Akon, Joel Katz, and Others Bring a Bit of Berklee to Gabon

Brian Gonzalez
January 10, 2017
Press release
Joel Katz
Photo provided by the artist.
Photo provided by the artist.

Hit hip-hop artist, songwriter, and producer Akon, Afrobeat sensation Davido, and prominent entertainment attorney Joel Katz are set to speak at a Berklee on the Road program in Libreville, Gabon. The workshop, taking place at the École Ruban Vert (ERV) campus from January 9 through January 13, is part of Berklee College of Music’s Berklee on the Road program and is hosted in conjunction with the African Music Institute (AMI), a new music school set to open in September 2017.

Akon has scored numerous pop, R&B, hip-hop, and dance hits. In addition to his own popular singles, he has also made hundreds of guest appearances for artists such as Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Lil Wayne, and Eminem. Having sold more than 35 million albums and received five Grammy nominations, he launched Akon Lighting Africa in 2014, a partnership to bring electricity to African households.

Joel Katz is chair of global entertainment and media practice for Greenberg Traurig. A Berklee trustee, he is the no. 1 ranked entertainment attorney in Billboard magazine’s music industry Power 100. Katz has represented top production companies, record companies, concert promoters, and music industry icons such as James Brown, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Faith Hill, and Justin Timberlake, among many more. He also serves as general counsel to the Recording Academy (NARAS).

Davido (David Adedeji Adeleke) is an Afrobeat artist, producer, and co-owner of HKN Music (with his brother, Adewale Adeleke). Davido has released several albums and EPs and has won a BET Award, two MTV Africa Music Awards, and many other awards in Ghana and Nigeria.

The three panelists will speak at the program, which is led by academic director Alain Mallet, associate professor in Berklee’s Ensemble Department. It will give musicians from more than 20 African countries the opportunity to explore Berklee-style classes at no cost. The classes will cover a variety of topics, including harmony, improvisation, and theory. The workshops will culminate with a final concert at ERV featuring performances by students.

ERV is an education village that offers holistically aligned, internationally minded programs for pre-university children. Students are offered a well-rounded education in subjects including the arts, literacy, math, science, and socialization. ERV’s green Libreville campus serves as the backdrop for this institution, which aims to facilitate new thinking for Africa and for education.

“We believe this is a great opportunity for musicians to experience the Berklee classroom closer to home, as well as to see what is to come once the African Music Institute opens its doors later this year,” said Jason Camelio, director for global initiatives at Berklee.

“We count on the generous support of the Gabonese government, who have graciously sponsored musicians from all over Africa to attend this program, providing free tuition, and room and board to accepted students,” said Jorge Rostoll, senior director of operations for Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain.

In 2015, Berklee President Roger H. Brown signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of the African nation of Gabon to help with the creation of a pan-African music school in the capital, Libreville. The African Music Institute will focus on contemporary popular music, traditional African music, and African dance to create a path for students to eventually study at Berklee. The first class will enter in September of 2017.

In supporting the creation of the new school for contemporary music in Africa, Brown said that Berklee “acknowledges the unique role of the African cultural diaspora in the major musical styles underlying our curriculum, including jazz, blues, R&B, rock, gospel, Latin, and hip-hop.” Brown noted, “With this new school and more students coming to Boston from Africa, we’ll have a direct line, right to the source.”