Meet Uganda’s Song Bird, Esther Nabatanzi

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Esther Nabatanzi

Esther Nabatanzi is a Ugandan singer, vocalist and performer. A journey that started out with her singing in the church choir, before joining Uganda’s Ejazz Band as a lead singer and then venturing into a solo music career, the former Tusker Project Fame contestant remains to be one among the very few that make something of themselves after participating in music contest shows.  An accountant by day and musician by night, Esther who is a Makerere University Graduate with a Bachelors in Business Administration is a gem to watch out for, with the perfect honey voice that would have you want to listen to her all day, every day!

I got the rare chance to interview her and this is how it all went down….

How was the transition from singing in the church choir to secular music and did you get any back lash for it?

I can’t say that it was a transition really because all I do is sing inspirational music, that may not necessarily be gospel nor evil. I  am simply an artist that wants to inspire.While judgement about what I do is inevitable, I haven’t received any backlash from the church- though I am not sure what they (the church) thinks about my music.

What influenced the decision to move from singing in a band to going solo?

I felt like venturing into a solo career would help me build a stronger brand. Also, it is a lot easier to promote an individual other than an entire band. That said though, I still am part of a band with whom I still do live performances with.

Besides building a stronger brand as a solo artist, what other notable differences are there between being a solo artist and being part of a band?

Being a solo artist means you can ably compete in the industry and can be ranked accordingly depending on your individual strengths and weaknesses, other than as a group. Also, you have no choice but to be more keen on your work, as your success or failure all depend on you as an individual rather than shared responsibilities that may sometimes contribute to one being a bit laid back.

How do you strike a balance between being an accountant and an artist without neglecting or putting too much effort on one?

It’s only weekends and evening hours after 5PM when I do music, the rest of the time, I am an accountant. I however have to work extra harder than an artist that does music full time.

You style of music is majorly RNB and mostly on love, why  so and not on any other genre or topic?

I am currently working on my first album, which has love as it’s major theme.The album however consists of other genres of music including Zouk and Reggae. Other topics shall be covered in the next album. It’s all part of a bigger strategy.

How did you choose love as a theme for your first album….why not anything else?

Love is a topic people can easily relate to. Everybody has been loved or faced challenges in love. All other values such as respect, kindness, integrity are as a result of love. Love is everything and it was a perfect way to introduce myself to the world.

You got 2 nominations at this year’s Club Music Video Awards and though you did not win, it’s a major milestone considering you only started singing professionally as a solo artist in 2016. How do you think the nomination will impact your music career or has it done that already?

It was an eye opener. I realized that people are watching me. This means a lot to any upcoming artist. I am more motivated and focused now.

Tubaale and Gwenafunye are currently doing so well. How do you ensure that you don’t get too comfortable with current success so that you are always on top of your game?

I never get too comfortable with anything because successful people keep improving themselves to become better persons. I am definitely not where I want to be so I have to keep working harder.

I listen to your music and can’t help but think of Naava while at it. You guys sound so much alike. Do you ever get that?

Oh yeah. Especially with my first single Gwenafunye. People thought it was Naava’s song. I am however OK with as for first songs people will compare you to existing artists, but this slowly fades with subsequent songs and then they start to see the distinguishing factors between you as artists.

So far, it has been all solo projects you have ventured into…any upcoming music collaborations we should look forward to?

I have some collaborations done already, just not yet released…and no, I’m not telling. It’s going to be a surprise. However, collaborations for me are more about me being able to connect with the artist I am collaborating with as opposed to looking at it as a strategy to become famous. There has to be a strong musical connection for me to be able to collaborate with an artist.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

More inspirational music and a lot of music that is straight from the heart.

Check out Esther’s Tubaale…

My top 5 picks; Best African Rappers

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I think spitting rhymes was one of those things that our forefathers did just after a hunting session, as they carried the day’s meal home. Seriously, think about it…”Yoh! My name is Onkule the great, the man in charge of today’s fate, cause all I do is catch that prey and  make sure that my fam is fed”(drops mic)…  no?

I don’t know about you but I would personally rather listen to an artist that sings or raps  in a language that I don’t understand, but has me getting at least 70% of the words (or at least have me thinking that I am getting it). That for me is way better than someone who sings/ raps in a language that I understand and yet never making sense of what exactly they are singing/ rapping about.

While there are plenty of African Hip Hop artists that I would have on my list, these ones have consistently proven themselves over time, with a unique style that makes them uncontested pace setters.

K.O

k-o-image-courtesy-of-ctvibes-com
K.O (Image courtesy of ctvibes.com)

 

He defines his music as Skhanda Music.  Simply put, “vernacular poetry over authentic South African Hip- Hop beats that are driven by traditional elements.” 

 

Besides being effortlessly smooth with his lyrics, K.O is one of the very few artists that  I wouldn’t care as much to listen to, because I wouldn’t understand what he would be going on and on about (considering he often raps in his native language).  And yet still, I find myself straining to get his flow.  They say that music is a universal language, but it takes an exceptionally talented artist to wow a foreign audience.

 

 

King Kaka

king-kaka-image-courtesy-of-eventsupdatesa.files.wordpress.com
King Kaka (Image courtesy of bursarts.wordpress.com)

 

To be honest, when he first started out, I knew he was good but did not think he would last long in Kenya’s rap scene.

For me, King Kaka lacked that “umph” that made other top rappers in the country (at that point in time) successful.

He has however proven me wrong over and over again and I am glad he did. His poetic style fused with his being a great story teller more than anything else makes him the timeless rapper that would have me tirelessly listen to him all day, any day.

 

 

 

Muthoni Drummer Queen

MDQ sought to explore Hip Hop upon realization that she had a lot to say and this was the only genre she could use to express herself with as many words as possible, unlike with singing whose structure is limiting

 

mdq-image-courtesy-of-mx3-ch
MDQ (Image courtesy of mx3.ch)

She is bold and embraces her art fully for what it is- a platform to explore and discover. Creativity has a whole new meaning thanks to MDQ, who isn’t just about having great lyrical flow, but making sense with every dropped bar. Certainly a refreshing approach to a genre that was initially used purely reserved for entertainment, especially in Kenya.

Sarkodie

sarkodie-image-courtesy-of-ghanamusicbank-com

Best International Act in the African category at the 2012 BET Awards,  Sarkodie has got to be one of the best all time rappers of Africa.

He often raps in his native language (which again would have me thinking I could be doing something more meaningful with my life other than trying to figure out what he could possibly be rapping about).

However, his commanding presence leaves me no choice than to stop whatever it is that I am doing and to pay attention. And here is the thing about Sarkodie,  I cannot count the number of times after listening to him I’ve thought “Darn! that was so good I have to listen to it again.”- that ladies and gentlemen is a powerful artist.

 

Joh Makini

joh-makini-image-courtesy-of-musicians4africa-com
Joh Makini (Image courtesy of musiciansforafrica.com)

 

I can’t think of anyone’s lyrics that are as fresh and well thought like Joh Makini’s .

He unlike most modern day rappers does conscious music other than strive to be musically correct or sell hype, which constantly has him on my radar and looking forward to what he would have to offer next.

A Hip Hop pioneer that has remained true to what attracted people to his style of music, he doesn’t call himself a Swahili rap king for nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

Did your best African rappers make it to my list?

Vote or/and drop me a comment below and let me know.

Behind Uganda’s Creative Music Director- Hassan Bahemuka’s Camera

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Hassan Bahemuka  (right), (Image courtesy of Joni Musi)

Hassan Kintu Bahemuka  is a Ugandan Creative Music Video Director and an entrepreneur running Hasz Media. Not only is he the name behind top Ugandan Music Videos, but boasts of several nominations and awards including the prestigious MTV Africa and  Nigeria’s Soundcity Awards.  I got the rare chance of interviewing him (something he admittedly avoids, and this is how it all went down)

How did you get into music video directing?

It started during one of my Form 6 school breaks. I was editing footage  from my brother’s video library;  events and weddings to be specific. A friend realized my talent and had me join Uganda’s WBS TV. I worked at WBS for 5 years, making my way up to be the head of production, before calling it quits to go do my own thing. Video director Don Mugisha (Deddac) played an important role in my journey by providing mentor-ship.

From weddings and events to TV and then finally settling for music videos, why so?

Besides directing music videos being a passion, I love the creativity that it allows room for. Being a creative music video director also provides great exposure for one’s brand and is financially rewarding.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Being nominated for Nigeria’s Soundcity Awards for the best pop video in Africa Category for Toniks’ Nzewuwo. For a low budget video to be competing against videos that had a budget of up to 20 thousand US dollars and shot by Africa’s best video directors was and will remain to be such a memorable and humbling experience.

Sometime back, you were alleged to be wanted by cops for having conned an upcoming Ugandan artist. Tell us your side of the story..

An employee of mine under my company- Hasz Media had taken money from an artist without my knowledge. Once I found out, I tried to resolve the issue by talking to the artist in question, but things took a different turn. Because my employee had taken money under my company’s name, I had to take the heat for it. The issue was however finally resolved.

Which creative video directors do you look up to?

In Africa, Nigeria’s Sesan, while internationally, I look up to Canadian Music Video Director, Director X  .I am always watching out for their work.

What challenges do you face as a video director?

Budgeting. Every artist has a different budget for their music videos, depending on their individual financial ability. I however have to deliver and to ensure quality and consistency in the standard of my work, irrespective of an artist’s budget.

If you weren’t in the entertainment business, what would you be doing?

Farming,  which is something that I actually do on the side. I own a 14 acre piece of land that I use purely for farming.

Final words for any aspiring video director out there?

Work on building your brand and don’t be fooled by the hype.

 

Check out the latest video that Hassan has worked on;

 

You can also check out other music videos directed by Hassan on his YouTube Channel,

https://www.youtube.com/user/Haszmedia/featured

 

 

 

Patty Monroe changing Africa’s rap game

 

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Patty Monre (Image courtesy of zkhiphani.co.za)

If you listen to South African Hip Hop, then you know that it’s serious business with a holistic culture behind it, dynamism and unpredictability. Top positions in the industry are rarely reserved for a select few due to the existing stiff competition, which is probably why I wasn’t shocked by my sudden interest in Ms. Patty Monroe .

I first heard her song “Talk” on Radio a few months back and despite not knowing who she was or the song’s title, kept humming along to the tune for over a week. Then I heard “Killing it” that features Uganda’s Bebe Cool and knew I had to find out who the hell this girl was.

 

If you haven’t heard of Patty Monroe, then allow me to introduce you to freshness and authenticity that I last heard from the likes of legendary stars such as MC Lyte and  Lil Kim. If you have heard of her, then join me in celebrating this outstanding talent from South Africa who is set to change the rap scene in the continent.

Patty Monroe decided to be a rapper at the age of 15, when she joined The Night of Beat Bangaz, a hip hop platform run by DJ Ready D and DJ E-20. Aiming to take Hip Hop to a whole new level, she seeks to rightfully earn her place in the industry through her music, not as a femcee, but an emcee.

2 words to describe her music: fresh and funky. In her early 20s, mark my words, this girl is heading straight to the top of the list of best African Artists.

Here is my selection of my favorite Patty Monroe songs.

  1. Talk

 

  1. High fashion

 

 

  1. Killing it ft Bebe Cool

 

 

How about you? Which is your favourite Patty Monroe song?

The Remix V/S the Original #Salome

I really tried to refrain myself from doing another Diamond Platinumz post but have you heard the remix to Saida Karoli‘s Maria Salome?……I would be damned if I did not do this post.

While most urban songs from the West are sampled from back in the day (and turn out just fine), we are yet to fully embrace the concept in Africa.

Here is the thing though: You cannot do a remix to a chart- topping song unless you are making it bigger and better than it already was.Diamond might be among the very few artists from Africa that have remixed an old school jam, without stripping off important elements that made the original version lovable. This way, he has been able  to retain an older audience that knew and loved Saida’s Salome, while at the same time attracting a younger audience that may not have necessarily heard the original song’s version….Excellence I tell you….Excellence

And just when I thought Veteran Tanzanian singer Saida Karoli was “dead” (musically speaking), Diamond brings the musical legend back to life, in a manner that I doubt any other artist would have managed to do so.Now here is the icing of the cake- Rayvanny. I have listened to a couple of this Wasafi Records Singer but truth be told, his input on this particular jam has got to be one of his best of his works ever.

Now you tell me….Did Diamond do justice to Salome?

 

 

 

5 Lessons artists can learn from Diamond Platinumz’ music career

  1. The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.

7 Years ago, no one thought of the possibility of Diamond being bigger than any other artist in Tanzania. While some artists are blessed enough to have a pretty face (no pun intended), sick dance moves or even wealth that has them at an advantage as they launch their music careers, Diamond only had a voice needed for what would pass for a good song. Yet, he still became the iconic figure that he is today for East Africa’s Music Industry.

Don’t put your dreams on hold as you wait for the “perfect life conditions”.

  1. Be true to who you are even as you try to attract a larger and more diverse audience.

Diamond has become an international artist by working with different artists from across Africa while remaining true to his sound and the reason why we fell in love with him as an artist.

The only person you should strive to be in an attempt to be successful is the best version of you.

  1. Consistency

It’s hard to keep track of just how many songs Diamond has done since he began his music career in 2009. Some have made for hit songs while some…..well, you only get to know of their existence when you search for his YouTube channel. As an artist, you only get better with song after song to perfect your art, make mistakes while you are at it and learn from them. Ensure that even with the emergence of equally talented artists each new day, you remain unforgettable.

  1. Build an undeniable respectable brand

Love him or hate him, Diamond has packaged himself in a way that many African artists have failed to do so. Even with his collaborations with such successful artists such as Flavour, Mafikizolo and Papa Wemba, he maintains an independent respectable brand that has managed to do so without riding on other people’s fame and success.

  1. There’s much more to a successful music career than talent

Listen, we have so many talented artists from Tanzania. Heck! From Africa Difference is that Diamond has invested in building a brand, with a proper strategy and marketing that makes him stand out.

“You can’t look at the competition and say you are going to do it better, you have to look at the competition  and say you are going to do it differently,” Steve Jobs.

 

Meet Ndegz- RedRepublik Signed Artist and last year’s Pulse Music Video Awards Winner

Ndegz (Image courtesy of 1.sndcnd.com)
Ndegz (Photo Credit: soundcloud.com)

 

Ndegz is a Kenyan producer, singer, song writer and a rapper. He began his journey into the music world as a studio engineer at Enkare Studios, co- owned by Eric Wainaina and Tim Rimbui. Ndegz later co- produced and was featured in amongst Kenya’s biggest club bangers of 2011, Skamaress alongside Madtraxx and Kora. Having felt the need to re- strategize, he took a two year break from the music industry and is now back with a bang, having even scooped last year’s Break Through Video Award during the Pulse Music Video Awards for his “Twende Nyumbani” video. He describes his music as cool, sexy and kick ass and thinks that the best piece he ever wrote was “They Don’t know me” , a song that he shelved, but one that he describes as the realest he has done so far.

Your music is very diverse, with a touch of RNB, Hip- Hop and Afro- Pop. What inspires your style?

A lot, but I was raised on RNB. Therefore, a lot of my musical influence and the way I write my music comes from RNB, which is very smooth….the Boys To Men, Usher and Baby Face kind of vibe.  That’s the core influence of my music. However, later on in life I learnt of Hip- Hop and got to appreciate the Rap culture. I therefore blend the two (RNB and Hip-Hop) and fuse it with my being a product of Africa, with the need to dance being ingrained as part of our continent’s culture.   So taking bits of all of that is what makes my music what it is.

Your main target audience is the ladies which has earned you the title “Ladies Man”, why that particular group and not the men whom you probably understand better or any other group?

As much as I say my music appeals more to the ladies, I think it is to fault, because I sing music from my point of view as a man, hence lots of men can agree with me. Most people referred to Twende Nyumbani as a “Fisis’ Anthem” (Hyena Anthem), and Fisis are made mainly up of men. So much as I am singing to you as a lady, my message is coming through from a man’s point of view and men can relate. I therefore think my music does resonate with both sexes, just that I am speaking to ladies.

 

What makes Ndegz so different from any other multi- talented Kenyan artist?

My believe in myself and my brand because regardless of what happens and how things play out, I am going to be here. A lot of artists get disheartened when things do not go their way but for me, I want to be here. I might do other things but music is not something I can deny. Kenya’s Music  Industry is still young and it is about time we start uping our game. Not just as artists, but the whole structure and everyone involved.  We need to build each other and I want to be a part of that process. So even if (God forbid) I lost my voice, I wouldn’t stop being in music because I feel like I have much to offer, just from the way I think, to the way I put things together, brand myself, my art and my talent, that’s what sets me apart from the rest.

Future Collaborations you aspire to work on…

There are plenty of artists whose work I admire including Tanzania’s Joh Makini, Uganda’s Radio and Weasal and Kenya’s Kaligraph Jones, Sana, Victoria Kimani and Sauti Sol. Beyond East Africa, I would like to work with Nigeria’s  Cynthia Morgan and WizKid  and South Africa’s Heavy K production- wise.

What’s that one thing as a music creator that you would like to be remembered for even when you are no- more?

I want to leave behind a legacy that will have me be remembered for having made the most out of the least.  We are yet to reach our potential as a country and I would like to among those remembered for taking us as a country to another level. I want people to have conversations saying “Remember how Ndegz did it or…Ndegz did this and paved the way for us” And if I can be that guy who puts Kenya on the map or makes it easier for the next Kenyan artist to do what I am doing, then I would have lived a full life.

 

3 Reasons why the Yemmi Alade/ Sauti Sol collabo is amongst the best of this decade.

You’ve probably already watched Africa by Yemi Alade and Sauti Sol and thought that this has got to be amongst the best things to have happened to the continent. I do agree with you, so let’s get down to exploring the 3 major factors that have contributed to making this the outstanding collaboration that it is.

  1. Credibility

It’s one thing to say that you are proudly African, but another to have a lifestyle that constantly confirms the statement to be true.

Long before Africans had discovered the potential of afro- pop, Sauti Sol was bold enough to explore this unique genre with authenticity that was previously rare. Simple music with an acoustic feel and meaningful lyrics have characterized their music and slowly but steadily been embraced as a unique African export, that sells within and beyond the continent.

On the other hand, Yemi is one who has rightfully earned the “Mama Africa” title, through her expressive persona and exemplary dressing that constantly represents the continental values. Need I say more?…The song is a perfect piece of art consistent with who Yemi and Sauti Sol are and what they have constantly proven to believe in, making them equally believable on this one.

  1. The East and West representation

Nigeria has for a long time been thought of as the “capital of African Music.” Having an East (Kenya) and West (Nigeria) representation of Africa in the song is a brilliant idea with an undeniable inclusive approach that speaks oneness and a common vision of general continental thrive.

 

  1. Great chemistry

 

If you watched Yemmi Alade performing with Sauti Sol on Coke Studio Africa Season 3, then you would know that the boy band blends perfectly with the Nigerian star, you would think it was a group of 5. Great energy, exceptional talent that isn’t afraid to push boundaries, this is definitely a match made in heaven.

 

Boy am I glad that this wasn’t a charity kind of collaboration…(the kind that has such a big star being paid to feature on a mediocre song by an upcoming artist, after which we as the audience have to deal with the nightmare of a song but act like we like it simply because our favorite artist is on it).

Share what you think about the Yemi/ Sauti Sol collaboration too.

Black Coffee’s win was more about having the best songs as opposed to hit songs; Rapper Fid Q weighs in.

BET 2016  Best International Act Africa Nominees (Image courtesy of genevieveng.com)
BET 2016 Best International Act Africa Awards Nominees (Image courtesy of genevieveng.com)

Yes!Yes! I know that the 2016 BET Awards are long gone but just one more conversation to go. So while we all thought that the Best International Act award would be bagged by Wizkid, considering how big a brand he has become..(with his recent collaboration with Tinie Tempah, tour with Chris Brown,  topping UK charts along with Drake for 11 straight weeks…what were these people looking for?….seriously), life slapped us right in the face with one among its many surprises and instead had Black Coffee scoop the award.

Whether you knew Black Coffee or not prior to the BET nomination, Tanzanian Rapper Fid Q during a recent interview had the records set straight as to why the South African DJ won over every other nominee under the same category (that for some reason seemed way popular than him).

According to  Fid Q, most people expected big wigs Wizkid, Diamond or AKA to bring  the title home but  these expectations were not met due to the difference between  having “hit songs” and “best songs”, a concept that most artists rarely think about.

Fid Q pointed out that most award ceremonies focus to reward artists with the best songs as opposed to hit songs. The rapper also went ahead to explain that Black Coffee may not be well known due to his unique style of music  that would rarely pass for “hit songs”, but that the South African star receives wider recognition than it may seem like it, getting heavy rotation in South African Clubs as well as other parts of the world.

Truth be told, I hadn’t really thought much about what Fid Q said until he did and then I had to start thinking if at all our modern artists have any best songs. (Because at the end of the day, you want a song that will be in high rotation and have everyone talking about you….which unfortunately means a hit song would work more as compared to a best song)

So what exactly is the difference between a hit song and a best song?…(*clears throat*)… According to Wikipedia, a hit song is a recorded single that is popular, gets repeated air play and makes it to an official music chart. Most hit songs are seasonal, getting an audience excited for a short period such as a month or two, after which they get phased out. On the other hand, a best song is a timeless song carefully thought through and put together with great structure, creativity and with the ability to impact. A good example of a hit song could be Koo Koo by Elani, while a best song that wasn’t  necessarily a hit song is Hapo Zamani (I use the same band so that it make more sense).

Is it possible to merge the two?…(i.e.  To have a best song that can pass for a hit song?)…I am not an artist (do not quote me) but I think that it is. You just have to be creative enough and ensure that you meet your target audience’s demands.

What do you think?…..Do you agree with Fid Q or not?

 

Introducing AfroTrap King: KC Pozzy

 

 

KC Pozzy (Image courtesy of static.wixstatic.com)
KC Pozzy (Image courtesy of static.wixstatic.com)

 

KC Pozzy’s Record label Motive Entertainment hit me up with his latest EP (that is now available on I- Tunes and being the African Music Enthusiast that I am, I definitely had to sample his music. (I honestly had not heard of him before). Guess what?…After sampling, I loved it…so here we are….ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you to the AfroTrap King;  KC Pozzy.

KC Pozzy  is an AfroTrap artist, originally from Nigeria but currently based in the UK. (Don’t worry, I too had no idea what AfroTrap Music was until I learned about KC)… He defines AfroTrap Music as the very popular Afro Beat sound  infused with trap music which is mainly associated with among others rappers such as Future, Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane.

(Now that you are schooled…..Il send you an invoice laterJ)….KC Pozzy was raised in Lagos Nigeria, but abandoned by his father at the age

of 10, after which he had to fend for himself in the streets of Lagos. His passion for music then had him sing his way out of Nigeria and into United Kingdom. In 2002, KC made the decision to explore other cultures and lifestyles, with the hope of finding his inner self, a decision that had him live in America, Thailand, Canada, Malaysia and Turkey.

KC Pozzy mainly draws inspiration from his musical hero Fela Kuti from Nigeria and European influence from R&B singer Seal. This is in addition to his travel outside Europe that had provided additional inspiration which contributes greatly to his unique music compilations.

The AfroTrap artist looks forward to working with likeminded and world class artists, who share his passion and open mindedness. Further, he hopes to drum up major support across different platforms all around the world.

 

KC’s EP titled The New King is Born dropped on 11th April 2016 with hit songs such as Look at Me now, Aprochigana, Ice Water Boy and Player Hater.

“I just want to contribute to this great industry and art as music makes up such a fundamental part of whom I am”, he says.

Get to sample his music as well and tell me what you think….