When you plug in your earphones and escape your reality for a split second, one often forgets the people who work on the creation of the lingering sound that soothes our souls. Producing a hit track is not merely walking into the studio and telling the producer “here’s my song”. Producers spend months, if not years, engineering the sound behind the hard-hit lyrics you hear on your favourite music channel.
Samm Vataleni Niigungo, also known as Sam-E Lee Jones, is the man with the magic fingers behind the top-ranking music tracks of Namibian local artists such as of Gazza, Blacksheep, Tswazis and Blossom, to name only a few. The 26-year-old producer is multi-talented as he holds an associate’s degree, B Juries in Law. The Lounge spent a few minutes with the versatile talent as he took us through his life behind artists.
The man behind the name
Born and raised in Walvis Bay (Kuisebmond), Sam-E attended Naraville Primary School and completed his high school at Walvis Bay Private High School. His musical journey began as he, along with his cousin, formed a rap group called the Low Riders when they were all still in primary school. They emulated the likes of Matongo Family and B2K, who, at the time, were pioneers in the music industry.
The name Sam-E derives from his birth name Samm, however, the ‘Lee Jones’ was added by a friend and thus became his signature name.
During Grades 8 and 9, Sam-E begged his mom to buy him a computer and after months of begging and good grades his wish came true. “I started to rap less and focused on producing music for my group and other people.”
His house music journey began in 2008 during his final year of high school when he composed a mini house mix tape with 10 instrumental pieces. He went on to university the following year.
“I started hearing my tracks from the mix tape and soon I realized that my music had travelled on its own as people actually liked the mix tape,” he said.
The producer says that during the initial stages of his career, finding fully furnished studios was a challenge. “We had to make do with simple mics and computers.”
At the time, there was a lack of knowledge but he says not having access to the artist he desired to work with was by far his greatest challenge. “As a producer, you have to make a mark with artists; be someone that they can remember and hopefully work with.”
Biggest break and achievements
After approaching different record labels and people within the industry such as K-boz and Capro, his break came at a time he least expected it. He received a call from Capro in the afternoon while he was in class and Capro told him that Gazza had heard some of his beats and wanted three of them. The rest is history as his beats were part of Gazza’s 2011 album entitled ‘Boss’.
The producer, however, does not believe in celebrating his achievements, as he refuses to become too comfortable and conceited, saying they would cause loss of focus on the end goal. “I classify my achievements more like personal goals,” he says.
Presently, the producer says he celebrates the fact that he has an in-depth understanding of the industry as he can now fully grasp the process of creating music. “From the production of a beat, marketing it and distribution it. I am fully aware of how the industry works and in many cases part of the entire process.”
Producers receiving credit
Sam-E is of the opinion that producers do not receive the credit that is due to them. “Platforms such as the NAMAs only have one category for producers while about 90% of the songs are worked on by the producers. I haven’t heard any great local acapella songs recently,” he adds. Sam-E says that producers are also to blame as they have accepted the back seat and have become too comfortable.
The producer says that, on the other hand, some artists also fail to push their producers forward on platforms. “Artist need to adequately give accreditation to producers on their albums and not merely credit them in rhetoric. One hit track produced can skyrocket an artist’s career.” He also believes in value for money as artists should be willing to pay at times for the hefty price it costs to produce a quality beat.
Profitability of industry
According to Sam-E, one’s financial success highly depends on their business model. “You need to know where you make money and where you don’t.” The producer says that the amount of customers (artists) you get and the rate at which you receive them will determine your break. “Most producers partner up with two to three artists and extensively focus on them. The producer is in charge of the entire journey and makes money along the way.”
Sam-E says that when producers are part of the process right from the production to the distribution, they make way more money and subsequently charge a single client less money.
Music lovers can participate in the beat auction that will take place on 30 March at the Warehouse Theatre from 18h00. The auction is open to any and every one. The bid starts at N$1 000 per beat. The auction was also held last year November and Sam-E’s beat sold at the highest rate of N$10 000. The beat auction will also feature Tweezy an award winning South African producer alongside our very own legendary Namibian producer Becoming Phill. The producer invites Namibians to come through and have a fun-filled day with beats.
The way forward
Sam-E encourages aspiring producers to work on building a brand and not just work with anyone for the sake of selling beats. “Don’t ever work for free, the moment you do that you are already losing.” Sam-E advices producers to invest in their craft by purchasing the required resources to produce quality beats. Sam-E, furthermore, says that institutions need to support music more as it is more than just an art and carries economical value.
“Investing in artist through courses in business management, branding and marketing will cultivate a booming industry.”