INTERVIEW: BLENDS X STEWWW ADE EDITION AT BITTERZOET

This Wednesday it’s time for a BLENDS X STEWWW ADE EDITION. During this evening there will be a combination of different African sounds with a focus on Amapiano and Afrobeats.

But first! Important to know is; Who are the guys behind this special evening? And the importance behind the culture and origin of these sounds. We are very curious how both platforms started, how they align with each other and what inspired them.

OSBORNE OF STEWWW & HENRY OF BLENDS ~ PHOTOGRAPHY BY KRISTEL FRICH

Let’s start with who are you guys individually?

Osborne co-creator of STEWWW: I am Osborne, co-creator of the music and lifestyle platform STEWWW. I am 33 years old, born and raised in Amsterdam. Mostly raised in the south east and the west part of Amsterdam. Music always had a big effect on me. I started listening to Dancehall for a very long time. Even though I was trying to listen to other sounds, Dancehall stuck with me the most.

At which point did your taste in music shift?

We always had African music playing around the house but it wasn’t until I was about 16 years that I really started listening to Afrobeat. And with that said, Afrobeat was like my heartbeat, it was totally in sync with me and what I felt. And I started to implement it with my other interests such as MCing, hosting events and creating a community. That’s how I started the music and lifestyle platform STEWWW together with my partner Alain Kuipers.

Would you say that with STEWWW everything came together?

It became the perfect representation of what we stand for; African culture, pride, music, inclusivity, and getting people together to share with each other. The part that drives us the most right now is also seeing our friends building communities in Amsterdam to make a difference combining music and lifestyle.

Could you maybe explain the concept of a STEWWW get-to-gether?

The concept of STEWWW is getting people together and giving them an experience. Choosing the locations wisely and making sure that the support and love from the community is always representative makes it extra special. I think that people want something different than only a club night, and combining it with the opportunity to have a bite to eat, just hang, catch up, or use the dancefloor is a good option for those who want something different.

Henry co-creator of BLENDS: My name is Henry, and I go by the DJ name Henry X. I am also a DJ producer based in Amsterdam. Without all the arrogance, I can say that I am one of the pioneers in the Afrobeats scene in The Netherlands.

How did it all start for you before BLENDS?

I remember when we started the club evening Afro Beats in Amsterdam South-East around 2003, and it was mad. We started this afro beats concept, and it was nowhere else to be found. And with this, together with BonBon Entertainment, we started to expand to bigger venues and concerts in mainland Europe, for example; Burna Boy,  Wiz Kid, Mr Eazi, Tekno,  King Promise, you name it! This also gave this genre a bigger audience in The Netherlands.

Radio stations like FUNX did an amazing job facilitating and helping this genre grow by playing the songs of those artists. And with that said, African roots became cool again. For Blends, we started a radio show on soundcloud.com/djhenryx where you can get a taste of Africa with a new episode every Thursday. Afrobeats, Amapiano, Afrotech are the sounds you can inhale in your weekly system.

Were there other times that this was not the case?

To be honest if I go way back when I was younger, before I was even working with this we as Africans did not have an easy youth. And I think talking about this, Osborne can agree that we both experienced a form of bullying because of our heritage. It almost makes you believe as a kid that you should be ashamed of being African.

To struggle with your identity at such a young age must have had a lot of impact on you, how do you translate that?

It is important to stand up for yourself and your roots, it helps me to keep pushing my goals, and to use music as my main tool. Because now Africans are really on the map. Besides representing afrobeats in general, BLENDS also is a concept called Tastes of Africa. We are doing this together with Bonbon entertainment. With mainly our focus on Afrobeats, we are also introducing the electronic side of it.

What kind of genres are we talking about when you say the Electronic side of it?

Think about; Amapiano, Afrohouse, Afrotech, and so on. If we separate our platforms musically, STEWWW also plays Dancehall and R&B during their events. But we both focus on Afrobeats.

So guys, what can we expect during ADE?

Highlighting the Amapiano sound during this evening will be a good bridge that brings both of our platforms together. This night will be a combination of sounds that we know from Africa such as Afrobeats and eventually we will flow over into the Amapiano sound. It will be the proper build-up to end the night with the main act MAJOR LEAGUE DJZ.

How did these electronic afro sounds get so popular?

If you talk about electronics combined with afro sounds, I think Black Coffee has been a big pioneer for this country. But this is more the Afro Tech/house side, which has always been there. Think about DJ’s such as Rancido, Soulroots and Cincity who have played an essential role in the Netherlands.

Do you think that Social Media has a big impact on why it is getting more attention right now?

Most of these music genres are not from right now, a lot of it has been around for a very long time. For example; Amapiano got a bigger audience during lockdown due to some viral situations originating from South Africa. When people say Africa they primarily think of afrobeats, however Africa is so big and rich in music, it was just a matter of time for other sounds to break through. For example you have the sound called new Kwaito that laid the foundation for Amapiano. And Amapiano is a lifestyle.

What do you mean when you say that Amapiano is a lifestyle?

In the streets of South Africa there is a very vibrant creative community of youngsters that listen to house, afro, r&b and hip hop music. These kids created their own identity which became a new sound, finding their own way to share their creativity through platforms such as youtube, soundcloud etc. And that’s where MAJOR LEAGUE DJZ came in. Their Amapiano Balcony sessions went viral during lockdown. In these sessions you get a small taste of how these people vibe in South Africa. See here one of the balcony sessions:

Would you say that Amapiano is a good transition between Afrobeats and Afrohouse?

Amapiano is a thing of it’s own however here in the Netherlands we think it’s a perfect bridge for people that are on either side of the spectrum. House music on it’s own is already amazing, and techno music is popular world wide. And for the combination of these sounds together with Afrobeats it can only grow more. We think that the collaboration of STEWWW x BLENDS will create an experience for a broader audience and give people something new.

After the last period of not being able to do bigger gigs, ADE is a good opportunity to give it an extra push. What are future plans for you guys?

We already had plans to do an event together and now it just felt like it was meant to be. After this long period of time struggling with lockdowns and trying to make something happen, we are ready to make something happen. This is the right time to introduce a collaboration, and to of course continue this in the future together but also focussing on our own platforms individually.

For tickets on Wednesday 13th of October go to:
https://tibbaa.com/order/e8jn1cdgsc?lang=nl


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