Gig Seeker Pro


Montréal, Quebec, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Established on Jan, 2014
Band EDM Latin





One of the highlights of this past summer’s Nuits d’Afrique Festival in Montréal was an electrifying performance by Akawui, a Montréal-based musician with Andean roots. Akawui also won this year’s Syli d’Or competition–both the grand prize and Afropop’s prize for stage presence. You can hear Akawui’s performance in our latest show, “Afropop Live 2015.” In an interview with producer Jesse Brent after the Nuits d’Afrique performance, Akawui told us about returning to his Andean roots (while still incorporating elements as diverse as powwow drumming and dubstep), and his plans for his debut album and the launch of his clothing brand AKA Cruz Andina.

Jesse Brent: Could you start off by introducing yourself?

Akawui: My name is Akawui Riquelme and I’m an author, composer, and a musician from Montreal, Québec. Origins from Chile–my parents are Chileans.

How long has your group been together and can you tell me about how it started?

This new formation started a year and a half ago. I went to Brazil last Brazilian summer–winter for here–and when I came back, I already had in mind that I wanted to change my musical direction, because before I was doing a lot of Brazilian music–Afro-Brazilian, to be more specific. And I wanted to be more authentic to my roots. My manager, who was my friend but not my manager at the time, said, “I see great potential in you.” Lea Boicel is her name. I was looking for that sound, my sound, my authenticity–who am I, really? Because people were starting to think that I was Brazilian. And it’s really interesting, because all my life I played Andean pan pipes. I know most of the South American, Andean folkloric rhythms, and I never showed them, because it was really personal. So after a big talk with her, she was like, “Look, if you want to do this, you need to really go, and right now, I see that you’re not pushing it. You’re not pushing your creativity.”

And I was feeling it also. It was kind of getting boring to do music, because it was only party music, which there’s nothing wrong with. I made people dance today, but if you’re only going to make music to jump, put your hand in the air, and drink alcohol and get with the ladies, it gets pretty empty after four years. Nothing that I regret, but now I mix it. I’m having fun. With my lyrics and with my instruments, I can blend the whole thing.

The best example I can give is yesterday I was playing at the Aboriginal Pavilion showcase in Toronto for the Pan Am games, and I met this throat singer who does beatboxing, Nelson Tagoona. And right off the bat, Alejandro Ronceria, who was the artistic director, said, “I think you guys need to meet.” And when he started beatboxing, I said, “Man, can you do some dubstep?” And right there on the stage, with no practice, I featured him, and it was beautiful what came out of that–beatboxing, kind of like dubstep, with the Andean flute and hip-hop. It was amazing. My grandma–she passed away, but she was a Mapuche native, so I was always interconnected with all the aboriginal cultures from her also.
That’s really cool. You should do some more collaboration with that.

Oh, it’s coming. We exchanged contacts, like, “Man, you’re going to be in the song.” Because it’s a demo right now and we can still change it. Not only one song, but I’m going to make a lot of collaborations with that guy, for sure.

Can you tell me about these traditions that you’re getting back to, from your own roots, and growing up with that, and what it means to you?

As I said before, I didn’t want to get too deep into it, because it was private. And something also happened. Andean music started really nice. It started really quality. And after a while, it was more like begging for money, because the type of musician really went down. And people started affiliating Andean music from the street with almost begging for money. But my father, his band was really research–they had music teachers that were playing charango and Andean rhythms. I wasn’t ashamed or shy. It was more like keeping it for myself. My name is Nelson Akawui, but nobody ever called me Nelson. My close friends and my family call me Akawui. Even with this new project, it was like, “Akawui is me.” I’m going to show really what I’m about and it was a big step, almost like coming out of the closet, I say sometimes.

It wasn’t easy to write songs. I found it was a whole procedure–a new route for me, to actually speak your mind, and really show what you have inside. Because usually, in day to day, we’re never really honest, a hundred percent. Where are the people that are really honest, even to say, “How was your show?” “Oh, great great great.” But really be honest. People only go to the first degree of honesty. So for me, it was “go really honest, and really do what you want to do.” It’s almost like “get naked and go.” So that’s what happened with the music.

I don’t want to do folklorical music. Folklorical music–I love it. This is what I grew up with. It makes my hair shiver, but I’m an urban guy. I was born and raised in the city. I think there’s so many things that I can complement with the music, like hip-hop and dubstep, throat singing with a flute. I like to read, and I like to go into consciousness or philosophy and psychology. I remember saying to a producer when we started working with on some song, and he didn’t know in what direction I wanted to go, “Man, imagine if Atlantis existed, what type of music would they hear? If Atlantis was old, but they were more advanced than us…” My tracks–I want them to say, “This is so new”–like dubstep, but it’s old at the same time. So this is the bridge, the cross point, where the flute and pan pipes–the melodies that have the flavor of the Andes, but all of a sudden, you hear a dubstep, a hip-hop, a dancehall. Maybe this - Afro Pop worldwide

"Akawui Remporte les honneurs"

Jeudi soir au théâtre Fairmont, les trois finalistes de la vitrine des Syli d’or de la musique du monde croisaient le fer. Résultat : le Syli d’or à Akawui, le Syli d’argent à Los Viejha et le Syli de bronze à Yamoussa Kora Thousand Colors. Quant à lui, le groupe de reggae mandingue Dakka mérite une mention d’honneur, ayant terminé en quatrième position.

Un bémol devait toutefois assombrir la soirée : la sono exécrable pendant la majeure partie de la soirée. Pendant les prestations de Los Viejha et de Yamoussa Kora Thousand Colors, on a peiné à entendre autre chose que la batterie, les percussions ou les guitares électriques. Dommage, d’autant que l’instrument principal de Yamoussa Bangoura est la kora et que les guitares traditionnelles mexicaines sont au centre de la création de Los Viejha. Sans parler des voix muettes des interprètes…

Cela étant, il ne faudrait toutefois rien enlever aux qualités d’Akawui. Reçu avec enthousiasme, le groupe mené par le chanteur auteur-compositeur multi-instrumentiste Akawui Riquelme a livré une performance inspirée et visionnaire sous le signe de l’union des musiques des Amériques, intégrant à la fois le caractère afro des percussions, les musiques amérindiennes et les flûtes andines, les cuivres du jazz et des éléments de nuevo latino et de rap. On avait d’ailleurs invité Lou Piensa de Nomadic Massive, de même que le père d’Akawui et les Ritual Spirit Singers de Kahnawake. Composé de très bons musiciens, dont le tromboniste-arrangeur Yordan Martinez, Akawui fera sa marque.

De leur côté, Los Viejha mettent bellement en valeur la musique afro-mexicaine en la fusionnant à d’autres sonorités des Amériques à l’aide de percussions et de guitare traditionnelles comme le requinto, issu de l’héritage baroque, et la jarana, qui a remplacé les percussions interdites par l’inquisition espagnole. On intègre aussi la batterie et la guitare électrique. Pour l’occasion, le groupe a invité des danseurs du Ballet mexicain de Montréal. Au programme : une excitante Bamba traditionnelle en son jarocho et des mélanges jusqu’au nuevo latino et au rap.

De son côté, Yamoussa Kora The Thousand Colors explorent un type d’afro-fusion à partir des racines du peuple soussou avec kora, batterie, percussions, saxophone et deux choristes. Sous la direction du chanteur koriste, danseur et acrobate Yamoussa Bangoura, le groupe ne manque pas d’allant. Et ce Yamoussa possède un réel potentiel.

Organisée par les Nuits d’Afrique, la vitrine des Syli d’or a permis à 36 artistes de se produire depuis le 17 février. Lors du gala de jeudi, les artistes étaient évalués par le résultat d’un vote combiné du jury et du public. Les trois finalistes se partageront 45 000 $ en prix et les meilleurs moments captés lors du gala paraîtront sur une compilation réalisée par les Nuits d’Afrique.

Cette année, sept partenaires se sont associés à la vitrine des Syli : le Festival d’été de Québec, une première, Mémoire et Racines de Saint-Charles-Borromée, Festivoix de Trois- Rivières, Rythmes du monde de Chicoutimi, Musique du Bout du monde de Gaspé, le Festival des Traditions du monde de Sherbrooke et le Festival international Nuits d’Afrique qui se déroulera à Montréal du 7 au 19 juillet 2015.

Sur le plan international, deux partenaires majeurs remettent des prix. D’abord, les Américains d’Afropop Worldwide qui ont décerné le prix Afropop-Syli d’or 2015 à Akawui pour la meilleure performance scénique parmi les neuf demi-finalistes. Quant à RFI Talent, le nouveau partenaire de cette édition, il assurera la coédition musicale de l’album de l’artiste qu’il choisira ultérieurement parmi les 36 participants aux Syli. En plus, le diffuseur participera à la promotion de l’album de l’artiste sur les antennes du Groupe France Médias Monde. - Journal Le Devoir

"À l'affiche : Akawui"

C’est sous le nom « Akawui » qu’Akawui Riquelme, ce québécois dont les parents sont originaires du Chili, a gagné la semaine dernière le premier prix des Syli d’or 2015 de la musique du monde présentés par les Productions Nuits d’Afrique.

Son entrée dans le monde musical s’est faite très tôt, dès l’âge de 3 ans, dans les corridors du métro de la ville de Montréal au Québec. Akawui y accompagnait son père qui jouait de la musique afin d’y gagner un peu d’argent.

Plusieurs styles musicaux l’influencent et l’inspirent : le caractère afro des percussions, les flûtes des Andes, les musiques amérindiennes, le jazz et le rap.

Maryse Jobin a demandé à Akawui, qui a longtemps chanté dans des groupes, pourquoi il a choisi de faire une carrière qui le met davantage à l’avant-plan.

Écoutez - Radio Canada international


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Musical Blend

Nelson Akawui Riquelme Catalan is a singer-songwriter of Quebec of Chilean origin. His father, Nelson Fernando Riquelme Pincheira, introduced him to South American folk music at the age of three years old. From then on, he spent his childhood busking in the streets of Montreal, Québec and Vancouver with his father`s band, playing Andean music.  These experiences along with his deep connection with his Amerindian- Chilean heritage have inspired Akawui`s unique musical blend.

Music of Americas

For urban music lovers of the world, Akawui merges many multicultural musical genres, including; cumbia, as well as Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, First Nations and Andean music along with the contemporary sounds of EDM and Hip-Hop. He characterizes his style as the “music of the Americas.” His sound is rich in percussion, carries an electronic punch while being anchored in folkloric tradition. His lyrics convey an awakened and uplifting message, at times with an energetic presence and at other times with a round, romantic sound. He writes songs based in humour, love, and the subjects that are important to him 
Musical Journey

Akawui’s commitment to developing his musical talent took a significant turn at the age of 15 when he began studying Brazilian percussion. In the following years he travelled to Brazil on various occasions to study percussion and in 2008 he joined a Brazilian band as a percussionist and singer. One of the highlights of his time with the band was when they recorded a song with internationally renowned band Olodum.

Today Akawui is focused on his solo career as a singer. His connections with artists from around the world have inspired his project and his blended, contemporary sound. Akawui’s debut album Intertribal is currently in production with the help of music producer Frank Palacios. Palacio is a composer, arranger, and music producer, most well known as the dj and pianist for the internationally celebrated band Gente de Zona and producer of their #1 hit song “Bailando.” With Palacio’s encouragement, Akawui’s sound has developed to incorporate the use of the many instruments he plays including Andean flutes and multiple kinds of percussion from all over the world, including the big drum of Canada’s First Nations people. 

One icon, From Canada to the World

Dedicated to sharing the music of the Americas with the Canadian public, Akawui has participated in multiple music festivals, making his imprint on the city of Montreal. Some of his most memorable shows include the 2013 Montreal JazzFest and his win at the 2015 RFI Talent and Afro-Pop Awards. As the winner of RFI Talent, Akawui’s music will be promoted in Europe, Africa and French speaking Arabs countries. Akawui’s high-voltage performances deliver a powerful message about the plight of Indigenous people world-wide and the modern urban Indigenous experience.  In the summer of 2015, Akawui was the headliner at the Pan Am Games Aboriginal Pavilion showcase held in Toronto, Canada, making an impression on the National music community.

Passion for Change

Beyond the stage, Akawui focusses his energy on working with young people. He uses his artistic talents in projects aimed towards helping youth develop the confidence to persevere both at school and in their personal endeavors. Much of his work is rooted in his social enterprise clothing line Also Known As Cruz Andina. With his clothing line he aims to unify the Indigenous people of the Americas through fashion, using traditional textiles in new ways to create urban wear for all people to represent Indigenous craftsmanship in contemporary ways. A portion of the proceeds from the clothing line directly fund youth driven projects in North and South America, having to do with music, dance, and martial arts.

Band Members