Every Friday, at around the same time of day, I look forward to receiving my weekly installment of all the latest happenings on the African entertainment scene courtesy of Jamati.com. The Diaspora-based website is the go-to place for everything African—from music and models to film and fashion showing the world there’s more to the Motherland than AIDS and Malaria.
We spoke to Elias Mageto, CEO & Founder of Diaspora Interactive Media (DIM Corp.), the company that owns Jamati.com. A former World Bank and Congressional Black Caucus Foundation employee, Mageto is on a mission to utilize the unlimited scope of the web to spread the message of the African cultural renaissance globally. Jamati.com is just the beginning.
Clutch: Why did you decide to start Jamati?
Elias: The Jamati idea rose out of a need to provide a platform or medium for African artists and entertainers in Africa and the Diaspora. Africa as a whole has had a bad rap for far too long. The Western media’s portrayal of modern Africa is segmented and incomplete. So the hope is that Jamati will serve a dual purpose of providing exposure for relatively unknown, yet talented, Africans, much like BET tried to do when they first started, as well as to dispel the myths and half-truths that mainstream media put out about Africa.
Clutch: Who is your main audience?
Elias: 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation African immigrants followed by African-Americans and other Diaspora groups around the world. Despite this being our target audience we have plans to reach out to other communities of color around the world. We’ve found that we have a lot more in common with communities of color in the Diaspora than most people realize.
Clutch: What are the most popular aspects of the site?
Elias: It varies with content, but our Style and Music sections have consistently garnered the most interest, simply because African beauty is stunning as well as the fact that fashion generally is a popular interest item in any demographic. Certainly the features like the annual piece on Africa’s Sexiest Men and Women coming to jamati.com this month get a lot of attention and comment. In fact, this year, in response to feedback from viewers, we’ve opened the list up to entries from anyone that thinks they should be on it. We’ve had a great time with it and at the same time are taken back by the stunning photos that were submitted.
Clutch: Where do you see African culture at the moment in terms of film, music and the arts? How do you see it developing?
Elias: I definitely see the arrival of a new generation of African artists that are breaking barriers by creating new genres in music, mixing genres like Soukous and Hip-hop and giving Hip-hop and reggae a run for its money with fresh, urban and innovative sounds. I’ve also observed rapid and consistent improvement in the quality of content, film and music production and efforts to reach out to new markets in Africa and beyond. I have no doubt that the entertainment industry in Africa is maturing and reaching audiences we wouldn’t have dreamed of just a few years ago. I won’t pretend to know how fast, but the growth is rapid and it should be taken seriously.
Clutch: Africans are doing big things around the world in all sectors. Is now our time?
Elias: Now is definitely our time and it’s long overdue. Collectively, we are very talented and progressive people. All you have to do is look at competitive sports, the film and music industries and even the literary world in the United States and observe. We’re everywhere. The only thing that separates us is culture, creed and continents, all obstacles which we can overcome. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve found that all our sub-groups have more in common than we ever realized. The Time Is Now!!!
Clutch: How far do you think the mainstream media, and even the African-American media, are recognizing African talent?
Elias: If we felt the mainstream media and even African-American media were paying attention to what’s going on in the African entertainment industry there would be no need for jamati.com. We’re here to fill that void and are committed to being a major player in the New African Entertainment Renaissance. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface yet of what’s out there. I will say that I’ve noticed African-American media houses starting to pick up on African talent. I think as you see more collaborations between African and African-American artists, you’ll see African-American, and maybe even mainstream media start to cover it more. A perfect example of this would be Fatima (America’s Next Top Model) on Tyra Banks Show discussing female genital mutilation, an issue which caused a great stir when we posted her on Jamati.com. Also, seeing celebs we’d named last year as “Sexiest African Men/Women” go mainstream like Angel “Lola” Luv, who was featured in Playboy Magazine this summer. We’re really excited to be a part of this African Entertainment Renaissance.
Clutch: Who are some of the people and what are some of the things we should be looking out for coming out of the African entertainment scene?
Elias: Certainly, look for more collaborations between African and mainstream artists; more African fashion designers, models, film directors, actors, and writers reaching A-list status; a more viable and lucrative entertainment industry in Africa as radio and television become more competitive, internet access increases by well over 600%; mobile devices become entertainment centers on the continent with the fastest growing mobile phone industry and real opportunities for African-Americans and Africans interested in working in this industry.
Clutch: What has been the reaction to the site? Are people surprised to see that Africa has such a thriving entertainment industry?
Elias: Well, our primary audience of African immigrants isn’t surprised, rather pleased that they have a website they can visit for fresh daily content covering a wide range African entertainment and entertainers. This is something that’s been confined to regional and country portals in the past. Certainly, some people that are interested in what goes on in Africa, but have never lived there were surprised, while a few have taken exception to the fact that we’re covering Africans that they would consider African-American. Our response to this is that we’ll cover anyone and anything with ties back to the Motherland with the intent of serving a group of people that have otherwise been ignored by mainstream media and, in many cases, African-American media.
Clutch: How are you able to cover such a vast continent so well?
Elias: We have team members from all regions of Africa that are knowledgeable and connected to their communities. It’s a challenge sometimes but it’s our goal to cover all of Africa and the Diaspora on our website.
Clutch: How many people work on the site?
Elias: We currently have a seven person management team as well as a strong and dynamic editorial team that I like to refer to as our ‘front line.’ They’ve done an amazing job for jamati.com and we hope to grow with them. I’m especially excited about the addition of a French Managing Editor last month. At least 14 African countries speak French and in keeping with our goal of covering and appealing to all of Africa and its Diaspora audiences, we can now provide French language speakers with fresh and, in many cases, exclusive content.
Clutch: What are your plans for the future?
Elias: We plan on launching several online and offline products under the Jamati brand. Jamati.com is one of many vertical portals that we’re working on. We’ve got an African business portal and African political portal planned for this year as well, which would close the loop on our network of websites catering to different demographics with African communities in Africa and the Diaspora. This is all done under our parent company Diaspora Interactive Media Corp. based in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
To learn more about Jamati please visit www.jamati.com