African arts, culture + politics · London culture

Breakin’ Convention 2013: Junior

junior_main

(ARISELIVE.com, April 2013)

Words Carinya Sharples  Photo credit Paul Hampartsoumian

For one weekend every year London dance venue Sadler’s Wells puts away the ballet shoes, flamenco skirts and leotards and gives free reign to a festival of street dance – with jaw-dropping shows, workshops, parties and more (see teaser video at bottom).

As the tenth edition of Breakin’ Convention prepares to pop, lock and boogie into town, we caught up with one of the international acts set to wow the crowds from 4-6 May.

Junior Bosila Banya aka Junior was born in Kinshasa, DRC, and moved to France age two to receive treatment after contracting polio. Since then he’s become a groundbreaking dancer; performing worldwide as a solo artist and with his crew Wanted Posse, and scooping up awards as easy as ice-cream – including World Champion at Battle Of The Year Germany in 2001 and winner of France Got Talent in 2007.

We spoke to the 32-year-old about his moves, what he’s looking forward to about Breakin’ Convention 2013 and how he came to dance for Madonna. Here are some of his thoughts…

I am looking forward to sharing a part of my passion for dancing through my solo show. I hope that I am going to be good enough to be on the main stage and able to captivate almost 2,000 people by myself. That will be a good challenge. I know how important it is to be in such a big hip hop festival.

The teams I’m hoping to see at Breakin’ Convention are Electric Boogaloos, Zamunda, ILL Abilities and Soul Mavericks.The Electric Boogallos because they are pioneers and the others because I’ve known most of their members for a long time from another competitions so I can’t wait to see them in a theatre-show environment.

I would describe my breaking style as unusual. I build it with my story, my inspirations and the energy that a crowd or any person can give.

Photo credit Mohamed Zerrouk

I’ve been to Breakin’ Convention three times before: twice with my crew Wanted Posse, and one time for another version of my solo BUANATTITUDE. I still perform with the Wanted Posse. My crew is 20 years old with almost 30 dancers.

The nicknames I have chosen are Buana, which I’ve had since I was 13 or 14, and Buanson from the Wanted Posse. The other names [such as Alien with Serial Crew Breakers] people gave to me. Some people even think that Junior is a nickname.

Thanks to my dance I have been able to visit 51 countries and I have been impressed by so many of them: Australia, Japan, Tahiti, Jordan, Cambodia… I had the privilege to dance for an emir of Dubai and big personalities. Another of my highlights was when I won France Got Talent [La France a un incroyable talent] in front of millions of viewers.

I had the opportunity to dance for Madonna two times. One time we did a show for her in a club. She liked it so we were invited to dance for her son’s birthday. She is a very friendly and open-minded person. I was so surprised to see how cool she is in the real world. And in the evening she invited us to eat at her home.

The ultimate place for me to dance would be… on a big stage like for the Super Bowl or in front of big personality. Why not the Queen!

My parents decided to leave Kinshasa because of the hard life over there. I have been back since; to see where I come from and to meet family. It was so nice to re-link with my roots – that gave me the courage to do my first solo. In Congo I felt this positive energy and dynamic that we often miss in our “developed countries”.

There is a street dance and a bboy scene in Kinshasa– they are very talented. I hope to organise a nice jam other there soon.

For the near future I am preparing my bboy team from Wanted Posse to win big battles; I’m working on my clothing brand, Buana; and I’m going to work with a company in Germany for maybe one year.

If I wasn’t a breakdancer…I would have been someone who would like to be a breakdancer!

Breakin’ Convention takes place at Sadler’s Wells in London from 4-6 May. For more information and to book tickets visit breakinconvention.com.

African arts, culture + politics

Word games: Talib Kweli

talib

(ARISE magazine, issue 18)

Such is the power of social media that before Talib Kweli had even touched down in South Africa this August, to judge the Sprite Uncontainable Hip Hop Talent Search, the US rapper was already embroiled in lively debate with his SA Twitter followers. On being told that Africans hate the term ‘the motherland’ he tweeted, “[It] could come off as corny, but for us struggling with the effects of the slave trade saying motherland is a point of pride.” When another fan declared African-Americans “not real Africans” he diplomatically replied, “I disagree but, hey, to each his own.” And when accused of referring to Soweto as a country he quickly, and indignantly, responded, “I’ve BEEN to Soweto. Did a show in the street with Black Thought, Dead Prez, Boots & Jeru.”

Kweli was referring to his 2001 visit as part of the Black August Hip Hop Project, which saw several US rappers tour Durban, Joburg, the Cape Flats, Cape Town and Soweto to promote Black August’s work fighting for the rights of political prisoners. The trip had a lasting effect on Kweli. “[It] defined my role,” he told Charise Cheney in her book Brothers Gonna Work It Out: Sexual Politics In The Golden Age Of Rap Nationalism. “I had access to food, shelter and education [growing up], I have to use those resources to help people all over the world. If I can’t see that after trips to all those places then I’m a fool.”

On Push Thru, the first single off his new album, Prisoner Of Conscious, Kweli proves he’s no fool, delivering lines such as “fighting for freedom like the people in Tunisia/ spread to Sudan and Egypt, this is the music for the movement”. “My aim was to make an album of love songs but it ended up being deeper,” he admits. “There are a lot of songs dealing with the opposite sex though.” He describes the album as “lush and romantic”, which is perhaps less surprising given some of his collaborators: Seu Jorge and R&B singers Melanie Fiona and Amber Strother (Nelly and Busta Rhymes also feature).

Prisoner Of Conscious is Kweli’s second release in recent months, coming off the back of his free mixtape Attack The Block. “People in this generation expect free music, period,” he says. “To work against that as an artist is to work against yourself. God willing the mixtape will drive up a buzz for the album, and I also wanted to do a mixtape with a real DJ like Z-Trip, that had actual mixing.”

TEAM PLAYER

Collaborating with established artists and discovering new talent are skills Kweli has nurtured throughout his career – from teaming up with Mos Def, Hi-Tek and Madlib to co-founding record label BlackSmith Music (with Corey Smyth). In SA he drew on this experience to decide the three winners of the talent contest: rapper Hydrochloric, graphic designer Dane (aka Stops) and b-girl ShamRock. “Cape Town was incredible,” he enthuses, “The performers were great and I look forward to seeing the winners in NYC [where he will mentor them]”.

Kweli took to the stage too, putting on killer shows at Cape Town’s Trinity club and Joburg’s OST. But SA is not the only pin on Kweli’s map of Africa. He’s also been to Nigeria (see right) and Tanzania (for the MTV show Tripping). “People of African descent have Africa running through their bones,” he says. “It’s a connection that slavery and colonialism could never erase. So when I touched down, even the distant felt familiar.” Kweli has expressed an interest in genealogical testing – but, he says, “the science I’ve seen behind tracing one’s roots past the slave trade is hokey at best”.

From the moment his professor parents named him Kweli (‘true’ in Swahili), Africa has been ingrained in the rapper’s life. “My parents’ generation came of age in 1960s America when black consciousness and pan-Africanism was on the rise,” he says. “Those values were taught when I was young, then reinforced when I listened to hip hop.” In terms of African music, Kweli namechecks MC Tumi, Seun and Femi Kuti and is keen to hear more. “African music, other than our popular music influenced by African rhythms, is not mainstream in the US at all. We have a long way to go with that.”

As well as an album, Kweli’s also been busy motivating his fellow citizens to vote, taking to Twitter to scorn Nicki Minaj for seemingly showing support for Mitt Romney (“Just heard a dude on Hot97 say he won’t let his daughter listen to Nicki Minaj cuz she endorses Romney. Really? That’s what it took?”). ARISE spoke to Kweli before the election took place, but he had no doubt what the result would be: “Obama will win for sure, no question. The election seems like a distraction, because it’s a popularity contest. And Obama is definitely more popular.” How right he was.

The rapper’s also been working on his autobiography and has already shared one chapter, That One Time When I Was Atheist, And The Influence Of Malcolm X, on his Tumblr. Coming from a man who once bought a bookshop in Brooklyn with Mos Def it’s not a surprising move. “I would like to create industry around myself rather than waiting for an industry to support me,” he says. “The book is part of that. I feel my story can be as inspirational as the music.”

Prisoner Of Conscience [Javotti], out Feb

[BOXOUT] LIGHTS, CAMERA, AFRICA!

Talib Kweli shot his video for Hostile Love in Lagos. But he’s not the only one repping Africa on MTV.

Rick Ross, Lagos (2012)
Rick Ross caused a Twitter storm with his Hold Me Back video, in which the rapper swaggers through the ghettos of Lagos State, dishing out dollar bills.

Solange, Cape Town (2012)
Solange roped in a troupe of snappily dressed sapeurs for her Losing You video, shot against the barbershops and streets of Langa township.

MIA, Morocco (2012)
In MIA’s Bad Girls, gun-toting, headscarved women strut the dusty streets of Ouarzazate. After the redhead genocide of Born Free it’s almost tame.

Westlife, Gauteng (2011)
Bafflingly beloved across Africa, Westlife shot their video for Lighthouse in SA’s Cradle of Humankind heritage site. Cue swaying grasses and safari tents.

African arts, culture + politics · Travel

I Love… Gaborone

zeus
Detail from illustration by Jim Spencer

(ARISE magazine, issue 17) Hip hop artist and Channel O awards nominee Zeus tells us where it’s at in Botswana’s chilled-out capital, from the coolest club to the unofficial business hub

Mokolodi Nature Reserve
Most people come to Africa expecting to see wild animals everywhere, which is just silly! There are areas in Botswana with freely roaming wildlife but not usually in cities, towns or villages. There is, however, a small game reserve in Gaborone where you can enjoy a game drive or a braai in the picnic area.

BotswanaCraft
This amazing place connects aspects of Setswana culture and lifestyle. They sell art, sculpture and other ornaments made by Batswana artists. Its courtyard restaurant specialises in local cuisine served in the traditional manner – down to how the waiting staff assist you in washing your hands before a meal. It’s also a popular live music venue and has hosted some first-class acts, including Oliver Mtukudzi, Salif Keita and yours truly!
Plot 20716, Magochanyama

Mafia Soul
For a more urban shopping experience visit one of the five Mafia Soul stores. The branch in Riverwalk Mall is the place to go if you live the hip hop lifestyle. Check out latest hip hop fashion trends, flick through magazines, buy music or debate the latest song, beef or your favourite MC with owner Molf and manager Prince. They man the floor, giving first-class service.
Riverwalk Shopping Mall, Unit 25/27

National Museum
Located next to the old mall in the city centre (formerly known as the Main Mall), the museum gives travellers an appreciation of the history of the relatively young city and the country as a whole. It brings back memories of primary-school field trips for me, and is captivating for all ages.
331 Independence Ave

Thapong Arts Centre
Located in the charmingly lazy, residential area of Village, this centre exhibits works by local visual artists. It’s testament to the resilience of Batswana artists, who haven’t received the support they deserve but still manage to produce breathtaking works.
Plot 21965, The Village

Pop-Inn
There is a local snack served with tea or coffee – or alongside chips, fish and Russians (a type of sausage) – which is known as magwinya or fat cakes. They are an oily, unhealthy but delightful [fried dough] treat one should enjoy every so often. Stop by here for one and some snoek fish – you can work it off later.
1873/4 Kgopo Close Ext 4

Dot Com
Formerly known for hosting business executives and political hotshots, this popular ‘beer after work with the guys’ spot mixes professionals, socialites and entrepreneurs in a melting pot of boyish mischief. Talk ranges from football, cars and ladies to business. If you want to bypass a lot of gatekeepers and meet key influencers and decision-makers, this place might serve you better than the business district.
Matima Crescent, off Maputo Drive

Khwest Cafe
For sundowners, Khwest is where it’s at. A very sociable joint smack in the middle of the oldest mall in the city with a lovely balcony, it’s a setting for soulful house music sessions, poetry recitals and stand-up comedy.
Queens Road, Ext 2

Sanitas Tea Garden
A nursery that houses more than plants and ornaments, Sanitas Tea Garden has a chilled restaurant with a great homestyle menu – complete with homemade lemonade and ice-cream. Perfect for a lazy afternoon or mid-morning when you want to escape from the routine of a dull day.
Gaborone Dam

Fusion Entertainment
Fusion Entertainent caters to a house and hip hop market. I’ve hosted some great parties there, including the debut of my Champagne Music video and my birthday. It attracts an ‘I wanna party, no BS’ crowd and on the right night it’s electric inside – with the balcony serving as a half-time rest stop for the city’s party rockers.
Mowana Park, Phakalane

African arts, culture + politics · Travel

I Love… Blantyre

lomwe

(ARISE magazine, issue 15) DJ, rapper and Big Brother Africa 2011 contestant Lomwe gives us a whistlestop tour of the hottest spots in and around Malawi’s largest city

Mustang Sally
This is a really nice club on the way to town. It’s got a tropical garden, two bars and a swimming pool – you can’t use it but when it’s lit up at night it looks really cool. During the week they sometimes have a live band but I don’t go then – that’s for the mature crowd, the older folks!
CI

TJs
This sports bar is about five minutes’ drive from Mustang Sally. People usually go there to watch the Premiership games; anywhere you sit you can see a screen. They have good snacks as well – I particularly like the grilled beef strips called linunda. They come with this amazing hot sauce, which they make themselves. I don’t know what ingredients they use but it tastes real good.
Mahatma Gandhi Road

Club Makokola
This holiday resort, north of Blantyre and next to Lake Malawi, is a really popular place to go to get away from town. I last went there with Zeus [who Lomwe collaborated with on hit single Double Wowza] for a photo shoot and we went snorkelling – there are hundreds of different fish to see. You can also take a boat to Bird Island and see fish eagles in action. I’d suggest going on a Friday and coming back on Sunday – and if you go, you have to try chambo. It’s the most popular fish and only found in Lake Malawi. You can eat it in lots of ways; stewed, or served with nsima, which is made of maize.
Mangochi

Chichiri shopping mall
This is probably the main mall in Blantyre. It’s a good spot to meet someone: there are so many things at a short distance from each other – internet cafés, fast food places, restaurants. There’s a place called Café Rouge, which
is pretty cool, a sports shop, some clothing stores and a supermarket – a chain from South Africa called Shoprite – where you can get your groceries.
Chichiri

Casa MIA
This restaurant is in a nice, leafy area called Sunnyside. It’s got a cosy atmosphere and great food. The owner is English and there’s a mix of European food on the menu. I’m not really into wine otherwise I could tell you all the good wines they have. I’m more of a beer person, and if it’s not a beer then it’s probably a gin or a brandy.
Kabula Hill Road

Robin’s Park
This theatre recently opened and has only had a few shows so far. It has a capacity of around 2,000 with an arena that has the stage in the middle. I’m thinking of doing the launch show for my mixtape or another of my projects there.
Njamba

Protea Hotel Ryalls
I usually go to Ryalls to use the wifi. It’s a big, comfortable, modern hotel in the heart of town, with a small bar where you can use the internet. A lot of people go there and it’s a nice place to have a coffee or business meeting.
Hanover Avenue

The Blue Elephant
This bar has been in Blantyre ever since I can remember. It has a mini dance floor and a DJ every Friday, Saturday and Wednesday – on Wednesday they have a band and a DJ who take it in turns to play. During
the weekend lots of people go there – sometimes too many. They play a lot of African and international house music – a lot of people in Malawi like house music. The dance that goes with it is kwasa kwasa.
Kidney Crescent

Kamuzu Stadium
The stadium is named after the first president of Malawi, Kamuzu Banda. I go there with friends when there’s a big international game on – I don’t really follow the local league. It’s a good, fun day out and everyone really gets
into the football.
Near Mudi Estate

Lomwe’s new mixtape, License To Kill, is available now on http://www.lomwe.com

London culture

Markus The Sadist at Bloomsbury Theatre (review)

bashy_markusthesadist

(Visit London, 19 May 2010) It’s going to be hard watching hip hop videos without a heavy dose of cynicism after seeing Markus the Sadist at Bloomsbury Theatre last night.

Created by Jonzi D – the man behind Sadler’s Wells‘ street dance sensation Breakin Convention – Markus The Sadist is a darkly comic diatribe against the fakery of the music industry.

Talented London emcee Markus (played by real-life grime artist Ashley “Bashy” Thomas) is spotted at a local hip hop battle and promised fame and fortune. Success comes at a price though, namely abandoning his intelligent lyrics and adopting a groin-grabbing rap persona and a sneering American accent.

Markus’ transformation from wide-eyed boy next door to hip hop stereotype is hilarious yet uncomfortably recognisable. One of the best moments is Markus’ first video shoot, when the flamboyant director (played by the scene-stealing Rob Broderick) demands the ubiquitous rap-star props of guns, bling and scantily-clad women dancers (“otherwise I’m shooting a documentary”).

Halfway through many scenes, you realise all the characters are talking in rhyme – which works surprisingly well. The musical thread is strengthened with jazz saxophonist Soweto Kinch as composer/musical director, while much of the cast are clearly talented artists in their own right.

There were a number of technical hiccups that need tightening and the play could be shorter and tighter. But on the whole, Markus The Sadist makes for a fresh, intelligent addition to the British theatre scene. Interested? Don’t hang about – the last performance is tomorrow night (Thursday)! Buy tickets (£14-£17.50) at http://www.thebloomsbury.com

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/05/markus-the-sadist-at-bloomsbury-theatre/

London culture

Breaking free: London’s Best Dance Crew

The Definitives at London’s Best Dance Crew 2010. Bruce Woods of Tactical Innovations Limited
The Definitives at London’s Best Dance Crew 2010. Bruce Woods of Tactical Innovations Limited

(Visit London, 4 May 2010) If you’re into street dancing, this weekend was designed for you. Breakin’ Convention returned to Sadler’s Wells with another top UK and international line-up, while over in Croydon the finals of London’s Best Dance Crew set Fairfield Halls alight – nearly literally, when organisers thought the stage curtains had caught fire!

For months, young dancers across London have been honing their routines and competing to reach Friday’s final. The atmosphere backstage on the night was one of nervous excitement, as last minute rehearsals were squeezed in and costumes tweaked.

Three groups battled it out in the first half. Trilogy’s fresh take on West Side Story earned them third place and they bowed out with a slick piece that made you realise how tough the competition was.

A fierce, African-inspired performance from The Definitives, featuring a troupe of drummers from London group Maracatu Estrela do Norte, and a hard-hitting show tackling bullying from Retaliation took these two groups into the final.

While we waited for the final showdown, we were treated to shows from a series of top performers – including former Sugababes singer Mutya Buena, Avant Garde and Peridot.

Then, finally, it was time for the final showdown. It was a close call, but in the end it was The Definitives who impressed the judges most. They were presented with a trophy and cheque for £3,000 by Private Johnson Beharry, the first soldier to be awarded a Victoria Cross since 1982.

And if two great street dance shows in one weekend wasn’t enough, the UK dance film Streetdance 3D is out at cinemas from 21 May. It’s time to invest in some lessons in popping, locking and breaking!

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/05/breaking-free-londons-best-dance-crew/