American singer on why he loves Dubai, his new album and memorable gigs
You come to Dubai a lot. What keeps bringing you back? I love Dubai, it has a nice culture. It feels good to come to a place where people have a specific perception. Ultimately, the more you come the more confidence you give to other tourists, to show them that this part of the world is comfortable to be in.
What have you been up to recently? A lot of my time has been spent working in Africa on my lighting project, which is now in 14 countries there. I’ve been working on getting electricity to rural areas. I’m also back into the music.
How does this album, Stadium, compare to your previous work? There’s a big difference in the sound of this album. I’m singing in different languages and it invites every culture into it. It’s more family orientated and relatable. Originally, this album was supposed to come out in 2010 for the World Cup in South Africa, so that’s why it’s called Stadium. But a lot of things happened in between that so it’s been highly anticipated.
What has been your most memorable gig to perform? I would probably say one I did late last year in the Congo. It was around the time when the Ebola crisis was so big and no-one wanted to go there. There was so much fear surrounding it and even when I went there, what I saw and what the media portrayed was completely different. Ultimately, I wanted to know more about what was going on. It was amazing to be there to see the appreciation of people and to give them support when they needed it most.
Why is it important for you to give back through charity? I don’t really believe in charity. I always felt that you should create positions so that you can provide jobs for people, and then they can work themselves. But the giving back part is very important because only a few people get to be in this successful position and to be able to reach so many people, I feel a sense of responsibility.
Is philantrophy a route you would take in the future? With me, anything can happen at any moment, so I can’t predict were I’ll be in the next ten or 15 years. But I do know whatever I’m doing will be something that impacts on people because that’s my main goal now – making a better living for someone else. It’s important to me to create a better place.
Is there another celebrity you admire for their charity work? I think Bono has a great way of utilising his team to put across his message and ultimately I would like my team to be as effective as that. Stadium is available now for download. See www.akon.com.