El Musician is one of the most played songs on SA radio at the moment, and reached a million streams within three weeks of its release.

Ami Faku says her lyrics are honest. "My music is based on touching you in a certain way," she says, adding, "I don't have a wall, that's my brand."

The singer and songwriter's introduction to the industry was through the TV talent show The Voice SA in 2017 when she still sang under her government name Amanda Faku. Even though she was eliminated from the competition, she managed to catch the attention of the label Vth Season (home to AKA, TRESOR, Big Star Johnson), which she is currently signed to.

Before answering our questions, Ami Faku played OkayAfrica a few songs from her upcoming album Imali, which is out September 27. In the interview below, the singer and songwriter expands on the themes explored in the album, the personnel involved and shares her hopes about the future.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Your claim to fame was The Voice SA.

That's where it started, and I consider it a very important part of my growth.

There's always this philosophy that artists who don't make it in these competitions are the ones who actually go out and make it in the game. What's your take on that?

I guess with every competition, their market is based on the viewers. But that's not what the whole of South Africa wants. So I guess the ones that get eliminated don't stand by whatever that show wants. So obviously, you will get eliminated because you just aren't working for that small amount of people. But for the whole country, you could be the right musician for them.

What did you take from that loss?

It's just about never giving up, and knowing that you have something to offer, and knowing that you'll be authentic and consistent.

Sun-El Musician x Ami Faku - Into ingawe

How did you get into singing?

I knew I could sing in church. I'm influenced by church, reggae, hip-hop, and anything that I listen to. I look up to so many artists. I don't have one idol, I have many. So I guess that influences how I approach my songwriting and my melodies.

So you write your own songs, that's amazing.

I do.

When did you start writing?

I discovered I could write when I first went to studio, when I was 18. I wrote the song instantly, but it's only now that I worked on an album and I see how I can write about different things that affect us as people. And it's not just based on love, it's based on many things. I look forward to growing as a songwriter.

Some of the songs from the album which you just played me, I hear a lot of soulful ballads. Is that what people should expect?

There's a lot that's going on [in the album]. There's a song that we call "eBhayi," it's [the type of] song you'll hear in the taxi rank. And then we have "Tshomi Yam," which is sort of like a traditional vibe. So it's just a collection of songs. Each song has, like, a brother or sister. So it's just me; it's everything that I've always wanted to do, so it's not just ballads, it's also groove, but groove in a very cool, mature yet youthful way.

You've been all over the charts in the past few months, how has your life changed?

Oh, bookings. (Laughs) People are now seeing that Ami is worth a booking because the songs are well-known, so that's going great. A lot of opportunities; a lot of artists want to work with me. But I just make sure I choose the ones that are going to complement me, and I'm also going to complement them because you just have to pick the right ones. But yeah, great things have been happening and I'm just so excited, man.

When you go back home, how are things now?

First of all, I can't use a taxi. [Laughs] Because there's a perception. And also, I just try to not be around people a lot, because of the things that people say. I went to this braai place that I always go to when I'm home, and this lady who works there was like, "So, you're going to come spend the money from Joburg." But people are very supportive, and there's a lot of support.

I read somewhere that "Love Drunk" was from a personal experience. Do you draw from your personal experience in most of your songs?

Most of it, and sometimes from someone else's experience, because then I'm not experienced enough to, so to broaden up for my audience, I then write about what other people are experiencing.

Like the title track on my album Imali (money); I was once in a situation where I felt like things weren't working out, and it was just darkness throughout. I've left that place, but I know there are people that are still there, and that song is basically about them, those who are praying and nothing is going well.

So, yeah, sometimes, it's things I've experienced, things other people have experienced, and things I know that I've left people behind and they are still experiencing.

What has the experience been like working with the label Vth Season?

The honeymoon phase hasn't ended yet, so we are very much still feeding each other strawberry (laughs). I'm having a great time. We are still very happy together. No complaints. They don't control an artist. You have the freedom to express yourself in whatever way you would like to in your music, they give you that. So, for me, it doesn't feel like I'm even signed. It just feel like I have people helping me get where I always wanted to be.

Who are you working with on the album in terms of guests and producers?

There are the only two features, Blaq Diamond and Sun-El musician. Producers, Blaq Diamond (they helped produce the song we are on), Sun-El musician, Eternal Africa and Wilson.

Was it deliberate that you didn't work with a lot of other artists on your first project?

The artists that I really look up to are very high profile, and I managed to get two of them, who were on my bucket list for the next five years. So, to get them was amazing. I even co-wrote a song with Ntsika from The Soil.

I'm just not going to settle when it comes to my debut project. It's my first child, I need to make a good impression. And I feel like I've worked with everyone that will put my project in a high scale.

What is the process of co-writing with another artist?

So I co-wrote "Tshomi Yam." Ntsika always dreams of songs, so he came with a dream, he came with a song. He wrote the chorus, and then I heard what the song was about. So it determined how I approached my verse. So that's the process.

What can you add about the album?

I believe that this is going to be like the greatest thing ever. I know I'm very talented, that's all I have to say. And that people should look out for it, and it's a lot of hard work. People are going to be happy because we make music for people, and that's what I can't wait for.

Pre-order/pre-save Imali below.

Follow Ami Faku on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook


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Flame takes fans behind the scenes in his new documentary series.

From interviews to smoking sessions, performances, studio sessions and a visit to the hair salon, Flame gives fans a glimpse into his life and adventures.

The South African hip-hop artist and producer shared the first episode of an ongoing documentary series titled Welcome To My Life. The first episode, which he shared today, shows Flame and his affiliates—the likes of Ecco, Mellow and others—going about their business.

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South African hip-hop artist uSanele's recently released project is titled uMvelase. "This project," says the artist, "is in honor of my father and family, abakwa Mthembu; all my siblings, extended family and my roots in the heart of KZN, kwaNongoma. It is a calling—if you will—a completion of my journey and all things coming full circle."

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

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Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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