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Music & the Arts

Afrodancehall Music from Ghana – Akwesi Williams

Ghanaian Afrobeats, Afrodancehall & Highlife musician Akwesi talks about his love of music.

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Afrodancehall Music from Ghana - Akwesi Williams Asante Afrika
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Our October entertainment feature is Akwesi, a Ghanaian Afrobeats, Afrodancehall & Highlife musician based in Ghana. Born on June 12th and named Hughes Kwesi Williams, Kwesi took the stage name “Akwesi”, which is a local Akan name for he who is born on a Sunday.

We first came across the name Akwesi and his music on Fatuma’s Voice, a discussion forum mostly for African creatives where he was talking about his new EP which was inspired by life on lockdown and is aptly titled, “Life on Lockdown.”

Akwesi is the first child from his parents, though now they are both married to different people. He has four stepsiblings and he says that his family is very supportive of him and want to see his music grow.

Akwesi says he has been a music lover since childhood and he used to create hilarious rap lines and rap them to his cousins and schoolmates. He is also from a music family and he is related to Ghanaian Highlife Legend Kwabena Kwabena. “I haven’t attended any music school yet even though I plan on doing so to better my singing and instrument playing skills.”

Music is a means of conveying what is on one’s mind, and for Akwesi, that rings true. His music is mostly about how he feels and his experiences with life and relationships, which could also be inspired by friends and social issues. He likes writing songs centered on sentimental issues which people find hard to share. He experiments with genres but mostly he does Afrobeats, Afrodancehall & Highlife.

What sets his music apart from that of other musicians? Akwesi says it is his song writing skills and how he addresses whatever topic that he is rapping or singing about. He says the kind of instrumentation he uses also gives his music a unique sound. He has no album out yet but he does have three EPs, each one released on his birthday every year for the past 3 years.

Afrodancehall Music from Ghana - Akwesi Williams Asante Afrika

Apart from music, Akwesi is also a graphics designer and he is the founder of Koko Koncepts. “Well, I have always been an art person. I think I got it from my Mum who draws and is a fashion designer herself. I decided to modernize my art through graphic designing after I started University to study Publishing, majoring in Design and Illustration. While in school, I decided to make a living out of my creativity and artistic skills, and so I founded Koko Koncepts to facilitate that.”

Despite having designed graphics for some big organisations like Fatuma’s Voice, the University of Ghana, MTN and others, Akwesi says his greatest achievement as a Graphic designer is satisfying every client.

Says Akwesi, “My biggest music project yet is still in the pipeline. For now, I can say that I am proud of my articles on Ghanaian music which include one which I wrote for Fatuma’s Voice concerning Highlife music in Ghana. Also ‘Being an Independent Artiste in Ghana’, which I wrote for a popular Ghanaian podcast, and how I changed how album cover arts are designed and marketed among upcoming artistes in Ghana.

“Given a choice between music and graphics design, I would choose music over Graphic designing because I fell in love with music first, and besides, I started designing because of my music needs.”

Akwesi recently sparked a conversation about the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the income streams of African musicians as they rely mostly on proceeds from live performances. What prevents African artists from making use of tech and how do you think they can make better use of digital platforms like Facebook live-streaming and YouTube to maximise on revenue?  According to Akwesi, before COVID 19, most of these live streaming platforms were not really patronized by African artistes who either did not have an idea on how to go about it, or did not see its relevance with regards to internet accessibility, data efficiency or how profitable it could be. “This unexpected pandemic has rather fortunately drawn the attention of entertainers especially musicians, on how to use these platforms to make revenue with the world changing and moving at a fast rate into the online and digital space.”

When asked what his take is the music industry in Ghana in general, with regards to the quality of music and comparing it to countries like Nigeria and South Africa which have broken the international market, Akwesi responded; “Ghanaian music is so diverse and traditional and people enjoy our music internationally. Our music is of good quality and is almost so obvious when you hear our music. The only thing I think that limits our music a bit is the population numbers.  I mean Nigeria and South Africa have larger population numbers as compared to Ghana.”

The talented musician is also a passionate social change-maker, as envisaged by his work with organisations like Fatuma’s voice. He says he met Chris Mukasa of Fatuma’s Voice on Twitter, and after reading what the forum was about, he instantly liked it and wanted to be a part of this social change which they were envisioning. He joined the forum with the help of Chris and since then it has been a journey he is enjoying.

You might be wondering how this busy artist balances being a musician, a graphics designer and a social change-maker. Akwesi says it has really been a challenge for him but he tries his best to make time and dedicate equal energy to making his activities work and getting the best out of all fields.

Akwesi’s parting words to a young African who has the talent and passion to do something in the creative industry but does not know where to start from are… “It always seems difficult in the beginning, and especially in Africa where there are limited opportunities, but that is the more reason why you should take that bold first step if you really want to attain greatness in what you do. I started with only a dream and my creativity. I look back right now and I realize that that was absolutely all I needed.

Akwesi williams

Connect with Akwesi:

Twitter: @OfficialAkwesi

Instagram: @akwesi_hughes

Facebook: Akwesi Hughes

Instagram: Koko_koncepts

Twitter: Koko_koncepts

Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu

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Music & the Arts

Annemarie Quinn – On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking

Moving to Malawi has taught me so much, both in my personal and professional life. I’ve listened to chord progressions, harmonies and rhythms that I’ve never heard before…

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From taking up music at the age of 7, to performing her first gig at the age of 14, Annemarie Quinn, a musician from the U.K, graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a First Class Degree in Music. She has performed at a number of venues and festivals around the U.K, and regularly featured on BBC Introducing.

In 2016 she and her husband decided they wanted a change, so they packed up their life and moved to Malawi, Africa! From the moment she arrived with her guitar, she dived straight into the country’s music industry, and has spent the last 4 years composing, collaborating and recording with the most amazing Malawian musicians to create her upcoming album, Blue Sky Thinking!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Blue Sky Thinking Album Art

Since moving to Malawi, she has also performed at Lake Of Stars (for three consecutive years), Tumaini Festival, Sand Music Festival, Nkhotakota Music Festival, Blantyre Arts Festival, and venues across the country including Jacaranda Cultural Centre, Grittah’s Camp, Kwa Haraba and Mayoka Village, to name a few. “It’s been the most incredible experience having immersed myself in this country’s beautiful culture, and I have been so welcomed into the Malawian arts community”, she says.

We caught up with her to learn more about her work in Malawi and her soon to be released album.

“I found music to be such a release, and a way to express myself. I’ve always been fascinated by how something so emotive and beautiful can’t be seen, but only heard…”

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Live Music Video Shoot – Omex Chimpeni on Hand Drum, Anthony Spriyano on Percussion and Backing Vocals, and Stan Phiri on Bass.

When did you realise that music was what you wanted to do with your life?

I’ve always loved music. I grew up in a home that was filled with music, all day everyday! My parents would always have the radio or CDs playing, I grew up surrounded by the likes of Paul Simon, U2, Bob Marley, The Drifters, Bruce Springsteen – our house was never quiet. I took up the violin at the age of 7 and began singing in my school choir. Even at such a young age, I found music to be such a release and a way to express myself. I’ve always been fascinated by how something so emotive and beautiful can’t be seen, but only heard – this made me want to explore further. I studied music through school, took as many instrument lessons as I could get, and I just knew that this was what I wanted to do. I then went on to study music in university and learnt so much – and that’s the thing – we never stop learning. I think sometimes people think that if they’ve learnt an instrument, then ‘that’s it! I don’t have to practice anymore!’ But the truth is, we should never stop pushing ourselves to learn. Moving to Malawi has taught me so much, both in my personal and professional life. I’ve listened to chord progressions, harmonies and rhythms that I’ve never heard before, and welcomed it into my compositions – it’s been wonderful!

What or whom would you say has been the most important influence when it comes to your music?

The most important thing is to be open minded – I remember my guitar teacher telling me to listen to all different kinds of music; whether you like it or not, it’s important to form critical opinions rather than just ‘this sounds good, this sounds bad’. There’s something to be learnt from all different genres of music, so listen to as much as you can!

As I mentioned, my parents played the most awesome music to me which definitely had a subconscious effect on me. My all-time favourite musician has to be Paul Simon. My Dad is a huge fan, so we’d always listen together. Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ was my soundtrack growing up; at the time I loved it, but had no idea just how much of an inspiration it would be to me. ‘Graceland’ is still to this day, my most favourite album. That’s what’s amazing about music; each part of your life can be mapped by the songs you were immersed in at the time, and as soon as you listen to them, you’re transported back to that moment.

As someone who studied Classical Music, would you advise upcoming artists who have the opportunity to do so, to take the time to study music formally as well? Advantages and/or disadvantages?

For me, music is a balance between natural talent and studies. Formally studying music is brilliant, especially music theory, as you’re able to understand not only what you’re playing, but why the notes fit together, allowing your compositions to progress. But studying can only take you so far; passion and talent is also needed! I’ve seen the most incredible musicians here in Malawi who can’t read a single note of music, yet they’ve managed to build themselves a guitar from an oil can and bicycle brakes and have taught themselves chords. How amazing! But often without music theory, it can be difficult to progress further. So for me I think it’s important to have a balance of both elements, which then allows the other to excel. Nature vs. Nurture – that’s a difficult one. Don’t get me wrong, I think you can have a natural talent, but unless you nurture and develop it, there’s only so far you’ll go. I’ve always loved music and sure, it came naturally to me, but I’ve worked SO hard over the past 15 years to get to where I am now. Extra classes, self-studies, revision, exams, there’s so much that’s needed to help yourself grow and succeed, other than just ‘talent’.  

What inspired you to take the leap of faith in 2016 and move to Malawi to work on your album, here, out of any other place you could have gone to in the world?

We just wanted a change! We were living in a part of UK that had recently flooded with bad rains so we just thought, why not, if we don’t try, we’ll never know. I visited The Gambia when I was 17 years old on a school trip and was totally blown away. I fell in love with feeling out of my comfort zone and experiencing new cultures. I always knew I’d love to go back to Africa at some point! My husband, Andy, who teaches at an International School here in Malawi, had never been to Africa before, so we just went for it and have zero regrets! But I really do believe everything happens for a reason, and you make your own luck. We’ve had a brilliant time here in Malawi, but we’ve put a lot of hard work in too, and made sure we’ve made the most of every opportunity – life is what you make it.

What has your move to Malawi proved wrong in terms of any misconceptions you may have had prior to you actually living here?

I remember as the date for leaving the UK came closer, I felt nervous. I was leaving everything I’d known – family, friends, all the links and work I’d built up. Would anyone be interested in playing with me?! I was this random British girl rocking up with my guitar – I had these big ideas about recording an album, but didn’t actually know any musicians, and hadn’t written any of the songs yet! I did as much research as I could before leaving the UK about music in Malawi, but couldn’t find much online. Fortunately, I was booked to perform at Lake Of Stars before I moved so I was looking forward to that. But as soon as I arrived in Malawi and started to get to know artists, I realised there was SO much music happening here! There wasn’t much online but I’d managed to find out what was going on! It was brilliant, before I knew it I had met so many musicians and was booked to perform at all different festivals and events around the country. You’ve just got to work hard and get sucked in!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Recording on my Lowden Guitar at The Music Farm, UK.

You have raised a lot of money for charity, and you also give of your time by teaching music at Jacaranda school for orphans in Blantyre. How has that experience impacted you, not only as an artist but as a person?

Whilst living here in Malawi, I feel it is important to help in a sustainable way, rather than handouts or quick fixes. I was first introduced to Jacaranda School For Orphans in 2017 after visiting and performing at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC is linked with the school and helps to raise funds for them). I visited the school and was totally blown away by the work they do. Straight away I knew I just had to get involved and help with the music programme, it’s the least I can do whilst I’m living here. Over the past 2 years I have been working with the Jacaranda students, teaching music theory, guitar and violin, song writing and vocal training. The students have the most amazing voices, and it’s been such a privilege to have them sing on my album. Back to the nature vs. nurture comment – these children have the most incredible natural talent, I don’t ever want to alter that, all I have done is given them the tools and knowledge to further themselves and pass these skills on to other students, creating a sustainable model.

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Recording with The Jacaranda School For Orphans

I am also co-founder of the NGO, Music Against Malaria, working with Musician Code Sangala, to raise funds and awareness in the fight against Malaria, whilst promoting and preserving the cultural heritage of Malawi. It’s an absolute honour to contribute what I can to this work.  

Your words “Do less, but well,” stuck with me. You spoke about focusing more on sustainable ways of helping those in need. What would that look like to you and what would you say to other people who have the desire to help but are not too sure on how to go about it?

(This is more linked to the album) I believe this to be such a powerful phrase to live by. It’s not saying to make your dreams or goals smaller, but rather to break down what you’d like to achieve, start small and take manageable steps to what you imagine in a conscious and kind way to yourself. If I arrived in Malawi and tried to record this album in the first couple of months, it never would have worked, and I would have felt like I’d failed before I even started. No, the best things in life take time, put the work in, and do the best you can everyday, that’s all you can do, and what will be will be. But that’s not me saying sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you – definitely not! It’s great to let things naturally develop, but there’s also nothing wrong in giving it a good push in the right direction too!

(This is more linked to the charity work) I  believe there are so many people who want to help and I’m in a great position to facilitate this sustainably whilst living here. I really wanted to create a clear and transparent grass roots NGO that shows people exactly where their donations are going. And I think that’s what people like, the transparency. As humans, we like to see results, and our efforts being appreciated. So rather than donating money into a big pot, I’ve been able to follow the donations through and show donors exactly where their contributions are going to, whether that’s to Music Against Malaria, or The Jacaranda School For Orphans. For example, some friends from the UK sent clothes and stationary for Jacaranda, and when the items arrived here I took them straight to the school and donated them personally, sending photos to the donors as evidence. This creates a personal connection and it’s a great feeling for donors to see what they’ve given making a direct change. So many people want to help, and I’m in such a great position to facilitate these donations!

How has working with artists that may not have the best in terms of resources or equipment affected the way you view the process of making music or creating art?

The recording process has been super interesting – each recording session has a story of some kind, ones of laughter, friendships and struggle, transport breaking down, power cuts, musicians unable to make the session due to malaria, and some turning up with malaria and recording anyway – you name it, it happened! But where there are problems, there are always solutions to be found, and Malawians are amazing at that!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Visiting Lazarus’ home after our hotel room recording session

The Blue Sky Thinking album has been recorded in a number of different locations, mostly in the studio I built in my home here in Blantyre, which we’ve named Pamodzi Studio (a collective word in Chichewa meaning community). For my studio, I wanted to support local Malawian traders in its construction, so I used local carpenters to build two huge baffles, creating a vocal booth, and covered the walls in foam and chitenje. We also recorded Ituma Music Productions for drum kit, The Music Farm Studios in UK for some of the acoustic guitar and on location around the Malawi! For example, I packed up the studio and travelled to Nkhata Bay to record Lusubilo Band, right on the beautiful shores of Lake Malawi, and it was amazing! We recorded The Jacaranda School For Orphans in their school hall, and met with Lazarus in Lilongwe, where we made a vocal booth out of a mattress in a hotel to record his vocals!  I began collaborating with Faith Mussa just as Covid 19 hit Malawi, so we weren’t able to meet physically; so instead I sent him the tracks, and he recorded his parts in his studio in Lilongwe and sent them to me. There’s always a way!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Recording with Lusubilo Band on the shore of Lake Malawi

You have a few notable Malawian artists such as Faith Mussa on the list of people you have collaborated with. How much of an influence do you think this has had on the overall sound of Blue Sky thinking?

I really wanted to take my time with this album and get to know musicians, rather than just a feature. I feel like I’ve made some great friends throughout the recording, and I’m so grateful to each and every artist. Blue Sky Thinking features over 40 musicians including Faith Mussa, Code Sangala, Lusubilo Band, Agorosso, Goma Nyondo, Kennedy Phiri, Jacaranda School For Orphans, Patrick Chimbewa, amongst others.  Rather than just diving straight into the music, I took the time to get to know musicians – we met for jam sessions, hung out and played gigs together. I feel that that’s when the true collaboration comes; when everyone feels comfortable with each other. I’ve felt so welcomed into Malawi’s music scene, it’s been an honour to have worked and performed with such amazing musicians. People have reached out from all over the country to let me know how much they enjoy my music, and it means so much to me to hear that. I’ve tried my best to make my music accessible to both Malawian and international audiences, I’ve even added some Chichewa in my album too, with one of my tracks titled ‘Osadandaula’!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
In rehearsals with Faith Mussa

I’ve always been aware of cultural appropriation – I didn’t set out to write an album that sounds ‘African’ – I’m a British, so why would I do that?! Haha! But rather to explore and create a balance between my singer songwriter sound with a flare of the Malawian vibe. When I started explaining this idea to people, I was met with nothing but love, encouragement and enthusiasm by the Malawians. The artists I’ve collaborated with are all so different, but equally inspiring. They’ve brought ideas and created parts I never could have imagined. I sometimes feel collaboration is seen as a sign of weakness, that you can’t do it on your own. But I believe this couldn’t be more wrong, we are stronger and more efficient together. It’s been amazing to watch these musicians bring their own flare, styles and ideas to each piece of the album, I’m so grateful to every single artist that has been a part of Blue Sky Thinking, it’s been a celebration of merging cultures; we had the most amazing time creating it, and I hope you can hear that in the music!

Blue Sky Thinking is essentially the bringing together of two different worlds to create a space in which they coexist. Is this album anything close to what you first imagined it would be?

Good question! It’s funny, at the beginning I don’t think I really knew what I wanted the record to be like! I had ideas, but never thought the outcome would be what we have created. It fills me with so much pride and gratitude to listen to the songs, it’s everything I could have imagined and more! I think the title ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ sums this up well; the title has two meanings; firstly, to create and think without limitations, and if we want to live limitlessly, we must be daring. I feel this represents the creation of the album itself – when I arrived in Malawi I knew I wanted to create an album but didn’t know a single person. So putting yourself out there and working hard pays off, and it’s been the most amazing journey!

And secondly the phrase ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ means, to always look for the positives, a dedication to the incredible determination, optimism and innovation of Malawians I’ve had the honour of experiencing whilst living here.

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Lake Of Stars with The Jacaranda School For Orphans and Lazarus

When we spoke, the album had just been sent to the UK for Mastering, (the post-production process of optimizing music and preparing it for distribution). After 4 years and over 40 Malawian artists on it, are you ready to finally listen back to the labour of love that is Blue Sky thinking?

Oh, so ready!! There are so many emotions – excitement, gratitude, relief, nerves, I just can’t wait to hear what people think about it, I really hope you like it! I just want people to love it just as much as we do and to enjoy it – we certainly enjoyed creating it and surely that’s the whole point; why do something if you don’t enjoy it?

‘Music’ is so vast and there are so many incredible albums out there, I’m honoured to be adding my work into the mix. It’s scary, but I’ve always approached the music industry as a place to carving out your own space rather than feeling it’s a competition- there’s room for everyone to succeed.  

I really hope when you listen to Blue Sky Thinking, that first and foremost you enjoy the music itself! But I also invite you to take a moment to find out a bit more about who and exactly what you’re listening, the stories behind the songs, the recording process and the Malawian artists featured- each are so different yet equally inspiring with incredible stories, which I feel will enhance the connection to the record.

Blue Sky Thinking has been shaped by the bustle of a thriving Malawian market, the beats of a bao game, the sunsets over the national parks, choirs singing on the back of pick-up trucks and the constant push and pull between loving this amazing country and respecting its culture whilst staying true to my own. I can’t believe it’s finally done, I’ve loved every single moment!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika
Rehearsals with Goma Nyondo, Kennedy Phiri and Vincent Manyozo

They say music is a reflection of self; do you think the album represents who you are at this moment in time and, is the rest of the world ready for it as well?

I couldn’t agree with this more! Music is definitely a reflection of yourself and that’s exactly what Blue Sky Thinking is. It represents the most amazing chapter of my life living in Malawi. Blue Sky Thinking is four years of experience, emotion and the total immersion into a country’s culture, connecting and merging humans from all walks of life. I hope people will get lost in the in the stories of this album and hope the music takes you somewhere you’ve never been before. I hope this album brings you as much joy listening to it as we had creating it!

Blue Sky Thinking – available to download on all major platforms on 22nd January 2020 (Pre-order Saturday 12th December)

Connect with Annemarie via her website, www.annemariequinn.co.uk and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – @AnnemarieQuinn

Interviewed by Bongani Mahlangu, Twitter: @Originalboi_b




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Music & the Arts

#NowTrending

Hazel Lifa takes a look at what’s new, hot and trending in the entertainment industry.

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#NowTrending Asante Afrika
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By Hazel Lifa

Music

Elaine

#NowTrending Asante Afrika
Elaine

If you haven’t heard of her I am sure you have heard either one of singles. South African RnB/Soul singer and songwriter Elaine has taken the music scene by storm and landed herself a recording deal with one of the biggest labels in the world, Columbia records. Born April 2nd 1999, Ndivhuwo Elaine Mukheli released her EP, Elements, in September 2019, which quickly reached number one status locally on Apple Music and iTunes. The 21 year old’s EP was certified Platinum in August making her the first South African artist to achieve such with little live performances. As of March 2020, the Pretoria singer has been the number one streamed female artist in South Africa on Spotify. Both her singles; You’re the One and Risky are prompting streams.  Elaine self-released her EP while studying law at the University of Witwatersrand. She was nominated for Best R&B/Soul Album at the 26th South African Music Awards.    

J. Cole

#NowTrending Asante Afrika
J. Cole

2020 has been a hell of a year, and many are struggling to see neither the silver lining during the pandemic nor the lessons to be learnt. Out of the bleakness comes American rapper J. Cole, with his ever conscious rap that makes you ‘think’ every time you hear one of his songs. At the end of 2019 the rapper announced that the follow-up to his critically acclaimed KOD album, The Fall Out, would be released some time in 2020. Staying true to the Election theme in the U.S, J. Cole announced the Album’s release at Day N Vegas music festival in November 2019 using a fake political campaign advert. The ad finished off with the slogan, “Vote The Fall Off for 2020”. July saw the North Carolina rapper tease us with two singles that got fans nodding, ‘Lion King on Ice’ and ‘The Climb Back’. All three tracks are fire, talking about race issues and how best to spread enlightenment. The tracks reflect Cole’s prominent need to influence change with his artistry.

Sha Sha

#NowTrending Asante Afrika
Sha Sha

Zimbabwe got its first ever BET nomination and win ever, when Zim artist Sha Sha won Best New International Act at the 2020 BET Awards. Charmaine Shamiso “Sha Sha” Mpambiro, is a Zimbabwean singer from Mutare. Dubbed “The Queen of Amapiano“, Sha Sha built her reputation through collaborations with South African producers such as DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small.

Sha Sha was signed to DJ Maphorisa’s label Blaqboy Music in 2018. The singer gained notoriety featuring on songs like ‘Nge Thanda Wena’ by Mlindo The Vocalist  and ‘Akulaleki’ by Samthing Soweto.  Her debut EP, Blossom, was released in 2019 and was received well. This talented artist has been working on her craft since her teens, proving that hard work does pay off hey.

Movies

Tenet

#NowTrending Asante Afrika
Tenet 2020

The movie is a 2020 action-thriller and science fiction film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It stars John David Washington as our protagonist along other stars like; Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. The plot follows a secret agent played by Washington as he manipulates the flow of time to prevent World War III. Critics have vastly mixed reviews on the film, with one stating:

“If I were teaching a course in “Tenet,” my one homework assignment would be: Find yourself a good James Bond thriller and watch that instead.” (Owen Gleiberman, Variety)

Another stated:

“…a big, brashly beautiful, grandiosely enjoyable one that will provide succor to audiences long-starved for escapist spectacle on this beefy, made-for-Imax scale.” (Guy Lodge)

With an unclear picture of how critics feel, the movie implores us to judge for ourselves.

8

#NowTrending Asante Afrika
8

Just in time for Halloween is African horror movie, 8 based on a South African folklore.

8 tells the story of William Ziel (Garth Breyetenbach) who returns to the farmhouse he inherited from his estranged father with his wife, Sarah (Inge Beckmann), and their adopted niece, Mary (Keita Luna). Soon after moving in, they meet a mysterious local outcast Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe), who carries with him a dark secret that will put everyone at risk. Lazarus persuades William to hire him in spite of Sarah’s reservations and successfully forges a kindred bond with Mary, who, like him, still aches for her lost family. But among the locals, Lazarus is an unwelcome menace who carries a dark secret in his sack: a demon reincarnation of his deceased daughter with an insatiable appetite for human souls. In his pursuit to calm her need, he facilitates several deaths and killings in the village, drawing the circle closer to the Ziels

REDTV

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RedTV Logo

RED TV is an African YouTube channel that creates African content by Africans for Africans. The channel is home to an array of web series and lifestyle shows. MEN’S CLUB is the channel’s most popular web series, each episode attracting views of up to 400k. The channel is proudly associated with United Bank for Africa.

Books

Their Eyes Were Watching God

#NowTrending Asante Afrika
Their Eyes Were Watching God

For an entertaining but educational piece of literature let’s look to the classics this month with Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. The novel wasn’t received well during its initial publishing in 1937; years later it is regarded as influential to both African-American literature and women’s literature. The book tells the story of Janie Crawford, a black woman who defies what society expects of her during a time when such was unthinkable. The book was adapted to a movie with the same title, starring Halle Berry.

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Entertainment

Up Close with Austria-based Music Giant, Vusa Mkhaya

Originality and fluency in one’s mother language, in most instances, and packaging music in the usual “African way”, is the key to success.

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Up Close with Austria-based Music Giant, Vusa Mkhaya Asante Afrika
Vusa Mkhaya
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AFRICAN music is regarded as unique in many ways. Some believe it has that soothing factor in it, to such an extent that they can hardly complete listening to a proper session without a song or two from the motherland. The unanswered question is why? Well, according to Zimbabwean-born musician, Vusa Mkhaya, born Vusumuzi Ndlovu, African musicians have made their music appreciated worldwide because they dedicate their time to producing original music using their native languages.

Mkhaya, now based in Vienna, Austria, says music enthusiasts overseas yearn for love, and appreciate the music from Africa despite them being in a sea of international music pieces produced by acclaimed artists, some of them winners of international music awards and accolades. He believes that trying to imitate these artists and musicians while one hails from Africa in the manner in which the international artists write, sing, and produce their music, is the greatest undoing of some African artists – a habit he says should die with the old horses in the music industry.

Originality and fluency in one’s mother language, in most instances, and packaging music in the usual “African way”, is the key to success.

“…as artists, we tend to enjoy imitating those artists who are deemed to be the big names in the international music scene.”

Up Close with Austria-based Music Giant, Vusa Mkhaya Asante Afrika
Up Close with Austria-based Music Giant, Vusa Mkhaya Asante Afrika

Says Mkhaya: “The challenge we face in our music is that, as artists, we tend to enjoy imitating those artists who are deemed to be the big names in the international music scene. We do so in the hope that we would also be able to land that big boy or big girl status that those we want to copy would have achieved. I believe that in this business, it does not work like that. When Vusa Mkhaya sings in his native isiNdebele, isiZulu, tshiVenda, seSotho, Shangaan and other indigenous languages, he should continue to write songs in those languages. You need to use that language that you are comfortable with. Don’t be Chris Brown, Puff Daddy or Beenie Man. Those are the household names in their part of the world and they are good at what they do, using the language they are fluent in. Using your native language, one is able to get invited to collaborations with the big names because some people admire the style that we have as Africans. They do not have it nor can they fake it. That is why they hire you to work with them. He argues that imitation does not usually show the world the true picture of an artist.”

“If we imitate the likes of Usher and the many other artists, those in the better placed music community overseas will not invite us to partner with them because they already have that style that we want to try and copy and in a better version than what we will be trying to do. “But if you are your own natural self as Vusa Mkhaya, the producers for those big name artists will see the talent in you and look for you to do the collaborations with these big name artists and that is how one breaks into the international market. Originality is the main key,” Mkhaya says.

While most of the artists who have apparently “made it” in the music industry using African yardsticks and measurements have seemingly made it through their natural and God-given talent and endowment, Mkhaya argues that enrolling for music lessons and classes is one way that should help the regional artists polish up their act. “When you go on an international tour, one does not need to be distracted in what they do. You only need to copy some good things there. On our first international tour as Insingizi Emnyama from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, as way back as 1995, we discovered that in some other places, artists took music more seriously such that they would even go to school to learn music and what it is.

“Some people thought you could just jump onto the stage and sing or perform. For those overseas, music was serious business. They would go to school so that they studied and understood the business in and out. I would say that determination to also understand the business, having come from a Zimbabwean background, forced us to also enroll for the music lessons as well. That decision was a master stroke as it helped us a lot as we were now able to work with other musicians and filmmakers who would time and again engage us to produce music for other productions,” Mkhaya says.

Having spent time in Austria and having spread his tentacles in the music industry, Mkhaya has realized the fruits of his sweat and can now look back and smile as he reminisces and re-visits the life and hard times gone by.

“I have worked with so many filmmakers on quite a number of productions from my home studio here in Austria. In 2018, a production that I did music for was nominated for an Oscar award. That production, entitled Batu Wote (All of us) was a joint production between a German and a Kenyan production company. Unfortunately, the Oscar was won by another production that had been nominated at the same time.”

“I was also involved in the production of a song that was featured in a South African production called Mia and the White Lion. These are some of the many projects I have worked on. In my career, I have learnt a lot of things that have shaped the Vusa Mkhaya brand as it has come to be known worldwide. One of the key lessons that artists, upcoming and seasoned ones alike, need to know is that there is a time when one has to clearly distinguish between what they can and what they cannot do. Once you are clear about what you can and what you can’t do, you are able to bring on board those that can do those things that you cannot do and you have to appreciate and embrace them as they are able to contribute towards the success that you yearn for without taking the glory from you. Team work is important in the music business,” he says.

Mkhaya also recently took to Twitter to share some wise and insightful advice to talented and upcoming musicians who would also like to make it outside Zimbabwe;

Up Close with Austria-based Music Giant, Vusa Mkhaya Asante Afrika

Interviewed by “City Man” Nkululeko Sibanda

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