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West Africa native hopes Afropop can bridge cultural gap

May 14, 2019

YORK, Pa. (AP) — Much like plants, a person’s roots can be unclear without a little digging. And, when it comes to music, those roots can influence a harmony, use of instruments, and an entire genre.

While 28-year-old Joseph Mator’s foundation may be in York now, his roots trace back to West Africa, specifically Monrovia, Liberia, where he was born.

Where he’s from plays a major role in the sound he has started to introduce to York and surrounding areas — Afropop.

What is Afropop?

Think of Afropop as a musical blend. It takes sounds and beats from traditional African music and combines it with catchy lyrics and other characteristics you’d find in the U.S. pop scene.

Mator, stage name Joey Costar, says you should start with Afrobeat to understand the evolving essence of Afropop.

“Afrobeat developed in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s and blends elements of Yoruba music, jazz and funk rhythms with an instrumentation that emphasizes African percussion and vocal styles,” according to the New World Encyclopedia.

Mator says his sound injects those African dance hall sounds with a Jason Derulo, Chris Brown and Justin Bieber vibe that equates to his form of Afropop.

Journey to music

Mator remembers singing at the church he and his family attended. He learned and excelled at playing the drums and the keyboard, but he didn’t fine tune those talents as he got older.

The Central York High School graduate never really considered singing professionally until he decided to start a hip-hop and R&B group in 2011 called “Costar” with a rapper named Pressure. The group needed a singer, so Mator stepped up to the plate and became increasingly comfortable with the role.

“I tried it out, and I was okay with it ... I feel like I just fell into it,” Mator said.

In 2017, he went solo. He experimented with his sound and found that people were fond of the Afropop vibe he was producing.

Trailblazer challenges

To the best of his knowledge, Mator is somewhat pioneering this genre in the York area, and being the first comes with challenges. Advocating for radio play has proven to be difficult because he describes his sound as Afropop, which isn’t commonly heard.

“This area is not really known for (Afropop). I saw the potential because of the people, but it’s not too cultured of an area,” Mator said.

Those seeds of potential are exactly what motivates Mator to keep pushing with his unique sound. Those efforts aren’t being ignored, either. A simple introduction to his music, he says, has gained him a fan base, regardless of the cultural differences.

“I want to use that momentum and the fact that they’re liking what I’m doing and just bring the whole wave with me and bring some other artists as well that I feel can really shake things up,” Mator said.

It’s both fun and frustrating for Mator, but through parties and other musical entrepreneurship, there’s no telling how much more of a pulse Afropop could have in the area.

Bridging the gap

Mator explains that one hurdle that exists in getting people to embrace and experience music from different cultures is the language barrier. Not being able to understand accents can be deterring for some.

Mator hopes to be that connection between people who are unfamiliar with the sound and the tremendously untapped flair of Afropop.

“I want to be the bridge for Afrobeat and American music where people feel comfortable,” he said. “I want to be that bridge where everybody can understand what I’m talking about, the message and they can all feel my energy and my vibe and relate.”

Bridging this gap is important to Mator, as his identity has a place on both sides. Bringing them together allows him to have a safe space where he isn’t comprised of two halves, but as a single whole.

What’s next?

Singer and songwriter Joey Costar recently performed on ABC 27′s Good Day PA. He intends to keep the uplifting vibe he pours into his music and stay authentic.

“I lean a lot on the positive side...I don’t really like to fabricate or talk too flashy,” he said.

Costar is expected to perform at a concert on May 18 at Alert Fire Hall in Emigsville. He has a backlog of music recorded but he wants to introduce it to people in phases. A strategy that’ll hopefully let people get acclimated with the sound and want more.

Mator is using his roots as an instrument. It’s one he plays to peacefully introduce one culture to the other. And, no matter what walk of life you come from, your feet’ll want to be planted on the dance floor.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/301sXzK

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Information from: York Daily Record, http://www.ydr.com

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