Not ‘freaked out’: Local man unimpressed by song’s success

Waldorf computer worker produces Angolan mega-hit

Friday, Oct. 3, 2008

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Staff photo by JAY FRIESS
Gil Ingles, left, produced Paul G, right, and his hit Angolan single ‘‘Freaking Me Out.” The dance song has been nominated for a Kora award, Africa’s equivalent of a Grammy.

One of the hottest dance tracks topping the charts in the small African nation of Angola this year was Paul G’s ‘‘Freaking Me Out.”

Paul G and his wife, Bruna, are bona fide celebrities, making the cover of the nation’s top celebrity magazine, Caras, not once, but twice. His song has been nominated for a Kora award, the African equivalent of a Grammy, for best southern African artist as well as an MTV Base African music video award.

So where is the hot producer, who arranged the vocals, dialed up the phat beat and added the polishing touches to this infectious dance floor anthem?

His name is Gil Ingles. He lives in Waldorf with his wife and 8-year-old daughter. And this isn’t even his day job.

But don’t expect any boasting from him.

‘‘It humbles me,” Ingles, 35, said in an interview last month. ‘‘It makes you want to do good things for people.”

Ingles appeared completely relaxed – dressed in sock feet and sweat pants and wearing a broad smile – as he explained how the album was recorded both in his old house in the Waldorf neighborhood of Carrington and in Angola. He called Paul G’s hit ‘‘Transition” album a ‘‘jambalaya of Angolan artists and producers” that ‘‘reflects the [positivity] of American culture in a country like Angola.”

‘‘He came to the states a few years ago, and he wanted to record,” Ingles said of Paul G. Ingles was attracted to Paul G’s passion for music, and agreed to produce him for free. ‘‘[The album] is really a mixture of pure African music with R&B. ... The whole album was a roller coaster.”

‘‘He’s been my mentor here, my older brother,” said Paul G, 33, in an interview last month. ‘‘And he knows the market. It’s been amazing to work with him.”

Paul G said the album was his fourth, but his first sung in English, rather than Portuguese. The artist admitted that he was nervous.

‘‘This was a tryout album,” Paul G said. ‘‘I was a little afraid.”

In his earlier interview, Ingles described the transatlantic logistical nightmare with matter-of-fact calm. Then he told a short version of his life story, which explained why he’s not an easy man to rattle.

When he was 10 years old, Ingles said he watched a bomb explode outside the front door of his house, nearly killing him and his brother. It was the near the beginning of the 27-year Angolan civil war, which killed 500,000 of Ingles’ countrymen and plunged the county into political chaos and economic despair.

‘‘It was basically an assassination attempt on my father,” Ingles said, explaining the attack. ‘‘At age 10, I learned to believe in miracles.”

Paul G recalled that time as well, saying he remembers composing dance beats while hearing the sound of shotguns in the street.

Ingles spent that time learning to play guitar a bit and received his first keyboard, an air-powered melodica. Three years later, in 1986, Ingles left Angola and went to Portugal briefly, before coming to the States.

‘‘It was really escaping the country,” Ingles said. His mother eventually escaped to the States in 1994. He trailed off when asked about his father. His father didn’t make it out.

Ingles said he spent his childhood, living with his aunt and uncle in Bryans Road, following his mother’s admonition to focus on school and learn English. He also spent it learning to play keyboard, compose and sequence tracks.

Ingles remembered receiving his first Casio keyboard from his family in the late 1980s and being ecstatic.

‘‘I thought I was Teddy Riley at that point,” Ingles said, referring to the famous New York hip-hop singer and producer.

Ingles graduated from Henry E. Lackey High School, but a broken foot killed his chances of getting a soccer scholarship to a pre-law college. Instead, he stayed in Charles County, attended what is now College of Southern Maryland and took a job with Pepco as a computer technician.

And he continued working on his music. In 2002, he produced a Portuguese-language hip-hop album with his two younger brothers under the name ‘‘Triplei.” He also produced a track on Angolan crooner Anselmo Ralph’s 2004 album.

But Paul G’s album has put Ingles’ work on the world stage. Paul G said he was invited to play a show in Beirut, Lebanon before the latest political crisis unfolded and heard ‘‘Freaking Me Out” playing on the radio when he arrived.

‘‘This song, in Nigeria, is like an anthem,” Paul G said.

He showed a video of a performance he did a month ago for the Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. The hit song can barely be heard over the screaming fans, who, at one point, claw at Paul G’s clothes when he gets too close to them.

Ingles currently does computer work for Mirant at the company’s Chalk Point power plant. But Paul G’s hit record and Kora nomination could change the equation. Angola has a population of 18 million – as many people as Florida, and nearly as many as New York, making it a sizable market for music and a possible springboard for crossover success stateside.

‘‘This is the one I really take big ownership of,” Ingles said of Paul G’s album. ‘‘We really need to get Angola on the world map.”

Ingles said the world needs to see the positive economic and cultural developments in the country since a 2002 cease-fire agreement, and Angola needs to regain the sense of community and altruism lost in the war.

Both Ingles, who is from southern Angola, and Paul G, who is from the capital city Luanda, say they would have been expected to fight each other in the war, but their collaboration represents Angola’s increasing unification.

Paul G’s wife, Bruna Tatalia, will be stepping into Ingles’ studio sometime this month, and Ingles will get a chance to make lightning strike twice.

He plans to return to Angola for a visit in 2010. Still, he’s ambivalent about getting too deeply enmeshed in the glitz of Angolan celebrity.

When asked if he would quit his day job to do music exclusively, he smiled, saying, ‘‘I don’t know. I’m really passionate about my [Mirant] work.”