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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.

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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)

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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

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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!

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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 BLACK ROSES (@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!

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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)

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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