Take Aim: ARTISTdirect.com's Amy Sciarretto Goes Deep With Nickie Shapira
Mon, 28 Mar 2011 06:24:33
Nickie Shapira is probably not a familiar name to you, as she is the behind-the-scenes type of woman who makes shit happen and is too busy doing so to brag about it! Shapira is the CEO and Managing Director of Akonic Entertainment with partner and chairman, Akon. Why does that matter you?
Well, the duo partnered up for the first ever American Idol-like reality show in the Congo. ARTISTdirect.com News Editor Amy Sciarretto engaged in a “Take Aim” chat with Shapira, posing a series of questions about this politically and musically active (not to mention brilliant) cultural activist, who is engaging the Congolese musical community with her efforts to show that a war-torn country is also capable of producing incredible musical talent.
Tell us about working a visionary like Akon.
What is most exciting is what he and I have built in Africa, which is an American Idol (TV Series)-style talent search in the Congo. The country chose the winner after 22 weeks. The person who won is Innocent, who is 13 and from Eastern Congo. We did not rig the voting; the Congolese people chose. As part of his prize, he gets to record one song with Akon. After recording one song, we flew him to Atlanta and as soon as he left the house/studio, Akon called and said, 'Can I get him back? I want to do a whole album! He is Africa's Justin Bieber! Turn around, get him back.' It was like a scene in a movie. He spent two months here and we made arrangements for private tutoring. Akon finished his album in two months. It's being mastered.
Give problems like conflict minerals and other sorts of political unrest in the Congo, how does this show boost the cultural snapshot, to the people there and the people here?
It was amazing. Akon does a lot of things in Africa, and the whole idea with Akon and this show was to go into a country like Congo, which is always in the news for bad stuff, but Congo has produced a lot of Africa's biggest artists. So we thought, 'Let's try to showcase something else.' I had gone there and saw so much talent there. We knew what we wanted to do this. But we did not expect it to be as successful as it was. There has been so many years of war in the country but the show helped galvanize relations. It is a divided country, but people were voting regardless of where the talent was from. The show was not politicized. When Innocent won the contest, people were released from work as a holiday.
While there be a second season or will you take the show elsewhere?
We have a special interest in the country and there will be a second season. There is a lot of talent there. We are not taking it all over Africa. It's the Congo for now. As for other countries, maybe.
Why there, besides the wealth of talent?
When I went there, I saw another dimension, and wanted to show what isn't on the news.
What do you do when you want to put your feet up and let loose, since your lifestyle is so weighty?
I like to spend time with family and friends. You have to have that quiet time.