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

 

 

 

 

Falz – Soldier Full Length Movie feat. Simi (Music Review)

 

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Ello Bae – Am baaaack home!

Fresh off winning Best Actor in a Comedy (Movie/TV Series) at the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, Falz just dropped a full-length movie of his song Soldier featuring fellow Nigerian singer Simi. Yes, movie – you read that right. Falz freaks me out. How can one person be so multi-talented? He’s a damn great singer, rapper, comedian and actor.

When I first heard Falz’s 17-track album: Stories that Touch (2015), it was tough to pick standout tracks because the whole album is classic. However, Soldier featuring Simi was definitely one of my favourites. Even though Falz and Simi sing in pidgin too, anyone can easily follow the storyline of the song. We don’t hear songs on the love lives of soldiers everyday. Nobody sings about the hustle it must be to date a soldier or a policeman. When Clap video came out in December, it’s originality made me wonder to myself what kind of video Soldier would have because I loved the song’s theme and the chemistry between Falz and Simi. I knew they would kill it. I also knew that fans would love to see the duo reunite on TV, since Simi’s music video of Jamb Question featuring Falz.

The short musical film shot By Clarence Peters is plain brilliant and dope, even though the storyline is basic – the typical ‘girl acting up then boy saves her’. The level and quality of production/acting however is way above 100%

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She says, “You are a Workaholic! I also can’t stand the Time Difference when you are away!”

We already knew that Falz is an award-winning actor, making Simi the superstar of this musical. When Falz returns from town, she starts with her attitude. When he stalks her to her classroom, she can’t seem to decide what to do – why her friends trail her conversations with Falz. So true and typical of African relationships. When you date an African lady, you are literally also dating her friends and family.

Surprisingly, the turning point of this film for me isn’t even when Falz ends up saving Simi from the bad guys (Ahhhhh – see what I did there🙂 but when he storms her home and Simi’s mother comes guns blazing. Simi has to act in favour of her man and her mother at the same time. I applaud this lady’s acting skills. Clarence Peters has outdone himself with this story, casting and editing. The militia rebels were really badass. I also loved the score. Certain spots were subtle and easily unnoticeable but very necessary. Listen to 11:15 right after the scene with Simi’s mother.

Without a good song, you can create a great video nevertheless. Soldier however is amazing and one of my favourites off Falz’s album mainly because of its unique story. I can watch the full video severally. In the music video, Falz and Simi completely bring to life that love-hate feeling we all experience in relationships from time to time. I love where they argue in the market area and he literally makes it rain money. Still she warns him not to fall in love, “Is this a military regime?”

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‘As Soldiers, we ride or die together’

Soldier film reminds me of R. Kelly’s closet videos. I used to wonder who else would have balls (no pun intended) to film those kind of long clips in place of music videos. I applaud Falz’s 14-minute effort. This has set the pace for African artistes. I am sure others, especially Nigerians, have done this before but very few have been on point while maintaining the delicate balance between the song’s message versus the authenticity and originality of an artiste, while at the same time avoiding monotony. I love Falz. Haven’t heard or seen him do any wrong.

Sex, Love and Pain II: Tank (Album Review)

005075448_500It’s been almost two years since I reviewed a sex album! So pardon me we are back at French. Tank’s new and seventh solo album: Sex, Love & Pain II has given me so much life, I just forgot about any other album he ever produced.

It’s always a beautiful surprise when I discover such good music because we always think we’ve heard it all. It always get better. Remember when Donell Jones put out his 2013 album? Well, it’s still R&B season; there has been a rise of great R&B records. Kings and queens include Usher, TGT, Kenny Lattimore, Jodeci, Jagged Edge, Chris Brown, Babyface, Tyrese, Janet Jackson, Tinashe and Tiffany Evans.

You might like my reviews of some dope R&B albums:

Love, Marriage and Divorce – Toni Braxton and Babyface (Album Review)

Tyrese x Ginuwine x Tank – Three Kings (Album Review)

Forever: Donell Jones (Album Review)

Nostalgia, Ultra – Frank Ocean (EP Review)

Miguel– All I Want Is You- Kaleidoscope Dream (Album Review)

This post however is about Tank’s 11-track album (released January 2016 and soon after reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip hop charts). Sex, Love and Pain II is literally a sex and love record. About the pain, I honestly feel like this album has the power to take away any pain you’ve felt in your love life – if at all. It’s so empowering when a man is open about love, sex and well, pain. That’s all a woman needs.

My no. 1 song in the album is F***** With Me. This will be the soundtrack of my bedroom when the time is right. He is saying that when you are the one he’s fucking with – it’s going to be more than fucking. He will please you in other ways, like cook for you and pick you up from work etc. I love it too much because it’s true that when a man loves you he will do more than just fuck you.

My immediate favourites after the first listen were the trap-esque She Wit The S***, #BDAY, Relationship Goals and I Love Ya. Most of these songs could be overtaken by the hands of time, but Him, Her, Them and Better For You are classics that I can only compare to the perfection of Boyz II Men. These two are deep down the real Tank we knew from Day 1. I am sure he will be singing these for a very long time. Song 10: Already in Love Feat. Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman is so dope. So freaky how Shawn’s voice still sounds as young as when we heard Boyz II Men and Mariah on One Sweet Day.

  1. You Don’t Know Feat. Wale 04:06

This is a beautiful song. When your man has been tripping, it’s hard to regain trust. In this song, Tank wishes that his lady knew how much he loves her. I like this song because Wale is one of my best rappers ever, and the message here is like a timeless broken record. When will men learn that to show a woman love you have to act right and do more than just talking.

  1. She Wit The S*** Feat. Rich Homie Quan 03:37

This is Trap Tank, he’s even chanting like how rappers prepare before they get into a verse🙂 Perfect show for how R&B and hip hop are close cousins. I really love how Tank isn’t about that ‘I am cleanass R&B dude’ life here. These are some explicit and raw lyrics. I love the rap feature, and beat too – dope producer whoever you are. Track 7. I Love Ya Feat. Yo Gotti is another Trap Tank – so sexy and badass!

  1. #BDAY Feat. Chris Brown, Sage the Gemini and Siya 05:12

It’s never too long and there are never too many people on a dope track (Kanye West can also attest to this). Who are the last two people featured on this track though? I am starting to discover new or unknown kids on this record like I did on Dre’s Compton. I love the semantic pun of this song – even though it’s not your birthday, it will be yours just tonight and you can wear your birthday suit🙂 Harmonies are tight!

  1. Relationship Goals 04:41

Dear Tank – this could be us. Like for real. There is nothing I would change about you if you were were my bae. There is absolutely nothing Tank would change about this song, even if he was given 100 more years to record it. It’s another one of those tracks that cuts across R&B and hip hop – through delivery style and not beats. This is inimitable brilliance – congrats Tank! Tank flaunts his vocal range while in between verses he rap-sings, chanting and echoing lines just like trap rappers do. So cool! It’s everyone’s relationship goal to have someone who you totally trust, respect and gives you all you need – from the streets to the sheets. No offence to Tyrese and Usher but this is the kind of song that makes you both wish you produced this gem.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 00.17.33As much as this is the era of rejuvenated R&B, very few artistes are taking the risk of not having a rap feature or heavy hip hop influences in R&B albums, like Jagged Edge did in their last. Tank went some type of risqué and explicit on this one and I love it! He is extremely smart. This record is for R&B fans just as much as the mass market.

2Face Idibia: ‘I Try Not to Let the Hype Get to Me’

Meeting and working with Tu-baba, the iconic Nigerian singer/songwriter also known as 2Face Idibia, is hands down one of my career highlights as a Publicist. About a decade ago, a time when I wouldn’t even imagine meeting Mr. Idibia, Nigerian music was synonymous to 2Face. I remember that time fondly as one of my aunts used to live in Nigeria and the only export I would always ask for when my cousins would return to Kenya was 2Face and P-Square albums. They would always squeeze in other great acts at the time like M.I, D’Banj and Naeto C. Amazing how today’s greats wouldn’t even fit in this blog post.

As fate would have it I would meet 2Face on the set of Coke Studio Africa last year during my stint as the show’s Publicist. Before that I actually met him soon after his arrival in Nairobi at his exclusive welcome party. Agitated by my silly camera and the darkness at the club, one of his managers Frankie asks me what’s wrong. “I want to meet and take a photo with 2Face but my camera is shit and I don’t know where to start … We will be working together soon anyway,” I respond. He is quick to introduce me – and the rest is history.

12767648_10153781660442559_2024617164_nOn a fine evening, together with my colleague and good friend Abi, we sit him down for a one-on-one chat with his Coke Studio Africa fans via Twitter. In person 2Face is very patient, very humble, very attentive, sweet and super hilarious! I wish each and every one of his fans would get to experience this first hand. On a different afternoon, I sit him down after rehearsals for a small person chat. It’s been such a hectic week but 2Face seems quite relaxed and not bothered by this interview. I never crafted what I would want to ask 2Face on meeting because I can only imagine the number of interviews he has conducted. I decide to freestyle and make it brief. We talk about his new musical direction, passion for peace and secret to longevity.

I am a total sucker for his earlier classics; my best still being his second album Grass to Grace (2006).  He has also done a number international collaborations with several artistes including Akon, Bridget Kelly, Mary J Blige and T-Pain. Then and now – 2Face still is one of the most celebrated and successful afro pop artistes in Africa.

You should have seen the pandemonium when 2Face walked into the backstage at 2015 AFRIMA Awards in Lagos: read about my first Nigerian experience here. Total hell!

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Photo courtesy of CokeStudioAfrica.com

From the start I identified his star power by the fact that despite his music going mainstream and pop, his composition and direction always remained original and true to his core R&B and Reggae with African influences. Some of my favourites off Grass to Grace include True Love, If Love is a Crime, No Shaking, Instance and I Dey Feel Like. I also really loved Ole off his debut album: Face 2 Face. 2Face’s latest album The Ascension dropped in 2014. He says of his transformation, “The Ascension is me graduating from my old pattern of doing music, I wanted to enter music that I am really comfortable with. Which is more of reggae and some of my traditional music. I am simply doing what I missed to do. The album The Ascension is an eclectic collection of songs that are African. Some songs I just did to cut across Africa.”

With most East African countries going through elections, it’s obvious that our artistes need to play a role in sensitizing youth and voters now more than ever. 2Face is quite passionate about promoting the message of peace, something he has done during Nigeria’s election period and continues to do over his free time. He says of his initiative, “Vote Not Fight, Election No Be War started with a million voices for peace – which was basically a cry for peace. I had to go to all the grassroots and meet displaced people and donate relief. We also did rehabilitation of changing the mindset of the youth who are prone to being used as tools for violence. During the election period, we stepped it up and went all the way out. My foundation’s motto is service to humanity – we try to make life good for all.” In late 2015, 2Face was crowned a Tafindan Kaduna (Peace Ambassador) of Nigerian Kaduna State. We actually missed each other during my December 2015 Lagos trip as he was always in between business and Kaduna State, but he was always kind enough to update me on his whereabouts.

Hailing from a humble background in Jos, Nigeria – 2Face remains one of the most bankable African artistes today. Throughout his career in music he’s evolved to also become a successful producer and entrepreneur. What has got you this far? I want to know. “I think it’s the grace of God because some things you can’t explain. I also try not to let the hype get to me [because] I know that before I was an artiste I was still known as me, so I always try to be me all the time. I just try to get work done and play when I can.” As for all 2Face fans around the Africa, here’s your special message, “My fans are the most loyal fans. They are the greatest fans in the world. I am loving the spirit of one love coming out of Africa and it is our generation that is changing that forever. May the children of our children continue to extend that spirit. Let’s bridge the gap so that in the future we will be speaking one language, there will be no demarcation but respect for every region.”

BONUS: I am excited that there is a 2Face x Sauti Sol massive collaboration coming this year. You can also read a shorter version of this story published by DStv here

 

NAVIO: Still Uganda’s Chosen Rap King

12596466_10154043734431414_1250972032_nYou can’t beat Navio’s worldview. Born, Daniel Kigozi, in Kenya, the Ugandan rap king schooled in Kenya and South Africa, lived in Zambia and holidays in Tanzania, among global destinations. Of late, he is constantly somewhere around the world thanks to his music tours and travel. “My Kenyan fans, unlike fans in lot of places in Africa, understand where I come from. I think it’s because I am born here so it’s nice to connect when I am back,” Navio says jesting that Kenyans on Twitter would kill him if he missed to come launch his new album in Nairobi this time as his last album had a Tanzanian and Ugandan launch. We are sitting by the pool area at his Nairobi apartment on his last day in Kenya. We have had such a tight schedule, running a media tour and producing an event – all in one week.

“I am the No. 1 hip hop artiste from Uganda and I do authentically Ugandan hip hop music,” says Navio. I like artistes and especially men who are confident and know their place in any circumstance. Meeting and working with Navio during my stint as Coke Studio Africa Publicist in 2015, and again this year for the Kenyan launch of his fourth studio album: The Chosen – left me feeling really like I am really The Chosen one. Like what’s not to love about Navio? I remember drooling over him while watching MTV back in the day. I digress – I meant to say, as a person Navio is so cool and easy to work with. His work ethic is at 100% No wonder he’s remained so focused and relevant in Africa’s hip hop scene straight up over the past decade.

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Navio & The Mith arrive in Nairobi. Photo Credit: Smiles Beckwith

There is something more to Navio than just your ordinary rapper. I can point out that he’s quite sensitive, mature and delivers killer freestyles (he can literally spit fire on any topic you throw at him, just as long as he’s in the zone). As much as I am his host, he constantly wants to know if I am fine and is never a bother. Working with him is something I’d easily get used to. But you will know that he’s still a typical rapper just by the show of his entourage. He is accompanied to Kenya by The Mith, Flex D’Paper and his videographer Shiloh; add me and my assistants at Anyiko – PR and my oh my! I wish I could record all presenters’ faces every time we walked into a studio. We were actually restricted from rolling as deep into a certain radio station, lol. But that’s what I love about Navio’s style and attitude – he’s so inclusive, and so are his people. Even though The Mith is himself another top Ugandan rapper, he’s here solely to support Navio. While at interviews Navio prompts The Mith to speak and is quick to introduce Flex D’Paper as “Uganda’s new kid on the block” when it comes to rap.

Before Navio embarked on his solo career, he was a member of the legendary Ugandan hip hop group: Klear Kut founded in late 90s. They are celebrated as the pioneers of Ugandan hip hop scene and its sprouting culture. The group originally comprised Navio, Papito, Abba Lang, JB, and The Mith. Among firsts, the group had the first Ugandan video to air on MTV. They were also the first Ugandan hip hop act to be nominated at Kora Awards in the categories of Most Promising and Revelation of the year for the song All I Wanna Know. A beaming Navio recalls the good old days, “We were the benchmark. Uganda always had people rapping but it wasn’t done professionally. Klear Kut came in and had a proper album launch that turned into a full on fiasco. We were equivalent to Kenya’s Kalamashaka at the time; a reporter once said that we were cut like a K- Shaka, were like Lost Boyz but with a refined vibe like Jay Z’s.” It’s great to see long time friends and partners Navio and The Mith still working and rolling together, despite the fact that the larger group is now defunct. Navio says, “We were young then but until today we are still friends. If the friendship dies then the group dies.” About a reunion – they never left. Navio confirms that a Klear Kut album is coming out soon with the title: Beast African with a new single called Let it rain.

Make sure you check out The Mith’s second album Destination Africa.

I just don’t understand why the East African music scene is sometimes so fragmented. There are hardly Ugandan rappers known in Kenya, unlike the case of their Tanzanian counterparts. This is despite the fact that Kenya and Uganda are geographically closer to each other. What boundaries have tied us?If indeed Kenyans or Ugandans have been tied by something, I wonder why few Ugandan rappers today make an effort like Navio, to specifically come to Kenya, to promote their music through events and media tours.

Something isn’t right.

According to Navio, among other things, language barrier has contributed a lot to this, seeing as just a handful of Ugandans speak Swahili, unlike the blanket case for the larger East African region. “As soon as you cross a certain line into Uganda, there is no Swahili or Arab influence so it’s Ugandan dialects only.” On the upside, Navio says, “Because of that, Uganda has an industry that fully supports itself and that’s why most Ugandan artistes sit thinking and waiting on their next shows in Uganda. As for me I am always thinking continental because my mind is open to outside influence. As Ugandans, we need to start branching out more to the rest of East Africa, and Africa. People are slowly starting to see us.” He is quick to name drop several Ugandan hip hop artistes I’ve never heard of. “60,000 people wave hands at their concerts in Uganda but as soon as you cross the border nobody knows their names but it’s something we are trying to change. I am not the last artiste you will know from Uganda,” he tells me.

You can also read my article on why Collabos are the future of African music

Fresh from releasing his album’s new single: Throne featuring Kenya’s king Kaka – Navio’s other song with King Kaka: Rusha has already been ruling Kenyan airwaves. There seems to be no other secret formulae to breaking boundaries other than cross collaborations—something Nav knows too well.

From Uganda to Nigeria then UK, South Africa and back to East Africa, Navio’s Chosen album flaunts collaborations with some of Africa’s brightest hip hop artistes. They include Ice Prince Zamani, Charlie King, Keko, Kella, Izzo Business, Silvastone, Vamposs, Khuli Chana, AKA, Cleo and Maggz.

His most memorable experience while recording was his chance meet up with Tanzanian rapper Mr. Blue, famed for his disappearing acts and

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Photo Credit: Smiles Beckwith

unexpected recurrences. After seeing each other last as teenagers, Navio reunited with Mr. Blue recently at Tanzanian annual festival Serengeti Fiesta. The two would later record Ayaya – the album’s 10th song and about how East African men marvel at the beauty of women. I still wonder how Navio manages to say No to the ladies. He’s amused at my question, posing, “Why would you say No to the ladies? East African girls are beautiful and very respectful. So girls – keep being fans and supporting the music.” Another song Gbesile with Burna Boy was recorded and filmed across Lagos and Kampala. “It was time to collaborate,” he says of the Nigerian artiste, adding, “We are friends and meet at awards ceremonies all the time. [In the song] Burna Boy does Yoruba like he hasn’t been heard before. This one was for Port Harcourt.” Navio says that he plans to drop more videos off the album and is going to be working with Kenyan hot group: The Kansoul on “something hectic.”

Navio is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most important hip hop figures in the last decade. “I challenge my flow in hip hop. To be versatile, I am not afraid to experiment a lot. Being Uganda’s finest is pretty cool but you have a finest for each genre. Bebe Cool, Bobi Wine, Juliana and many others are the chosen in their genres,” he says. Dishing on how fast The Chosen was put together, I learn that Navio is not one to camp in the studio. “I don’t like being in the studio much so when I get in I try to do it right.” Throughout my time with Nav, his mind seems to function like an eagle with eyes forever cast on the next prey. He is always talking of projects we should do in the coming months – I respect his vision! He concludes, “A lot of my past collaborations have been commercial but The Chosen was done for people to know the status of Ugandan hip hop. It’s definitely one for the record books even though it has one or two commercial songs in there. The Chosen is a pivotal project in my career.”

BONUS: So thankful to Industry Nite for letting me co-produce the Feb edition that hosted Navio. I also thank all my media familia who hosted Nav during #TheChosenNairobi Tour. We had a ball and must do it again.

I also interviewed Uganda’s beloved singer Jose Chameleone. Read all about it.

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

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.