Featured

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.”

 

 

 

Featured

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.

Featured

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.

Featured

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!

Featured

Stromae in Rwanda: Best Concert of 2015 (Review)

12434481_10153674358827559_1117420536_n
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 spend 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 black roses (@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.

Featured

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.

 

Featured

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 black roses (@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.