Prince: Please introduce yourself to my audience and tell us what you do?
Prince: What is AfriQue Events and how did it get started?
RA: AfriQue Events is a promotional company that got started a few years back. It was created to provide entertainment that I thought was missing in the Boston Night Life. The first time that I became a promoter, we were lacking the African music in downtown night life–you would have to go somewhere else to listen to African Music. My goal was to bring African culture and African music into the mainstream clubs in Boston. If you go to any AfriQue events, we will guarantee that you will hear different music that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else. So, basically we provide entertainment that definitely caters to African people and friends of Africans–we are bringing a little piece of home no matter if you are from North Africa, South Africa, Central Africa, or West Africa. We blend our music with mainstream music (from Top 40, R&B, etc.) and people are having a great time. Right now Africans are running the show—clubs today are playing African music compared to five years ago; so we came a long way. I am happy where we are with AfriQue events and what we are providing.
Prince: Were there any negative stigmas in place, about AfriQue Events, before you started promoting?
RA: Yes. There has been a big stigma about Africans and African Music; most people were just ignorant. If you don’t know Africans, then you take from what you see on TV–a bunch of half-naked people dancing to drums. That’s what they advertise and that’s what they will show—this is the stigma that they have. When they think of African Music, or going to an African club, that stigma will be the first thing that they will think of–that weird music. And that was very (very) difficult to work around as a promoter. However, we worked really hard to educate people–to alleviate that stigma–and in the end people understood what was “African”. A lot of people were surprised that the music that they were dancing to was African music.
RA: Yeah. Now we have everyone coming to our parties, and I haven’t changed my company name. I haven’t changed the music I play and I am being consistent with what I provide for my customers.
I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it. I drive to my events every night or a few times a week, but the music keeps me going, because I love what I do. I know my parties and I know the people that I cater to. Even though the stigma is not gone 100%, we still came a long way. I remember that I was rejected so many times, by club owners, that it was not even funny. It was not because the space was not available; it was just because of that stigma which really rocked their minds. So what I had to do as a promoter was to educate people, which you have done for me as well.
Prince: Yes I remember.
RA: The cool thing was you didn’t have to explain it to 100 people. All you had to do was explain it to one person and that one person will explain it to 10 people and so on, which made my life a lot easier. What really changed the sigma was by word of mouth, one-on-one communication. What I have learned was this: I have been to regular club nights and my club nights and there is nobody like my people that has a better time than at my club nights. Nobody is posting up against the wall and chilling. My African people know how to use the floor right. (Laughing) How can you dance to “Azonto,” when you are posting up against the wall?
RA: You have to move your feet and your arms; there’s a bunch of things that you have to shake. (Laughing) So the stigma is not gone, but we have gotten over it. And over time, the club owners realize that we are such a great crowd: we like to dress up and we cause no trouble. When people are exposed to my crowd people are like, “Wow!” Through that I have been receiving great referrals from club owners and great relationships.
Prince: Why do you “promote?” Do you feel promoters are viewed in a bad light?
RA: I don’t think promoters are viewed in a bad light. Promotion is a professional service like everything else. It is a needed profession and there is a huge demand for it. There are lines and lines of people that go out on weekends and we provide a venue for them to enjoy themselves; so I don’t think there is nothing negative about it. You got to look at it this way: why do people work in construction? It’s a dirty job but that road or bridge has to be built? So it’s a service that we are providing–it’s a job. After a long week of work, people want to wind down and meet other people; AfriQue Events provides that atmosphere. If we are not there, what’s going to happen? There’s really nothing left for them to do.
RA: For some people I’m like their only source they have for social night events. They will say “‘Hey Roy!’ ‘What’s going on today?’” And, if my response is nothing then they won’t do anything.
RA: It’s not like they don’t know where to go for parties; they just know what we are providing which is that unique element to their social night life. So again, I like what I do, I love bringing people and through my parties, people have met, got married and have gone on to start families.
Prince: Wow! (laughing)
RA: So we are providing everything. I think it is positive; and I won’t be doing anything negative. It’s like any other job and you can’t make everybody happy but I try to be professional as best as possible.
Prince: What separates you from other promoters here in Boston?
RA: When I first started promoting, I wasn’t motivated by money. I just wanted to create something that was distinctive and different. The fact that I am African makes me different. I can do the same thing as other promoters do, but they can’t do what I do: I can cater to their markets while catering to mine. They can’t cater to my market because they do not have what my market needs. This has made me stand out; and I can combine both markets, in which they can’t.
Prince: Right. Is AfriQue Events open to everybody?
Prince: Looking back, what have you learned about promoting?
RA: I’ve learned a lot (laughing). But the thing was I didn’t learn promoting from anybody—so I didn’t know the ins and outs of promotion. The only thing I knew was that I love to be around people; but I still had to figure out ways on how to network with them.
And so I have learned a lot of customer service; a lot of patience; and I have also learned that I loved what I was doing. Now I probably would not have said that in the beginning. But now, five years later, I can say that I love what I am doing.
Prince: Can you tell me the worst party that you ever promoted? And what did you learn from that experience?
RA: Well I learned you can lose a lot of money (laughing)
RA: I also learned that you can’t get discouraged from having bad events. When I started promoting, I promoted a club of my own; and I promoted it for a good two weeks. This party was supposed to be a grand opening for at least 150 people. When I opened the doors, we only had 20 people show up.
RA: Yeah. The owners closed the club before midnight–that’s how bad it was. I could not believe it, because I spent two weeks promoting it and I only got 20 people. It was disappointing because the owners were my clients and I wanted to make them happy. I want them to make money and say positive things about me. It’s a partnership between club owner and promoter–you want to make them happy and in return they will make you happy.
So again, that was a wake-up call for me—you can actually spend 8 hours a day, promoting in the streets, and still come up empty handed. It told me that I had a lot of work to do but I was very motivated from that experience.
Looking back I’ve made mistakes, and I have lost money. But like any other business, you lose some and make some. I don’t get discouraged by any bad days or events I have; I got to have a short term memory if I am going to stay in this business (laughing) and do what I do to the highest level. You don’t ignore them, you just learn from them.
Prince: What are your future plans for AfriQue Events in Boston? When is the next big party?
RA: Every party is big; I promote every party big. But to answer your question I’m thinking about concerts and a few outdoor events. But I won’t deviate from what I have been doing for the past 5 years now.
Prince: In your own words, what makes Roy AfriQue so interesting?
RA: It’s the swag. (Laughing) It’s the African swag that makes me different. That’s it.
If you wish to follow Roy AfriQue and want him to throw your next Party go to: www.iamafrique.com