Hustle, Gratitude and Love – Reflections on 2016

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Picture by Cheka Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Different Faces of Falz

Flavour on his illustrious musical career

Yamoto Band on Fame and Fortune

Henok Mehari on the legend of the Mehari Brothers

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

Joh Makini on uniting Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting Mandela House: Retracing Nelson Mandela’s Soweto Home

My week in Johannesburg – 7 things to do in Jozi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In the mean time, some stories from Czech below:

My week in Prague – First time in Czech Republic

A Czech Christmas on 24th December

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

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

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

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

Wish you all a great 2017!

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

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Meeting Judo Kanobana. Pic: Kevin Amunze

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

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

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

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

A video posted by ANYIKO OWOKO (@anyikowoko) on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read:

 Meeting and Working with Trey Songz: Part I

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to present day at the presser…

Read Meeting and Working with Trey Songz Part I

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

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

Meeting and Working with Trey Songz: Part I

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

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

Read Madness, Generators and Nairas: Insights from Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Beyond: A Tribute to Grapevine TV Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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