Thursday, February 24, 2011

Clarisse Albrecht:The World's Musical Ambassador

Photo Credit: Imagenes Dominicanas
          If we say we are a product of our environment, then there would be a direct correlation of our perception and how we interpret things like music. For one such individual, the situational circumstance couldn’t be any truer. That one person is Clarisse Albrecht, a newcomer to the world of lounge music. She is one of those rare birds who make you feel like she needs you as much as you need her. Her songs make you feel needed and important. And her fans/friends have been doing the same for her.

       An ambitious world citizen, Clarisse Albrecht has lived in Bafatá (Guinea-Bissau), Maputo (Mozambique) and Paris (France). Infact, she has lately been shuttling between her home base of Paris and the Dominican Republic. Those experiences in her sojourns distinctively shaped her sound and expressed in songs. There is hardly any doubt therefore that music is in her blood. Shaped from the rhythms that dance through her veins, Ms. Clarisse has mastered the traditional rhythms that have traveled from Africa to Santo Domingo. Her Afro/Brasilia sound is a conversation of melodies which evokes fierce passion. Endowed with such a broad musical vision is broad, she combines her talents with those of some of the most accomplished musicians performing today in genres that range from jazz to pop. Soaring from the heart without losing her head, Ms. Clarisse brings an understated sensuality to what she performs, and with an unequalled grace at that.

       In 2010, Clarisse released her debut single, Voce Me Da which she considers to be a distillation of her life's experiences. I was fortunate to be granted an exclusive e-mail interview with Ms. Albrecht. This interview covered a wide range of issues and interests, which was indeed revealing. Here are details of my interview with this nouveau artiste.

First of all, I want to express my gratitude for  granting me the opportunity to interview you.
You're welcome!

Tell us a little about your background.
About my musical background, I officially started singing in a Gospel choir when I was around 16-17, then I sang as a background vocalist in a soul-funk band, then I decided to find my musical identity and I started to work on my own songs...

Who are your musical influences? Which musicians have helped you define your style of what you perform?

I listen to a lot of different kind of music, there's artist I've listened to all my life. I've been influenced a lot by Sade but also Amel Larrieux, Alcione, Jõao Gilberto...My style is still not clearly define, so it's kind of hard for me to name who really inspired me, it's a mix of everything.

You have lived in four countries and speak several languages. Now you are living in Paris. How did this diverse environment affect your personality and your music?

Yes, I've lived in different countries between France and Africa when I was a kid. Grown up, I've been hanging around and traveling in different countries... Right now, I don't feel like I'm settled anywhere. I'm living between France and Dominican Republic. This kind of living, I bet, affected my personality in the way that I'm not afraid by changes, I'm always trying to be open-minded and understand different cultures. For me life is full of options and you can change your way of life anytime. In my music, I think it gave me the will to make it travel as much as possible and share it with people from different horizons. I always knew I wanted my music to go beyond France's borders.

What is it about Brazilian music that appeals to you? What have you done since to build your knowledge and appreciation of Brazilian music? Has Brazilian music influenced your style in any way?

I think it's very linked to my childhood in Mozambique. I got close there with the Brazilian culture and music, and of course with Portuguese. I was watching Brazilian TV series and I was fascinated. I grew up dreaming of going to Brazil. When I went there the first time, I was working on Brazilian classics songbook. But while I was there, I felt so good and confident that I decided to write my own songs in Portuguese. I realize it had a meaning for me. I'm very nostalgic and Portuguese is the language of Saudade which fits with my sensitivity as an artist and also with this important part of my childhood.

What was going through your mind when you began writing Voce Me Da?

I was in a very positive mood. I wanted to express the simple joy you feel when  you're falling in love. Express that the important thing for me is not where you come from, your color, the real thing is emotions you bring, you provoke, the way you see life.

You are currently working on releasing a full-length album through an independent label. Are you independent by option or do you intend to shop around larger labels or distribution companies?

I've produced my debut single myself. I was later contacted by a digital distributor and we released it. For the album, I'm planning to keep on producing myself, you know. I just want to make my music and spread it. I'll go with the flow. I'm doing my thing and if an offer comes, I will think about it.

Are you pleased with the way your music has been received?

Oh yes! So far, feedbacks are positive. When I discovered that people I don't know at all, that are not family or friends, loved the song I was thrilled and felt really blessed. I can't wait to spread some more.

You have received a good amount of critical success so far are you hoping that translates into commercial success?

I hope so. I'm very underground right now, a commercial success will mean that I've shared my music more and hopefully bring good vibes to more people.

How much does your upbringing in living in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and France affect the themes you choose to write about?

I have no idea. I wrote a song about Maputo (Mozambique), but except that I don't know how it affects directly the theme I write about. I bet it does surely because it's part of me, my History.

Who are your musical kindred spirits?

I would say LS as he's the co-producer and composer of my songs.

Do you believe music has the power to bring about permanent change?

For sure. Music can save lives or at least, bring daily changes. Music is there for so many moments, in your ups and downs. When you're sad, happy, weak. When you're jogging, when you're driving. When you wanna party... Without even mentioning songs with strong lyrics. You can learn so many things, build or heal yourself through songs you've heard. Music is the answer for so many things.

Much of your music draws on your own very personal experiences. How does sharing so much of your own life with strangers affect you emotionally?

It helps a lot singing in other languages than my maternal one. I can get very emotional when I record a song, sometimes I have very strong flashbacks about what inspired me to write a song but I'm fine with that. It helps me be in the right mood for the song. Even if I'm uncomfortable when people listen to my music in front of me, it's about sharing and release feelings. Plus, most of the people don't even care about the lyrics, lol!

What is the most important thing you would like that people should know about you?

That I believe in the power of positivity. That I wanna bring good vibes!

Overall, what do you think the uniqueness of this album has brought to your music and to your fans?

It's too early to tell.

For 2011, what are your plans?

Release my album, spread my music worldwide, and go on tour. Spend time with people I love, make my family happy.

      Thanks once again for granting me this interview, Ms. Clarisse Albrecht! I look forward to the eventual release of the full-length album.

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2011. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nuru Magram: The Most Fashion Forward African Artiste!

       Tanzania boasts of clear blue waters and white sands as well as more wildlife than any country in the world. But perhaps, one thing this East African nation is equally proud of is its’ cultural ambassador in the person of Nuru Magram.  This 25 year old singer and fashionista who currently calls Stockholm, Sweden her home is evoking invaluable inspiration and motivation to Tanzanian youth. From a young age, Ms. Nuru was always infatuated with all aspects of entertainment and the arts. Her love for fashion started as an interest that developed into a passion. This Bongo Soul singer whose two hits ‘Msela’ and ‘Walimwengu’ made her a household name in the last few years is working on a forthcoming album in her native Swahili language. She also has been involved in a number of charitable activities in aid of development projects in her birth country such as the Mama Lokii Trust of Arusha. Here is a recent interview conducted with Ms. Nuru during  which she spoke  about her musical influences, fashion style, music promotion in Africa and general outlook on life.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background? Education? Where you grew up?
 I rarely talk about my family. That notwithstanding, I will let your readers know that I come from a family with boys and I’m the only girl. I was raised by my mother who is my role model, and off course my aunt who also had a very big influence on me. I was born in Tanzania but left at a young age but I never forgot my roots and I still speak Swahili to this day. I have studied music and arts, hotel and tourism, teaching and psychology.

When did you first start singing?
I started singing at a very young age. I began professionally at the age of 16 and got signed to Stockholm Records and I am still doing it till today because I love my craft.
Who are your musical influences?
Ella Fitzgerald she is a jazz singer who taught me how to use and see my voice as an instrument. Michael Jackson for his love of music and respect for being an entertainer and musician who never wanted to disappoint his audience. I also admire Whitney Houston, Brandy, R. Kelly, Miriam Makeba, Lucky Dube, Bob Marley, Remmy Ongala, Professor Jay and myself offcoz.

Do you write songs yourself? And if so, how often and what inspires your lyrics?
My English songs and because I was so inexperienced and young I didn’t write so much mostly melody and stuff but for my Swahili album. I was ready to write so I wrote the material myself and is base on things that I experienced in my life so they are like a mini story of my life.

How would you describe your own music?
My own music is a mix of cocktails meaning that I’ve been inspired of all kinds of music so I really can’t label my music not just yet..

Are you signed to any record label?  Have you been approached by one?
No. I am not at the moment. I think it’s the best way for me because I’m a free agent and can do whatever I want. I used to be signed at a label so I know the pros and the cons of being in that situation.

In 2009, under the pseudonym Danuma, you released a number of singles including ‘Summertime’ and ‘Look At Your Man’ produced by Cool James and Janne Ericsson. What has been the public’s response thus far and do you plan on recording more dance tracks in the future?
Ooh, you took me way back! Well I’m not going to be doing anything under that name simply because all I did under that name Stockholm Records which is now EMI is something that I did back then. I now work under the name NURU and I will do more music known as NURU instead of DANUMA. The response was great both in Sweden and Abroad so am grateful. I got to tour with Cool James and Black Teacher and learnt a lot during this process.

Aside your first love music, many of us who have been following your career know you dabble in the fashion world too? Tell us a little bit about your style? Are modeling full-time?
Hahahaah!! Well the modeling thing is not something I’ve done too much of. The interesting thing is that people want me in it but I don’t want to because I’m too short. Besides being a model is hard work!  I love fashion because it’s art and I get that in a much deeper level and my style is very laid back where the word comfortable is the key. I always tell women know your body and dress after it and you will never go wrong and I think Halle Berry is a great example of that.

Photo Credit: Enrique Jaguar

Do you have a fashion icon? Who is your favorite designer?
It’s very hard to just to come up with one name because I have many in mind. I love fashion so I’m gonna have to skip this one. However, I have few people that I think were born to dress well and include Halle Berry, Victoria Beckham, Jackie Onassis, Coco Chanel, Mbilia Belle and my own mother.

What is your biggest fashion obsession?
BAGS, ACCESSORIES AND SHOES.., A girl can never have enough shoes hahahhahaahh.

Coming back to your music, what has been some of the challenges you have faced getting publicity or airplay for your music outside Tanzania?
To tell you the truth the music industry in the West and Africa is very different. Luckily I have experienced both. When it comes to my English material I really didn’t have any problem because the record company does all that and you as an artist do the promos and interviews whether it’s TV or radio so pretty much flow as it suppose to be. With my Swahili project, I have  the Internet as the best tool to promote my songs and music in general, and it has worked thank God!! I have released three singles in Tanzania and I’m grateful that they’ve done really well.

Would you contribute your success as an artist to luck, inspiration, or hard work?
HARD WORK PERIOD! People don’t understand how hard you have to work in this industry and if you use the easy way out it always come back to haunt you. A mix of good people, writers, musicians, producers, support from radio, TV and your own determination and you will make it.

What do you think it is about music that inspires hope and provides a sense of comfort during difficult times?
Music is a universal language that speaks to us all. Music gives comfort, brings happiness and even cured people. To me music is medicine to heartache, disease and even a lost spirit. Music has its own force which is hard to explain and I think that music is one of the greatest gifts that God ever gave to any human being.

Is there anything you would like to tell your listeners, that you want to really stick in their minds, about you and your music?
 I want people to know that I am music lover and that they should experience NURU live because that’s how you get the best of me and my music.

What is next? Are you working on any live performances, CD’s or writing new material …and how can readers hear more of your music?
I’m just finishing up my album my Swahili album which is going to be called WALIMWENGU, and I can’t wait for it to come out. I recently released a new track called ‘Wewe’ with a music video to follow shortly. Don’t forget to catch up with me on FACEBOOK and join me on my fan page and off course on my blog

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2011. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rachel Kiwanuka-Africa's Next Rockstar!

Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds and still have fun at the same time? That’s certainly what this Ugandan singer is doing. Born Rachel Kiwanuka, some 21 years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Rachel K (as she is known by her fans), was discovered by her musician mother, Halima Namakula. After spending much of her formative years in the States, she heeded her mum’s advice of using the Uganda music scene as a launching pad to her music career by moving back home.

         Her bi-continental upbringing gave her the opportunity to absorb a wide range of music that influenced her musical style. Perhaps partly due to her musical heritage or by sheer bravado, this spontaneous and outgoing lady has always been at ease performing or singing in front of audiences. Since she was a child, Rachel has loved entertaining people! She says it is the highest of highs for her when a performance clicks just right - the air seems to thicken as everyone is sucked into the emotion of the moment, which often lasts long after that moment ends. In the spring of 2005, Rachel auditioned for American Idol when the tour stopped in San Francisco. Although she was did not make the cut for the show, she told me that the experience gave her a deeper gratitude of her God-given talents, a new appreciation for her family and the drive to pursue her interests.

In waning days of 2010, I caught up with Ms. K for an all-access interview in which she discussed in depth how she developed a fondness for T.V and how that led her into hosting a television show. She further told us how she is trying to pass on her acquired knowledge to the up-and-coming stars. The interview is more than just music, it’s about who Rachel K. really is and we are very appreciative to be able to bring it to you.

Could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?

My given names are Rachel Kiwanuka. I was born on the 1st of November. I am the last child out of four children and the only girl. I am very laid back, down to earth, easy to get along and very friendly.

When and how did you start making music? How did your family shape your singing career?

I started singing at the early age; I was about 8 years old. My mother was very excited about my talent and my strong vocals when she heard me singing “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston. Since then all I can remember was singing in talent shows, going to professional music teachers for vocal training and participating in a performing arts school. As I got older, it became a profession in the year 2006 when I first recorded my first single 'Everytime'. My mother and my 3 brothers have been very supportive. Hemdee Kiwanuka my eldest brother, he has believed in my talent and has always given me the best support a big bro could give. As he has been my business manager, on the other side my Mom has been my personal manager.

Most of us know that your mother, Halima Namakula of the Ekimbewo fame is one of your main influences. Did you ever think that you will be able to follow in your mother's footsteps with respect to your popularity in the music world and do you recall one piece of advice she offered?
My mom has been my main influence and always been my biggest supporter; I guess she is more like my backbone, always holding me up no matter what. Her love and belief in me has gotten me this far and without her I would be lost. Following in her footsteps is one of my goals, becoming a legend like her is one of my dreams. The best advice she offered me is to believe in my decisions, bad or good and to also learn from them. She is the best mother any daughter could ask for; she is labeled the Mother of all the Ugandan artists just because she is an example of a good Mother.

Who have been some of your other musical influences over the years?

The list is long but when I was growing up I listened to the likes of Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton. At the age of 15 I became a fan of Rock Music. I am also a big fan of Alicia keys, Beyonce and Hayley Williams from the Rock band Paramore.

Do you mind describing to us your musical style?

I am fusion. This is a mixture of different styles. Pretty much I have done every style there is!! But I am categorized as a Rockstar and my main passion and real love is Rock.

How did you get to work with Keri Hilson and Akon on the Pepsi “Oh Africa” project? Do you mind sharing with us some of the experiences working with these stars?

Pepsi U.S.A and Pepsi Uganda were looking for a young music artist who was not signed, or launched an album yet, and someone who gives back to the community and a role model to the youth. After the nominations I got a call from someone in South Africa that I was chosen to represent Uganda with Akon, Keri Hilson, and 15 other youth from around the world! It was the call of a lifetime. Both Akon and Keri were soooo cool. I got to have a one on one with Keri, she also listened to some of my music, and gave me a few pointers. Being big celebs, it was surprising they were down to earth and easy to talk too.

You were recently nominated as a Pepsi Ambassador. What has this experience been like so far and when does this end?

It was just ok. Pepsi Uganda supported my music career and I couldn’t ask for more. It just ended.

Earlier this year you were nominated and won in 2 categories, Video of the Year (Rock song, Feel Me!) and Best Collaboration with Bobi Wine (Is it Me) at Diva Music Awards held at the La Bonita Theatre in Kampala. What do these wins mean for your career?

Yes I won two awards, one for the video of the year and another for my best international performances. It really meant a lot to me and it was such a great achievement for this was the first and only rock video ever in Uganda to receive an award. This also opened up so many doors for me to those who didn’t know there was a new Rockstar in town and I have gain much respect locally and internationally.

In researching for this interview, I read somewhere you auditioned for American Idol in 2005. What impression did you come away with from this experience?

Man, it was an experience! I traveled all alone to San Francisco which was like a 6 hr drive to the venue from my home state. I was number 6 in line, out of thousands of people. I slept outside the venue for 2 nights straight!!!!!! Lol. It was crazy, but soo much fun and I met a lot of interesting and talented people. I didn’t make it, but I did learn a lot and that experience made me stronger. You don’t always have to go through American idol to become a star, there are other ways to make it and since then I had never given up. But it was great.

You performed at the Ugandan Festival 2010 on December 18th, how did it go? How did it feel performing alongside Maurice Kiry and Klear Kut?

It was really fun. Maurice and Klear Kut are very talented and great friends of mine and I am sure they enjoyed performing alongside with me. We need more festivals like this one in Uganda and I was very happy to be a part of the festival.

What’s on your I-pod just now?

A lot of different style of music. From Billie holiday to Lady Gaga. Like I said I am fusion and listen to all styles of music.

If you had a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference or change the world what would do or how would change the world?

Hmmmm….I would want to change cross generational sex and see to it that men who abuse young girls are imprisoned. Doing them justice will make the world know and realize the consequences they will face by committing such a crime.

Can you describe your style of songwriting? How does it feel sharing writing duties with your mother on the track ‘Every time’?

For me, I write what I am feeling at a particular moment, sometimes it might be my own experience or someone else’s experience, or maybe just what I see or know what happens with everyday people and life. I write most of my songs, but most of the time my mother comes up with the titles. She is a great songwriter and we had good time writing, Everytime. That was my first single and video that was released in Uganda. Immediately it got a lot of airplay on EATV and MTV Base.

Are there any musicians you would love to collaborate with?

 Well internationally I would love to work with beyonce, she and I are kind of similar and do have the same energy on stage. And also I would love to work with Avril Lavigne and Hayley Williams of Paramore .She has a real cool stage presence and knows how to rock out!

Besides music, what other ventures/projects are you involved?

 I believe in social work and I am a member at an NGO that my mother is a founder and a Chairperson called, Women at Work International. I am also a dance teacher and give private lessons. I work with organizations like PACE in their go getters program, empowering young girls and stressing the issue of abstinence. I am also partnering with two young men, Brian of Hot 100 and Humphrey at NBS Television. We have started foundation called Reach A Hand Foundation, where we work with boys and girls from the ages of 12 to 18.

Any parting words for the fans?

Thanks to you all who have supported me since I started hosting Jam Agenda on WBS Television four years ago. Thanks to all of u who have been part of my musical journey, and never gave up on Rachel k. If you have a talent and you are upcoming artists, come to No-End Studios in Kamwokya on Mawanda road, I personally will help you work on vocal development. To all young students, please abstain and stay focused. Life is very precious, and it all starts with you. I love you all, my rockstars. : )

      The Afrikan Child hopes that Rachel K continues to remain true to herself and we have no doubt that she will, because she is clearly a young woman who has both feet firmly on the ground. It is only a matter of time, before she starts to capture some of the musical awards in North America, as she has done in Kampala !

Again, thanks to Ms. Rachel K. for her time and willingness to answer my questions. For more from Rachel, check out her music on her MySpace site… as well as her videos@ You can also purchase Rachel’s music on ITunes and follow her journal entries on her blog , as well as on Twitter @ iamrachelk.

The Afrikan Child © Copyright 2011. All Rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or image may be duplicated without the author's permission. Also, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. General inquiries should be directed to our Web feedback box, accessible from this link or from the footer at the bottom of most pages on our site.