African Star Shines in Park Slope
January 9, 2014 | 0 Comments
Musician and author Angelique Kidjo looks at fabric before heading to her stylist’s studio forafitting. Natalie Keyssar for The Wall Street Journal[/caption] Already a star in her home country of Benin, Angelique Kidjo was expected to sing at political events held by the Mathieu Kérékou regime or suffer the consequences. So, the musician fled the small West African country, leaving in 1983 when a customs agent she knew let her board a midnight plane from Cotonou to Paris. “Exile is not fun, let’s get that straight,” Ms. Kidjo recently said via phone from her longtime home in Park Slope. “You lose so much and you have to adapt so quickly. But I was much more afraid of not getting out. I would tell anyone to do the same. Living in fear is just another jail cell.” Now 53, Ms. Kidjo is on just about any list that compiles important current-day African figures. She returns to Africa regularly as one of its most recognizable musicians and as well as an UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She also founded the Batonga Foundation, which focuses on girls’ education and women empowerment in Africa, and works with other organizations on a number of different issues. Ms. Kidjo cycled through it all in her new autobiography “Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music,” sharing some favorite cooking recipes along the way. Celebrating the book’s release, she appears Jan. 9 at Barnes & Noble’s Union Square location and Jan. 27 at BAM’s Fisher Fishman Space. She also releases her 13th album on Jan. 28 (her music tour stops Feb. 15 at Town Hall). “Eve” is Ms. Kidjo’s musical ode to the pride, beauty and strength of African women, blending contemporary and traditional African voices and percussion, classic funk and modern dance grooves and even classical music. To cover all this ground, she’s backed by studio band of hired guns with guests who range from Dr. John to Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij to the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg to several lesser-known woman singers and choirs from Benin and Kenya. The book appearances will be less of a proper reading and more of talkback with a few songs thrown in. “I hope they’ll have read the book by the time of the reading, then we can talk about it and see if they have questions,” said Ms. Kidjo. The book has stories of growing up in Benin as one of 10 kids, her 30-year music career, and her balancing roles as a wife and mother—she is married to musician Jean Hebrail (they co-write much of her music) and they have a daughter who studies acting at Yale. “If someone had told me it would take three years of my life to write a book, I would have thought more about whether to do it than I did,” she said lightly, more joking than not. “It was a long process, but it was cathartic to do.” Ms. Kidjo’s music circles are just as broad as her humanitarian ones, having collaborated with Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews, Branford Marsalis, Josh Groban and other A-list talent. So it’s no surprise that Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote book’s forward while Alicia Keys wrote an introduction. Jacket blurbs come from former President Bill Clinton, Peter Gabriel and Bono. Each contributor speaks of Ms. Kidjo’s indomitable spirit and energy. “Everything is linked for me,” she pointed out, speaking about music and life. “We are social beings and we need to connect with one another. Whether they like it or not, people have to live together.” *Source WSJ . Follow Angelique Kidjo on facebook]]>
Ramsey Nouah: Day I slept under Lagos bridge
January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments
In this exclusive chat with The Entertainer, Ramsey Tokunbo Nouah recalls the unforgettable, tormenting experiences of his life when he was humbled by poverty. Here, he remembers the dark days when he slept under the bridge in Lagos without food. His story is quite touching. Excerpts: You are no longer constant in movies. What is happening to you? I am still on the screen; I pray for better industry than what we have. We don’t have a proper structure and it is affecting us. It is affecting so many of us because we don’t have a secured future. For instance, some veteran actors passed on and people had to gather just to try and give them a befitting burial. That shouldn’t be the case. We have an industry that just paid you one off. It is not in any way protective of the interest of the practitioners, it is not really helping us. I believe strongly that we need to do a more integrated production, quality production that will last, like when we started at the beginning. All the stories are not encouraging and technicality we are not growing, all these help to slow down the growth of the industry. And without growth there are can never be a future, without dynamics you can’t see the frontier. Basically, that’s what we are suffering right now and there must be changes. The concern of most people shooting now is about making their money back. They don’t have passion or love for the industry like we do. So, that’s the reason why I am not acting. I love doing a good job, something that will benefit the industry, a movie that whenever you pick it up, if it is five or 20 years you can still watch and be happy. I want a situation whereby I will do a job and my great grandchildren will know me by my work. ‘Oh my great grandfather did this, yes he is the one’. That is what I want to do to leave a mark, a legacy, no just a passing face. A lot of your colleagues have gone into producing their own movies. Is that the reason you don’t want to join the trend? I am working towards producing mine at the moment, but the reason why it is taking me this long is because I wanted to get it right. I don’t just want to come out with something little or something that wouldn’t be of standard. I am one of the pioneers saying that we should have a better industry. Definitely, I should come out with something really nice. And that’s why it is taking me so long but I will be coming out with something this year. You are a recipient of many awards here in Nigeria and Africa. What can you attribute that to and how does it make you feel? It makes feel like an achiever. I really feel good about it. It is like you are appraising me for my work and my input, and that is not a legacy for me. I love the fact that people love my work and they appreciate it and rewarding me for my work. It is the same thing for any person whatever profession it may be; doctor, pilot, journalist and even market woman, as long as you are passionate about your industry and people can see it and they believe that you have given so much and deserve an award. So, if a person deserves it then they should give it to such person. I love being appreciated, but I will love it more when I do leave a legacy behind. How do you define success? (Smiling) A whole lot of people define success as being rich and having it all. I define success as peace of mind. To me, I am successful; I do not owe anybody and I have a clean heart and clean spirit. I am a happy man from the inside; that makes me very successful. What is your greatest achievement as an actor? It is yet to come, my brother. I cannot yet boast of greatest achievement in the industry. It is not by my work, input as an actor, no! Like I said, it will be by my legacy. Most actors refer to you as their role model. Who is a good actor? I don’t know how to put this without going by definition. If I can go by what I know, I think like I said you have to be passion driven; that is you are not acting because of the money, you are not acting because of fame. You are just acting because you love the work. I think that will totally see you through. Also, I don’t know how I can actually say it; people will actually want to debate it. Whether good acting is God given, natural talent or is acquired. I do not know how to define that now but because I know definitely that it can swing both ways. You could have a natural talent or God given talent as an actor and you could still acquire it and still be extremely good. To me, they swing in both directions. I can’t say you must be a natural or born actor to be a fantastic or brilliant actor. I know some other very good actors who weren’t born with it, but they are also extremely good because they love what they are doing. Like I said, it is the passion, whether it is natural or acquired once your passion drives you, you will achieve it. Most actors try to act like you. Did you go for any formal training when you were coming up? No, I didn’t. I didn’t go for any formal training to be an actor. It was more like an inborn. There are so many things I know to deliver certain lines, certain behaviour. I believe strongly that if you have a character who is going through certain pains, emotions, joy, success or whatever, there has to be a way to actually bring out that character to the best of your ability, which of course will be to drill yourself in that character at that moment and feel it deeply. For instance, if a person is emotionally broken, how do I deliver an emotionally broken character? I will personalize it; then I will ask different kinds of people who have broken down emotionally which one do I take? Which one do you think would be a market success if I apply it? That’s what I do. Who were the people that influenced your career at the beginning? It is really hard to say because the time we started, film wasn’t palpable. It was more of foreign movies like Schwarzenegger, Rambo, and all sorts of action movies. I didn’t really have access to television because I didn’t have television at home. I didn’t have access to movies. I mean you go to see movies like ‘Sound of Music’ at your friend’s house. I couldn’t say I have role models from Indian movies; no there wasn’t anything like. When I started, I remember my love for Al Pacino and I used him as a yardstick in acting. If you want to show that you are a good actor, you shouldn’t be stereotype. You should be versatile; you should possess the ability to play different roles. I use the Al Pacino`s role in Scarface, Godfather and Sense of a Woman to show people how versatile he can be. In Scarface, he has a strict gangster attitude. In Godfather, he has a mafia attitude. In Sense of a Woman it was also different. So, three different characters and they are all distinct. It was like he has the same gesture here and he has the same mannerism there or he has the same line here or there. That’s the way you can actually know someone who is a fantastic actor. He is one of my role models. How do you wear those characters and display different behaviours. What is your source of inspiration? It is from the society. You look around you and see a lot of people. People wearing different kinds of faces, you realize you are going to interact with these people; everybody has a way of thinking, a way of life. They are all not the same. You can actually be adaptive of all these people. For instance, if you are meant to act like a madman, it will be very professional to actually go around and find the one you think would suit the character you are meant to play in a movie. And you follow the person and study him for a little while so you can adopt the character and you can perfect the character while you are delivering. A lot of people think you’re a snub, arrogant and Casanova. Who exactly is Ramsey Noah? I am a regular easy-going kind of guy. I am not a snub and I am not arrogant. Most times a lot of people had criticized me, but as an actor that is the cross I need to carry. And it is easy for you to say because you are not wearing my shoe. Nigerians are very quick in judging because they are good in throwing words before thinking about them. But the truth of the matter is that we are normal human beings like you. I am not Jesus and I am not here to save the world. I am just an actor. Some people are making my life miserable. At some point when you think that I am arrogant or proud, it might be due to circumstances. I might be having a bad day. That I am an actor does not mean I have it all good and smooth. For all you know, my daughter or my son might be sick in the hospital and you probably came at the wrong time. This could make people think that you are arrogant. What is your most embarrassing moment? I can’t actually pencil down any, but I have quite a few. I have had a woman stone me with pure water sachet because she felt that I was mean to some girls in a movie. A woman was sucking an orange and she threw it at me because she didn’t like my behaviour in the movies. Would you say that was the craziest thing a fan has done to you? I wouldn’t say that, I don’t want to go explicit. (Laughing) How do you handle your female fans? It is just being nice and diplomatic. You can’t be nasty to them, you can’t be mean to them; they are only doing what they are supposed to do because they are showing love. Do you have any project you are working on right now? Yes, I just did a fantastic movie with AY. It is like a comedy, totally different from the lover boy thing, but I still have a little of lover boy stuff in it anyway. It is a whole lot of comedy and shot in the United States. We are going to complete the rest in Nigeria. That’s the work I have pending and there are a few to come. Tell us about your growing up? My growing up was like tasting the two sides of a coin. When I said tasting the two sides of a coin; I mean tasting being a rich man and a poor man. I grew up with my mother, and with a silver spoon, I had it all. When I began to realize that I had good things to show off, everything disappeared. We started from grace to grass; that has helped me a lot because it totally balanced the equation of life. It gives me confidence in all spheres. For instance, I can hang out with the enlightened or the rich. I can mingle with them very easily without any complication or complex whatsoever. Also, if it is the low class or poor people, I can mingle very easily with them. I can eat a fantastic dinner in a huge, expensive restaurant and I can go eat amala at a buka and I would not feel anything. I don’t care being a popular actor or a role model. I am a role model to everybody. Are you saying that fame has not denied you anything in life? It has denied me a few, but it has not denied me being as natural as I want to be. I won’t let that happen. It has happened to some of my colleagues. Fame has taken them away from what they wanted to do or be. There was a time I went to a bank to pay my NEPA bill and I was wearing a short and T-shirt, because it was on Monday morning somebody came down and said ‘Ramsey Noah, you are a role model, you shouldn’t have been wearing this’. I didn’t take it likely with him. For you, what was the worst scenario when life was so cruel? Those were the times when things got really bad for my mother and I and we had nothing. It was so bad that we didn’t have a home or shelter to live in. We had to stay in a store, a small store that could take only one mat. My mother and I squeezed ourselves in that mat. We didn’t even have a cup to drink water not to talk of a stove to cook. And my mother had to borrow, beg and stuff like that. These were moments when I was young I didn’t realize the gravity of poverty we were in, I couldn’t tell. But it was a good orientation for me. It was moments that I thank God for making me past through, because that has sustained and helped me even as an actor. The ability to deliver all the roles they give me because I have tasted both sides of the coin. With all these experiences, what has life taught you? Life has taught me never to look down on anybody because the person you disregard might just be your saviour tomorrow. I realized that all my mother’s property was washed away by rain. We couldn’t sleep all through the night because of the flood. It was really terrible. Like I said, it is a life lesson. Is there anything that can make you cry or shed tears after all you passed through? Yeah, those moments; those terrible moments when we had nothing and we were living off people. People were just helping us out. There were times we didn’t have food to eat three or four days. You haven’t eaten and your stomach is rumbling but you don’t have any place to go. There was a time I lived on the street, in shops. There was a time I slept under the bridge. It was unfortunate that there were no records so that we can have memories we could play back now. To me, I am so extremely grateful that I went through it. At that time I hated everybody around me. In fact, I used to question why God was doing this to me. But I think God knew that I needed this for my future. *Source The Sun]]>
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 ]]>
Fela Kuti: The Man Every Rapper Wants To Be
January 3, 2014 | 1 Comments
Like few others, Fela was hip-hop before hip-hop.
The man was Muhammad Ali, Che Guevara, and James Brown rolled into a tightly packed spliff that constantly burned with fiery inspiration. One million people, as in six zeros, attended his funeral. Most rappers don’t see six zeros until IRS rolls up with a bill. He was laid to rest in a glass casket with a joint in his hand (he was a notorious toker and was said to smoke cigar-sized joints ). A$AP would get shrinkage from just trying to live up to that.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His name as instantly electrifying as the 20-minute bizarre rides, not so much songs, he’d piece together with a band that put James Brown’s posse to shame. William Collins himself, Brown’s bassist and member of Parliament-Funkadelic, said “we were telling them they’re the funkiest cats we ever heard in our life. I mean, this is the James Brown band, but we were totally wiped out!” Some cat named Paul McCartney called Fela Kuti and his backing band Africa ‘70 the best band he’d ever seen live. Would the man with 60 gold discs say the same thing about The Roots?
Dude not only was asked by Sir Beatle himself to make music together, which Kuti denied based on principal (more on that later), but he made Paul weep at one of his concerts. Like “what 95% of the people on this planet do when they hear ‘Hey Jude’” weep. The kind of weeping Maejor Ali must have done when Justin Bieber agreed to “rap” on “Lolly.”
In many ways, Fela Kuti was the man every rapper has tried to become in their own ill-fated way. News that a new retrospective of his career, Best of the Black President 2, and grainy clips culled from YouTube, cements that fact.
While Public Enemy were politically charged, and Tupac tried to be politically charged (but mostly just liked to hear himself be politically charged), Kuti mocked the Nigerian military as explicitly and publicly as he could. Not via Twitter beef, a mixtape brawl, or ethereal diss tracks, he took his adversaries head-on. With the power to move people beyond the dancefloor, he caused riots when playing his track “Zombie.” Bypassing editorial censorship in Nigeria, he would buy up ad space in newspapers to publish scathing columns against the government. Would even Easy-E have the nads to take on Obama in a New York Times Op-ed?
And the cherry on the blunt: when a thousand soldiers descended on his commune, destroyed his instruments, burned down his studio, and threw his mother out of a second-story window, Kuti struck back as only he could―he delivered his mother’s casket to the army barracks, and wrote a song about it. He called it “Coffin for Head of State,” and made it twenty-two minutes long, just to be thorough. If Rick Ross thinks he’s a boss, he needs to look up the corporate ladder to see Fela perched atop.
Rappers―granted, not all of them―will boast about their sexual magnetism. Well, Fela married 27 women, at the same goddamn time, just to prove a point. He did it for the obvious reasons, but also to rebel against the conservatism of Christianity and Islam (the religions the rulers ascribed to), and to give the women, his backup dancers, who weren’t particularly respected in that era, a level of respectability.
Shyne went to jail for taking the fall for Diddy. Lil’ Wayne was nabbed by Border Patrol for narcotics. DMX got booked for driving without a license. Kuti went to court a whopping 356 times, and was incarcerated over 200, for his political grievances. After trying to run for president a second time, he was beaten by police and imprisoned, so as to be kept from campaigning.
Fela Kuti was not a man without inadequacies. He was ruthlessly critical of homosexuals, and despite being raised by feminist activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, who was awarded a Lenin Peace Prize for her work, he was bafflingly an unapologetic sexist. To quote his own words from his authorized biography Fela: This Bitch of a Life, he thought, “men and women are on two different levels…Do I see man as being naturally superior to women? Naturally.”
But the pioneer of an incendiary genre lived a life that would make a rapper’s read like a Bazooka Joe comic strip. He turned down offers to collaborate from Paul McCartney — kicking him out of his club, and accusing him of “stealing black man’s music” — and also hefty deals from Motown, so he could give a voice to the voiceless in his native Africa. Certainly giving up mounds of dough in the process.
It’s never a good idea to blindly look up to celebrities, but instead of looking up to hommies who praise Lambos, or who literally need an elephant in the room to be semi-interesting, why not exalt the legacy of someone who rocked governments? All while making timeless music and winning over droves of followers. The hip-hop community has long wanted to be on Fela’s plane — The Roots put him on their album cover, Mos Def sampled him on his track “Fear Not Of Man,” Jay-Z and Will Smith bankrolled the Fela! musical on Broadway — but they’ve come up categorically short. KRS-One and Afrika Bambaataa flirted with Kuti’s greatness, but ultimately Kuti continues to be the man every rapper wants to be. Whether they know it or not.
*Source The Shadow League.Bogar Alonso contributes to The Shadow League when he isn’t taking in hip-hop at the speed of life (yes, that’s an Xzibit reference). His work can also be found on XXL, Egotripland, Potholes In My Blog, On The 7th Day of Hip Hop, and Sports Jerks. You can shadow him on Twitter @blacktiles. Click here to watch classic Fela Video
Attacks on Jonathan Reckless and Baseless
December 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
We have noted the publication on several websites today of a letter recently written by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
The Presidency acknowledges that it has indeed received the said letter from Chief Obasanjo. We however find it highly unbecoming, mischievous and provocative that a letter written by a former Head of State and respected elder statesman to President Jonathan has been deliberately leaked to the mass media in a deplorable effort to impugn the integrity of the President and denigrate his commitment to giving Nigeria the best possible leadership.
While many patriotic, objective and well-meaning Nigerians have already condemned the leaked letter as self-serving, hypocritical, malicious, indecent, and very disrespectful of the highest office in the land, President Jonathan has directed that none of his aides or any government official should join issues with Chief Obasanjo over it.
The President himself will, at the appropriate time, offer a full personal response to the most reckless, baseless, unjustifiable and indecorous charges levied against him and his administration by the former Head of State.
Reuben Abati Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity)
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
The inseparable friendship of John Dumelo and Majid Michel through the years
November 2, 2013 | 1 Comments
That’s what can be summed up of the paired and inextricable bond between the two leading figures from the Ghana Film industry. Two bright figures, each with a different skill set but equally captivating for each movie they feature in.
John is more cool headed calm and collected often considered the ladies guy. After the movie “The King is Mine” which set the path for his illustrious journey in the movie industry, John has continued to rise and grow from strength to strength. Not only has he achieved more than his expectations, he has also volunteered much of his wealth to charity with the establishment of a foundation to support the needy and building a school for one of the deprived communities in Ghana.
Beyond that, John has also demonstrated great entrepreneurship and business acumen with the creation of the J.Melo brand that comprises o t-shirts, hoodies, ladies handbags, etc all as a means of buttressing the financial rewards he has gained through acting, but also for a legacy of an enterprise that will keep his relevance for years to come.
Majid is more unpredictable; sometimes very aggressive and highly poised, but other times churn out emotional tenderness that is second to none. Unlike John, Majid flirted with acting much earlier during his late teen years in the TV Show “Things we do for love” which was coincidentally the first acting avenue for Jackie Appiah. But since the show ended, he went quiet for a few years and Van Vicker became the central face of the Ghanaian movie industry. But when Van was becoming overly exposed, it was time for a change and the real Majid era began. Movie after movie, he has maintained a level of excellence that is second to none; and the sky will only be his limit if he keeps on this way.
But beyond their individual achievements, what’s remarkable about them is the good sense of friendship and shared closeness they retain. Instead of loathing and finding ways to undercut each other that some people unfortunately do when in fierce competition to succeed in the same field of work, Majid and John remain the best of friends and undertake most activities together.
All we can say to what they have offered us is Ayekoo! …and we wish them even more success ahead.
*Source African Movies News
I’d love to marry Genevieve –D’banj
October 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
BY JAYNE AUGOYE*
Singer, Dapo Oyebanji, aka D’banj, finally opened up on his love life in a rare meeting with journalists in Lagos on Wednesday.
The self-styled Kokomaster was clearly in his elements as he talked at length, amid occasional bouts of laughter, about his career and other issues that were important to him. One of the subjects was about his rumoured relationship with Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji.
Judging by the manner in which the actress’ name kept popping off his lips, it was obvious that D’banj had a very soft spot for her.
Aware that the grapevine had bristled with the rumour that he was romantically involved with Genevieve, ever since she appeared in the 2010 video of his hit song, ‘Fall in Love’, the singer said the actress had played a role in his success.
“Apart from the fact that she is my friend, she has been a part of my success. There is no way you are going to tell my story that Genevieve’s name will not come up because she featured in my biggest song of all time,Fall in Love. So if E True Story comes to Nigeria to interview me, she will definitely be called upon to tell my story,” he said.
As if to confirm that there was more to his relationship with the actress than he had always admitted, D’banj added, “I would love to have Genevieve as my wife. We never can tell what God plans for us in the future. I have studied her and I realised that anyone that has her as his woman has found himself a treasure. Just like the Bible says, any man who finds a wife, finds a good thing.”
Perhaps the fans and admirers of the ‘love birds’ will have to brace themselves for a symbolic wedding of two of the most celebrated artistes on this side of the globe in the nearest future.
Meanwhile, D’banj plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his music career anytime in 2014. As expected, the singer aims to roll out the proverbial drums to celebrate in style what he describes as the overwhelming success of his foray into the Nigerian music scene.
The one-time harmonica wielding artiste has, indeed, made tremendous progress in his career since his monster hit, ‘Tongolo’ was released in 2004.
The artiste, who wormed his way into the highly competitive international music market after signing on to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music in 2011, no doubt, has finally found his bearing as an entertainer since he parted ways with Mo’Hits.
“So much has happened in the last 18 months and I am very thankful to God. By the Grace of God, I have remained relevant for nearly a decade in the music industry and I have released hit songs every year. Also, I am glad that I have been chosen to headline the Hennessy Artistry this year. This is one brand that understands the importance of aligning with the entertainment industry.
“My career is barely 10 years old. But with the success I have achieved so far, it feels like three decades already. Within my first 10 years as a musician, I have recorded the biggest song and shot the most viewed music video of all time, ‘Oliver Twist’. I must say I am humbled and getting ready to take over,” he said.
Without mincing words, D’banj noted that the history of his career and the resulting accomplishments will be incomplete without mentioning his humble beginning with the defunct Mo’Hits Records. The mere mention of his erstwhile colleagues, including Don Jazzy, seemed to awaken nostalgic feelings in him.
“If I say I don’t miss Don Jazzy, I am lying. I have spent the better part of my career with him. I was married to him in a way (laughs). So I miss everything about Mo’Hits: the family, the movement, and the vibe of being in the studio with him. I miss the jokes and the arguments, but I have since keyed into the notion that nothing can stop a moving train.
“Nevertheless we can always do music together. The track, ‘Top of the World’ was produced by a Grammy Award Winner. The songs ‘Finally’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me Nonsense’ was produced by my producer while ‘Oliver Twist’ was produced by Don Jazzy. So, why won’t I have him on my 10 years anniversary album?
“I have never said I am a musician; I am an entertainer. Some people say I can pick up a microphone and become a comedian. Therefore nobody should come and ask if I want to go into acting because they should know I am already an actor. It depends on when the right script and concept lands in my hands.
“For now, I am concerned about achieving new things and breaking new grounds. By the time I enter Hollywood, I believe that I’ll become as successful as I have been as a singer. The movie titled ‘I am Banga Lee’, starring Genevieve, to be released in 2014, won’t be a bad idea,” He said.
It seems that the world is at the Kokomaster’s feet. Yet, he is not in denial of the fact that his fans in Nigeria are his greatest assets.
“The Hennessey Artistry Tour afforded me the opportunity to meet my fans here in Nigeria. I have not travelled across the country in a long while because I am abroad all the time. Most of my fans complained that they have not seen me since 2007 and I reallised that I need to be in constant touch with my fans down here.”
*Source Punch Newspaper Nigeria
‘Omosexy’: The biggest film star you’ve never heard of
August 29, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Ben Arogundade*
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, aka ‘Omosexy’, is the queen of Nollywood. She’s appeared in more than 300 films, pulls in 150 million viewers for her reality-television show and has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
When she sat next to Steven Spielberg at a Time magazine dinner earlier this year he didn’t know her name. Yet Omotola Jalade Ekeinde was attending that dinner because, like him, she had been honoured in Time’s 2013 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Alongside Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama and Beyoncé.The star of more than 300 films, Omotola – or “Omosexy”, as she is known to her legions of fans – is bigger across the African diaspora than Halle Berry.
Her reality-television show, Omotola: The Real Me, pulls in more viewers than Oprah’s and Tyra’s at their peak, combined, and she is the first African celebrity ever to amass more than one million Facebook “likes”.
When I meet her for the interview in a photographic studio in south-east London she is still recovering from getting mobbed by her Afro-Caribbean fan base in a nearby Tesco. “They practically had to shut down the store when people recognised me,” she says. “I actually got scared.”
Omotola is one of the biggest stars in Nollywood, the low-budget, high-output Nigerian film industry that churns out more English-language films than Hollywood or Bollywood (1,000-2,000 a year). Some have cinematic releases, but most are for the straight-to-video market.
When I watch her Stella photo-shoot from the sidelines it is immediately apparent that everything about her is BIG. Big body, big hair, big personality, big laugh: she comes across like Oprah’s sister.
She is here with her own film crew, who are recording for a future episode of her television show. Which means there is also a big, superstar delay – three hours – before our interview can start.
Many of her fans think her real name is “Omosexy”, she tells me, laughing, when we finally get to speak, but it was a nickname given to her by her husband, an airline pilot.
“He bought me a car back in 2009, and that was the plate number,” she recalls, speaking with kinetic, girlish excitement, rattling off sentences in fast, extended flurries.
“All my cars have special plate numbers, like Omotola 1.” When I ask how many cars she has, she laughs again, with embarrassment. “A few.” When she first saw her personalised licence plate she was horrified. “I thought, ‘Oh no!’ It sounded cocky.
As if I was telling everybody, ‘I’m sexy!’ Y’know-wha-I-mean?” She punctuates her sentences with this phrase, which she reels off as a single word.
The 35-year-old star has been acting since she was 16. Most recently she starred as Suzie, a passenger freshly spurned by her adulterous lover, in an aeroplane disaster movie, Last Flight to Abuja, which was the highest grossing film at the African box office last year.
Her breakthrough role came in 1995, in the Nollywood classic Mortal Inheritance, in which she played a sickle-cell patient fighting for her life. Since then she has established a staggering average of 16 films a year.
I put it to her that she must be the most prolific actress in the world. She laughs and shakes her head. “I am sure there are people who have beaten that record in Nigeria. Trust me.
It is easy to turn around with straight-to-video movies. It is the fashion to shoot until you drop, night and day. You have to remember that we are on very low budgets, so there is no time to wait.”
Nollywood began fewer than 20 years ago on the bustling streets of Lagos. Its pioneers were traders and bootleggers who started out selling copies of Hollywood films before graduating into producing their own titles as an inexpensive way to procure more content for a burgeoning market.
The traders finance the films (the average budget is £15,000-£30,000), then sell copies in bulk to local operators, who distribute them in markets, shops and street-corners for as little as £2 each.
The financial equation is problematic, with endemic piracy, issues over copyright and a lack of legally binding contracts.
Even so, what started as a ramshackle business is today worth an estimated £320 million a year, and rising. All this in a country that still lacks a reliable electricity supply.
What is the secret of Omotola’s appeal? “I don’t know,” she says, shrugging. “I wish someone would tell me! People can relate to me, I suppose. They feel as if they know me. A lot of my audience has grown up with me.”
At the same time, in a country that is heavily defined by religion and tradition, it helps that she is seen as a stable role model – a God-fearing woman who has been married to the same man for 17 years, and balances her work-life with bringing up four children.
Omotola Jalade Ekeinde was born into a middle-class family of strict Methodists in Lagos. Her father was the manager of the Lagos Country Club, while her mother worked for a local supermarket chain.
She has two younger brothers and was a tomboy, fiercely independent. “I used to scare boys from a very young age. They found me too much, because I knew what I wanted and I’d boss them around. In those days my mother would joke that I would never find a husband.”
As a child she was closest to her father. “He was a different kind of African man,” she recalls.
“He was very enlightened. He always asked me what I wanted, and encouraged me to speak up. He treated me like a boy.” He died in a car accident when Omotola was 12, while she was away at boarding-school.
“I didn’t grieve,” she says. “When I got home people were telling me that my mother had been crying for days, and that, as the eldest, I had to be strong for her and my brothers. I didn’t know what to do, so I just bottled everything up.
It affected me for many years afterwards. I was always very angry.”
Omotola would later play out her repressed grief on camera, using it as an emotional trigger to make herself cry whenever scripts called for it. But this soon created other problems.
“The director would shout, ‘Cut!’ and I’d still be crying,” she recalls. “I could bring the tears, but I could not control them. In the end I had to stop using that technique.”
At the age of 16 Omotola met her future husband, Matthew Ekeinde, then 26, in church. He was so keen on her that the day after their first meeting he showed up at her house unannounced.
“He soon became a friend of the family. He was almost like a father figure,” she says. “He’d drop my brothers Ekeinde proposed when Omotola was 18. Initially, Omotola’s mother thought her daughter too young to marry, and asked Matthew to wait, but he refused. “She was really shocked,” says Omotola. at school and stuff.”
“She said, ‘If you want something badly enough you wait for it,’ but he said, ‘If I want something I take it.’ He was very, very bold. It was one of the things I found fascinating about him.”
They had two wedding ceremonies, the second of which took place on a flight from Lagos to Benin. “He’s amazing. If I weren’t married to him I couldn’t see myself with anybody else. I’m a handful.”
Ekeinde has become a reluctant poster boy for a new kind of African man.
“A lot of men come up to him and say, ‘You’re a real man – I can’t believe how you deal with it all.’ He also gets a lot of invitations from various bodies to speak about how he copes as a modern Nigerian man in a relationship with a powerful working woman.”
Omotola’s ascent to the Nollywood elite began the same year she met Ekeinde. She was modelling at the time. One afternoon she tagged along with a model friend who was attending a film audition.
“She didn’t get the part, and she came out and was very sad,” says Omotola. “Then she said, ‘Why don’t you go in and have a go?’
I said ‘OK,’ and went in and got the part. My friend wasn’t happy. That was the end of our friendship.”
Omotola has somehow also found the time to release three albums. And then there is her charitable work. “First and foremost I actually consider myself a humanitarian,” she says proudly.
She started in 2005, working with the United Nations as a World Food Programme ambassador. She now has her own foundation, the Omotola Youth Empowerment Programme.
“I have a lot of young people writing to me, feeling disillusioned. There’s so much injustice in Africa, and people’s lives being trampled on. The foundation was designed to give voice to these people.”
Her own voice has been greatly enhanced by the success of her reality-television show. It is the first show of its kind in Africa, watched by 150 million people across the continent. “
A lot of women say to me that I am their role model and example. They say, ‘If Omotola can do it, I can do it.’ I also get a lot of fan letters from men that say, ‘You are the reason I allow my wife to work, or pursue a career,’ because they see that I am married and that I am doing both.”
Omotola is now one of the most powerful people in what’s being called the “new Nollywood”, a fresh chapter for the industry, characterised by better scripts, improved production values and cinema rather than DVD-only releases.
But there are obstacles for the new Nollywood, not least the fact that Nigeria only has seven major cinemas, and that ticket prices are way beyond the reach of most citizens.
Nollywood’s biggest problem by far, however, is that its films – including Omotola’s – are still not very good. Theirs is a fuzzy, low-budget aesthetic in which histrionic acting combines with often ludicrous plot lines.
The films drown in melodrama, and many scenes are unintentionally comic. Production values and the rigours of plot and character development are dispensed with in the mad rush to complete and distribute.
It’s akin to half-cooking food to feed impatient mouths, and the results feel like first drafts. Nevertheless, African audiences don’t seem to care, as long as the films are cheap enough for a downtrodden public desperate for escapism, and they feature their own home-grown stars on screen.
So, what does the future hold for Omotola?
She recently made her American debut, in a television drama, Hit the Floor, opposite the R&B star Akon. Does she see her future as Nollywood or Hollywood?
“I’ll just go with the flow. We [in Nollywood] want to collaborate, we don’t want to leave. We are hoping to be the first film industry that will pull Hollywood in, instead of them pulling us out.”
This may not be such a crazy idea, as Hollywood sees the amounts invested in Nollywood, plus a potential audience of over one billion Africans (155 million in Nigeria alone).
Would she like to work with Spielberg? “Oh, please, let it be!” she says, clasping her hands together hopefully.
“Please! Everything happens for a reason.” I ask her if she took Spielberg’s number at that Time dinner. “Hello? I wouldn’t be African if I didn’t, now would I?”
*Source Telegraph UK
Meeting with the Masters: Ray Lema shares secrets of his Amazing Musical Career
July 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Talk about musicians who have with great consistency flown the African flag high through music and Ray Lema will rank among the top. Born in Zaire which is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ray Lema has toured the globe with his brand of music which in his own words channels a link between traditional African Music and his modern pianist training. Despite the success and fame that he enjoys, Ray Lema has shunned the trappings of stardom as he seeks to be a better musician every day. Lema, who has collaborated with some of the biggest names in African music across generations says music is a function of one’s education and for a culture as rich as Africa, the focus should not remain on the showbiz element of music. Despite the challenges, Ray Lema says he is optimistic about the future of Africa especially with the younger generation which has more tools at their disposal to help is seeking solutions.
Ray Lema, we understand in your younger years, your aspiration was to be a Catholic Priest and you actually went to a seminary, what made you change your mind and when did you realize that music was your true calling?
I found my calling at the seminary when I went to be a priest and then I left because I was not quite comfortable with some concepts of the catholic religion.
How challenging was it for you to forge a name for yourself in music and may we know some highlights of your career?
I wasn’t in the challenge of “getting known” I was more in the challenge of being a better musician and I still am. I started as a classical pianist and then I became a rock guitar player, then I became the musical director of the National Ballet of Congo (DRC) and after I left Congo I’ve been on the roads, and if you go check my website, you can read about my biography.
Much of your music is different from the traditional Congolese and African Music, you have made it big with that, but what made you go for a different brand of music other than what most other than what most Africans of your time went for?
I think a matter of training I’ve been trained first as a classical musician and then being the director of a national ballet I had to listen and play with so many traditional musicians that the Congolese rumba didn’t really appeal to me. Today I try to make a direct link between African traditional music and my modern pianist training.
How many albums does Ray Lema have as of this moment and which of them registered the greatest success?
I’ve never been into the “star system” so it’s not a priority for me to go check which album is the most successful. But as I said before, I just feel I’m getting better as a musician. As for the number of albums same, just check on the website.
What is your appraisal of African music today and its younger generation, some have complained that there is too much vulgarity and it is lacking in message, your take on that sir.
Music is a reflection of one’s education and if we invest in educating our people we shouldn’t have that complain. The problem is actually that in modern African music we have only the show business side, and it’s not enough for cultures as rich as African cultures to be represented only by showbiz.
There are others who think too that music from earlier stars like Franco,Tabu Ley, Manu Dibango,Miriam Makeba,Franklin Boukaka , Le Grand Kalle,Fela etc had a patriotic zest and helped in promoting a strong African identity and promoting unity, do you agree?
All the musicians that you named didn’t have to sell an image through musical video clip. They were busy selling just their music, and their music was very close to the people, so it’s true that they had a stronger identity that what I hear today, because when I watch today’s video clips, they don’t really reflect musical careers, they just reflect an obedience to marketing rules.
May we know the relationship you have with some of those artists cited and may also know some of the younger generation of musicians you appreciate and frequently interact with?
I met personally and played with most of the musicians you cited. Most of them are gone, except for Manu Dibango with whom I have played extensively.
Among the younger, I play mostly with instrumentalist like Etienne Mbappe, Pépé Feli, Lokua Kanza, Bil Aka Kora, Fredy Massamba, Ballou Canta, les Tambours de Brazza with Emile Biayenda, Francky Moulet … there are a lot …
In terms of money, in terms of income, would you say music pays more today than it was a few decades back? This question is asked with issues of piracy and its negative effects in mind, how do we fight piracy so the artist can enjoy the fruits of his work?
Talking about money first, I should say Yes and no! Some “stars” today make the amount of money that could not have been dreamt of years before. And that’s where you have to make a difference between “stars” and musicians especially in Africa. Those who make money with music are the singers. The instrumentalist playing behind already have a hard time just surviving!
Talking about piracy, the first problem, talking about Africa is the weakness of the distribution system, then still in some countries the copyright is non existent or inefficient.
Piracy, with internet is a worldwide problem. Different solutions are being studied to reward the composers, but still I have to say that no satisfying solution has been found.
The continent recently celebrated fifty years of the African Union, considering that great names like you excelled in the earlier years of independence, what is your view on how the continent is evolving?
You’re misinformed! because in the 60’s I was still a teenager !!! I’m not that old !!!
In spite of all the problems we are facing in Africa, I deeply believe in my continent and more especially in the new generations coming who have more tools for analyzing our situation.
You are originally from the Congo and that country with its amazing resourcing and wonderful culture has not known peace for a long time now, how do you feel about that and in what way can music and famous musicians like you help in making things better?
Those amazing resources are the main Congolese problem because some big corporations from all over the world make their profit by keeping this situation unchanged and as a musician , I still feel very small in front of those corporations who will never give up peacefully their lucrative business. What has been happening for years in Congo is intimately linked to the global economic system, which is now totally out of control and you can see that the crisis is worldwide, so I can only hope that there will be a global change before it’s too late.
Any special projects that you are working on right now?
Yes ! my jazz quintet , with Etienne Mbappe on bass with whom I have a long time complicity.
I’m also working on new compositions to play with a string quartet , a new piano solo … tons of projects !!!
What do you consider as the legacy of Ray Lema, what would you want Africa and the world to always remember you for?
Being a universal musician deeply rooted in his African tradition !
Mr Ray Lema, thanks very much for your availability and for granting this interview, sometimes it is very difficult to get access to stars of your caliber.
Anytime. Now you know the way !Thank you,
Nigeria’s film industry: a potential gold mine?
April 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
With more than a million people, Nollywood is the country’s second largest employer
By: Rebecca Moudio*
As an entrepreneur, 32-year-old chemistry graduate Jason Njoku achieved success in a most unlikely way: he is Africa’s largest distributor of Nigerian movies, and has raked in over $8 million since 2010, when he founded the company Iroko Partners. In December 2012 he captivated an audience at a conference in Texas, United States, as he narrated the story of his success after failures in some other business ventures. Mr. Njoku currently has 71 employees in Lagos, London and New York, and often boasts that “these people are working for us in a country with 50% unemployment.” He was recently listed by Forbes, an American business magazine, as one of the top 10 young African millionaires to watch.
The Nigerian film industry is undoubtedly helping create jobs in a country with an economy that relies mainly on oil and agriculture. Over a million people are currently employed in the industry, making it the country’s largest employer after agriculture. Although Nigeria’s economy will grow by 7% this year, according to the African Development Bank, insufficient jobs for a growing youth population continue to be a huge concern.
One million new jobs
The Nigerian film industry, also known as Nollywood, produces about 50 movies per week, second only to India’s Bollywood—more than Hollywood in the United States. Although its revenues are not on par with Bollywood’s and Hollywood’s, Nollywood still generates an impressive $590 million annually. Believing that if the industry is properly managed, a million more jobs could be created in the sector, the World Bank is currently assisting the Nigerian government to create a Growth and Employment in States project to support the entertainment industry, along with other industries.
Chioma Nwagboso, a World Bank finance and private sector specialist, says that the Bank understands the job creation potential of the Nigerian film industry and the need for a “fruitful export for the country.” Without initial support from the government, Nollywood propelled itself to the position it occupies today, and a little lift could take the industry to even greater heights, she adds.
Low production costs
Koïchiro Matsuura, former director-general of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), says that “film and video production are shining examples of how cultural industries, as vehicles of identity, values and meanings, can open the door to dialogue and understanding between peoples, but also to economic growth and development.” The African film industry is not only an entertainment industry; it is also a moneymaker. Film industry analysts believe that the Nigerian cinema is the most popular on the continent.
Nollywood films have a large following in Africa and among Africans around the world. They gained popularity during the digital revolution of the early 1990s when camcorders replaced 35-millimeter film cameras, and digital systems replaced celluloid as recording devices. At the time, while some parts of the world adapted to the new digital technology, Nigeria continued to use inexpensive VHS tapes and players that were easily accessible and affordable to consumers. Eventually film technology evolved as movies made on DVDs started to generate huge demand.
On average, producing a movie in Nigeria costs between $25,000 and $70,000, says the British Broadcasting Corporation. The films are produced within a month and are profitable within two to three weeks of release. Most DVD movies easily sell more than 20,000 units, while the most successful ones sell over 200,000. But despite the success of the movies, Nollywood actors’ incomes are low. Even the most popular get paid between $1,000 and $3,000 per film. Only a few can claim higher earnings. Actress Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, one of Nollywood’s highest-paid performers, recently topped the charts at 5 million naira ($32,000) per film.
Author Patrick Ebewo attributes the popularity of Nigerian movies not only to their low unit costs, but also to their “indigenous content of issues relevant to a mass audience.” Through a combination of African storylines and Western technology, “these films document and recreate socio-political and cultural events,” states Mr. Ebewo.
But Nollywood’s popularity also means serious piracy problems. The World Bank estimates that for every legitimate copy sold, nine others are pirated. “In terms of exports, these movies are purchased and watched across the world — in other African countries, Europe, USA and the Caribbean, and almost all the exports are pirated copies,” remarks Ms. Nwagboso. She adds that because there are currently few legal channels for exporting movies, few or no returns go to the filmmakers and practically no revenue goes to the government. The current collaboration between the World Bank and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, the Nigerian Copyright Commission and the National Film and Video Censors Board is therefore necessary and urgent, many analysts believe.
Legitimate distributors also want an end to piracy. “We’re the first guys to actually legally reach out in Lagos to the production houses, the owners of the movies, and negotiate and sign deals with these guys so they can finally get remunerated for their hard efforts,” claims Mr. Njoku.
The Nigerian government and other industry players, assisted by the World Bank, hope to fund anti-piracy measures such as the source identification code, which will create “a digital distribution platform for Nigerian films.” The code will connect video clubs and retail outlets and ensure that only digitally secured content can be rented.
Euromonitor International and Reed Exhibitions, organizers of the World Travel Market, a global event for the travel industry, predicted in their November 2012 report that Africa’s projected 5.2% GDP growth rate in 2013 would be due in part to the popularity of the Nigerian film industry, which it said would also attract domestic and regional tourism. While Nigeria was hosting the industry’s top brass in March, President Goodluck Jonathan referred to Nollywood as “our shining light,” adding that “whenever I travel abroad, many of my colleagues ask me about Nollywood.” The challenge is to ensure this light shines even brighter in the future.
*Source Africa Renewal