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A Tale of Courage, Resilience & Hope For Justice in Wendy Bangura’s “Tears, Trials, and Triumphs”
January 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

With roles in successful  movies like Entrapped, Blood Brothers, Koming from Africa, Twisted Brain, Royal Dilemma 2, Diary of a serial Killer, Njidika in America, Busted Life, Greedy Realtor, and Ekei among many others, Award winning actress Wendy Bangura  has carved a niche for herself on the International and African film scene. From her native Sierra Leone to stardom in the USA, it has been an agonizing tale of heart-breaking experiences, courage, and resilience for the sultry actress chronicled in  her book titled “Tears, Trials, and Triumphs.”

According to Wendy Bangura, the book is a true-life story of the unexpected tragedy that struck her family during the calamitous civil war of the 90s in Sierra Leone. In the book, Wendy Bangura shares the tears, and tribulations she went through and how prayers, great determination, hope and big dreams ultimately led her to triumph in the face of all odds.

Wendy’s triumph is a reminder to always have faith, believe in divine providence, have hope, work hard and even the worse adversity would be overcome

While she talks a lot about the divine provision of God, Wendy Bangura dedicates her triumph to the memory of her late father Captain Hancil Bangura, a man she considers as her hero. The man described in the book as noble, hardworking, generous, patriotic, and a most loving husband to his wife and kids was summarily executed on 29 December 1992. Captain Bangura, Quartermaster of the Sierra Leone Army was executed alongside 29 other individuals without a trial or any due process.

Accustomed to living a stress-free life with all the pecks from her doting father, Wendy’s world came crashing. She gives graphic details of family activities on the day of the incident up to the point where a group of soldiers came and took her father to the military headquarters for a meeting. A meeting he never came back from.

Initial efforts by the family to get answers yielded no fruits, no one had answers for anything. To make matters worse, her family was not only placed under house arrest, but everything was also carted away by the power drunk soldiers. Vehicles were seized, property confiscated, and bank accounts frozen.

Wendy Bangura dedicates her triumph to the memory of her late father Captain Hancil Bangura, a man she considers as her hero

For the young girl that Wendy Bangura was, the experience was traumatizing. A good Samaritan working in the military learnt of additional plans by the military government to further hurt the family and facilitated their escape.

Later in the book, Bangura says several sources eventually fingered a certain Sergeant Musa of the NPRC regime as the brain behind the killing of her father and other Northerners in the army as a way of trying to restore Southern (Mende) rule. The book details the reign of terror of the NPRC and its eventual collapse.

From 1992 when tragedy struck to 1997 when the family had the opportunity to move to the USA thanks to the Diversity Visa Lottery program, Wendy Bangura sheds light on the challenges faced by her family to survive. While  Bangura again gives top credit to divine providence for the survival of her family under the miserable conditions which stood in stack contrast to the princely life they had when her father was alive, a number of benefactors are equally acknowledged for been there for them.

While Wendy and her family may have braved the ordeal, their hope for some form of justice remains largely unfulfilled. In January 2013, a delegation of families of victims of the December 1992 massacre led by Julius Bombay Kamara Jr son of the Former Inspector General of Police James Bombay Kamara tabled their case before then President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Under the canopy of the 29 Memorial Foundation for Justice and Development. The group indicated that the families had suffered for so long and it was time  to serve justice by atleast seeking to get the truth of what actually happened. From the book, we learn that President Koroma attributed inaction to the politicization of the issue. He assured the families that he understood their emotions and sorrow and pledged to do all in his second term to address the issues ……

Despite the palpable pain and sorrow manifested by Wendy Bangura in the book, one can see in her the proud and patriotic flare she probably inherited from Captain Hancil Bangura. For those who know nothing about Sierra Leone, the book gives 101 lessons on the rich history and culture of that West African country. From the people to its own tales of slavery, colonial legacy, and checkered political history, Bangura gives the reader a good feel of the history of her country.

Intended or not, Wendy Bangura equally gives the reader a reason to be curious about visiting Sierra Leone. From its healthy cuisine, the unparalleled beauty of its women, spectacular beaches, great view of the Atlantic Ocean, Bangura’s description of Sierra Leone is one of a country that lovers of tourism must add to their list. The depiction of Sierra Leonians as Killers in the movie Blood Diamond is wrong says Bangura.

“It is hard to see my people scorned by the world when the majority of us are peaceful, fun-loving, and God-fearing people,’ she writes.

The multi talented Wendy Bangura does is not only a famed actress but a talented producer as well.

Wendy Bangura who has equally produced successful movies like The Unforgettable Words ends the 142-page book with pictures of her family and some of her works. The book is easy to read. Been the fiercely ambitious and goal getter that Wendy Bangura is, one would not be surprised if someday the book is adapted to film.

As Sierra Leone continues its march forward from the chaotic past with despicable acts from the civil war, Bangura’s book is a reminder that nothing should ever be taken for granted. It is a call for introspection on values that should guide a modern society, a society where tribalism has no place, a society which recognizes and encourages hard work, one where people are not sentenced and killed without trial and one where justice delayed is justice denied. Wendy’s triumph   is a reminder to always have faith, believe in divine providence, have hope, work hard and even the worse adversity would be overcome.

Tears, Trials, and Triumphs,” is available on Amazon , and other online book distribution networks.For information on how to get autographed copies from the author, contact bwendy2012@gmail.com

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German based Sierra-Leone Praise worship leader Out with New single ‘Bow and Worship’
January 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Cyrus Richard Togba popularly known as Cyrus Richie is a praise-worship leader, singer-songwriter and a recording artist currently based in Germany.

Born in Sierra Leone, Cyrus grew up in a God-fearing home where Christian values were instilled in him from a very tender age.

His commitment to Church activities which always kept him around the environ, helped him quickly discover his love for music and calling as a minister. Ever since Cyrus Richie became actively involved in the choir of every Church he joined.

According to him, “His journey with the Lord hasn’t been a smooth one,” but life experiences and challenges have strengthened his resolve to serve Him (God) more.

Having served in various ministries for years, Cyrus Richie made his official debut as a recording artist in 2018 after storming the gospel music scene with his first single “Most High God”.

He followed the well-received track with “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” released in January 2019.

The talented worshiper is set to kick-off the coming new year (2020) on a high note as he recently announced the release of a brand new single “Bow and Worship” featuring Gambia-based music minister Kalusian. 

Anticipation among fans has been heightened towards the upcoming release due on January 11th, 2020.

Cyrus Richie is happily married to Mrs. Fatmata Togba and they are blessed with four lovely children.

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Gambia:Brikama Boyo Ready to Launch ‘Gambiana’ album
December 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

ST, alias Brikama Boyo, awards winning Gambia’s afro-Manding is expected to launch his much anticipated album called ‘Gambiana’ on 7th December, 2019  at the Independence stadium, Bakau.

The launching will be in a form of concert, with tens of thousands of tickets already sold out, this eight- track-masterpiece describes as one of his best artwork.

Filled with a diverse collection of songs, the ‘Gambiana’ album title speaks for itself, as it is a masterpiece that every Gambian can relate to no matter what, while reminding fans of the country’s vast cultures and traditional norms. It also takes listeners through a musical enlightenment, career growth and pure cultural vibes.

ST told journalists at a press conference ahead of the album launch that: “Gambiana consists of 8 songs and all of the eight tracks are different in genre, message and vibes of music. Also, this album is different because there is lot of expressions on The Gambian way of life, with lots of typical Gambian stories. What I do is to represent my people in all the ways and more so when I do my music, I want it to be something that people can always relate to. There are lots of fusions and local instruments in it, which makes this album a masterpiece,”

He explained that the album is a Gambian thing as the name depicts, adding that the album is just amazing, as it talks about Gambia and its people’s ways of life’s.

 He continued: “Honestly, December 7 is the much-anticipated event in the country right now and I myself cannot wait personally.”

He urged Gambians to embrace local artistes and give them all the support needed in a bid to propel the industry and promote Gambian music stars on the global stage.

“Since 2013 I have been out there on the top spot of Gambian music and of course I must say that I will be happier to see more stars hitting up the chart because Gambia needs more stars in the industry. It is now time for Gambia to have more stars so that we will not depend on only one star. This is good for the industry and the artists” the hit maker said.

He emphasized that Gambia music industry needs lots of stars that Gambians can rely on instead of only one star.

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Gambia’s Dancehall Artist Explore Europe with Positive Vibes
November 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

ENC, alias Worldvibe General one of Gambia’s finest reggae dancehall artiste is currently on European where he played three successful shows in Germany in the cities of Duisburg, Bremen and Karlshue.

He is booked to perform in Italy, Malta, Finland and Austria, the tour is organised by Masta Lion Promotions, ENC this Friday he will be performing in Finland Helsinki

Masta Lion Touray, ENC’s tour manager said that;”Gambian Dancehall Superstar ENC is fully loaded to explore Europe from 31st October to 7th December 2019.

According to him, they are preparing for five shows in Italy, one in Malta and one in Austria

“We’re calling the entire Gambians and beyond to show some love and support the movements in promoting and exposing our music to global audiences,” the Brikama born veteran DJ said.

ENC Di Real (real name Essa Colley) is a reggae and dancehall artist from The Gambia. He was born in 1988 and ventured on the country’s music scene in 2005. In early 2006, he released two singles called ‘Money’ and ‘Nyamabakawass’. Some of the songs on the album received huge local airplay from the country’s DJs such as Fire Man and Dj G Faal.

In 2008, he participated at a TV show music competition called Gamcel Chart and made it to the final top ten. In 2009, he started deejaying and this gave him the opportunity of becoming a radio presenter on West Coast Radio. He introduced a dancehall show on radio called Back Stage Show. The platform allows young upcoming artists to get exposure by giving them a huge airplay and exclusive interviews.

Between 2010 and 2011, he released songs such as ‘Money’, ‘Nyamba Kawass’, ‘Spotlight’, and ‘December Energy’. In 2012, he did a collaborated with Amie Dibba on ‘Wanna Love You’ and Aria, a Jamaican dancehall artist on a song called ‘Rough up The Party’. In 2012, these songs made the star to make it to the international dancehall mainstreams in the world. That same year, he represented his country at the South America’s festivals held in Venezuela.

In 2012, he dropped a first dancehall mixtape called ‘Triple Action’. The project features 25 tracks which were presented and mixed by Rico Vibes. In 2013, he launched a 17-track mixtape called ‘Girls Segment’.

In August, 2015 he founded World Vibe Records to help local musicians produce good and quality music.

ENC Di Real became opened the annual Open Mic Festival. He has worked on a number of projects by other artists. He featured on songs such as ‘Soccalyoso Rhythm’, ‘Nice Again Rhythm’, ‘One Step Rhythm’ and ‘Nice Up Rhythm’.

In 2018, he release his debut album called ‘VICTORY’ comprise of 12 tracks. He is gearing up to launch a new EP called Cloud on 14th of December 2019 at Willy’s night club in lamin village.

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Marahaba Music Expo Commends Burundi President for the support
November 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Marahaba Music Expo is an international music forum for Africa has commended Brundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza for his support to Marahaba Music Expo for the second time to participate in Visa for Music in Morocco from 20 to 23 November 2019.

 Visa For Music, the leading platform for music from Africa and the Middle East, is also a socio-cultural project that promotes strong human values and launches a debate on the recognition of the artist’s social and economic utility.

 Shabani  Jam, Director of Marahaba Music Expo said: “It is our pleasure to say thank you so much in Burundi to be proud for Mr. president of republic of Burundi to contribute the development of music industry of Burundi to support artists all the time, we are received full sponsorship from Excellence President Pierre Nkurunziza to participate at visa for music in Morocco from 20 to 23 November 2019. 

About -Marahaba Music Expo is an international music forum for Africa that happening every after two years involving musicians, organizers, agent bookers, producers and media at large from Africa and rest over the world.

 It is committed in facilitating dialogue between artists in Africa and from other parts of the world. The Expo comprises of workshops program, discussions, lectures and stage performances.

 The Marahaba Music Expo aims at educating the public, sharing innovation, promoting progress and fostering cooperation through music. The Expo invites other countries, companies, international organizations, the private sector, the civil society and the general public to participate in the music event.

 Marahaba Music Expo is a unique brand, rooted in the African Great Lakes region which includes Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Tanzania with links across the region and beyond. For brands looking to create support based on a home-grown solution that speaks to identity and culture of not just the Great Lakes region, but Africa as a whole continent, Marahaba Music Expo is the right place to begin with. The African Great Lakes region is a true hub of trade, communication and cultural melting point.

 And Marahaba Music Expo is one of the top regions of entertainment and showbiz destinations and a cultural calendar with thousands of people attending every after two years. Musicians, producers, record label owners, agents, festival organizers, booking agents, music-lovers, tourists, entrepreneurs and local citizens all flock to this major fair of music in the region.

 Vision-Establish a vibrant major music forum contributing to sustainable development of the music industry in the African Great Lakes region.

 Mission- Our mission is to create and enhance a very important network and growth opportunities for musicians in the African Great Lakes region.

Objectives- Social and cultural aims To promote the appreciation of traditional culture and heritage.  To support music and the arts as effective educational tools.  To ensure access to the music and the arts for all.  To inspire creativity and cultivating emerging talent. Tourism and economic aims to increase music business opportunities for music makers.

To extend tourists length of stay during the music expo season. To showcase local and international music. To become a market place of world music of every kind.

Philosophical Direction Marahaba Music Expo will showcase music acts that not only entertain, but also progressive that empower, build capacity, educate, and seek to bring better and positive transformational changes for society through music performance and dialogue.

Thus, it is keen to collaborate with other organizations that contribute to Societies sustainable development.

 Core Values: Work in partnership with the communities in the African Great Lakes region to achieve desired goals.  Undertake genuine consultation on key issues as part of our decision-making processes to improve the quality, accountability and transparency of those decisions.  Promote a culture in which our services respond to community needs and aspirations.  Network for the growth of music in the African Great Lakes region.

The Founder Marahaba Music Expo is founded by Shabani  Jam, who is also an artist musician and festivals organizer who has participated in many music projects in Tanzania and International, like Visa for music in Morocco who is an ambassador, Dreams African festival in France as an committee member, so he has decided to create this music trade fair to showcase and contribute to the music industry and entertainment show biz of the region to a worldwide music scenario.

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‘Feel Africa’ As AFRIMA Unveils Exciting Events for 2019
November 6, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

All road leads to Lagos State, Nigeria as music lovers, cultural enthusiast and African stars in Africa and Diaspora gear up towards the upcoming 6th edition of the All Africa Music Awards, AFRIMA, the continent’s biggest music event with the theme ‘Feel Africa’ is set to hold from November 20 to November 23, 2019.

The awards show will feature four days of thrilling and innovative programme of activities set to cater to a wide range of audiences from entertainment to music business to tourism and destination marketing.

Kicking off the 6th AFRIMA events is the AFRIMA Welcome Soiree on Wednesday, November 20 at the poolside of Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos from 6:00pm; a reception in honour of arriving AFRIMA nominees and delegates, African Union officials, members of the International Committee of AFRIMA, international and local media as well as other invited guests.

As part of its Social Responsibility Initiative, AFRIMA will visit a primary school situated in Lagos state on Thursday, November 21 to sustain the drive begun by the International Committee of AFRIMA in Gambia in 2015 to raise consciousness for the African child’s education and literacy on the continent. 

AFRIMA will be donating educational materials and musical instruments to a selected public school in Lagos. The visit also creates opportunities for motivational conversations between the pupils and the delegation consisting of various African music super stars, Nigerian government officials, African Union officials, AFRIMA executives, and many other invited guests.

Setting the stage for the entertainment value the awards brings with each edition, is the AFRIMA Music Village with a change in venue to the Agege stadium, Agege Lagos, slated for Thursday, November 21.

The AFRIMA Music Village is a 12-hour concert-style music festival which starts at 6.00p.m. with live performances from A-list and upcoming artistes including AFRIMA nominees, as well as past AFRIMA winners. This is will be opened to devoted music lovers and promises to be an evening of high euphoria and invigorating energy.

This year, the African Union, AU and International Committee of AFRIMA have decided to take the music village to the community where the people reside. For gate entry to the music concert, get a branded AFRIMA T-shirt at just N2,000 = (USD5.5) on the AFRIMA website www.afrima.org or at the concert venue. Event will be broadcast live on DSTV channel 198, GOTV channel 29, Africa Independent Television (AIT), Raypower FM Network, Kennis FM, Silverbird Television (STV), HIP TV, amongst over 84 stations across the world.

Following on Friday, November 22 at the Grand Ballroom, Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, is the Africa Music Business Summit (AMBS) an annual summit of networking and interaction among music professionals, music executives, government officials and other stakeholders in the music, media and financial sectors of Africa. It sets an atmosphere for discussions on the potentials present in the African music industry and ways to harness its socio-economic gains. Attendance registration for AMBS is now open on the AFRIMA website, www.afrima.org

Later in the evening of Friday, the 6th AFRIMA Nominees party will hold. Tagged ‘Fire and Ice’, the exclusive party for this year’s nominees has a few surprises in store for the guests and it promises to be a night of extreme fun and social interactions.

Saturday, November 23 ushers in the main awards event at Eko Convention Centre, Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, which commences at 4.00 p.m. with the live Red Carpet where African music stars and other invited guests display their glamour and impeccable African fashion sense for the audience watching around the world while being interviewed by the 6th AFRIMA celebrity red carpet hosts. The live broadcast main awards ceremony following at 7.30 p.m. is conceptualised to celebrate African creativity and culture in all its splendour as well as reward African artistes who emerge winners in the 36 AFRIMA continental and regional categories ranging from the classic, contemporary to traditional genres of music. The awards ceremony programme will also specially recognise and honour African music veterans with the 2019 AFRIMA Legend Award.

Sharing her excitement, Associate Producer, AFRIMA, Adenrele Niyi said “we are excited about this year’s AFRIMA events as these are interesting times for African music and creatives. The entire music world is looking forward to November 20 to 23 in Lagos, Nigeria. I especially look forward to the Music Summit, where every attendee gets to part with some new knowledge of the African Music Industry. And we still reminisce on the high energy from the last Music Village experience in Ghana, with over 60,000 people packed in the Independence Square, Accra, the largest arena in Ghana. Lagos will surely leave us spellbound.”

 Also expressing huge expectations for the 2019 events, International Advisor to AFRIMA, Rikki Stein said, “AFRIMA has never disappointed my expectations, and I know that this year will reflect even more Africanness, as the theme for 2019 goes ‘Feel Africa’ the unique and beautiful essence of African music and culture will be portrayed to its fullest during the events”.

The British music executive has explored many parts of the African continent in his over 50 years career in the music industry. “Culture is a living, breathing ever-evolving entity. I’m amongst those who consider that Africa has a tremendous contribution to make in the world. Nowhere is this clearer than through its cultural manifestations, evidenced by the burgeoning global interest in its art, fashion, literature and, particularly, music.”, he added.

The premium 6th AFRIMA events will be star-studded with attendance from award-winning recording artistes, African celebrities, music professionals, creative/cultural industry experts, media practitioners, and public officials amongst others.

 The events will be broadcast live on DSTV channel 198, GOTV channel 29, Africa Independent Television (AIT), Raypower FM Network, Kennis FM, Silverbird Television (STV), HIP TV, amongst over 84 stations across the world and fans of African music globally can also catch the frenzy via the AFRIMA social media handles, live stream on the AFRIMA website, and the AFRIMA App. 

In partnership with the African Union Commission, AFRIMA is committed to the stimulation of conversations among Africans and between Africa and the rest of the world about the potentials of the cultural and creative economy for real enterprise on the continent, contributing significantly to social cohesion and continental integration as well as sustainable economic growth and development in Africa by lending its voice to promotion of education and campaign against extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

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Global superstar Akon confirmed for ACCES 2019 in Ghana
October 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Akon

Senegalese-American musician and entrepreneur Akon will be at the ACCES 2019 music conference in Accra, Ghana, where he will take part in an informative Question and answers session about his career takes place at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences on 28, 29 and 30 November 2019. 

The five-time Grammy nominee joins a roster of over 80 prominent musicians and industry experts who will speak at the pan-African conference, including Ghanaians Sarkodie and Samini as well as TRUE Africa founder and editor-in-chief Claude Grunitzky (Togo/UK), Chocolate City vice-president Aibee Abidoye (Nigeria), Boomplay Ghana manager Elizabeth Ntiamoah (Ghana), Simfy OTT music services head Oye Akideinde (Nigeria), Ditto Music Founder Lee Parsons (UK) and Grammy-nominated musician, author and rights activist Mark Levine (US).

Akon’s session on 30 November will focus on the star’s illustrious career, including his latest music projects and his evolution toward becoming a successful record label owner and philanthropist. The session is part of the ACCES Conversations series where leading industry figures talk about the complexities of the business and give important advice on how to navigate this competitive space.

The session is presented by ACCES in collaboration with BMG – an international music company offering publishing and recording under one roof, and services in audiovisual, books and film.

ACCES Conversations have previously featured renowned music industry professionals such as Mr EaziBlinky BillBlick Bassy and former Fela Kuti manager Rikki Stein.

Akon, who is releasing three albums in October this year, (KonnectEl Negreeto and Akonda), will share his experiences with delegates from more than 50 countries, including musicians, composers, record label executives, festival bookers, event organisers, digital distributors, artist managers and music activists.

Akon’s story is an inspirational one. Apart from conquering the charts on numerous occasions, selling more than 35 million albums worldwide and seeing four of his songs certified as triple-platinum, he is also responsible for launching the careers of Lady Gaga, T-Pain, R City, Karindall Offishall and Red Café through his Konvict Muzik and KonLive Distribution labels.

Akon recently announced the formation of Akonik Label Group, in partnership with BMG. The artist-founded operation is comprised of four distinct record labels: Akonda (Afrobeats), Akonik (US), Jamakon (Caribbean) and Ke Lo Ke (Latin America). 

He is also the founder of Akon Lighting Africa, a project started in 2014 that has provided solar street lights and small energy systems in countries such as Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Benin and Sierra Leone. According to Akon, the project has reached 100 000 households and installed 13 000 streetlights since its inception.

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About ACCES

ACCES is a pan-African trade event for music industry players to exchange ideas, discover new talent and create business linkages. ACCES is held in a different African city every year, attracting active music industry players from across the globe.

ACCES is organised by the Music In Africa Foundation, a non-profit and pan-African organisation, in partnership and with the support of Siemens Stiftung, Goethe-InstitutAfrikayna, Reeperbahn Festival, Alliance Française, BMG, Africa Art Lines, Afrikayna, MediaSound Hamburg, the Gold Coast Hub, the Prince Claus Fund and the ANT Mobility Grant from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Reeperbahn Festival International

This year ACCES has a partnership with Reeperbahn Festival – one of the most important meeting places for the music industry worldwide and Europe’s largest club festival based in Hamburg, Germany. The partnership creates a framework for the festival to collaborate with ACCES in facilitating sustainable business engagements and exchange between European and African music businesses and professionals, as well as the provision of performance opportunities to musicians in both territories.

BMG

BMG is the new model music company founded in 2008 as a response to the challenges of the digital revolution in the music industry. As part of its unique approach, BMG represents the traditionally separate music publishing and recording rights off the same platform internationally. The company is the world’s fourth biggest music publisher and one of the first new global players in the recordings business. BMG has 15 offices across 12 core music markets, representing over 3 million songs and recordings, including the catalogues of global stars such as Chrysalis, Bug, Virgin, Mute, Sanctuary, Primary Wave and Talpa Music, as well as thousands of artists and songwriters.

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Gambia to Host Drama Fest-Gambia 2019
September 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Drama Fest 2019

Drama Fest 2019

Gambia is expected to host maiden edition of Drama Fest-Gambia 2019 on 25-26 October, 2019 at Ebunjan Theatre in Kanifing.

Organised by Stage and Screen Entertainment Africa is a premium Entertainment Art network that seeks to nurture, promote, develop and engage the vision of creative and performing art in Africa.

This was revealed during a press conference which attracts writers, playwrights, directors, actors at West Africa Insurance Institute on 7th September, 2019.

Milton Kamanda, coordinator of Stage and Screen Entertainment Africa The Gambia explained that the event will showcase an array of cultural diversity through drama, music, dance poetry and arts exhibition which will feature creative and literary work done by renowned playwrights and directors from the Gambia.

According to him, this year the festival will show case home grown talents from the different facets of art.

He added that: “Our goal is to use Art Edutainment as a means of sustainable livelihood for upcoming and established artist, artiste thereby showcasing the work of creativity, craft and art to the world”

Miss Monica Davies, Chairperson Drama Fest-Gambia said they want to empower the next generation of art through leadership training.

She pointed out that Drama Fest want to promote arts entrepreneurship in Africa, through training, mentorship and networking platforms, to appreciate and celebrate the diversity of African arts.

“Recognizing distinguished accomplished personalities in the arts fraternity in the Gambia and Africa at large. Promote arts as a positive tool for social and economic transformation in Africa. To use creative and performing arts to address the ills in our communities. Giving preferences to promote and support local talents. Engage relevant stakeholders in the arts industry within the region with the implementation of policies that benefits its people,” Davies a prominent actress in Gambia said.

She noted that the event will be in a form of trade fares, concerts and art exhibition as one of the medium to showcase African arts to the world, by encouraging government to create state funds to support arts in school and tertiary levels.

 

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Rachid Taha leaves us Je Suis Africain
August 21, 2019 | 0 Comments

Rachid TAHA, Paris, 2004

Rachid TAHA, Paris, 2004

A posthumous record? “Nothing to declare!” as Rachid would have said, leaning on the bar counter, with messy hair, bright eyes, and a raspy voice. He’s there, you can’t miss him. He may be laid to rest in Algeria, but he hasn’t left us. He knew that those who are allegedly missing are well and alive: “Do you really know the others?” the master of rock-Chaâbi once asked, quoting the greats Johnny Cash, Oum Kalthoum, and Andy Warhol in a prophetic song titled Andy Walhoo. He wrote this arabic-punk-electro piece with guitars, balafon, and mouth harp before succumbing to a heart attack on September 12, 2018. “I was there with you last night, you told me to come. Every week you tell me, I’m waiting for you in my slum, there’s a Picasso exhibition, go see him. What a bastard, he had a nice mirror, I saw Jean Cocteau kissing Jean Marais,” he sings, ending with a big laugh. So nobody is gone, they live on in us.

With boundless energy, Taha wrote eleven songs together with Toma Feterman for his eleventh solo album, diving deep into his roots as usual. First, Algerian Chaâbi, so subtle, yet so complex. Then rock, which took the world by storm during the postwar period, and punk, its offshoot, in the style of The Clash. Finally, electronica, the musical revolution of the late twentieth century, as hypnotic as the Gnawas guembris or Sufi trance sounds. Rachid was influenced by all of it.

Youyous, flutes, women’s choirs, metal riffs: the French-Algerian, however weakened by the paralyzing effects of Chiari malformation, which he suffered from, created whirlpools, deluges, torrents. He invited us to dance with Andy Walhoo, and also with Like a Dervish, his “first song in English, I know I’m cheating, my English is not so rich.” His plays on words were irresistible: English, backich, dervish, merlich… The troublemaker of the “alternative Koran” also used to speak francarabe, a mix of French and Arabic, which he used to both celebrate and mock the Jewish masters (Lili Boniche, Reinette l’Oranaise, Line Monty…), humming their oriental boleros, such as Chérie je t’aimechérie je t’adore and Bambino.

That’s why his new record, which he had been working on for two years before he was buried in the Sidi Benziane cemetery, had to be in mandoline-embellished French. One of the songs is called Minouche: “Minouche ma minouche, pourquoi tu te fâches, ne prends pas la mouche, ma jolie peau de vache… Minouche, donne-moi ta bouche” (Minouche, my little Minouche, why are you upset, don’t get into a huff, my pretty vixen… Minouche, let me kiss you). A popular dance tune for sure, with words sculpted by Jean Fauque, who worked closely with Bashung and Erwan Séguillon.

The rough voice and wild blend of styles don’t give an accurate description of this son of immigrants (born near Oran, Algeria, he was raised in eastern France and later settled down in Lyon). Rachid the rebel built bridges, “introducing beautiful people to the world” by singing Charles Trenet’s Douce France with his first band, Carte de séjour (French for “resident permit”), in 1986 to mock French integration while the Marche des Beurs (March of the French Arabs) was being broken up and François Mitterrand was celebrating the creation of SOS-Racisme (a movement of anti-racist NGOs founded in France in 1984). In 1998, he created a transgenerational hit with the album Diwân, which included a cover of Ya Rayah, the anthem of Algerian immigrants composed by the Chaâbi idol Dahmane El-Harrachi (1925-1980).

Throughout these years of experience—which also marked the rise of Oranian Rai music, which Rachid sang the traditional way, following in the footsteps of the great Cheikha Rimitti—he worked with Steve Hillage, whom he met in 1984. The former Gong guitarist was a lover of looped electronic rhythms, and starting in 1997, he infused his energy into the creation of Voilà, voilà, an anti–Front National, anti-xenophobic song that Rachid would never stop singing.

And ever since this sensory overload, Rachid continued to speak to us, and jostle us, in Arabic, French, Franglish, and even Spanish, through the limpid voice of the young Flèche Love (Amina Cadelli, born in Geneva of an Algerian mother), whom he discovered on YouTube after finally being introduced to the digital tablet. This extraordinary tattooed and esoteric artist accompanied him on Wahdi, a song with Gnawa rhythms, to which he added a Mexican trumpet, evoking Ennio Morricone.

The album was produced and co-written by Toma Feterman, a gifted multi-instrumentalist and founder of La Caravane Passe, a band that mixes rap, gypsy jazz, Balkan fanfare, alternative rock, and electro.

Toma and Rachid hung out at the same bars and clubs in the north of Paris (Bellevilloise, Cabaret Sauvage), following their friend Remy Kolpa Kopoul of Radio Nova (a French radio station created in 1981, which played non-mainstream and underground artists of various musical genres), whose death in 2015 left Rachid feeling orphaned.

Toma then asked him to sing Baba, a song that he had just written for Canis Carmina, his band’s next album. Over the course of one night, the two friends recorded a dozen tracks. “I used the recordings from this first session,” Toma said, “without needing to make him sing again, because there was nothing to change.” They improvised, and it was the beginning of a frenetic, productive adventure, of nights partying at Toma’s or Rachid’s, or spent in the studio. Hours of creation and surprises shared with his son Lyes, his friend Toufik, his mandolin player Hakim Hamadouche, and his former keyboard player Yves Fredj Aouizerate, who was also his last manager.

It was a club, a family, a community, a trip. The adventure even passed through studios in Bamako, because Rachid is African, having been born in Algeria, bordering Mali, the Mandingo musical empire. Je suis africain(I am African), the song that gives its name to the album, is an homage to the sounds of this great continent, that weaves together soukouss guitars, an Arab-Andalusian orchestra, Middle Eastern violins, balafon, and talking drums. “I am African, from Paris to Bamako, from New York to Congo”—the magnificent joker is having fun, playing with elegance. He takes the accent of a “fantastical” Africa and quotes Marley and Malcom X, Kateb Yacine, Franz Fanon, Patrice Lumumba, Angela Davis—all of them “African.”

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Africa: Shortlist Announced for €20.000 Henrike Grohs Art Award
February 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

The winner will be announced on 6 March and awarded on 13 March in Abidjan

Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon)

Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, February 26, 2018/ — Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon), Georgina Maxim (Zimbabwe) and Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (Togo) have been shortlisted for the first Henrike Grohs Art Award, conceived by the Goethe-Institut (https://goo.gl/nKYUpW) and the Grohs family. The winner will be announced on 6 March and awarded on 13 March in Abidjan.

Em’kal Eyongakpa is an intermedia artist who approaches the experienced, the unknown, as well as collective histories through a ritual use of repetition and transformation. His recent ideas draw from indigenous knowledge systems and aesthetics, ethnobotany, applied mycology as well as technology.

Georgina Maxim’s work combines weaving, stitch work and the utilisation of found textiles creating objects that evade definition. The dresses are deconstructed, and at times reconstructed to find new ways of giving tribute to and reflection upon the person that owned the original garment.

In Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand’s sculptural and performance work, he plays with borders and mixes memories, materials and cultural references. Building on traditional Mina culture, his gaze on contemporary society is unique, sometimes ironic and often moving.

The Henrike Grohs Art Award is a biennial prize dedicated to artists who are living and working in Africa and practicing in the field of visual arts. It recognises the lifetime achievements of the former Head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs, who was killed on 13 March 2016 in a terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire.

The prize “aims at strengthening artists and encouraging them in their quest for a world of togetherness and dialogue”, said jury members Koyo Kouoh (Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar), Laurence Bonvin (artist and representative of the Grohs family, Berlin), Raphael Chikukwa (Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare) and Simon Njami (Curator, Paris).

More about the shortlisted artists

Em’kal Eyongakpa
Video portrait:

 https://youtu.be/xkagubNL6ZA 

Em’kal Eyongakpa (born 1981 in Mamfe, Cameroon) is an intermedia artist who approaches the experienced, the unknown, as well as collective histories through a ritual use of repetition and transformation. His recent ideas increasingly draw from indigenous knowledge systems and aesthetics, ethnobotany, applied mycology as well as technology in his explorations of the personal and the universal. Eyongakpa is also known for self-organised community research projects and autonomous art hubs like KHaL!SHRINE in Yaoundé (2007-2012) and the recently launched sound art and music platform ɛfúkúyú. He holds degrees in Plant biology and Ecology from the University of Yaoundé and was a resident at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.

Eyongakpa’s work has recently been exhibited at the Jakarta Biennale (2017), the 13th Sharjah Biennial (2017), La Biennale de Montreal (2016), the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016), the 9th and 10th Bamako Encounters (2011, 2015), the 10th Biennale de l’art africain contemporain, Dak’art (2012) and at several international art spaces and museums around the world.

More information: https://goo.gl/aT7aWZ  

Georgina Maxim 
Video portrait: https://youtu.be/2sTfNETFLM4 

Georgina Maxim (Zimbabwe) - Photo by Cynthia Matonhodze

Georgina Maxim (Zimbabwe) – Photo by Cynthia Matonhodze

Georgina Maxim was born 1980 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Maxim is known for both working as artist and curator with over a decade of arts management and curatorial practice. Maxim together with two other artists (Misheck Masamvu and Gareth Nyandoro) co-founded Village Unhu in 2012, an artist collective space that has been providing studio spaces, exhibitions, workshops and residency programs for artists – young and professional.

Georgina Maxim’s work combines weaving, stitch work and the utilisation of found textiles creating objects that evade definition. The dresses are deconstructed, and at times reconstructed to find new ways of giving tribute to and reflection upon the person that owned the original garment. Maxim describes it as ‘the memory of’. Currently, Maxim studies African Verbal and Visual Arts – Languages, Curation and Arts at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand 
Video portrait: https://youtu.be/lZCcRSab2hA

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand – a student at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris – shares his life and work between Lomé and Paris. Both his sculptural and performance work emanate from the personal experiences of the artist. He plays with borders and mixes memories, materials and cultural references. Building on traditional Mina culture, his gaze on contemporary society is unique, sometimes ironic and often moving. He is a recipient of the Dauphine Prize for Contemporary Art, the Young Talent Revelation Prize for Plastic Arts ADAGP as well as the Aurige Finance and the Amis des Beaux-Arts et Juvenars-IESA Prize. His work will be displayed at Du Salon Du Dessin in Paris (23-25 March, 2018), as part of a group exhibition at Anne de Villepoix Gallery during the first half of 2018 and in a solo show at Vincent Sator Gallery in April and May 2019.

About the Henrike Grohs Art Award

“The Henrike Grohs Art Award is a biennial award dedicated to artists living and working in Africa. Yet the message sent goes far beyond the continent. It is a universal address, a call for reflection and action”, said the jury members Koyo Kouoh (Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar), Laurence Bonvin (artist and representative of the Grohs family, Berlin), Raphael Chikukwa (Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare) and Simon Njami (Curator, Paris).

The prize recognises the lifetime achievements of the former Head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs, who was killed on 13 March 2016 in a terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire. The award intends to continue her special commitment to support artists in Africa and make a contribution towards international dialogue.

The award will be awarded biennially to an artist or an arts collective practicing in the field of visual arts. Artistic quality is the most important criteria for the award. Collaborative partnership, imparting knowledge to other artists and social engagement are decisive elements for recognition.

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (Togo) - Photo by Peter Houston

Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (Togo) – Photo by Peter Houston

Henrike Grohs Art Award: Mission Statement

“On 13 March 2016 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Henrike Grohs was killed by the blindest hatred as she was spending time with friends at the beach. Two months before, a young photographer, Leila Alaoui, 32, was shot in Burkina Faso by the ‘same people’. Many more, too many more, have fallen simply because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time; simply because a handful of fundamentalists started a war of terror. We are facing troublesome times and it is our duty to refuse to surrender to fatalism. All those deaths must be transformed into something stronger than death, into something bigger than ourselves. Henrike was working for a better world. A world where, ‘a proud heart can survive a general failure because such failure does not prick its pride.’” (Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart).

The Henrike Grohs Art Award is established as an answer to all those who think that we cannot live together in a world where sharing would be the main aim. Where borders would have no meaning and where humanity would be the only matter to fight for – that is humanity as a whole, as something that cannot be destroyed and that remains untouched. The message is clear: we shall not surrender. We shall, as Henrike did, stand for what we believe in, without any compromise.

The award is dedicated to artists practicing in Africa. Yet the message that is sent is a universal address, a call for reflection and action. Art is probably the one field where no translation is needed. It is that universal language which transforms the ‘chaotic world of sensations’ that we all share, into forms of representations and relations. The Henrike Grohs Art Award aims at strengthening artists and encouraging them in their quest for a world of togetherness and dialogue. Art knows neither borders nor religion. It is the very expression of that flame that keeps us going, from North to South and East to West. It is the best expression of our unbreakable faith in our humanity.”

The Jury members:
Koyo Kouoh, Laurence Bonvin, Raphael Chikukwa and Simon Njami


Henrike Grohs Art Award: video statements about the prize

Johannes Ebert (Secretary General of the Goethe-Institut, Munich): https://youtu.be/uAmVNxggLek
Koyo Kouoh (Jury member; Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar): https://youtu.be/lXnerwvJea4 
Laurence Bonvin (Jury member; artist, representative of the Grohs family, Berlin): https://youtu.be/HHrUN1-UqsA
Raphael Chikukwa (Jury member; Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare): https://youtu.be/pIzNF5waGGQ 
Simon Njami (Jury member; Curator, Paris): https://youtu.be/wPWqYf0ETsQ 

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Juliet Mbonu Targets Human Trafficking In Latest Movie
November 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play in fighting human trafficking says Juliet Mbonu

Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play in fighting human trafficking says Juliet Mbonu

The fight against human trafficking will get a serious boast when “Break Out”, a movie produced by Juliet Mbonu   premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA.With a cast from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Togo, Liberia, and  Sierra Leone, the movie paints a gory picture of human trafficking especially with young women who are lured from developing countries into prostitution.Shot in several locations across Nigeria and the USA,the movie sends a strong message of deterrence to young women who may become unwitting victims of human trafficking ,says Juliet Mbonu.

Your latest movie Break Out is set to premiere on Nov 17, what is the movie about?

Juliet Mbonu: The movie is about Human Trafficking on the international stage, particularly as it affects women in many developing countries, who are lured into prostitution in developed countries

What message do you seek to send to the public with the movie?

Juliet Mbonu:  The movie conveys the many complicated and horrific aspects of being lured into prostitution, outside one’s home country, and delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking

Where was the movie shot and how long did it take you get it to this level?

Juliet Mbonu: The movie was shot in multiple locations in Nigeria/Africa and the United States.  It took about one year to complete the research, shooting, and editing of the movie.  Technical crews were flown from the US to Nigeria to capture authentic rarely seen footages in Nigeria.  High-end technology was used in the US to capture the latest cinematography.

 

https://youtu.be/S7jaf1S60EM

 

As you Break Out gets set for its big release, could you introduce the cast for us?

Juliet Mbonu:  Certainly, the most exciting aspect of the movie is that the cast was recruited from the US and at least ten different African countries, in order to capture the diversity of international sex & human trafficking. The cast countries of origin include: Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and others..

In Break Out ,Juliet Mbonu delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking

In Break Out ,Juliet Mbonu delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking

What are some of the challenges that you faced in the production of Break Out?

Juliet Mbonu. The Budget: Raising money for such a huge project was a big challenge, however, where there is a will, there is a way.  My faith in God propelled the movie from a dream to a reality. 2.  Moving a technical production team around the world from the US to Nigeria, and back to the US, represented serious logistical challenges, but it turned out to be a great and exotic adventure.

Any plans for distribution especially in Africa with its huge market and the relevance of the movie’s theme?

Juliet Mbonu: Absolutely, there are Theater Premieres coming up in DC (November 17th), then NY, LA, and other US Cities, after which the Movie moves to South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and others

With regards the issue of child trafficking, how serious is this in Africa and what more could be done to get it under control?

Juliet Mbonu: Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play.  Parents must be restrained in their expectations from their children, and in becoming tacit enablers for child sexual trafficking.  Even though we’ve seen reports of very poor people who give tacit approval to their daughters traveling abroad, with unclear perceptions of various employment opportunities; however a cursory look should alert people to dangers lurking in the horizon.  Finally, young women should be extremely careful in their personal expectations…… there is no glamorous life waiting out there, for people who have not paid their dues in education, training, and other tutelage.

To those who do not know Juliet Mbonu, Producer of Break Out, who is she and how did she find herself in the movie industry?

Juliet Mbonu:  Great question, I actually started out as a computer major in college, I then veered out into the Health Sciences & Nursing Informatics, ultimately getting a doctorate in Nursing Practice.  I was consulting in the area of Healthcare Informatics before diverting my passion and zeal to Movie Productions.  I have a great passion for women and children’s issues.  I also run “Arise” a non-profit that focuses on women and girls issues.

What is your take on the African Movie Industry as it stands today?

Juliet:  Africa has unbelievable talent in the Arts.  The quality is gradually catching up with universal standards.  Those of us who have recent roots in Africa, and are out here in the West, have a duty to move the industry to a world-class level

Break Out premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA

Break Out premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA

What next for you after Break Out, any other projects movie related or otherwise that Juliet Mbonu will be working on?

Juliet Mbonu: Absolutely, my Talk-Show, “Let’s Talk It Out with Juliet Mbonu” will debut in first quarter of 2018. Our Production Company (RFP) is also developing other relevant stories for a world-wide audience.

We end with more information on the movie premiere, venue, cost, and any special guests that people may run into, what will the premiere of Break Out reserve for its audience?

Juliet Mbonu: The DC area (DMV) Premiere, coming up on November 17th, 2017 at 7pm, will be at the full-size Theater “Bowie Performance Arts Center” just outside DC.  The program starts at 7pm, a robust pre-show entertainment, featuring popular artists, and various entertainments.  A guest list of dignitaries and the public are expected.

Tickets for the premiere of Break Out are available at the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/breakout-movie-premiere-tickets-38464495341?aff=es2#tickets

 

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Africa: Opio – the Ugandan Writing Jokes for Trevor Noah and the Daily Show
April 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

Joseph Opio

Joseph Opio

Joseph Opio has always been serious about comedy. So serious, in fact, that he walked away from a promising newspaper job in Kampala, borrowed a large sum of money, and went to America to try and make people laugh.

Some people end up in comedy the way a drunkard stumbles into a previously unknown tavern on his way home. Others linger in comedy, waiting for an opportunity to move on to acting or a proper job. For Opio, comedy was the journey and the destination.

We meet in a small busy restaurant in mid-town Manhattan after a live recording of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Opio’s fortunes are closely hitched to the South Africa-born comedian’s wagon but he has laced his bootstraps himself.

The making of Opio

He had been one of the best A-Level students in Uganda and, after reading a law degree Opio had landed a job with a major audit firm in Kampala. But the life of stuffy suits did not sound appealing and he had been drawn to comedy in his early teens when he watched Bernie Mac and ‘The Original Kings of Comedy’.

He had dabbled in sports journalism at the New Vision newspaper in Kampala where he landed a sub-editing job at 17 while still a student, but the newspaper world, away from the sports pages, was full of grim news stories.

“Instead of complaining I decided to vent using comedy,” says Opio. The result was a comedy show, LOL Uganda, on Urban TV, a small station in Kampala, which Opio wrote, edited, directed, produced and presented.

Although only in his 20s and despite the show being only mildly popular on a small, start-up station, Opio quickly became, he says, the highest-paid television presenter in the country.

But it was not enough.

“Most people want to be the biggest fish in the small pond,” he says, “and the problem with [many] Ugandans is thinking small.”

His first big break

Opio’s first break came during a visit to South Africa to attend a reception for the Late Night Show comedy. He met the right people and made such an impression with his jokes during the chitchat that he was invited back to work on the South African comedy circuit. Within a month of moving to South Africa he had become the first foreigner to win the Nando’s Showdown, a stand-up comedy face-off in Johannesburg.

Opio was tempted to lay down roots and try to make a comedy career in Johannesburg but he learnt that the SA show he had written some jokes for on his earlier visit had been nominated for an international Emmy and its host, Trevor Noah, had moved to America to try his luck on a bigger stage.

Coming to America

Never short of confidence, Opio returned to Uganda, worked on a screenplay, looked for money and applied for a visa to America. Soon after, armed with a fistful of borrowed dollars and a suitcase of dreams, Opio landed in New York.

 In November 2014, Opio met Noah at the Comedy Cellar in New York, a popular venue for comedians trying to get into the business. Opio had had to cajole and beg a bouncer to let him in, and then cajoled some more to get a chance at the microphone.

They had never met but Noah had heard about Opio in the SA comedy circuit and they hit it off immediately, chatting from 8pm to 3am.

A few months later, Noah was handed The Daily Show, replacing Jon Stewart. Although Noah had, by that time, spent six years playing the stand-up circuit in America, it was a gamble by Comedy Central to put a foreign comedian with a distinctive accent (and who speaks six languages) in one of the most coveted late-night TV seats.

To add to the complexity, Noah decided to give the show a more global appeal, embracing diversity and bringing in writers who knew about American issues, but also about the world. Opio was hired as one of the writers.

What it is means for Opio

His impact was almost immediate, lampooning Donald Trump, then a long shot in the Republican primaries, as potentially America’s first African president in the mould of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin – but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Nightly ratings dropped as American audiences struggled to come to terms with the exotic humour and accents on the show. Fortuitously, Trump would become the gift that kept on giving and as he gained momentum in the presidential race, so did the show in the nightly ratings.

 In October 2016, just before the US election, The Daily Show was both the highest-rated and most-watched ad-supported late-night talk show among millennial men (both 18-34 and 18-24), the group Comedy Central most aggressively targets, according to The Hollywood Reporter, an entertainment website.

Joseph Opio left, and Trevor Noah at a game of football in New York.

Joseph Opio left, and Trevor Noah at a game of football in New York.

It has more non-white viewers and its overall viewership has become younger and more diverse, as it spreads out across platforms and geographical boundaries.

As the show rises, so have Opio’s fortunes; he paid off the loan within weeks of being hired and he describes living in Manhattan, where he rents an apartment, as “mind-blowing”.

We find a tiny table in the crowded restaurant and Opio orders a cappuccino. I order a draught beer. It is a popular pit stop for the workers on the show including Noah (he doesn’t show this evening) and Opio points out some of his fellow writers.

“Everyone at work has an Emmy,” he says, looking around the dimly-lit bar.

“Except the new guys.” It can only be a matter of time.

New developments and the future

Opio and his fellow writers on The Daily Show have been nominated for the 68th annual Writer’s Guild of America awards next month in the comedy category. Just joining the Guild is an achievement in itself, Opio says, pointing out that it has 300 members while the National Football League has 3,000 players.

“There is a higher statistical chance of joining the NFL than the Writer’s Guild.”

It is a long way from Kampala to Manhattan but Opio’s journey might still have some miles in it, from the east coast to Hollywood, with dreams of writing movies, screenplays and sitcoms. It is a journey with many stops and a constant loop of challenging oneself.

“That’s how you know that you are growing – when you look back at things you did a few months ago and you are embarrassed.”

Does he not worry about failing? About the career he turned his back to?

“If I can go and perform at the same club as Chris Rock and I am not laughed out of the place then I’ll take my chances,” he says. “If you are rejected at Barcelona you can always go back to Mamelodi Sundowns,” he adds in a football reference to the Spanish side and a smaller club in South Africa.

“My family has always been proud of me,” he adds suddenly, with introspection. “Being good in school helped, that’s probably why I have no self-doubt – it is something I’ve never had.”

He speaks a lot, and quickly, his mouth a wrestling arena between an American and a thick Ugandan accent. I ask if the Ugandan accent makes it easier for him to write jokes rather than perform them in stand-up comedy clubs.

“There are only two things Uganda has given me,” he says bursting out with laughter, “a bad accent and trouble at immigration…”

“Seriously though,” he adds, “As a Ugandan you have to fly just to get what an American gets by just walking. You already have an accent, so you have to make sense when you speak.”

I pick up the tab and we walk out into the crisp autumn night. We shake hands and I watch Opio as he walks towards the bright lights of mid-town Manhattan. It is not Fifth Avenue and there is no walking cane by his side but you can hear it in his accent when he talks; Joseph Opio is a Ugandan in New York. He’s hungry, ambitious and funny as hell.

Quick notes

Joseph Opio is a Ugandan now based in New York. He is the former host of the political satire talk show LOL Uganda since 2014.

Opio and his fellow writers on The Daily Show have been nominated for the 68th annual Writer’s Guild of America awards in February in the comedy category.

In November 2014, Opio met Noah at the Comedy Cellar in New York, a popular venue for comedians trying to get into the business.

Opio’s first break came during a visit to South Africa to attend a reception for the Late Night Show comedy.

*Monitor/Allafrica

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