Tuesday, October 30, 2007

And Then There Were 3

Well,it's crunch time now.Time for millions of viewers across the continent to determine who would become the 2nd ever winner of the extremely popular reality tv show,BIg Brother Africa:a title that comes with a mouth-watering cash prize.What a huge difference 3 months can make.Who honestly would have thought,from the first couple of weeks,that the final 3 contestants would be richard,tatiana & our own ofunneka(whose selection many nigerians were initially disappointed in)?Not me anyway.I felt max & my birthday mate,Bertha would be almost certain finalists.
The show,as is usual with most reality-based concepts,gave viewers loads of entertainment,drama & an almost infinite doze of controversy,largely ensured by the 'interesting' relationship between Richard & Tatiana.I guess there are some lessons to be learnt from this year's show.For me,the key learning is:being humble & nice pays.Who can forget the weekly evictions of the unpleasant & inappropriately nicknamed,lerato-led 'untouchables',whom the viewers ensured left one after the other in a seemingly choreographed manner?To be honest,the road to these final 2 weeks hasn't been easy at all.
The housemates have endured numerous tasks,starvation,countless emotional moments and being confined in a bungalow with people they didn't necessarily like.All this crowned with no contact with the outside world,except the very few times they had guests.If you really think about it,that's no easy feat.The opportunity has now come for us to influence who walks away with the potentially life-changing $100,000 prize on Nov.11th.Well,i've started the process towards having a say in the outcome by sending my first batch of smses.Who did i vote for?
Here's an easy clue:my candidate & i share the same passport colour.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Brains & Race

Every now and again, someone or something seems to stir up a bit of controversy. In this situation, it was sparked by a well-respected DNA pioneer & one-time Nobel Prize winner for Medicine, James Watson. The 79 yr old scientist had, in a recent interview with a British newspaper, insinuated that Africans are genetically not as smart as whites. Yes, exactly what he said.Expectedly, this ignited condemnation from all over the globe. As a result of those shocking remarks, Mr. Watson was suspended from a renowned U.S Laboratory where he served as chancellor. He also had to cancel his planned book tour, as well as a visit to London’s Science Museum where he was to deliver a sold-out lecture. Even though he’s since apologized for his obviously ‘un-wise’ remarks, there are still a lot of displeased people (particularly of African descent) out there. Well, here’s my brief take on his brave, but politically incorrect utterances. We all know that this continent is largely underdeveloped,economically & democratically, compared to our western counterparts and that’s a big chunk of the problem. We are victims of our environment. There’s a lot of poverty here which restricts proper educational advancement & consequently literacy levels.Let's not forget the impact of corruption as well.Funds meant for educational infrastructure etc are diverted into private pockets.Also, racism & bias worsens the situation as many educated Africans, say who schooled/live abroad, find it difficult to get good & fair growth/job opportunities,a key avenue for intellectual progression.
However, for Mr. Watson to claim that,because of one's dark skin color/ancestry,you are inherently dumber than the average white guy is grossly untrue & has no scientific evidence.
On a more worrisome note, if an intelligent Nobel Prize winner like James Watson could have made such remarks during a newspaper interview, who knows how many more share similar views like his?
Worrisome indeed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

O Timi,Where Art Thou?

4 months & 3 weeks. That’s how long it’s been since that electric Saturday evening at Planet One, Ikeja.The occasion was the final show of the captivating, inaugural season of Idols West Africa. As a lover of music & talent, I had watched the show religiously over the several months it ran, right from the rib-cracking auditions at the start. So, with some connections, as well as a strong desire to personally witness which of the 2 Nigerian finalists would be crowned the first ever Idols West Africa champ, I was present at the immensely entertaining finale. I must admit, I had been a big supporter of Owamunmi’s.Like many others, I was impressed by the remarkable way she stepped up her game in the season’s closing weeks. It was obvious she wanted it badly. I also felt that she had the total package: physically attractive, great stage presence & a powerful personality.Timi, the show’s frontrunner, had an amazing, husky voice which constantly reminded me of nigerian-born singer, Lemar.
After lovely performances by both competitors that day, it was time to announce who came out tops.Timi Dakolo, the 26 yr old from Bayelsa was declared winner, the catalyst for deafening screams & mad celebration from his overwhelming no. of supporters. The people’s favorite had emerged tops with 63% of the votes, a victory that was accompanied by a lucrative recording deal with major label, BMG. In true Idols fashion, he had to perform his own show-closing song, the catchy & evidently appropriate ‘’I Love You’’.The crowd, myself included, went wild singing along to the appealing chorus, like Karaoke enthusiasts. As I drove home after such a memorable event, I was looking forward to hearing the potential hit played over & over again on the radio, with a video to match on several local & continental channels.
Well folks, I’m still waiting. I kid you not, I have not heard Timi’s song anywhere since the next day (i.e. Sunday, May 27th 2007) when the show was broadcast to millions across Africa via DSTV. In other countries where Idols has become almost culture-like, the record company granting the winner a contract quickly releases the artiste’s competition-ending song to various radio stations & record stores as a 1st single, with the album to follow months later. This strategy is wisely used to capitalize on the show's popularity & with the Idols winner still in the minds & hearts of the viewing audience, the speedy release is vital. Examples of this approach abound: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia & Kelly Clarkson in the US version & Will Young with chart-topper ‘Evergreen’ in the UK.Well, call me cynical, but fact is fact. Why must our own style be different? Over 140 days & not even airplay,talkless of a musical video on MTV Base or even ‘Nigezie’.True,The Idols Top 10 have been going on various road shows nationwide, aided by the show’s headline sponsor, but like the popular question goes ‘’na that one we go chop?’’
If I was the young man, I would demand to know, from either my publicist/manager (if any) or the record company execs, why ‘my progress is being stunted (unintentionally or not)’.After all, like he said in the opening line of the ‘I Love You’ track, 'I have a Dream…’
Ok,Mr Dakolo,grab it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Scofield or Bauer?

If you are a huge fan of TV shows like i am,chances are you're an ardent follower of '24' and/or 'Prison Break',two addictive american series that have gotten tv viewers hooked in the last couple of years.These innovative shows,with powerful & crafty scripts, are focused primarily on 2 special characters:Heavily-tatooed Michael Scofield in the conspiracy-fueled 'Break' & Jack Bauer in terrorism-themed drama,'24'.Scofield is the calm,intelligent schemer who never panics & always comes up with a plan.Jack,on the other hand,is the patriotic govt. agent who packs energy like that of a Boeing 747's engines,has a cellphone with miraculous battery life & has even woken up from the dead before(well,sort of).So,if you were ever faced with a life-threatening situation,which of these 2 cape-less 'superheroes' would you wish was right beside you?Scofield or Bauer?Comments please,if any.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Top Ten

Today,I decided to do something different. I was watching an interview with a multinational company’s CEO on CNN the other day.During the chat,the reporter asked the gentleman who his most inspirational people were. Now,this simple (but deep) question got me thinking. Who’ll make my own list?Well,I’ve decided to share my top 10 names with you(in no particular order).As you’ll notice, they are individuals from different works of life, but they all constantly inspire me.
Nelson Mandela:
A man who was convicted for his anti-apartheid struggle and sent to prison for 27 yrs.After his release, he ruled his nation for one term (voluntarily) & forgave everyone who wronged him. Today, he’s adored & respected by many all over the planet. That says it all.

Oprah Winfrey:
The 53 yr old Mississippi-born multi-award winning host of the globally famous Oprah Winfrey Show.Oprah was born into a poverty-stricken family,raised by her grandmother & sexually abused by some of her family members.Today,she’s worth $2.5 billion making her the planet’s only black billionaire(in US dollars).

The Grammy-award winning Chicago native who,just 17 yrs ago,was screaming his lungs out with fellow group-mates after winning a $25,000 talent contest.Today,despite his recent controversial legal woes, the self-acclaimed ‘King of R&B’ is a respected multi-millionaire singer, songwriter, producer & multi-instrumentalist who’s been consistent in the music industry for the last 16 yrs.

America’s 35th president (& one of its most popular) who was shockingly assassinated just 2 yrs into his presidency in Texas, by unknown gunmen. Up till this very day, conspiracy theorists still ponder over who was responsible for his untimely demise.Mr Kennedy was 46 when he passed.

Princess Diana:
It’s been over 10 yrs since that unfortunate Sunday, yet she still makes today’s headlines. Diana was kind, humble, beautiful & loved by millions across the globe. Easily the most popular princess the world has ever had.

Will Smith:
The rapper-turned-actor from Philadelphia who,despite his $20 million per movie paycheck,has managed to stay grounded, away from controversy & well-shielded from the media’s intense scrutiny.Currently,the Oscar-nominated & grammy award-winning artist is Hollywood’s most bankable actor with 7 consecutive smash hit movies & last starred in ‘’The Pursuit of Happyness’’,one of cinema’s most tear-inducing films.

Roger Federer:
The 26 yr old Swiss tennis player/philanthropist (with a South African mother) has been the world’s no. 1 for over 3 & a half yrs,has won 12 Grand Slam Singles titles & is poised to become the greatest player ever to grace a tennis court.

Michael Jackson:
The controversial King of Pop whose masterpiece ‘Thriller’ became the 1st album in history to spawn 7 US Top 10 hit singles, and is the world’s biggest selling album ever with over 104 million records sold to date. Need I say more?

Denzel Washington:
An incredible, humble African-American actor from NY with 5 Oscars nominations (& 2 wins) who, in my own view, can never make a bad film. When asked, by a reporter in a recent interview, why he wears a $60 dollar Timex watch despite his millions in wealth, he simply responded ‘’It tells the time, doesn’t it?’’.

George Akamiokhor:

A hardworking gentleman from Etsako East L.G.A in Edo State who, despite rising from absolute poverty to helm a major FG parastatal for 17 yrs,stayed principled & refused to loot despite obvious temptation. Today,his many years of service & dedication has evidently paid off in the nigerian capital market(even though he never got to see it for himself). I think somewhere in the Bible says ‘’A good name is worth more than silver & gold’’.How true, dad.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Is Success Now A Crime?

The nigerian music scene has blown up over the last few years. Within the period,a countless array of artistes have sprung up with innovative, original songs that have been prominently featured on many radio & nightclub playlists, alongside american singers & rappers. For me, the special thing about this musical revolution is the fact that our musicians have become original with the lyrics, beats & general vibe in their tracks. One artiste at the forefront of this remarkable crusade is 2face Idibia, an ex-member of male group, Plantashun Boiz.Mr Idibia, with 2 critically acclaimed(& commercially successful) albums under his belt, has clearly become a favorite amongst many Nigerians for his impressive vocals & catchy, anthemic tracks. His tall frame & good looks have also drawn him to many female admirers across the nation (& the continent in general).This MTV Europe Award winner also has the admirable record of being the first artiste to have a music video (African Queen) played on MTV Base Africa. With 2face’s commercial success, his financial status predictably changed.So it was based on this that,2yrs ago in his Festac residence, men of the underworld decided to pay the hardworking musical icon a late night visit. This happened shortly after returning from Portugal where he had just received the newly introduced ‘Best African Act’ accolade due to the tremendous success of his debut solo album,'Face To Face’. The na├»ve crooks had probably assumed that 2face’s MTV award came with a hefty cash price which he had stored at home. Displeased with the unfruitfulness of their mission, the airheads decided to leave the young man with some physical injuries before they fled.
Fast forward time to Thursday Oct 4th, 2007.A lot has happened, career-wise, for this hugely talented crooner since that unfortunate night in Festac Town. He’s released another classic CD, Grass 2 Grace, which spun various hits like ‘For Instance’ & the nightclub special ‘See Me So’. He’s also firmly shown consistency with his vocal gift, become a household name & expectedly increased his bank balance. On this Thursday night, the one-time barber had just returned from the UK, where he had collected the MOBO Award for ‘Best African Act’. He was on his way home from the international airport when bad boys came calling once more. This time, they seemed more desperate and shot him in the thigh while he was trying to make a life-saving getaway. Apparently, word must have spread, possibly from an insider, that our musical ambassador was returning from London.Again, the robbers probably believed that he had thousands of British pounds in his possession.
The extremely lucky gentleman is currently recuperating at a renowned Victoria Island hospital where he’s being treated for his gunshot wounds.At this rate, it wouldn’t be surprising if he decides to relocate to a sane neighboring country like Ghana in the near future.As a massive fan of the guy’s musical ability, I wish him a speedy recovery & look forward to many more addictive CDs from this multi-award winner.

On the other hand, I have a gut feeling that Mr.Idibia’s insurance premium has just gone up.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Party Animals We Are

Nigerians love to party.Actually,most do. Give us a hot, infectious beat & our feet would do the rest. In a recent trip to SA, all I heard from people I met was how our people loved to rock. This was quite flattering coming from a society where clubbing is taken quite seriously as well. In Naija, a track could contain lyrics inciting terrorism but people won’t mind,as long as they could boogie down to the song’s catchy beats.
Back in my university days, weekend partying was something that came naturally for many students regardless of social affiliations. Whether one belonged to a club or cult (or just plain neutral like yours truly), people looked forward to the next rave or Bachelor’s Eve happening in town.
There was one such party in Apapa during the semester that many undergrads had flocked to, in presidential convoy-style. It was at a massive staff club that belonged to a major oil company. By 1 a.m, the groove was in full swing, largely aided by the steady flow of drinks that ensured everyone had involuntarily loosened up, as well as the slamming tracks being spun by the party's hired DJ.
One of the hottest songs at the time was Kirk Franklin’s 'Stomp', a catchy tune that happened to be the 1st gospel video ever played on popular music channel,MTV.Mr Franklin had, in various interviews, stated that he wanted 'Stomp' to be extremely funky so as to attract music-obsessed youths to the spiritual message within.
Now, the crowd at this hot Friday night bash had just gone wild over Biggie’s no.1 hit,’Mo Money,Mo Problems’ when the guy at the turntables decided to introduce ‘Stomp’.Expectedly,the rocking on the dance floor continued seamlessly.I,however, noticed a guy & girl rocking just beside me. As Kirk was belting out his passion-infused lyrics through the powerful speakers, this girl was gyrating around her partner. They started dancing erotically like salsa champions. For me, I got a little bit uncomfortable. I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had just seen them ‘sinfully’ wind to the ‘Jesus your love is so, is so amazing’ portion of the hit track.
I systematically shifted away from the 'immoral' duo (with my own dance partner in tow), for fear of being caught by the lightning that was likely to strike them from above, for their physically blasphemous conduct. The couple’s stomping seemed endless and more erotic with each passing second, not helped by the fact that the DJ was spinning the extended mix of the song that featured Salt of female rap group, Salt n Pepa. True,the track was clearly made to be moved to.However,i doubt it was intended to get 2 intoxicated individuals so close together that they could be mistaken for siamese twins.
Luckily, the 2(& every other culprit on the floor,i guess)were spared imminent fatality as Puff Daddy's ‘Can't Nobody Hold Me Down’ was next to follow.
In subsequent years,more catchy gospel-laced jams,such as Mary Mary’s ‘Shackles(Praise You)’ & Winans Phase 2’s 'Send Me’ have featured in many DJs’ party playlists.Simply because they were sweet, funky tracks that partygoers & clubbers were destined to physically get down to, regardless of the spiritual theme.
Now,i may be wrong but something tells me that wasn’t exactly what Kirk Frankin & co. had in mind.