10 Things to Do When in Bohemia – Czech Republic

Czech Republic’s capital city – Prague wasn’t nicknamed the city of a hundred spires for no reason. From atop, you can see the city’s view and design spread out in gothic and neo-gothic spires. I loved Prague for many things, like its beautiful wide streets in pretty cobble-stoned roads that reminded me of the nice streets of Paris.

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My first time in Czech over last December was amazing and unforgettable! I was extremely impressed by the Czech’s embrace for the Christmas spirit, the country’s beauty, its historical sites, and the people’s pride in their cultural heritage. So I compiled 10 things you should do, and places to visit while in Czech. Have fun!

1. Explore Prague

Cold Days & Warm Nights 🙏🏾 #Prague #WheninPrague #Praha #TravelTales #CzechRepublic

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You will be blown away by the Old Town Square, the heart of the city laced with colorful baroque buildings and gothic churches. Check out the gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn and the St. Nicholas Church. Don’t miss Prague’s Orloj medieval astronomical clock located on the Old Town Hall. It’s the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest still in operation.

2. Visit Prague Castle

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Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world as declared by the Guinness Book of Records. Occupying an area of almost 70, 000m, be prepared for a good walk up the road leading to the castle. On the way, check out small touristy shops – it’s much fun with company. The castle’s grandiose space includes several palaces, gardens and museums.

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Exploring its entirety is like a walk through architectural styles and the history of medieval times. This is also the official residence of the President of Czech, I am surprised that they still let tourists in. The castle has actually been a seat of power for olden kings and emperors dating from the 9th century, and apparently some jewels and treasures are still kept within a hidden room inside it. We are lucky to bump into the Changing of the Guards ceremony upon arrival at the castle.

You must also check out the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral and Romanesque Basilica of St. George just by the castle! So magnificent!

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3. Walk through Charles Bridge

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Lined with statues of Catholic saints, a walk through the Charles Bridge, especially a night, is a haunting beauty to revere. We walk through the bridge on a perfect Thursday late night after leaving one of the most epic night-outs of 2016. It’s so surreal, romantic and also funny because of sliding ice – we literally keep catching each other’s fall 🙂 Crossing Prague’s Vltava River, the bridge is 621m long and nearly 10m wide. Its construction began in 1357 under King Charles IV, finishing in the beginning of the 15th century.

4. Check out the Dancing House

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If you’re into cityscapes, check out Fred and Ginge Nationale-Nederlanden building on the Rašín Embankment. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996 by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. At the time of construction, its non-traditional design situated close to an area with traditionally designed buildings in baroque, gothic and art nouveau style was controversial. It remains famous for the establishment’s support for arts and culture, and its slanting design depicting a lady dancing with a guy in fancy hair.

5. Sample Jazz & Opera

Go to an opera and if you can, watch Rusalka. I am told it’s always showing at least every month or two. David, Tomas’ brother has invited me to Hudebni divadlo Karlin to watch Rusalka 🙂 I am extremely lucky to catch one of the most successful Czech operas. The storyline is based on a water nymph named Rusalka, who falls in love with a human being who happens to be a prince. She wants to be human and live on land so as to be with her prince, naïve and unbeknownst to the dangers of transforming, human evil and sin—it’s just a beautiful tale of catastrophic love.

Rusalka’s actors and opera singers are above exemplary. I am also amazed by their costumes – worthy of high budget fantasy films like The Lord of the Rings. It was by far the longest (3 hours) and best piece of music and theatre I’ve ever watched.

For some nice live Jazz music and the best cocktails in the world (I am not joking), visit Jazz Dock. It’s made of a glass building making nighttime feel trippy if you look out into the river, reflecting in.

6. Channel Bohemianism

I am Bohemian at heart. This gives me so much pleasure in breaking down the origin of Bohemianism, and how it relates to the Czechs. Bohemia was the largest historical region of the Czech lands in the present-day Czech Republic so in a broader meaning it’s correct to refer to the entire Czech territory as Bohemia. In the history of European Bohemianism and French imagination, literary bohemians were associated with roving Romani people, believed to have originally come from Bohemia.

South Bohemia in Czech is a dream destination for holidays and countryside life. We take a road trip to the south passing through picturesque rural towns with frozen forests and roads, painted and covered in ice. We end up at the whimsical town of Český Krumlov – Google images.

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First we spend a night at Krumlov Tower just next to the castle. On the second night we spend at a beautiful bungalow deserted in the forest.

Snow adventures! So beautiful! Blogged about my first snow encounter in Czech. Link on my bio 🎄

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It’s a fairytale.

We enjoy Krumlov’s tiny and hilly spiraling streets and alleys. We also dine at a lovely little medieval restaurant, aptly old school themed from the décor, menu to the physique of the waiters and their dress code.

Krumlov was a movie.

It doesn’t help that during Christmas, Czech’s national TV plays fairytales and films shot at Krumlov castle. If you want to relax and have some good fun time with friends and family in Czech – you must travel to Český Krumlov. You might be lucky enough to see the cute Czech bears of Krumlov castle. Sad we didn’t see them – they were always sleeping.

7. Visit Červená Lhota château

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While in the South, check out the famed Červená Lhota château. It stands pretty in its renaissance building smack in the middle of a lake on a rocky island. The lake was frozen when we visited, would be great to go back during summer time.

8. Go up the Žižkov Tower

The apartment block we’re staying at while in Prague is right next to the popular Žižkov Television Tower. On our last day in Prague we popped up the tower for some late lunch at the TV Tower’s renowned Oblaca Restaurant. Their fancy Czech Food is pricey but one thing we can’t put a tag on is the view of Prague from the restaurant – absolutely priceless! While there, try the Lamb Neck and Onions in Wed Wine. Yumm – Gulp!

9. Enjoy Christmas Markets

Whether you are in Prague, Pilsen or the South – you must walk pass by the Christmas Markets and sample their yummy Czech treats. I adored their glowing Christmas trees and hot fancy alcoholic drinks. Favourite bitings included meat loaf, hotdog, sour cabbages and the klobása Czech sausage. Most of them are open every day till late meaning you can feed your cravings anytime 🙂 While at the market, you can also grab some nice little gifts, from traditional glassware and Christmas paraphernalia, for friends and family.

CNN Rates Prague’s Christmas Markets Among World’s Best

10. Get your Military Gear

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My general sense of style and direction is heavily inspired by the military gear and grit so when Tomas hints at what I am about to discover, I am so excited. “There is an army shop at every corner of a Czech street,” he says. From jackets, trench coats, bomber jackets, military bags, hats to grenade bags (yes!), everything in the shops is legit! We end up spending quality time in various army stores, and might have discovered one of the oldest while in Krumlov. By the time we’re done, we could be flag bearers of worldly diplomacy. I could be a Swiss Militia, Captain of a Russian Tank Battalion from 1960s, or maybe a Czech militia companion to a Hungarian commander in a German combat shirt – Tomas 🙂

BONUS: A million thanks to the Maule brothers, the best hosts who put up with my demands to be photographed 100 times a day only not to post 96% of all the pictures 🙂 My gratitude also goes to Jitka, Roman, Kuba, Dana, Honza and Chris.

Lamu Island – Best Getaway of 2017

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What was the best time, and place, to be on holiday? Lamu Island it is, and this blog will explain why. It might seem quite early into the year to declare best destinations of 2017 but I am confident that Lamu Island is it for me. I’ve wanted to go to Lamu, specifically Lamu Cultural Festival at least twice in the past five years but as fate had it I didn’t, mainly because I couldn’t get any time off at my former TV job. But good things don’t always come easy – my first time in Lamu turned out to be truly relaxing and just perfect for meditation and preparation for 2017.

I hadn’t planned to be in Lamu on the first week of January but did last minute after my boyfriend Tomas and I decided that it would be nice to spend some alone time together in the island, with some friends visiting from Europe. Tomas never prepares anyone for anything. In any journey you take with him just be ready to discover and adapt quick! He’s been to Lamu severally and even has family friends around. I don’t know what to expect or our itinerary for the next few days, apart from plans of sailing to Matondoni village, about thirty minutes from Lamu, over the weekend.

I am just happy that I am headed to my dream destination and he’s coming to pick me at Manda airport located in Manda Island. There are many foreign tourists in the plane and fascinating that I sit next to a Kenyan man who says he had just come from Czech Republic – where I had just been coming from too. Very rare for me to be talking to strangers in the plane; regardless, we talk Kenyan and Czech polity and Kenyan security.

We cross over into Lamu town from the bay in a speedboat named “Rose” 🙂 It takes about six minutes to town and another three minutes walk to the house where we are putting up. On our way we pass by the Donkey Sanctuary, where several donkeys take refuge and rest when not at work. Tomas reminds me, “No other mode of transportation here – only donkeys so be prepared to be only walking for the next couple of days.” I want to take a donkey ride but will pass on second thought *Giggles*

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Lamu’s narrow streets and alleys make it a little tricky to navigate through. You are sharing the tiny space with fellow humans of Lamu and donkey riders. After a few mishaps we deduce that the only dangerous thing to watch out for in Lamu are the donkeys and their riders, who most times spread out their legs wide apart while riding. This can easily take up all the space on the alleys to squeeze you or instantly take you down.

For the next couple of days we dine like Kings and Queens at Lamu’s famed Swahili restaurants like Seafront, La Banda and Mangrove. Most of which always have fresh fish as catch of the day. The Fish Biryani at Seafront was so delicious I would fly all the way to Lamu just to eat it. The street food like Mshikaki and Swahili Pizza was too good. From Samaki wa Kupakwa, Coconut Fish, Pilau, Prawn Cocktail, Fish Samosas and their version of Matoke in peanut sauce to breakfast delights like Katlesi, Kitumbua, Kebabu and lots of other sweet things – I highly recommend Lamu if you want a proper show off of a traditional Swahili meal. The temperature in Lamu during our stay is always at about 30°C so their fresh juices like Tamarind and Lime in Paw Paw or Mango are delightful!

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Lamu people are friendly, patient and calm. Of course there are exceptions, you meet a few rude island boys demanding for tips or taunting you in show of unnecessary supremacy or some sort of seniority. Generally Lamu people are pleasant because you won’t walk down a street or alley and not have at least six people say “Jambo” and “Welcome to Lamu” to you. Some will even go ahead and ask you if you’re enjoying your time. They are also patient because of their main economic activity in the area – Fishing. To be a fisherman – you have to be patient and to be the ones relying on the Fish you have to treat the fishermen with tolerance. Like life’s up and downs – there are days when a fisherman gets nothing, and then on some they catch a whole wheelbarrow full. Regardless, on all these days, a fisherman has to consistently put in the same measure of hope, and precision in his endeavor and flair of casting the net or guessing on where the fish might be across seasons.

I admire that quality in the people of Lamu. It reflects in their societal set up. Old men sit down at popular corners in town to talk, quietly on issues. They will wave at you when you are passing because they know tourists when they see them. Boat captains and riders will wait for you for as long as you want to prepare into the boat, unlike impatient matatu touts who will throw you in or out of a moving mat if they have to.

There are no rough and loud political street meetings like in Nairobi. There are no matatus hooting, no traffic, no pollution, no touts yelling out, no sirens, no police waiting to harass you on the road, no fake Swahili Food restaurants, no AlcoBlow – you can just eat, drink up to the brim and walk home happily. As we did.

More blog posts on my recent travels coming up soon …

Hustle, Gratitude and Love – Reflections on 2016

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Picture by Cheka Photography

A quick review of my 2016 and all I see is the hustle, reward and gratitude. At the start of the year, I promised to challenge myself and test my limits. Pegged on high hopes and aspirations, I started my year with high expectations unbeknownst to the challenges that would befall me. The hustle was real and PR game strong, making the result invaluable in an extremely difficult path to tread. Let me break it down.

Securing all the media partnerships and managing PR and communication for Sauti Sol’s Live and Die in Afrika Tour – Kenya’s most successful nationwide tour in record – was no joke. If I had known how difficult that task and job was going to be – I might have reconsidered. I almost lost my mind – being on tour for about six weeks back to back from town to town, catching up on media partners, local stations, reports, press conferences, press releases et al. At the end of it, we garnered record numbers reaching out to a majority of campus students but most importantly – we set the pace for Kenyan music entertainment. Thank you Radio Africa, Nation Media, HBR, Urban Radio (Kisumu), Moi University Radio (Eldoret), Beat99 (Lagos), Hero Radio (Nakuru), Lolwe TV (Kisumu), Muuga FM and Meru TV (Meru) and any other media fraternity that partnered with us on the tour or on any one of our campaigns.

That was Feb to May. Starting July to Dec, I got into another project close to my heart – being Publicist of Coke Studio Africa for a second time on the show’s fourth season.

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The experience on the show for me is always priceless because I love African music, expression and achievement – exactly some of the pillars of the show, which promotes cross-cultural collaborations. Season 4 drew artistes from six additional African countries making the total eleven, namely: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Togo, Ghana, Cameroon, Angola and Ivory Coast. Themed Discover, the season empowered my discovery of dope music from other parts of Africa, and for me – the feeling of learning and discovering at work just keeps me alive. Finally meeting and working with artistes I have adored in the past was also another highlight. In total I worked with over 30 of Africa’s leading music talent and an international guest star (Trey Songz). It was difficult to keep concentration at work sometimes, I mean how can you while you’re sitting next to Trey Songz and all the superstars you see on MTV on a daily basis like Stonebwoy, Falz, Maphorisa and Toofan? At times had to just work from home to ensure that I’ve locked down my deadlines during the day then get into the studio in the evening as our work hours usually extended till midnight during the recording period.

I wrote about Meeting and Working with Trey Songz: Part I

Being Editor and writer of cokestudioafrica.com blog was fun too! Here are some of my favourite articles so far:

The Different Faces of Falz

Flavour on his illustrious musical career

Yamoto Band on Fame and Fortune

Henok Mehari on the legend of the Mehari Brothers

‘Coke Studio is a lifestyle’: Madtraxx on Producer Speak

Joh Makini on uniting Africa

Travel and tour was generally more local and a tad minimal internationally-speaking. Our office holiday in Diani at Swahili Beach was dope 🙂 The party during my return to Diani with Tomas was bomb, inspiring a mission to explore club cultures across cities. We just need the time and money for this! 🙂

Sauti Sol’s media tour in Dar es Saalam in partnership with Clouds Entertainment was probably the sickest we’ve had in TZ yet. Thank you Kerry and B-Dozen for agreeing to partner with us and believing in my proposal.

Trip to Mombasa to see Chris Brown and Wizkid live in concert was dope! I wrote about the importance of the event and meeting Wizkid and Bebe Cool. Read Wizkid and Chris Brown Mombasa Concert: Bebe Cool State of Mind (Part I)

My trip to South Africa was like a pilgrimage. I had never been to South Africa and I knew that this year I had to go over to Jozi to attend the MAMAs (MTV Africa Music Awards) because Sauti Sol would be winning. My heart told me that after almost ten years of consistent hustle, sweat, hard work and tears – this would be Sauti Sol’s year. For that reason, nothing or no one would stop me from attending the MAMAs just to witness that moment. And then we won our first MAMA for Best Group.

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Despite the challenges and difficulty, I made it to Jozi and had the best company – Tomas! Thank you, and Maria too for keeping us company. Below are some of my stories from Jozi:

Retracing South Africa’s History: Visiting Apartheid Museum (Part I)

Visiting Mandela House: Retracing Nelson Mandela’s Soweto Home

My week in Johannesburg – 7 things to do in Jozi

Another Publicist’s dream come true was when Sauti Sol made it into E! Yes! The Kardashians E! And yes! They traveled all the way to Kenya to interview Sauti Sol. Thank you E! and Sauti Sol Style Squad for bringing it and Kempinski for hosting us.

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In May, I was offered a rare opportunity to be a mentor on Blaze Kenya, Safaricom’s mentorship initiative. It was an honour for me as mentoring has always been close to my heart because I honestly owe my key career lessons to my first mentors who were producers at BBC and KBC. When I was younger I kept changing my mind on professions I wanted to take up severally, up until I settled on journalism last minute right before completing high school. If I had known professionals, ladies especially, who had excelled in other non-traditional or artsy careers then I would have benefitted from their mentorship or example because it was hard to be different and be the best in what you only envision in your mind. While the on-boarding process was a nightmare, the intense personal training for mentors provided me with invaluable Life Lessons on: how to package myself as an individual or brand and how to tell my story and be a public speaker. I had a ball mentoring at the Journalism Pod alongside Patricia Kihoro, Tamima Ibrahim, Nick Mutuma and Anita Nderu.

After seven good years at reporting, hosting and producing on TV I quit my TV job at Grapevine KBC in September because I was tired of doing the same thing or being asked by people why I haven’t moved the show to another station. What value is there in doing the same shit on a different day and place? I want to be different and will only take opportunities that embody that and additionally challenge me to learn and be better.

I wrote about leaving Grapevine – read Looking Beyond: A Tribute to Grapevine TV Show

For a long time I have loved the style and ethic of Not Just Ok – Nigeria’s No. 1 Music site, so it was serendipity when its founder approached me to Head their new East African site: link to site (it’s pretty new, we haven’t even announced yet but will do soon). In the mean time, submit quality East African music content to anyiko@notjustok.com

In November I got a new monthly column on Yummy Magazine (Nairobi’s premiere Food & Lifestyle magazine) where I am now interviewing celebrities on Food, Drinks and their Lifestyle. First feature was Yemi Alade and second, coming out mid Jan, is Tinie Tempah.

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Despite the harsh winter season, Chrismas in Czech Republic was so beautiful I don’t even have words to describe it – still grappling over other to-be-posted blogs.

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In the mean time, some stories from Czech below:

My week in Prague – First time in Czech Republic

A Czech Christmas on 24th December

Some of my other highlights included being featured by DRUM Magazine, I blogged about it. Read Yaaay! Finally Got Interviewed by DRUM Magazine (April 2016) Others included running PR with my Anyiko PR Team (they were amazing) for Sweden@Kenya project by the Embassy of Sweden, together with the Kenyan Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, as well as the Swedish Institute. I am proud of a Sweden@Kenya Op-Ed written by the project’s team that I orchestrated and was published by Daily Nation. Read – Why we must prioritize the creative sector

Somewhere in between – I found love. It’s just great to be in an equal, respectful and symbiotic relationship. It’s rare to find someone who cares so much that they will be tough on you and at the same time challenge you to be better because they believe in you and see your potential. In the recent past I have craved for meaningful relationships and being in one now makes me want to be better. It makes me feel like I have not only come of age but I am deserving, and that inversely empowers my self-esteem, and longstanding slogan – that ‘I am enough’—inspired by Susan Omeara, a powerful editor and woman who also played a part in mentoring me.

In 2017 I just don’t want mediocrity. I also don’t want to ask for much because 2016 rained torrents. I want to be in even more meaningful relationships cutting across work, friendships and alliances. I want to find more time to read the books I love and complete the political jargon that I’ve been reading since I can remember. I want to write more on arts and culture for mainstream paper, discover more music and write on the same, get back to TV or producing content and then travel back to West Africa.

Thank you to those who gave me a chance and opportunity and held my hand in times of need. To those who inspired me when I really needed it – thank you too. Those who were tough on me – thank you too because you made me tough and work harder. As always I am open to learning and becoming better.

Wish you all a great 2017!

Top Videos of 2016: Anyiko’s Select 10

Africa’s top video directors deliver befitting videos and stunning creative direction, once again this year. First highlighting the unknown first-timers who delivered Sauti Sol’s most unlikely hit video, kindly re-watch as I break it down:

  1. Kuliko Jana – Sauti Sol & Redfourth Chorus (Directors: Timothy Mwaura & Joash Omondi of FullfilmENT Company)

This is the most unique music video dropped by a top African pop artiste this decade. In the black and white video, set exactly ten years after high school, Sauti Sol re-record the original Kuliko Jana with Redfourth Chorus (student choir at their former high school – Upper Hill) to create a beautiful a cappella song, displaying the originality of Sauti’s harmonious and melodic background. It was the magic of the serendipitous reunion fused with first-time video directors Tim and Joash that produced another classic from Africa’s Best Group. The directors do an excellent job in creating minimalistic transitions and lighting effects that let the song’s message and simplicity reign supreme.

2. Daddy Yo – Wizkid (Director: Starboy Entertainment)

It’s been exactly a year since Wizkid dropped his last official music video – Final (Baba Nla). A million YouTube views in one week – Daddy Yo is another Wizkid hit featuring Starboy signee Ghanaian singer Efya who holds it down on the hook. Producer Mutay (Legendury Beatz) samples that raggatone vibe of Gasolina in the song reminding us why old is gold. The video’s choice of dancers and choreography is 100% straight fire. I read some comments on YouTube questioning Wizkid’s lyrics – c’mon guys we all know what this song is made for – dance – period!

3. Kom Kom – Yemi Alade x Flavour (Director: Clarence Peters)

I have always loved Yemi Alade’s eclectic expression and how it pans out in music videos. Last year, I added her Paul Gambit produced Sugar in my list of Top 10 Videos of 2016. From the colourful set props to the white and gold themed scenes – Clarence Peters delivers a visual delicacy. I also loved Yemi and Flavour’s traditional attire in the video, too cute!

4. If I start to talk – Tiwa Savage x Dr Sid. (Director: Clarence Peters)

If I Start to Talk video shot by Clarence Peters gives the already full of life song new life. The song tackles life’s everyday ironic twists or misfortunes, declaring that at times only true blessings can trump the world’s evil – a situation the video cleverly portrays in a deep artistic way. Watch again – the men in masks, the nude couple lying on the floor next to empty bottles or the paradoxical two-way image of a sad street lady who seems happier dressed like a rich woman. What could these situations insinuate? Try watch this video without audio – it’s just perfect. Definitely my very best of 2016! Congrats Tiwa! Always winning!

 5. Kontrol – Maleek Berry (Director: JM Films)

Kontrol is just a cool and simple video thanks to its eclectic and radiant creative direction. I love its colours, the strawberries, pineapples, swimsuits and hot babes!  I think JM Films capture Maleek Berry’s cool quite collectively because it radiates out. As we finally put a face to Maleekberry’s name and beats, it’s fun to watch him take control of his image in the video, where he also shows off some cool dance moves.

 6. Niroge – Vanessa Mdee (Director: Justin Campos)

Justin Campos literally makes a movie in the video of Niroge starring Vee Money. The Tanzanian diva isn’t celebrated as an African style icon for no reason and I am glad that this video is a true testament to her reputation. The style direction and dance choreography in the Nahreel – produced song makes Niroge’s video one of Vanessa’s very best if not Africa’s top of the pops.

7. Soldier – Falz & Simi (Director: Clarence Peters)

We don’t hear songs on the love lives of soldiers everyday. Nobody sings about the hustle of dating a soldier or policeman but Falz does. The short musical film featuring Simi shot by Clarence Peters is brilliant! I applaud Falz’s 14-minute effort that sets the pace for African artistes. I am sure others might have done this before but very few have been on point while maintaining the delicate balance between a song’s message versus the authenticity and originality of the artiste.

Earlier this year, I posted Falz – Soldier Full Length Movie feat. Simi (Music Review)

8. Oya Come Make We Go – 2Baba x Sauti Sol (Director: Unlimited L.A.)

If you ask 2baba and Sauti Sol individually what they think of each other they will gloat over how much they are fans of one another. The fan-of-a-fan collaboration brings out good chemistry between 2Baba and Sauti Sol presenting an inspiring joint debut. Congrats to Tom Olango who wrote the script for the storyline of the video directed by Unlimited L.A.

9. Kabulengane – Bebe Cool (Director: Hanex Touch)

Bebe Cool has always been authentic and Kabulengane is a perfect Ugandan song to show that. From the waist whining of the colourful pop dancers, to the traditional waist-shakers, director Hanex does justice to one of Bebe’s best recent releases!

10. Feel Good – Navy Kenzo (Director: Justin Campos)

What a great year Tanzanian duo Aika and Nahreel just had? Just a month before releasing their debut album Above in a Minute (AIM), Justin Campos delivers another Navy Kenzo pop video. It’s this couple’s cool and youthful look and feel that inspires us all to also aim high. Justin you’ve done such a great job this year! Navy Kenzo – I love you!

Top Albums and EPs of 2016: Anyiko’s Select 10

15824179_10154624664362559_1171839996_o2016 put a funky twist to African albums and EPs, delivering highly anticipated music projects from artistes like Maleek Berry, Victoria Kimani, Nasty C and Patoranking. Special mentions go to Davido’s Son of Mercy, Burna Boy’s Redemption and Victoria Kimani’s Safari. Here’s a list of Africa’s most important 10 music projects from 2016– in no particular order.

  1. Africa (The Diary of an African Woman) – Yemi Alade (Nigeria)

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In the album Africa, reigning Best Female artiste in Africa, Yemi Alade, delivers stellar collaborations and features including the song “Tonight” with Nigerian icons P-Square. The 15-track album includes certified hits like “Koffi Anan”, “Do as I Do” featuring DJ Arafat, the ode to our continent, “Africa”, with Sauti Sol, the original “Nagode” with Selebobo and “Kom Kom” with Flavour. In 2015, I wrote about why Yemi Alade is indeed the King of Queens in the article: Top Music Videos of 2015. 2016 has however been a redefining year for Yemi Alade thanks to an impressive mix of her tour schedule, performances and prolific hit releases – automatically unveiling her kingly traits. Power to the East African regalia on the original cover Yemi!

2. Bad Hair Extensions – Nasty C (South Africa)

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At only 19 years old, Nasty C has hustled round the food chain to become one of South Africa’s most respected rappers. Releasing his debut album: Bad Hair Extensions (BHE) and clinching Best Newcomer award at the South African Hip Hop Awards has made this year one of the most important in his music career so far. In BHE, Nasty enlists heavyweights: French Montana and Cassper Nyovest while introducing us to new cats like Telleman, Tshego and Eric Rush. The lyrical content cuts across themes like party, hoes, snap chat, and a mature warning to keep off drugs in “Don’t Do It”. My favourites in the album include “Uok”, “Forget” and “Hell Naw” – that made it in my list of Top Songs of 2016 . This is truly the best hip hop/rap album straight out of Africa this year! Congrats Nasty C – future SA rap King!

3. God Over Everything – Patoranking (Nigeria)

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We know that Patoranking is a hit maker thanks to “My Woman My Everything”, “Make Am” and “Girlie O”. He doesn’t disappoint in GOE, delivering bangers like “This Kind Luv” featuring Wizkid, “Mama Aboyo” featuring Olamide, “Killing Me”, “No Kissing Baby” (featured in top songs of 2016) and the remix of “Daniella Whine” featuring Elephant Man and Konshens – wish we could get a video for this! Upon releasing the album, Patoranking embarked on a tour across East Africa to promote the album. A lot of artistes underestimate PR and marketing or just don’t want to hustle for their fans so I really appreciated this. The hidden treasure of this 16-track album is “Forever”. What’s more? The album cuts across reggae, dancehall and afro beats genres.

4. The Chosen – Navio (Uganda)

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A respected king on the East African hip hop front, Navio owns the crown on his fourth studio album – The Chosen flaunting high-profile features including The Mith, Mr. Blue, Khuli Chana, AKA and Ice Prince. I love all 16 songs! If I had to choose a few it would have to be “Throne” feat King Kaka, “Gbisele” feat Burna Boy, “To The Top” feat Charlie King, “You Want” with The Mith and of course “Rider”. Navio and Keko rhymes and chemistry on “Crazy” is like Fat Joe and Remy Ma on All the Way up – too legit! Navio is probably the most hardworking, down to earth and realest peeps I’ve met and worked with on a project. It was a pleasure to run PR for the Kenyan release of The Chosen earlier this year. Navio already talked to me about his upcoming album – talk about futuristic VIEWS. “My next album will be all conscious music,” adding on The Chosen – “I decided to make this an unapologetic snapshot into my feeling right now. It’s the raw Navio of old.”

5. Last Summer of Summer Daze: EP – Maleek Berry (Nigeria/UK)

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Killer producer Maleek Berry gets it right on his debut solo music project. Last Daze of Summer: EP features none of the mega superstars he has been engineering in the past. We’re talking Wizkid, Runtown, Wande Coal and Yemi Alade, among others. It’s a big shoe to wear when fans are expecting you to show your friends on your EP but you only show up almost solo. But Maleek fits into his own so well! There are only six songs so you must hear them all and trust me – they are all treasures! “Kontrol” is a freaky sexy song – my boyfriend and I love it and the video (getting a shout in my Top 10 Music Videos of 2016 post). From a glance, this is the best musical piece I experienced in 2016 – thank you Maleek Berry.

6. We Cut Keys While You Wait – Blinky Bill (Kenya)

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Don’t you just love when your friends shine? Been friends with Blinky Bill for a long time and I know just how much talented he is of a singer, producer and artist of the world. Breaking off from Just a Band to concentrate on his solo career gifted us his debut EP earlier than most fans thought it would land. Featuring Maia Von Lekow, Shappa Man and Sage, Blinky displays his awesomeness while showing off his friends whom he likes to call ‘Key Cutters’ in just six tracks. I’ve had a favourite song in the EP every time I pop it in so today I pick “Don’t Doubt Me” with Maia as the treasure and still hold “Wacha Maneno” as the ultimate party starter! Hello 2017, I am now ready for a Blinky album.

7. Black Boy EP – DJ Maphorisa (South Africa)

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2016 was undoubtedly one of DJ Maphorisa’s best years in his music career. He had a hand in Drake’s “One Dance”—the top iTunes track of 2016 and Grammy-award nominated global hit featuring Wizkid and Kyla. Maphorisa also produced Trey Songz and a slew of top African artistes on Coke Studio Africa season 4. At the peak of his career as a producer, he dropped Black Boy EP. The EP’s treasure is Maphorisa’s careful selection of features including Vee Money, Ycee, Emtee and Maggz, and its production flow and genre – rap/hip hop, not kwaito or afro beats as you might have expected. Maphorisa – congrats on great year and cheers to many more!

I blogged about Blinky, Maphorisa and Maleek – When 3 Producers Drop 3 Dope EPs

8. Chemistry – Falz x Simi (Nigeria)

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I love Falz and Simi so much – they will be my celebrity dream couple for a long time. Did you see their EP’s photo shoot pics? So sweet and the cover pic is just fire! The two have natural chemistry since “Jamb Question” days so the EP’s title doesn’t come as a surprise. There is a subtle sensuality that the two share on Chemistry – exactly what ticks Simi and Falz fans. I love “Foreign”, “Want You”, “Enough”, “Show You Pepper” and the authentically traditional vibes of “Shake Your Body”. I’ve already mentioned six in the 7-tracked EP lol. Musically speaking, 2016 was great to both Falz and Simi, and for me too! Got to meet and work with them on Coke Studio Africa season 4. Falz and Simi are in my list of African artistes to watch it 2017.

Last year I added Falz’s Stories that Touch in my Top Albums of 2015

9. Stella Mwangi– Stella Mwangi (Kenya/Norway)

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Stella Mwangi has always been a bad girl and very aware of her power. In her eponymous music project, she attests to newly found self-realization, saying, “I am just in a playful mood dancing around the fact that I’m a grown girl and I can now do what I want when I want. I’m just being a bit cocky and funny at the same time.” True to her words, you will find that a song like “Murda Dem” is a certified rap, reggae, dancehall and hip hop jam while still a juggler of rhymes, beats and witty diss to dem haters. Norwegian producers: BIG CITY in collaboration with choicetracks.com & positionmusic.com have delivered six  banging tracks. “Big Girl” and “Work” battle it out for my baddest and biggest beats! Play it loud! Guess I am also a big girl to have run the PR for Stella Mwangi EP in Africa this year 🙂 Was an honour!

10. Strides – Keko (Uganda)

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If you love pop music and some rap too – Strides is for you! Uganda femcee Keko is badass, quite literally. She always leaves an impression. I love the attitude with which she spits in every track and that she knows how to balance her hard-spitting bars with dance/pop music. Just like Navio’s versatile style, she raps in English, Swahili and Ugandan dialects. “Naughty” and “Move Your Body” are serious treasures and perfect for partying! The 11-track album features no collaborations: talk about some J – Cole boss moves.

Top Songs of 2016 – Anyiko’s Top 10

img_0128As 2016 comes to an end, I am happy to reflect on some of the songs that collectively made my soundtrack this year. There are countless songs including Let Me – Usher, Koffi Anan – Yemi Alade, Feeling it – Mayonde x Blinky x MDQ, Coolest Kid in Africa – Davido and Maga 2 Mugu – Davido & Simi – that unfortunately couldn’t fit in this post but deserve a special mention all the same. In no particular order – now let’s get into the 10 songs that made a mark and why:

1. Mungu Pekee (Nyashinski) and Bazokizo (Collo x Bruz Newton) – Kenya

Nyashinski and Collo are two of the three members of Klelptomaniax, now defunct Kenyan music group, who shot to fame in 2000s, leaving behind classics like Tuendelee, among Kenya’s most important rap songs of all time. In 2016, Nyashinski relocated back to Kenya from USA where he stayed during the group’s hiatus, only to concentrate only on his solo career.

Collo on the other hand also makes a strong comeback in Bazokizo, sparking a dance movement while addressing fans on his renewed spirituality and outlook. Both Nyash and Collo’s lyrical delivery and rap skill in the songs is hands down their solo magnum opus so far. Shout out to Kenyan producer Cedo for engineering Mungu Pekee, with the assistance of Fancyfingers.

  1. Omo Alhaji (Ycee) – Nigeria

In 2015, Ycee had one of the biggest songs in Nigeria – Jagaban, which I wrote about in Top Songs of 2015: Anyiko’s Select 10. Pundits obviously doubted that he’d make a come back this year but Ycee did it big with the release of Omo Alhaji –a slower tempo to Jagaban but a certified hit all the same. It’s Ycee’s style that I can’t get over. It doesn’t get cooler than an Agbada-dressed Ycee dabbing in his lazy slur-ish delivery in Omo Alhaji audio and video. At the close of 2015, I promised myself that I would have to meet and work with Ycee on his PR. Happy to have achieved that in 2016. Ycee’s debut EP: THE FIRST WAVE was supposed to be released in 2016.

  1. Moyo Mashine (Ben Pol) – Tanzania

Easily the sweetest and deepest lyrics I’ve heard all year. That paired with Ben Pol’s butter voice is best described in Swahili as – Sauti ya kutoa nyoka pangoni. Written and produced by Tanzanian maestro, Lollipop, the poetic value of this song alone is priceless. The song champions the heart’s magnificent motor-like love machine, that won’t stop running or feeling, even if unrequited or literally misunderstood 🙂 This is why Ben Pol is Tanzania’s king of R&B.

  1. Soweto Baby (DJ Maphorisa feat. Wizkid and DJ Buckz) – South Africa x Nigeria

DJ Maphorisa has over the years worked hard to establish himself as a goliath in African music production but 2016 was a year of establishing himself as a solo artiste in his own right. Together with long-term collaborator DJ Buckz and ally Wizkid, we can deduce that the trio delivered Africa’s top song of 2016 with Soweto Baby – a song that united South and West Africa, cutting across East and other parts with that feel-good Maphorisa beat marinated in some of that Wizkid’s star boy magic.

  1. Hell Naw (Nasty C) – South Africa

Hell Naw is a single off the debut album of future king of South African Rap – Nasty C. The song was a big hit in South Africa this year, making me give Nasty C the full attention he deserves. From lyrics to beats, Hell Naw is definitely the best trap song produced in Africa by an African so far. Seeing him perform it live at the 2016 MAMAs was also so dope! But why is the video of Hell Naw not even at 200,000 views on YouTube at the point of drafting this post? South Africans – you need to start cultivating a culture of watching videos on YouTube even if your internet isn’t the fastest in the world.

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  1. Wabe (Gabu x Frasha) and Gudi Gudi (Naiboi x Everlast x Kristoff)

The two biggest Kenyan club bangers of 2016 – you couldn’t throw a Kenyan party and miss to play Wabe and Gudi Gudi! Gabu and Frasha shut down rumours that we’d never see a P-Unit reunion with Wabe – a ragga/kapuka banger produced by the legendary Musyoka.

Gudi Gudi on the other hand is Pacho Entertainment’s best production yet, bringing together Rap Damu, now going by Naiboi, with Everlast and Kristoff. Usually in songs with lots of collaborators, someone somewhere drops the ball but in Gudi Gudi EVERYONE delivers. I wish I did PR for this song we could have had a chance of taking over Africa with this one. In both songs, the vibe lyrical flow and delivery is at 100% Very impressive!

  1. Pana (Tekno) – Nigeria

Many thought that Tekno had made his biggest hits with the 2015 songs: Duro and Wash but 2016 came with an unlikely hit song Pana. From its unusual tempo to an artistic video, there is no pointing at why we all really love the song. As we ponder into 2017, it’s clear that Pana has joined Wizkid’s 2014 Ojuelegba in the list of pioneers of mid-tempo hit songs. What a great year Tekno had – congrats!

  1. No Kissing Baby (Patoranking and Sarkodie) – Nigeria and Ghana

It was an unlikely collaboration between Ghanaian rap king Sarkodie, also the biggest non-Nigerian artiste inside Nigeria, and Dancehall king Patoranking, as hit maker Pato hadn’t particularly had a massive song with a rap element. Thankfully he didn’t have to change his afro beats and high life element to fit No Kissing Baby as King Sark went on to show the world why he isn’t just one of the most respected African rappers but also the most tactful in adapting to new artistes and genres.

  1. Ngud’ (Kwesta and Cassper Nyovest) – South Africa

To get into the feel good vibes of Ngud’ you certainly don’t have to understand Xhosa or South African Kwaito and Kasi Rap genres. This was a well thought out collaboration. Sampling the vocal range of both rappers on a track is as sharp as a slice of hot iron in Alaska ice. Ngud’ authentically represents the hidden treasure that is South African hip hop.

  1. Mad Over You (Runtown) – Nigeria

I can only describe Mad Over You as a close relative of Pana and another show for how dope and original Runtown is. Just like Pana, there is no pointing at why I really love the song but I hope that like Pana emancipated Tekno from his almost-breaking-through status to a certified African superstar in 2016 – in 2017 Mad over You will finally help rid Runtown from the list of Africa’s most underrated artistes.

A Czech Christmas on 24th December

IMG_0429.JPGThis is the first time that I am spending Christmas away from Kenya and with a new family.

It’s even more interesting to me that the most important Czech Christmas celebration is marked on 24th of December and not 25th like in most countries around the world. This is mainly because they believe that Baby Jesus was actually born on Christmas Eve making it the most important day of Christmas celebrations, making 25th a celebration of his birthday – also a symbolic holiday here.

Now to dig into the history of Jesus birthday – the earliest source stating 25th as the birth day was by Hippolytus of Rome (170-236) – the most important 3rd-century theologian in the Christian Church in Rome. This was based on the assumption that the conception of Jesus took place at spring equinox which he placed on March 25th but could have been on any twenty-something date. In addition, there is historical evidence that by the middle of the 4th century the Christian churches of the East celebrated the birth and baptism of Jesus on January 6th while those in the West celebrated a nativity feast on December 25th (said to have been influenced by winter solstice). Depending on their hemispherical location, there are also some countries that mark Christmas celebrations in July. In summary, Jesus could have actually not have been born on 25th December but the day ended up to be the most convenient and most universally accepted day to celebrate.

Back to our Czech Christmas on 24th December …

On Christmas Eve we woke up early and started wrapping Christmas gifts. I just hadn’t done this for at least ten years. Wonder what happened to the culture we had at home when I was younger. There is a Czech Christmas tradition where some people fast throughout Christmas Eve in the hope that they will see a vision of a golden pig that should appear on the wall before dinner. Meant to be a sign of good luck, I had slept the previous night promising myself that I would fast all day but when I woke up to the smell of a freshly baked Christmas pastries, I just threw that fasting pact out of the window. For Christmas Brunch we had Vánočka, tea and coffee. Vánočka can be loosely translated in English as Christmas Loaf and is another special Czech delicacy only made during the Christmas Celebrations. It was warm, fresh off the oven and had a rich taste. Loved the nuts and fruits!

For Christmas Lunch we had Staročeský Kuba, an old traditional meat-free Czech recipe, made in groats (oat, wheat, rye and barley) with mushrooms. I read somewhere that some families that had fasting individuals waiting to see the golden pig would still eat Kuba as an exception and it was befitting as its cheap and simple to make, making it the perfect Christmas dish for families from all walks of life. Kuba is yummy dish for me because of the mushrooms – which Czechs have a thing for. They are big in mushrooms cuisine and gathering the same in the forests. I have always loved mushrooms and appreciate a people who know how yummy a mushroom can be.

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Before Christmas Dinner started we said grace. We first had traditional Fish Soup (made of carp), and fried Fish (Zander and Perch) paired in the yummiest potato salad I’ve ever had. It had Pickle Sauce and Lemon. After that David (Tomas’ brother) played the piano as we [I tried 🙂 ] sang some Czech Christmas Carols.

After dinner, Christmas gifts are taken down to sit by the Christmas tree. So we took them down and this was followed by the most serious gift ceremony I’ve ever attended. We all sat around and David handed over gifts to individuals, one by one, after which each person would open theirs and the person who gifted them would explain why they got them that gift or some piece of useful information. It was bomb!

In summary, I am more than impressed at how Czechs have stayed true and strict to their Christmas celebrations – that first they continue to mark it on the 24th of December and second – eat the same exact dishes over time immemorial. Tomas informs me that the same Christmas dinner is had across ALL households and only had once a year – during Christmas celebrations and is not something you can even order at a restaurant on a normal day. They want to know how we spend Christmas in Kenya and I explain that usually a goat gets slaughtered and other delicacies that may include duck and rabbit. I think for us, like for them too, spending Christmas is all about spending time with family and loved ones. I think it’s however general that Kenyans go way more ham on food – it’s always a feast like a wedding or funeral would be.

So how does it feel to celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December? Pretty much the same as the spirit and intention is the same and it almost always feels the same from 24th all the way to Boxing Day. I am happy to taste some different culture and spend it with really loving and awesome people. I just missed being dirty in the village doing weird chores – you know how it gets at shagz. Veselé Vánoce from wherever you are reading this! Enjoy your holidays!

BONUS: I found a dope site that documents how different countries mark Christmas: Here is it – thank me later

My week in Prague – First time in Czech Republic

img_0371I’ve had a lot about Czech Republic, from Sauti Sol who played at Czech’s Colours of Ostrava Festival a couple of years ago right before Janelle Monae. Yeah – it was awesome! After their visit to Czech Republic, they concluded that Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and I, especially, would have to visit it because “I would really love it and its streets and many other things …”

Since then I’ve had Prague in my mind and wondered severally what would take me there. Fast forward to a few years later and I am in Czech for my first visit, thanks to my amazing boyfriend Tomas 🙂 who happens to be from Czech. So I am here to see his country as we spend time with family and friends over Christmas holidays, and I am loving it!

Even though I’ve been here only a week and during winter, I must say that my time in Czech has by far been the best I’ve ever had in Europe, mainly because of the purpose. All the other times I travelled to Europe was mostly for work and in between I would find time to visit friends and do things I like but I wouldn’t always have company or feel at home like I feel at the moment.

Now to the pragmatism of this being my best European trip – while here we’ve met several friends and spent time with family, for the first time making me feel like I didn’t have to be the tourist that I really am deep down. I’ve been ok to not have a plan of things I must do or see. We all know that it’s great to spend time with people and loved ones but it really is great when we find time to, and that I keep learning everyday.

While in Prague over the past week, we stayed at an apartment right next to Prague’s famous Žižkov TV Television Tower, build between 1985 and 1992, famed as one of Czech’s best high-tech architecture. We later found out that the tower has a restaurant so dining there was a to-do in our list. The Charles Bridge, Dancing House, Prague Castle, Prague’s Old Town and Old Town Square were so amazing, and among things you must do while in Prague.

img_0414Together with Tomas, we are currently traveling around Czech with his old childhood friend and his girlfriend. We embarked on a three-hour road trip from Prague to south of Czech to Český Krumlov, where we stayed at the Cesky Tower – yes a tower.

On our way to another house where we are staying (Lomy, Člunek), yesterday I had my first snow encounter in Ledenice. It is so beautiful – draping over tall Cyprus trees and painting buildings and rooftops all white. Lakes and rivers were frozen too. It’s also picturesque and just what you want to see outside the window when you wake up. At the time we stopped along the road there were even reindeers or some kind of animals crossing the road the first time we stop to take pictures. Yes!

While in Czech, I’ve also seen bigger than life size Christmas Trees. What’s more? The exact first one I saw in Plzeň (where Tomas comes from) was declared Czech’s Best Christmas tree by the international community of Christmas Trees (as Tomas says, lol), anyway we read it somewhere on Czech Press via an online survey 🙂

Can’t wait to blog more and share stories of my travel tales in Czech Republic. Most interesting thing, Christmas Day is celebrated here on the 24th, will share with you why that’s a tradition for the Czechs too.

4 Your Eyez Only – J. Cole (Album Review)

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-1-53-06-amCole is back with another boss non-collaborative album, 4 Your Eyez Only (4YEO) – his fourth studio album, released on December 9, 2016 by Dreamville Records.

First things first – just a peek at the album’s title 4 Your Eyez Only reminds me of one of the greatest hip hop albums, Tupac’s All Eyez on Me. The title is a continuation of Cole’s Forest Hills Drive (FHD) style of replacing the s with z in songs like Wet Dreamz, A Tale of 2 Citiez and Love Yourz – just like Pac.

Head bangers and hip hop bass lovers – Neighbors and Foldin Clothes are your tracks. The first is dope and second is as plain as its last lyrics go: “It’s the simple things.” I love She’s Mine, Pt. 1 and She’s Mine, Pt. 2. They both give me a vibe of FHD’s Love Yourz – I think it’s the keys and minimalism. I am a little underwhelmed and starting to accept that J. Cole albums might never get back to songs written to be hits and go mainstream. It’s cool though because we’ve seen him do it all, and succeed. The sound of a baby crying in the back of She’s Mine, Pt. 1 makes me feel like it’s tied to Lost Ones off Cole World: The Sideline Story. This stripped down duo also make me feel like the album should have been called 4 Your Ears Only.

There are reports that a Cole – Kendrick collaborative album is in the works. That would be interesting to hear as I’ve always loved Kendrick more in collabos. In the mean time, J. Cole seems to be walking down the same path with 4YEO as continuation of FHD’s non-commercial appeal. Interestingly, the double platinum FHD ended up being Cole’s most successful album yet, also the first rap album in 25 years to go platinum without any guest appearances or features.

My favourite – Déjà vu samples the instrumentals of Bryson Tyler’s Exchange. Starting 2.59, Cole’s delivery is so similar to Pac’s in How Do You Want it and other jams. It’s so freaky – if I were a DJ I would just mix the two together. No doubt J. Cole is also Makaveli’s offspring. In a 2014 interview with Steve Lobel about Pac, he said, “Pac was my favourite rapper even before I started rapping … One day my mum’s boyfriend came home with 2Pac’s album and since then, even though I was too young to connect, I could hear Pac’s early albums and feel the truth.”

BONUS: I included a J. Cole video in my Top Music Videos of 2015: Anyiko’s Select 10

When 3 Producers Drop 3 Dope EPs

2016 will go down in history as the year of dope EPs, from Davido’s Son of Mercy to Burna Boy’s Redemption. However it was the silent producers behind some of our beloved hit songs from our favourite artistes who ruled the roost. This blog post is an ode to 3 dope producers: Blinky, DJ Maphorisa and Maleekberry. It’s your turn to shine!

1.We Cut Keys While You Wait (Blinky Bill) – 2016

img_9346For those who don’t reckon renowned Kenyan multi-talented artiste Blinky Bill – start to get your facts. He’s a founding member of Kenya’s most successful house/funk/disco band Just-A-Band (JAB). Alongside former JAB member Jim Chuchu, he produced almost, if not all, of JAB’s discography, and the albums: Sorry for the Delay, 82 and Scratch to Reveal. Last year, JAB announced a break – a move that broke the hearts of many JAB fans (including me). Fear as to what will happen to their legacy is now a thing of the past as the group has since cemented it all in writing through the launch of their own book cleverly titled Just A Book. Blinky’s EP We Cut Keys While You Wait dropped in August. With features, Blinky likes to call key cutters, including former Camp Mulla rapper ShappaMan, soulful daughter of legendary singer Sal Davis – Maia Von Lekow, the most underrated Kenyan power vocalist Sage and JAB member Nairobidhobi – this is solid backing into his solo entrant into the game. It’s electronic, sometimes reminiscent of JAB but mostly fun, melodious and good vibes. Love them all but have to pick Wacha Maneno with ShappaMan as my stand out track.

I wrote about Why Just A Band can’t wrap things up yet.

2. Last Daze of Summer (Maleekberry) – 2016

maleek-berryMaleekberry is the genius feel-good Nigerian producer responsible for producing classic tracks from some top Nigerian artistes. Among hit songs he produced include Runtown’s Lagos to Kampala and Walahi, Wizkid’s The Matter and Wande Coal’s Weekend. What most of us never knew about Maleekberry was that he is a dope artiste by his own right. In the words of Gidi Culture Festival, he’s a “a triple threat producer, singer and songwriter,” adding, “Drawing influences from his Nigerian heritage and his British staple, he has created his own sound that no doubt will add some sauce to the fast moving African music movement globally.” I always prayed that he would one day drop a solo record and so when Last Daze of Summer dropped in September, it didn’t come to me as a surprise. Apart from Eko Miami featuring Geko (please who is this?), Maleekberry doesn’t flaunt his famous friends in music in this EP by inviting them to collaborate – a show that he’s stand-alone in any situation. This afro-pop EP has a touch of Burna Boy’s inimitable style and a touch of London’s underground indie soul music movement. It’s so hard for me to choose my standout track. I’ll pick Kontrol only because of it’s video’s eclectic and radiant creative direction. As we put a face to the name and beats, you can see Maleekberry taking control of his new image, and showing off his cool dance moves.

3. Blaqboy EP (DJ Maphorisa) – 2016

img_9347DJ Maphorisa of South African music group – Uhuru has in the last couple of years proved himself to be a strong independent artiste and one of Africa’s most influential music producers. He has produced gems like Yuri da Cunha’s Atchu Tchutcha featuring himself, Mafikizolo’s Khona, Happiness and Colours of Africa. When the world thought that Maphorisa’s pan-African hit release Soweto Baby, and co-producing Drake and Wizkid’s global hit One Dance were highlights enough for this year, he went on to be a major producer on Coke Studio Africa’s fourth season before dropping his solo project – The Blaqboy EP. Featuring Africa’s new kids on the block like Tanzanian pop diva Vanessa Mdee, South Africa’s rappers Mtee and Maggz, and Nigeria’s dancehall king Patoranking and rapper YCEE – the curation of collaborators on this EP alone is a solid 100% The best thing about the EP is it doesn’t sound like what you would expect—that very heavy Kwaito beat we know Maphorisa for. This is his big return to his founding genres of hip-hop & rap, and him probably telling he world that he’s more than just some type of African sound, but a collector and emitter of talent.

Retracing South Africa’s History – Visiting Apartheid Museum (Part II)

img_8736The Apartheid Museum takes you on a journey beyond the rise and fall of apartheid. Through videos and audios among news excerpts, it displays shifts in student riots, mass uprisings, violence, extrajudicial killings, black consciousness and political activism vis-à-vis apartheid’s severity. Its documentation leads us to the point where South Africa has become a country of signs – either for blacks, whites or other ethnic groups. We’ve had many history lessons including how the ANC rose to power after devising a system of rendering the country ungovernable. Their genius plan made the then government realize that the country had become unsafe for the upper ruling class, and that they weren’t able to get rid of all people against the system. This was the turning point that led to negotiations between Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk’s government.

Retracing South Africa’s History – Visiting Apartheid Museum (Part I)

img_8735-1After the 1994 freedom pact was signed, South Africans and the world knew that apartheid was over and everyone was free. However, there were more post-freedom killings. The country was still tangled in mass violent killings.

Like colonialism, apartheid came with some benefits like industrialization and urbanization. However, these very determinants often used to weigh growing economies aren’t the only elements that matter in the building of a nation, and shouldn’t be the only tools of measuring growth and success.

Apartheid regime’s other objective was to also segregate South Africa from Africa and the world at large in consciousness. The country’s backwardness in pan-African consciousness has today birthed both physical and think tank xenophobic conflict.

Even though South Africa’s constitution today holds the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom, they still have a long way to full integration and empowerment of all races. Many times, we are too critical on South Africa’s democracy forgetting how young a liberated country they are. Like in many African countries, they too have corruption in government and within the black elite. They have been at crossroads regarding policies on land reallocation, and race integration within all suburbs, institutions and organizations. In so many ways and ideals South Africa was swayed and in so many ways the country has rebuilt itself today.

I also learn that the apartheid narrative is most times narrowed. The museum also documents different groupthinks during the apartheid regime. Some white natives were against the system. Blacks who aided it were called informers – they would be hunted and if found, circled in tires and burnt alive. A neo-nazi separatist political organization – the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) opposed apartheid laws and negotiations with ANC, proposing South Africa to become an Indie Afrikaner state.

The fact that during apartheid bi-racial relationships were a crime makes me wonder what I’d have had to do for love if I was caught up. Despite new age South Africa, Tomas and I still get strange jeers from locals, mostly construction workers along Sandton, while walking down the streets. Even though we don’t comprehend what they are saying, we know that it has something to do with us being a bi-racial couple. From Rosebank, Soweto to downtown – we travel around Johannesburg, and this only happens in Sandton, an upper class area. In a full week, we also only see one other bi-racial couple. I am just happy that I visited South Africa at a good time and could be free in Jozi with the man of my choice – and it wasn’t a crime.

BONUS: Next blog post is on Nelson Mandela’s Exhibition at the Apartheid Museum

You might enjoy reading my popular blogs on museums:

1. A mystery into Lord Egerton’s Castle

2. Visiting the Louvre – Viewing The Monalisa

Retracing South Africa’s History: Visiting Apartheid Museum (Part I)

fullsizerender-1On a fine Tuesday, I arrive at South Africa’s Apartheid Museum, situated in Johannesburg’s Northern Park Way and Gold Reed Road at The Complex at about 10.30 a.m. Picture taking at the museum isn’t allowed – bummer for the journalist in me. I am sure I will be writing a lot of notes and sneaking some pictures here and there. Opened in 2001, the museum digs deep into South Africa’s history and the apartheid regime (1948 – 1994), and how it exalted segregation and white minority rule.

Apartheid is a system of segregation or discrimination from certain rights, associations and movements on grounds of race (white persons, black persons and other non-white people and ethnic groups).

Accompanied by Tomas—our tickets indicate that we should enter the museum using the entrance marked either for Blacks or Whites. Even though I am black I enter the white section because of my white card and vice versa for Tomas. As we enter, we find ourselves walking down corridors plastered with olden identification cards of white persons on the Whites side and pass books of black persons on the Blacks sides. This is Classification – apartheid’s premiere foundation, and my first lesson at the museum. During the regime, all black people over the age of 16 were required to carry passes. No black person could stay in an urban area more than 72 hours unless allowed. The law stipulated where, when, and for how long a person could stay at certain areas. As we walk down the corridors, separated from each other by wire meshes, I feel as if we are in incarceration. The separation is a test of being segregated from one another. It’s an inconvenience – we can’t even compare and contrast notes at this point.

After the Classification section, we gladly reunite on the way into another section of the museum. At the ramps, we pass by mirrored pillars plastered with images of people (mostly white immigrants). This area reenacts the pilgrimage into young Jozi that was known as Egoli – the place of gold. By 1886, gold discovery had made Egoli the Mecca of southern Africa, attracting traders, westerners and people of all races, making it at one point the African country that had the most racially varied inhabitants – many of whom would later find a home in South Africa.

Through rooms designed as exhibition halls, prison or detention rooms– the museum transports us back into the past, documenting how, through enforced legislation by the then National Party and its propagandist ideals, apartheid divided the nation. Among several classic themed films, we watch one documenting the contribution black workers at the mines made to the gold trade. As the trade improved South Africa’s overall economy and industrialization, the lives of poor black workers, drilled by the system, dilapidated.

My powerful encounters with the museum include passing through the documentation of black deterioration – lack of education, poverty and hunger. The rooms documenting political killings freak me out with their ceilings garnished in loose hanging suicide ropes – as an enactment of the then government’s scapegoat in explanation of sudden deaths. Government claimed that most political activists either hanged themselves or died of natural causes if not accidents. At this section there are lists of over forty political activists killed, and a documentation of their ideologies. They include Ahmed Timol, Neil Aggett and Andrew Zondo. I particularly love Biko’s anti-apartheid approach of using black consciousness to empower and mobilize the urban black population. I also purchase his self-written memoir at the museum’s bookshop.

Of South Africa’s history, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission section has always been hard for me. There is a room that shows actual videos from the sessions. I can’t stay too long in here. I am unable to watch men expound on their acts of gross human violations – explaining how they would torture others till they either opened up or succumbed. The life lesson here is that to move on and forgive, you must first be open to knowing the truth …

Retracing South Africa’s History – Visiting Apartheid Museum (Part II)

Visiting Mandela House: Retracing Nelson Mandela’s Soweto Home

img_8768I have ardently followed Nelson Mandela’s history from an early age. I remember that as a little girl I wondered what Nelson Mandela had to do to be so respected across the world, and become a whole country’s saviour and arbitrator. When the Nelson Mandela movies started coming out, I was even more enthralled by his legend. I still wonder what sort of man could have had such a strong will to persevere, fight and succeed, and at the same time have such a big forgiving heart. I always knew that if I found myself in South Africa I would have to visit Nelson Mandela’s first home – today known as The Mandela House or The Mandela House Museum. It’s the first place I ask how far it is, as soon as we arrive at O.R. Tambo international airport.

On a fine Tuesday morning, Tomas and I set off to retrace Nelson Mandela’s roots. We first visit the Apartheid museum (blogging about this next), which has an entire section dedicated to Nelson Mandela. However, I can’t wait to get to Soweto (South Western Townships). On our way, I am having thoughts of all the South African movies I’ve watched in the past, which were either biopics of Nelson Mandela, or reenacted and touched on the topic of Soweto’s infamous uprising. They included Safarina, Long Walk to Freedom and Cry Freedom.

As we pass by two of South Africa’s biggest stadiums, our Uber driver mutters, “This is where we held the World Cup.” It’s obvious that FNB Stadium’s grandiose architecture, and South Africa’s feat as the first African country to host the World Cup is another focal point of their national pride. We also get to see Orlando stadium, where South African rapper Cassper Nyovest recently filled in concert.

South Africa’s infrastructure is quite impressive! Even the road to Soweto is well tarmacked. It’s about thirty minutes drive to Soweto from Northern Park Way, where the other museum is situated. When I finally see signs leading us to Soweto, I start to wonder how far street rioters would have to walk to get to Johannesburg back in the day … Looking into the horizon I see that we are approaching a blanket of small houses packed alongside each other. At the traffic stops, we start to see caracaras (their matatus), and boys in the hood walking in between the roads, some hawking paraphernalia and others just idling. “Are we in Soweto?” I ask the driver. “Yes – ma’am, we are,” he replies, asking, “Is this your first time here?”

I blogged about bringing together the rappers: Octopizzo (Kenya) & K.O (South Africa) in a conversation about the role of music in defining the African narrative. Read all about it.

img_8772I know we have arrived at Mandela’s House as soon as soon as we get to Vilakazi Street. It’s a beehive of activities and the mecca of tourists you’d imagine it to be. There are many street hawkers and vendors along the street, selling soda, beads and Nelson Mandela memorabilia and souvenirs—it’s so wonderful! There are also some restaurants and people’s homes right along this street.

Nelson Mandela’s house is number 8115. After paying in, I opt for us to walk around without a tour guide. I hate when I am trying to take in some piece of history and someone is busy explaining to me other things ahead of my thoughts. Nelson Mandela’s House is small and modest. It has three rooms and a tiny kitchen. In the bedroom, there is a lone well-made bed that I overhear the tour guide talking about, “This isn’t Nelson Mandela’s actual bed. He was taller. This is similar to the one his daughters would sleep in.” There is an area with an audio playing with Winnie Mandela talking about her good times, and torturous moments in this house. She was also harassed by security forces and imprisoned, severally.

Build in 1945 – this house is where Nelson Mandela lived with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase and their son, till 1958 after their divorce, after which his second wife Winnie Mandela moved in. During the years that lead up to Mandela’s 1962 sentence to life imprisonment, he lived here while actively participating in South Africa’s struggle for freedom, a situation that had him stay underground severally.

img_8761It’s special and humbling to step into what was Mandela’s personal room/study. Here are some of his beloved items and awards, neatly stored and protected only by a glass cabinet. I start to imagine how in this very room a great South African man would sit, read and write. My imagination relives how in collaboration with fellow freedom fighters and activists, the man would ponder to formulate strategies on how to set his country free. There are several letters and notes handwritten by Nelson Mandela here too. Winnie Mandela’s dope ass boots are also in the cabinet – the babe was stylish!

I interviewed legendary South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka on the role of authentic music during the Apartheid regime, and on meeting Nelson Mandela. Read: Still a Princess – Yvonne Chaka Chaka at 50

After being incarcerated at Robben Island for twenty-seven years, Nelson Mandela returned home, here, on 11th February 1990. He recalled in his memoir – The Long Walk to Freedom, “That night I returned with Winnie to No. 8185 in Orlando West. It was only then that I knew in my heart that I had left prison. For me, No. 8115 was the centrepoint of my world, the place marked with an X in my mental geography.” It’s also a quote written at the entrance of the house. For some reason, I only see it when we are leaving. It reminds me of the importance of our journey here.

My visit to Nelson Mandela’s house reminds me of the adage – it doesn’t matter where you are from but where you are going, and the steps you take on a daily basis. It’s a reminder of hope, and that home is where your heart is at rest and peace.

The Soweto Heritage Trust has done a great job at renovating, and taking care of the house. The visit doesn’t feel like a museum – it’s so personal. We don’t stay too long, only about twenty minutes. Paying homage to Mandela’s personal space, I refrain from taking too many photos – almost as if I really was a guest in his home, and he was present, watching pensively.

BONUS: You might enjoy reading my popular blogs on museums:

1. A mystery into Lord Egerton’s Castle

2. Visiting the Louvre – Viewing The Monalisa

My week in Johannesburg – 7 things to do in Jozi

img_8677My last week was phenomenal! My first time in South Africa coincided with Sauti Sol’s first win at the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA) 🙂 After the madness of managing Sauti Sol’s red carpet interviews at MAMA 2016, post-win celebrations and sending quite a number of press releases; I decided to stay a week to meet some industry people, and taste Jozi’s vibe. Tomas and I have heard a lot about South Africa and South African people, so our expectations were grand. I am not really hard to impress like he is but somehow it took us at least four days to get into Jozi’s vibe. Our last day was magical! From visiting Jozi’s downtown, tapping into Maboneng’s famed cool, shopping all the South African beads I ever wanted, to attending Tresor’s concert – we loved Jozi! I curated you a list of things to do when in South Africa’s biggest city.

1. Visit Soweto (South Western Townships)

img_8772It should be a crime to be in South Africa and not visit Soweto. This is probably South Africa’s most famous hood and known to be home of high profile residents like Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. It is also the founding place of Kwaito and Kasi Rap genres. Soweto is also remembered for the infamous Soweto Uprising, mass protests over government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans language rather than their native language, that lead to twenty three deaths and several sanctions on the country thereafter.

If you’re keen, you will spot two of South Africa’s largest stadiums: FNB Stadium (where the FIFA world cup 2010 was held) and Orlando Stadium (where Cassper Nyovest recently filled) while driving around Soweto.

Mandela’s House, number 8115 is along Vilakazi Street. This was Mandela’s home from 1946 to 1962. You will know you have arrived at the house as soon as you get to Vilakazi Street because of the beehive activities and the number of tourists in the vicinity. It was so surreal yet humbling to be in Mandela’s actual house.

Read: Visiting Mandela House: Retracing Nelson Mandela’s Soweto Home

2. Visit Apartheid Museum

img_8735Opened in 2001, the museum is situated in The Complex along Northern Park Way and Gold Reed Road. Anybody visiting Jozi should take time to visit the museum to learn South Africa’s history. Digging deep into their apartheid history (1948 – 1994) will augment on your basic history and humanity lessons. Through rooms designed as exhibitions, prison or detention rooms, and videos, films, audios among news excerpts – the museum documents, era by era, in detail how apartheid segregated the majority of black inhabitants and other ethnic groups from certain rights, associations and movements while maintaining white minority rule.

The apartheid museum brings to light the origin of segregation from Day 1 bush-man-days. It documents how South Africa was just another African country up until the discovery of its gold mines, and how that discovery made it the Mecca of traders, westerners and people of all races – making it at one point the African country that had the most racial and varied inhabitants. It takes you on a journey beyond the rise and fall of apartheid. It left Tomas and I baffled by the reality that if we had been together in South Africa at a different time, our relationship would have been considered a crime based on our skin colour. Even more disturbing is that this situation existed within our lifetime … I will post a separate blog on the museum, soon.

3. Shop till you drop

fullsizerenderYes! Everything is cheaper in South Africa – from fashion items, beads to fast/gourmet food. Most times, you get better quality. One extremely annoying thing about Jozi malls and shops, however, is that they all close early, starting 5 p.m. and almost all by 8 p.m. This might make sense to South Africans because they can always decide to shop any other day and time. For tourists like me, we like to start our days early and finish quite late, preferably with shopping starting 8 p.m. like in Amsterdam and Stockholm shopping districts. That said—check out Jozi’s Sandton and Mall of Africa malls for your H&M, Zara and Mr. Price basics. Rosebank has open walks and small shops stocking cool South African fashion brands, and unique collector’s items. Shopping freaks like me – be careful! The malls are grandiose! By the time you are done, it’s going to feel like you were on a treadmill. Don’t take a picture by the massive Nelson Mandela statue by Mandela Square – my friends say that it’s so lame and considered to be the most touristy thing to do while in Jozi. I had already done that by the time I knew it 🙂

4. Sample Local Designers

Stop by Melville’s 27 Boxes for an equally nice spread of local designers – got a dope neckpiece there. Work Shop New Town in town. It houses unique shops stocking more local designers like Maria Mcloy’s unique fashion items, and Laduma Ngxokolo’s knitwear designs, inspired by Xhosa heritage. International designers include Kenya’s Adelle Dejak – was so proud to see her stuff. Also got the Zulu traditional married women’s hat (for only about 15 Dollars) and some really cool shoes and bangles at Maria’s store 🙂

Check out my travel tales from Amsterdam: Love, Sex and Drugs (Part I

5. Visit Sandton & Melville

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We split our Jozi stay by staying four nights in Rivonia, Sandton and three nights in Melville. I loved Rivonia’s peace and calm, and our airbnb crib’s swanky design – it was like a magazine! Staying as Jozi’s business district was convenient during the MAMAs weekend because it was near Radisson Blu and Hilton Hotels—the HQ of MTV activities.

While in the area, rave at Taboo. We left Taboo half full at about 8 a.m. at the MAMA 2016 after party 🙂

I am history buff so while in Rivonia, I remembered the setting of one of my best speeches of all time. Nelson Mandela in the dock, 1964 at the Rivonia Trial: “I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Most of our South African friends described Melville as the bohemian place that had its heydays. Oneal tagged it as “artsy” like I am. Today, it’s unanimous, that Melville still gives off a good vibe, very different from the affluence and the snobbishness of Sandton and other high-end suburbs. While in Melville, stay at Life on 3rd – a good B&B aptly situated in between residential homes and just a walking distance from Melville’s boisterous 7th street. The bars and restaurants along 7th street exude a laid back yet funky aura. We both had a jamais-vu. Melville is like the cool street in downtown San Fransisco we’ve never been to.

You must dine at Federal and drink at Hell’s Kitchen. Federal served us the best food in South Africa. Their service was stellar too! For starters order – Corn hush puppies served with baba ganoushe radish, and mange tout micro salad and Chicken pops served in salted caramel popcorn and a BBQ mustard dip for starters. Your mains should either be Braised beef or their specials – pork or burgers. When I saw Hell’s Kitchen, I ran in to inquire if it’s Gordon Ramsey’s – they must get that a lot. Melville’s Hell Kitchen is a rock-themed Whiskey Bar, not at all affiliated to Gordon Ramsey, with the naughty neon sign: BE NAKED WHEN I GET HOME.

6. Gautrain to Downtown

img_8804Best thing we did while in Jozi! Most times, tourists never get to feel the complete pulse of a city’s heartbeat because locals always warn them against crowded areas or downtown, but these places are usually the spice of the meat. Accompanied by my designer friend Maria – also top Publicist in SA – we take the Gautrain into town. First of all let me commend South Africans! Their train station is properly organized and neat. It actually puts to shame some of the shitty train stations in Paris. Will not even comment on Kenyan trains.

That time I tried a Kenyan train: Makadara Train Hell on Valentine’s Day – never again!

Jozi town is crowded but trust me Nairobi and Lagos are thrice as crowded. This makes me feel like I am cruising in Nairobi’s Westlands area on a Saturday. Some clothes we saw at Rosebank Mall shops were going for less than half price in town. Street vendors were hawking fruits, beads, funky shades and just about anything you would want. This is the South Africa I wanted to experience. I bought so many beads – my boyfriend literally banned me from walking close to the vendors at some point. Downtown and seeing ordinary South Africans provided a different experience. It was also good to be in town and free of Mkokotenis and blaring motorbikes and Tuk Tuks, like in Nairobi. Jozi is orderly. And of course, there are similarities, in design and feel, between Jozi and Nairobi colonial buildings. It just looked like uptown Nairobi on a grand scale.

7. While in town – visit Maboneng Precinct.

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It’s the place of creative and cool people—I’ve been told even before my arrival in Jozi. On our last night we head over to Maboneng for dinner and to party with our South African friends. The first thing I spot is Pata Pata restaurant. Bless Miriam Makeba! The general aesthetic of the streets, establishments and apartments is catchy and creatively thought through. On the street where we are dining, one block fits all. There are apartments and rooms to let on the upper floors with the bottom, as well as warehouses across, housing patios with open restaurants, art galleries, theatre, studios and coffee bars. There is a theatre next door to the make-your-own- pizza place where we dine. What’s more? The cinema allows guests to walk in with their pizzas 🙂 I wish we had visited Maboneng during the day, caught a film and got to see the Museum of African Design. There will have to be a next time. I think this would be my kind of hood if I lived in Jozi. Once a dangerous and boring part of town, today Maboneng is perhaps one of the best expressions of South Africa’s new age and restoration.

BONUS: Thanks a lot Maria, Valentine, Oneal and Titi – for making my time in Jozi memorable. Can’t wait for you to come to my city 🙂

I also wrote 6 Things to do when in Rwanda you might like this!

Wizkid and Chris Brown Mombasa Concert: The Bigger Picture (Part II)

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Meeting Judo Kanobana. Pic: Kevin Amunze

In the six years that I’ve been actively and aggressively working in the entertainment
sphere, I haven’t seen or heard of a Kenyan event presenting a combo of an international African artiste paired with an American A-List pop act – like the Wizkid and Chris Brown duo. Correct me if I am wrong but when Sean Paul was at the height of his career, he played in Kenya solo. Same with so many other artistes like Erykah Badu, Anthony Hamilton and Shaggy. Another point to note about the international artistes who have performed in Kenya in the recent past, most of them have niche audiences like people who are into festivals or genres like reggae, R&B, neo soul and the like. For such reasons, it’s obvious that it couldn’t have been easy to book both Wizkid and Chris Brown – two mainstream global pop hit makers. The fact that the event’s promoters started running promo only two weeks to concert date is also another reason why a lot of East Africans were skeptical at to whether the event would go down. A lot of my industry friends warned me prior that the event would flop, and if it wouldn’t – the artistes would disappoint. I am glad to report that none of that happened. And even if they did, I would forgive them because of the bigger picture.

Read part I of this blog:  Wizkid and Chris Brown Mombasa Concert: Bebe Cool State of Mind

Back to the concert (Saturday 8th October)—when Wizkid finally hits the stage, I know that he was ready for his second Kenyan performance. He’s accompanied by a tight live band, which I didn’t expect – I’ve seen Wizkid perform using playback at many events, and this always works for hit makers. This time however he knew that there was a chance that Chris would outshine him, so he came prepared.

Last night watching @wizkidayo live in Mombasa, Kenya was so surreal! More vids/pics @anyikopr

A video posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

Chris on the other hand doesn’t come to Mombasa with a live band, unlike what I anticipated. All proper international acts of his caliber always play live music. From Caro, Sound It, Ojuelegba and Show Me Your Money, among hit songs, Wizkid is the one who rocked Mombasa Festival. I still loved Chris Brown though because watching him was so surreal. His dance moves alongside his dancers was just effortless out of this world! It was a proper turn up!

Think about it. If we had more of such high profile events, bringing together all these industry movers and shakers, what would become of East Africa’s entertainment industry as a unified front? If Mombasa, or any other county, had more of such mega concerts, with commendable numbers of attendees, what would that additionally do to decentralize tourism? Most high profile hotels in Mombasa’s CBD were fully sold out during that weekend. There is need to better plan these kind of events to also create new job opportunities for the youth from the country. Even if just two months worth of promo and marketing – that’s good enough of a job for at least thirty of Mombasa youth.

Irrespective of all the challenges and difficulties that the event’s management might have faced, I am impressed by what the debut Mombasa Rocks Festival achieved. For that reason, I will concentrate on its importance in relation to music business in East Africa, with Kenya, Mombasa as the focal point. This one event unified East Africa’s music industry players. Top artistes accompanied by their managers and publicists included Sauti Sol, Alikiba, Vanessa Mdee, Bebe Cool and P-Unit. Renowned artiste managers included Sunday (Wizkid), Saalam (Diamond Platnumz), Marek (Sauti Sol), Seven (Alikiba) and Aly (Navio and Bebe Cool). Top booking agents and event organizers included Kigali’s Bruce, Patrique and Judo (the team who brought in Stromae to Rwanda) last year. Head honchos at MTV and TRACE were among international music executives in Mombasa. Top media from across the region were also present. I was so happy to bump into Millard Ayo reporters, they are such good people.

Read on my travel tales from Kigali when I worked on Stromae’s PR: Stromae in Rwanda: Best Concert of 2015 (Review)

We (Me, Sauti Sol, Navio and Tomas) end up meeting Wizkid on Sunday at his apartment. He doesn’t remember that I met before in Lagos. I still try to remind him. I like that he is so chill and honest. “I don’t remember meeting you maaaan!” He is at the apartment with DJ Maphorisa and Jada, from his London management team. His convo with Sauti Sol gives me so much life. They talk African music achievement, the growth and permeability of afro beats in the global music scene, and what Wizkid’s One Dance with Drake did for Drake in Africa vis-à-vis Wizki’s stature worldwide. In summary, Sauti Sol, Wizkid and DJ Maphorisa agree on an impending collaboration that should be recording in South Africa in the coming week. They of course also exchange vibes and compliments. While Wizkid says that Kuliko Jana’s viral Facebook video featuring Redfourth Chorus gave him “chills”, Bien reminds Wizkid that he is the “Guinea Pig” of African music to the world, concluding, “The world is now watching you.”

Happy to have exchanged contacts with Chris Brown and Wizkid’s management and PR. What an important event and weekend that was!

Wizkid and Chris Brown Mombasa Concert: Bebe Cool State of Mind (Part I)

14666310_1851390445090865_5456550132690082125_nFor someone who has attended so many events and concerts like I have, it was such a bummer that before last weekend – I’d never been to a Wizkid concert. I missed to see his debut performance in Kenya (December of 2014 in Nairobi) as I was away, working in Turkana.

Feel free to read my travel tales: To Turkana and Back: The Heat and Women (Part I)

Since then I’ve been ready to jump on any given opportunity to see Wizkid perform. It had taken so long. And even though I first met Wizkid last December while in Lagos, I still missed to see him in concert. You can only guess how happy I was when I first got word from my friend, Alex – the Marketing Manager of Moet Hennessy, East Africa, around two months ago before the concert, that Wizkid would be coming to perform alongside Chris Brown. The thought of the two performing, together, in Mombasa was so foreign to me that it was hard to imagine how a show of such magnitude could be pulled off. One thing I was sure of, however, was that if it happened, I’d definitely have to be there.

Here’s how I first met Wizkid, read Madness, Generators and Nairas: Insights from Nigeria

Fast forward to last weekend (Saturday 8th October). My trip from Nairobi to Mombasa was somewhat jinxed. Among series of unfortunate events, I nearly miss my flight thanks to an Uber driver opting to take a longer route for no reason. Accompanied by half of Sauti Sol and my babe Tomas, we are staying at English Point Marina on arrival. I leave for the concert at about 8:00 p.m. with the Ugandan crew – entertainment mogul and renowned artistes talent manager – Aly and top Ugandan artiste Bebe Cool. We are accompanied by their crew. We are hoping not to miss Navio’s performance – we don’t 🙂 The rest of the opening acts included Tanzanians: Vanessa Mdee and Alikiba and Kenya’s rapper Nazizi and Mombasa All Star Dancers, among others.

Before the Mombasa concert, I’d never met Bebe Cool in person, though I had seen him in a Ugandan club once.  I have however interviewed him for DStv.com via phone on a different occasion. While in the car with Bebe Cool and Aly on the way to the concert something magical happens. I strike a rapport with Bebe Cool. We won’t stop talking, comparing and contrasting the music industries that make the East African music circuit with a focus on the demise of Kenya’s one-time giant status. It was so enlightening yet baffling. As a professional journalist and publicist in entertainment/ arts and culture, I sometimes wonder if I would have been happier working in the entertainment industries of Tanzania or Uganda for the obvious reason that their artistes and industries are paid more respect. Additional to that, these industries have better structures and opportunities that have allowed artistes and those working in the arts industry to earn a living through their trade of choice. I have thought about how my life would have turned out if I were either born Tanzanian, Ugandan or was working in a different industry. It’s paradoxical that the industry that has dejected me severally is the same one that built some of East Africa’s biggest music acts. “It’s funny how the careers of huge Ugandan artistes like you and Chameleone started in Kenya,” how I start the conversation with Bebe Cool in car.

He starts to narrate his story to me, “I was brought to Kenya by Kawesa (sp) with a dream to work with Ted Josiah, who never worked with me. I was lucky to meet Ogopa DJs. [I blew up] after the first time we worked together in South B – and that played a historic part in my career. When [I am sometimes dejected by Uganda’s entertainment industry], I tell them that I can go back to Kenya because Kenya gave me my first opportunity.” It’s little wonder that Bebe Cool is just as patriotic to Kenya as he is to Uganda.

I tell Bebe that the love isn’t gone as some Ugandan songs and artistes like him are still getting a lot of airplay in Kenya, even more than some Kenyan artistes. “Hasn’t that changed yet?” He asks after which he deduces that the main problem of Kenya’s music industry is that artistes refuse to be challenged by their counterparts. Bebe says, “When Kenyan music started [infiltrating Uganda back in the early 2000s, we learnt and started to create differently. That turned tables around. If you sang as a Jamaican or a Congolese, we would strive to do it better than you.”

He shares with me his plans of how to bring back Kenya’s showbiz, while maintaining his own brand. I have concluded that I am looking to work with artistes as conscious as Bebe Cool. If all East African artistes had Bebe’s state of mind, think about how our industry would turn out … We both agree that for Kenyan artistes should and must give Kenyans a reason to invest in Kenyan music. They must give Kenyans reason to talk and believe in their art.

Part II Wizkid and Chris Brown Mombasa Concert: The Bigger Picture (Part II)

Beyond the Abs: Meeting and Working with Trey Songz Part III

 

coke-studio-ssn4-reveals-trey-songs-153-of-379While working on Coke Studio Africa 4 this year, I got to see the type of hard worker and conscious artiste Trey Songz is. He won’t do anything but record and jam to music or hang out with his African collaborators. At the start of Thursday morning I have five Trey Songz interviews to facilitate, and have to cancel some because he won’t go back to the hotel for interviews without finishing his recordings. The first interview with South African radio 94.7 FM makes me tremble because the station first experiences some technical hitches causing a delay, and then Trey shows up into the office to come meet me for the interview without anybody alerting me prior to his arrival. Suddenly I am in a glass-walled room engulfed by Trey’s presence and his team (managers, personal assistant and security personnel).

Soon I have to brief them. As the station delays, Trey’s calm actually makes me resort to calmness. He is showing funny Insta Pics he’s been checking out. Suddenly, Trey Songz doesn’t feel so foreign. I even ask him for a pic, after which he asks, “What’s your Instagram?” “Who, me?” I respond sheepishly. Everybody laughs out loud, as I defend my question: “You never know – I had to ask.” As I make a call that I will cancel the interview if my call to S.A doesn’t get through, the presenter Anele calls in for an absolutely wonderful interview! I have another cell interview with Trey in the evening, on Capital FM. He’s hilarious. He literally holds off the phone to ask me questions like, “How do I say this in Swahili?” He cares to know the language and what’s popping in Nairobi.

While in studio, he’s so involved. Even when it’s been such a long night of working, he is ready and willing to sit down and talk about his music and topical issues like of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Tells me that as a person and artiste – Trey is focused and disciplined. Think about it – why has he stayed on top of his game this long? Two things: consistency and quality control.

By the end of the week, we’re cool enough to make jokes and for me to introduce him to my friend Iona. At first, he jokingly says, “If you bring her – she will want to take a photo.” I reply, “Well … Can I just bring her first?” 🙂

I always find myself leaning and gravitating towards great African music, achievement and success. Coke Studio Africa embodies those three pillars, a fact that gives me so much pride and pleasure to be associated. Working with Trey Songz and more than thirty artistes from over ten African countries was amazing! I always wanted to work in such an intense project.

Read:

 Meeting and Working with Trey Songz: Part I

So Many Superstars: Meeting and Working with Trey Songz Part II

 

So Many Superstars: Meeting and Working with Trey Songz Part II

coke-studio-ssn4-reveals-trey-songs-165-of-379While at the Trey Songz x Coke Studio Africa press conference in Nairobi – my biggest hope is that I don’t fall down, trip, say something stupid, and that the artistes are open to share a genuine tell-all on their recording process and the project’s Discover theme and bigger picture. Well, I tripped once if not twice but didn’t fall, and thankfully the artistes were happy and shared stories on their experience on the show and hope beyond the recordings.

During Coke Studio Africa’s normal filming schedule, there are usually three or four artistes (might include groups) and a celebrity producer to handle per week. The international week is usually so packed and PR’s worst nightmare! On the Trey Songz’s Superstar week, he was joined by Nyashinski (Kenya), Vanessa Mdee (Tanzania), Yemi Alade (Nigeria), Lij Michael (Ethiopia), Stonebwoy (Ghana), Neyma (Mozambique), Serge Beynaud (Ivory Coast), Rema Namakula (Uganda) and from South Africa: Emtee and the producer Maphorisa.

International Superstar week is never an easy one – it wasn’t easy. Note that I am still quelling fire from that week.

On the first day Trey Songz came to work at Coke Studio Africa Behind the Music studios, I felt so overwhelmed as soon as I walked into the studio. It wasn’t just Trey but the heavy presence of high-profile African superstars, most of whom we only read about or watch on TV. How did DJ Maphorisa jump out of Soweto Baby YouTube video (that for the first two months of this year – I played repeatedly the whole day) and sit next to me over lunch? And oh! How did the phenomenal Ghanaian artiste Stonebwoy stand up to say Hello to me? When it happened, I remembered every single Stonebwoy memory that led me here. From watching his videos, following his tours and travels, applauding his BET win in 2015 to signing him under my new bookings venture.

I need at least two days to acclimatize myself to that kind of environment with superstars left, right and centre. On that day I had to leave the studio and go work from home—my way of trying to keep focus to make sure I manage and host a dope press conference on the following day.

Fast forward to present day at the presser…

Read Meeting and Working with Trey Songz Part I

I can’t help but wait to know what sort of person Trey Songz is. First, he is a pretty boy (the good kind) with a lovely smile, and hilarious! With Yemi and Vanessa next to him, he is never short of banter and naughty nuances. Speaking on his Coke Studio Africa stint and his first time in Kenya, he says, “I am very happy to be in Kenya and to be working with a stage full of very talented artistes. The beauty and part I love about Coke Studio Africa is to work with artistes like myself who represent where they are from to the fullest. We have already started working on a great record and I am excited about the music that we have coming.”

Look out for Beyond the Abs: Meeting and Working with Trey Songz Part III

Meeting and Working with Trey Songz: Part I

coke-studio-ssn4-reveals-trey-songs-156-of-379-1I almost met the Grammy award-winning American R&B/hiphop artiste Trey Songz in Lagos last December but as fate would have it, I was going to meet and work with him this year in Kenya at Coke Studio Africa. Here’s the sweet tale:

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a dare devil who likes to experience the real deal. While in Lagos last December, I almost met Trey Songz. He had come to Nigeria for a concert, which I couldn’t attend for some reason. I still went on to make a few calls trying to connect with Trigga so as to interview him and well … look at his lovely chest close hand. A friend of mine happened to be good friends with his Nigerian host who we contacted and within no time the two had set up an opportunity for me to meet Trey. However, I was unable to make it to our meeting – a situation that left me forever salty and singing, ‘I can’t help but wait …’

Read Madness, Generators and Nairas: Insights from Nigeria

Fast-forward to 2016 and Trey gets selected by the African music show Coke Studio Africa to be the guest star of the show’s fourth season, premiering October 9th. As the Publicist of the show, my first role was to set up a good PR plan for his recording week and then organize and manage his press conference and media tour. From the experience of working with NEYO during his feature on Coke Studio Africa last year, I already knew what to expect this year so to avoid the craziness and pressure, for Trey’s week I planned a lot in advance. Even so, I was still dreading the possibility of something going wrong so I just tried to be as meticulous as possible.

Many people must think that just because I am the Publicist of Coke Studio Africa, I am always with the artistes and can get the artistes to do anything like ask them to send people personal shouts and take pictures with them. Well, I can but to be honest it’s not easy as it’s a very different ball game when you are working under a strict schedule and with highly professional international artistes. Although I have all access to the artistes, it’s not as easy to get to them any time because of the show’s packed recording schedule, which has employed hundreds of professionals working around the clock on the production, and of course the artiste management. While Trey arrived in Kenya on a Tuesday, I only got to meet him first hand on Wednesday night at the press conference I was hosting.

coke-studio-ssn4-reveals-trey-songs-5-of-379Before the press conference I was running up and down like a headless chicken together with my Anyiko PR Team coordinating the media, and making sure everything from the stage, set up, lighting and sound is perfect. From labeling the artistes seats to personally testing all their mics, by the set time of start 7:00 p.m. everything had been ready for Trey and his collaborators: Rema Namakula (Uganda), Vanessa Mdee (Tanzania), Nyashinski (Kenya), Yemi Alade (Nigeria), Stonebwoy (Ghana), Serge Beynaud (Ivory Coast), Emtee (South Africa), Neyma (Mozambique), Lij Michael (Ethiopia) and the South African producer Maphorisa.

When he was finally unveiled in front of hundreds of top East African media, it was easy to see that he had perfectly gelled with the African artistes. How they easily sailed through conversations around cross-cultural collaborations to support African talent and music – was ideal and show for Trey Songz’s consciousness. His passion for the project, awareness of the need for African music to supersede polity, paired with the warmth of his radiant smile and banter -for the first time made me see him like a person, an artiste and not just a sex pot. I would later get to see Trey at work and sample a taste of his diligent artistry, discipline and hard work – probably why he remains top of his game.

Look out for Meeting and Working with Trey Songz: Part II, coming soon

My Best Years – Yet To Come

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Pic by Cheka Photography.

On my birthday this year – September 4th – I got so flooded with such sweet and lovely Birthday Messages. If it will take me months to respond to all of them, let it be – I am on it. I feel so honoured and lucky to have good people – friends, family and fans around me. I just wrote this blog to tell each and every person a Huge Thank You for caring and remembering my special day, and share a review of my life over the past year.

Triggered by an olden 1843 (formerly Intelligent Life Magazine) post on ‘What’s the best age to be?’ I recalled my earlier years in a 2013 blog post: My Best Years – So far. Two years and one week later, I am here celebrating another milestone – birthday for me and my late Dad (because we were born on the same day). Today I look back at that 2013 ‘Best Years’ blog and still appreciate old memories and younger years but as I start to goodbye to my twenties, I must say I am becoming more complete, and aware of myself, strengths, weaknesses and challenges. As I find myself more prone to making new friends of late, I get worse at maintaining physical contact with old relationships. I still want to fix that but it’s a tough balance between my time, career, new priorities and dreams. I also can’t wait to see what this new year has to offer!

The last year has been plain amazing! My music-related work trips from Lagos to Kampala [I had to do that 🙂 ] and then Kigali to Mombasa and Stockholm were so rewarding and special – please read the posts if you missed … Every person I met, job I put my hands on and hurdle I encountered made me a better student of life. Lagos tales and nights were especially worthy to redo – why I am already planning my next trip to Nigeria in the coming few months. I find so many strong points in Naija Entertainment vis-à-vis music from the rest of Africa. At the same time, there is so much beauty and authenticity in African music as a whole. I have found renewed drive in being an Arts & Culture journalist and Entertainment Publicist. Recent travel and cross cultural connections across Africa have made me more open to opportunities and keen to expand, in ideas and business.

In the past year, I have developed an architecture around ideas I plan to accomplish. Now I am trying to work on individual projects to perfection because I have seen the potential in my business and reward in building a PR collective. I now have a business manager – who understands my vision and can easily create realistic business plans from preexisting and new work relationships that previously brought me professional quagmire.

Lastly, before the past year, I really thought that I wasn’t going to find someone to love because for years I’ve been so engrossed in my work. I never met anyone who understood me, and my passion. I never wanted to look for someone so I ignored the situation but on February 14th I made a joke at my hopelessness by posting a picture of a ring. Blogs and press went berserk with headlines claiming that ‘Anyiko is off the market’. I was just making fun of myself for happiness sake. But like they say, sometimes fake it till you make it – a few months later, somehow someone found me, and I found them too. So happy!

I look into my upcoming years as a time for me to dwell on what makes me happy and content. I no longer have time for games or pretense but feel comfortable in expressing myself even if at the expense of being wrong—that’s how I get to speak my mind, share ideas, learn more and open myself to criticism. As I enter a new year, I am open to broader thinking to facilitate my collaborations, and quest for celebrating African culture and achievement. I am today more than convinced that my best years are yet to come. Gracefully looking forward.

PS: From Blaze, Abi, Brenna, Sylvia, Smiles and all my close friends (you know yourselves), thank you for inspiring and empowering me.

 

 

Looking Beyond: A Tribute to Grapevine TV Show

2016-08-21-PHOTO-00000001This week was my last at hosting Grapevine TV Show. It has been airing on Kenya’s KBC Channel 1 for more than a decade now. I had been hosting the show for seven years. However, I had been watching it longer than that. I started watching Grapevine back at home in Molo, when I was a teenager and hadn’t known that one day I would relocate to Nairobi and be the host of the show.

At that time, I loved that the show had vibrant hosts: Fred Indimuli and Joy. As I watched every week, I felt like they directly addressed me. The show also helped shape my love for concerts and festivals. Through its coverage, I got to know exactly what would tick me.

In 2007 I relocated to Nairobi to study Journalism and Media Studies at University of Nairobi’s School of Journalism. My eyes were then more than ever fixated on hosting Grapevine, even though I had no TV experience and a worthy demo. I got the name to the then producer of the show: JB Ohaga on the credits at the ending and promised myself that I would one day find him and explain to him why I should be the host of the show – even though I didn’t know what exactly I would say. I finally met JB at an Alliance Francaise concert, while I was there studying French. Striking a rapport from the get-go, he would soon become my mentor and we always stayed great friends since.

A few years later, he called me over to KBC for an audition to host Grapevine as the then lady host wanted to leave. This came to me as a ray of light as I had been dejected earlier on from failing to top at several other TV auditions. I got a script and spent only about five minutes reading through. The camera test in front of JB and the show’s creator Jakie Lidubwii was fun – though they advised that I needed more practice in front of the mirror. For many years, I practiced my craft by talking to myself in front of the mirror or walking solo in the streets. I practiced at every given opportunity until I gained confidence in myself. It was until this happened that I started to garner fans and get constructive feedback from viewers.

Throughout the years, I have learnt that being on TV is just a job as tough as any other. It’s only fun when you keep your passion and head grounded, know what you’re doing and love it all the same. It took me about two straight years to become a proper TV host and about three years to grow into a TV producer/director. There were many times when I wanted to give up, countless nights when I cried at the face of difficulty and times when I loathed my former producer JB for the tough love. Throughout my tenure on the show, I have known no other patient and humble Kenyan journalist as my former co-host Fred Indimuli (he now works at Citizen TV). I have gained so much knowledge in how the entertainment industry in Kenya, and beyond works. I have interviewed over 100 local and international celebrities and artistes. I have written over 500 TV scripts and hosted over 330 shows in total. I’ve attended thousands of concerts/festivals, danced a lot and made so many friends!

Grapevine and working at KBC has taught me some hard lessons, allowed me to grow and presented me with loads of opportunities. Through the show, I have travelled extensively, developed key relationships with industry players and renowned artistes. It’s hard to see where I would have been today without Grapevine, and JB. I would like to thank every single fan of mine for the love. Thank you to all fans of Grapevine and KBC for supporting me on my seven-year journey on the show. My diehard fans like Mum, Ludovick and Jalas – you guys literally made me stay this long. So many wanna-be TV presenters and journalists have come up to me thanking me for the inspiration. I am glad I touched someone, and hope wherever I go I will continue to shine a light. Thank you Victor Ochieng and JB for training me on script writing—I love it! Thank you JB for discovering me. To my co-host Abbih and all my former colleagues, we are still a team forever and I know that our paths will keep crossing – I wish you all the best in your endeavours.

Right now my whole system craves for something different, challenging, bigger and better. It’s bitter-sweet to leave the show that I love so dearly but the break is necessary for me at this point in time to allow me to reflect on my past, present and future. Plus I can finally be free on Sundays, starting with my upcoming Birthday on Sept 4th 🙂

Back to Blogging – I Missed You!

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.09.28 AM.pngWhile I was away from Black Roses … I hosted numerous dope press conferences and partnered with Chiki to throw some ill parties. Nameless Timmy T-Dat, Yvonne Darc and and P-Unit came through to throw surprise performances, I am forever indebted to them. I went back to Oshwal Centre, where I used to be a waitress, to host an event I was running PR for. Here I met the man who had hired me as a waitress – my former boss right at the entrance. As I shook Mr. Kamal’s hand, I asked him, “Do you remember me?” “Of Course,” he answered. The event, a theatre by Bollywood’s top actor hosted in Kenya by Ranee Productions, was completely sold out and a huge success. That, and my bumping into Mr. Kamal was the ultimate homecoming – you should have seen me hogging the Indian delicacies at Oshwal just like olden days – as if I had been starving all my life. I have also interviewed Aloe Blac, Ginuwine and Waje, among Coke Studio Africa season 4 artistes. I am back this year as the show’s publicist. I also managed PR for the Live and Die in Afrika Tour, traveled to beautiful Diani, and Tanzania where I sampled such lovely sea food at Samaki Samaki. I finally left the Single Ladies Club 🙂 And finally, I really enjoyed Maxwell and Twenty88’s new recordings.

It’s been three months since I shared any blog posts here but inside of me it feels like that was three years. I have been telling myself that I will get back to my blog but every time I try to, something (mostly work) pulls me back. It was during a meeting with the business manager of a new establishment recently that I asserted, ‘I really need to get back to writing.’ As if they knew that I had been struggling with getting back to normal blogging, the manager randomly pointed out to me away from the conversation we were having, “I do read your blog, and I remember your tales from Lagos [fondly]. I like the way you write – it’s hilarious and interesting! You take us to places and make us see things through your eyes,” adding, “Don’t stop writing.”

How could that statement not completely pull me back, even when I have felt that I had fallen off so hard?

Anyone who really knows me, especially followers of this blog know only too well that I am nothing and nobody without writing. That said, you would imagine that I never really stopped writing. During my hiatus from blogging, I was churning out so many press releases and media plans/proposals – basically work stuff. It’s been quite the professional growth over the past six months but quite the loneliness inside of Black Roses. I lost myself in a racing world for the past year or so and I think the break was a deserved time for me to go back to my roots and senses, to look deeper into my aspirations and dreams, and ask myself – what is it that I want to achieve with my writing, my life, my passion, my time and the people around me?

That said; the past few months have easily been my best yet in my adult life. Together with Sauti Sol – my friends and long-term clients/workmates – and Sauti Sol Entertainment, we managed to stage Kenya’s first professional nationwide tour, titled after the group’s third studio album: Live and Die in Afrika. I have seen Sauti Sol collaborate with Fally Ipupa on the upcoming Coke Studio Africa season 4. Tears warmed up my eyes when I saw them do the ‘Fally Shoulder Dance’ alongside Fally while recording the show in Nairobi . Only two years ago, we were all bundled up in Sauti Sol’s former joint house. Bien was beckoning me to join them at the living room to check out the ‘Fally Shoulder Dance’ in his new video: Original. Even though the vibes were cool and chill, as someone who has been with these boys from the day Sauti (formerly Sauti Sol) was formed, I could tell that they had held Fally with utmost respect. They were watching the video with so much envy as if he was someone they were far from ever meeting or worthy of collaborating with. Having seen them perform this very dance so well and performed with Fally this year was such a cool thing that again reminded me that life humbles you down. Just when you think you have everything – you could lose it all. And just when you think you can’t touch something – it very much could be yours the next day or minute.

I will be sharing more blog posts! I am back bitches 🙂

5 Mins with Koffi Olomide

10323986_1754219214807989_4171300665942369401_nMeeting the legendary Congolese sokous artiste Koffi Olomide, thanks to Koroga Festival, during his recent trip to Kenya was magical and surreal. Koffi is also a dancer, composer and producer, boasting several hit singles including the recent viral video: “Ekotite”.

I had so many questions and such little time with him that I decided to have more of a conversation other than an interview with him. We start by him marveling at my height. “You are almost like my daughter Didi.” After which he quickly opens his Instagram and shows her off, asking me, “Don’t you know my daughter? She’s a model. Don’t you follow her?” Of course I start to follow. At the end of the interview he is the first to ask to take a selfie with me 🙂

You are a joker if you live in Africa and you don’t have a Koffi story or don’t remember Koffi’s older music fondly. Growing up, Koffi Olomide, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Papa Wemba, among other African legends, were the soundtracks of our home and household.

Read my interview with Yvonne, here:  Still a Princess – Yvonne Chaka Chaka at 50

I noticed that there was something special about Koffi from a tender age because of the kind of people around me that got down to his music. His fans ranged from me – to my mother, father, older sisters and young uncles. It was not normal that this one man appealed to such a stratified audience.

I will never forget joyful parties at home, when my father was still alive and the life of the party, seeing my aunties confidently shaking their fat asses to Koffi music, as beers and loud music blasted ruled our evenings. It was almost OK to go insane and break a bone, as long as it was Koffi music. I caught onto dancing much later in life, so as everyone was dancing I was always keen to notice Koffi’s attires and that of his troupe of dancers.

I always wondered how much he spent on costumes and the same time always marveled at his genious. With time, I started following up on popular African culture and in music very few alive, Koffi being one of them, have shaped the Lingala and Sokous genres.

Koffi was really glad to hear that my mum influenced my love for music, and insisted on inviting her to his concert. Our 5 minutes together was fun and actually felt like an hour. Listen in as Koffi reveals that he’s got some Nigerian blood, shares all his names and the secret to why he still remains popular and relevant, years later.

 

Yaaay! Finally Got Interviewed by DRUM Magazine (April 2016)

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Side Note: Isn’t Kalekye Looking Lovely?

I have finally been featured on DRUM East Africa Magazine! I don’t even know where to start explaining to you how much being featured on DRUM means to me. Because I work with celebrities and superstars, people must think that this kind of thing is ordinary for me – well, it’s not and here’s why.

As a Publicist or PR person, you are constantly obsessing over how your clients, and brands you manage can get attention and be out there as much as possible. Last year I realized that for many years I had pushed other brands but hardly done the same for myself. However, I figured that at the end of the day it will always be a win-win situation because behind every successful brand is a PR manager or team.

Growing up in Molo, a small town close to Nakuru, my dreams were pretty simple. I just wanted to be successful. I never really envisioned myself becoming a celebrity Publicist. Seeing my friends Sauti Sol excel and be part of their success as it is today, and working with other legendary artistes like Stromae, Tubaba and Cobhams – to me – is just a bonus. Through my TV career and travel tales, meeting and interviewing artistes like D’Angelo and Anthony Hamilton, whose discography shaped my musical tastes, has been so gratifying.

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Photo credit: Smiles Beckwith

When you have done all these things that you had never even dreamt of, it slowly starts to dawn on you that you have grabbed the bull of your life by it’s horns. With time, I started knowing that I had made change for myself, first, even before that of the artistes and colleagues I have worked with. I started to realize that through my specialized PR practice, I had started something that continues to pave way for serious young professionals in PR and journalism as a whole. I am honoured every time someone notices me and says, “I love the work you do with Sauti Sol” or “I really enjoy your TV show”. I always tell them, and I will say it here – there are so many challenges working under the scrutiny of the public that when someone says those kind words to me – that’s all that matters at the end of it all.

For all these thoughts, I always felt like I had a story to tell. I always feel like I have a story to tell. I am always stoked to receive a phone call with the person on the other end wanting to interview ME. That’s because I am the one always making these calls. When they say to me, “We would like to interview You” I always countercheck, “Me or Sauti Sol?”

I was always waiting for True Love or DRUM, the only two proper magazines for a modern Nairobian lady like me, to call me for an interview. I always read inspiring stories on there and felt that mine too would have been worthy. When I finally got that phone call, it was such a pleasure. The feeling I got when I saw myself in the magazine, and read the interview and ascertained that it was an accurate account of every single word I said, was priceless. When I shared with Sauti Sol, Bien said and noted, “Congrats – from Molo to here.” That’s when I recollected this whole story.

Some people want to take credit for my success or growth but today I want to make it very clear, I am responsible for myself, and God knows I work hard for me, first. You must start something for yourself. While at it be ready for the haters and people who will discourage you. Find your own passion and drive, be open to criticism, growth, challenges and disappointment – what I have learnt so far.

BONUS: Thank you Mwamburi and DRUM for the dope feature. For more, visit http://www.Instagram.com/anyikopr

Olamide: ‘Too Much Money is Never Enough’

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Pic courtesy of Baddo’s website

“Music to me is life. I breathe and eat music. I don’t know if I can survive without music – after God and water,” says 27-year-old Nigerian hip hop artiste Olamide Baddo before daring me to check his bag to confirm that he always carries a Bible with him. I don’t check. He says that he also loves Drake, Jay Z, Mali Music and “almost anything”.

The name Olamide in his Nigerian dialect means ‘my wealth has come’ which only prompts me to ask him if his has indeed arrived. “We are almost there,” he jests, adding, “Too much money is never enough money. The more money you have, the more responsibilities you have to take care of. I have so many things.” My trying to get more details pertaining his responsibilities hits a dead end.

In a tough music industry, Olamide has emerged as one of the illest and most popular rappers in Nigeria. It might have a lot to do with the fact that he records mostly in Yoruba. Fans love that he stays local. “I will never forget I had a show in the East Coast of Nigeria and an artist brought an art work of me and the size was very big. He came to Lagos just to deliver it to me and let me know that he appreciates my music and he didn’t expect anything from me,” he recalls.

Olamide’s delivery in rap is fierce like a dragon spitting fire. “From a tender age I always knew that this is what I wanted to do. My family and mother have been very supportive but my father wanted me to finish school first before I started music but I couldn’t listen [because] I was crazy about my ambition.”

Read about that time when I passed Olamide’s hood in Lagos.

In 2012, Olamide founded his label imprint: Yahoo Boy No Laptop Nation (YBNL). The independent record label is home to notable young Nigerian pop artistes: Lil Kesh, Adenkule Gold and producers Pheelz and Young John—YBNL soldiers. He says, “I do employ people to supervise projects [but] I scout YBNL artistes myself. Everybody should look out for Adenkule Gold that’s the next big thing.”

King Baddo! #BaddestGuyEverLiveth #YBNL Happy Birthday @baddosneh ❤

A photo posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

Undoubtedly one of the most prolific African artistes in their prime, Olamide has produced an album each year since 2012. I wonder what’s it like to keep up with being Olamide? “I have to put out content within the year properly, bring my A-Game to the table all through the year and make sure I do the right collabos.”

I meet Olamide in Nairobi during my stint as Publicist of Coke Studio Africa season III. On the show, he is paired with Mozambique’s Marabenta Queen Neyma. Her twerking skills were on another level. “I used to dance so badly so I stopped but as you can see I am putting in work. You’ve seen us give you Shoki and Shakiti Bobo,” he says, adding, “Bobo is like a guy – like my hommie. The song is talking about being successful in life. If you want to be successful in life you have to live out of the box. You can’t be doing what everybody else is doing and expect to get the same results.”

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Pic courtesy of Baddo’s website

Olamide loves Nairobi. “Kenya is a very chill place. I love the hospitality. The girls are very nice and the guys are cool but I love the girls more. Kenyans love hip hop music and that always reminds me of my beginning,” praising the Kenyan singer Fena whom he was paired with on the show’s second season. “She is hip hop in a way and she adds soul to her music.” In the middle of our conversation, he stops to appreciate a friend’s anatomy. She is passing by. Hilarious!

Even though it’s been a long day at rehearsals, Olamide is so chill and patient. I want to know if this is who he really is. “You can’t fake such things, people who know you from Day 1 will know you are faking it. People who know me know that I am real” By the end of this interview we are having a great conversation, I even forget that this is an interview. What’s your style? I ask him. “I am actually not a fashion person, I am just a crazy-ass nigga I rock whatever I feel like rocking. It depends on my moods. You can see me tomorrow and I will be rocking my jalabiya. I am that crazy.”

Baddo touts 2 Baba as his favourite artiste and says that he would love to work with Jay Z. “I want to conquer Asia and America,” he asserts. Olamide says that a new album might be dropping in 2016.

BONUS: Check out my other Olamide stories

Olamide announces no-collabos year – DStv

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Olamide – Coke Studio Africa

 

 

 

 

2Face Idibia: ‘I Try Not to Let the Hype Get to Me’

Meeting and working with Tu-baba, the iconic Nigerian singer/songwriter also known as 2Face Idibia, is hands down one of my career highlights as a Publicist. About a decade ago, a time when I wouldn’t even imagine meeting Mr. Idibia, Nigerian music was synonymous to 2Face. I remember that time fondly as one of my aunts used to live in Nigeria and the only export I would always ask for when my cousins would return to Kenya was 2Face and P-Square albums. They would always squeeze in other great acts at the time like M.I, D’Banj and Naeto C. Amazing how today’s greats wouldn’t even fit in this blog post.

As fate would have it I would meet 2Face on the set of Coke Studio Africa last year during my stint as the show’s Publicist. Before that I actually met him soon after his arrival in Nairobi at his exclusive welcome party. Agitated by my silly camera and the darkness at the club, one of his managers Frankie asks me what’s wrong. “I want to meet and take a photo with 2Face but my camera is shit and I don’t know where to start … We will be working together soon anyway,” I respond. He is quick to introduce me – and the rest is history.

12767648_10153781660442559_2024617164_nOn a fine evening, together with my colleague and good friend Abi, we sit him down for a one-on-one chat with his Coke Studio Africa fans via Twitter. In person 2Face is very patient, very humble, very attentive, sweet and super hilarious! I wish each and every one of his fans would get to experience this first hand. On a different afternoon, I sit him down after rehearsals for a small person chat. It’s been such a hectic week but 2Face seems quite relaxed and not bothered by this interview. I never crafted what I would want to ask 2Face on meeting because I can only imagine the number of interviews he has conducted. I decide to freestyle and make it brief. We talk about his new musical direction, passion for peace and secret to longevity.

I am a total sucker for his earlier classics; my best still being his second album Grass to Grace (2006).  He has also done a number international collaborations with several artistes including Akon, Bridget Kelly, Mary J Blige and T-Pain. Then and now – 2Face still is one of the most celebrated and successful afro pop artistes in Africa.

You should have seen the pandemonium when 2Face walked into the backstage at 2015 AFRIMA Awards in Lagos: read about my first Nigerian experience here. Total hell!

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Photo courtesy of CokeStudioAfrica.com

From the start I identified his star power by the fact that despite his music going mainstream and pop, his composition and direction always remained original and true to his core R&B and Reggae with African influences. Some of my favourites off Grass to Grace include True Love, If Love is a Crime, No Shaking, Instance and I Dey Feel Like. I also really loved Ole off his debut album: Face 2 Face. 2Face’s latest album The Ascension dropped in 2014. He says of his transformation, “The Ascension is me graduating from my old pattern of doing music, I wanted to enter music that I am really comfortable with. Which is more of reggae and some of my traditional music. I am simply doing what I missed to do. The album The Ascension is an eclectic collection of songs that are African. Some songs I just did to cut across Africa.”

With most East African countries going through elections, it’s obvious that our artistes need to play a role in sensitizing youth and voters now more than ever. 2Face is quite passionate about promoting the message of peace, something he has done during Nigeria’s election period and continues to do over his free time. He says of his initiative, “Vote Not Fight, Election No Be War started with a million voices for peace – which was basically a cry for peace. I had to go to all the grassroots and meet displaced people and donate relief. We also did rehabilitation of changing the mindset of the youth who are prone to being used as tools for violence. During the election period, we stepped it up and went all the way out. My foundation’s motto is service to humanity – we try to make life good for all.” In late 2015, 2Face was crowned a Tafindan Kaduna (Peace Ambassador) of Nigerian Kaduna State. We actually missed each other during my December 2015 Lagos trip as he was always in between business and Kaduna State, but he was always kind enough to update me on his whereabouts.

Hailing from a humble background in Jos, Nigeria – 2Face remains one of the most bankable African artistes today. Throughout his career in music he’s evolved to also become a successful producer and entrepreneur. What has got you this far? I want to know. “I think it’s the grace of God because some things you can’t explain. I also try not to let the hype get to me [because] I know that before I was an artiste I was still known as me, so I always try to be me all the time. I just try to get work done and play when I can.” As for all 2Face fans around the Africa, here’s your special message, “My fans are the most loyal fans. They are the greatest fans in the world. I am loving the spirit of one love coming out of Africa and it is our generation that is changing that forever. May the children of our children continue to extend that spirit. Let’s bridge the gap so that in the future we will be speaking one language, there will be no demarcation but respect for every region.”

BONUS: I am excited that there is a 2Face x Sauti Sol massive collaboration coming this year. You can also read a shorter version of this story published by DStv here

 

Jose Chameleone: ‘I would fear Chameleone if I didn’t know him’

IMG-20160128-WA0018From a young age, the Ugandan singer Chameleone (Joseph Mayanja) was always eager and hungry to make big moves. I don’t know what’s more undeniable about him today—his hard earned success or his catchy hit songs delivered in his signature raspy voice.

I first met and worked with Chameleone during my stint as Publicist of Coke Studio Africa and can attest to his brilliance and dedication while at work. I am surprised that he remembers me quite well. “We even took pictures,” he recalls and is quick to give me his direct contact this time. We meet again in Nairobi this year at my exclusive interview with him at Hotel Intercontinental Nairobi, right after his performance as the headliner at Kenya’s Koroga Festival (Jan 2016). Chameleone says, “Koroga Festival is different. I had a chance to mingle and sing with people. I love to feel felt and that’s not something that you can get everywhere. That warmth made Koroga Festival very outstanding for me.”

At sixteen, Chameleone moved from Uganda to Nairobi (in the then hotbed of East African music) to kick start his career in music in the 90s. Living solo and in a foreign country was difficult but its something he had to do since his parents had first been opposed to his decision to take up music at an early age. His mother cautioned him while asserting that music wasn’t a wrong choice but the timing was, “You need to do things adjacent to your age. You can’t be living by yourself at fifteen; that is a different shade of you. You need to adjust accordingly, like a chameleon does.” That’s where the stage name Chameleone originated from. “I grew up with music as a passion but it needed a jump start.” Kenya would later be his career’s birthplace. For this reason, Chameleone easily feels at home while in Nairobi and is considering relocating back. “My wife and kids are reluctant. I was here for about three months last year so I am sure I can do it again.”

Chameleone’s is my first interview of 2016 so I feel it’s fair to ask him his most memorable moment of 2015. “Unfortunately [for me] it wasn’t good. I lost my brother AK-47. It’s painful but it’s a reality that I lost a brother that I dearly loved. I believe that God takes what is his.” AK-47 was also a performing and recording artiste. Chameleone comes from a family of music royalty. His other brother Weasel is one half of Uganda’s successful music duo: Radio & Weasel. Another brother Pallaso, an artiste, has accompanied him to Nairobi. At the interview he is taking behind the scenes videos and photos of Chameleone and can easily pass for a tour manager. At certain points, Chameleone forgets that this is about him and starts to tell me about Pallaso’s career, even singing to me the hit single Go Down Low, urging me to check out Pallaso music.

“Music is us. We are music men straight from the background. My great grandfather in the kingship times was a drummer and my grandfather was a guitarist. My father used to play the Trombone and Brass,” says Chameleone, adding, “ I am the one who took music to a professional level in my family. Son of a soldier plays with a gun and the son of a musician play with a guitar. To all my fans, you love me – I love you – that’s very obvious”

After failing at an attempt in music, one of Chameleone’s sons: Aba Mayanja has excelled in swimming. Boasting several gold medals and national accolades, Aba is undoubtedly one of Uganda’s most promising young swimmers. “I don’t want to force him to do anything – I want to support him.”

There seems to be a well-thought out model while naming Chameleone songs. Check this out: Valu Valu, Wale Wale, Gimmie Gimmie and Moto Moto, among others. “There is no order, I just follow my vibe. I am not the one who usually picks the titles. I don’t even have a songwriting book. I write about moments and use my state of mind. The melodies that come out is a feeling of the moment. I play unreleased songs in my car for months,” he says, jesting, “My wife and kids really suffer.” Chameleone names songs from what his first listeners feel and suggest. As for his hot hit singles across East Africa and the globe, he says, “To record music I put Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi too into consideration to break into the market. Beyond that, I also do good music. People also know that I am part of them.”

Watch Wale Wale

Through decades in the music industry, one of Chameleone’s stand out qualities is his consistency. To many artistes, his type of longevity is hard to attain. However, for Chameleone he has found his own formula. “The industry has welcomed different people who think and operate differently. To some artistes music is a business; to me it’s a passion. I always feel hungry and upcoming. My passion has been my drive. I am formulated to the people [my fans]. As long as they find me relevant I get nightmares; I feel like I constantly need to make them new songs.” Declaring Mama Mia as his magnus opus, he says, “People ask me how I have been relevant for fifteen years and I ask myself, ‘How can Mama Mia be relevant fifteen years later?’ When it came out I was eighteen. I ask myself, ‘How could I have sat down and thought that myself?’”

Together with Ugandan artiste Bebe Cool, in 2005 Chameleone joined forces with Kenyan group Necessary Noize (Kevin Wyre and Nazizi) to form the now defunct Kenya-Ugandan reggae group: East Africa Bashment Crew. Chameleone plans to reunite the full crew, “I am still masterminding that. That’s why you saw me recently with Bebe Cool on stage. The problem is our schedules as we are all now established and busy on travel and tour.”

Chameleone says that he’s currently working on a marshalling a team of major artistes in Uganda to “rejuvenate the harmony” of the yesteryears. Digging several artistes across East Africa including Sauti Sol, Alikiba and Burnaba Classic, the music man is convinced that we [as Africans] have to invest largely in our local content. “We have a defined culture and we should maintain it. We buy a lot of culture but don’t sell enough of our own. Don’t follow the trend, transcend.”

Fancy matching pants and jacket; a big gold chain and shades in broad daylight, I am indeed sitting here across a superstar. It feels great. I ask him about misconceptions behind the facade. He has been accused of sometimes holding hostage the Uganda music industry Lucious Lyon style. Controversy goes that for a new artiste to succeed, you must be friends with Chameleone or else, who knows?

“I can’t be friends with everyone because I am not an angel. The problem I’ve realised with the Ugandan society and Africa’s at large – people read the box not the content. I am not trying to behave like a superstar but I am not going to walk into a place and start saying hello to every one. When you keep yourself reserved and quiet people say that you are mean but these are words of weak artistes that can’t make their music pass through. I have established [the careers of many other artists]. If I were mean would I give them an opportunity? They fear me. I would also fear Chameleone if I didn’t know him.”

 

 

 

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee (Book Review)

watchmanVery few times have we had the pleasure of reading the sequel of a classic novel. In To Kill a Mocking Bird’s sequel, Go Set a Watchman, 26 year-old Jean Scout Finch returns home from New York to the fictional Maycomb County, Alabama. After two decades since To Kill a Mocking Bird, we are taken back to the small town painted in our memories by young Scout and her brother Jem. It’s an extremely enchanting beginning as readers anticipate the new Maycomb and reuniting with our favourite characters.

To move forward, you must first go back to the beginning. Here’s my review of To Kill a Mocking Bird

All the excitement soon dies as Go Set a Watchman turns disastrous. Scout is still a loner even though she has a boyfriend, former childhood friend now working alongside her father. Jem Finch has passed away from a heart attack. Calpurnia, their former nanny, no longer lives at the Finch household. Atticus has moved house. The 72-year-old is ailing from rheumatoid arthritis. Maycomb’s olden hypocritical ideals and race prejudice still exist – like in most societies in real life. The only difference is that Maycomb is today more aware of its very own bigotry.

Atticus Finch, the lawmaker once upheld as the conscious of a community, has changed a lot. Scout finds a pamphlet titled “The Black Plague” among his papers. This prompts her to trail him to a Citizens’ Council meeting to spy on activities. Here she sees her father sit tight as a racist speech is delivered by one of the attendants. This is the man who raised and taught her and Jem that colour or race is no way of judging men. In To Kill a Mocking Bird, Atticus only stood for justice and openly shunned racism. He even defended the case of a black man charged with raping a white girl.

Scout is extremely baffled by the fact that her father would sit silently in such a gathering. This can only mean a few things. Atticus is today either racist or condones racism and racist ideals. This makes Scout literally sick (she even throws up) and repulsive towards her father and his associates. She feels like Atticus no longer lives by the very own non-partisan ideals that he instilled in his children, and entrusted upon a society. Even though Atticus saw her through “the malignant limbo of turning from a howling tomboy into a young woman,” he is no longer her icon. She feels inconsolably betrayed.

There is an accident that involved Calpurnia’s grandson who killed a drunk pedestrian while speeding. Atticus takes up the case but says that he’d rather do it before The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) takes it up, as he questions their contemporary policies and direction. This hurts Scout even more. The real Atticus would take this up simply for Calpurnia, the only mother figure his kids knew, not NAACP.

The turning point of the book is when Scout goes to visit Calpurnia. Her childhood is embedded in memories of Cal raising her and her brother like she would have raised her own children, giving them life lessons every day and even smacking them when she had to.

When she arrives, Cal’s household treats her coldly. To Scout and the reader, there’s an inexplicable moving power in seeing Cal having changed so much after many years. She no longer has strong large arms and hands. Remember the ones that quickly whipped lemonade and baked cakes back in the day? “How small she looks, thought Jean Louise. She used to be so tall. Calpurnia was old and she was bony.” As Scout tries to catch up with her and talk about her grandson’s case that Atticus is taking up, Cal is distant. She completely shuts her out. There is nothing Scout will say to get her attention; she won’t even look at her. She minimally talks about missing Jem and the fact that Atticus is always right.

The town’s contemporary race battles seem to have crept into Scout’s darling old Cal. This prompts Scout to ask a dangerous question that if the answer was Yes – she would be forever destroyed.

“Did you hate us?”

“The old woman sat silent, bearing the burden of her years … Finally, Calpurnia shook her head.”

I don’t doubt that Cal never hated them; I just wonder why she took time to respond and didn’t even utter a word. Maybe it’s because she hates them now or also feels as betrayed by Atticus’ change of heart. This moment leaves the reader and Scout so helpless and disillusioned. For a moment I wished Jem was there to protect Scout’s troubled heart. Where is your big brother when you need him? It’s such a heart-rending scene that literally broke me to tears.

Written before To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper’s first and only other published book), Go Set a Watchman has sparked a lot of controversy, debate and negative reviews. To what extent can we critique a writer’s ethical criticism of literature? I hate that the book takes away the ideals we upheld about Atticus, and completely thank it for not doing the same to Cal.

Why overturn a hero’s legacy? The clean-cut character of Atticus Finch was humanised and celebrated the world over by many as one of the most important father figures in modern literature. Harper kills Atticus by making him racist. I would have rather she killed him in peace, like Jem passed away.

The book is generally a rollercoaster read – certain parts are boring and drag while others are extremely moving and engaging. Whatever the case, Harper Lee I wish you never published this first draft.

M.I Abaga lists his African Rap G.O.A.Ts

Coke_studio-282Spitting fire 100% M.I is the greatest rapper from Nigeria in my books, and undoubtedly one of Africa’s most legendary. It’s a lot of things together, from his consistency, longevity in the game and delivery to his confidence – I haven’t seen anyone top this.

I meet up with the high-spirited M.I at his Chocolate City Offices in Lagos – our second meeting after our stint at Coke Studio Africa season III recording in Nairobi. He’s hilarious! First of all, he doesn’t believe that work brought me to Nigeria. “There is a man involved,” he asserts. By the time we are done with the interview, and we start to talk more music business, he knows I ain’t playing.

I always wanted to know who M.I’s Rap GOAT (Greatest Rapper of All Time) is, and from an expert view – what he feels should be our way of judging GOATs. So here is M.I dishing on how to spot your GOAT, a constant topic of debate.

“Under the skill angle, there are lyrics, the writing and delivery. Understanding your brand and having courage is important to the game. Your career’s longevity and journey of where you came from also matters. When you put all these things together you get classic material.”

On his African GOATs he says; “The Hip-Hop story is starting. There are people who already are in contention. However, I choose Mode 9, HHP, Proverb and Sarkodie. Internationally my greatest rapper is Jay Z and I stand by that. After him comes Pac, Biggie, Nas then the rest.”

Of all the Cyphers on Coke Studio Africa, M.I says that his own bout is hard to top.

“For me and every other artiste, that’s a tough one to be better than. Nobody was on that level. For the ones I did with others, I was blown away! Big shout out to Bamboo – he came correct. The person that blew me away and then I did a song with him immediately after was Khaligraph. I think his skill puts him in the Top 5 of the continent. He’s amazing – his flow is like rapid fire and at the same time he stays on beat.”

A longer version of this article was published by Coke Studio Africa, here.

2015 – Why I’d Do You Over Again

dsc00208-1If my 2015 was a showreel, it would be blockbuster. It was the year of making major moves and taking big risks. I told myself that I would meet and interview D’Angelo in Stockholm when I decided to take a trip to Sweden to attend The Return Tour concert, even though I had no leads at the start. It happening wasn’t only a show of my connects, bravery and the level of hope I’ve nurtured inside of me, it was a dream come true – for D’Angelo is one of my major musical influences. Thanks to the two Cleos who played an instrumental role in the mission.

I wrote about How I Met D’Angelo. Trust me, it’s like a movie and you want to read this.

How I took and posted that viral Sauti Sol Lipala Dance video with President Barack Obama during his visit to Kenya was no mean feat. It wasn’t planned between Sauti Sol and the State House, but we were prepared for it. I remember I had the caption ready to post and the camera ready to record, even before it happened. I was the first person to stand up, unashamed of seeming inappropriate at a presidential ball function. When I got an email that the picture of Sauti Sol dancing with Obama had been placed in White House Oval Office, I said to myself – ‘Dreams do come true’ – but you have to be ready and prepared. Highlight of my career as Sauti Sol’s Publicist. That and the release of our third album: Live and Die in Afrika. Maaan, we had countless late nights and early mornings, and fights. The only reason we are all still friends is God.

 

 

Work during tour and travel was fun! My most memorable concerts were in Zanzibar, Stockholm, Uganda and Rwanda. Sauti Sol’s first show in Kampala was totally sold out – no other East African act has done that in Uganda’s recent history. Working on Stromae’s PR for the last of his global tour concert in Kigali was another career highlight. I wrote all about it:

A review of D’Angelo’s Stockholm’s The Second Coming Tour

To Uganda and Back: of Butts, Matoke and Music

Here’s why 2015 was the best year to see Stromae, and Rwanda was the best place.

 
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 4.50.36 PM2015 was also my most prolific, in writing matters. Drafted well over 100 press releases for all the artistes and clients I represented from across Africa and beyond, over 100 articles for DStv and over 50 blog posts for Black Roses and Coke Studio’s site. Working as Coke Studio Africa’s first Publicist and Editor in Chief of it’s debut site: The Mash Up, was so dope and enlightening. I was exposed to so much music, contacts and connects. Meeting countless superstars whose music I always loved from my younger days in music entertainment was priceless. From NE-YO, Cobhams, 2 Face Idibia, Ice Prince and Alikiba – we had such an amazing run. Here are some of my favourite interviews:

Chopstix on his Wizard Machine

Ice Prince, “We made a smash with NE-YO”

Nahreel on mastering his craft

Exclusive: Meeting & Interviewing NE-YO

Breaking Bread with Cobhams

Check out Coke Studio Africa Mash Up Blog.

Precious moment at Coke Studio Africa was meeting and making friends with Iona, daughter of Kenyan fashion royalty, and Abiodun, my God-sent angel from a heaven called Nigeria. Together we founded the dance group: Dope Gang

My other dope interviews from last year included Breakups to Makeups: Dru Hill 20 Years Later

As for my Daily Nation articles, below were my favourites:

D’Angelo’s Second Coming a Big Success

Kenyan Club Opens in Stockholm – this was by far one of my best stories.

We criticised Davido, but are Kenyan musicians any better?

New Kenyan movie on plight of female athletes in the works

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 4.57.22 PMI was also killing it with media tours, conferences and events. Sauti Sol’s first media tour in Uganda was kick-ass, so was K.O’s in Kenya handled by yours truly. From the launch of the Kalasha-winning film on the demise of Kenyan boxing: The Last Fight, WhatsGoodLive 2016 Announcement, Sauti Sol x Clarence Peters collabo, media launch of Live and Die in Afrika album, K.O & Mos Def Rapsody Events and Maybelline meets FAFA in a fashion storm, among others – everything I touched turned to gold!

I am particularly excited about two media events that I already have planned for 2016. Can’t wait! S/O to my assistant Tracy.

Sparked by an interest in examining music’s role in defining the African narrative, I also produced an Artist Talk Back event hosted at the 2015 Storymoja Festival. I wrote about it:

K.O Meets Octo in Music’s Role in Defining Africa

Spending two weeks in Sweden, reuniting with my friend Sylvia was magic. I will forever be grateful for how she played the best tour guide and treated me like a princess while there. See what we were up to:

Visiting the Swedish Photography Museum

12459877_10153686144522559_1599998357_nSpending two weeks in Nigeria in December doing work exchange at Sponge Nigeria, and my own business while being hosted by my girl Abi was the crowning of all. I found my twin sister and forever work partner. This girl has changed my outlook on life and friendship, and I will forever be indebted to her. Thanks for making me feel like the Queen of Beesam.

I wrote about being lost in meetings & showbiz: sounds from Nigeria.

In summary and in all honesty, my grind was at its peak in 2015, I even renovated my mother’s house (something I’d been praying for – for years). I told myself that there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do. I had many sleepless nights though – sometimes I would jokingly call myself a 24-hour economy. Sometimes I forgot to be a good friend – why this year, I plan to be a better friend, and lover.

All the risks I took, paid off. My mind took different form – I put it to extremely hard tests. I want to challenge myself even more this year. I learnt that true love to yourself, and others is in selflessness. If you can let the ones you love be their best and with whoever they deem fit – you are indeed on the path to being your best.

This year I plan to keep slaying and making boss moves. There’s so much planned. Wish you all nothing but love, blessings and success in your endeavours. So thankful to each and every person who cared, touched and supported me in one way or another. Let’s do it all over again this year!

Happy 2016!

Top Music Videos of 2015: Anyiko’s Select 10

top10top10It’s a great music video when I find myself ogling at it even when the TV is on mute. However, I am going to be really pissed off if I put on the sound to find that it’s a terrible song. From Ice Prince’s Mutumina, JAB’s Winning in Life, Patoranking’s Daniella Whine to Diamond’s twerkers in Nasema Nawe, many dope videos had me going goo goo ga ga in 2015. I present you my exceptional 10 in no particular order.

1. Live and Die in Afrika – Sauti Sol (Director: Sauti Sol Entertainment)

Many Kenyan musicians have shot music videos atop Kenyatta Kenyatta International Convention Centre (third tallest building in Kenya) but I am afraid very few have brought to light Nairobi’s iconic beauty from its eyes, like Sauti Sol have done in this video. It’s the kind of cinematic brilliance that will have people all over the world be like, “What African city is this?” Yo! That’s Nairobi and the KICC was designed by Norwegian architect Karl Henrik Nøstvik, as commissioned by Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta in 1967.

 

2. Celebrity Girlfriend – Falz feat. Reekado Banks (Director: Clarence Peters)

This is the most hilarious music video I’ve watched all year! The celebrity girlfriends aren’t lookalikes but doppelgängers–only reason why Falz actually fooled me. I even asked my Nigerian sister Abi while in Lagos, “How did Falz get Omotola to do this?” Throughout the video’s three minutes, Falz, Reekado, the director and the girls don’t drop the ball even for a second. It’s a triumphant turning point when Falz’s unrequited pursuits finally bear fruit – my heart actually smiles when the ladies embrace him. My favourites were Beyonce, Rihanna, Temidollface, Seyi Shay and Yemi Alade. That’s like almost all of them, right? 🙂

 

3. Chekecha Cheketua – Alikiba (Director: Meji Alabi)

This is a double sword: hit song and hit video—Alikiba’s retaliation from past mistakes of never producing music videos to songs that became such massive hits. Shot in a South African suburb, this is Alikiba’s most colourful dance video. The director borrows certain post-production elements from Stromae’s Papaoutai video, and it’s perfectly alright. Alikiba is such a star! From how he patronises his female dancers with his charm and waist-wining, to how he makes the damn hard Chekecha Dance seem like child’s play – there’s not one thing that could have been done differently in this video.

 

4. Game – Navy Kenzo feat. Vanessa Mdee (Director: Justin Campos)

We already know that Vanessa Mdee is a slayer. At first sight, many take Nahreel to be a fashion killer rather than a beat maker. VeeMoney joins The Industry’s producer Nahreel with his better half Aika (the two are Navy Kenzo –Tanzania’s hottest and fastest rising music duo) on this bonafide ragga/dancehall track. Following a playful cat and mouse chase between groups of males and females, with couples taunting each other – Game is a tight video displaying what happens when Tanzania’s coolest kids collide with Justin Campos – crazy talented director based in South Africa. Game having held at No. 1 for months on MTV Base African Countdown shows the rest of Africa that East Africa too got game 😉

 

5. Ndi Mukodo – Cindy feat. Navio (Director: J. Blessing)

Another Ragga/dancehall banger – just what Ugandans love! I am disappointed that Navio is overdressed in this video, and way impressed at how Cindy is flaunting her bod. She is brave enough to bring her sexiness on a track and video – something many East African divas shy away from. Good job by the Kenyan director. This kind of video needs a careful edit or else it risks being plain raunchy. Navio tells me that in their native Ndi Mukodo can be loosely translated to, ‘If that nigga is mine, no one else will have a piece of him, or me.’ You really don’t want to mess with Cindy’s man.

 

6. Ayo – Chris Brown and Tyga (Director: Colin Tilley) & The Money – Davido and Olamide (Director: Sesan)

If you’re going to go big on a theme you better do it well. These two videos have delivered on parading a show of affluence – sometimes it’s so careless it’s silly and hilarious! The scene with Chris and Tyga on top of a skyscraper is so cinematic it reminds me of Dru Hill’s How Deep is Your Love video shot in Hong Kong by the director of Rush Hour. Young ballers in faux fur coats – the styling was also on point!

Read my exclusive interview with Dru Hill – From Breakups to Makeups: 20 Years Later

Still on that tip, big shout to African superstars with the spending power on the clichés of extravagance in music videos: from the women, big cars to sprinkling dollar bills. That joke about people receiving calls on stacks of money is so played out but the part where Olamide receives a phone in form of a stack of dollars passed over by Davido is unbelievably hella fresh!

 

7. Sugar – Yemi Alade (Director: Paul Gambit)

If anybody doubted that Yemi Alade really is the King Of Queens, get enthralled by this pop art imagery video emphasised by her debonair dance moves – as choreographed by Ezinne Asinugo. By the time she is sitting on a throne wearing a crown you know that she’s earned her status. The video reminds me of Rihanna’s Rude Boy. Yes! It’s that good of a comparison.

 

8. Play No Games – Big Sean feat. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign (Director: Mike Carson)

Hands down my best video this year! I am such a huge fan of the 90s sitcom Martin! Wzup Radio was trill! From I know to One Man Can Change the World, in 2015 Big Sean produced videos oozing serious art direction. The 90s sitcom ‘Martin’ themed-music video took the crown. As a huge fan of Martin and Gina, it was so fresh to see Big Sean bring back the full cast: Tommy, Cole, Pam and even the annoying Bruh-Man and the nosey midget in his video. When the real Martin Lawrence shows up in the video’s ending, it’s the most worthy certification that this is a classic video.

 

9. Shooga – Yung L (Director: David Nicol – Sey)

Yung L’s videos are simple and authentic yet captivating all the same. You need to pay more attention to his songs too. I like when the Naija girls pull generators at the start of his 2014 SOS video and how Shooga’s director shows us the flavour of Ghana through bright colours and street dance. I just wish the director would cut off the excessive nyash shaking and have more of Chopstix. That’s all. Through tiny details, Yung L always captures the heart and soul of changing cultures in the face of life and times in modern Africa.

 

10. Wet Dreamz – J. Cole (Director: Ryan Staake)

J. Cole is a genius. It doesn’t get more literal when you get dogs falling in love in the video of a song about puppy love. Cute bitch meets a big dog. How the dogs lay eyes on each other, follow each other and finally meet and play is a stark reminder of the very steps we humans take before relationships transition from the bedroom to the stage of breakups and makeups. It’s the only wise way of shooting the video of a song that bluntly undresses sex. I wish Cole never showed up in the ending though.

P.S: Check out my review of J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive album

Do you dig my selection? Holla!

Stromae in Rwanda: Best Concert of 2015 (Review)

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With some of my colleagues from Stromae’s Kigali Concert.

I was killing it this year! Running PR for Stromae’s final concert of his Racine Carrée Global Tour staged in Kigali, alongside his hosts and management, was a key moment of my career.

It was so dope when I arrived in Rwanda to find the press releases I’d spent countless nights writing printed for the hundreds of international and local press present at Stromae’s first press conference in Rwanda. It was great to ask my questions at the presser too, and even greater to party with Stromae and his family at the private after party we held after his concert. This blog isn’t supposed to be about me but a review of what would become my best concert ever – not only of 2015.

See my work 👆#StromaeKigali #pressconference was trill #SuperPublicistBestBlv #LoverofWords 😃

A photo posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

The half Rwandese half Belgian pop singer/songwriter and rapper Stromae (Paul Van Haver) is internationally renowned for global hit French songs like Alors on Danse (2009), Tous Les Mêmes and Papaoutai (2013). On 17th October 2015 he concluded his acclaimed two-year long world tour in East Africa, staging the last show in Rwanda – his father’s native land. This was following successful tours and travel in more than twenty five countries including several American states, and selling out the last shows in Kinshasa and New York’s Madison Square Garden.

In 2015, Rwanda commemorated two decades of peace since the genocide. The same year also saw Stromae career’s catapult to its peek with his latest album “Racine Carrée” (2013) cementing him as a global star. Despite language barrier, the half Rwandese artiste has become one of the world’s most successful French-singing artistes of this decade. For these reasons, 2015 was the best time to attend a Stromae concert and Rwanda was the best place for this.

Stromae had cancelled his planned concert in Kigali earlier this year after falling ill. This however didn’t ruin fans anticipation. The Kigali concert pulled 20,000 people – young and old, of different races and from all walks of life. They came from all over East Africa and beyond. Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame and Kenyan music group: Sauti Sol were among several VIP guests at the show.

The gates of Kigali’s ULK stadium had fans thronging in as early as five hours before concert kick off. Earlier in the day, I attend Stromae’s press conference held at Hotel Des Mille Collines.

He speaks in French and English, in brief and has a great sense of humour. “It’s been a tiresome tour but great all the same. It gives me so much pleasure to connect with my fans, and finish the tour at home,” adding, “I can’t wait to meet my whole family here.” Accompanied by his mother and management team, Stromae came to Rwanda with a team of around forty professionals. He also flew in his full sound, stage and lighting setup in a private jet.

Pic by Mona Yacoub for Isaano Rwanda

It was an emotional welcome for Stromae with the crowd roaring for about fifteen minutes as soon as Stromae stepped onto the striking stage. The men of his four-piece backing band were dressed in knee length shorts, black and white knitted sweaters with hexagonal prints and black fedoras. A patriotic energy and pride swayed around the stadium as the mammoth crowd sang word for word to Formidable, among his songs. Watching Stromae’s world-class live show is an experience so magical. It’s the distinct magnificent laser lights and visual effects; his acrobatic voice; theatrics in his pompous change of outfits and inimitable dance moves.

From the attires to the performance sets, it was the exact Stromae Global Tour that has travelled across Europe and America. The last song Papaoutai (French for Dad Where are You?) was written from dreams and aspirations of his father who was killed in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. After the performance, Stromae transforms into a meek Paul Van Haver. He thanks fans countlessly while mentioning names of his relatives from Rwanda.

Watching Stromae live in Kigali was so grand, and historic that the team of Rwandan promoters and organisers (Positive Productions, Afrogroov and Rock Events and Promotion) who hosted him could only compare the magnitude of his show to a Lucky Dube Rwanda peace concert held in 2000 which was aimed at healing national wounds following the 1994 Genocide. In many ways, Stromae’s return to Rwanda this year after being away for more than two decades must have healed his own wounds from losing his father. Finally, Stromae dedicates the momentous end of his tour to his father’s memory. “Papa Merci.”

BONUS: Stromae is Verlan (a French inversion of syllables in slang) for maestro. He produced his first international hit Alors on Danse off his computer at home with a desktop mic. As an entertainer, some have described his futuristic style as a mash up of Michael Jackson and Charlie Chaplin.

I will never thank Positive Productions, Afrogroov and Rock Events, Promotion and RwandAir enough for putting me on this Stromae project. I look forward to working with you more in 2016.

Top Albums of 2015: Anyiko’s Select 10

My life and work revolves around music so I thought it would be nice to list the 10 albums that brought thunder and lightning to my world this year. The arrangement comes in no particular order.

1. Live and Die in Afrika – Sauti Sol (Kenya)

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 6.07.01 PMBaddest album cover art! I bow down to Annabel Onyango for the styling and production. I would buy this album twenty times over just for the cover even if I wasn’t Sauti Sol’s Publicist or never knew them. Three years in the making – Sauti Sol’s third album is undoubtedly their magnum opus. Live and Die in Afrika isn’t only an important title but an expression of how and where Sauti Sol intends to leave a mark. This is also their first self-produced album. Big up to producers: Savara and Fancyfingers! If other producers delivered hits like Nerea and Sura Yako they’d be such superstars now. From Isabella, Nishike, Say Yeah, Nerea, Relax to Shake Yo Bam Bam; Sauti Sol have delivered a stellar collection of songs on love, sex, spirituality, hope, dreams, dance and just about any life situation. Consider it an eclectic 15-track album with 9 new songs. Dollar Dollar is my jam.

2. Stories That Touch – Falz (Nigeria)

Falz-Stories-That-Touch-ArtWhat’s not to love about Falz? The Bahd guy sounds as good singing or rapping. A personality so big, see it sip out of Celebrity Girlfriend music video. Hilarious! Touted as one of Nigeria’s best albums in 2015, Falz’s sophomore album is the best music discovery I’ve unearthed this year. Unlike the monotony I’ve encountered with many albums from Nigerian artistes, this is different, versatile, fresh, enriching and an easy listen. I didn’t need to forward any of its 16 tracks. Cutting across genres, this is more than a hip hop album with a 50/50 divide of songs in English and Pidgin. All collaborators fit in like a perfect jigsaw. Falz has penned stories that really touch and we can relate to. For the lovers who experience the difficulty of long distance relationships, Time Difference is your jam. “…How I wish that I could teleport over there … I can’t take it if she flees … but I can’t wait till she says she can’t stay with a G …” In Workaholic, Falz asserts that we won’t carry money to heaven and the body isn’t a machine, “Even mainstream ballers get time out…” He raps. Other favourites include Soft Work, Soldier, Soupé, Karishika (inspired by an olden Naija film on a witch who would enslave men using witchcraft) and Chardonnay Music. It’s a shame that little is known about Falz in East Africa – guess that’s why he’s Nigeria’s most promising export come 2016.

3. Mwooyo – Maurice Kirya (Uganda)

1924326_10205100423283317_8494778152810192877_n-e1425316949713Another album cover to write home about! It should be a crime for a man to be as tall, dark and handsome; and still be a crooner. The sexpot symbol could as well have been Maurice Kirya’s biggest misfortune. Hardly any East African doesn’t know his name but few take time to listen to his music because many think he’s just a hottie. His third album: Mwooyo (Luganda for soul) has cemented Kirya as East African king of soul. In fact, many Ugandans refer to him as King of Mwooyo. Birthing the hot single Never Been Loved, other album classics include Ghost, Mama We Made it and Busaabala (the music video is a must-watch). A masterful composer and songwriter, Kirya has also produced many songs in this album. Everything we Do is easily one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Cop the 12-track album – for Kirya’s charm and charisma cannot be disregarded. I am proud to have worked as his Publicist on several projects this year.

4. Expose Yourself – Sage (Kenya)

IMG-20151228-WA0036Sage is underrated and too talented to be ignored. Not by me. Soon as I heard her debut album (recently released) at least a year ago, I knew she had done for Kenyan R&B what every celebrated Kenyan R&B singer failed to do. We waited in vain for Didge, Sanaipei and Pam to release their solo albums. Her teaming up with Producer Dillie was a match made in heaven. Maskini is the kind of song I can only liken to kings and queens of neo soul like Musiq Soulchild and Leela James. Its production, vocal arrangement (harmonies/adlibs) and lyrics only put Sage way above all Kenyan power vocalists. It’s not just your voice but how well you can arrange it. Look out for my other favourite songs: Heaven and Mistakes. A good thing about Sage, she sings from her heart and sometimes you can tell that her themes are personal.

5. The Collectiv3 LP – (Nigeria)

The-Collectiv3-LP-800x800If you’re looking for the freshest sound from Africa, Nigeria’s Collectiv3 have landed! With a premise of creating art with no boundaries, IKON, Funbi, Kid Konnect, Tec, Ghost and Temidollface have delivered a masterpiece. They are the perfect show for the other sounds from Nigeria. These are Africa’s most promising artistes coming together to produce 9 new songs that will shape how audiences perceive African music in Africa, and beyond. I really love Temidollface in Just Like That and School Your Face, Funbi – Forbidden Fruit, SDC – Shei Bai and Poe & Funbi in Sexy Bitch and Adore her. Happy Day by Nsikak reminds me of The Foreign Exchange’s Love in Flying Colors. Good job Executive Producer Chin Okeke!

6. The Legend of Kaka – King Kaka (Kenya)

wpid-legend-of-kaka-album-coverKenya’s most prolific artiste, King Kaka’s fourth album displays his growth as an artiste. Boasting 18 tracks, collaborations with heavyweights include Chiwawa and Abbas in 2060 and Joh Makini in Najipenda. Look out for the sweet bongo jam Lini featuring Rich Mavoko. Kichinjio (Swahili for slaughterhouse) is my stand out track. Decorated by punchlines and mad rhymes, here is a diss track for every season, perfect to all the haters still struggling to understand his transition from Rabbit to King Kaka. It’s also an excellent show for his status as a Swahili Shakespeare. “Una ngoma moja Mdundo? Upgrade your CV mi nina ngoma na Wyclef produced by Avicii …” POW! So proud of you hommie.

7. On a Spaceship – Burna Boy (Nigeria)

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 6.15.26 PMWanted to say, what’s not to love about Burna Boy but we all know his controversies, as well as the fact that he’s too damn talented to be ignored. I added this album on my list because it’s legit despite talks going around claiming it’s not. I also added it because of the intro. I respect Burna Boy so much for having someone criticise him as an artiste and a human being – not sure if it was a skit or not. However, I am sure that artistes behave differently from normal human beings yet people expect them to be saints. I long for the day when the craziness emitted by artistes will be judged vis-à-vis their talent. Trust Burna to bring in his boys A.K.A and Da L.E.S in Birthday and Nyanda from Brick & Lace in Mine Tonight. All the 15 tracks are 5-star material. My standout track is Single feat. Wiz Kid.

8. Compton – Dr. Dre (USA)

dr-dre-compton-album-art1After sixteen years of waiting, Dre’s third album Compton is a triumphant return, dropping side by side N.W.A’s biopic Straight Outta Compton. Talking to my Diary is my standout track. Here, Dre narrates his life story. From nothing to something, he recalls the struggle of attaining success having come from the ghetto, wisely stating that ultimate strength comprises finance and physical/mental health. The second verse is a letter to Eazy-E. Kendrick Lamar absolutely murders it in Deep Water and Genocide. Eminem, Snoop Dogg, The Game and Ice Cube all brought it. I hated what Dre did with Marsha Ambrosius, but accepted it all the same. My favourites include For The Love of Money, Animals, Its All on Me and Medicine Man. Dre did a great job featuring new and old school cats on the album. From Anderson Paak, Justus, King Mez and Jon Connor, big shout to the new generation of rappers and songwriters storming hard in Compton. As Dre logs off with his last album, he will be remembered for this ode to Compton, and producing hip hop’s biggest collaboration album in recent history. There are more than forty four people credited in Compton. And counting!

9. Wale – The Album About Nothing (USA)

 Wale_-_The_Album_About_Nothing_(Official_Third_Album_Cover)“I ain’t loose my content … Still know what my core needs, fuck who ignores me …” The Album About Nothing is Wale’s stab at his critics, and pundits claiming that over the years he’s lost himself in the commercialising of his music. Breaking out seven years ago with the Seinfeld-inspired The Mixtape About Nothing, it would take Wale three albums later to return to his roots and originality with his fourth studio album: The Album About Nothing—what’s considered as his most personal expression yet. I love the bile with which Wale delivers in Helium Balloon and Middle Finger. All 14 tracks are my favourites but I must shout The God Smile, The Bloom and The Matrimony. How he juxtapositions social class to dope shoes in White Shoes is show for how deep Wale goes. He will never be your typical rapper and even when he pretends to be; real Wale fans know that he never sold his soul to the devil.

10. Tiwa Savage – R.E.D (Nigeria)

Tiwa-Savage-REDFresh release from Mavin’s first lady Tiwa Savage, the 16-track R.E.D is the last important African album dropping in 2015. Love me Hard featuring 2 Face Idibia is my standout track in the album. Other favourites include Bang Bang and the cha-cha-esque If I start to Talk feat. Dr. Sid – such a beautiful song! The danceable African Waist was a quick favourite – a fuse of dance music, hip hop, afro beats and the very R&B we love from Tiwa. She’s done a good job featuring other big music names like Busy Signal and Olamide. I hope all top female singers have gone back to the drawing board because Baby Billz is grown and now the Queen is back!

Special mention goes to The Indestructible Choc Boi Choc Boy Nation (Choc Boys) and Two Kings (Olamide & Phyno).

Lost in Work, Meetings and Showbiz: Sounds from Nigeria

12432799_10153668814527559_1166807819_oWhat an adventurous and enlightening December I’ve had. Taking on a decision to spend a two-week sojourn in Lagos for work experience was probably the second best decision I’ve taken this year in my capacity as a Publicist and Communication Expert. I will never thank Sponge Nigeria (leading Digital Agency) enough for taking me in and putting me to task and test. All my colleagues were so kind and helpful. I am afraid I can’t write about everything and what every single person did for me. You all helped me grow as a person and professionally. I hope even if tiny, I also left a mark.

Before embarking on my trip, I had to write down things I had to do, people I had to meet and places I had to go. I knew it would be hard to balance work and personal business/life in such a hectic city, and in two weeks. I just never knew that it would be so difficult and stressful. At times, I had headaches and I cried once, but thankfully I am a tough girl – I managed.  I am grateful to those who showed me guidance, and tough love.

12432713_10153668829872559_939770308_oBy the time I was spending my last three days in Lagos I had accomplished everything I wanted, if not more. Meeting up with Ice Prince at his home studio was super cool. Meeting my hommie Chin Okeke at the Lagoon Restaurant was great – certainly the best view of Lagos island from anywhere. Cobhams Asuquo having to squeeze time to see me amidst his busy schedule was something; so was my meeting with Chopstix, who was kind enough to advice me on my trip’s overall plan. He also gave me ALL contacts to industry players I didn’t have already. Chops – how can I thank you? Meeting Mike Olah  and Mavin’s Bizzle was awesome. My former boss at Coca-Cola, Otome, visited me at Sponge. Such an honour! I shared with him my 2016 work project plans and he gave me a lot of advice. Nobody knows what this means to me. This is the guy who interviewed me three times and made me write at least three proposals before I got hired as Publicist of Coke Studio Africa 🙂

Read my interview with Ice Prince here.

My interview with Chopstix on his wizard machine.

12449490_10153668844137559_426904469_oVisiting Chocolate City was dope! I got to meet the whole team behind the Choc Boys. I’ve been cc’d in numerous emails with Momoh so it was good to finally see his face. It was hilarious how we had so much to talk about work from the emails we’ve been receiving. I wish someone recorded my three-hour meeting with Taiwo, Choc City’s head of PR. We bonded and were like two peas in a pod. Loads of collaboration to do – we’re just getting started in 2016. Reuniting with Abuchi, M.I’s manager was necessary. He was kind enough to advice me on my career’s advancement and on what other boss moves I can make.

I blogged about driving to the island through the hoods of Lagos with Abuchi

Meeting the media mogul Olisa Adibua was an honour and a gateway to great connects and contacts. I had previously met him twice at events over the past month and he’d given me his business card. On the last meet up I made sure that he gave me an appointment. At the comfort of his home, we discussed business extensively. From Sauti Sol matters to how we can bridge the gap between East Africa and West Africa arts and culture scene – I wish I could share details.

Meeting Tola of mymusic.com.ng and his entire music team was really great! Please check out the site. We plan to work together too.

12449312_10153668569557559_1513447993_oVisiting MTV Nigeria HQ at Ikoyi was one of my best moments. For about five years, I’ve been emailing with MTV’s worldwide Team and they’ve never seen my face – neither had I seen theirs. So meeting Lanre, Tola and the rest of the team in Nigeria simply felt like meeting old friends. We spent hours talking African music with a focus on how East Africa can get better at promotions and visibility. I was happy to hear that they have introduced a thirty minute 100% East daily segment on MTV Base. It was my pleasure to thank them for all the support MTV has shown Sauti Sol (2014 Winners – Best African Act MTV EMA).

Meeting Phil (industry mover and shaker) was important. I’ve tagged all my Nigerian girls as I hang out with him at the TRACE End of Year Party at the newly opened Hard Rock Café in Victoria Island. Phil has brought me to meet important people. As we enter the party, he’s exchanging niceties with TeeBillz and Tiwa Savage. Tiwa is such a beauty! He introduces me to the MD of TRACE Anglophone West Africa, Sam Onyemelukwe, while inside. “TRACE loves Sauti Sol and a lot from East Africa!” He says.

At different times, in different clubs, I find myself right next to Davido, Tekno Miles, DJ Spinall and my current favourite YCEE. I didn’t talk to Davido as we got crowded with photographers. The latter three were such gentlemen and fast to share their contacts with me without my asking.

Reuniting with Alex Okeke, Banky W, Lynxx and Emmanuel Ikubese was ecstatic! They were all like, “WTH are you doing here?” As we’re leaving the TRACE Party for the club, Phil pulls me back inside. “I need you to meet someone”.

It’s Wiz Kid.

The star boy is sitting right by the MD of TRACE at the VVIP area. There is a crowd of people waiting to say Hello or just shake his hand but he cuts them off to hear Phil do the intro. It’s a mystery how all this time I have never met or seen Wiz Kid perform. He’s the one person I had to meet while in Lagos.

Of all the personalities I’ve met, I can only liken his aura to 2Face Idibia’s. I tell that to Abi who is right next to me as this little movie unfolds. “He’s blessed,” she says. We end up leaving Hard Rock Café right after Wiz Kid. Surrounded by five huge bouncers in black tees and tasers, he jumps into his Porsche leaving behind pandemonium at the parking lot. There’s a crowd God-Knows-From-Where chanting, “Wiz Kid!” What a star! Phil – I mean 🙂

BONUS: Special thanks to Abi, Folake, IBB, Abuchi, Lanre and Phil for being my eyes and ears in Lagos. I should do the same when you come to East Africa.

 

Top Songs of 2015: Anyiko’s Select 10

These are the songs that turned my year upside down – the good kind. While some made me fall in love with the idea of love, some made me damage the replay button. Others almost made me burst my eardrums if I wasn’t dancing over and over – to an extent I had to start a dance group: Dope Gang. Let’s go there!

1. Isabella – Sauti Sol (Kenya)

This is the ballad of ballads. If songs were people, Isabella is a beautiful goddess. Stripped down and only layered in piano and violin instrumentals, this is so far Sauti Sol’s best at flaunting their mighty prowess in writing songs for love. Its message is simple, just love in the moment – your race, religion or age doesn’t matter. Savara’s spiralling falsetto in the second verse is chilling. Very proud Publicist and friend to these guys.

2. Jagaban – YCEE & Olamide (Nigeria)

Jagaban is the nickname of Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos. Now sitting as a chief and a chairman in important associations and parties, you still can’t run shit in Lagos without Jagaban’s blessing. The traditional element in the beat of this song is too sick.

Delivering punch lines with an aggressive tiger flow, YCEE does sound like an heir of YBNL. When I first heard the song Nov 2015 while in Lagos, I wondered who dared to sound like Olamide. When I returned in December, I found that YCEE had done a remix with Olamide. “Olamide just put me on, do you know what it feels like?” He raps. Recently Olamide posted their picture performing together at Sound City Urban Blast Festival with the caption – “You gon be great bro.” I don’t doubt that. YCEE is one of the rappers from Nigeria to watch in 2016.

3. Don’t Bother – Joh Makini (Tanzania) & A.K.A (South Africa)

Sickest hip hop song and production I’ve heard all year! Illest dedication to all your enemies! The song is engineered by The Industry’s Nahreel – top Tanzanian music producer well-known as Joh Makini and Vanessa Mdee’s long-term collaborator. A.K.A brought it all. The two should do a collabo album in 2016. I wish the world could hear the Swahili, especially on Joh’s second verse. Joh Makini’s rap – the lines, message, attitude, rhymes and punch lines murdered the careers of all rappers in East Africa. RIP. Good thing y’all can start over in 2016 🙂

4. Nobody But Me – Vanessa Mdee (Tanzania) & K.O (South Africa)

pAnother winning Nahreel production, I really loved the music video and the simplicity of the song’s message. Vanessa teaching K.O Swahili lyrics was so cool. Their chemistry is at 100% and the song was a certified hit in East Africa, South Africa and the West.

5. All Your Fault – Big Sean & Kanye West (America)

Off the album: Dark Sky Paradise, this one is produced by DJ Mano, Kanye West, OG Webbie, Travi$ Scott and Wondagurl. You only top Yeezy on a track he’s delivered on once, and Big Sean did. I am a follower of Yeezus and his protégés and I haven’t seen anyone master Yeezy’s craft as well as Big Sean. Sean’s flow on this song is sicker than Malaria. I like that they both rap side by side each other on Verse 3, at times you can’t tell who’s who. The last line of the song should be everyone’s 2016 policy.

“People ask me how to make it/ I’m just like, “Man if you want the crown, bitch you gotta take it. Straight up”

6. Moto wa kuotea mbali The Kansoul & Nameless (Kenya)

This is my jam and my Nigerian best friend Abi’s song for days! Yo! I will just leave our Dope Gang performances here and pray that The Kansoul and my dear friend Maddy will deliver another mega hit like this in 2016. P.S Nameless killed it with that line, “Respect your elders! I started singing when you were still in diapers …”

7. Talk About It – Dre featuring King Mez & Justus (America)

talk-about-it-lyric-screenshotNot one second in: “I don’t give a fuck!” Have to give it up to the zero chills in this production. There were many sick jams in Dre’s Compton album but I also picked Talk About It because it’s the one time since Still, that Dre has earned all the bravado he flaunts in one song. “I remember selling instrumentals off a beeper/ Millionaire before the headphones or the speakers/ I was getting money before the internet/ Still got Eminem cheques I ain’t opened yet/ MVP shit …”  Goddamn! The song was partly written by A.J. Baptiste-Caselle, the producer/songwriter who goes by the name Jean Baptise. He’s also worked with Cudi, Madonna, Chris Brown and the Black Eyed Peas.

8. Boss – Ice Prince (Nigeria)

This is a banger, and my ringtone. It was playing in every single club I went to in Lagos Dec 2015. I really loved Ice on this one because it showed a different side of him 🙂 Part of its video was shot in Nairobi. The East African release of BOSS was handled by Anyiko PR.

9. Matrimony – Wale x Usher (America)

Wale has been a consistent NE-YO collaborator in his past two albums before the latest Album About Nothing. I really loved his songs with NE-YO: White Linen (Ambition) and Tired of Dreaming (The Gifted) but they never made it as big as Matrimony. I think it’s because he got my husband on a track – finally! 🙂

10. Ta-Ku – Love Again (feat. JMSN & Sango)

This is a dope soul song by the Australian singer. He’s also a dope photographer – his Instagram is magic. I dig the song because it’s so original; he’s my type of underground artiste and sings to my heart. Plus I just want to love again.

Special mention goes to JAB’s Winning in Life and Leon Bridges with Coming Home.

Madness, Generators and Nairas: Insights from Nigeria

12436268_10153664393412559_881436666_oI have discovered that Lagos (Nigeria and Africa’s most populous city) is so far the only place that can accommodate my madness. Many times I have raised my voice or yelled at different instances while in Kenya, and some people took it for rudeness but I am sorry I am my mother’s daughter and that’s just how we express frustration. Everybody yells and shouts in Lagos, so naturally I felt welcomed to Nigeria during my two-week stay. I never liked the careless hooting. It caused me constant headaches and endless thoughts as to why not one Lagos driver can just chill.

I’ve deduced that everyone’s tone is higher than normal in Lagos because first – the surrounding is almost always noisy – in comparison to Kenya. There is a constant rumbling sound of generators and spiking air off their fumes. You have to shout louder on phone for the person on the other side to hear you because the network is mostly jammed.

The general madness level in Lagos is about six times the madness in Nairobi. Numbers make a perfect case study to set the background of this case scenario. If you put all East African cities together: Lagos only is still king in numbers, as of 2015 statistics. While Lagos boasts a population of over 20 Million, the population in Nairobi is approximately at 6.5 Million; Kampala a little over 2 Million; Dar Es Salaam a little over 4 Million and Kigali a little over 1 Million. They collectively don’t even sum up to 20 Million – yet we haven’t even counted the rest of the Nigerian states. This is a big reason why Nigeria is the giant of African music at the moment – their numbers patronise the rest of Africa.

Straight from the airport, driving around Lagos mainland and island is such a fresh experience! Bez, Falz, Yemi Alade, P Square, M.I, 2 Face Idibia, Seyi, Tiwa Savage and Wizkid, among several artistes, are on countless billboards adverts or on as brand ambassadors. The few non-Nigerian artistes who I saw on billboards included Adelle, Avril, Bien and Vanessa Mdee.

It saddens me that many Kenyan corporates and brands are still yet to see the full value of artistes. They would rather have models or comedians on billboards and their adverts or campaigns and not music stars. I have nothing against models or comedians; I am only saying that there is a big opportunity for Kenyan corporates to marry their brands with that of artistes.

This is my next phase of projects in the works.

Traffic in Lagos is also on a different level. The distance between the mainland and island will take you approximately thirty minutes with moving traffic. The journey around the island was always beautiful to me. I don’t live in a coastal or port city so please let me be. There are three main bridges linking Lagos Mainland to the Island. The Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge is such a babe! The 1.36 km cable-strayed bridge links Lekki with Ikoyi – these are the rich people and celebrity estates.

I visit MTV Offices and Nigerian media Mogul Olisa Adibua at his home, both in Ikoyi. Houses in Ikoyi, to be specific Parkview Estate are quite something. The road is so perfect with the estate street roads made of tiny little pebbles. Some of the grandiose mansions are painted in white and gold – no generators noise here. I was so impressed yet astounded at an affluent view of Lagos. Some parts of the city are so polluted by generator’s fumes and noise – let’s not even talk about places where there’s never power.

On my first sign of the disparity divide between the rich and poor in Nigeria, read on my first time in Nigeria: Baptism by Fire.

The world doesn’t expect a giant economy like Nigeria to be as crippled when it comes to power so while in Lagos, I try to comprehend why having power is top of Nigerian problems. You spend about 5,000 Nairas on your generator every day, an equivalent of 2,500 Ksh, depending on how you use your power. Do the math on this expense per month. Power only comes on for about four or less hours a day.

My God! Look at the queue to a fueling station in Lagos! #FuelShortage ⛽ #DecemberMadness #TotalMadness

A video posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

I am lucky, and unlucky, that I am in Lagos over December – when they experience the worst fuel shortages. There are times when taxi men won’t show up or refuse to go somewhere because of existing fuel shortage and fear of running out before getting fuel to finish trip. I think this might be the reason why Lagos Ubers are pricey in comparison to Nairobi’s. Partly is because distances are longer and you experience more traffic but I will never understand why our Uber ride was almost 12,000 Nairas on one ride in the island on a night of the Trey Songz concert that had slow moving traffic. We only spent like 35 minutes in the Uber. You can’t be broke in Lagos.

I empathize with Nigerians on the matter. It’s not their will to live like that but their government’s failure and the result of years of corruption and mismanagement. Why they produce crude oil but then have to import petrol and the rest after manufacturing elsewhere is a fucked up model. They now have to invest in ways of creating renewable and sustainable energy. I recently heard President Muhammadu Buhari promise to solve the power situation. He was reading the country’s 2016 Budget. Nigeria’s current power situation has crippled and disadvantaged many businesses, business people and industries. If they can solve it, Nigeria can really fuck shit up. Even more! Being back home in Kenya and in my crib makes me feel like I am working from a 5 star hotel. No power shortage, no noise, no fumes.

BONUS; I couldn’t have done anything or gone anywhere without Abi – my girl made sure I was rolling like a Queen. God bless you babe.

 

How I Ended up in Ojuelegba: Lagos Danfo Drama Part II

IMG_1112-3Just a day ago, I drove along Lagos hoods with Abuchi, M.I’s manager and he showed me Bariga – Olamide’s first hood. He also showed me Sunday Street along Pam Groove where he used to live in a tiny house with Ice Prince and M.I before they all blew up. “Now we can all afford houses and live wherever we wish,” he said to me. Thank God and hard work. “This is the city of dreams, I could never leave Lagos,” Abuchi reminisces.

To catch up on this story, read How I Ended up in Ojuelegba: Lagos Danfo Drama Part I

At Ojuelegba, we grab another Danfo to Ikeja now. The conductor and driver are both elderly so I feel a sense of security. This one won’t be dramatic. Abi and I are paying 200 Nairas each. We ask the conductor if he has change for 1000 Nairas bill – what we have. He doesn’t. On hearing this, a lady sitting at the Danfo’s front hands me over 200 Nairas so we can give him all the cash and get easy change. She confuses us when she says 200 for two. On thinking we are meant to pay 100 Nairas each, there becomes such confusion with the change as Abi hands him over the extra 200 Nairas so he can give us 800 Nairas. He gives us 700 instead of 500 Nairas since it was actually 200 Nairas per person. I am even lost now. In summary, this conductor is the worst at math. Moral of the story is the old matatu adage: do not take another passenger’s money to pay for them and always have loose change for fare.

As we are trying to get it all sorted some woman sitting right behind us decides to pock her nose in our business as if it is her money. “Nooo…. You said 1000 Nairas for four, I heard you.” Of course we know what we said but it was the silly lady sitting at the front who confused us by saying 200 Nairas for two, yet all through this fiasco she never opens her mouth once. It’s the guy sitting next to us who defends us asking the conductor to give us the change as he can attest that our math is right.

Another woman alights the Danfo asking for her change and the conductor says he doesn’t owe her anything. This is now becoming a broken record and the ladies sitting at the back of the Danfo won’t take it at all. One of them starts to descend on him, “Foolish! You are a very stupid human being for what you are doing and saying! Give the woman her change now!” I am astounded at her straightforwardness and defence for another person. Feeling sad for this poor old conductor, it’s a turn of events when he retaliates. “You are an idiot woman! Is your father a professor? Show me your degree and what science your mother studied! Stupid – shut your mouth!”

It’s such comedy and an afrocinema movie. I am in stitches and tears as these two hurl insults at each other from across the Danfo all the way from outskirts of Ojuelegba to Ikeja – our final destination.

The gentleman sitting next to us hears Abi telling me, “Every Danfo has its drama.” He agrees, “That’s how we do in Lagos. Only in Nigeria.” We are in Ikeja and this Danfo’s driver just drove fast and far past the designated stage. “Won’t you stop this bus now!” Abi is now furious. “Come down now!” Yells the driver. He really annoys all passengers by this so he gets some good insults as everyone comes out 🙂

 

How I Ended up in Ojuelegba: Lagos Danfo Drama Part I

 

After my first Danfo ride a few days after arriving in Lagos, I have almost swore that I won’t do it again. However, I take another one with my host and sister Abi right after leaving Balogun Market on a Saturday. Anyone who knows Balogun area will tell you that no bus or Uber can even dare come close, especially on a Saturday. It’s the most congested market and area I’ve been to all my life. Human beings traffic there is worse than any traffic caused by vehicles.

After spending hours at Balogun, we are extremely fatigued and will take anything that will take us to the mainland soonest. The Danfo we grab to Oshodi, close to home – Ikeja – seems pretty cool. I thank God that its seats are leather padded, my bum won’t have to hurt too much.

Before departing the conductor says that he has no change and everyone must give him small bills. We have our money ready 500 Nairas for two – I am sure that there will be no drama in this Danfo. In fact, Abi and I both lay our heads to nap as the journey to the mainland commences.

In my sleep, I feel the Danfo’s abnormal front to back rocking motion while we are on the road. At first, I think it’s the small bumps on roads but soon the Danfo stalls abruptly. There are sounds of passengers yelling at the conductor and driver—our rude awakening. Unlike Kenya where passengers can wait for you to explain the matter, here everybody jumps out demanding for the fare refund. There is a cloud of smoke coming off the Danfo’s bonnet. The conductor won’t give us back our fare, even if only to appease us after this inconvenience – at least to avoid traffic build up as we have stalled on the road. Thank God we are not on The Third Mainland Bridge, so we are encountering less traffic.

Everyone, including Abi has yelled at the top of their voices for the conductor to return our fare but he won’t. He accosts a different Danfo to pick us. Only problem is this one isn’t going to Oshodi but Ojuelegba. Ok. So this is my chance to see the famous Ojuelegba – Wiz Kid’s first hood plus Abi says it’s okay we can grab another Danfo to Oshodi from there.

How the Danfo leaves disgruntles passengers should be a movie titled The Great Escape. A number of people won’t go to Ojuelegba even though it will be hard for them to get a Danfo to Oshadi with space from this location. The conductor still won’t give them back their money. At some point, the Ojuelegba Danfo starts to take off with Oshodi’s jilted passengers’ stuff and luggage still inside. I have to almost throw out a lady’s hawking basket as she is outside crying for the driver not to depart as she tries to pull it out the window. Inside the Danfo, some passengers sitting next to Abi are fighting over their sitting spot.

On arrival at Ojuelegba, it’s just good to have passed through Wiz Kid’s hood. I’ve seen the most Danfos at Ojuelegba’s stage. Above it is a big infamous bridge known for deadly accidents as trucks sometimes fall off the rails, killing people walking and hawking on the streets, Abi tells me.

Part II of How I Ended up in Ojuelegba: Lagos Danfo Drama

 

 

Back to Nigeria: Riding in a Lagos Danfo

Danfo-bus

Picture owned by Bisola Bello.

The Danfo (bright yellow public transport vehicles in Nigeria) really isn’t for weak asses, and not for mine – especially at this point of my life because I just started doing butt squats. The Danfo we catch from Lagos Island back to the Mainland on a Monday evening is pretty decent – it has working lights, and the benches are padded with soft leather. However, it’s not soft enough. My butt really suffers from the discomfort of sitting on a bench. I can’t even start to imagine how it would feel if we rode in the Danfos with wooden benches.

At first, I am very keen to get into a Danfo to get a dose of Lagos. I also want to compare and contrast the experience to Nairobi’s matatus. My Lagos friends don’t warm up to the idea of taking a Danfo but thankfully I convince my girlfriend and host Abi. Before heading out to the island earlier, her mother gives us one look and says, “Don’t take a Danfo in your neat dresses while you’re going to town – maybe when you return. Call a taxi.” On returning we grab one in the CBD. The conductors are yelling out to passengers, just like in Nairobi.

I find just as much drama and a nuisance typical of a Nairobi matatu in a Lagos Danfo.

12351180_10153628837907559_1501250090_nThere are four rows of seats with each accommodating five passengers. Two seat at the front. Thankfully this Danfo isn’t overloaded. As soon as we depart for the Mainland, a passenger sitting a row behind us transforms into a preacher. It’s baffling how the same bus-preaching I absolutely detest and run away from in Nairobi would haunt me all the way from Kenya and catch me in the first Danfo I’d take in Nigeria. Seriously – if I want to hear a sermon, I will either go to church or read the Bible.

The trip costs 200 Nairas per person. And just like most Kenyan conductors, this Lagos conductor lets the Danfo leave yet he has no float for customers’ change. Within no time all passengers are descending on him. It’s a little too much to handle in the midst of pastor’s words; he’s literally flowing like El Nino rains. Usually everyone in a Nairobi mat will go crazy over a conductor openly refusing to give change but Lagos passengers won’t let this conductor breath even though he hasn’t refused to give back change. “I don’t have change now! Wait – ooo!” All he can say.

The preacher in the bus won’t stop. He is preaching notions from a Bible I have never heard of. “If your wife is an infidel – never leave her to marry another woman. That’s a sin … Women must never wear trosiiiiss (trousers) – never! And about make up – listen and listen well women. You’re making up yourself for who? You have four colours on your face and when you look at the mirror, you cannot recognise God. If you’re not a prostitute, leave make up now!” I am so offended by his foul mouth and cheap gospel. To make matters worse, he starts to sing. It’s such atrocity. After the singing, Abi and I are anticipating his plea for money or blessings, whatever they call that tip. But at a random stage this dude abruptly jumps out of the Danfo and flees without paying his fare. Please – this is Nigeria. The conductor stops the Danfo and runs after him. I am the only one shocked that a preacher tried to get away without paying. Abi says, “He probably didn’t pay because he was busy preaching when the conductor was collecting the money.” 🙂

Somewhere along the slow-moving traffic I spot Bien on the biggest billboard along The Third Mainland Bridge. The opposite side still has Yemi Alade and Jua Cali’s Coke Studio Africa mash up—I saw this one during my last trip to Lagos.

You might also dig my series – To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire – from my Travel Tales.

By the time we are alighting the Danfo, my butt is aching from the bench. My ear is aching from the preacher’s echoing voice. My tummy is rumbling from the water we bought along the street. My eyes are burning from traffic fumes. My wish to ride in a Danfo has been accomplished and I don’t think I am doing it again.

 

 

 

 

To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire (Part III)

On my last night in Nigeria right after the AFRIMA Awards are over, I am suffering from a serious Jamais Vu maladie. I have already had a difficult time as it is but I am suffocating from a bizarre feeling that tells me that the worst is yet to come in the morning. It’s so strange to know that you are being affected by impending misfortune seeming familiar albeit the fact that you’ve never experienced it. I am so devastated – I can’t talk or do anything other than sleep. Abi and IBB’s attempts to try cheer me up hit rock bottom. I’ve also changed my mind about going to the after party.

True to my instincts, in the morning I wake up to news that we all missed our flights because the 1:50 p.m. indicated on the tickets meant a.m. But why? Even if we wanted to leave at 1 a.m. we would still have been at the event at that time. I am in Nigeria with Sauti Sol for the AFRIMA Awards accompanying them as group’s Publicist and Tour Manager.

Before proceeding with this blog, you might want to catch up on the series of unfortunate events that led me here (if you haven’t already):

To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire (Part I)

To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire (Part II)

 

10:48 A.M.

 

We had initially all agreed to meet at the lobby at 10:00 a.m. so as to leave hotel in time to make it to our previously planned 1:50 p.m. flight but it’s almost 11:00 a.m. and I am still calling hotel rooms to get my guys together. I haven’t told them that we missed our flight yet because I don’t want them to panic and make me panic more so I am handling it with Sharon (head of Sauti Sol Bookings) and Ade (our contact in Nigeria – who won’t be reached on phone). My plan is to get Sauti Sol to the airport and however way into the only other available flight leaving at 12.50 p.m. By the time I get to the lobby I find Savara, Bien and Polycarp going completely ballistic. Somehow, they know that we missed our flights and I can’t even hear what they are telling me because everyone is talking, even yelling, at once. “We can’t stay here another day!” – “We have a new album to launch!” – “We have a meeting with Alikiba tomorrow morning in Nairobi!”

Some of the things I struggle to hear.

I then realise that Chimano is missing and I never got to hear from him since he never picked any of my phone calls to his room. I also haven’t seen him from last night. As Abi helps me check out the rest of Sauti Sol, I rush to Chim’s room.

 

11:45 A.M.

 

I am standing at the hallway knocking at his door so hard and screaming so loud I don’t care if I am about to annoy or wake up the whole floor. He opens the door casually with that WTF look. He just opened his eyes the first time since he returned to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning from the after party. Chim is a rock star. He’s not the least bothered that we’re both about to miss our yet-to-be-booked flight. I have no time to yell at him. I dump every single thing on sight into his suitcase and pull both the suitcase and him – OUT!

 

12:05 P.M.

 

We are at the lobby. Oh my I can’t see the rest of Sauti Sol. I hadn’t still got through to Ade or our chaperone Blessing (who BTW went missing soon after the event last night lol). I bump into Ade. She assures me that she is sorting our flights as a group of managers pounce on her as soon as I let her off. On asking the receptionists about the whereabouts of my people, “They took a taxi to the airport” – they tell me. They have also left with all our money and visa cards; so we can’t also take a taxi to make it there in time. I have to think quick. As Chim checks himself out, I see a random bus at the hotel driveway. I quickly run to it and even without greeting I ask, “Where is this bus going?” Airport. Someone responds. “Is anyone here having a flight at midday?” I ask. There are at least two people in there. Chim and I hop into the bus. Inside we both find space ONLY for two. There are bags and suitcases all over, we can hardly even see out the window. It’s been minutes and we are not leaving. I am so agitated I have become Nigerian, shouting shamelessly, “Can we please leave now!” Apparently there is a lady from Cameroon waiting on her sister and we have to wait for her. Grrr!

 

12:30 P.M.

 

We finally depart and amazingly encounter no traffic to Murtala Muhammed Airport. On entry however, there are crowds pushing in and making it such a slow process. “If you not travelling – get out ooo! I won’t repeat again!” The police warns. I am in utter shock that Nigerians are allowed into the airport even when you are not a travelling. I am more surprised at how dirty the airport detectors are.

Within no time, we’re all reunited.

 

1:00 P.M

 

I don’t understand why the plane hasn’t left us yet. The rest of Sauti Sol say that we hadn’t been booked into the new flight and we have to pay 100 USD each. I am still trying to call our host but they forbid me. “We are going to sort this ourselves,” they assert. We have spent at least thirty minutes in search of an ATM and another thirty minutes to get a bureau to change Nairas into USD. Finally the airline officials allow us to pay in Nairas. I am always left behind sorting the wahala. As soon as we pass one hurdle the guys run off towards the plane – I wonder why this plane hasn’t left already, and 100% sure that I will be left behind.

By the time I am helping Polycarp check in his guitar – it’s been such a stressful airport time. None of the systems between the ticketing and check in office are connected. We literally have to run up and down floors and stairs to make sure there is communication between the two offices. The dude at check in won’t check in Polycarp’s guitar saying, “It’s up to you now, Sir.” He wants a bribe because he saw us hold lots of Nairas. “Just check in that guitar that’s my life,” says Polycarp before leaving me behind.

I make sure everything is in before heading over to the plane. By this time, the security officers are really wasting time I don’t have – having to open my bags after every three steps. I am so dejected and fatigued – I don’t see any of the boys. I won’t be shocked if I miss my flight. I am also no longer worried; I will just go back to the hotel and sleep off this stress. I am no longer looking at the time. The announcement keeps going off, “Passengers to Nairobi …”

I have made it into the plane. Phew! This flight is almost two hours late for departure. I swear! But why do I have this stupid aisle seats near the loo? I need to call Abi and alert her that I have made it into the flight but I have no airtime. Thinking of miracles, the lady next to me goes: “You are Anyiko!” Yes. I reply. “My mum is such a big fan of yours and your TV Show! That’s why I know you. Let’s call her!” I am soon talking to her mother who lives in Malindi. Turns out she’s a Kenyan lady who was in Nigeria to attend a friend’s traditional wedding. We quickly make friends, our warm meeting quickly making me forget the madness that led me here. She even lets me call Abi on her phone. My nightmare just got reduced to nothing but life’s little pleasures.

BONUS: I would have lost my mind without Abi and IBB – thank you my Lagos goons, for the Jollof Rice, and everything. I owe ya! I pray that my next trip to Nigeria is better, and that Amazing Race never bring its contestants through this airport 🙂

 

To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire (Part II)

12295134_10153603829577559_41289555_oI just arrived in Nigeria for my first time to a rude welcome – our baggage was left behind, but the airline promises to make sure we’ll get all our bags tomorrow.

I am with Sauti Sol, here for the AFRIMA Awards accompanying them as group’s Publicist and Tour Manager. It’s a 40-minute ride to the hotel from Lagos mainland to Victoria Island, where we are staying over the weekend. On our way, we ask our driver to shuffle between radio stations. We don’t hear any foreign music being played but their own – hit and shit songs alike – an amazing model that has forced Nigerian artistes to push their music out of their saturated market.

Interesting how most of the local radio stations in Kenya play more West African and American content than music from Kenya or East Africa. Kenyans have such pride in music. This has built a wall over music fans and media, making everyone a gatekeeper or wanna-be pundit leaving an industry birthing serious imbalances. If more local content, regardless of quality, is put on radio quality and competition levels will skyrocket. You just never hear shit songs on Kenyan radio. But you can’t always hear hit songs on radio either.

Bien asks the driver, “So who are the biggest Nigerian artistes?” Too many, he says. “Who is your best?” Olamide. “Who is the most respected and greatest?” Tubaba, he asserts.

I already hate Eko Hotel at first sight. I’ve heard so much about how dope it is but I just don’t like its grandiose plan. It feels like a small city. I am not sure if the crowd at the hotel all came for the AFRIMA but I really hate crowds and people lingering at lobbies and reception areas. This place is a beehive of activities. Plus part of my room’s ceiling falls on a guest inside my room. Like WTF!?

12294939_10153603827432559_1947468013_oAt night, my girls – Abi leading the battalion scoop me to DJ Spinall’s Album House Party at Oniru Estate. A generous cocktail of Smirnoff welcomes us to the mad house. Poor mansion! Numerous rooms have guests thronging in and out like a festival with bottles popping like it’s a beer factory. On a different side some people are jumping into a pool. I can’t help but think of Banky W’s Lagos Party. Again I hate crowds but I really like this party and its show for the Nigerian affluence. Who allowed all these people to party in their house? Won’t they steal or completely damage the house? I need to see and meet DJ Spinall, so I ask Abi to lead me to the VIP section. On getting there, it’s as packed as a brand new matchbox. I can’t even see or reach him. Our night at the house ends. We end up at Club Rumours. Here, my memory fails. I might have had too many 🙂

 

Sunday Morning

 

I wake up thinking about nothing but our luggage. My heart and conscience tells me that the airline will neither deliver nor call any of us to get our luggage. (They actually never do). So I start to make my own arrangements to go to airport in time to catch the arrival of the flight that should have our luggage. At first I think I will sort it out myself but trouble starts when I can’t find a taxi for the airport because there is fuel shortage in the city. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT FOR? The petroleum industry in Nigeria is the largest in Africa. Contributing to about 14% of its economy, it hardly benefits the normal mwananchi directly. This is why I hate that western media and countries equate GDP to African development and fastest growing |“healthy” economies. What’s the point of having the highest GDP when the person on the street can’t even have fuel or power? Because of this kind of disparity, I am passionate about PR in sensitising communities, policy makers and key stakeholders in natural resource management on equity, transparency and conflict management.

Last year, I worked on a similar project in Kenya’s Turkana area following the discovery of oil reserves. Read To Turkana and Back: Visiting Tullow Oil (Part II)

 

I don’t know what I’d do without IBB. He sees my distress. Knowing too well that the time it will take me to get a taxi man with sufficient fuel, get through the airport madness and to our luggage will be the same time the airline will take to disembark the luggage, load them back in and send them back to Kenya – he assures me, “Don’t worry I will get you someone who works at the airport to sort everything for you, and we will have to pay him.”

Case closed.

Best Artiste Group, Sauti Sol (1)

Can you see my legs on stage? 🙂

When our bags finally arrive, it’s such a relief that nothing is missing. We are now ready for the AFRIMA tonight. Despite AFRIMA’s complete disregard for time and schedule management, I applaud the organisers and fraternity for having set up a brilliant system of awarding African achievement and excellence in music entertainment. Sauti Sol win Best African Group & Producer of the Year.

There are so many African stars at the event backstage. Busy with Sauti Sol and spoilt for choice, I show some love to Cobhams, Tubaba, Diamond Platnumz and congratulate Cassper Nyovest for filling the dome. I am more than impressed by the kind of media coverage AFRIMA attracts. There are hundreds of journalists at the red carpet. I’ve had a field day, I would absolutely enjoy working in the Nigerian industry. I’ve met top publicists from Angola, South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon. I’ve met top radio owners, promoters, music executives and many of my peers. Everyone is warm and open to exchange. I love that about Nigerians. They are open to the rest of Africa and collaborations.

As of the end of the ceremony, our flight back to Nairobi is at 1:50 a.m. unbeknownst to us. Why would anyone book us into such an early morning flight, and especially when the ceremony wasn’t even over then? We have missed our flight back and have only one chance to catch the 12 p.m. flight. But will we? Looking at Lagos morning traffic across The Third Mainland Bridge to the airport and the fact that organisers messed too many flights to sort them all out in good time – we will have to pull an Amazing Race.

BONUS: Thank you so much IBB.

Read the last/Part III of To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire

 

 

 

To Nigeria and Back: Baptism by Fire (Part I)

12268654_10153598522907559_729039154_o

When I heard that my luggage was missing 😦 Lol!

My first time in Nigeria is worse than terrible! It’s such an anticlimax because this is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I had been beating myself for years for missing to visit my aunt when she used to live in Nigeria. That, and Nigerian cuisine laced with very hot chilli peppers of international repute, are just some of the reasons why Nigeria and India have always been in my Dream Destinations.

I find myself headed to Nigeria about two weeks prior to my first planned two-week trip/work exchange program to Lagos. I am accompanying Sauti Sol (Winners Best African Group & Producer of the Year at AFRIMA) at the award ceremony as the group’s Publicist and Tour Manager.

Just the idea of being in Nigeria excites and thrills me so much that I hardly read my book in the flight. The four hours + flight time seems like forever. On arrival at Murtala Muhammed Airport, we realize that two of the Sauti Sol members’ visas aren’t valid even though they just came from Nigeria about a week ago. Turns out all foreigners have to get an Entry Visa at every new entry, even if it’s just a day after your last visit. At a special office, we are asked to pay 50 USD in cash for each. It’s surprising that the system at this office is down yet they won’t allow us to pay in Nairas or using a Visa Card. Across the jam-packed airport, we have to find an ATM and a bureau to exchange Nairas into USD – like why can’t your systems just be functional?

Just as we are about to finish the process, a policeman walks into the room holding a pen and paper. He calls out Chimano’s name, insisting: “Passengers who came in from Nairobi!?” His bag was left in Nairobi as flight was “over weight”. I start to laugh out loud thinking to myself – he is so fucked right now! The policeman calls my name next. That’s when I quickly stop laughing – everything starts to sink in. Out of all five of us, only one person receives their bags. The KQ official asks us to head over to their Ticketing Office for further explanation. We are furious because we are only in Lagos for two nights and to attend two events on each night. To tell us that our bags will only arrive 24 hours later is basically telling us that we came to a foreign country without half of what we needed for the full stay – senseless!

We’ve spent an hour getting the visas. It takes us another hour to get through to someone at the Ticketing Office. When they show up, their only explanation is that they received an email from Nairobi indicating that the flight was overweight so our bags had to stay behind. The officer suggests that we should call Nairobi. On calling Nairobi, the team says that we should get answers in Nigeria. Eventually Nairobi office assures us that we will receive our luggage tomorrow. It’s so disappointing to be in a new place, all sweaty and tired and with no single change of outfit. I quickly call our Nigerian Rep IBB on arrival at hotel. He hooks us up with a couple of designers and stylists to salvage the situation. My girlfriend Abi brings me an outfit and shoes that fit, saying, “Keep this dress – I know you will love it and it will fit perfectly.” It actually does 🙂 Together with my girls, I am off to DJ Spinall’s album house party at Oniru Estate. The rest of Sauti Sol decide to pass.

My first look at Lagos on our way to the hotel is like a film. We spot a woman walking on the road slapping a man on an Okada (motorbike) – just like in the Nigerian movies. I really wonder what he did. He must have grabbed her ass or something. We are staying in Victoria Island and so we pass through The Third Mainland Bridge – the longest of three connecting Lagos island to the mainland. At one point this was the longest bridge in Africa until the 6th October Bridge was erected in Cairo.

Finally blogging about my first time in Nigeria 😂 #BaptismByFire www.anyiko.wordpress.com

A video posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

I am extremely happy to see Jua Cali and Yemi Alade mash-up on the third season of Coke Studio Africa as the only billboard along The Third Mainland Bridge. Looking at the bridge and its surrounding, I am intrigued by the paradox that haunts most African countries. Here, on this road leading to some of the wealthiest hotels and estates in Nigeria, you can see first-hand disparity between the rich and poor. On two sides of the grandiose well-built bridge is the Makoko slum area with shanties elevated atop the Lagos Lagoon.

Picture via Bisola Bello

I am fascinated by the old public transport vehicles (most of which are VWs)—these are the Danfo, known for notorious drivers and conductors, just like Kenyan matatus. In some Danfos, the conductors and passengers are literally hanging outside – just like in some Nairobi and Dar mats. It’s such a homely welcome when I visit an African country and notice something that totally reminds me of Kenya – my own country. This is Africa – a continent rich in diversity just as much as in similarity.

Fore more juice on my Nigerian trip full of Wahala read:

To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire (Part II)

To Nigeria and Back: Baptism By Fire (Part III)

 

Breakups to Makeups: Dru Hill 20 Years Later (Exclusive)

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 04.43.11As soon as I sit down with members of Dru Hill – the iconic American R&B music group that rose to fame in the late 90s – in Nairobi (Oct 2015), nostalgic memories cloud my mind. How can you accurately describe 90s music era without citing Dru Hill? Is that even possible? In My Bed, Never Make a Promise and How Deep Is Your Love include their seven Top 40 hits. Initially starting off under the name Legacy, the group later decided to go by the name Dru Hill – a move that would forever tie their legacy to the “the area where we used to rehearse,” Dru Hill founding member Nokio messages me, adding, “We got the name Dru Hill from Drui Park in Baltimore which is near where I grew up. We wanted to represent Baltimore wherever we went with no question.” As I am writing this article I realise that it was the one important question that I forgot to ask Dru Hill during my interview with them so I drop Nokio a message and he responds immediately.

Dru Hill is in Nairobi for their first concert in Kenya. Nokio says, “We didn’t know about all the love we had here until we got here. Hopefully we can spread more love through our music.” They are only doing two TV interviews while in Kenya including this one so I have to make it count – I tell myself. Sitting at the ebony-coloured Sankara Hotel meeting room with Dru Hill members: Nokio, Sisqó, Tao and Jazz – I quickly notice that all have such different personalities. I am surprised that Sisqó the lead singer of the group isn’t the most vocal. It is the founder Nokio who talks most and is most assertive. He’s also protective of Dru Hill, in a caring way. Tao and Jazz hardly speak but their body language says that they support everything the rest say.

Dru Hill’s 1996 debut eponymous, and sophomore album: Enter the Dru (1998) catapulted them into instant success. It wouldn’t be long till the 2000s came with the recession of R&B. By this time the group had also been affected by internal wrangles, tension and an identity crisis leading to temporary separation and some members pursuing solo careers. In 2002 however, Dru Hill decided to reunite and produced the album Dru World Order, which would be followed by the 2010 release InDRUpendence Day. Their 20-year long career has been a roller coaster filled with highs and lows, great memories, tours, travel and breakups to makeups. So what now? I am curious. Nokio says, “It’s a good time for us in music as a lot of generations listening to good music are still discovering us and those who sang with us when we were younger are still getting a chance to see us perform.”

I always wondered what went on in the minds of the 90s kings of R&B like Dru Hill, Jodeci, Silk, R Kelly and Kenny Lattimore. Was it always lovemaking, heartbreaks and songs about sex? I ask Dru Hill to expound on what really went down behind the music. Their story goes that they were signed to a label at a young age forcing their initial sound to sound mature even though they were actually not mature as individuals and as a group.

In My Bed

Written and produced by Daryl Simmons, Ralph Stacy and Raphael Brown, In My Bed was a song Dru Hill detested yet it would later become a number one platinum selling single – the second off their debut album. It spent three weeks at number one on the US R&B chart. Sisqó says, “I never wanted to sing that song initially because nobody was sleeping in my bed that I knew of and I kind of felt like a cheat singing about someone sleeping in my bed. I was like this is our second single and now I am looking like a sucker. I really had to figure out how to channel that aggression in the first opening line. The aggression actually worked out to my benefit because it took away the venom of the words I had to sing.”

That explains why I remember watching In My Bed back in the day and feeling the pain of someone cheating on me even though I was barely 10 years old and couldn’t have known what it really meant to be cheated on. That was the beauty of the baby making music era – singers sold feelings and tales, more than just sex.

Dru Hill suddenly look at each other and burst out laughing at an inside joke. They are mumbling about having had two or three girls in their beds soon after the song’s triumph… Men will be men.

Never Make a Promise

The number one single followed In My Bed and was also written and produced by the American R&B singer/songwriter and record producer Daryl Simmons. Daryl went to high school with future legendary R&B music maker Babyface. Their life-long alliance would flourish into friendship as they joined and formed several music groups and bands from their teen days. Nokio says, “When Daryl presented to us Never Make a Promise we were like – are you sure? A lot of people never understood Daryl and his history in music – him, Babyface and L.A Reid have been together playing in bands and making music since the 70s and he was just the one who was doing his own thing when the rest started LaFace.”

‘How We Found Ourselves’

When Babyface teamed up with L.A Reid to start LaFace Records, Daryl went his separate way yet still maintained his ties with the duo. The trio together discovered, signed and produced artistes as Toni Braxton, Usher, TLC and Outkast. Dru Hill recalls the glitches and perks of having worked with Daryl at an early stage of their career, “We were fresh out of college with ideas in music. He was the first major producer to come to us with mature music. We didn’t understand it totally and one time we sat down with him to learn vocal dynamics because before we were just singing.”

Sisqo interjects.

He says, “[Before Daryl] our demos did not sell. That was when we learnt at a very young age at the very beginning of our careers [the secret of] working with other writers and producer—they already have their money and notoriety and if they bring you a song that they feel people will like – that’s when you’re artistry comes in. When I was singing in the lead in songs like In My Bed I told myself – Yo! If I can make this song hot then that means that I become a commodity.” From then onwards Dru Hill would always stamp their twist in every project. Nokio says, “Short of it being a record that we love so much, we always make sure we go in and make a record totally ours. 112 liked In My Bed but it ended up being ours. Who knows what it would have been if someone else did it?”

How Deep is Your Love

Any music lover knows too well that every generation comes with its movers and shakers. Dru Hill says that the new skool cats they are digging include Trey Songz, Chris Brown, NE-YO, The Weeknd, Bryson Tiller and Fetty Wap – “the foundation of new R&B” – they describe the collective. Nokio tells me of Dru Hill’s golden years, “To pioneer a genre and set the foundation and still be able to be around now for the younger generation to get us is a blessing,” before digressing thanks to my puzzled star-struck face, “Look she’s sitting looking at y’all like – what?”

The rest start to laugh at me.

At this moment I am here but I am not. I can’t help but think of my growing up in a small town (Molo). Watching MTV was such a luxury so we would record MTV shows with our favourite artists (and Dru Hill would never miss) then we would play it over and over. One of my best Dru Hill jams was How Deep is Your Love.

“See you are talking but I can’t believe you’re here,” I tell them.

“I am not though,” jests Nokio.

We all burst into laugher.

“I gotta keep pinching myself; you can see my expression. I am here wondering were these guys in the video of How Deep is Your Love? On top of that building?”

Nokio jumps off his seat and pinches me as we laugh more. He says, “You know how crazy it is that you mention that. We left South Africa at a Nelson Mandela Celebration event and got a phone call that the director of [the 1998 movie] Rush Hour was finishing to film and wants to shoot the video of How Deep is Your Love with us and we were like – Okay! We went to shoot the video in Hong Kong [but events leading to it make us remember] great memories from Africa.”

Solo Careers | Dru’s New Order

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 9.57.31 PMAt certain times the group decided to take breaks for members to pursue their solo careers. It has been reported that Dru Hill had made an agreement with the mother of Woody, one of the original members of Dru Hill, that they would let him pursue a solo career in gospel music after their success. Woody recorded a solo album under Kirk Franklin’s label before reuniting with Dru Hill for their third and last album with him as member. By the time Dru Hill released their last album, InDRUpendence, Woody had been replaced by new member Tao.

It always seemed like lead singer Sisqó was also head of Dru Hill or always wanted to pursue a solo career. He responds, “It was a misconception. Initially I never wanted to be a solo artist but I ended up exploring that out of necessity because of different things that we had to work out as a group. I always wanted to be the best group member that I could be.” Sisqó’s debut album, Unleash the Dragon (1999), birthed the hit single Thong Song marking the onset of his successful solo career that also saw him release the album, Return of Dragon in 2001. Little is known about his 2015 released, Last Dragon, album.

Nokio on the other hand says that he would never have been at the forefront of Dru Hill or even sang at all if he had his way from the start. “I sang because that’s the only way I knew how to get into the business. In the beginning I didn’t even want to be an artist. I wanted to be a record man or a producer but I couldn’t figure out that at 14. One of my mother’s friends had a friend who was in the music industry. They came to our house one day and I sang Baby Hold On To Me and they were like, we’re gonna take you out to of school and move you to Philly. Later I started Dru Hill and then I just never left,” adding “Once I saw Jodeci I thought I could be that cool, write and produce. All I wanted was to be the sexiest background singer there ever was.”

I don’t even know what he is talking about – he made it! 🙂

Sisqó says that he’s worked with Nokio on most of his solo projects. Nokio also sings in a rock band called Black Angel Down. Both Jaaz and Tao have their solo music too. Having this in-depth conversation with Dru Hill leaves off a feeling of eternal camaraderie between them, whatever the case. I wonder if Dru Hill still has their synergy during the live performances of their songs like in the video of We’re Not Making Love No More. “We’ve got the classic moves and a couple of new ones,” says Sisqó – who has a hood over his head. He refuses to show his hair till show time.

Their concert has a Dru Hill and Sisqó set. It’s not what I expected but it’s still memorable. “Music is never gonna be the same from generation to generation. Even before we came out people were trying to get deals but couldn’t but we just kept going. There is no balance so you either get all of it or nothing,” says Nokio. I wonder if this is his way of accepting the different facets of their career’s circle. However, I really love their dance moves and different renditions of most of their songs at the concert.

Yaaaas to that jump!! #Tellme #DruHillKE @DruHill4Real

A video posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

Nokio dishes new plans, “Right now we are working on our twentieth anniversary project. It’s not going to be just music but we have a lot of different components that we are putting together collectively, and individually. Thank you for all the love.” I once read a great detailed Dru Hill feature story (but can’t remember where) and told myself that one day I would do the same myself – so grateful to catch up with Dru Hill right when the  dragon is planning to awaken 20 years later.

BONUS: Thanks Della, HBR, PRC LTD and Dru Hill. Another cherry on top of my already awesome cake of a year

6 Things to Do When in Rwanda

12202158_10153568249707559_59896028_nI have a serious love affair with Rwanda and the city of Kigali. I’ve been there three times already only this year. Spending a week in Kigali in October opened my eyes to the peace, calm, order and beauty that this city has to offer. I compiled a list of things you must do when in Kigali. Thank me later.

  1. Visit the Genocide Memorial Centre

Here you will learn in detail about the history and detail of the 1994 Genocide. Remember to carry flowers to place in the garden. Carry a handkerchief as you might end up sobbing like a baby, but even more importantly carry your head up high, no need to sob—this is an experience that will make you understand the power of redemption. The memorial centre opens even on Sunday so there’s no excuse for missing out on this. Look out for my friend Bonheur – Chief Historian who works there.

I wrote about the Kigali Genocide Centre

2. Visit Nyamirambo

Many have described Kigali’s most vibrant and oldest township – Nyamirambio – as the equivalent of Nairobi’s Eastleigh. This is where to get the cheapest food and motels in Kigali. The motels will not be top notch but the food – you will never forget it! This area has a large population of Muslims. For this reason you will easily find Swahili delicacies here. Try Chap Chap, they have some great Pilau and Fried Meat in onions and curry.

Make sure you try the Akabanga Chilli Oil – it’s so so hot! Chap Chap also has the best Ginger Tea and Lemonade I have ever drank. Check out the names of the tiny shops here. Hilarious! From KFC (Kigali Fried Chicken), to Feedback Shop 🙂  I really enjoyed my nights in Nyamirambo with Danny, Christian, Bruce, Patrique, Eric and Nelson. Thanks guys! While there you can also check out Nyamirambo Regional Stadium, it has some beautiful coloured stairs. Kigali’s hot music group: Urban Boyz shot one of their videos here. Check it out!

3. Visit the National Museum

12197167_10153568256402559_176978646_oMost people think that Rwanda’s history is synonymous to the genocide. That’s an unforgettable past and as Rwandese people find a way forward into a brighter future, discover the other side of their history. Danny and I took a two-hour bus ride to Huye (formerly known as Butare) to visit the institute of National Museums of Rwanda.

12204913_10153568252812559_103483428_nThe architecture of the museum and organisation is impressive. Going through the five galleries will present you through Rwanda’s history, from the geographical formation and composition of the country; tradition, culture, the pre-colonial and post-colonial eras, and trade. I really loved to see their traditional attires. The Ishabure (a ripped loin skirt) is something I can wear today. The King’s other wives wore crowns that had two horns. These and many other futuristic African regalia make me wonder why African ornamental expression has receded in progression of years. The king’s babies on the other hand were so fat my God!

4. Take a Moto (motorbike)

12204050_10153568259227559_58150090_oYou haven’t really been to Rwanda if you haven’t taken a Moto. It’s cheaper than taking a taxi. The cheapest Moto within town should cost you around 300 Rwandan Francs and the most expensive shouldn’t be more than 1,500 Rwandan Francs. They are also a safer option in comparison with the madness that comes with bodaboda riders in Nairobi. While in Huye Danny and I hop onto Motos to find the small lovely café Nehemiah. There we hid from the rain and shared the best burger and chips I’ve heard since I could remember.

5. Check out Kimihurura Street

12190485_10153568263407559_1234832017_oThis street is the life of the party. Several clubs including Trattoria, Envy, Papyrus, Chapter One, Mama Club and Sundowner are based here. During the day you can grab good some great food at Trattoria or the restaurant African Bites right on the street. The food at African Bites is boring-looking but I thought them presenting the food in African pots was really cool. They serve Rwandese specialties like Isombe and some Ugandan treats like the Beef or Fish in Peanut Sauce. Shokola is a restaurant and café along the same street that is just the best for you if you are like me – I love gourmet food, peace, calm, books and time to myself to think about my life and get work done. Thanks Eric for introducing me to this cool spot.

6. Attend the Kigaliup Festival

This is Rwanda’s biggest music festival and comes every July. Its organisers also hold workshops and tiny events around the main two-day festival every year, so check this out. This is one of the platforms bringing to Rwandans quality live performances. It’s held at Amahoro Stadium – a historic venue. In 1994 it was temporarily hosted up to 12,000 refugees. A Lucky Dube Rwanda peace concert held in 2000 here hosted 20,000 people. While on that tip, check out Hotel des Mille Collines – this is the hotel where 1994 Genocide events inspired the Hollywood blockbuster Hotel Rwanda.

Yesterday at the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda ✌ #Huye #Butare #TravelTales #ILoveArt

A photo posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

I wrote about Hotel Rwanda here

I wrote about Kigaliup here

As I keep going back to Rwanda I will discover more things to do so I can share with you all. Cheers!

BONUS: Thanking my good people at Positive Productions, Afrogroov and Rock Events and Promotion for hosting me in Rwanda and making sure my time there was awesome. Murakoze! I wrote about Stromae for Daily Nation, the article will be published soon.

Kenyan film on plight of female athletes in the works

IMG_0195 (1)With Kenya athletes emerging top for the first time in the IAAF World Championships this year, there couldn’t have been a better time to make a film on the runners. A new film titled, Chep, is already in the works. The film has been directed and written by Jinna Mutune. She also directed and produced the 2012 film ‘Leo’, a story about a young Maasai boy with dreams of becoming a superhero.

Jinna says of her new project: “Chep is a film covering the journey of a female athlete in her effort to become a world marathoner. The film explores themes like redemption, love, power and family.”

Set in the 1970s, the fictional drama will capture the history of Kenyan running, from the early beginnings of the long distance running supremacy. Being a time when female runners were almost unheard of, a young aspiring runner Chebet — the lead character of the film — triumphs over prejudice and hardship to challenge a tough environment and become a female world marathoner.

Jinna says: “I needed the 1970s time period because I love pan-African culture and I’ve noted that African films aren’t themed as much. It also allows me to experiment with different sets, fashion and style.”

While the film is set to capture Kenya’s rich culture before the dilution that came with modernisation, its score celebrates the woman and the impact she is making in the society today.

EVERYTHING IN PLACE

‘Ebu Njoo’, featuring Sauti Sol, composed by Jaaz Odongo and written by Fena Gitu, has already been released as a “tactic of using music to introduce the film to the public.”

Jinna says: “The song’s message applauds men in the society, who see women for more than just housewives or cooks. However, there is nothing wrong with those who see women differently — we are just challenging stereotypes in a holistic manner without being too direct. “Additional to cutting across to a global audience in a poetic way, the song’s message also has a CSR campaign agenda supporting maternal health.”

The film is currently in its first phase of production and should be launched early next year. Jinna has developed the script with the expert help of a team of African writers, including Samba Yonga, Kaizer Mastumunye and Rodgers Gold. She confirms that she has locked down her main cast members and scouted film locations, including Iten and Iveti Hills in Machakos County. She will also be collaborating with various professionals in the Kenyan and Hollywood film industry in the production.

‘Chep’ is a story about the African woman, courage, and the power of a dream. The film will capture the rich cultural heritage of Kenyan communities while telling a riveting story of how Chebet triumphs over cultural norms. She must eventually fight and overcome her own fears to find her voice.

As audiences wait on ‘Chep’ — what promises to be yet another unique Kenyan film — Jinna concludes: “Kenya’s film industry is sprouting and at a better place.

There is a lot of talent and people are starting to see the commercial viability. Ripple effects include Kenyan actress Lupita Nyongo’s Oscar win, and freedom of speech. All these things make me hopeful.

“However, I am not doing art for art’s sake, it has to make money sense, this is a business. I am producing Chep for the mainstream market and aiming for Cannes Festival among box office and mass distribution.”

‘Chep’ will be released in May next year.

IN SUMMARY

  • ‘Chep’ is a story about the African woman, courage, and the power of a dream. The film will capture the rich cultural heritage of Kenyan communities while telling a riveting story of how Chebet triumphs over cultural norms. She must eventually fight and overcome her own fears to find her voice.
  • Set in the 1970s, the fictional drama will capture the history of Kenyan running, from the early beginnings of the long distance running supremacy.
  • Being a time when female runners were almost unheard of, a young aspiring runner Chebet — the lead character of the film — triumphs over prejudice and hardship to challenge a tough environment and become a female world marathoner.

BONUS: This article was originally written for Daily Nation, and edited by my amazing Editor of Saturday Nation Arts & Culture. It was also published by Nation Online.

You might also like my article on the annual International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR): Project takes African film to the world published by Daily Nation.