An Angolan immigrant living in a Washington suburb has done the improbable. He took his passion for music and produced an album that has become a mega hit in Africa.
This song, Freaking Me Out by Angolan artist Paul G is one of the hottest dance tracks topping the charts in Africa. The song and the album, called Transition, have been nominated for a Kora award, the African equivalent of a Grammy. But it was produced in a music lover's home studio across the Atlantic.
Gil Ingles lives in Waldorf, Maryland, an hour from Washington DC. He immigrated to the U.S. from Angola as a teenager, and he produced the album.
"We really wanted to let the rest of the world know that Angola was actually producing some real good music, some real nice urban R&B [Rhythm & Blues], some real nice hip hop music. And this music was being produced by my generation, our generation that grew up under state of war, dodging bullets, and avoiding bombs and sometimes unable to even go to school to be educated. All that creativity did not die in that process," Ingles said.
Ingles is a computer technology analyst. When he was 10 years old, Angola's civil war destroyed his family's home and drove him away. "My brother and I, we were the ones who were most affected by the explosion," he recalls. "Of course it destroyed the entire house. People could barely believe that people [we] came alive of it. I still have scars that show."
Ingles studied piano in the U.S. as a high school student. He says the Angolan musician Paul G visited him more than a year ago, after the two were introduced.
"One day in the car I just told him that, you know what, deep in your heart if you feel that you need to put an album out, then let's go and do it because you're deeply passionate about it, that's all you need," he said.
They ended up recording the album, fusing Angolan samba with R&B.
"It was a challenge to put it all together. But the African continent received it very well. Initially Angola was a little bit skeptical about the record because it was in English instead of Portuguese."
Ingles says they chose English to reach a global audience.
Now Ingles is working on a project with Irina, a new Angolan talent. He and his musician friends are working to produce Irina's first album by the end of the year.
"My hope with Irina is that for every little child that has ever had a dream about becoming something, be in something, and somewhat they thought their dream was impossible," he says, "I hope that they will see in Irina that dream be possible."
Ingles has his own dream. He wants to, one day, build a school in Angola for war orphans that trains them for careers in computers and music, so they'll be able to compete in world markets.