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Nigeria: Jonathan Receives Long-Awaited Audit Report On Missing U.S.$20 Billion Oil Money, but Details Remain Secret
February 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Photo: Leadership Lamido Sanusi

Photo: Leadership
Lamido Sanusi

President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday publicly received the report of the forensic audit carried out on the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] from the accounting firm that conducted the investigation.

The report submission ceremony, held a day after a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN], Chukwuma Soludo, wrote a long, acerbic article accusing the managers of the Nigerian economy of misappropriating over N30trillion of public funds, including several billions in oil money.

“Now add the ‘missing’ $20 billion from the NNPC,” Mr. Soludo said. “You promised a forensic audit report ‘soon’, and more than a year later the Report itself is still ‘missing’. This is over N4 trillion, and we don’t know how much more has ‘missed’ since Sanusi cried out. How many trillions of naira were paid for oil subsidy (unappropriated?).”

Insiders in the administration had long told PREMIUM TIMES that the report was submitted months ago by auditors but that it was gathering dust in the cupboards of the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Auditor General of the Federation.

In what appeared a hurried response to Mr. Soludo’s allegations, President Jonathan suspended campaign activities Monday to receive the report from the auditors in the presence of journalists, in a move aides say was aimed at correcting the impression created by the former CBN governor that the administration was sitting on the document.

At the ceremony held at the Presidential Villa, Mr. Jonathan received the report from Uyi Akpata, the country senior partner for PriceWaterHouseCoopers, and then promised a comprehensive reform of the oil sector.

The President did not give any insight into the details of the report. He only said the document would be sent to the Auditor General of the Federation in the next one week.

He said it is at the Auditor-General’s end that details of the report would be made public saying “media will want to know the key findings vis-a-vis the senate findings and figures being bandied around in the newspaper, but Nigerians are interested”.

The President noted that as part of the recommendation made, the petroleum industry bill would correct the lapses in the oil and gas sector.

“Indeed you mentioned the issue of reform in the sector, everybody knows that the sector needs to be reformed,” he said. “By the time we go through the petroleum industry bill and pass it into law, most of this lapses will be corrected and the misconception will be properly addressed.”

Suppressing the Report

PREMIUM TIMES had on December 27 reported how the government plotted to suppress the report. The forensic audit was commissioned following allegation by the immediate past Governor of the CBN, Lamido Sanusi, that about $20 billion oil money was missing from the NNPC.

The Presidency had on March 12, 2014 announced, through a statement by the president’s spokesperson, Reuben Abati, that it had authorised the engagement of reputable international firms to carry out the forensic audit of the accounts of the NNPC.

The audit firm had earlier submitted an interim report which the President said he rejected as the subject matter of the probe needed to be completely dealt with.

The allegation that the huge amount had been stolen was raised in 2013 by a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano.

Mr. Sanusi said as much as $49 billion was diverted by state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

He later reviewed the amount to $20 billion, and called for investigations after writing to President Goodluck Jonathan.

A Senate probe into the allegation yielded no result. Mr. Sanusi was later fired by President Jonathan after he was accused of “financial recklessness”.

The government said no money was missing, but promised a forensic investigation of NNPC.

In April, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced the appointment of the accounting firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC), to conduct a detailed investigation into the accounts and activities of NNPC.

The minister said the investigation, under the supervision of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, would take about 16 weeks.

That schedule meant at most by September 2014 ending, the report should have been ready. A two-month delay meant the report should have been ready by November.

But more than two months later, the government failed to release the report.

PREMIUM TIMES independently investigated the whereabouts of the report and its contents.

At each turn, relevant government offices denied having the report despite confirmation by senior officials of the finance ministry to this newspaper that the report had since been submitted by PriceWaterHouseCoopers.

The sources said the document was submitted to the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation. Our reporters contacted the offices of the Auditor-General and the Accountant- General repeatedly, pressing for the report, without success.

A spokesperson for the Auditor-General of the Federation, Florence Dibiase, said she was not aware of the report.

Also, Abba Dabo, the Director, Extra Ministerial Department, in the Office of the Auditor general of the Federation, denied knowledge of the report. Mr. Dabo said he should be in charge of such documents if they were available.

He said the role of the auditor-general’s office was in selecting PriceWaterHouseCoopers as the auditing firm, after which the matter reverted to the finance ministry.

Mr. Dabo said only the Auditor General, Samuel Ukura, could speak authoritatively on whether any such report was ready. Mr. Ukura could not be reached for comments at the time.

PREMIUM TIMES also contacted PriceWaterHouseCoopers, where an official said the firm would only be able to comment on a later date.

*Source allafrica

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Growing Up with Professor Ali Mazrui
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Dr Willy Mutunga is Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya Dr Willy Mutunga is Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya[/caption] I have had a long association with the academic, author, documentary maker, and tree shaker, Professor Ali Mazrui, who died a little more than a month ago. I borrow the metaphor “Growing up with” from the title of renowned Professor Karim Hirji’s autobiography, Growing Up with Tanzania, to reflect on just a few inspiring encounters over the decades I have had with the intellectual giant of Africa. Mjomba Ali died in Binghamton, New York, on October 12, 2014. He was 81 years and 8 months old. I remember Mazrui particularly in context of debates at the University of East Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, which were as ideological as they were political. There were professors on the left and on the right with liberals in the middle. It was the era of the Cold War and this was reflected intellectually, ideologically, and politically at the university. The debates were among great African, regional, and global scholars such as Walter Rodney, Giovanni Arrighi, A. J. Temu, Justinian Rweyemamu, John Saul, Tamas Sczentes, Yash Tandon, Abdalla Bujra, Mahmood Mamdani, Karim Hirji, Issa Shivji, Dani Nabudere, Omwony Ojok, Henry Mapolu, Aki Sawyerr, Kwesi Botchwey, Marjorie Mbilinyi, Yash Pal Ghai, Dharam Ghai, John Samuel Mbiti, Okot p’Bitek, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Micere Mugo, Sol Piciotto, among many others. Dar es Salaam College of the University of East Africa became the liberation Mecca for many liberation movements: ANC, Frelimo, Swapo, Polisario, PLO, Black Power and Black Panthers, among others, with President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere providing the intellectual, ideological, and political umbrella that nurtured these great debates. Dar University was a great institution of higher learning to be in during the 1960s and the 1970s.  I regard myself as having been very fortunate to be a student there during that period. First encounter I first met Mjomba Ali in 1969 while a student at the Dar es Salaam University College. Then teaching at Makerere University, he was in Dar to attend a conference. In those days academic conferences took place on a regular basis under the auspices of the University of East Africa. I attended many of them when Mjomba Ali presented papers. Needless to say I saw and heard the great academic, scholar, wordsmith, intellectual, nationalist and pan-Africanist, and radical liberal at his brilliant best. In his modesty and humility Mjomba Ali was later to confide in me that he believed that he lost his debate against Walter Rodney which took place at Makerere University in 1970. Reflecting on these debates it is easy to understand why a radical liberal would have a following among the students. The ideological debates between the right and the left were at times brutal, dogmatic, and ruthlessly critical. Students who wanted to hear and reflect on arguments from both sides of the ideological divide must have found Mjomba Ali’s middle position attractive. And Mjomba Ali remained consistent in that position while some of the scholars moved from one extreme to the other. We seem to have come a full circle in the 20th century with the middle, social democracy, being the basis of historicising, problematising, and interrogating the still dominant paradigms of neo-liberalism and socialism. The search for a paradigm that will liberate the world continues in earnest. The clarion call, the revolutionary slogan and resolve, A luta Continua, remains relevant. Autobiography Shy aliProfessor Alamin Mazrui, Mjoba Ali’s nephew, and I had been keen to write Ali’s biography. We raised the issue with him. He did not want to say no to us, but upon reflection he was not very keen about the idea. He, however, did not disappoint because he suggested we could edit his great debates with scholars; that we proceeded to do in three volumes. I have always had this nagging feeling that Mjomba was never keen on the idea of an autobiography or biography. I should have figured out this when Alamin and I edited his debates! If you are a giant of a scholar who is constantly and continuously being debated, written on, critiqued, your story gets told permanently and indelibly.   As Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kenya it was my great pleasure and privilege to host Mjomba Ali and Professor Robert Martin a year ago at the Judiciary. Mjomba Ali spoke to the judges about law and politics under the 2010 Constitution of Kenya. This was a timely intervention, particularly for judges who still nursed the idea that “the law is the law is the law” under the said Constitution. The Constitution of Kenya is not a legal-centric document and it requires a multi-disciplinary approach to its interpretation and implementation. It is a Constitution that fundamentally subverts staunch positivism. As an African who believes in my protection by the spirits of our ancestors, as creations of God, I have no doubt the Spirit of Mjomba Ali will watch over us as we continue to grow with him. I am sure more debate about his work and greatness will continue on earth for many centuries to come. I pray he will debate Walter Rodney yet again when their paths cross, this time round with clearer results! May the Almighty Allah rest his soul in eternal peace! *Dr Willy Mutunga is Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya.  ]]>

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A Circle of Celebration, Forged in Africa
November 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

* [caption id="attachment_13953" align="alignleft" width="675"]Angelique Kidjo performing with Dominic James on guitar at Carnegie Hall. Credit Ruby Washington/The New York Times Angelique Kidjo performing with Dominic James on guitar at Carnegie Hall. Credit Ruby Washington/The New York Times[/caption]

One strong African woman honored another at Angélique Kidjo’s tribute concert for Miriam Makeba on Wednesday night at Carnegie Hall, where she was joined by Vusi Mahlasela from South Africa, Laura Mvulu from England and Ezra Koenig from the African-influenced New York City band Vampire Weekend. Whoopi Goldberg started the concert with praise for both Makeba, who died in 2008, and Ms. Kidjo.

Wearing brightly patterned dresses, singing with joyful vehemence and dancing with struts and twirls and shoulder shakes, Ms. Kidjo was respectful, yet far from solemn, in a concert drawn almost entirely from the Makeba repertory. It was the finale of Carnegie’s Ubuntu festival, marking 20 years since the end of apartheid in South Africa: a cause Makeba devoted herself to through decades of exile after South Africa revoked her passport in 1963.

It was by no means Ms. Kidjo’s first acknowledgment of Makeba as her role model. Ms. Kidjo is from Benin, in West Africa, and has lived in Paris and now Brooklyn. Like Makeba, she has drawn deeply on her African heritage while making global fusions; the concert included songs in six languages. She recorded a Makeba standard, the Tanzanian love song “Malaika,” for her 1991 album, “Logozo,” and sang it on Wednesday night.

Ms. Kidjo is a rawer, more brazen singer than Makeba; with bent notes and raspy peaks, she brings the West African roots of the blues into her songs. What she shares with Makeba is conviction and compassion as she seeks the universal sentiment in songs from particular places: a lullaby from Indonesia (“Suliram”), a song about working in South African mines (“The Retreat Song”), a topical message (“Soweto Blues”).

Ms. Kidjo supplemented her regular band, which easily commands a huge variety of African-diaspora styles, with three South African singers — Faith Kekana, Stella Khumalo and Zamo Mbutho — who had backed up Makeba. They brought the lush, precisely swooping harmonies of South African tradition, which were especially striking when they joined Ms. Kidjo for a cappella passages.

But Ms. Kidjo wasn’t reproducing the old Makeba sound; she was pushing it harder. “Pole Mze” — a Kenyan song praising that country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta — had a gentle Afro-Cuban lilt in Makeba’s version; Ms. Kidjo’s band drove it all the way into salsa. Her guests picked up her enthusiasm — especially Mr. Mahlasela, a courageous songwriter during the apartheid era, with a jovial presence and a robust, soaring voice that rose to match Ms. Kidjo’s own power.

Carnegie Hall, however, wasn’t the right room for the concert. Although Ms. Kidjo’s drummer, Yayo Serka, played behind a plastic partition and used a light touch, the music’s danceable beats were blurred by the hall’s reverberation. But Ms. Kidjo didn’t let acoustics impede her. She sang her way through the audience and up into the balcony, illuminated by flashing cellphone cameras, and got the audience on its feet, singing along and dancing to join a song Ms. Kidjo wrote for both Makeba and the continent: “Afirika.”

*Source nytimes

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How Majid Michel And Beverly Naya Created Nollywood’s Best Kiss 2014
October 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Brothers-keeperGhanaian actor, Majid Michel and Nigerian actress, Beverly Naya have emerged as the best kissers in Nollywood. The handsome actor and beautiful actress combined well enough to emerge joint winners in the Best Kiss in a movie category at the just-concluded 2014 Best of Nollywood awards. The awards ceremony, which held in Port Harcourt on Thursday, October 16, 2014, saw the two named winner for their passionate and intense kissing in a movie titled Forgetting June. To emerge winner of the category, Majid and Beverly beat the likes of Ini Edo, Blossom Chukwujekwu and Monalisa Chinda to win the award.Presenting the category, which many in the movie industry consider either unserious or unique, for this year were Empress Njamah and Chinedu Ikedieze at the awards ceremony. Directed by Ikechukwu Onyeka and starring Majid Michel, Beverly Naya, Mbong Amata and others, Forgetting June is a 2013 Nigerian romantic drama film. *Source Ghana Vibes]]>

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Comedy Gold: Who are the funniest people in Africa?
September 3, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Florence Obondo and Allyssia Alleyne* [caption id="attachment_11593" align="alignleft" width="150"]Daniel "Churchill" Ndambuki is a popular Kenyan comic who brings joy and laughter into people's lives each week with his self-titled variety show. For all you comedy fans, he has chosen five emerging comics from the continent to keep an eye on -- they are going to be big! Daniel “Churchill” Ndambuki is a popular Kenyan comic who brings joy and laughter into people’s lives each week with his self-titled variety show. For all you comedy fans, he has chosen five emerging comics from the continent to keep an eye on — they are going to be big![/caption] Daniel Ndambuki might today be one of Kenya’s top comedians, having the crowd in stitches every time he performs, but things were quite different when he first took to the stage. In fact, Ndambuki’s debut performance was so bad that he had to be stopped straight away. “My first joke … they switched off the mic,” recalls Ndambuki, who is better known by his stage name “Churchill”. “It was too boring,” he admits laughingly, “even [to] myself.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN_V9XQm8Ks “We left the stage and we promised ourselves never to do comedy again, but I went back and with practice and a lot of encouragement, we just found ourselves getting addicted to the stage and that’s exactly what we are doing up until now.” ‘Next Chris Rock’ As the old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And to Churchill’s credit, he did and today, thanks to his hard work and determination, he is at the helm of two of Kenya’s biggest comedy shows: Churchill Live and Churchill Raw. The first one is more of a magazine show, with several high-profile guests, whilst the latter serves as a platform for up-and-coming performers to showcase their talents. To find the best entertainers, Churchill auditions a group of comedians, and the cream of the crop goes on to perform before a live audience later that day. “There is nothing as exciting as being a pioneer for a big dream, not only for one country, but the whole continent and creating history and influencers — it’s the most amazing thing,” says Churchill. “With the talent that you see coming up on the stage every day, in the next five years you might be sure, it’s a matter of time before you see a Chris Rock or a Steve Harvey coming from the academy and that would be the dream,” he muses. Tips to tickle you [caption id="attachment_11594" align="alignright" width="150"]Basketmouth has quite the social media following, with over one million Facebook likes and over 550,000 Twitter followers. Stand-up is his speciality, but he uploads the occasional sketch to his YouTube too. Basketmouth has quite the social media following, with over one million Facebook likes and over 550,000 Twitter followers. Stand-up is his speciality, but he uploads the occasional sketch to his YouTube too.[/caption] But what does it take to succeed in the business of making people laugh? For Churchill, the secret lies with crafting jokes that everyone can relate to. “The most unique thing is being able to make a very intelligent person and the ordinary person get the joke at the same time otherwise you will lose,” he advises. “It is not easy,” he adds. “Humor is based on current issues and observation and just characters,” continues the seasoned comic, “so it’s a whole journey seven days a week; you have to keep on doing it, again and again. “Comedy is not easy, it’s really more like a calling. If someone has that talent, the best you can do as a parent is to encourage that person.”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2FJAGOrh5o   More than just a comedian, Churchill is today focused on growing the next generation of comic talent in Kenya and beyond. CNN’s African Voices asked the seasoned comic to name some of his continent’s best comics to keep an eye on. Click through the gallery above to find out Churchill’s favorite African comedians and check out the video below to learn more about his story. *Source CNN]]>

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Interview: The Cameroonian Soul King Looks Back
August 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

CLYDE MACFARLANE* ManuDibangoWhen Manu Dibango took to the stage at Womad Festival last month, one got the overwhelming feeling that he has enjoyed every moment of his career. Even after 80 years and counting, it was clear that the great Cameroonian saxophonist still loves music and has always loved music. Dibango first became famous with his 1972 hit ‘Soul Makossa’, a song which proved influential in opening up Europe and America to African music with its catchy, repeated chorus. “Mama-say, mama-sah, ma-ma-koo-sah,” he sang to the Womad crowd, greeted with whoops of appreciation. Dibango’s chant had previously been popularised by Michael Jackson’s plagiarism of it in ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’ − for which Dibango sued Jackson, a matter that was eventually settled out of court − and which had led to many other musical adaptations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WvGUnauk7c At Womad, the set switched effortlessly between soulful ballads which saw the keyboardist transform the festival tent into a New Orleans gospel church − notes that went on forever, Dibango blowing off on a mad cadenza − and funky hits where the octogenarian jiggled his hips with playful nostalgia. As the guitarist played a few funk licks to whip up the energy, Dibango stepped back and nodded approvingly. “Same man, different band!” was how Dibango neatly summarised the performance afterwards as he spoke to Think Africa Press. “I started music by going to church. Then I went to Europe when I was 15. I’m 80 now, so that’s a long time to be performing. I was lucky at the beginning as it’s always a tough time starting out in music. Sometimes musicians get lucky, and that happened to me in 1972. Now there are different people around me. My music is the same, but with different musicians.” Dibango was keen to reflect on his time playing music and travelling in the 70s, evidently a hallowed period for him . “I have a lot of nostalgia for that time,” he said. “There were so many great musicians: James Brown, Sly Stone, Otis Reading, all those people. I spent a month in Jamaica when Bob Marley was alive, and I became the first African to record an album there − a collaboration with [the Jamaican rhythm section] Sly and Robbie called Gone Clear. “At that time those musicians were all popular in Europe,” he continued. “African music was popular in Africa. After ‘Soul Makossa’, Europeans realised there was a lot more to black music than African-American music. I opened the door for them − I had the keys without even knowing it, and this allowed people to go to Africa and find Fela Kuti and King Sunny Adé. They’d been playing for a while in Africa, but no one in Europe had heard of them.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWK_Josc0Og “When I started, I played everybody else’s music before playing my own thing. First you play other people’s music − what people want to hear − then you ask the crowd whether they want to hear something different. You have to be curious. If you’re not curious, you will not learn − that’s the same wherever you go in the world. If you’re keen to learn and mix with other people, then one day you’ll make a new musical baby.” *Source thinkafricapress  You can find out more about Manu Dibango here]]>

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Nigeria's entertainment industry, the unsung hero of youth employment
August 2, 2014 | 0 Comments

Konye Obaji Ori* [caption id="attachment_10692" align="alignleft" width="300"]Nigerian pop star D'banj is currently the African Union Summit Ambassador for ONE Campaign. Photo©Reuters Nigerian pop star D’banj is currently the African Union Summit Ambassador for ONE Campaign. Photo©Reuters[/caption] Nigeria’s entertainment industry has become a key cog in creating youth employment and cultivating culture at a minimal cost to government. The Nigerian Creative and Entertainment Industry Stimulation Loan Scheme, launched in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan, saw entertainers accessing $200 million to finance their operations.

hree years later, Nollywood, Nigeria’s budding film industry, has become second in the global film markets in terms of volume of production, and third, behind India’s Bollywood and America’s Hollywood in revenue.The entertainment sector is now reputed to be the second highest employer in Nigeria after agriculture – employing more than one million people – particularly the youth.Current estimates put Nollywood’s annual revenue at $590 million, with Nigerian musicians and comedians selling out arenas from London to Los Angeles. One example of such success is Nigerian comedian, Basket Mouth’s February 2014 tour of the United Kingdom, which sold out in various venues a week before the concert date.A growing number of young people are finding their niche in the budding industry, as they straddle a broad range of economic activities, contributing to the country’s economy. Perceptive entrepreneurs Nigerian entertainment entrepreneur Jason Njoku created Iroko, Nigeria’s equivalent of Netflix, and he has been listed by Forbes as one of top 10 young African millionaires. While Nigeria’s shortcomings in youth management are by no means resolved, the entertainment industry has seen young Nigerian artistes emerge from disadvantaged backgrounds and working themselves into higher income brackets. The opportunities created by the entertainment sector are good news for the government, as it somewhat reduces the difficulty of catering for Nigeria’s large youth population, with more than 100 million people aged below 45. The industry is creating perceptive entrepreneurs, cultural ambassadors, and global brands, whose exploits have internationalised Nigeria’s entertainment sector. Nigerian actress Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is currently a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations, while pop star D’banj is currently the African Union Summit Ambassador for ONE Campaign, an advocacy initiative that calls on African governments to commit at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agricultural investment. The sector has also flourished as a result of investors – both local and international – devising strategies to circumnavigate piracy, with little help from government. One such example is an M-Net-THEMA TV distribution deal in 2011 that allowed M-Net to sub-license the rights of its AfricaMagic content, African drama series, documentaries and soaps, to THEMA TV for international distribution. Erstwhile actress Genevieve Nnaji, who has been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, talking Nigeria, culture, and entertainment, serves as proof that the West African country provides a lucrative consumer market for private and corporate investors seeking a piece of the pie the entertainment sector has to offer. With more attention from government, in terms of regulation and investments, Nigeria’s entertainment industry could drive the youth employment effort, not only in distribution but also in domestic and regional tourism.
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I once lived in an uncompleted building -Mercy Johnson
January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mercy Johnson-Okojie made her way into Nollywood in the movie ‘The Maid’. In this interview with JOAN OMIONAWELE, the actress talked about marriage, controversies, acting, fashion and other issues. What has Mercy Johnson been up to lately? I have been busy shooting movies, moving from one location to the other. I give God all the glory. You recently set up the Mercy Johnson Foundation. How far has it gone? So far so good; it’s progressing. It’s been God all the way. How many movies can you recollect doing so far? Over 100 movies. What were your days like as a  child? I was a tomboy. I am the fourth child from a family of seven children. The first four are girls and the last three are boys. So, I actually moved a lot with my brothers, climbing trees and stuff like that. We didn’t get everything we wanted but we got everything we needed. I’m from a very humble background; a Christian family. My dad is an ex-military officer and we basically grew up in a military environment. I attended Navy primary and secondary schools until I went to the Lagos State University. And how has it been through fame and glamour? There have been the good and bad times; there have been rumours and scandals. Sometimes when I cry in movies, it isn’t the script that makes me cry. When I recall my humble beginning, I give thanks to God. When I remember how we moved into an uncompleted building and had to take cover whenever it rained because of the condition of the house; how my brother did a menial job as a bricklayer to earn a living and those days when we rolled over a stick to cover the windows up till the point when I started acting and raised money to cover the roof… I recall those days we were living with lizards because the floor and the walls of the house were not plastered, or when I had scars as a result of my several falls. So how did you start acting? After my secondary school education, I failed the University Matriculation Examination (UME) and came back to Lagos to get a degree. While that was on, I watched Genevieve Nnaji in a movie entitled: Sharon Stone. I later approached a friend for assistance to feature in a movie. He said I had a great body and that I would make a good actress. He later took me to the National Theatre, but a role did not come until a year later, when I had my first lead role in a film entitled: The Maid. The Maid was my starting point and it was quite challenging to play the lead role because it was my first movie. I was fidgeting when I saw the likes of Eucharia Anunobi, whom I regarded as a screen goddess during my secondary school days. I never thought I would make it with people like that. So, when I saw her, I was so excited and considered standing beside her as sacred. She actually realised that and later helped me by giving me the needed courage. What is that accessory that you can never be caught wearing? A nose ring. What has marriage changed about you? Marriage has taught me lots of things and I’ve learnt a lot since I got married too. I know that if I had gotten married earlier, I wouldn’t have made most of the errors I made. It’s good to be married to somebody who is so organised; he brings you up the right way and reminds you of whom you’re supposed to be. You seem to be enjoying marriage a lot.  You even once said that as soon as Purity (her daughter) clocks one, you would be going back to the labour room … My sister, marriage has been sweet for me because I have the best husband and daughter in the world. Being a married woman, I have learnt to tolerate things more. It has changed my perspective of life and the way I react to things. But getting married and being an actress are two different things. How do you balance up? When I’m not at location, I spend quality time with my family. And guess what? My husband has always been there for me and Purity. It’s obvious we are his priority. He’s a loving husband and father. Your husband does not complain about those times when you are away? He doesn’t; he understands the nature of my job. He’s the best thing that has happened to me. People usually say men are not reliable. In the case of my husband, he’s a blessing. What was the point of attraction between you and Mr Okojie? What attracted him to me was his fearless approach. You know sometimes, you meet some guys and they get intimidated about you, but not with him. The first time we were supposed to have a date, he said ‘Let’s go to my house so you can cook for me’ and in my mind, I was like “Seriously, this guy doesn’t know my name.” So, I said “My name is Mercy Johnson” and he said ‘Yes I know.’ Taking your child to movie sets can really be demanding and stressful. Does Purity not disturb you when you are on set? No, she doesn’t. When I take her on location, she has lots of uncles and aunties who dote on her. They carry her, feed her and many more. Sometimes, I don’t even get to see her until she needs to breastfeed. How has motherhood changed your perspective about life? It has changed me just the way it changes women. You begin to see yourself as a co-creator. You begin to see yourself as a protector. It will also make you feel more responsible for other children as well. You begin to see them as children of some other mothers. You have a sense of responsibility to want to protect them as well. If he tells you to quit acting one day, would you give it a thought? When we get to that bridge, we will cross it. How do you pamper yourself? I have fun with my family. As a dutiful wife, how do you pamper your husband? Sometimes I take him out on a date, surprise him with gifts and so on. As a married woman, does he complain about your romantic scenes in movies? No he doesn’t. He understands the nature of my job and he knows that acting is just make-believe. There was an issue with you and Tonto Dike recently. She dissed you on Twitter for saying you would go back to the labour room immediately Purity was mature enough. Why didn’t you reply her? I’d rather not talk about it. What does style mean to you? Style to me is putting on anything that makes you feel comfortable. My husband is a huge critic, so when he compliments my dressing, I feel so good. He doesn’t believe that exposing anything makes you look better. He feels when you cover up, you look real nice. What is that accessory that you continuously fill your wardrobe with? That will be my wrist-watches. And how many of it (your favourite accessory) would you say you have? Close to 10. In a few years to come, what would you love to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered as someone who accomplished useful deeds. I would like to leave with the memory of someone with a good heart, who did her best to help others. There is a very strong competition among actresses. How have you managed to maintain your position as one of the most popular? I would have to give all glory to God how far He has helped me. I have tried as much as possible to give my best to the industry and I cannot say that I have arrived, but it is obvious that I am not where I used to be. I will continue to do more. It doesn’t look like you would go back to putting on those sexy clothes again after you wean Purity. Or would you? No I don’t plan to. Motherhood and marriage have changed me. I am over that because I am now a married woman, a mother at that. What has been the most negative report that you have read about yourself? A lot of untrue things have been said about me, but I have come to realise that it doesn’t cost people anything to cook up lies about me. The one I remember vividly is the one they said I stole money and also snatched people’s husbands. I lost a deal worth N50 million from a telecommunication company because of that. It was reported that you were banned for increasing your pay as an actress. There was no ban at all. You promptly responded to OJB’s cry for help and gave him some money. People said it was publicity stunt, while others said it was just your character… I don’t need to be more popular because I am already popular. We were just promoting the ideals of Mercy Johnson Foundation. The idea is to identify the needs, evaluate and help in our own little way. All fingers are not equal. Those in position to help should do so without hesitation. I strongly believe that as stars we should live beyond the euphoria of stardom and the moment. We will not always be here. What happens if you look back and realise you could have done a lot to make the world better when you had the spotlight and you didn’t? I want to live beyond the moment. * Source Nigerian Tribune ]]>

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A Salute to Tabu Ley Rochereau a monument of African music
December 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Emmanuel Zelifac

As Africans and the world celebrate the passing of Nelson Roxihlahla Mandela, we must also salute another great son of Africa-Pascale-Emmanuel Sinamonyi Tabu ,aka Tabu Ley Rochereau. The global iconic status of Mandela meant that the celebration of his extraordinary life eclipsed whatever respect was paid to this other life.

An old African adage holds that when an old one dies, it is akin to burning down a library. African culture and especially its music has lost one of its great libraries.

Congolese song writer and singer, Tabu Ley has passed away. He was in a class of his own, and could only be compared to the likes of Franco Luambo Makiadi, and Joseph kabasele. It is popularly acknowledged that Wendo “Papa Wendo” Kolossoy was the creator of modern Congolese rumba, and its more recent variation, soukous. The likes of Franco, Kabasele, and Tabu Ley and their respective bands took the genre to its apogee.

Pascale-Emmanuel Sinamonyi Tabu was born in 1937, in the then Belgian Congo, in the region of Bandandu. The great vocalist Ndumbe “Pepe Ndumbe” Opetum also hailed from this region.

According to an interview Tabu Ley gave a few years ago, he started singing at the age of Ten (10) in the church choir, at baptisms, and at birthdays. By the late ‘50s, he decided to make music his profession, and threw in his lot with Joseph Kabasele.

In 1956, he joined L’ochestre African Jazz, of Joseph “le grand Kalle” Kabasele.  He took the artistic name of Rochereau, after the French general Pierre Denfert-Rochereau, whom he had learnt of in school. He would play in this band with guitar maestro Dr. Nico Kasanda. This was at the height of the push towards independence, Rochereau would take part in the independence hit songs “independence cha cha” , and “table ronde” . These songs will become sound tracks in the movie “Lumumba”. His presence in African Jazz would come to an end in the early sixties.

By the year 1963, Rocheareau would split from his mentor, Kabasele. Together with Dr. Nico kasanda, he will go on to create a new group. This new group he called Africa Fiesta. A notable song from this period is the hit “Africa mokili mombimba”. However, due to artistic differences with Nico, this collaboration lasted for only two years. Rocheareau split from Nico and went on to form his own band.

Tabu Ley and Mbilia Bel, one of the best duos in African music

Tabu Ley and Mbilia Bel, one of the best duos in African music

This was the era of the great bands. He called the band Africa Fiesta Flash, also known as Africa fiesta national. One of the well known names in this group was Sam Mangwana, a Congolese singer and song writer, of Zimbabwean and Angolan parentage. Some others were Faugus Izeidi, and Michelino. Some of the songs of the era included “Maria Rosa”, also “Femmes Africaines”. During this period, in the late sixties, Rochereau became the first black African musician to give a concert at the famed Parisian arena, “l’Olympia”. He was in his late twenties.

In a bid to make a complete break from the past, Rochereau, in 1970, changed the name of his band. African fiesta national became l’ orchestre Afrisa international.  A young  Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba , Aka Papa Wemba, would become a member of this group.  Ndombe “Pepe Ndumbe” Opetum was the lead vocalist, before joining rival band OK Jazz, led by Franco. Kusala Yondo, aka Yondo Sister began her career with Afrisa International in the 1970s, as a dancer.

Rochereau and Franco, accompanied by their respective bands became the most popular in the Congolese music scene. Fans all over Africa were dancing to the syncopating rhythms of their music. The rivalry between these two, Rochereau and Franco, was an open secret.  Despite this open rivalry, two would collaborate on the album, Omona Wapi, produced in the late ‘70s, featuring the hit title “lettre a monsieur le directeur”. Some other songs of the duo included “lysanga ya baganga”, “linga mobali na yo”, also “kabasele memorial” sung in honor of Joseph Kabasele, after Kalle’s death.

During this period, Afrisa internaltional would also pelt out many hit songs: “Sorozo”,” kaful mayay”, “aon-aon”,” mose kenzo”,” ponce pilate”.

Equally, this was the era when Zairian dictator Joseph-Desire Moubutu instiuted “Zairisation”, a policy marked by “Authenticite”, a return to authentic African roots. Just as Mobutu changed his name to kuku Ngbendu Waza Banga, Franco’s to Luambo Luanzo Makiadi,  Rochereau too Africanised his name , and from then on became Tabu Ley. Hence Tabu Ley Rochereau.

Tabu Ley , within the frame work of Afrisa International, would nurture many upcoming musicians, including Faya Tess. However, singer and songwriter,M’bilia Bel would be the name that will always be associated with Tabu Ley. The duo is probably one of the best male-female collaborations in African music annals. M’bilia’s song “Nakei Nairobi” (I am going to Nairobi) forced the Kenyan government to lift a ban that prevented Kenyan radio stations from playing foreign music. Other songs like “shawuri yako”, “tonton skul”,”cadence madanda” were great hits all over the African continent.

Tabu Ley took part in the salsa project, Gomba salsa, by the group Africando, in which he performed one of his old songs, “pitie”.  In all Tabu wrote, or took part in hundreds of songs.

Emmanuel ZelifacIn his personal life, Tabu was a true African polygamist. He is said to have fathered close to a hundred children. He had more than one wife. He is thought of having briefly been married to M’bilia Bel. She bore him a daughter. Among his many children is French rapper Youssoupha.

In the ‘90s, after the fall of the fall of the dictatorship of Mobutu Sesse Seko, Tabu Ley became a minister. He later joined the transition parliament created by President Joseph Kabila.  In 2005, Tabu Ley became the vice governor of Kinshasa.

During his life time, he was made honorary knight of Senegal, and made officer of the national Order of the republic of Chad.

In 2008 Tabu suffered a stroke. He never fully recovered. While undergoing treatment at saint- Luc hospital in Brussels, Tabu Ley Rocheau gave up the ghost on the 30th of November 2013. A fortnight before that, he had turned 76.

As the fortunes of Africa change in many dimensions, we must salute the great contributions of people like Tabu Ley. Through music he flew the flag of Africa high, very high and falls in the class of others like Franco, Fela, Miriam Makeba, Manu Dibango,Rey Lema and others. His talent and contributions towards modern Africa through music deserve recognition. Adieu to the Artist

 

 

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Femi Kuti is a chip off the old block
November 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

NIGERIAN singer Femi Kuti is continuing his father’s work – using music to fight evil and corruption.

Femi Kuti will play at WOMADelaide 2014. Picture: Supplied

Femi Kuti will play at WOMADelaide 2014. Picture: Supplied

Femi Kuti doesn’t have an entourage of 100 people, as his father, the late Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, did at the height of his stardom.

He has never done time in prison, smoked igbo (marijuana) on stage, or married all 27 of his female backing singers at once. But he is still very much his father’s son.

“Fela used music to fight evil and corruption and stand up for justice,” says the three-times Grammy-nominated Femi, whose current album No Place For My Dreamblends jazz, funk and African rhythms with pidgin English lyrics that tell of everything from the dangers of global warming to his hopes for world peace.

“My father never compromised or surrendered.” Lean and wiry in a purple dashiki shirt, Femi is sitting backstage at KOKOs in Camden, London, where he played a sold-out gig earlier this year. “Fela talked about the suffering of the people,” adds Femi, “and the people respected him for that.”

They still do. Sixteen years after Fela Kuti’s death, his memory burns brighter than ever.

The man they called the Black President always had a large cult following in the west, but when the award-winning musical FELA! opened on Broadway in 2009 – with help from associate producers Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, suddenly the whole world knew his name.

A smash hit in London, now touring the US, FELA! told the story of a classically-trained London College of Music graduate who could have lived a comfortable life outside Africa but chose to remain in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, where he was a thorn in the side of a brutal military government that repeatedly tried to shut him up.

Officially, Fela Kuti died from complications relating to AIDS – but there are those who insist that he suffered one beating too many.

With a back catalogue of more than 50 albums, Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s legacy is Afrobeat, a hard driving African answer to American funk that boasts long, groove-laden tracks with languid solos; a female vocal chorus that takes part in thrilling call-and-response and, when performing live, some serious booty-shaking. Then there are those simple yet biting lyrics.

“No work no job no money/See the suffering of the people” sings Femi, whose own brand of Afrobeat incorporates genres such as soul, R&B and hip-hop, and even the visceral energy of punk. “Them no getting nothing/Them they’re hungry/From the country where they get oil and many other different resources.”

Nigeria is as messed up as it ever was, says 52-year-old Femi, whose powerful saxophone style, charismatic stage presence and Positive Force orchestra will blow Adelaide’s hair back when he appears at WOMADelaide next March, four years after his last visit to Australia.

“Nigeria is in turmoil,” he says of his gigantic western African nation, home to 250 ethnic groups and 140 million people. “There is corruption and poverty beyond your wildest imagination. My music reminds people what is going on. My songs are part of the fight.”

Femi also chooses to live in Lagos, where he has several girlfriends, is father to eight children – four of whom are adopted – and runs the New Afrika Shrine, a hangar-like venue named after the nightclub that was founded by Fela in 1970, razed to the ground by police in 1977 and rebuilt by Femi and his sister Yeni in 2000.

It’s a space where professional dancers gyrate in wooden cages, a free weekly disco night attracts thousands and the walls are hung with portraits of Malcolm X and the other black leaders who helped shape the thoughts of Fela Kuti – honoured here each October by the annual Felabration festival.

Femi Kuti and his Positive Force Orchestra will play at WOMADelaide 2014. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Femi Kuti and his Positive Force Orchestra will play at WOMADelaide 2014. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

“The government has tried to shut the Shrine down many times,” says Femi, who joined his younger brother Seun Kuti, who fronts their father’s original band Egypt 80, at this year’s Felabration. “But the last time there was very big international outcry.”

Stevie Wonder was one of a number of high-profile stars that signed a petition to have the venue reopened: “There was so much worldwide press from FELA!, so many people talking about Afrobeat, that my family have stopped being persecuted. The government even opened a Fela Kuti museum.”

None of which has made Femi Kuti any less outspoken. This, after all, is the man who, when presented with a new four-wheel-drive by a local politician a few years ago, daubed “Government Bribe” on its sides and drove it from the Shrine to his home 16km away – a journey that with gridlock and diversions can take anything up to two hours.

“We need a pan-African government that loves its people and the continent,” he says, eyes flashing. “Colonial structures are keeping us separate; it suits the west and the corrupt African leaders to leave us like this. We should be opening the borders and building roads down to South Africa.

“But Nigeria still belongs to the people in power. There is no electricity, bad roads, terrible health care. My hope is for a new generation that will stand up to this nonsense,” he adds. “That will speak out and fight.”

Femi was 16 when he started playing saxophone in Egypt 80, and 23 when he stepped in for Fela – who’d just been arrested in Lagos – at a gig at the Hollywood Bowl.

Fela was allegedly a strict taskmaster who rarely praised his son’s achievements, and a man who bore a grudge: when, aged 26, Femi left Egypt 80 to found his own band, father and son didn’t speak for six years.

“Fela had a stubborn character, but that is the character that people now love.”

While Femi eschews monogamy, as his father did, he insists he spends more time making music, playing pool and reading autobiographies (“Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, [the late Ghanaian president] Kwame Nkrumah”) than chasing skirt.

“I am 51 now,” he says. “I have other priorities. I would love to build a studio in Nigeria, to help young artists with their dreams. You know, there are people who tell me that my dreams of peace and love are futile; I tell them I am determined. I am going to keep practising, working hard, touring and dreaming.”

He pauses, smiles. “Big things come out of following your dreams,” he says.

Femi Kuti and Positive Force play WOMADelaide, March 7-10, womadelaide.com.au

*Source http://www.news.com.au

 

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Meet Mrejo, the new kid on the motswako block
November 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
Mrejo

Mrejo

He has been mentored by none other than Zola, and now hip-hop singer-songwriter Mrejo is poised for recognition in his own right with the release of his debut solo album, 1000 Reflections.

This charismatic motswako artist from Mafikeng is releasing his long-awaited first album through BakTu Musik in November 2013, and all indications are that his decade-long journey to find his niche in the local music industry is finally starting to bear fruit.

Mrejo says of the 14-track CD: “The album is based on my personal journey through challenging times in the business. It’s titled 1000 Reflections as a metaphor, referring to someone looking at himself in a shattered mirror.”

He adds: “This project is a personal look at the ups and downs I have faced on my road to success. I really hope it will communicate messages of hope and inspiration to those following in my footsteps.”

The first single, Lehipi (featuring LTK), was released last year to much acclaim, and he will be performing at various venues and festivals throughout the country during November and December to promote the album. First up is an appearance with Mafikizolo at the Red-Ox Inn in Mafikeng on Friday, 15 November 2013 from 5pm.

Mrejo was born Reginald Thapelo Molalabangwe in Mmabatho and began exploring his love for music with a band called BLB in the late 1990s.

He went on to join the group TTC before forming the duo Matona, which released an album and shared stages across the country with the likes of Mandoza, Zola, Mapaputsi, Tshepo Tshola, Brown Dash and Mafikizolo.

Mrejo was steadily building a name for himself, particularly in North West music circles, as a talented songwriter of note. But the following few years were marked by hardship as Mrejo, who had relocated to Pretoria, struggled to balance the demands of a music career with the necessity to make ends meet.

The year 2010 proved to be a turning point for Mrejo, when he started working with Nigerian-born Afrobeat saxophonist Olufemi and was featured on his album. He also featured on a Zola track, and went on to dazzle audiences at the North West Cultural Calabash.

He has been increasingly garnering respect from his music peers as a motswako lyricist of note, including recording a song for the University of Motswako mixtape compilation – a cross-border project for up-and-coming motswako rappers from Botswana and South Africa.

 

The culmination of his long and eventful musical journey is the new album, 1000 Reflections. It sees Mrejo in a confident songwriting space, collaborating with the cream of the Mafikeng musical crop, with Mafikeng FM station manager LTK, Mo’ Molemi and OBK taking turns at the microphone.

Tshepo Vena and Jason Brown lent their veterans’ touch to the production of most of the tracks, while up-and-coming young producers Green Fingures and Wizzy Majwana also added a touch of magic.

The album is already causing a stir in local music circles. Paige Holmes of the Bassline in Newtown said of the laid-back track Monday Morning: “I like the smooth rhythm, which makes you feel like you’re still on the weekend, and is in great contrast to the lyrics – I LIKE!” And KG of Lesedi FM enthused: “The album is nice and balanced.”

Mrejo is also a co-founder of Pro5Media, a one-stop media solution company, and remains a passionate devotee of music who never misses an opportunity to spend time in the studio.

Check out Mrejo, one of local motswako hip-hop’s most exciting new voices, on Facebook (https://www..facebook.com/pages/Mrejo/121762174648130 or

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mrejofanbase/) and Twitter (@mrejo_letsopaa), look out for 1000 Reflections at a record store near you, and see him in action at one of the following gigs.

View a video at http://youtu.be/AtmKkZdKNWg

 

Mrejo’s upcoming gigs:

•             Friday, 15 November: Red-Ox Inn, Mafikeng

•             Thursday, 28 November: Ikageng Pub, Potchefstroom

•             Saturday, 7 December: Venue TBC, Welkom

•             Sunday, 15 December: Mmabatho Music Festival

•             Wednesday, 1 January 2014: Disaneng Music Festival

 

For media queries, interview requests or access to high resolution pictures please contact Dee’s on media@jtcomms.co.za or 011 788 7632

 

Issued by JT Communication Solutions on Behalf of BakTu Musik – http://www.baktumusik.co.za

 

Tumi Peter

BakTu Musik

Cell: 083 750 5764

Fax: 086 692 0360

Skype: tumzapg

Twitter: @BakTuMusik

Email: tumi@baktumusik.co.za

Web: www.baktumusik.co.za

 

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Kenyan actress stirs Hollywood buzz
September 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

Kenyan actress Lupita Nyongo is receiving rave reviews for her role in the movie 12 Years a slave

By ANTONY KARANJA*

MELupitaNyongoKenyan actress Lupita Nyongo is receiving rave reviews for her role in the movie 12 Years a slave after the film’s worldwide premiere at the Galaxy Theaters in the Tulleride Film Festival in Colorado on Friday night.

Several US movie critics have also gone out of their way to predict an Oscar nod for the film and for Ms Nyong’o with most agreeing that the actress has a bright future ahead of her in Hollywood.

The film, which is two hours and fourteen minutes long, created a huge buzz at the festival and many critics predicted it is going to hit the US in a “big way” when it is released in the US on October 18th due to its harsh indictment of the slavery era in the country.

TRUE STORY

The movie is based on the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. Critics consider Ejiofor as a leading contender for the best actor award at the Oscars.

The film also features famed actor Brad Pitt, actress Andre Woodard and Quvenzhané Wallis, the 10- year-old actress who played the role of Hushpuppy in the critically acclaimed drama film Beasts of the Southern Wild.

In a movie review by The Hollywood Reporter, Ms Nyong’o is named as one of the possible front-runners for an Oscar in the best supporting actress role. She is up against alongside Hollywood heavy hitters who include Oprah Winfrey (for her role as Lee Daniels in “The Butler), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Naomi Harris (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle).

The magazine correctly predicted 8 of the 9 eventual best picture Oscar nominees and the eventual best actor and best actress Oscar winners for the 2012 and 2013 awards.

The Hollywood Reporter’s lead awards analyst Scott Feinberg however cautions that predictions this early before three other major film festivals to be held in Venice, Toronto and New York may be premature. He however writes that “12 Years A Slave” should make a strong push for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor race.

He also adds that the film should also make an impact in the supporting categories, where Michael Fassbender (as a slave owner) and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o stand good chances of breaking through.

In August of 2012, Ben Affleck’s “Argo” debuted at the Telluride Film Festival and received rave reviews from critics attending the prestigious festival.

Many critics and viewers predicted Oscar nominations for the film after the premiere. Six months after the festival, “Argo” scooped the Best Picture at the 85th annual Academy Awards.

In another major entertainment magazine Variety.com, movie critic Peter Debrudge also had a high praise for Miss Nyongo’s performance. He writes;

“For sheer productivity, none of the slaves comes close to Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a soft-spoken beauty of whom Epps is especially fond, much to the consternation of his severe wife (Sarah Paulson).…” he wrote.

UPCOMING PROJECTS

“Actresses like Nyong’o don’t come along often, and she’s a stunning discovery amidst an ensemble that carves out room for proven talents such as Paul Dano, Alfre Woodard and Brad Pitt to shine,” he concludes.

In another review in the Los Angeles Times, Ms Nyong’o is described as staging a breakout performance.

According to HotFix.com another movie review website, Ms Nyongo is said to have “eloquently convinced the audience why her character sees death as her only viable escape.”

“It’s the film’s breakthrough performance and may find Nyong’o making her way to the Dolby Theater (where the Academy/Oscar Awards are held) next March,” the website adds.

In June, the Director of the movie Steve McQueen said of Lupita Nyongo: “a star is born.”

Kenyans will in February 2014 see Ms Nyong’o in another Hollywood movie Non-Stop which is an action thriller featuring Liam Neeson who starred in the movies Taken and Unknown.

*Source Daily Nation Kenya

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