SBS: My man! Great to have you back on our pages again Amaru – welcome home! I tell ya, it’s always inspiring to see how many irons you’ve got in the fire with all that you do & all that you create – and I’ve seen the cover of your latest single “Gentle Giant” my brother – you’re lookin’ fly as ever. Clearly things have been going well for ya since the last time we talked – at the very least, I can confirm that time is treating you a whole lot better than me when it comes to the looks department my friend. I look like a bridge troll…but that’s another story for another time – we’re here for you today Amaru! Tell us what’s been happening with you & your music since the last time we talked to you back in 2018 – what are the highlights and most memorable milestones you’ve had between then & now – what stands out to ya?
Amaru: Well, to start off with, thanks for the opportunity, once again, the pleasure is all mine. Secondly, looks are definitely in the eyes of the beholder. My make-up artist is a genius, so there… LOL! I mean, we all have our charm and whatever part of that charm will appeal to somebody, so while I thank you for the compliments, I know you’re not a bridge troll, LOL! And speaking of my latest single “Gentle Giant”, that’s also part of the message of the song, but we’ll get to that in a second.
The pandemic has caused me to miss out on a lot of opportunities, I’ll tell ya! I was elated to at long last book two gigs in London, only to have my bubble burst with this darn pandemic. Both shows were cancelled and there went my big London dream! Oh well… So then I decided to look for ways to otherwise perform and engage as an artist online and I found plenty of opportunities. It takes a lot of digging and searching, but if you apply yourself and if you put in the time and the effort, you will find a way. As a director and filmmaker have submitted a couple of my music videos to film festivals all over the world and not without success, I might add. My IMDB profile has since been updated with all the awards I’ve won recently and while life is not about winning awards, they are the cherry on top of ones artistic cake!
SBS: Currently as far as I’ve heard, you’ve got a brand-new album in the works – your second! That’s always a freakin’ exciting time to be an artist Amaru – what can you tell us about the new record? I know it’s called The Melanin Project – and clearly that’s a thought-provoking title you’ve got goin’ on there for sure, which I’d assume knowing you even just a little, that it’s intended to be, of course. You’ve always put a ton of thought into what you do & how you approach your entire career – so when it comes to the title & the songs that’ll be on the record, how does each element support the other? Do the songs all represent the meanings & main themes of The Melanin Project? What was important to you as an artist making this record, and what did you want to communicate with The Melanin Project?
Amaru: You know, I come from the smallest South American country and our population is as diverse as they come. We were never raised with “color”, if you know what I mean. And I do have friends of various ethnic backgrounds. When I moved to Europe and even during my studies in the United States, the concept of “color” became very clear to me and as an adult I can tell you that there is nothing more unfortunate than the lack of understanding and acceptance for each other as a race! There’s no need for all this global divide, because we are ALL part of the human race period. At least, that’s how I see it. Alas, the world as we know it has become an even bigger mess with race issues being high in top of issues we have to deal with today. And you would think that with age comes wisdom, but I don’t see a lot of wisdom when it comes to many things, race being one of them. My second album carries the working title “The Melanin Project” for a reason, you’re so right! It will be a concept album for which I have written a truck load of songs, yet again, but this time around the track listing will probably comprise 12 songs at the very max. The genre will definitely be R&B, Soul, Neo-soul, Rap, Spoken Word and World Music, hopefully a much more cohesive body of work and much easier for music listeners to categorize… The lyrical content will showcase the beauty, the versatility, the diversity, the tenacity, the vulnerability, the strength, the resilience and the many positive contributions Black and other people of color have made to the world, as opposed to what the media will have you believe to be true about Black people and other people of color. In addition to that, this new album will hopefully shine a different, a more positive light on my people. I may not have a huge platform, but when I’m dead and gone and some inquisitive kid discovers my music, I want them to dig deeper and learn more about me and my artistic legacy, but mostly about many people who society has marginalized and still does.
SBS: How many songs are you considering for the lineup of The Melanin Project & when can the fans out there expect it to arrive online? In comparison to the rest of the tracks that are currently finished – what was it about “Gentle Giant” that stood out to you as the perfect choice to be an advance single?
Amaru: As mentioned earlier, I will have no more than 12 tracks on the new album. My debut album “Champagne Attitude” is an eclectic body of work, as I was eager to showcase my versatility as a lyricist, a singer and a producer. As a result of that, the album is still one many listeners can’t quite fit in one category, and I don’t mind that at all, lol! It’s amusing to me that everything and everybody as to “fit a mold” in order to belong… Sad even, but anyway. I am still very proud of my debut album and the new single “Gentle Giant (Radio Mix)” is a specially remixed version of the original version that appears on “Champagne Attitude”. It’s not an advanced single of the new album, it’s a song that I have always wanted to release and since I can’t release the new material yet, but I wanted to keep fans updated with something new, we recently remixed the song for which I recorded new and fresh vocals.
SBS: Alright…let’s get into a bit of psychology here for a second my brother. You’ve got your single “Gentle Giant” – which incidentally, sounds fantastic brother – and here we are, in the midst of a theme that more or less takes on pre-conceived notions, judgmental behavior, what we find important about the validation we receive & where that comes from & whatnot…all commendable topics you’ve tackled. Then I came to this one line where you sing “notions that are pre-conceived don’t matter much to me” – and I thought to myself…well heck yeah, I agree with ya…and then I thought…hey wait a minute – if it really doesn’t matter – then why write about it? Why give that stuff the time, energy, and space in your music? Isn’t there a certain amount of irony in that line? Like you wouldn’t write about it unless it does matter on some level or another – wouldn’t that be fair to say? Explain all this as best you can Amaru!
Amaru: As mentioned earlier, “Gentle Giant” is a song that appears on my award-winning debut album “Champagne Attitude”. It’s a song that I’ve been meaning to release earlier, but nothing happens before its time. “Gentle Giant” is autobiographical from start to finish. The track is about the perception that most people have of me when they first see me. When you’re tall and large in stature, people tend to keep away from you, because you’re not “tiny and cute”, you’re “scary”. At least, that has always been my experience. But when they do take the time to get to know me, they see that beneath the surface there is an actual person with feelings and emotions and a big heart to match! It’s easier for a lot of people to have pre-conceived notions as opposed to making a serious effort to try to get to know a person. And in 2022 even more so, I dare say, since most everybody seems to be living in and on their cell phone… Eye contact let alone direct contact is almost alien to so many these days, at least, that’s how I see it.
In school and mostly as a teenager I was bullied relentlessly. I have always been the biggest or largest kid in school, in more ways than one, so I was the object of everybody’s ridicule. Not so much anymore these days, judging by the comments I receive on many of my Instagram posts, LOL! And mind you, it wasn’t just in school. I vividly remember scathing words from certain family members pertaining to my looks, my exterior, my shell! Anything that could be wrong with a person, was wrong with me, in their opinion. When the bullying continues long enough, you start to believe that you’re not worthy of living! When you’re young and impressionable, it takes a toll on your self-esteem. And to be honest with you, it took me 20+ years to overcome all of that. I stopped existing for people and I started to LIVE for ME! These days there’s nothing anyone can say or throw at me to make me question my value as a human being, a productive citizen of the world! It’s cathartic to write about certain experiences, at least for me it is. And depending on the circumstance, it’s even better to convey to your bully face to face what their words have done to you, how they have made you feel. Therein lies strength and growth. And that, among other things, is the message of my new single “Gentle Giant”. Live and let live for this life lasts but a minute!
SBS: You’ve been takin’ home some serious hardware over the course of the past year or so for all the efforts you’ve been putting in Amaru – congratulations on all the recognition, awards, and accolades you’ve been receiving from the people & critics out there my man. In particular, it looks like…from the corner of the preview windows on YouTube…you’ve got several award-winning videos online at this point in your career – is that correct? Tell us everything you can brother! How did you earn you these awards…what was it about these videos & songs that connected with the listeners & viewers out there – and do you have anything planned as far as videos are concerned for this here year of 2022 my friend?
Amaru: Yes, thank you. As a former film student, I knew that at some point I would want to direct and produce my own films or in my case, music videos. I’m in no way, shape or form a Spielberg or Scorsese, but I know what I want visually. As an independent artist I employ all of my talents and I make them work for me. I mentioned previously that I utilized the internet for ways to promote my music and that’s how I learned about various film festivals, many of which are IMDB qualifying. As a filmmaker that’s an important factor, because while there are thousands of film festivals, the ones that are endorsed by IMDB are the ones you’d want to submit your work to. Having your acting credits listed on a website such as IMDB adds prestige to your brand and I take that very seriously.
In addition to that I’d like to think that my lyrics speak to the soul, the visuals accompany the lyrics perfectly and that is what appeals to audiences, I think. Case in point, my single “Never” is a tribute to my maternal grandmother, who died of breast cancer when I was six. She was the first one who instilled in me the gift of music. I sent that track to a very big label and it was rejected, as they did with many of my songs, stating that “the people don’t wanna hear this kind of music”. Cut to that very single and video winning six awards since its release in 2020!
Now, as far as new music videos for 2022, I am working on one for “Gentle Giant”, hopefully that will be released soon and most definitely there will be one for the lead single of the new album, so stay tuned!
SBS: Okay…here we are again, with another thing that has caught my attention. You’ve got a cookbook of your own that’s out now too? Amazing bro! You’re nothing BUT style Amaru…I can only imagine those are some good lookin’ dishes dude. Anyhow. I’m reading this information over about you online & all…and as it turns out – your cookbook is nominated for an award for being the LARGEST cookbook? You’ll have to forgive me my friend…I don’t know a thing about the culinary world and most food pretty much scares me – but what are we talking about here? What defines large? Physical dimensions? Like, I’m imagining some poor Amazon driver out there struggling to drop off a door-sized book – is that what we’re talking about? Amount of pages? Amount of recipes? And again…don’t get me wrong, I ain’t knocking the accolades, any recognition is good recognition – but like…wouldn’t this be a contest that has a single contestant? There wouldn’t really be a point in having five possible winners if each of you had a book and one was 100 pages, the next 200, 300, 400, and 500 – 500 would just win, wouldn’t it? Largest number, largest book? Awards are strange and fascinating things to me Amaru…I am absolutely curious about this nomination for LARGEST book man – tell us how you got into the world of cooking, if anything about music crosses paths with it…and how many recipes are in a book that freakin’ big dude?
Amaru: No no, not the largest cookbook, the cookbook is nominated at the largest cookbook awards show in the world, the Gourmand International Cookbook Awards in Spain! But let me explain. In 2015 I started to write my first cookbook. I had no idea that it was gonna turn out the way it did, but I did have big dreams of someday having my book available at “Barnes & Noble’s” in the U.S.A. And it is! My love for cooking started at a young age and as an adult I decided to create a cooking show. That lead to my culinary web series “Food & The Single Guy” on Youtube, which has won a total of 4 awards to date for “Best Web Series” at many international film festivals. On “Food & The Single Guy” I mostly share authentic recipes from my native country, the Republic of Suriname, South America. The success of the culinary web series prompted me to continue to write the book, which I wasn’t really paying any attention to anymore, since the success of the web series occupied much of my time. But the pandemic re-directed my focus and in December 2020 I released my first cookbook “AMARU COOKS – A Touch Of Suriname Through Food & Anecdotes”! So far my cookbook has been a finalist at the International Book Awards in California and it is also nominated for the highly prestigious aforementioned Gourmand International Cookbook Awards in Spain in November 2022! I’m nominated in the “Celebrity Chef” category among a very popular South African entertainer! Can ya dig it?! I am extremely proud of that, because my cookbook is the only available Surinamese cookbook in English up until now and I’m not gonna lie to you: I wanna win! But the book is available worldwide at many online bookstores, such as the aforementioned Barnes & Noble in the U.S.A. And of course I have a wealth of information about the cookbook on my website.
SBS: How will you challenge yourself as an artist in 2022? Is there something you feel like you could do better, or perhaps are in the process of doing better right now in creating your new record – we all keep evolving in some way if we’re doin’ it right, don’t we Amaru? So what would you like to make this year all about? What would you like to conquer in 2022 that you haven’t had the opportunity to take on yet?
Amaru: Well, in all honesty, I always take things one day at a time. I don’t live in the past nor do I live in the future. I live in the present and I have great hope for the future, which is why I put in the time now. I’m always working on myself as a person, be it going to the gym to tone the body, to stay in shape, that sort of thing, but I also work on my craft by practicing, honing my skills as an entertainer. And speaking of which, since I’ve been flying under the radar of the mainstream, this year I’d like to be right on top of their radar for a change! Shake things up a bit, lol!
SBS: You have…once again arrived at the most predictable point of our interviews Amaru, but still one of my favorite spots in any of ’em – the SBS Open Floor! It’s our way of saying thanks so much for your time, your answers, your music, your effort – all that good stuff – you’ve been here before & know what it’s all about, so here’s your moment once again to say anything else that you’d like to tell the people out there. Many thanks once again Amaru – it’s always great to catch up with ya, and I’m always looking forward to the next time we get to talk tunes with ya my friend – all the best to you in 2022 brother!
Amaru: Well thank YOU for your time as well. And thanks to our readers, it’s been fun yet again and for all things AMARU the link to my website is https://www.amaru.nl.
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