Global Citizen x Mandela 100

FNB Stadium. Johannesburg.

Sunday the 2nd of December saw the unprecedented assembly of a galaxy of international powerhouses – influencial figures from political, social and entertainment spaces – as Global Citizen came down to Johannesburg in South Africa to celebrate the centenary of Nelson Mandela and address socio-economic issues that currently plight Africa & the world at large.

Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 was a huge platform for donor countries to show their support via delegates, but also for African countries celebrating Madiba and standing up for his hope for a better future – making sure that Africa was speaking up and getting its voice heard.

An array of issues were addressed as the likes of Oprah, Naomi Campbell [whose now infamous pronunciation of “amandla” was a major highlight of the night] Gayle King, Al Sharpton, Nomzamo Mbatha, Bonang Matheba, Pearl Thusi and heads of state such as Paul Kagame & Cyril Ramaphosa, The World Bank Group’s Dr. Jim Kim and many others (I thought I’d only ever see on television) took to the podium(s) to enlighten a stadium of thousands, plus the viewers at home on various concerns. The festival was hosted brilliantly by South Africa’s favorite export, the effortlessly hilarious, Trevor Noah.

Neglected tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS and education were major highlights as each speaker sought to bring to our attention to how we, as Global Citizens, could be the generation for positive change – both by ourselves and in encouraging our leaders and people with the power to spearhead change to look into addressing these concerns in our societies.

As the legacy of Nelson Mandela was celebrated, the crowd waited with baited breath on performances by top tier local & international artists. From the timeless Femi Kuti, to Nigeria’s Star Boy WizKid, South Africa’s spirited Cassper Nyovest and international musical royalty The Carters (Beyoncé & Jay Z) – this setlist had the makings of the average music lover’s bucket list.

The queues leading to the festival were a sight to behold as attendees, both local and international, flocked to FNB Stadium for what could possibly be the concert of their lives – at least that’s what it was for me.

I walked into the stadium still in total disbelief that I was actually going to be a part this phenomenal experience, feeling everything in real time – in the flesh.

I had missed the opening by The Soweto Gospel Choir but I could hear the roar of the crowd as they took the stage. Caught in the lines, I missed WizKid, Usher, Black Coffee & Sho Madjozi too, and the rave reviews from everyone that saw them gave me feelings of slight regret but also joy still because there was more to come.

As we walked down into the stadium, Femi Kuti had just begun to conquer the stage and was giving a thrilling performance of his ‘Bang Bang’. His set dripped in West African authenticity, as he energetically ran across the stage while singing. I couldn’t believe his energy & the choreography that matched the very sensual lyrics. I’ll never get over watching this African legend showing off his vocal & instrumental prowess.

Femi was followed shortly by another Nigerian superstar, The KokoMaster also known as D’Banj. His signature “I’M D’BANJ!” punctuated a hype delivery of some of his most popular hits…

“I have a confession…” a shirtless D’Banj sang, at a point, as the crowd echoed in response because they knew what time it was.

More representation from Nigeria as Tiwa Savage took to the stage after a brief introduction by THE Naomi Campbell. Adorned in a colorful one piece ensemble, she also took us on a short trip featuring her biggest hits – from “All Over” to her hit with South Africa’s R&B crooner Donald “Raindrops“, Miss Savage is well on her way to African Pop Princess royalty.

Pharrell, who looks even younger in the flesh, [*whispers* vampire] took to the stage next. He performed in boyish beige shorts true to his Skateboard P alias. Known for his exemplary production, he performed a string of his best known jams – “Freedom“, “Lemon“, “Drop it like it’s hot“, “Frontin’“, the more recent “Feels” to bringing out Usher mid-set, who gave a quick performance of “You don’t have to call“. Then Chris Martin joined the party with a fun rendition of “E Lo“, and then Pharrell wrapped up his set with “Happy“.

Ed Sheeran stepped onto stage (just him & his guitar) just as the sun set, kicking off his serenade with “The A Team” as the stadium lit up and the crowd provided backing vocals, sometimes taking the lead. Instead of outfit changes, Ed brought out a new guitar for every next song. So a roaring guitar solo, “Thinking Out Loud“, “Shape of You” and a shocking treat as he spat some serious bars, Ed Sheeran had the crowd singing, crying, rapping & hugging all in one set.

As the night was heading towards its peak, Mr Fill Up (South Africa’s Cassper Nyovest) invaded the space – opening with “Tito Mboweni“, as his electric persona charged the crowd to feed back his energy. Chris Martin stepped out to join him as they performed “Timbuktu“, later on joined by surprise guest UK rapper Stormzy.

He then went on with his hits “Baby Girl“, “Ghetto“, his more recent “Ragga” and closing it with “Doc Shebeleza“, cementing his spot as one of Africa’s favorites.

But you can’t talk about ‘Global Citizen: Mandela 100’ without a mention of what followed Cassper Nyovest. A few more very important speeches, by Oprah, current South African head of state Cyril Ramaphosa and the man of the moment Patrice Motsepe, it was time for the main event.

The Carters were introduced by Dave Chappell and “EVERYTHING IS LOVE” bold on the screen.

An intro video, detailing the love, life & times of a couple on the run (Jay Z and Beyoncé), as the crowd yelled in disbelief that this moment was real – phones out, for control.

Beyoncé and Jay Z strode to the front of the stage, hand in hand, and opened their set with Jay Z’s “Holy Grail” – Beyoncé murking a hook originally sung by Justin Timberlake and Jay Z shining with his verses as she danced in the back.

Carrying on with the duets, they performed “Part II (On The Run)“, “who wants that perfect love story anyway? cliche cliche cliche” Beyoncé belted out as she clung to Jay Z. And then taking us back in time to when their story began, their first official collaboration “03 Bonnie & Clyde“. At some point during this performance Beyoncé walks down one of the rumps and she’s so close, only then do I believe she’s real and this is happening.

After a costume change and a video interlude that included audio from Tekno’s “Pana” and Miriam Makeba’s “Malaika“, Jay and Bey step out to grace us with the more recent “Apeshit” off their joint album, sending the FNB stadium ablaze as the audience sings along to the lyrics. “skrrr skrrr skrrr”.

Pharrell joins the couple for a performance of “Nice“, also off their recent collaborative effort Everything is Love. They end this collabo session with “Drunk in Love“, flashing lights, a vocal-rap and choreographed chemistry that only the music gods can fashion.

Jay Z’s solo jams were a massive hit with the crowd as they rapped and raved along to “Empire of State of Mind”, “Niggas in Paris”, “Beach is Better” and “The Story of OJ”. I personally didn’t think I was a Jay Z fan, but after the night? I stan.

Beyoncé’s solo sets featured her in more outfit changes (all these years I’ve watched her shows and I honestly don’t know how she does it). A riveting performance of “XO”, “Halo” with a new arrangement featuring The Soweto Gospel Choir that had the queen catching The Holy Ghost and a surprise appearance by Ed Sheeran for their “Perfect Duet” that brought many in the crowd to tears.

Stepping out in a bright yellow ensemble, her dances in solid colors as well, completing the rainbow spectrum she performed the black power anthem “Formation”. A poignant representation of inclusion and diversity, in the Rainbow Nation – South Africa. “Run The World (Girls)” followed as she reminded us who really runs the world – “strong enough to bare them children then get back to business.”

Then they graced us with more from them as a couple, as they performed “Crazy In Love“, “Deja Vu” and then closed off with Jay Z’s “Young Forever” – originally performed with Mr Hudson, Beyoncé gives this number a spin that highlights how seemingly effortless her and Jay Z collaborate. Ending the night with the crowd belting “forever young, I wanna be forever young” as the couple hit the adlibs and then punctuated the show with a kiss.

A show that left the audience in applause minutes after the couple had ended.

A night to remember, thanks to Global Citizen and The Motsepe Foundation.

Photo Credit: the World Wide Web 🙂

Join the movement by taking action here in support of the UN’s Global Goals to end poverty. 

Happy Boy Tour: An Eazi 10 Up

Nothing brings people together quite like a good bop. Music defies race, age and sometimes even language.

This was proven beyond reasonable doubt when Mr Eazi’s Happy Boy Tour “bus” made a stop in Lusaka on the 30th of March, 2018 – a highly anticipated Good Friday show.

For close to a year, Mr Eazi (who has recently taken on the online moniker ‘Eazron Njobvu‘ – as an expression of his love for the Zambian spirit) had his Zambian fans begging him to make a stop over here and it was finally happening. A concert featuring an almost-too-long list of supporting acts that would lead us to the climax of the night – a drenched Afro-pop singer/rapper belting out “Pour Me Water!” to a diverse crowd of thousands intently yelling right back.

It was a night set to be laced with high energy performances by our favorite local artists and DJs. A night for our Zambian kings and queens to shine and share a stage with international acts that included the gorgeous Akiliz singer Ammara Brown and the fiery Distruction Boyz of Omunye fame, a concert wittily called The Big 10 Up.

The local ladies came out to play no games: mics and vocals checked, edges snatched and dressed to slay.

I have always had an intense respect for our Queen Diva, Mampi and was hype to see her deliver her set. She pulled up on stage, energy on deck, knee length boots and a regal strut that spoke the Zambian Queen’s arrival. She honoured us with an energetic set that included her jams Why, Walilowelela and Swilili, accompanied by fiery dance moves and energy that had everyone – male and female alike – singing right along.

Our queens kept the heat coming as Kantu took to the stage to perform her  Mungeli and her beautiful cover of Anajaila which seamlessly ushered Wezi on stage in a yellow ensemble that lit up the stage as she graced us with a beautiful cover of Lilly T music that had every local 90’s kid in the crowd nostalgic and a couple of her songs.

Wezi
WEZI

Then out stepped Miss Ammara Brown, who I will have to admit I didn’t know of before the concert, but I am now a huge fan of. Her stage presence matched her glittery ensemble as she ran up and down the stage, mic in hand delivering thrilling executions of her bangers Akiliz and Mikoko.

The ladies did not disappoint.

AMMARA BROWN

The boys were not going to let the girls own the night though, as local DJ Sebastien Dutch hyped up the crowd with a set of club bangers stretching through the early 00’s to some of today’s popular Mumble Rap and Popular Hits. He catered to everyone.

SEBASTIEN DUTCH

One fourth of Zambia’s Zone Fam Jay Rox  stepped on stage to kill it for the boys and prove to us why he is a great solo act that’s grown to be one of the most recognized voices both locally and internationally. Not For Sello, AutoPilot and Joanna made for a set that kept everyone entertained and on their feet, vibing to Roxa’s energy. To end his set he brought out another member of the group, Tim, who had us crooning along to his most recent tunes Heartbeat and Mwishile Banga.

JAY ROX

TIM

As soon as Chef 187’s name was trumpeted as the next performer the crowd went wild. The people’s rapper stepped out and effortlessly had the audience spitting bars in Bemba like we were all from Kasama (or Kopala). Kumwesu, Wala and then Junta – Chefy brought that Bemba heat. Because everyone was so into that moment, his set felt 3 seconds long but he brought out Bobby East to end it as they delivered Van Damme and had everyone going crazy, “PLUS I GOT KICKS….”

CHEF 187

It was time for Eazron to set the stage alight. The moment everyone had been waiting for. He ran on stage to a screaming crowd, at this point hyped up enough to be in full concert mode – girls on their boyfriend’s shoulders, phones in the air – cameras ready, some a** to the grass in full twerk – and he took everyone by surprise when he led in chanting Zambia’s most infamous expletives “YE YE YE YE YE….*insert expletives & nicely astonished laughs of a responsive crowd here*!!”

That seemed to win over the entire night as he went on to entertain us with his most popular songs. From his baby being fine like 2 People, to teaching us how to put our Leg Over and Akwaaba, taking us on a trip from Accra to Lagos to Sample You, Dance For You and Skin Tight, Mr Eazi’s set was riddled with energy and vibes that had Zambian millenials singing in languages they didn’t understand, and him? He was having the time of his life, as mid set he took of his shirt, hit The Chimwemwe Dance and kept going. Asking fans what they’d like to hear and diligently delivering.

He closed his set with his most recent hit Pour Me Water as the crowd splashed a mix water and alcohol on him.

“Pour Me Water

Holy Water

Quench this fire…”

At about 3 AM The Distruction Boyz wrapped up the night with a set of Gqom hits that was led by their viral hit Omunye. 

A blend of Afro-Pop, Hip Hop and Gqom united 4 nationalities that night. The power of music.

Photo Credit: Bahati Angolwishe & Story Tellers Photography.

Amnesia Credit (for helping me remember): Leila Munthali (Twitter: @DukeofZilch) 😁

Stanbic Does Music: A Throwback Affair

Early this year the rumor mill was in overdrive – Boyz II Men were apparently going to be touching Zambian soil, courtesy of Stanbic Bank Zambia at their annual Music Festival. A leak in Stanbic’s marketing/communications team and the news spread like Chinese whisper: everyone was talking about it, everyone had their own little version of the story, but still the skepticism was rife; after all we were ready for Sean Paul, we were ready for Sean Kingston, we were even ready for Wiz Kid that one time (you all remember how that went down). However, we had no reason to doubt Stanbic, they gave us UB40 last year and it was EPIC (read about that HERE if you missed it).

The roll out by Stanbic a few months later confirmed that Boyz II Men were indeed set to grace us with their legendary presence in September of 2017. The excitement was real! This is a group I listened to on cassette, before I even knew what any of their songs were about. Their harmonies and melodies were infectious even to a prepubescent kid (at the time) like me, listening to songs about heart break and making love, understanding non of it but vibing to it still.

My friends and I would randomly burst into song and sing some of their songs, giving our best to harmonize like them. My dad played these songs in the car when he dropped us off at school sometimes, that’s how close to home Boyz II Men hits. Like, are you even Zambian if you didn’t grow up around at least ONE Boyz II Men fan? Plus anyone that knows me knows how much I love 90’s R&B, that was an era of music that left its mark.

The Stanbic Music Festival was set for the 22nd and 23rd of September, two nights of amazing live music! Wezi, Chefy, Mumba Yachi, Abel Chungu, K’Millian, James Sakala and Caitlin De Ville were set to open for Boyz II Men –  a magical musical line up, auditory heaven. If my bank account was as  willing as my heart and my ears I would have probably attended both nights (VIP so I could be right in the front), but tickets were going at K1,500 (VIP) a piece and K500 (Standard). I stuck to my financial lane, after all last year’s UB40 concert was pretty dope even from the Standard section.

Concert day came and I was still in slight disbelief that I was getting the chance to see one of my favorite musical acts, live in living color. I had been listening to Boyz II Men all week in anticipation, I knew it would be a sing-along of epic proportion.

My best friends and I take advantage of events like this to go out as a squad and be a problem, this one was no different…it was planned well in advance. So we made our way to the Polo Club, walked in and the set up was slightly underwhelming as we figured we’d probably have to stand on our chairs to get a proper view of the stage: last year the Standard section was slightly elevated so we still got a clear view of the stage, no such luck this year.  To make things just a little bit suckier we had no screens in front of us (like last year) AND no speakers so we had second hand sound, but I guess that’s what we get for being cheapskates.

The concert was set to start at 6PM, and start at 6PM it did. Chishala Chitoshi (aka Gesh Groove) and Kamiza Chikula stepped on stage as our MCs for the night. This was such a pleasant combination as they carried the night and kept the crowd going, with brilliant banter and poetic introductions to each act. The chemistry between the two hosts was legit, I wouldn’t have thought two male hosts could keep a crowd going the way they did…not  once was I frustrated by their intermissions, even when they were plugging Stanbic services.

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Gesh Groove & Kamiza (MCs for the night)

They introduced the first act of the night, Mr Abel Chungu Musuka. An apt opening act as came on and owned the stage with his popular ballad Ichitemwiko. Thus commenced the night’s sing along, hands in the air, crowd swaying. He went on to fire up the crowd with a few more uptempo songs, his back up band and singers raving up the energy with each song. An A-class act.

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Abel Chungu Musuka

Next up was K’Millian – I knew that in my heart I could probably spew a song book of K’Millian lyrics on site, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember the titles of his songs off the top of my head. This all changed as soon as he stepped on stage, familiar tunes that had everyone nostalgic and singing along, remembering a time these songs would play everywhere. When he sang Kakabalika  and Nizakukonda I admitted to myself that I am a fan of the man. He sang with the ease and confidence of a man that knew he had cemented his place in Zambian music history. A legend.

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K’Millian

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The intermissions were not void of entertainment, as Gesh and Kamiza kept the banter coming and in between sets local DJ Sebastien Dutch kept the crowd entertained with his versatile selection of bops.

Nibbles and drinks were readily available, with food from top notch food joints like Steers, The Deli, Fishaways, Marlin. Drinks were also in abundance for revelers that were thirsty and those that preferred to experience the concert inebriated (be it slightly). And if the drinks went right through you, the way they do me, the pee breaks were bearable as the toilets were in abundance too…and clean.

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I gained a whole new level of respect for James Sakala after last year’s festival. His live vocal skills are out of this world. For me, he was the top vocal opening act of the night. What I love about his live performances is the local/traditional feel of his music. He belts it all out in native tongue, all while playing the guitar. One song that’s still ringing in my head is his Namfumu, I can still hear all the riffs and vibrator as he smashed this one.

No one expected what happened towards the end of his set….in tribute to the late Chester Bennington (of Linkin Park), James proceeded to play an electric guitar cover of Linkin Park’s HIT SONG Numb. Nobody expected it. We were all so caught unaware but when we found our bearings and realized what was happening, everyone was scream-singing along and not missing a single lyric. A versatile artist.

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James Sakala

Caitlin De Ville, like James Sakala, is an artist who stole my heart for the first time at last year’s festival. I was so hyped to see what she does with her set this year and she did not disappoint!

In an elegant chitenge frock and barefoot again (which I love, there’s an authenticity to it that wins me over every time), electric violin in tow, Caitlin took us on a journey commencing with recent hits that resonated with the cool kids. From DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts to Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, she had us on our feet, providing the vocals to her masterful violin instrumentals. It was even more amazing to see her cover local productions like James Sakala’s Galamukani and DJ El Mukuka’s Bottle of Loneliness. 

Where she won the night for me, though, was when she took us back in time to the late 90’s and early 2000’s giving us hit after hit. From 2 Pac’s Changes and Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, to Destiny’s Child’s Survivor and TLC’s Scrubs, Michael Jackson’s Black or White to then Puff  Daddy and Faith Evan’s I’ll Be Missing You, Caitlin had the crowd immensely nostalgic and singing along. This was proper preparation for all the singing along and throwbacks that were soon to come. The perfect curtain raiser.

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Caitlin De Ville

It was finally time for BOYZ II MEN, THE MEN EVENT (See what I did there?). Nathan, Morris and Wanya hopped on stage to Motownphilly, to a screaming crowd – just as I had imagined it in my head. In my head if I ever attended  a Boyz II Men concert it would kick off with this particular song. It was an actual dream come true. These men aren’t boys anymore, and they still brought the 4-count choreography, all whilst singing. Wanya even brought the waist moves! That is performance.

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The screaming died down as we went into THE ballads: On Bended Knee and It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday had so many of us in our feelings, singing along word for word, it was like field karaoke except everyone knew the lyrics already…words can’t really describe how awesome.

The first few notes of each song they sang were punctuated with shrieks of joy from the audience as we realized what song it was – when they sang I’ll Make Love To You, the crowd sang every single note and hit every adlib, even they seemed in awe of how well everyone knew their stuff. They went on to do 4 Seasons of Loneliness and at this point they didn’t even need to sing, the crowd was performing for them. 

They stunned us with a cover of Bruno Mars’ Locked Out Of Heaven. Of course they made it sound like their own song and left us feeling like we had just visited harmony heaven.

One Sweet Day came on and judging from the Boyz II Men social media pages, they were stunned at how well we sang the song. Vocally, we are a strong nation!

A Song For Mama had everyone pulling out their phones and sending voice notes to their mothers, as only millennials would, tears rolling down eyes, hugs all over the place. It was emotional.

As the night drew to a close they shut it down with End of the Road, apt. But I was sad because they hadn’t performed my favorite song, and just as I was ready to give up and head home they came out again to sing MY favorite song, The Color of Love. I was so overwhelmed I could hardly sing along. It was such a fulfilling experience that left me feeling like taking them home to harmonize in my kitchen as I cook.

Thank you to Stanbic Bank Zambia for helping us cross off one act off our bucket lists 🙂

Next year we go again!

PHOTO CREDIT : The Stanbic Music Festival official Facebook page