By Hakeem Babalola
Kasai Jnofinn, a dual citizen of Dominica West Indies and the United States of America, he is a professional record producer, recording artist, and businessman who moved to Hungary officially in November 2000. He talks about his profession, challenges, language, and why he chose Hungary and many other interesting things. Excerpt:
Can you briefly tell us about yourself? Your profession or career, educational & social background, hobby, nationality, ambition, marital status etc
My name is Kasai Jnofinn. I am a dual citizen of Dominica West Indies and of the United States of America. I'm a professional record producer, recording artist, and businessman. My University studies so far are Music Business at San Jacinto College (Houston Texas) and International Business at AIU (Chicago Illinois). In 2013 I will return to university to finish my music studies at Liszt Ferenc Academy. My hobbies are sports, flight studies and the outdoors. I'm not married and have no children.
Why and when did you come to Hungary?
I came to Hungary because of family ties and officially moved here in November of 2000.
How do Hungarians see you as migrant and as an artist?
Well, I've never asked any Hungarians how they see me as it’s not a question that runs through my mind. Though in my view it is important to assimilate in any new society I chose. It is beneficial to focus on learning to function completely independently rather than to focus on how I am being perceived.
How is it to be a black artist in Hungary?
Though a bit broad I think I understand the gist of your question. As a black man of African decent, in my view it’s a simple matter of mental outlook that decides one's success or failure anywhere. If we were to examine the question from a "skin color” point of view then the layers and possible answers would be endless! But to answer you question as I feel you intended, my experience in Hungary as a black person has been an over-all positive one. There are of course the occasional "bumps in the road" but honestly speaking I feel that these are mainly based on fear and on the refusal by certain marginalised sectors of society to accept change.
What instruments do you play?
I am a pianist and singer first and foremost but I did study drums and vibraphone at university in Houston.
As an artist, do you regret coming to Hungary? Would you have preferred to go to somewhere else?
I've heard that question a lot and the answer is no. In the beginning after moving here form the U.S. I thought it was a horrendous mistake to try and do music here. But then because of the new and unusual circumstances I encountered here I was forced to take my mind away from music and to focus on other more important issues that needed my attention. It was while focusing on those other issues that I came to realize the logistical and economic advantages of working in the music based out of Hungary.
Tell us about your group & future plans
I released a CD in December 12 2011. I am going to Florida for a concert on June 7. Before that I will be in Germany for the whole month of May. I am coming back from Hamburg on June 17 and in the middle of June we have concert in Pécs, Debrecen, Budapest and so on. It is eight-band group. Right now, money is nothing to write about. At this stage payment is not the most important but promotion or advertising. The more we perform in public, the more people know about me and my band. I have a record label that releases my CD. (EILO RECORDS) Hungary, founded two and half years ago. We have about six products on the way including African product – a short film on Africa talking about the importance of Africa and Africans. The film talks about African descents who live in Europe, North and South America; and who are progressively moving in their fields. I’m talking to a lawyer, a doctor and an actress in Hungary, South America and the Caribbean. It is half hour film. We have to release by November this year.
What are your challenges?
My challenges from the musical point of view, is that although the musicians here know about good music but they haven't played it. You know they know about black American music but they haven’t played it much; so it's my challenge to teach them. I mean it is quite different from the way they approach rock music or native Hungarian music. I intend to teach them through rehearsals, explanation in details, because it is problem if you don’t keep the style clean.
How can the integration between Hungarian and foreigners be improved? Have you been an expatriate in another country?
I think "first things first" is a good paradigm to use as a starting point. By that I mean that making an effort to speak Hungarian (no matter how difficult it may be) is a sure diplomatic way of showing Hungarians that we expatriates or foreigners respect their language and culture enough to want to try and communicate with them. No I've not really been an expatriate anywhere else. I lived in Lyon for a short while but that doesn't count.
How do you contribute to the Hungarian economy?
I am a business owner so from that standpoint I'm a contributor to the economy through our tax obligations, and through the purchasing/ordering of locally produced goods and services.
What is your candid advice to other migrants?
My advice is to be positive at all times. Don't focus on what you can't do here; rather focus on what you CAN do and build on that. Take advantage on the fact that you are different and that you stand out from the crowd and use that platform to highlight your unique qualities. Learn the language. Without it you are not really living in Hungary, but somewhere on the sidelines looking in. Make friends with as many good people as possible!