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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

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My Best Years – Yet To Come

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Pic by Cheka Photography.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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

A video posted by black roses (@anyikowoko) on

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.

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Why Just A Band Can’t Wrap Things Up Yet

I’ve been overly emotional of late. It sometimes annoys me but it sometimes makes me feel like I am at my best. I am crying if it’s too bad or too good, and I am simply not giving fake smiles or hugs any more. That generally goes for my reviews and sentiments so consider this particular blog heartfelt.

13001151_10153660530829492_6803405235153559249_nA couple of Fridays ago, I was a little heartbroken – to attend Just A Band’s Wrap Up concert. Nairobi’s coolest electro-pop and funk band just announced that they are wrapping things up – well, till further notice. Blinky, Mbithi and Muli are such cool multi-talented human beings, as if being a member of JAB was never unique enough. Throughout JAB’s career, they have shown versatility with each member exuding aesthetic in everything they touch.

On the musical spectrum, no other Kenyan band oozes the fresh cool vibes that is JAB. You should see the kind of crowd they pull. It’s not just in how they sound but in their style; from how they walk, talk and keep calm. It’s even in their choice of naming albums. When JAB’s debut album: Scratch to Reveal came out in 2008, it was as if clairvoyant of what would become of the telecommunication industry of Kenya (the rise of Safaricom and Airtel airtime scratch cards), and at the same time a renaissance of the charity sweepstake scratch card days. Their second album: 82 (2009) birthed the single Ha-He whose video went viral establishing JAB’s brand as Kenya’s most unique musical exports. Their third album Sorry for the Delay (2012) was an ode to their fans appeasing them for the hiatus. Most of their videos flaunt stellar direction and cinematography. The message and videos of songs like Usinibore, Matatizo and Winning in Life show that JAB music has a lot of depth.

12985609_10153660548559492_6260422368897281077_nThe trio DJ too. They also have a book out! Just A Book🙂 They have hosted several art installations across the world, adding to their illustrious global travel and tour escapades. JAB could have easily been another cool European or American band, but I even feel bad imagining that because no other band (maybe apart from Years & Years) can come close to JAB cool and I would hate it if they weren’t Kenya’s own.

Like a butterfly’s transformation from a caterpillar – has been the careers of all of JAB members. Starting out as the silent deep husky-voiced co-producer and JAB’s lead singer, Blinky now speaks out a little more, produces way more for himself and others. He is also a TED fellow and an RBMA Alumni. I feel like Mbithi’s cinematography hasn’t been celebrated enough. Among many other awesome things, he co-edited  and co-directed the viral Ha-He video with Jim Chuchu and, every other JAB video after that. He has also shot such beautiful videos for other artistes including Kavi and Mayonde. Muli is just the biggest little secret we all need to uncover. Just give him a blank piece of paper, and pencil and see what kind of caricatures he can craft in just seconds. Former JAB member Jim Chuchu is the baddest photographer and video director in same measures, I know of.

Why would they wrap up things on such a high? JAB can’t wrap up things yet because it’s time for us to hear a Blinky album, watch more Mbithi films, videos and documentaries; and read and marvel at Muli’s amazing comics and graphic novels. That “last” JAB concert was literally the hottest concert I’ve been to. I don’t think Goethe-Institut’s auditorium was the best venue for JAB’s final bow, plus the venue has bad acoustics and ventilation.
12718030_10153660531079492_5138452341942349722_nDespite the experience being marred by bad sound and extreme heat, sweltering in sweat – I was the happiest human being to see and be part of JAB’s real Day 1 army. We chanted and sang to all songs together. At one point, it felt like we all were real friends and knew each other. It kills me to imagine a hiatus from these cool people, both JAB and their fans, but as a friend and fan it gives me gratification to allow JAB to be. I can already hear sounds of JAB’s new album🙂

 

 

 

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5 Mins with Koffi Olomide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Side Note: Isn’t Kalekye Looking Lovely?

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

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

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

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Photo credit: Smiles Beckwith

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

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

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

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

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

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Olamide: ‘Too Much Money is Never Enough’

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Pic courtesy of Baddo’s website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A photo posted by black roses (@anyikowoko) on

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

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

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Pic courtesy of Baddo’s website

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

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

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

BONUS: Check out my other Olamide stories

Olamide announces no-collabos year – DStv

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