American disco singer, dancer and actress, Amii Stewart made her Middle East debut in Doha, Qatar on November 2016 at the Branding Evolution, a unique exhibition that told the story of iconic Italian brands.
Stewart has led a very successful music career as one of the most highly regarded disco artists. Her first single, a disco cover version of the 1966 Eddie Floyd hit ‘Knock on Wood’, reached number one in the US in April 1979, and earned her a platinum record and Grammy Award nomination.
She has remained popular and commercially successful in Europe for more than three decades, having released 12 studio albums and some 50 singles, most of them in the Soul and R&B genres.
Stewart began an acting career in 2000 and toured Italy, playing the part of Mary Magdalene, in the revival of the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. In 2003, she starred in the musical, Lady Day, written and produced by her. She even took part in a prime-time TV dance show called La Pista, where she and her team became the overall competition winners. She has also been working as a goodwill ambassador for Italian UNICEF since 2001, and has been involved in a large number of projects with them.
At the event, Stewart performed some of her soft songs that were chosen to suit the taste of the Qatar audience. “They wanted music that was a little more sophisticated so I didn’t sing any of my dance songs,” she said. “The organization, Rosso Italiano, has worked really hard to make the event perfect for the Arab nations and promote cultural exchange between Italy and Qatar. I think it’s an incredible initiative.”
How has your first visit to the Middle East been so far?
I did have the opportunity to visit the Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA) and Souq Waqif. The Souq was wonderful. I really enjoyed it. And the architecture of the Museum is absolutely incredible. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. It’s really a beautiful piece of architecture.
What are your thoughts on the current music industry? And how much has it changed over the years?
“THE MUSIC INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED DRAMATICALLY SINCE MY DEBUT”
The music industry has changed dramatically since my debut. First of all, you don’t sell as many records as you used to. All the record companies have died out expect for two. There’s less space for artists to get exposure because of that fact that there aren’t as many record companies as before. There are no more physical records because everyone downloads online. So you have no control over how much you sell.
You also have very little control over the black market so basically artists no longer make money from selling their material. They make more money singing live at concerts, which is not a very good thing for a composer or a songwriter as you’re not being paid for what you do. So that’s the biggest change in the music business.
“WHEN I FIRST CAME INTO THE MUSIC BUSINESS, ARTISTS DID EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO BE DIFFERENT. NOW ARTISTS SEEM TO BE DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO BE THE SAME”
When I first came into the music business, artists did everything possible to be different. Now artists seem to be doing everything possible to be the same. So, sometimes, the music seems to be a little monotonous because it all sounds alike. But every now and then, artists will come out and completely breaks the mold and it’s very refreshing.
But back in the 70s, people were trying to break the mold all the time. That’s why nowadays, you will always hear people re-singing, re-recording or using the actual recordings from the 70s and 80s because there hasn’t been another music movement like that.
Any upcoming music or other projects your fans should know about?
“I LOVE DOING THINGS THAT NOBODY EXPECTS”
I have projects in Europe. I’m working all the time in Italy. I just came from the US but most of my projects are based in Italy. After Christmas, I’ll probably be going to Russia and then come back to Italy. So I work quite a bit in Europe which is where I’ve been living for many and many years. It’s basically my second home, and I do most of my traveling, singing, concerts and things in Europe.
At the moment, I’m working with a Jazz trio and we’re also in the studio making modern, pop music and demos. I’m enjoying the new project with the jazz trio because it’s something people don’t expect and I love doing things that nobody expects.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“I JUST HAVE TO SAY, ‘SHUKRAN’ FOR THE HOSPITALITY AND I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO COME BACK”
I would like to say how happy I am to be here and how wonderful everyone has been – how kind and gentle. It’s beautiful to be in a country where they have another philosophy of life which is healthier because it calms your spirit. If we, as people from all nations, could learn to just understand and not try to change people for what they are and appreciate the best they have to offer, the world would be such an incredible place.
As an artist, we are used to working with people from all over the world and we enjoy working with artists from other nations because we get to learn their music, language, dances, make-up and all that stuff that is so exciting for us. I wish everyone could feel the same because then the world would be a more beautiful and peaceful place. I just have to say, ‘shukran’ for the hospitality and I would really love to come back.
This article is from BQ Plus’s Issue 7 – January 2017.
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