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

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!


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.

Look out for Part II of Wizkid and Chris Brown Mombasa Concert: The Bigger Picture 




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.


 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

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.




Visiting Mombasa Old Town and Fort Jesus

13275007_10154002987122559_1232904617_oWhen in Mombasa, you have to visit the Portuguese-built Fort Jesus – it’s such a basic thing to do, I wonder why I’d never done it all these years. Last week while in Mombasa, I decided to head over to Barka Restaurant to have dinner with some friends and colleagues from Modern Coast: Hashmi, Isaac and Dennis. They are my type of company. After dinner, they take me on a drive to Mombasa Old Town for a site seeing experience. Yes—past 11:00 p.m. Originally inhabited by Arab, Asian, Portuguese and British settlers; the ancient Islamic architecture of buildings here represent Mombasa’s olden trade culture. We pass by one of the oldest mosques in the coast: Mandhry. They also show me the Fish market, right next to what used to be Mombasa Port back in the day. It’s so refreshing to cruise these thin streets in no congestion at this hour. On our way to the famed lighthouse we pass by Fort Jesus and I decide that I have to return here the next day when it’s open.

We here! #TravelTales

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At the lighthouse, we join a couple of other people who come out to the open site to view Indian Ocean atop massive cliffs overlooking the vast oceanfront. It’s such a cool and cheap chill plan. All you need to do is come here with your car, get parking, have good company, booze or some smokes and make sure you don’t jump into the water. While sitting on a short wooden bench, close to the cliff and safe – I gaze into the dark of night as I devour the cool and sharp breeze, sometimes sprinkling salty water into my face. It’s the first moment I come terms with my life problems over the past few weeks and find myself saying to my company, “I wish I lived in Mombasa. I would always come here and just chill to watch my troubles sail away”. Watching three lighthouses across the ocean blinking red, yellow and green signals takes me right back into the pages of The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald was such a great writer whose might was in juxtaposing imagery to life situations. In the book, Gatsby would always stare at the lighthouse’s green light late at night as if it’s uniformed light was the only thing that could ever unite him and Daisy. But it’s flickering would never stop, meaning they would never unite.

13288734_10154002987092559_1712501116_oOn the next day, I am accompanied with my colleagues Sharon, Maureen and Tint to Fort Jesus in the early afternoon, right after grabbing yummy Masala Fries at Tarboush Restaurant. We are welcomed into Fort Jesus by a swarm of tour guides. We clash with the one who sticks to us despite our snobbishness – “we just came to see this place, we don’t need much more info,” Tint tells him. He asks us to pay him 1000 bob for sharing extra info on the fort. “We paid 800 bob in total to all come in, how can we pay you more than that?” I want to know. We settle on 300 bob.

Fort Jesus was built, between 1593 and 1596 by order of King Philip I of Portugal, to guard the Old Port of Mombasa. From above, Fort Jesus’s shape is said to be resemble the shape of a man. If it were a man, he had a strategic view of the ocean and all the ships that were docking into Mombasa. Here is where soldiers would spot enemy ships or pirates and use the cannons to bomb them so as to mainly protect Mombasa trade. It was vital for anyone with an intention of controlling Mombasa Island and trade to try gain possession of Fort Jesus.

Captured by Oman Arabs in 1698, Fort Jesus became a government prison in 1958 when the British colonized Kenya. It was later declared a national monument with its museum being built and open to the public in 1960—even before Kenya gained independence. Yo – this place is old.

13275167_10154002987462559_1752214331_oWhile at Fort Jesus, enjoy the extraordinary architecture—perfect for taking pictures and staring into the ocean from a strategic angle. Play with the cannons – imagine how they must have been guarded, and a danger to operate then. Visit the museum section to see ancient furniture, architecture and utensils. I really loved to see a 17th century chair, made in India in Portuguese style, used as a chair of the state by the 19th century Sheikh of Siyu Bwana Mataka Bin Mubarak Al Famau and his son Sheikh Mohammed, the last upholders of independence of the coast against the Sultan of Zanzibar. I also enjoyed to see the Portuguese wall paintings of Fort Jesus, which were painted in carbon black and red oxide on the plaster of a revetment wall in the bastion that was located directly behind the museum. This was the work so unknown soldiers or sailors who were stationed in the Fort in the 17th century.

Designed by a Milanese architect: Giovanni Battista Cairati, the then Chief Architect of Portuguese possessions in the East, Fort Jesus was the first European-style fort designed to resist cannon fire constructed outside Europe. Today, it still is one of the most admirable 16th century architecture.