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Meet Cosmic Homies O.N.E., the New Wave of Kenyan Hip-Hop

The four member music & art collective Cosmic Homies O.N.E. are the sound of #NuNairobi.

Cosmic Homies O.N.E. are the sound of #NuNairobi.


The four member music & art collective first met and formed in Kenya with the aim of challenging traditional and current stereotypes through their self-described “electro-organic” sound.

They’ve had major success in the past as two of its members—rapper/singer/DJ/producer TAIO and singer/producer Runkah—were both in Camp Mulla, a hugely popular Kenyan group that wrote the type of mainstream earworms that play on Top 40 radio.

TAIO and Runkah don’t speak too fondly of their major label days, though, citing that experience as what pushed them towards the underground and a more “organic” approach.

The two formed Cosmic Homies with Los Angeles-born singer/songwriter Marushka and rapper/poet/model Kiwango.

Alongside groups like East African Wave, Cosmic Homies O.N.E are pushing the sound of hip-hop in Nairobi towards a hazy and smoke-filled world.

The group just released their debut mixtape O.N.E. at Nairobi's The Alchemist bar during the "EA Wave & Friends" night, a show they played with Just A Band's Blinky Bill and the East African Wave collective.

We caught up with them during an earlier visit to NYC to get a handle on what the #NuNairobi movement is all about.

Who is Cosmic Homies O.N.E.?

Marushka: Cosmic Homies is a movement. It’s more than just the four of us. It’s an ethos about a new emerging and shifting paradigm. We’re a company. Label. Musicians. Creators. But, first of all, we’re a family.

Why "O.N.E."?

M: Only Now Everlasting. That happened sort of naturally, I was reading an article about graffiti writers, taggers always add “ONE” after their name.

How did you guys get together?

M: Fate, alignment and the perfect situation. We ended up meeting in TAIO’s studio after he broke away from his previous project. [TAIO] built his own independent studio at home where he hosts sessions.

We’re also journalists, actually. Our media partner is What’s Good Live, one of the leading independent platforms in East Africa. TAIO and I were working there together, writing and hosting shows about pan-African content.

When Talib Kweli came over, we talked to him for What’s Good Live. Same with Yasiin Bey.

Cosmic Homies in Brooklyn. Photo: Aaron Leaf.

How do you define #NuNairobi?

M: #NuNairobi is this sense of family and creative energy, made up of creative people, a lot of whom make music in their bedrooms. There’s so much talent in Nairobi and, thanks to platforms like Thrift Social and Creatives Garage, it’s coming together. It’s about more than art, it’s people digging deeper in life.

The thing to point out and say about Nairobi is there hasn’t been support or structures from the government, so we’re doing it ourselves. We're taking matters into our own hands.

What inspired the Cosmic Homies project?

M: People like Dan Eldon—a photojournalist who was stoned to death in Somalia—are a big inspiration. They found 17 bound journals that had all these different collage films and his family composed a book that became a huge influence on the whole of multimedia journalism. It’s called The Journey Is The Destination.

Dan was always my hero, then I found out he’s Karun's [Runkah] uncle!

There’s a new wave of sounds coming out of East Africa and Kenya, would you say you guys are challenging traditional models and sounds?

M: I’d say the trend in East Africa is once you get on the major platforms you sort of get scouted by major labels like Universal or Sony. So I would say in Nairobi, currently, I see a lot of young artists trying to form their own labels. From that you find that people aren’t falling for the same major label tricks.

People are vibing a lot more and finding that they’re in the position where they can bargain and work better and not fall for the traditional models that other artists have done.

Everyone’s thinking: we can do this on our own and take that to the world—whether they accept us or not that’s what it is.

Soundcloud has played a big part in it, actually, we were all on Soundcloud early on. It's really encouraged the community to grow.

Runkah: We actually had a big following [Runkah and TAIO as Camp Mulla] and people called us celebrities. But we wanted to start talking about things that were of our own to people. People now, in Nairobi, are less afraid to be themselves and be about themselves.

We were approached by these major labels at first, but we took a step back. Sonically, people are challenging what’s the norm and what it means to be "successful" and giving themselves the freedom of exploring different styles.

TAIO: I can admit that, before, we were following a formula, but now we're looking to completely redefine pop culture. In East Africa people don’t give a fuck. I can put this electric guitar with a flute and rap over it—it’s awesome to be a part of a scene like that.

What other acts would you name as contemporaries?

T: Ukweli, Jinku, EA Wave, they’re all homies.

We represent #NuNairobi, this new movement which we think was missing in the Kenyan industry before. We believe in the saying “the light that shines on me, shines on my neighbor.” It helps us reach more people a lot faster because we’re pooling resources with our friends.

The very first Cosmic Homies show wouldn’t have happened at all without EA Wave, Jojo Abot performed, Ukweli was there too. Just A Band are like our older brothers too. Big love from day one.

 

This YouTube Account Is Sharing South African Audiobooks For Free, And We Are Here For It

Listen to audiobooks by Steve Biko, Bessie Head, Credo Mutwa, and more.

Audio Books Masters is a YouTube channel that uploads audio versions of South African books and short stories.

Recent additions include Life by Bessie Head, Crepuscule by Can Themba, Indaba, My Children by Credo Mutwa, among others. South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who passed away three weeks ago, also gets read. You can listen to his poem No Serenity Here. More books you can stream include I Write What I Like by Steve Biko, Africa is my Witness by Credo Mutwa, among others.

Audio Book Masters was started by two friends, Bonolo Malevu (24) and Hahangwivhawe Liphadzi (23).

Malevu is a University of Pretoria BA Drama graduate, who is currently doing his LLB. Liphadzi is an LLB graduate, who is completing his LLM this year.

"I found a hobby of narrating books to craft my art skill after reading Credo Mutwa's Indaba, My Children," says Malevu in an email to OkayAfrica. "After reading the prologue, I knew that this book was meant to be converted [to] many different formats such as stage plays, series, movies and audiobooks."

Then came the idea of creating a YouTube channel. That was when Malevu teamed up with Liphadzi.

They both bought themselves high quality recorders, and started reading, recording and uploading.

Authors from the olden days such as RRR Dhlomo and HIE Dhlomo, whose audio versions of their books are available on the channel, are older than 50 years and their copyrights have since expired.

The rest, though, Liphadzi and Malevu say they are trying to get in contact with the publishers, but it's not easy.

"We have contacted the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) regarding this issue," they say. "We have been in contact with various copyright holders and we are still in the negotiation process. However we are finding it difficult to contact certain publishers, and the consistent uploading of their books is to attract their attention."

The two friends say they started the channel to bring books closer to people who otherwise wouldn't have access, and to get people to appreciate literature, especially African authors. "We want to bring such literature to the digital age in the form of storytelling which has been a unique African form of literature," they say. "The channel also helps develop our voices as we are a voice company that offers all kinds of voice services. We also identified how South African authors lack audio books, and found that there is a gap in this market, and this could really create many job opportunities in South Africa."

The two are currently developing stories in indigenous languages for children in English medium schools. "This is drawn from the fact that in such schools, a lot of African students struggle to speak their own native languages. So we approach various schools to sell them such literature. We are freelance voice over artists who also do radio, content production, news reading and radio adverts."

We are so here for this.

Subscribe to Audio Books Masters' YouTube channel and follow them on Twitter.

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Nigerian Actor Sope Aluko On How She Landed a Coveted Role in ​'Black Panther​'

Marvel's Black Panther is already on the brink of being a blockbuster, as it already broke box office records within the first 24 hours of it's pre-sale. Beating Captain America: Civil War's record in 2016, Fandango reports results from a user survey, stating Black Panther was 2018's second most-anticipated movie after Avengers: Infinity War.

One up-and-coming actor who will star alongside Lupita Nyong'o, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan (to name a few) is Sope Aluko. Come February 16, we'll see the Nigerian-born actor play 'Shaman' in the film. Her previous credits include recurring roles on Netflix's “Bloodline," NBC shows “Law & Order SVU" and “Parks & Recreation" and guest appearances on USA Network's “Burn Notice" and Lifetime's “Army Wives."

Her film credits include supporting roles in feature films including Identity Thief, 96 Minutes, Grass Stains, The Good Lie and more. Raised in the UK, Aluko studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). Aluko speaks four languages, including her native language, Yoruba, French, and Bahasa, an Indonesian language.

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Music

Femi Kuti Spreads Some Much-Needed Peace In the Video For 'One People One World'

Watch the music video for the first single off Femi Kuti's upcoming EP "One People One World."

Femi Kuti drops the music video for his single "One People One World," the title song from his forthcoming 10th studio album.

The energy boosting music video sees Femi Kuti delivering an electrifying performance in the Kuti family-owned New Afrika Shrine in Lagos.

On the track, the accomplished musician promotes an unwavering message of peace and unity—things that the world could perhaps always use more of, but especially so in today's Trump-dominated political climate. His message of positivity is illustrated with graphics that appear throughout the video, showing various country flags and symbols of love and peace.

"Racism has no place, give hatred no space," Kuti sings atop brassy instrumentals. "Let's settle the differences, it's best to live in peace. Exchange cultural experiences; that's the way it should be," he continues.

"One People One World," (the album) is a plea towards global harmony and solidarity. When you look at what's going on in Africa, Europe and America, it's important to keep the dream of unity alive," the artist told OkayAfrica in November.

"When I was a boy, I listened to funk, highlife, jazz, folk songs, classical music and my father's compositions, so you will hear those things in the music."

"One People, One World" by Femi Kuti and his band, the Positive Force, drops on February 23 via Knitting Factory, and is now available for preorder.

Femi Kuti, 'One People One World' cover.

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