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.

M.I Abaga lists his African Rap G.O.A.Ts

Coke_studio-282Spitting fire 100% M.I is the greatest rapper from Nigeria in my books, and undoubtedly one of Africa’s most legendary. It’s a lot of things together, from his consistency, longevity in the game and delivery to his confidence – I haven’t seen anyone top this.

I meet up with the high-spirited M.I at his Chocolate City Offices in Lagos – our second meeting after our stint at Coke Studio Africa season III recording in Nairobi. He’s hilarious! First of all, he doesn’t believe that work brought me to Nigeria. “There is a man involved,” he asserts. By the time we are done with the interview, and we start to talk more music business, he knows I ain’t playing.

I always wanted to know who M.I’s Rap GOAT (Greatest Rapper of All Time) is, and from an expert view – what he feels should be our way of judging GOATs. So here is M.I dishing on how to spot your GOAT, a constant topic of debate.

“Under the skill angle, there are lyrics, the writing and delivery. Understanding your brand and having courage is important to the game. Your career’s longevity and journey of where you came from also matters. When you put all these things together you get classic material.”

On his African GOATs he says; “The Hip-Hop story is starting. There are people who already are in contention. However, I choose Mode 9, HHP, Proverb and Sarkodie. Internationally my greatest rapper is Jay Z and I stand by that. After him comes Pac, Biggie, Nas then the rest.”

Of all the Cyphers on Coke Studio Africa, M.I says that his own bout is hard to top.

“For me and every other artiste, that’s a tough one to be better than. Nobody was on that level. For the ones I did with others, I was blown away! Big shout out to Bamboo – he came correct. The person that blew me away and then I did a song with him immediately after was Khaligraph. I think his skill puts him in the Top 5 of the continent. He’s amazing – his flow is like rapid fire and at the same time he stays on beat.”

A longer version of this article was published by Coke Studio Africa, here.

2015 – Why I’d Do You Over Again

dsc00208-1If my 2015 was a showreel, it would be blockbuster. It was the year of making major moves and taking big risks. I told myself that I would meet and interview D’Angelo in Stockholm when I decided to take a trip to Sweden to attend The Return Tour concert, even though I had no leads at the start. It happening wasn’t only a show of my connects, bravery and the level of hope I’ve nurtured inside of me, it was a dream come true – for D’Angelo is one of my major musical influences. Thanks to the two Cleos who played an instrumental role in the mission.

I wrote about How I Met D’Angelo. Trust me, it’s like a movie and you want to read this.

How I took and posted that viral Sauti Sol Lipala Dance video with President Barack Obama during his visit to Kenya was no mean feat. It wasn’t planned between Sauti Sol and the State House, but we were prepared for it. I remember I had the caption ready to post and the camera ready to record, even before it happened. I was the first person to stand up, unashamed of seeming inappropriate at a presidential ball function. When I got an email that the picture of Sauti Sol dancing with Obama had been placed in White House Oval Office, I said to myself – ‘Dreams do come true’ – but you have to be ready and prepared. Highlight of my career as Sauti Sol’s Publicist. That and the release of our third album: Live and Die in Afrika. Maaan, we had countless late nights and early mornings, and fights. The only reason we are all still friends is God.

 

 

Work during tour and travel was fun! My most memorable concerts were in Zanzibar, Stockholm, Uganda and Rwanda. Sauti Sol’s first show in Kampala was totally sold out – no other East African act has done that in Uganda’s recent history. Working on Stromae’s PR for the last of his global tour concert in Kigali was another career highlight. I wrote all about it:

A review of D’Angelo’s Stockholm’s The Second Coming Tour

To Uganda and Back: of Butts, Matoke and Music

Here’s why 2015 was the best year to see Stromae, and Rwanda was the best place.

 
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 4.50.36 PM2015 was also my most prolific, in writing matters. Drafted well over 100 press releases for all the artistes and clients I represented from across Africa and beyond, over 100 articles for DStv and over 50 blog posts for Black Roses and Coke Studio’s site. Working as Coke Studio Africa’s first Publicist and Editor in Chief of it’s debut site: The Mash Up, was so dope and enlightening. I was exposed to so much music, contacts and connects. Meeting countless superstars whose music I always loved from my younger days in music entertainment was priceless. From NE-YO, Cobhams, 2 Face Idibia, Ice Prince and Alikiba – we had such an amazing run. Here are some of my favourite interviews:

Chopstix on his Wizard Machine

Ice Prince, “We made a smash with NE-YO”

Nahreel on mastering his craft

Exclusive: Meeting & Interviewing NE-YO

Breaking Bread with Cobhams

Check out Coke Studio Africa Mash Up Blog.

Precious moment at Coke Studio Africa was meeting and making friends with Iona, daughter of Kenyan fashion royalty, and Abiodun, my God-sent angel from a heaven called Nigeria. Together we founded the dance group: Dope Gang

My other dope interviews from last year included Breakups to Makeups: Dru Hill 20 Years Later

As for my Daily Nation articles, below were my favourites:

D’Angelo’s Second Coming a Big Success

Kenyan Club Opens in Stockholm – this was by far one of my best stories.

We criticised Davido, but are Kenyan musicians any better?

New Kenyan movie on plight of female athletes in the works

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 4.57.22 PMI was also killing it with media tours, conferences and events. Sauti Sol’s first media tour in Uganda was kick-ass, so was K.O’s in Kenya handled by yours truly. From the launch of the Kalasha-winning film on the demise of Kenyan boxing: The Last Fight, WhatsGoodLive 2016 Announcement, Sauti Sol x Clarence Peters collabo, media launch of Live and Die in Afrika album, K.O & Mos Def Rapsody Events and Maybelline meets FAFA in a fashion storm, among others – everything I touched turned to gold!

I am particularly excited about two media events that I already have planned for 2016. Can’t wait! S/O to my assistant Tracy.

Sparked by an interest in examining music’s role in defining the African narrative, I also produced an Artist Talk Back event hosted at the 2015 Storymoja Festival. I wrote about it:

K.O Meets Octo in Music’s Role in Defining Africa

Spending two weeks in Sweden, reuniting with my friend Sylvia was magic. I will forever be grateful for how she played the best tour guide and treated me like a princess while there. See what we were up to:

Visiting the Swedish Photography Museum

12459877_10153686144522559_1599998357_nSpending two weeks in Nigeria in December doing work exchange at Sponge Nigeria, and my own business while being hosted by my girl Abi was the crowning of all. I found my twin sister and forever work partner. This girl has changed my outlook on life and friendship, and I will forever be indebted to her. Thanks for making me feel like the Queen of Beesam.

I wrote about being lost in meetings & showbiz: sounds from Nigeria.

In summary and in all honesty, my grind was at its peak in 2015, I even renovated my mother’s house (something I’d been praying for – for years). I told myself that there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do. I had many sleepless nights though – sometimes I would jokingly call myself a 24-hour economy. Sometimes I forgot to be a good friend – why this year, I plan to be a better friend, and lover.

All the risks I took, paid off. My mind took different form – I put it to extremely hard tests. I want to challenge myself even more this year. I learnt that true love to yourself, and others is in selflessness. If you can let the ones you love be their best and with whoever they deem fit – you are indeed on the path to being your best.

This year I plan to keep slaying and making boss moves. There’s so much planned. Wish you all nothing but love, blessings and success in your endeavours. So thankful to each and every person who cared, touched and supported me in one way or another. Let’s do it all over again this year!

Happy 2016!

Top Music Videos of 2015: Anyiko’s Select 10

top10top10It’s a great music video when I find myself ogling at it even when the TV is on mute. However, I am going to be really pissed off if I put on the sound to find that it’s a terrible song. From Ice Prince’s Mutumina, JAB’s Winning in Life, Patoranking’s Daniella Whine to Diamond’s twerkers in Nasema Nawe, many dope videos had me going goo goo ga ga in 2015. I present you my exceptional 10 in no particular order.

1. Live and Die in Afrika – Sauti Sol (Director: Sauti Sol Entertainment)

Many Kenyan musicians have shot music videos atop Kenyatta Kenyatta International Convention Centre (third tallest building in Kenya) but I am afraid very few have brought to light Nairobi’s iconic beauty from its eyes, like Sauti Sol have done in this video. It’s the kind of cinematic brilliance that will have people all over the world be like, “What African city is this?” Yo! That’s Nairobi and the KICC was designed by Norwegian architect Karl Henrik Nøstvik, as commissioned by Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta in 1967.

 

2. Celebrity Girlfriend – Falz feat. Reekado Banks (Director: Clarence Peters)

This is the most hilarious music video I’ve watched all year! The celebrity girlfriends aren’t lookalikes but doppelgängers–only reason why Falz actually fooled me. I even asked my Nigerian sister Abi while in Lagos, “How did Falz get Omotola to do this?” Throughout the video’s three minutes, Falz, Reekado, the director and the girls don’t drop the ball even for a second. It’s a triumphant turning point when Falz’s unrequited pursuits finally bear fruit – my heart actually smiles when the ladies embrace him. My favourites were Beyonce, Rihanna, Temidollface, Seyi Shay and Yemi Alade. That’s like almost all of them, right?:-)

 

3. Chekecha Cheketua – Alikiba (Director: Meji Alabi)

This is a double sword: hit song and hit video—Alikiba’s retaliation from past mistakes of never producing music videos to songs that became such massive hits. Shot in a South African suburb, this is Alikiba’s most colourful dance video. The director borrows certain post-production elements from Stromae’s Papaoutai video, and it’s perfectly alright. Alikiba is such a star! From how he patronises his female dancers with his charm and waist-wining, to how he makes the damn hard Chekecha Dance seem like child’s play – there’s not one thing that could have been done differently in this video.

 

4. Game – Navy Kenzo feat. Vanessa Mdee (Director: Justin Campos)

We already know that Vanessa Mdee is a slayer. At first sight, many take Nahreel to be a fashion killer rather than a beat maker. VeeMoney joins The Industry’s producer Nahreel with his better half Aika (the two are Navy Kenzo –Tanzania’s hottest and fastest rising music duo) on this bonafide ragga/dancehall track. Following a playful cat and mouse chase between groups of males and females, with couples taunting each other – Game is a tight video displaying what happens when Tanzania’s coolest kids collide with Justin Campos – crazy talented director based in South Africa. Game having held at No. 1 for months on MTV Base African Countdown shows the rest of Africa that East Africa too got game😉

 

5. Ndi Mukodo – Cindy feat. Navio (Director: J. Blessing)

Another Ragga/dancehall banger – just what Ugandans love! I am disappointed that Navio is overdressed in this video, and way impressed at how Cindy is flaunting her bod. She is brave enough to bring her sexiness on a track and video – something many East African divas shy away from. Good job by the Kenyan director. This kind of video needs a careful edit or else it risks being plain raunchy. Navio tells me that in their native Ndi Mukodo can be loosely translated to, ‘If that nigga is mine, no one else will have a piece of him, or me.’ You really don’t want to mess with Cindy’s man.

 

6. Ayo – Chris Brown and Tyga (Director: Colin Tilley) & The Money – Davido and Olamide (Director: Sesan)

If you’re going to go big on a theme you better do it well. These two videos have delivered on parading a show of affluence – sometimes it’s so careless it’s silly and hilarious! The scene with Chris and Tyga on top of a skyscraper is so cinematic it reminds me of Dru Hill’s How Deep is Your Love video shot in Hong Kong by the director of Rush Hour. Young ballers in faux fur coats – the styling was also on point!

Read my exclusive interview with Dru Hill – From Breakups to Makeups: 20 Years Later

Still on that tip, big shout to African superstars with the spending power on the clichés of extravagance in music videos: from the women, big cars to sprinkling dollar bills. That joke about people receiving calls on stacks of money is so played out but the part where Olamide receives a phone in form of a stack of dollars passed over by Davido is unbelievably hella fresh!

 

7. Sugar – Yemi Alade (Director: Paul Gambit)

If anybody doubted that Yemi Alade really is the King Of Queens, get enthralled by this pop art imagery video emphasised by her debonair dance moves – as choreographed by Ezinne Asinugo. By the time she is sitting on a throne wearing a crown you know that she’s earned her status. The video reminds me of Rihanna’s Rude Boy. Yes! It’s that good of a comparison.

 

8. Play No Games – Big Sean feat. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign (Director: Mike Carson)

Hands down my best video this year! I am such a huge fan of the 90s sitcom Martin! Wzup Radio was trill! From I know to One Man Can Change the World, in 2015 Big Sean produced videos oozing serious art direction. The 90s sitcom ‘Martin’ themed-music video took the crown. As a huge fan of Martin and Gina, it was so fresh to see Big Sean bring back the full cast: Tommy, Cole, Pam and even the annoying Bruh-Man and the nosey midget in his video. When the real Martin Lawrence shows up in the video’s ending, it’s the most worthy certification that this is a classic video.

 

9. Shooga – Yung L (Director: David Nicol – Sey)

Yung L’s videos are simple and authentic yet captivating all the same. You need to pay more attention to his songs too. I like when the Naija girls pull generators at the start of his 2014 SOS video and how Shooga’s director shows us the flavour of Ghana through bright colours and street dance. I just wish the director would cut off the excessive nyash shaking and have more of Chopstix. That’s all. Through tiny details, Yung L always captures the heart and soul of changing cultures in the face of life and times in modern Africa.

 

10. Wet Dreamz – J. Cole (Director: Ryan Staake)

J. Cole is a genius. It doesn’t get more literal when you get dogs falling in love in the video of a song about puppy love. Cute bitch meets a big dog. How the dogs lay eyes on each other, follow each other and finally meet and play is a stark reminder of the very steps we humans take before relationships transition from the bedroom to the stage of breakups and makeups. It’s the only wise way of shooting the video of a song that bluntly undresses sex. I wish Cole never showed up in the ending though.

P.S: Check out my review of J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive album

Do you dig my selection? Holla!

Stromae in Rwanda: Best Concert of 2015 (Review)

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With some of my colleagues from Stromae’s Kigali Concert.

I was killing it this year! Running PR for Stromae’s final concert of his Racine Carrée Global Tour staged in Kigali, alongside his hosts and management, was a key moment of my career.

It was so dope when I arrived in Rwanda to find the press releases I’d spent countless nights writing printed for the hundreds of international and local press present at Stromae’s first press conference in Rwanda. It was great to ask my questions at the presser too, and even greater to party with Stromae and his family at the private after party we held after his concert. This blog isn’t supposed to be about me but a review of what would become my best concert ever – not only of 2015.

See my work 👆#StromaeKigali #pressconference was trill #SuperPublicistBestBlv #LoverofWords 😃

A photo posted by black roses (@anyikowoko) on

The half Rwandese half Belgian pop singer/songwriter and rapper Stromae (Paul Van Haver) is internationally renowned for global hit French songs like Alors on Danse (2009), Tous Les Mêmes and Papaoutai (2013). On 17th October 2015 he concluded his acclaimed two-year long world tour in East Africa, staging the last show in Rwanda – his father’s native land. This was following successful tours and travel in more than twenty five countries including several American states, and selling out the last shows in Kinshasa and New York’s Madison Square Garden.

In 2015, Rwanda commemorated two decades of peace since the genocide. The same year also saw Stromae career’s catapult to its peek with his latest album “Racine Carrée” (2013) cementing him as a global star. Despite language barrier, the half Rwandese artiste has become one of the world’s most successful French-singing artistes of this decade. For these reasons, 2015 was the best time to attend a Stromae concert and Rwanda was the best place for this.

Stromae had cancelled his planned concert in Kigali earlier this year after falling ill. This however didn’t ruin fans anticipation. The Kigali concert pulled 20,000 people – young and old, of different races and from all walks of life. They came from all over East Africa and beyond. Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame and Kenyan music group: Sauti Sol were among several VIP guests at the show.

The gates of Kigali’s ULK stadium had fans thronging in as early as five hours before concert kick off. Earlier in the day, I attend Stromae’s press conference held at Hotel Des Mille Collines.

He speaks in French and English, in brief and has a great sense of humour. “It’s been a tiresome tour but great all the same. It gives me so much pleasure to connect with my fans, and finish the tour at home,” adding, “I can’t wait to meet my whole family here.” Accompanied by his mother and management team, Stromae came to Rwanda with a team of around forty professionals. He also flew in his full sound, stage and lighting setup in a private jet.

Pic by Mona Yacoub for Isaano Rwanda

It was an emotional welcome for Stromae with the crowd roaring for about fifteen minutes as soon as Stromae stepped onto the striking stage. The men of his four-piece backing band were dressed in knee length shorts, black and white knitted sweaters with hexagonal prints and black fedoras. A patriotic energy and pride swayed around the stadium as the mammoth crowd sang word for word to Formidable, among his songs. Watching Stromae’s world-class live show is an experience so magical. It’s the distinct magnificent laser lights and visual effects; his acrobatic voice; theatrics in his pompous change of outfits and inimitable dance moves.

From the attires to the performance sets, it was the exact Stromae Global Tour that has travelled across Europe and America. The last song Papaoutai (French for Dad Where are You?) was written from dreams and aspirations of his father who was killed in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. After the performance, Stromae transforms into a meek Paul Van Haver. He thanks fans countlessly while mentioning names of his relatives from Rwanda.

Watching Stromae live in Kigali was so grand, and historic that the team of Rwandan promoters and organisers (Positive Productions, Afrogroov and Rock Events and Promotion) who hosted him could only compare the magnitude of his show to a Lucky Dube Rwanda peace concert held in 2000 which was aimed at healing national wounds following the 1994 Genocide. In many ways, Stromae’s return to Rwanda this year after being away for more than two decades must have healed his own wounds from losing his father. Finally, Stromae dedicates the momentous end of his tour to his father’s memory. “Papa Merci.”

BONUS: Stromae is Verlan (a French inversion of syllables in slang) for maestro. He produced his first international hit Alors on Danse off his computer at home with a desktop mic. As an entertainer, some have described his futuristic style as a mash up of Michael Jackson and Charlie Chaplin.

I will never thank Positive Productions, Afrogroov and Rock Events, Promotion and RwandAir enough for putting me on this Stromae project. I look forward to working with you more in 2016.