Monthly Archives: May 2013

Elemotho in Kampala for One Night only!

Elemotho

I watched Elemotho perform thrice in one year. That is a mark I wear like a badge. My first encounter was at the annual Sauti za Busara Festival in Zanzibar, a premium World Music event that has this thing about exposing one to great little-known talent. And that’s it biggest draw; the fact that you do not know which artiste among the 40-or-so on the three-day weekend performance bill will enchant you enough to have their music on high rotation on your iPod. That was in the searing month of February 2009.

My second Elemotho helping was at the annual Bayimba International Film Festival in Kampala after an impressed Festival Director Faisal Kiwewa (he was at Sauti za Busara that February as well) handpicked Elemotho to perform at Uganda’s premier arts event in June that year (the festival has since bee shifted to September in order not to compete for artistes with the European and North American festival schedule). Here Elemotho was his usual fiery self yet again. The last time was at the Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg, which fell at the time the World Arts Summit was being held there in September 2009. Elemotho was billed as one of the top artistes to watch and his gig at The Bassline reverberated all over the cultural precinct of Newtown.

His latest Kampala tour comes on the heels of his winning the 2012 RFI-France24 Discoveries Award beating off competition from 500 African, Indian and Pacific artistes. The singer/songwriter has just signed a worldwide distribution deal with UK-based World Music Record Label, ARC Music, making his music much more accessible to the world.

And with a third album to his name, Ke Nako (It’s Time), 2013 finds Elemotho thrown into the throes of a 25-African country tour courtesy of Alliance Francaise that will be followed by an Asian sub-continent tour of India, Malaysia and Nepal. Elemotho hails from the Kalahari and plays acoustic guitar, singing in his Setswana mother tongue alongside English and Namibian languages. He is not one to be pigeon holed into one genre of music. “I see myself as a performing artiste and musical activist. I like to throw reality around, thus exploring the depth of the human spirit.” His earlier releases are The System is a Joke (2003) and Human (2008).

From a rural boy to modern lyricist, Elemotho stands out from your usual commercial and easily consumable sounds by using experimental ideas where reality is amplified through his vision of music: “I grew up with storytelling around the fire and that has inspired me to create something that could make you dance as well as listen, smile as well as cry, find peace as well as wisdom.” The Kampala concert takes place at Jazzville Bugolobi on Saturday June 1, 2013 from 8pm. Entry is free and ace guitarist Myko Ouma alongside Afro-pop chanteuse Suzan Kerunen are the opening acts.

TEXT: Moses Serugo

Oluchi searches for Africa’s Next Top Model

ANTM

Nigerian-born model Oluchi is set to embark on another continental-wide search for Africa’s next modelling talent. Oluchi is widely seen as Africa’s first lady of the catwalk having transformed from an ugly duckling, selling bread on the streets of Lagos to the beautiful swan that won the inaugural Face of Africa competition in 1998.

The ambitious initiative aimed at portraying Africa in a more positive light and export African models to the fashion hotspots of Paris, Milan, New York and London. Subsequent contests were held in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and won by Namibia’s Benvinda Mundenge, South Africa’s Nombulelo Mazimbuko and Senegal’s Ramatoulaye Diallo respectively. The show then took a four-year hiatus to return in 2005 with additional searches in 2006, 2008 and 2010 before the format was retired.

None of the winners of the contests after Oluchi’s racked up as much ramp-time as Oluchi with many tripping on their runways careers and disappearing into oblivion. Oluchi on the other hand became a heavily booked model juggling a successful catwalk and editorial model career. She added a business qualification to boot with her sights set on model management. She was part of the jury in the last four editions of Face of Africa but unfortunately for her, none of the winners from that era left any mark on the continent or internationally.

Ironically, some hopefuls that never booked top 5 finalist slots have gone on to outshine the winners of Face of Africa. Uganda’s Patricia Namayirira continues to create waves in Cape Town, South Africa where she is based for the past 13 years. Another Ugandan ramp success story is Lucy Ssuubi Torr who could only manage a Top 10 slot at the 2008 finale but is enjoying an illustrious career based in Toronto Canada.

Oluchi’s latest assignment is modelled around the popular Tyra Banks America’s Next Top Model format. And rather than groom the hopefuls on the continent using the various idyllic venues that hosted Face of Africa model boot camps, Oluchi will ferry her Africa’s Next Top Model hopefuls to austerity-hit Spain.

It is hard to say if this attempt, visibly a rehash of the defunct Face of Africa contest will yield tangible results by way of the long shelf life Oluchi continues to enjoy 15 year on. A more thought-through format would have been a spin-off of Heidi Klum’s Project Runway which integrates another vital aspect of the fashion industry; the designer into the contest. Here, designers are challenged to sketch, cut and sew imaginative fabric creations that are presented before an able jury. They work alongside models to bring their designs to life.

Oluchi can still use her continental pedigree to draw attention to herself and make the dream of a lone girl come true. But right about now, the continent could use a contest that brings together the other cogs that complete the fashion wheel; designers, photographers, bloggers, make-up artistes et al to foster what is fast becoming a hard-to-ignore industry whose showcase spots stretch from Lagos to Nairobi, Kigali, Dar-es-Salaam, Maputo, Johannesburg, Soweto and Cape Town, each venue boasting a bustling fashion week event.

TEXT: Moses Serugo

Big Brother Africa Jumps the Shark

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At eight seasons, Big Brother Africa (BBA) has jumped the shark. It is now experiencing diminishing couch potato returns. In TV parlance, jumping the shark refers to when a show has reached a point at which far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality. The term is an allusion to the television series Happy Days, in which a central character (the Fonz) jumps over a shark in a water-skiing stunt. 

This year’s BBA instalment yet again delivers a bloated house of 28 housemates from 14 African countries in what is fast becoming appeasement/ filler programming for those that are not into the Western hemisphere soccer season that takes an annual three-month hiatus from May to August. 

The show’s signature is a winner-take-it-all lottery-like charade in which willing housemates are left at the mercy of viewers with hedonism a la binge-drinking, Jacuzzi-canoodling and potty banter are the quid-pro-quo. Perhaps those are the best coping mechanism for anyone that is confined in a luxurious human zoo for at most three months.  

At its launch a decade ago, Big Brother Africa was truly revolutionary one-upping sister-formats being executed elsewhere on the globe. The attempt to bring 12 strangers from 12 different countries under one roof in a strange land was the every essence of a dare! The rest of the world stopped to pay attention to this non-political event that wasn’t in the mould of tearing the continent apart. The biggest positive was the mockery the show made of those ubiquitous borders that are a vestige of the scramble and eventual partition of Africa. While the Western media chose to see BBA I in condescending lenses howling that the housemates were not “primitive” enough, continental viewers instead offered the biggest proof that television can achieve better unity than those AU talk-shoppers in Addis. 

And to its credit, the show has offered a bit of tokenism by way of putting the spotlight on African problems from HIV/ Aids, famine and the MGDs. Only that for the most part, subsequent BBA editions has been known more for Roman-style depravity even as a couple of brands have leveraged the show to anchor their brands on the continent.   

Only that 10 years on, BBA ought to have morphed into more than just an outlet for aggressive merchandising and dazzling Sunday eviction gala aesthetics. Moving forward, it ought to discard the image of a crude experiment in human [zoo] behaviour and start attaching more value to its hefty $300,000 that is now synonymous with a reward for televised hanky-panky (three of the show’s past eight winners have won on account of starring in their own reality TV porn clips).

A Big Brother/ Apprentice hybrid would be more in tune with the needs of the continent today. BBA’s winnings are good seed money on any part of the continent. What with everyone touting the continent’s entrepreneurial potential alongside its 500+million young populace as its next frontier! Otherwise initiatives like Tutu’s Children serve us better than the stale cotton candy entertainment BBA now serves up. In the former, Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu plays Big Brother bringing together some of the continent’s best brains that possess nascent leadership and using his global networks to help each of them self-actualise.  

That said, the glaring reality is that the continent would rather escape by way of hedonistic indulgences than intellectually stimulating small screen offerings like Tutu’s Children, which FYI didn’t air on any mainstream DStv channels rather on the franchised highbrow news channel Al Jazeera.    

TEXT: Moses Serugo