South Africa: U.S. Rapper Kendrick Lamar Found South Africa ‘Illuminating’
July 15, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Melody Chironda*
Cape Town — Comedian Dave Chappelle had the opportunity to chat with hip-hop rapper Kendrick Lamar for Interview Magazine.
Their conversation finds them touching on the few things they have in common, including their love of hip-hop, and being black and famous. They also bonded over the experience of visiting Africa, with Lamar specifically pointing to his visit to South Africa as his “I made it” moment.
The rapper talks about how going to South Africa was an illuminating experience;
“I went to South Africa – Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg – and those were definitely the ‘I’ve arrived’ shows,” Lamar said. “Outside of the money, the success, the accolades… This is a place that we, in urban communities, never dream of. We never dream of Africa. Like, ‘Damn, this is the motherland.’ You feel it as soon as you touch down. That moment changed my whole perspective on how to convey my art.’
Lamar kicked off his DAMN tour on July 12, but he is not touring any African countries – yet.
You can read the full interview here…
Nigeria: Why I Titled My Song Fela Kuti – Wyclef Jean
July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Samuel Abulude*
Lagos — Haitian rapper, Wyclef Jean, formerly of the Fugees has never hidden his love and respect for the afrobeat Legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He released a single titled Fela Kuti.
The singer said he named his new single ‘Fela Kuti’ because he wants young ones to know about the legendary progenitor of Afrobeat. Wyclef Jean’s new song ‘Fela Kuti’ is the first single off his forthcoming album.
The musician and actor also said he shares many similarities with the late Fela Kuti – who died twenty years ago. “I decided to name it Fela Kuti because for me, I feel like we are thinking of Bob Marley, we give a lot of people from our past props, so when the kids hear Fela Kuti, I really want them to Google it,” he said.
“Fela Kuti studied jazz in England. Wyclef studied jazz at Vailsburg High School. Fela Kuti then went back to his country and tried to help his country by running for president. Wyclef, you know, did the same thing.
Then, Fela, through all his obstacles and all that, his music is what pillared him right back to the top. He understood that the strongest way to help politically was to make sure the music was banging. So for me, the same way kids can have songs called “Wyclef Jean” that are influenced by me, I want kids to know who Fela is and what he means.”
Jean’s ‘Fela Kuti’ was produced by Supah Mario who was responsible for the production of Young Thug’s ‘Wyclef Jean’. The former Fugees star will release ‘Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee’ on September 15.
Nigeria: Why I Played Strong Sex Scenes in My Latest Film – Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde
June 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Jayne Augoye*
Leading actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, has returned to Nollywood. After a three-year hiatus, the 39-year-old is lined up to debut “Alter Ego” alongside Wole Ojo and Jide Kosoko.
PREMIUM TIMES had an exclusive interview with the award-winning actress who has appeared in over 300 films. Omotola opens up about her career, marriage and playing a controversial character inAlter Ego.
PT: You went off the scene for three years. Was this deliberate?
Omotola: Yes it was. I knew I was going to embark on a break so I starred in a few movies, which have not been released. I shot Blood on the Lagoon with Teco Benson, and another one in London called Amina, which are yet to be released. I got to that point when I felt like nothing was challenging me anymore and I began to feel like my standard was dropping. I went through that period and I knew I needed to stay away and wait for Nollywood to catch up with some of our ideas.
PT: Do you think starring in Chineze Anyaene’s 2010 movie, Ije, in the United States, sort of placed you on a pedestal?
Omotola: Well, I knew cinema movies were the next step for me. After starring in Ije I knew that the industry was not moving fast enough and I knew the only way out for me was to make that sacrifice and just dropout. So I starred in movies that I thought could hold forth for me while I concentrate on other things like building my business. Coming back was hard for me because I was aiming for that movie that would challenge. I was looking for something as strong as or better than Mortal Inheritance. I knew I had to reset my mindset, I was looking for something that would excite me the same way Mortal Inheritance did. I got a lot of scripts and none of them filled that gap. I could have taken up some of them for the sake of money. But I have gone past that point.
Omotola in a scene of Alter Ego
PT: Your fans can’t stop talking about your sex scenes in Alter Ego. Was your husband comfortable with you playing the role?
Omotola: Some of the sex scenes in Alter Ego were downplayed because I’m married. But I won’t play the sex scenes if it wasn’t necessary to be included in the film. I know by starring in this movie that my fans would either hate me or love me forever. While shooting the film, I knew I was doing something quite risky. There are several ways to shoot a sex scene tastefully. I’m all for playing a sex scene convincingly and my husband knows this. I tell my husband, “You know what darling, you married an actor”; and secondly, he is my biggest fan. I tell him, “Do you want me to be great or do you just want me to be good?” He will say, “I want you to be great, sparklingly great”. Then I’ll say, “Ehen, we go love o” and he’s fine with it. He understands but just like every other human being and the professional that he is, he too wants to be convinced that I played a sex scene because it was necessary. I know when he watches movies sometimes he would say, “Did they have to kiss if they were not going to kiss well?”
PT: You got pretty raunchy with your co-stars in your latest movie, Alter Ego. Are you ready for viewer’s criticisms?
Omotola: When I wasn’t even confident, I starred in a movie called a prostitute, which was released 22 years ago. If I didn’t die then, is it now? I’m ready.
PT: Playing a believable sex scene would mean going extra lengths. Do you think Nigerians will embrace such films?
Omotola: You don’t even have to “chop” somebody’s mouth if you don’t want to. If the scene is not about you showing real mad crazy love then you can’t now be showing mouth to mouth kissing or removing of clothes. In Nigerian movies, we have downplayed chemistry. I hope we can bring that back. Back in the day when I shot Mortal Inheritance in 1995, I had to spend time with my co-star, Fred Amata. He was already a renowned director and in those days, directors were revered. So imagine, my director who had directed me in a movie prior now acting as my lover. I was really afraid but we broke the ice by spending time with each other. So, he demystified himself and we had chemistry and you could tell. So, I’m hoping all of this returns to Nigerian movies. So, as professionals, we need to ask ourselves if it is necessary for a movie to have a sex scene and when it is, it should be done well.
Omotola acting a sex scene in the movie Alter Ego
PT: With regards to Alter Ego, how were you able to build some on-screen chemistry with your co-star, Wole Ojo?
Omotola: I was working with Wole Ojo for the first time, so we had to spend time together and we played very rough. I understand the power of being friends with your love interest in a movie so we became like a couple. We ate together and basically just broke down the walls to make sure we were both comfortable with each other and have each other’s backs and interest at heart. So, it spilled into the movie without you even noticing.
PT: Alter Ego appears to be the first Nollywood movie to truly address Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Do you think it would appeal to the Nigerian Nollywood audience?
Omotola: We don’t talk about PTS that much in Nigeria, so, when you see someone that is mentally traumatised, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “this person is crazy!”. We don’t talk about depression in Nigeria. We don’t talk about how it affects children, especially those that have been abused.
When you ask a lot of adults, you might find out that some people have been abused as children. And if we want to tell ourselves the truth, how many of us were actually able to tell our parents about this?
In Africa, it’s always a taboo to say, “uncle, somebody touched me”. They will practically ask you one million questions. “What did you say to him? How were you sitting? What were you wearing?” As if it’s your fault, you become the victim. Alter Ego sets out to address how sexual abuse affects victims as kids and as adults.
PT: Why were you drawn to Alter Ego?
Omotola: It’s the soul of the movie. It must come quickly in a movie and must also be underlining throughout the film. Some come naturally while some don’t. The movie got me on time because I switch very quickly; so if I read through the first 10 pages of a movie script and I don’t get the story, I get bored. I loved the film from the beginning but it was a diamond in the rough. I knew what was lacking in it. So, I called the director and told him we will have to tear the script apart and rebuild it and he gave me his nod. It takes a big mind to shoot Alter Ego.
PT: You once hinted of plans to build a film village in Badagry in conjunction with your husband. Will it be ready anytime soon?
Omotola: I hope it will be ready next year hopefully. I also began another project on Mobolaji Bank Anthony,Lagos, which is supposed to be annex of the film village first called, Double Doors. So, these are some of the things I was busy putting together when I went off the scene. I have always said that what we need in Nollywood is infrastructure. So, I needed to start building infrastructure.
PT: Do you think the Buhari administration has done enough for Nollywood?
Omotola: I think this government needs to wake up. The sad part is that they go around the world and they brag about Nollywood. That’s why I don’t understand how to brag about something you are not helping enough. They need to understand that Nollywood in itself is a force and it should have its own ministry. We have a problem in Nigeria which is that we are afraid to allow ourselves be great. So, instead of allowing someone who knows his or her onions do the job we put stumbling blocks because of “see finish”. But if a white person comes along, we will support him or her. We need to start supportting ourselves. You will be amazed to know that Nollywood is the second (highest) employer of labour in Nigeria after agriculture. I think if they want to be sincere they will say Nollywood is number one. Why don’t we forget our immediate petty jealousy and begin to invest in this industry?
Omotola: I starred in one a long time ago titled No Rival and Oyato. I might be shooting one soon. It’s not a fully Yoruba film; it’s a collaboration. I’m currently reading the script.
Omotola acting in a scene in the movie Alter Ego
PT: How have you managed to reinvent yourself year in year out?
Omotola: I think it’s knowing what matters and being authentic and hoping that your authentic self makes sense. I am blessed that from a very tender age I was able to find God and my Christian values have shaped me. The real me is real; “I no dey form, I no dey do pass myself and what you see with me is what you get.” Somewhere along the line in my career, I deviated because of the distraction of money. Our brothers that were bringing so much unnecessary money into the industry and they were the ones dictating the pace. Thank God that I was able to find my core self back.
PT: Did marrying early boost your career?
Omotola : Absolutely. It’s one of the biggest blessings of my life because I look back now and I am like if I wasn’t married then, will I be married now? I can understand that as a celebrity it is hard, really hard, to get people who really love you for who you are and not because of the image of you that they have in mind. So, I can understand what some of my colleagues are going through because it’s not easy. Having said that, marrying my friend, a very wonderful, powerful man, who is confident of himself, has helped me. It has allowed me have that stability and be able to go out and fly.
PT: What’s happening to your music career?
Omosexy : I want to get back to music so bad and I am coming out viciously and it’s not like I care about what people were saying when I launched my music career.
I hope we can get to that place where we can find a balance. But, I want to do music in such a way that I can be in concert like Barbra Streisand. I want to fashion my career like hers I won’t be a Tiwa Savage because music is her career. So, I can’t compete with her because of movies; but I’ve told people in the past that I almost love music more than movies. That is why I love to express myself a lot in music. I want to build my own place and be in concert and have people come watch me. That’s the way I think I’ll be able to do music.
PT: On a final note, will your son produce your songs?
Omosexy : I would love him to produce me but we fight a lot and I complained a lot about that. But, I now understand that he is very finicky. He knows exactly and I don’t know if we can ever work together because we are both very headstrong. I will love to work with him because he is a very fantastic producer. Anyone who has met him says the same thing and he is the future and I’m not saying this because he is my son. Visit his website and check out his music.
Why East Africa Is Hooked On Telenovelas
June 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
By EYDER PERALTA*
Here’s a classic scene from a telenovela.
It’s the funeral of a very rich man whose heirs are battling over his fortune. An indignant woman says to a female guest: “You are disrupting the service. Who else would you be saving this seat for other than Richard Juma’s second wife?”
Death, family feuds, mayhem over money — they’re part of the plot in one of Kenya’s most successful telenovelas, Lies That Bind (see sample in video below).
But many of the telenovelas on East African airwaves aren’t locally produced. They’re imported from Latin America and dubbed into local languages. And they’re booming. Most cable companies have at least one telenovela channel. Billboards promote them. You can see them on TV sets in restaurants and government offices.
One reason for the popularity of the Latin American telenovelas is Africa’s economic divide, says Pascal Koroso of Dubbing Africa, whose company started a few years ago with a staff of two dubbing soap operas and now has 250 workers who are busy 24 hours a day.
Some Africans are making a ton of money right now, but the vast majority are still poor — and telenovelas are aspirational, Koroso explains.
“Everybody aspires to be rich,” he says. “Everybody aspires to move into the middle class. So these sorts of stories resonate in terms of people seeing [a lifestyle] that is possible for them.”
“The themes are things that Africans identify with a lot,” he says. “You know, the corrupt politician who rigged an election, your marriage is having a rough time.”
“These [programs] resonate in countries that have undergone upheaval,” says Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, a communications professor who studies telenovelas at the University of Georgia. The storytelling is all about struggles and suffering, she says. And that’s not just something that happens in Latin America.
Acosta-Alzuru has found that the export of telenovelas works in a cycle. First they’re dubbed in a local language. As countries start coming to terms with their own struggles, they produce their own.
Dorothy Ghettuba, who produced Lies that Bind, has been watching Mexican soaps since she was a kid. At her boarding school, the girls would fill a TV room to watch the Mexican telenovela Rosa Salvaje — Spanish for ‘Wild Rose.” One time there were so many of them sitting against a wall, that the wall tumbled.
“One girl had her leg broken,” Ghettuba says. “She went to the hospital saying, ‘Damn, I’m missing the soap series.’ ”
As a storyteller now, she realizes Wild Rose struck a chord with Kenyan viewers because of the interplay between rural and urban cultures.
“A girl comes from the village and she gets a job as a nanny or housemaid in a big mansion … She’s pretty, and the father of the house sees her,” she says.
Bottom line, she says, is that the Latin American telenovelas work in Africa because they feel authentic.
Nigeria: America’s Kirk Franklin Headlines Gospel Concert “Fearless” in Lagos
June 19, 2017 | 0 Comments
America’s Kirk Franklin and World renowned gospel artiste will headline “FEARLESS,” a gospel musical concert scheduled to hold on August 13 in Lagos.
Franklin, who is also a choir director and author, is known for leading urban contemporary gospel choirs such as The Family, God’s Property and One Nation Crew (1NC), and has won multiple awards, including 12 Grammy Awards.
He is billed to perform alongside Nigeria’s multi-talented gospel artiste, Tim Godfrey and his Xtreme crew at the Rock Cathedral of the House On The Rock in Lagos.
Pastor Paul Adefarasin, the Senior Pastor of House On The Rock Churches who spoke on the concert said, “Tim Godfrey is a son and one of the icons raising the banner of Jesus using the tool of music.
“We are excited to be part of an historic concert hosting Kirk Franklin at The Rock Cathedral”
One man, four wives: The new hit reality TV show
June 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
A new hit reality TV show has restarted a debate over the traditional practice of polygamy in South Africa.
Musa Mseleku says he wants to change people’s perceptions of polygamy. And he’s getting some help – from his four wives.
The 43-year-old property developer, along with his wives and their 10 children, are the stars of a new reality show called Uthando Nes’thembu, which translates as “Love and Polygamy”.
The series, which premiered 19 May, is consistently a top trending topic on Twitter in South Africa, with thousands of tweets debating the place of this traditional set-up in modern society.
The show is filmed at the Mselekus’ rural homestead near Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast. The four wives each have their own house but share the land.
“One of the biggest misconceptions [about] polygamous lifestyles is that it is a culture which seeks to oppress women,” Mr Mseleku tells BBC Trending radio. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to do the show, to allow people to see that it’s not like that in our case. I want to show men that you can be in a polygamous relationship and also be a considerate husband.”
However, not everyone agrees. While several people expressed their appreciation for the show, some feel that the lifestyle is indeed restrictive.
Some tweeters, mostly female, picked up on an episode where Mseleku insisted on a 17:00 curfew for his wives. They also have to ask his permission if they want to hang out with their friends or drink alcohol.
“I believe that in each and every house, especially us as South Africans, we believe your husband is like your god,” Thobile Mseleku, Musa’s fourth wife, tells BBC Trending, “So you can’t just do what you wish, unless he gives you his blessing.”
Musa Mseleku adds that he also has restrictions imposed on him. He has to be home an hour earlier than his wives, he says, “so I can prepare for them all!”
Thobile and Musa have been married for nine years. When she met him, he already had two other wives, so she says that she knew what she was getting into. Her grandparents had also been part of a polygamous family.
She says that the four wives – the others are Busisiwe MaCele, Nokukhanya MaYeni and Mbali MaNgwabe – are like sisters and rely on each other for advice and help.
But the show, which explores how the four Mrs Mselekus balance their daily routine, careers (which include business and government jobs), household commitments and parenting duties, also shows the tensions within the family.
“Our biggest source of conflict is time,” Thobile Mseleku says. “It can be frustrating if we’re all going to go out together and one is ready and you have to wait for one of the other wives.”
Time, adds Musa, is something he thinks about a lot.
“I try to make sure that I divide my time equally between the women and my children.”
In South Africa, polygamy – while not adopted by the majority of people – is not illegal, nor specific to a particular religion. It is most common among the Zulu ethnic group, and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, himself a Zulu, has three wives.
Ndela Ntshangase, a lecturer in the school of Zulu studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, says that the polygamous unions in South Africa began to wane in the 19th century when white missionaries preached that conversion to Christianity entailed divorcing one’s “extra” wives.
“British colonisers pushed [monogamy] down the throats of black people through taxes that rose for each wife, and land allocations with insufficient space for polygamous family units,” Ntshangase says.
But can it work both ways? Would Musa Mseleku be OK with one of his wives taking another husband?
“No way,” he laughs, “I would die!”
Thobile says her husband’s attitude doesn’t bother her.
“We chose this life. We chose him and him alone.”
So is there room for a fifth wife?
“We are exploring that on the show,” Musa says, “so keep tuned in.”
Nigeria: Wizkid’s ‘Come Closer’ Video Hits Over a Million Views in 24 Hours
April 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Idoko Salihu*
Barely 24 hours after releasing the official music video for his international collaboration dubbed “Come Closer” featuring Canadian rapper, Drake, the clip has amassed over 1 million YouTube views.
The tropical/dancehall inspired single which leaked a while ago as “Hush Up The Silence” premiered on OVO Sound Radio on Apple Music.
Though Drake’s absence in the video on Friday created mixed reactions shortly after it was released, the video still managed to garner a record breaking number of views.
Reacting to the banters on Twitter over Drake’s absence, the “Daddy Yo” crooner took to his Twitter account to clear the air, stating that there was no bad blood between them.
“Had a family emergency during one dance shoot and Drake was on tour when we did closer. No bad blood..One Love still”, he said.
Obviously happy about the set record, Wizkid took to his Instagram page to make a post and captioned it thus “Africa! #ComeCloser link in bio! #1mviewsin1day @vevo”.
A post shared by Wizkid (@wizkidayo) on Apr 7, 2017 at 5:47pm PDT
The Starboy Music Worldwide act who stole the shine in 2016 has continued on the same path in 2017 with already impressive collaborations and anticipated projects ahead.
“Come Closer” adds to the number of tracks he has done with the prolific Canadian rapper with “One Dance” being one of their most successful collaborations still.
The video is currently at 1,498,570 views as at the time of this report.
Africa: Moreira Chonguica and Manu Dibango Release an Album M&M
April 9, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Socrates Mbamalu*
When two seasoned African jazz musicians come together to play music, what you end up getting is an unforgettable musical experience. Mozambican saxophonist, Moreira Chonguiça collaborated with Cameroonian jazz maestro Manu Dibango in a 10 track album that took five years of discussions. The album titled M & M was released at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival on the 31st of March. The songs are a remarkable mix of well known old jazz standards with an African twist.
South Africa hosted the 18th Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which ran from the 31st of March to the 1st of April, graced by music legends such as Manu Dibango known as the ‘Lion of Africa’, Moreira Chonguica, Kamasi Washington, Judith Sephuma and a host of other jazz stars.
According to a press statement, the two African saxophonists began discussing a list of songs in February 2015. In March 2015, Moreira flew to Paris to rehearse with Dibango’s band comprising of – Cameroonians, Jacques Conti Bilong on drums, Guy Nwongang on percussion, Justin Bowen on piano-keyboards and Guy Nsangué Akwa on bass guitar and Valérie Belinga on vocals. From France, Patrick Marie-Magdelaine on guitar, Isabel Gonzalez on vocals and two-time Grammy award-winner – for his work on Zawinal Syndicate – Paco Séry on sanza (more commonly known as the mbira).
Commenting on the 10 track album, the 83 year-old Dibango said, “The idea and perseverance for this album came from Moreira! We have been friends and collaborating for about 15 years. It is a very nice album, for which I took great pleasure in writing the arrangements, an African re-reading of the music made in the USA: the return of the “boat” on African soil”.
“I hope that those who listen to it will take as much pleasure as we did when it was recorded in Paris. We had sought, Moreira and myself, an atmosphere of peace and serenity where only music is the Master. So we invite you to listen, dance and vibrate body and soul,” Dibango added.
Commenting on the latest project, Moreira said in a statement, “I am honoured and humbled by the opportunity and circumstance created by “Papa Manu” to express, experiment, sometimes in a very disruptive manner, the rhythms and grooves that I have never heard; the chords and melodies that I never thought I would record; the meals, talks and jokes that we shared whilst building this historical storm”.
The album was recorded at Ferber Studios in Paris, France under engineer Guillaume DuJardin and was mastered at Milestone Studios in Cape Town, South Africa by Murray Anderson.
Chonguiça produced the album, he performs on alto and soprano saxophone and the arrangements with the exception of Track 1 and 10 are by Dibango who performs on the vibraphone and saxophones.
The songs on the 10 track album include, “Blues for Africa”, “Tutu”- a tribute to Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, Desmond Tutu, “Unga Hlupheki Nkata” – a soft romantic ballad, “Night and Day”, and “Nonto Sangoma”.
Nigeria: Singer Mo Adeniran Wins the Voice UK
April 5, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mo Adeniran, 21-year-old Nigerian singer, has emerged the winner of the 2017 edition of The Voice, United Kingdom.
“After months of stellar performances, battle rounds and public votes, Mo Adeniran was crowned the winner of The Voice UK during Sunday night’s live final,” according to Dailmail UK.
Flabbergasted as the result was announced, Adeniran looked on in shock whilst his mentor, singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson, immediately burst into tears of happiness.
Adeniran who worked night shifts at a hotel prior to the show, came to the show with his best friend, Max Vickers, who made it through to the semi-finals.
He beat other contestants with his rendition of Iron Sky which had the judges turning their chairs. His victory left him in shock while his mentor, Hudson, burst into tears of joy.
Adeniran who scooped the title with winning performances of Paolo Nutini’s Iron Sky and Unsteady by X Ambassador looked stunned as host Emma Willis announced his name.
He thanked his mentor, Hudson, for her support.
“An amazing thank you to the most phenomenal person I have ever met, thank you Jennifer,” he said.
Adeniran’s stirring performance of “Unsteady” had Hudson struggling to contain her emotions.
Blinking back tears, she told him: “Mo, we feel your heart.
He won praise from all the coaches, with Gavin Rossdale gushing: “You have the voice of a generation.”
The star was then placed back into social services and his turbulent family life led him to go off the rails as a teen.
This came to a head when Mo lost his close pal in 2015 after he died from a drug overdose.
Mike Carter, who was one of Mo’s band mates, battled with an addiction to painkillers which he was taking for chronic back pain.
Tragically, Mo suffered another personal loss when his friends from the band Viola Beach died in a car crash last year.
The band were to play at a tribute concert for Mike before the accident in Sweden which killed Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe, and Jack Dakin.
Adeniran was congratulated by his fellow contestants, Jamie Miller and duo, Into The Arkas as confetti fell on the stage.
His mentor, Hudson, who could not control her tears, tweeted her delight at his win.
She wrote: “Now that I’m kinda done crying … .OMG!!!!!! CONGRATS @imjustcalledmo #Teamjhud #TheVoiceUk”.
He is now headed to the studio to record his winner’s EP.
Africa: Opio – the Ugandan Writing Jokes for Trevor Noah and the Daily Show
April 3, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Daniel K. Kalinaki*
Joseph Opio has always been serious about comedy. So serious, in fact, that he walked away from a promising newspaper job in Kampala, borrowed a large sum of money, and went to America to try and make people laugh.
Some people end up in comedy the way a drunkard stumbles into a previously unknown tavern on his way home. Others linger in comedy, waiting for an opportunity to move on to acting or a proper job. For Opio, comedy was the journey and the destination.
We meet in a small busy restaurant in mid-town Manhattan after a live recording of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Opio’s fortunes are closely hitched to the South Africa-born comedian’s wagon but he has laced his bootstraps himself.
The making of Opio
He had been one of the best A-Level students in Uganda and, after reading a law degree Opio had landed a job with a major audit firm in Kampala. But the life of stuffy suits did not sound appealing and he had been drawn to comedy in his early teens when he watched Bernie Mac and ‘The Original Kings of Comedy’.
He had dabbled in sports journalism at the New Vision newspaper in Kampala where he landed a sub-editing job at 17 while still a student, but the newspaper world, away from the sports pages, was full of grim news stories.
“Instead of complaining I decided to vent using comedy,” says Opio. The result was a comedy show, LOL Uganda, on Urban TV, a small station in Kampala, which Opio wrote, edited, directed, produced and presented.
Although only in his 20s and despite the show being only mildly popular on a small, start-up station, Opio quickly became, he says, the highest-paid television presenter in the country.
But it was not enough.
“Most people want to be the biggest fish in the small pond,” he says, “and the problem with [many] Ugandans is thinking small.”
His first big break
Opio’s first break came during a visit to South Africa to attend a reception for the Late Night Show comedy. He met the right people and made such an impression with his jokes during the chitchat that he was invited back to work on the South African comedy circuit. Within a month of moving to South Africa he had become the first foreigner to win the Nando’s Showdown, a stand-up comedy face-off in Johannesburg.
Opio was tempted to lay down roots and try to make a comedy career in Johannesburg but he learnt that the SA show he had written some jokes for on his earlier visit had been nominated for an international Emmy and its host, Trevor Noah, had moved to America to try his luck on a bigger stage.
Coming to America
Never short of confidence, Opio returned to Uganda, worked on a screenplay, looked for money and applied for a visa to America. Soon after, armed with a fistful of borrowed dollars and a suitcase of dreams, Opio landed in New York.
They had never met but Noah had heard about Opio in the SA comedy circuit and they hit it off immediately, chatting from 8pm to 3am.
A few months later, Noah was handed The Daily Show, replacing Jon Stewart. Although Noah had, by that time, spent six years playing the stand-up circuit in America, it was a gamble by Comedy Central to put a foreign comedian with a distinctive accent (and who speaks six languages) in one of the most coveted late-night TV seats.
To add to the complexity, Noah decided to give the show a more global appeal, embracing diversity and bringing in writers who knew about American issues, but also about the world. Opio was hired as one of the writers.
What it is means for Opio
His impact was almost immediate, lampooning Donald Trump, then a long shot in the Republican primaries, as potentially America’s first African president in the mould of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin – but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
Nightly ratings dropped as American audiences struggled to come to terms with the exotic humour and accents on the show. Fortuitously, Trump would become the gift that kept on giving and as he gained momentum in the presidential race, so did the show in the nightly ratings.
It has more non-white viewers and its overall viewership has become younger and more diverse, as it spreads out across platforms and geographical boundaries.
As the show rises, so have Opio’s fortunes; he paid off the loan within weeks of being hired and he describes living in Manhattan, where he rents an apartment, as “mind-blowing”.
We find a tiny table in the crowded restaurant and Opio orders a cappuccino. I order a draught beer. It is a popular pit stop for the workers on the show including Noah (he doesn’t show this evening) and Opio points out some of his fellow writers.
“Everyone at work has an Emmy,” he says, looking around the dimly-lit bar.
“Except the new guys.” It can only be a matter of time.
New developments and the future
Opio and his fellow writers on The Daily Show have been nominated for the 68th annual Writer’s Guild of America awards next month in the comedy category. Just joining the Guild is an achievement in itself, Opio says, pointing out that it has 300 members while the National Football League has 3,000 players.
“There is a higher statistical chance of joining the NFL than the Writer’s Guild.”
It is a long way from Kampala to Manhattan but Opio’s journey might still have some miles in it, from the east coast to Hollywood, with dreams of writing movies, screenplays and sitcoms. It is a journey with many stops and a constant loop of challenging oneself.
“That’s how you know that you are growing – when you look back at things you did a few months ago and you are embarrassed.”
Does he not worry about failing? About the career he turned his back to?
“If I can go and perform at the same club as Chris Rock and I am not laughed out of the place then I’ll take my chances,” he says. “If you are rejected at Barcelona you can always go back to Mamelodi Sundowns,” he adds in a football reference to the Spanish side and a smaller club in South Africa.
“My family has always been proud of me,” he adds suddenly, with introspection. “Being good in school helped, that’s probably why I have no self-doubt – it is something I’ve never had.”
He speaks a lot, and quickly, his mouth a wrestling arena between an American and a thick Ugandan accent. I ask if the Ugandan accent makes it easier for him to write jokes rather than perform them in stand-up comedy clubs.
“There are only two things Uganda has given me,” he says bursting out with laughter, “a bad accent and trouble at immigration…”
“Seriously though,” he adds, “As a Ugandan you have to fly just to get what an American gets by just walking. You already have an accent, so you have to make sense when you speak.”
I pick up the tab and we walk out into the crisp autumn night. We shake hands and I watch Opio as he walks towards the bright lights of mid-town Manhattan. It is not Fifth Avenue and there is no walking cane by his side but you can hear it in his accent when he talks; Joseph Opio is a Ugandan in New York. He’s hungry, ambitious and funny as hell.
Joseph Opio is a Ugandan now based in New York. He is the former host of the political satire talk show LOL Uganda since 2014.
Opio and his fellow writers on The Daily Show have been nominated for the 68th annual Writer’s Guild of America awards in February in the comedy category.
In November 2014, Opio met Noah at the Comedy Cellar in New York, a popular venue for comedians trying to get into the business.
Opio’s first break came during a visit to South Africa to attend a reception for the Late Night Show comedy.
Star studded Kgalagadi Soul to tour SADC for workshops and performances
March 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
Kgalagadi Soul is a collaboration of three top artists – Mumba Yachi of Zambia, Sereetsi from Botswana and Austebza a South African. The trio has acquired a wealth of experience wowing their fans all over the world on big and small stages. Kgalagadi Soul will present a rich repertoire drawn from the trio’s individual projects using one international band comprising musicians from Congo (Nseka Bienvenu – guitar), South Africa (Bokang Kupa – keyboards), Zimbabwe (Leroy Nyoni – drums) as well as the USA (Terry Lewis – saxophone) that makes the tour a strong collaborative affair.
Kgalagadi Soul will be doing workshops during the tour in cities they will be performing at to share their knowledge with young and aspiring musicians. The one-day workshops will be structured in this way:
Sereetsi whose 83 page four string folk guitar instructional book/CD has been approved by Botswana Education Ministry to be taught in schools, will be leading the workshops. He will be teaching the technique of playing a modern guitar on four strings. A tradition originally used by herdboys on a self-made tin guitar.
Mumba Yachi will be sharing his experiences in the international music business scene.
Austebza will also share her experiences as a performer, a session musician and a bandleader as a woman in the tough music industry.
MUMBA YACHI is a folk musician born in Mokambo, a border town with the DRC Congo. He developed interest in music at a tender age while listening to his mother singing in a church choir and his father playing his various records of African musicians
Mumba Yachi seriously involved with music after spending just one day at the university. He quit university to follow his music call. He has been active on the music scene since 2009 and has released four albums – I am Lenshina (1st May 2015), Mongu Rice (2013), Mokambo (2012) and Inspire Me (2010).
Mumba Yachi has won several awards in the Zambian music scene
including Best Traditional Album for his Mokambo album and Best Live Recording Album for I am Lenshina album. He has become a household name in Zambia and is considered the leading voice in traditional/folk music of his generation. He is also a UN Ambassador for Gender Equality.
He has already collaborated and shared the stage with a number of well known artists such as Femi Kuti, Mokoomba, Hugh Masekela, Joss Stone, Mama Sibongile Khumalo and Hope Masike. He recently shared the stage with Sereetsi and the Natives and Jonathan Butler in Gaborone.
SEREETSI has just won four awards out five nominations at the BOMU Awards 2016. He is considered a pioneer on the cultural landscape in Botswana. His 83 page guitar instructional book/CD on the local folk guitar tradition entitled The Solo Four String Guitar of Botswana is a groundbreaking first. He continues to present workshops on the folk guitar tradition in Botswana and internationally. His book has been assessed and approved for use in schools by Botswana’s education ministry.
Only over a year after the release of his debut album, Four String Confessions, the act has already shared stages with established names like Jonathan Butler, Oliver Mtukudzi, Caiphus Semenya, Jaziel Brothers, Letta Mbulu and McCoy Mrubata. Sereetsi is the first Botswana act to embark on a month-long tour of South African (2016).
Sereetsi has also played Chicago, USA, Planeta World Music Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, the Mahika Mahikeng Jazz festival for two years in succession, Kgalagadi Jazz Festival and the Cultural Calabash Fest in Durban, South Africa. This is in addition to a busy festival and corporate gig schedule in Botswana. Among festivals Sereetsi & the Natives has played in Botswana are the Maun International Arts Festival, The Hamptons International Jazz Festival, Son of the Soil and the President’s Concert.
Born in Krugersdorp and bred between Boons and Mafikeng, AUSTEBZA is a vibrant, energetic, incredible musician. She started her music career after her parents couldn’t afford to pay her university fees, but she has always been involved in music throughout her middle and high school. She then went to join the music department at the Mmabana Cultural Centre in Mafikeng, where she learned how to play the acoustic guitar.
Austebza has just landed the musical directorship of Feather Awards 2016. She has also worked with various artists such as HHP, Gang of Instrumentals, Maxhoba., Wanda Baloyi, Swazi Dlamini, KB Motsilenyane. While working with these top musicians, Austebza managed to travel Nigeria, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, USA, Germany, Namibia, Jamaica.
Her debut album, Make a Difference has been well received. She is constantly performing with her band around South Africa.
The Kgalagadi Soul Tour 2017 is supported by an ANT Funding Grant from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
30 March – Pretoria – African Chef – Performance
31 March – Pretoria – Bentley’s Country Lodge
04 April – Gaborone – Maitisong Festival – Workshops and performance
05 April – Pretoria – Solomon Mahlangu Arts Centre
13 April – Kuruman – Kgalagadi Jazz Festival – Workshops
15 April – Kuruman – Kgalagadi Jazz Festival – Performance
02 May – Johannesburg – Wits School of Arts – Workshops
03 May – Pretoria – Tshwane School of Music – Workshops
17 May – Durban – UKZN Jazz Centre – Performance & workshops
More shows to be confirmed.
For Kgalagadi Soul Bookings and Media enquiries:
The sound of politics: Congolese pop music
January 16, 2017 | 0 Comments
An oddly symbiotic relationship between some of Africa’s best singers and worst politicians
IN THE Democratic Republic of Congo there are three ways to make it big, says Lexxus Legal, a rapper (pictured). Standing in his house in Kinshasa, the capital, underneath a mural of Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, he lists them. First, you can become a politician. Second, you can join the army (“but you need to be at the top: a general, not a footsoldier”). Finally, you can set up a church. “That is what you call having power,” he says. Noticeably, he rules out his own profession. “The musicians in this country are beggars,” he says. “They are obliged to sing and dance to please politicians and businessmen. If you sing as I do, controversially, you really have no chance.”
Music is probably Congo’s most influential export, though nowhere near as lucrative as copper or gold. Whereas in the West the country’s name inspires pictures of child soldiers fighting bloody battles, in most of Africa it is associated with “rumba Lingala” (Lingala is the language of the Kinshasa street). This upbeat music has become genuinely pan-African in the 60 years since Congolese musicians were first inspired by Cubans. It can now be heard from Abidjan to Dar es Salaam; in Congo, its home, it is practically a religion.
Alas, like the country itself, Congolese music is blighted by corruption. Since Congo has few producers or studios, only a tiny market for sales and a population who almost all live on a few dollars a day, Congolese musicians have to survive from patronage, like Mozart in 18th-century Vienna but with even more flamboyant clothes.
The politicians are happy with this arrangement. In a country where almost nobody reads newspapers and everyone has a radio, music is the easiest way for them to reach potential supporters. Music and politics in Congo are thus entwined. And with an election looming in 2017, the relationship will only grow closer.
On a plump sofa, Tshala Muana, a singer, explains how she began as a dancer in the 1970s. Under Congo’s then dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, she wasn’t allowed to sing. As part of his effort to create a single national identity (a policy he called authenticité), songs in Lingala were favoured and those in other local languages—such as Tshiluba, in which Ms Muana sings—were discouraged. Her luck turned in 1997, when Mobutu fell and was replaced by Laurent Kabila. He invited Ms Muana, who had moved to West Africa, back to Kinshasa. “Musicians should live in their own country,” she recounts him telling her. “So he became my sponsor.”
Now, Ms Muana sings for his son, Joseph Kabila, who became president in 2001 when his father was assassinated. Her songs in Lingala and French include such hits as “Votez Joseph Kabila” and “Kabila tres fort”. When she met your correspondent, a few days before the end of Mr Kabila’s second (and supposedly final) term in office, many wealthy residents had fled, fearing riots. Ms Muana says she isn’t worried by her association with the president. “I may sing for the president, but even the opposition listen to my songs at their rallies,” she says, nonchalantly.
And indeed, the expectation that musicians will be mercenary is universal. On radio stations across Congo, it is common to hear the names of politicians punctuating songs. This is known as “Libanga” (literally, “small stone”, of the sort that a child might throw to attract attention). It is not done out of ideological conviction. Werrason, one of Congo’s most famous musicians, once produced a song in which he named 110 different people, many of whom would have paid for the privilege. Only breweries and mobile-phone companies, with their big marketing budgets, can match politicians’ largesse.
Does it matter that Congo’s music, its biggest cultural export, is polluted by politics? David Van Reybrouck, the author of an excellent history of Congo, says close ties have “always existed between music and politics”. The country’s first hit was the song “Independence Cha-Cha”, which was first performed in January 1960, a few months before Congo won independence from Belgium.
Independence cha-cha declared
Oh Freedom cha-cha we’ve conquered
At the Round Table they won
Oh Liberty cha-cha we’ve conquered!
Mobutuism was supported by Franco Luambo, one of the original rumba stars. Even the launch of the Congolese franc, which replaced the hyperinflated zaire in 1997, was supported by a musical propaganda campaign.
Yet Mr Legal, who raps in French about war and corruption, thinks it is a problem. “Everything that we Congolese do is driven by music,” he says. “But in music it is difficult to explain 10,000 dead people. We keep dancing instead of answering the real questions.” Congolese living abroad tend to agree. Before the elections of 2006 and 2011, musicians associated with the government were boycotted by Congolese in Europe. Werrason was assaulted twice in restaurants in Brussels and Paris because of his support for Mr Kabila.
This year, Congo is meant to hold elections to replace Mr Kabila, under a deal struck with the opposition on New Year’s Eve. Already, music naming politicians is filling the airwaves on Kinshasa’s Lingala radio stations. “It is nothing but politics now,” says Ms Muana. If Mr Kabila does indeed step down, the ensuing rush for jobs will spark a festival of patronage. Sadly, few think Mr Kabila, who has already overstayed his mandate, plans to give up the job. And after 16 years in which their lives have not improved much, few people support him. If he does intend to stay in power, he will need more than a few songs.