Amanie Illfated: Soul Connection to Music

Originally from South Sudan. Amanie talks to REPLAY about her journey to Toronto, adapting to life in a new home, what keeps her going and some of the challenges she faces as a woman as she navigates life.

So Amanie Illfated, who is she, where’s she from, the name and what motivates her? 

I am a South Sudanese born recording artist. Amanie is the name that was given to me at birth. When I first told my family that I wanted to start a music career, I was told that I was going to have a very bad future, no money and that I am illfated. I decided that I would do it regardless and decided to use the word Illfated. My biggest motivation is connecting with people around the world with music. 

Musical origins: How and why did you start? 

I’ve always felt a soul connection to music, but the time when I realized I really wanted to do music was when I was 4 years old playing lava in the living room with my siblings (the game where you cannot touch the floor). The TV was on and I saw Celine Dion performing and I stopped and decided right there that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I started out doing traditional dances at many events in the city from 6 years old to 12. In that time, I also started to write lyrics and by 12 years old I learned how to produce music with a computer. 

How has the journey been to get to this point? 

The journey was very difficult at the start. I left home at 16 to move to the big city of Toronto in order to get a chance at starting my career. Adjusting to the city and going to school while practicing, producing and networking was a big challenge but as the years passed it got easier. 

At what point did you know you could really do music seriously? 

I had always been doing whatever I could to make my career serious, though the moment that I knew that this was possible was when I got the support of my high school music teacher, Mr John Gladwell. At that time, he was the only person I knew who understood the industry and was able to give me the advice and coaching that I needed to get there. 

What has been the peak of the journey so far? and how did that make you feel? 

I’m still on the upward climb and it feels incredible. Being able to travel around the world, perform on various stages, meet and work with many icons and legends in the industry is the biggest blessing I’ve been given so far. 

What’s the thing that keeps you going, making sure you are focused to achieve your goals? 

There are 2 things that keep me going. The first is that music is just ingrained in my soul and the second is that there are many young girls watching around the world who may or may not yet know they want to pursue their own career. I want to be able to show them that it is possible. 

The last few years due to the pandemic has been somewhat unpredictable. How has it been for you and what have you been doing to cope? 

It was TOUGH! Not being able to perform or connect with people live was a massive challenge. I did wind up in a very bad depression by the end of 2020, but fortunately had some amazing people around me who supported me as I rebuilt my strength. The following year (2021) became one of my best years in music with 5 music videos, numerous international performances, recording a new album and winning a music award in South Sudan.

Describe your style of music? 

My music is an eclectic mix of Pop, R&B, Afrobeat, Reggae and Trap. Many would say it is a combination of M.I.A & Beyonce with an African twist. 

Why did you use the name Saturn on your last project, was it before or after the project? 

The planet Saturn started the vision for my latest album. It was a way to describe being considered beautiful on the exterior, yet having so many conflicts and storms within that are being battled. 

Your last project was released in 2019 is there any reason for the gap? 

The pandemic really blew through album plans. I was set to go on an international tour in 2020. Everything got canceled and postponed, however, by then I had started on a new project. 

What was the process like from start to completion and how long did it take? 

It was a wild 4 year journey to get to the completion of the album. It had been written 2 times before. The first time, it was written with a band and was completed, but a member in the band had issues with the release and it got scrapped. The second time was with a producer who didn’t quite get the vibe of the album. The third time working with multiple producers was the charm and we completed the album. 

What were your expectations for the project and did you meet those expectations? 

My biggest goal for that album was just to have it released. After the release, I was shocked at how well received it was. Many of the tracks were in radio circulation around the world, it generated a lot of live performance requests and my fans loved it! 

After the project dropped where you satisfied with the general response on the project? 

Yes. I wish that I could push it a bit more if the pandemic did not happen. 

What is your favorite track so far? (made by you) and why? 

My absolute favorite is “You Will Never Know”. The track was a very personal one that shares my story of being both South Sudanese and Canadian at the same time. Many people around the world are conflicted, balancing 2 cultures that are very different from each other and face discrimation from both cultures on a daily basis, so it was great to see that people could relate. 

You featured one artist, How come? 

The album was more of my personal story. NOYZ, the rapper featured on Peacemaker, had written a verse that had just blown me away!!! 

What artists are you listening to right now? 

On repeat these days is Tatarka, Rosalia, Chloe Bailey and Tinashe 

Do you have a name for your fans? 

Not at the moment!

In the Entertainment industry, everyone talks about their wins but we know its gritty? have you faced any setbacks? 

The setbacks that really affect me the most is the sexism in the industry. Sometimes, men in the industry don’t have the best intentions. I get asked out a lot, and if I say no, that person will suddenly not be available or the price of the project goes up by 1000%. There are songs that I will never ever be able to have or release because I didn’t go on a date with a person, or they assume I have no idea how the industry works. I remember once going in for an audition and had to wait for the event organizer. A man in the office berated me about my music style and told me I would never make it in the industry. Minutes later, the show organizer walked into the office, recognized me immediately by name and told me I didn’t have to audition because I had already been booked for the show based on my EPK. I’m fortunate enough to have a really great crew that includes a lot of incredibly talented, respectful men, which now makes navigating in the industry a more pleasant industry. 

Talk about your growth as an artist – How will you say you have grown? 

I believe being more confident in myself really helped me improve as an artist. In the beginning, despite me having the exact same information as others, I would always second guess myself. This really stifled my career as I was leaving it in the hands of other people. As I grew more confident in my decisions, I learned how to find the right people to help me advance and gear away from the wrong people. 

If you could pick 5 artists to work with on a project who would you pick and why? 

I work with so many incredible people as of now, but I would never turn down a chance to work with M.I.A., Sia, Diplo, Max Martin or Diblo Dibala. 

What other interests do you have outside of music? 

When I get breaks from music, I love writing and learning. Some subjects I like are learning new languages (Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French etc), learning biology and biochemistry and history. 

“The setbacks that really affect me the most is the sexism in the industry. Sometimes, men in the industry don’t have the best intentions. I get asked out a lot, and if I say no, that person will suddenly not be available or the price of the project goes up by 1000%.”

So lets assume you are in the studio, what is your creative process? 

I always start with the beat. I always work out the chords that I like on a piano, find a progression I like, then add in the drum beat. The other instruments follow. Usually the feeling of the chords leads to the song title and chorus magically popping into my head. Over a few days, I work out the lyrics. Once the idea of the song is solidified, I send the track to a producer who enhances it to perfection, then I got to the recording studio to lay down the vocals. 

What is the most unexpected country that someone has streamed your music? 

There are 3 that never cease to fascinate me: China, Thailand and Israel. 

What’s your tip or best way you maintain a life /work balance? Do you struggle with it? When do you know you’re lacking balance? 

I struggle with it a lot. I have to remind myself often to go to sleep. It’s the one thing that I typically forget to do when I get caught up in projects. I’ve started to limit myself to only 12 hours or work, the other 12 should be spent sleeping and resting. I don’t get to see my friends or family often, but I do try my best to squeeze in a day here and there to spend with them. I’ve established great lines of communication with all my mentors, coaches and doctors so that if I do start slipping, they are usually the first people to know and remind me to slow down. Otherwise, I would be that crazy energizer bunny that never stops going.

The pandemic really blew through album plans. I was set to go on an international tour in 2020. Everything got canceled and postponed, however, by then I had started on a new project. 

How do you make sure you have time to create? Do you have a set time or build it into your calendar? 

My time to create typically happens when I am out doing normal things like getting coffee, sitting on a plane or gardening or driving. Things around me and around the world give me the biggest inspiration. I’ve learned that when I schedule it in or try to force myself to create, I don’t get the most optimal content. 

What’s the biggest barrier to being an artist? How do you address it? 

The biggest barrier for me as an artist is getting people who can open doors for you to believe and invest in my music. It’s a really lonely world to start, and takes a lot of consistency to start meeting the right people who can open doors. 

Have you ever said ‘no’ to an opportunity? How did you decide to say no? 

Many times. When I first started, I was saying yes to nearly every opportunity and I soon learned that doing so was slowing down my career. I had to really define my goal and what it was that I wanted to accomplish and only accept opportunities that would help me work towards that. For example, I turned down a record deal with an independent label since they wanted me to only do pop music a la Ke$ha. Signing on would have meant I would have to do that type of music and then have to rebrand shortly after to do the music that I wanted to do. I’ve had to say no to working with certain incredible artists because it did not align with the vision I was going for. I’ve said no to shows that would wind up being a headache in the future if I signed on. Saying no can mean you miss an opportunity here and there, but keeping your integrity and vision is a very important thing in the industry. 

Most people do not know what there next project is, do you already have it in the pipeline? 

My next project is called DIVINE and it’s near completion. It is a raw, cheeky, vibrant album with afropop and reggae vibes and was written in South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Canada and the USA in both English and Arabic Juba. 

Next project: what should we expect? 

Spring of 2022. 

Follow Amanie here to stay up to date: HERE

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