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 ]]>
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.
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.
In 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
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 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.
“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
Meet Mrejo, the new kid on the motswako block
November 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 011 788 7632
Issued by JT Communication Solutions on Behalf of BakTu Musik – http://www.baktumusik.co.za
Cell: 083 750 5764
Fax: 086 692 0360
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*
Kenyan 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.
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.
“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
Big win for Nollywood with Actress Bessey Ikem at world music and independent film festival.
September 3, 2013 | 1 Comments
By Pandita Njoh Etta
Better late than never goes the popular saying and Actress Bessey Ikem has proved that right with a highly acclaimed performance in the hit movie American Mama and a recognition for her talent at the recent world music and independent film festival in Washington D.C . At the WMIFF festival , Bessey won the Best Actress award in a Feature Film in the DMV area . The award calls for more hard work says Bessey Ikem in a chat with PAV on her career, the movie American Mama,its upcoming premiere and the state of Nollywood.
We understand you got a big award at the recent world music and independent film festival, can you tell us more about it?
It was an honor to be nominated for the category of Best Actress in Feature Film in the DMV area. Especially, this being my first lead role in a film this was big for me. When I found out that I won, I was speechless and so excited! I truly felt a mixture of emotions when giving my acceptance speech.
Many people may not be familiar with the world music and independent film festival awards; may we get some insight into what it is all about or what it represents?
Yes, the World Music and Independent Film Festival is an IMDB-qualifying international film festival. It started in 2010 and it is held annually in Washington, DC. This film festival showcases achievements for international cinema artists and independent artists in music and film.
What were some highlights of the event and were then any other Africans who got awards?
For me, it was just exciting meeting other talented business people, musicians, directors, actors and actresses who are veterans in the industry. The opportunity I got to be able to network and gain insight from others was priceless. The other Africans that won an award are Binta Goudiaby – Best Supporting Actress In A Feature Film/Dmv And John Uche – Best Director In A Feature Film/African.
Your award came from the movie American Mama, can you walk us through the story line and situate its importance in the context of present day challenges?
As the movie opens, American Mama gets the news that her son Kenneth wants her to come and visit him in the United States. Her sister Nneoma, pretends to be happy for her, but she is green with envy. I soon arrive in the US and instantly start to give my son’s girlfriend a very hard time. Deep down inside I want Kenneth to marry an African girl, but the rest you will have to watch the movie to see what happens next! Overall, I believe that this movie communicates the message that in life you have to learn to accept and embrace the differences in other people and cultures. Its important to respect other cultures and at least be open try and learn new things in order to be comfortable in a different setting.
How long have you been in the movie industry and what pushed you into it?
I have always had a love and passion for the entertainment industry. Although my primary career is focused in business management, I continued to pursue my passion for acting, via self-studying. My debut on the big screen came as the result of a movie shot in the US titled Busted Life produced by Chima Empire. Then I featured in a Canadian movie titled Missing Link. After that, I was featured in Hunted by Love, which was shot in the US and a Cameroonian produced movie titled Victimized. Then I got my big break through in the industry, when I received my first lead role in this feature film American Mama produced by Lion Films Production here in the States.
What is your take on the Nollywood as a whole, there are complains despite the production of more movies the standards are dropping?
Not really, I think that Nollywood has come a long way from the early days, with better production equipment, camera shots, scenes and story lines, but there is always room for improvement. That goes for anything you do in life. The ultimate goal is to keep the viewers entertained and connect with them. As technology advances and becomes more accessible, I believe that you will see the positive changes in Nollywood as well.
Back to the movie American Mama, there are plans to screen the movie in MD, how is that evening going to look like and what will it take to be part of the event?
Yes, we plan to have the first movie premiere on Friday, September 6th, 2013 at Martins Camelot (13905 Central Ave. Upper Marlboro, MD 20774). Red carpet starts at 8pm , the screening will start at 9:30pm and tickets are $30 regular admission or $50 VIP. Tickets can be purchased at www.lionfilmsproduction.com or purchased at the door. The evening will be filled with laughter, fun and fashion, as we would like people to come dressed in black-tie or traditional clothing. This event will also be an amazing networking opportunity for people to mix and mingle with professionals in various industries.
What next after your big award, any big projects you are working on for the rest of the year?
Be on the look out for the sequel to American Mama!! I also do have a few other projects I’m working on, but as soon they are ready to be revealed to the public I will be sure to let you know!
When Nollywood Success Opens Doors to The Presidency
April 9, 2013 | 0 Comments
-Actress Binta Goudiaby Fetes achievements with President Yahya Jammeh and Gambians
By Ajong Mbapndah L
It was a most memorable trip says hard working Nollywood actress Binta Goudiaby upon her return from the Republic of Gambia where she was received by President Yahya Jammeh .Though born in Senegal, Binta’s mother hails from the Gambia and part of her childhood was actually spent there. Binta who won big at the 2012 Nollywood & African Film Critics‘(NAFCA) Awards in the USA proudly presented her trophy to President Jammeh. In the company of a delegation from NAFCA which was part of the trip, President Jammeh was presented with “Life Time Achievement,” award from NAFCA. It was not all about movies for Binta, as the work of her Djibonkete Foundation created to help women through education and entrepreneurship also occupied center stage. In an interview with PAV,Binta shares her trip and attempts to share more on Gambia.
Binta, may we understand why you were in Gambia; what took you there?
I was born in Senegal but I grew up equally between Gambia where my mother is from and Senegal. Also, I’m a humanitarian and an actress, so I was invited by the President to honor my NAFCA 2012 trophy for best actress of the year and to discuss the progress I am making with my Djibonkete foundation. But in the meantime, His Excellency President Yaya Jammeh was awarded the very prestigious “Life Time Achievement” NAFCA trophy by Nollywood. So, Nollywood delegates made the trip with me to Gambia, to hand the trophy in person to the president, during an official ceremony.
How familiar are people from Gambia with your work in Nollywood and how was the reception you received?
I received a warm welcome from the government and the friendly open minded people of Gambia. They are very happy people and they love their country. They know my work very well and love it. I am very proud of that.
So you were received by President Yahya Jammeh, how were you able to get the opportunity to meet with him?
He was the one who invited me and I really appreciate that. He has a great respect for everything that can help Africa make progress and move forward. I suppose that is what attracts him the most about my Djibonkete Foundation. It is a foundation that was established to empower women by mainly helping in their education, entrepreneurship and thereby financial independence. It also helps students from poor family backgrounds get a better education, amongst other things.
So what are some of the issues that you discussed with the President, any projects you shared with him and was he willing to support you?
We talked mostly about my trophy, my foundation and how it can help the country. He loves talking to people with ideas on how to make Africa a better place for its citizens. He is a big supporter of the movie industry and that in itself helps me and my foundation. NAFCA CEO, Dr. Victor Olatoye and I also discussed with the president about Nollywood, the movie Industry and the trophy he received.
Not much is known about President Jammeh of the Gambia, what kind of leader did he strike you as, was he easy to converse with, what impressions did you have generally after your meeting with him?
He is a very nice, kind and patient person. He was very easy to talk to and down to earth. He seems like a strong leader and I learned a lot from him.
Talking about Gambia, from the little that is out there, the perception is that it is ruled by a dictator, that there are limited freedoms, people cannot express themselves etc, what is it you found out about that country that people who have never been there may not know?
When I look at him, I don’t see a dictator. I see someone who loves his country and who is working hard to make it achieve the best development and reach the highest level in the world standards. Gambia is very peaceful. Everyone has a job, companies are run by the young and they are very successful, there is a lot of tourism and a low crime rate. The people are so wonderful and they get along so well with each other. The President may have a different approach to problem solving that some people may not agree with, but it seems like things are getting done.
You are more of a cultural and entertainment person, what kind of potential and opportunities did you see in the Gambia , be it tourism, investment or anything else?
There are many opportunities and the tourism industry is doing well and making investments into the country is always a good idea because that contributes to the growth of the country. Gambia is also a wonderful place to make more movies because the country is so beautiful and hospitable.
Besides meeting the President, what do you consider as some of the successes of your visit and what next after that, what should Gambians expect from you?
Meeting the President was part of that success and also a great honor. My presence in Gambia allowed me to think about what my next move should be but I’m still in the thinking process. However, I believe that Gambians should expect me to do my part to improve the movie industry and to spread knowledge about the culture.
With regards to your movie career, any other projects you are working on or have in mind?
We’re planning to shoot more movies in Gambia but I don’t want to spoil anything so you have to wait and see.
Binta, good luck in your ventures and thanks so much for talking to PAV
Thank you very much for having me here.
Africa’s Rising Top Model: Bertini Heumegni Surges on despite the Odds
March 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
It is very challenging for Africans in the competitive world of modeling but there is no turning back for Bertini Heumegni who has emerged as one of the most familiar faces on
the New York fashion circuit. Cultural differences, rejection at castings, and sometimes racism are some of the odds that weigh against aspiring models from Africa but Bertini has slowly but steadily weathered the storm and ranks about the most promising representation for the continent today.
Born in Cameroon and a father of two, Bertini says his first break came from a chance encounter as he was spotted while serving as a bouncer by an agent of the famous Sharon Mulligan Agency in Cape Town. Not shy about the humble beginnings, Bertini reminisces that one of his first booking jobs was with Sting Sunglasses in from Italy for the face of Africa in 1998.Today Bertini has a very impressive resume with a career that spans from Cameroon ,to South Africa, Italy, France, the USA and counting.
Bertini has featured in commercials and events for Fresca and Pure Smirnoff in South Africa as well as for Guinness, and the telecommunications giants MTN in Cameroon. He has participated at multiple fashion events including the Johannesburg fashion week, American Next Top Model, Cape Town fashion week, New York fashion week, Fashion on the Hudson, New York African fashion week, etc.Agencies which have used his services include Sharon Mulligan, Storm Model, Supermodels, Next Models all in South Africa, Paris Models in France, Ricardo Gay in Milan, Cosmo Models, Boss models, Icon Model in New York and Grace del Marco in Spain.
Upon completing acting and directing classes at the H&B Studios in New York, Bertini chronicled his exciting life adventures into a movie called The American Dream.With himself as the star and Helene Faussart the lead singer of the group Les Nubians as co-star, the movie is a cocktail of drugs, love, sex, and betrayal.
After fifteen years of slow and steady progress in the industry, Bertini has grown in confidence and ambition and a perfect illustration is the recent launching of his own underwear
line. Dubbed BH, initials for Bertini Heumegni, the model says the line is a fulfillment of a dream he was inspired with when Italian Associate Catherina Fiorillo suggested at a Milan Men collection event that his name will fit perfectly in the fashion industry. The response to the line has been awesome Bertini says as works towards launching the product across Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.
On what makes his line unique or why people should have a preference for it , Bertini in all confidence cites a number of reasons: The first underwear collection, with a 3 inch band, elastic straps adjusted to fit different categories of men, women could throw on in the night to seduce their husbands or boyfriends or in the morning after a night over and still look sensual, the waistband and leg holes are bonded to resist bunching,BH can be worn also to the beaches as swimwear, provides extra support and Stretching. As a model and fitness consultant Bertini says he has insight on what men like to wear and look good. The BH model he goes on has 90% cotton for comfort and slimming effect on the body, 10% spandex for extra support and stretching and 3 inches waistband and woven logo.
Asked if he had any words for aspiring models, Bertini recommends that they remain natural. What is perceived as a weakness may turn out to be your greatest asset. Who would have thought that my natural green eyes which made me a subject of taunts from bullies when growing up will eventually help elevate me to where I am today, Bertini quips. My cat eyes or hassle green eyes are now my strengths, no more my weakness .A lot of people make the mistake of sacrificing their African culture and roots Bertini says, but aspiring models from the continent should bear in mind that Africans are natural and exotic. The continent is full of talent he affirms and young people just have to believe in themselves, show dedication and patience, remain persistent in the face of unending challenges and success will eventually come.
On future initiatives, the New York based Bertini says besides promoting his BH line across the globe and especially in Africa with its huge market, he needs to honor modeling engagements while polishing up plans for a reality TV show that will be unveiled in the months ahead.
More on Bertini and the BH Line can be found at www.bertinih.com
Akon: Putting Africa first,Why I’m a changed man
March 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Isha Sesay and Jessica Ellis*
From the soundproofed walls and floor to the large sofas and keyboard racks, there’s only one prevailing color inside Akon’s state-of-the-art personal studio.
“It is all white,” says the multi-platinum selling artist, of the studio where he has recorded and produced several of his R&B and hip hop hits. “It helps me think a lot easier,” he adds. “This is my place of creation — I am self-engineered, I pretty much work everything in here myself.”
It’s also here where the Senegalese-American singer is putting the final touches to his fourth studio album, expected to be released in June, nearly 10 years after he first rose to fame with his 2004 debut offering “Trouble.”
Since then, Akon has sold millions of albums around the world and collaborated with countless pop and hip-hop icons such as Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dog and Eminem.
Along the way, he’s also stirred up controversy on several occasions, catching criticism for exploiting his criminal past, as well as for his sexually explicit lyrics and concert shenanigans.
Born in the United States to Senegalese parents, Akon, or Aliaune Damala Badara Thiam, spent his early years in the West African country.
“What I remember the most really was just running wild there,” he says. “Barefooted, swimming in dirty lakes, selling fruit, picking mango trees, hoping not to get caught because they don’t take kindly to thieves in Africa,” he adds, laughing.
At around the age of 8, Akon left the “jungle” of Senegal for the “concrete jungle” of New Jersey. Yet, the transition into his new environment wasn’t easy.
“Making friends was the hardest part,” says Akon of his school years in the United States. “I didn’t speak any English; it was a different culture, dressing different. I would get teased a lot — not playing the bully card — but I found myself always trying to find ways to fitting in. I was always fighting.”
Akon says that it was this reality, coupled with a desire “to be cool,” that sent him off the rails during his teenage years. Aged as young as 14, he was running with a bad crowd, involved in illegal activities including stealing cars — which led to a six-month jail stint.
Today, Akon says he feels “lucky” to have left that lifestyle behind him.
“The guys I came up with, none of them are here right now,” he says. “Four of them are dead, three are doing double life,” he adds. “It’s more of a bitter-sweet success story for me because I was the one that actually slipped away and its only because I made the decision to change my life over after that one experience.”
But it was this background that shaped Akon’s first steps in music. In 2004, he released his first single, “Locked Up,” to great success. Two years later, his second album, “Konvicted,” reached triple platinum with three million copies sold in the United States and more than five million worldwide by the end of 2007.
But despite “Konvicted’s” mega success, Akon says that period was a “confusing” time for him.
“All these records being broken and all the money made, you almost want to make yourself believe that you are invincible,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what I was becoming.”
During a notorious Akon concert in 2007, the singer threw a 15-year-old boy off the stage and onto a teenage girl who suffered a concussion. “I was charged for it — to this day, if I could have changed that, I wouldn’t have did it.”
During those days, Akon says, he let down Africa.
“I was the first to break it internationally, on that level, from Africa,” says the rapper. “Africa was really expecting me to represent them well and at that time I don’t think I was doing that.”
But that year also marked one of his most high-profile collaborations, working in the studio with Michael Jackson on a duet called “Hold My Hand.” Akon finished the vocals in 2009, after Jackson’s death, and the song became the first single released on the King of Pop’s posthumous album titled “Michael.”
“We snuck off to go to the movies, he had a disguise on,” says Akon, recalling his collaboration with Jackson. “It was me and his three kids and we were on the escalator and the people were like ‘Akon, oh my God, Akon,’ and I am signing autographs and laughing, thinking ‘you don’t even know who is beside me’ — the whole time, he is standing there laughing.”
Looking ahead, Akon says his goal is to give back to his continent. He’s set up Konfidence, a Senegalese foundation that’s working to build schools and hospitals in the country, he says.
“I have learned a lot along the way and I am glad that I never regretted enough because my past made who I am today,” he says. “Just do understand that the person you see today is not the one from yesterday.
“I am going to keep advancing, doing as much as I can, but I really want to make the biggest impact in Africa.”
* Source CNN
Afrobeats: The new sound of West Africa that’s going global
December 23, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Vladimir Duthiers and Teo Kermeliotis*
Step into any of the countless nightclubs in Lagos and you’re bound to find yourself immersed in a sonic journey of pulsating beats, groovy samples and hip-hop kicks.
In a megacity where everybody loves to dance, the tone is set by the infectious sounds of Afrobeats — a growing music movement that’s struck a chord with youth in West Africa and outside the continent.
Although its name sounds similar to Afrobeat — the eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary sounds pioneered by firebrand multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti — Afrobeats is a new genre on the Anglophone West African music scene.
Back in late 1960s, Kuti, one of Africa’s biggest music stars, used his electrifying grooves and sharp-tongued lyrics as a political vehicle to oppose Nigeria’s military governments
Afrobeats, however, tends to steer clear from politics. Its mission, says well-known Nigerian music promoter Cecil Hammond, is to make people forget their everyday troubles and have a good time
“Africa can be very stressful,” he explains. “So you need things to make you loosen up and make you happy — and music makes Nigerians happy.”
Hammond says that Nigerian music today has changed a lot since the days of Kuti, who died in August 1997.
“Nigerian artists don’t really want to get into politics,” says Hammond. “They tend to stay far away from it because at the end of the day, you have different political parties, you don’t want anyone to say you belong to this party or that party.
“The more neutral you are, the better — so just focusing your music, give us good music, let everybody dance and that’s it.”
Musically, however, the influence of Kuti is clearly evident on the new generation of Afrobeats artists.
DJ Abrantee, a UK-based Afrobeats champion, says the new sounds derive from Afrobeat, having evolved over the years with various Afrobeats musicians experimenting to suit their individual styles.
“[With] the inclusion of non-traditional instruments, electronic sounds, grooves, synths, hip-hop kicks, it has become more than just the one typical style of beat used in the 1970s,” he explains. “It is now an amalgamation of beats.”
But who are some of the hottest names making strides in the Afrobeats scene? Here, Abrantee picks five stars whose are breaking through commercially on the world stage.
“WizKid is without a shadow of doubt on the verge of a worldwide explosion,” declares Abrantee, who describes the Nigerian Afrobeats singer as a “young talented guy who not only sings but pens some of the most musically catchy hooks in that genre.” WizKid was recently signed by UK star Tinie Tempah’s management company.
The Nigerian rapper is at the forefront of the Afrobeats scene, having enjoyed big international success with “Oliver Twist,” a global hit that made it to the Top 10 in UK charts. Abrantee says “his music is infectious, fun, dynamic and appeals to the masses.” In recent years, D’Banj has won several prestigious awards, including the Best African Act at the 2012 MOBO Awards.
Nigerian May7ven is a UK-based Afrobeats artist and singer-songwriter who is well known for her dancing. “Her bold and catchy anthems in a predominately male-dominated industry have been leading the way and carrying the international flag for the ladies in Afrobeats,” says Abrantee.
The Ghanaian artist, also known as “the talking drum,” has had success with “The Thing,” a massive hit on dance floors in Africa and beyond. “The dexterity and distinctness of his soulful voice complements his records and puts him in a firm position to have a long lasting career,” says Abrantee.
R2Bees is a super group featuring Ghanaian artists Paedae and Mugeez, produced by Killbeats, who is responsible for some of the biggest hits coming out of the West African country. Abrantee says they are the “Afrobeats group to watch” in 2013, pointing to the anticipated release of their new single featuring UK star Tinchy Stryder.
* Source CNN Africa
Nollywood Heart throb Ramsey Nouah
December 16, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Obed Boafo*
The film industry in Africa is blessed with an abundance of talent. From Nigeria through to Kenya, South Africa and Ghana, the continent continues to produce quality actors and actresses. Year in year out, Africa’s impressive database of screen lords and goddesses increases with an appreciable level of quality, style and presentation.
So it is no wonder that Nollywood, Africa’s most successful movie industry (at least for now), is getting all the applause from across the divide of the filmmaking world. From very humble beginnings to its present state, Nollywood has stated its case as a global force to reckon with. In an impressive string of good results posted over the decade, the Nigerian film industry, despite its problems, is still leading the rest of the pack, in a clear unassailable manner that would take the rest of the continent to catch up.
Countries like Ghana, South Africa and Kenya are giving Nollywood a hot chase but given the fact that numerical advantage would always favour the Nigerian film industry, it makes it hard to even suggest or try to explain that, all others can or may catch up in terms of revenue flow. Nollywood will be around for a long time to come, and its key payers including the actors and actresses will ensure that.
Ramsey Adetokunbo Nouah is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most successful actors. To say that Nouah is a cult figure in Nigeria, would be stating the obvious, and to imply that he is one of Africa’s finest actors of all time, would echo the thoughts of many movie lovers across the continent. In the early 2000s when the Nigerian movie industry began making strategic inroads into other African countries, it was the likes of Nouah, Genevieve Nnaji, Liz Bension and Pete Edoche among others, who graced the screens.
Those days, it was pretty hard to come across a Nigerian movie without a certain Nouah. He constantly featured in almost all of the titles that were produced at the time, becoming a figure most young people would look up to. The respect and quantum of appreciation he earned from fans and industry players alike, aided his gradual growth to the top of what can be said to be, in all fairness, a career well lived.
And even though the film industry in Nigeria has gone through phases, accommodating other young hopeful, and carefully placing the likes of Ramsey in the backroom, he’s managed to go through all that unscathed, holding on to what he’s been known for over the years – quality. A career full of awards and accolades, the 39 year-old actor debuted on the local scene, with his appearance in the soap opera Fortunes.
Around 1990, a friend who had always dreamt of seeing Ramsey act, urged him on to try auditioning for a role in Fortunes. A year later, he found himself as one of key actors in the series. Fortunes, which later became Mega Fortunes, aired in 1993 on the Nigerian Television Authority, and to a larger extent, gave birth to what is currently referred to as Nigerian Home Videos.
ouah would later go on to achieve nationwide fame, as one script after the another from major film production houses poured in. As many as they came, Nouah made good use of them, proving the fine actor he is. Born in Edo, Nigeria to an Iranian/Israeli father and a Yoruba mother, Nouah has featured in over hundred Nigerian movies notable among them being Dangerous Twins, and The Figurine, which won him a, 2010, Best Actor in a Leading Role recognition at the African Movie Academy Awards.
*Source MSN Africa
Nollywood Driving Tourism To Nigeria
November 16, 2012 | 0 Comments
The positive effect of Nollywood, as Nigeria’s booming film industry is widely known, on tourism to Nigeria was discussed at length this week, following the release of the World Travel Market (WTM) 2012 Industry Report and WTM Global Trends Report.
he report states that the popularity of Nollywood all over the continent (it names Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gambia) means ‘Nollywood films attracts domestic and regional African tourists to Nigeria, visiting film locations’.
The report goes on to predict a 3% rise in tourism to Nigeria in the next four years – claiming that in addition to leisure tourism drawn by the industry, the growing revenue generated by Nollywood will attract business travel
The report discusses the hotel boom in Nigeria’s capital city Lagos. This year Radisson Blu, Four Points by Sheraton and others opened in the city, while Hilton Worldwide, Accor, InterContinental Hotels Group and Protea all have hotels under construction or plan to break ground shortly.
According to This Day Segun Runsewe, Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, said: “The reports we are getting in the World Travel Market of 2012 becomes the sixth of its kind in the recent time. That means Nigeria is making major impact in terms tourism development.
He added: “To me, I want to be very grateful to the owners of these reports for seeing the real facts that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government has made concerted efforts to promote tourism development and I am happy that we are being recognised on the two reports.
“On the Nollywood, you know that Nigeria is the second in the world in terms of film production and that is why we have been very strong on entertainment tourism. So to me, all these reports is re-awakening call on us as a people to continue to put as much as we can in tourism development. If the world is now saying we have potentials, if the world said that there is something good that can come out of us what are we waiting for? It’s for us to protect and showcase that interest to the world that yes we can- we also can do it.”
*Source MSN Africa