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

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.

 

 

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🙂

Back to Blogging – I Missed You!

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.09.28 AM.pngWhile I was away from Black Roses … I hosted numerous dope press conferences and partnered with Chiki to throw some ill parties. Nameless Timmy T-Dat, Yvonne Darc and and P-Unit came through to throw surprise performances, I am forever indebted to them. I went back to Oshwal Centre, where I used to be a waitress, to host an event I was running PR for. Here I met the man who had hired me as a waitress – my former boss right at the entrance. As I shook Mr. Kamal’s hand, I asked him, “Do you remember me?” “Of Course,” he answered. The event, a theatre by Bollywood’s top actor hosted in Kenya by Ranee Productions, was completely sold out and a huge success. That, and my bumping into Mr. Kamal was the ultimate homecoming – you should have seen me hogging the Indian delicacies at Oshwal just like olden days – as if I had been starving all my life. I have also interviewed Aloe Blac, Ginuwine and Waje, among Coke Studio Africa season 4 artistes. I am back this year as the show’s publicist. I also managed PR for the Live and Die in Afrika Tour, traveled to beautiful Diani, and Tanzania where I sampled such lovely sea food at Samaki Samaki. I finally left the Single Ladies Club🙂 And finally, I really enjoyed Maxwell and Twenty88’s new recordings.

It’s been three months since I shared any blog posts here but inside of me it feels like that was three years. I have been telling myself that I will get back to my blog but every time I try to, something (mostly work) pulls me back. It was during a meeting with the business manager of a new establishment recently that I asserted, ‘I really need to get back to writing.’ As if they knew that I had been struggling with getting back to normal blogging, the manager randomly pointed out to me away from the conversation we were having, “I do read your blog, and I remember your tales from Lagos [fondly]. I like the way you write – it’s hilarious and interesting! You take us to places and make us see things through your eyes,” adding, “Don’t stop writing.”

How could that statement not completely pull me back, even when I have felt that I had fallen off so hard?

Anyone who really knows me, especially followers of this blog know only too well that I am nothing and nobody without writing. That said, you would imagine that I never really stopped writing. During my hiatus from blogging, I was churning out so many press releases and media plans/proposals – basically work stuff. It’s been quite the professional growth over the past six months but quite the loneliness inside of Black Roses. I lost myself in a racing world for the past year or so and I think the break was a deserved time for me to go back to my roots and senses, to look deeper into my aspirations and dreams, and ask myself – what is it that I want to achieve with my writing, my life, my passion, my time and the people around me?

That said; the past few months have easily been my best yet in my adult life. Together with Sauti Sol – my friends and long-term clients/workmates – and Sauti Sol Entertainment, we managed to stage Kenya’s first professional nationwide tour, titled after the group’s third studio album: Live and Die in Afrika. I have seen Sauti Sol collaborate with Fally Ipupa on the upcoming Coke Studio Africa season 4. Tears warmed up my eyes when I saw them do the ‘Fally Shoulder Dance’ alongside Fally while recording the show in Nairobi . Only two years ago, we were all bundled up in Sauti Sol’s former joint house. Bien was beckoning me to join them at the living room to check out the ‘Fally Shoulder Dance’ in his new video: Original. Even though the vibes were cool and chill, as someone who has been with these boys from the day Sauti (formerly Sauti Sol) was formed, I could tell that they had held Fally with utmost respect. They were watching the video with so much envy as if he was someone they were far from ever meeting or worthy of collaborating with. Having seen them perform this very dance so well and performed with Fally this year was such a cool thing that again reminded me that life humbles you down. Just when you think you have everything – you could lose it all. And just when you think you can’t touch something – it very much could be yours the next day or minute.

I will be sharing more blog posts! I am back bitches🙂