Meet the Zambian Radio DJs Who Could Play a Pivotal Role in this Week's Presidential Election

'Hope and Chi' have spent eight stormy years on air as the megaphone for Zambia's voiceless.

Hope Chishala and Chi Msimuko have, at times, been followed home, threatened and questioned by shadowy figures. For a time their studio was being raided regularly by the police. Typical for opposition figures in many parts of the world, perhaps, but arrest and harassment were never career goals for these two passionate Zambian creatives. They are not anarchists or even activists, really—they’re the hosts of the Red Hot Breakfast show on Hot FM, one of the most popular live radio programmes in Lusaka, Zambia.

This week Zambia will elect a new president, just over a year after current president Edgar Lungu came to power following the death of his predecessor Michael Sata. This will be an important moment for the radio hosts whose goal has been to use their voice as a megaphone to amplify the voice of those who would otherwise remain unheard.

In every episode, since it started eight years ago, Chishala and Msimuko have challenged the Zambian political culture in a sardonic and humorous manner that has captivated Zambians and given them a platform to speak directly to the people governing the country. People who are often hard to reach.

As their star has risen, the sound of Msimuko and Chishala’s megaphone has started to drown out the threats. The powerful must now take them seriously. With over a million listeners tuned in every day—in a country of around of 14 million—“Hope and Chi” as they’re known by their listeners are known for asking the tough questions. They often call out politicians on their failures and will always poke fun at them.

This has, unsurprisingly, earned them a few disgruntled fans. While their real fans have sworn allegiance to their satirical political party Kawalala (meaning ‘thief’ in native Nyanja)—with Msimuko as president and Chishala as his unconfirmed veep—the disgruntled ones have threatened them with incarceration, with little success. During the 2011 election cycle Msimuko was accused by partisans of paying people to call in to the show to speak against the ruling government which he denies. He was threatened with arrest. Another time Chishala was forced off the show when a group of police came on the show and demanded that it be shut down because she was "speaking against the government.” Despite many attempts, this week will mark the pairs’ fourth conviction-free Zambian Election cycle.

Photo by Tahilla Photography and courtesy of Chi and Hope

“Politicians have to understand that we speak for the people and it’s rooted deep in the truth. Some people like us, some people hate us but I believe in telling the truth so that is what we will keep doing,” Chishala tells Okayafrica.

Zambia has had quite an eventful few years, in terms of politics, with two presidents dying and three leadership changes in about eight years. It’s been hard to keep track of. During each election cycle, the duo will line up political aspirants, including presidential candidates and grill them on why the people of Zambia should trust them with their country.

This year, the contest has been quite heated with political violence breaking out on more than one occasion, usually with the ruling party and main opposition throwing verbal and physical blows at each other. Some have even lost their lives. It’s been one of the most turbulent election periods in a country that is known for its peace. Chishala and Msimuko will use their platform to share events in the lead-up to the poll.

“I must say when I think back it was always a deliberate plan to create a platform for this. I can’t say the threats were also welcome but I was never going to back down. It was about making people understand that you can channel your voice for good and we have done that,” Msimuko explains. For him, radio is a powerful tool that can be used for positive influence to shape how people understand their political and social context and he wants to be at the forefront of this change.

Chishala and Msimuko’s relationship has also strengthened over the years. Chishala, who started at the Red Hot Breakfast Show, felt that the show could be made stronger by an additional host. She hadn’t anticipated that this addition would come in the form of Msimuko barging into the studio. He plonked himself in front of the mic and just started to talk, live on air. Irritated, Chishala asked him who he thought he was, in turn he asked who she was and that was the beginning of the talking duo who, in between their on-air battles, have created a warm on-air chemistry.

In this election cycle the threatening calls are less frequent, the police visits almost non-existent, but their speech has not been tempered and the questions still burn like hot embers. The duo have proved that free speech and free press, if insisted on, can be attained and maintained.

Samba Yonga is the founder of Zambian based Ku-Atenga Media that creates bespoke communication platforms focussed on Africa. Her work spans the globe but her heart is set on producing content for Africa. Follow her on Twitter, @Kuwaha on Instagram, @sambayonga and check her new podcast, 

Stand For Peace. 
Still from "Kasala!"

Meet The Nigerian New Wave Director Behind the Film 'Kasala!'

One of Naija cinema's new wave, Ema Edosio talks about what it took to film her exciting new film in the streets of Lagos.

Ema Edosio is the director of "Kasala", a comedy set in present day Lagos and centers on the lives of four young men who go on a joyride to a party in a Honda Accord one of them has taken from his boss Taju without permission. Their evening is ruined when one of them crashes Taju's Honda breaking the windscreen and denting the car's body. With just four hours before Taju returns home, all four boys hustle around Lagos to raise money for the car repair.

Taju, who is a struggling butcher, is faced with a big problem of his own: his debtor has just given him an ultimatum to pay back money he's long owed. Bitter and frustrated, Taju's retribution will be double-fold, if he returns home to find his Honda is damaged. The four friends do not need more another reason to expect the worse from Taju if they're not able to fix his Honda before gets home in the next four hours.

"Kasala" is a vivid portrayal of contemporary Lagos and a riotous combination of physical comedy, inventive turns of phrases combined with fluid camera work and committed performances from some of the young and bright African acting talents.

Written by Temi Sodipo and directed by Ema Edosio—who is also the cinematographer and editor—"Kasala" was chosen for the closing gala of the 2018 edition of Film Africa in London this November, out of a total of 39 films from 15 countries.

Edosio flew into London for the film's UK premier at the Rich Mix cinema to a largely pan-African crowd who lapped up the rollicking comedy. Ahead of her trip to the UK, Okay Africa spoke to Edosio about her debut feature, the joys and challenges of shooting on location in Lagos and the rise of Nigeria's so called "Naija New Wave" cinema.

Photo courtesy of Ema Edosio

The fast pace and energy in Kasala is constant all through the film. Was this a deliberate injection or did it come as a result of the writing?

I worked as a video journalist for the BBC and I would go into the streets of Lagos to film, and I would see everything that made Lagos what it is: the traffic, the smell, the dirt, the vibe, the energy, the people. And I wanted to make a story that is authentic and that is the reason why I decided to make Kasala this way.

All the four friends and main characters jell naturally it would seem. How did you get them to work well together?

When I conceived of the film, I knew that I didn't want to work with any "known" faces. I knew that I wanted unknown actors. So I put out an audition call and these boys worked into the room and I told them to read together. And immediately it was like magic.

Why do you think they're largely unknown to the majority of Nigerian movie watching audience?

I think one of the reasons is there's not a lot of movies written about young people. Most of the scripts are for a certain kind of male character: the superhero who goes to save the damsel in distress, and the hunk and a lot of roles are not written for these amazing actors and that's why they're largely unknown.

Tomiwa Tegbe who plays "Effiong" is a good comic actor and has been in "On The Real (Ebony Life TV)" and "Shuga (MTV)". What does Kasala bring out in Tomiwa Tegbe that these other directors and film material that do not?

The thing that made Tomiwa Tegbe and the rest stand out in Kasala is that I gave them freedom to act and I wasn't micromanaging them. They became very comfortable in order to do their best to the film.

The cast as a whole is largely new and young with Jide Kosoko easily the most experienced. Why did you cast him for the role and not yet another "unknown" face?

The reason is I couldn't afford to hire known faces to work in the film and I honestly didn't have the budget. I [also] wanted to bring in a sense of familiarity and that is why I got Jide Kosoko. Even though they're guys are unknown, and they're are fantastic "here is someone you know who is in this movie playing with these amazing actors" which is why I worked with Jide Kosoko.

The different locations in the film are those of back corners, mechanic garages, meat market, communal flats most of which have the red and brown of rust and decay gives the cinematography a visual harmony. How much attention did you give to finding the right locations?

I think I made Kasala with a vengeance. I've had the privilege to work with Ebonylife tv which was beautiful but Kasala kept pulling me in: the people I met in the streets, the things I'd done on the streets of Lagos, the visual aesthetic kept pulling and I decided to make that. I wanted to see Lagos, I wanted to see barbwires. I wanted to see gutters, I wanted to see the people. I knew that the location was a character on its own. And I wanted to be able to find the right location that would be able to represent that boys and the lives they live in Lagos. I'm forever grateful for the people there who let us film there.

Your camera adopts the often frenetic pace of the film and is rarely still for long. Why this visual approach?

I'm very influenced by Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. And I would always say to myself that "these characters in their films can be Nigerians". I think that the camera should be fluid, breathe, move with the audience showing us "oh yeah this is a wide, oh yeah this is a close up". My influence by these directors was what I put into Kasala. And this is what made the film dynamic.

Are there any interesting, unplanned events during shooting which you could share with our readers?

Shooting in Lagos is one of the hardest thing to do. You have these agberos [louts] who come to you and literally want to take your equipment. I went with a very small crew and I'm very petite and they would see me and say "who is this small girl? She doesn't have money. Leave her alone, let her shoot". I started bringing them into the film to act and it was very beautiful seeing them react to it. One of the most interesting things is the children in the estates [on location] who act in the film, the joy and the playfulness. In some ways we brought back some joy and some fun into the neighbourhood.

Still from "Kasala!"

Did you worry much about what may be lost to foreign audiences who may not be clued up the pidgin English and "Nigerianisms" used in the film?

You can't come to Lagos and make a film about the slum in English. I felt like the pidgin English was as important as the location. My mind was not about where the foreign audience would accept it or whatever. My mind was "how do I make a film that is authentic to Nigeria? How do I make a film that would show of Lagos?" It would do no justice to use English.

Who are the other key players in Nigeria's "nu wave" film and tv you would like to highlight?

When you talk about new wave key players you're talking about Abba Makama whose film "Green White Green" inspired me to make "Kasala". CJ SeriObasi, ImoEmoren, Jade Sholat Siberi, Kemi Adetiba. So many new directors are springing out nollywood. And they're new directors making amazing stuff. I'm really really excited about the future.

How did you raise the funding needed to make "Kasala"?

When I wanted to make Kasala, it was not the kind of story people would fund. I decided in order to bring this story to live, to use the skills I'd gained over the years—to produce, direct, shoot and edit. Not because I wanted to be in control, because I didn't have the budget. That is the sport of new director coming in now. We're fighting against all odds and it is now beginning to be clear that it's way beyond nollywood. Kasala has been to over 20 international festivals and counting. And there an audience for our films, there's an audience for our voices.

What are you expectations for it at the festival?

I really don't know what to expect. I just hope that they love the film. For the Nigerians in the diaspora,I hope that it brings back memories of Lagos. For black people I hope it gives them a sense of how we are back home to help them connect with us as Africans. For the foreign audience I hope that they see a Nigeria of passion, of community, of tenacity, of brotherhood of love.

"Kasala" will be released worldwide on December 7th


Indomie: Unpacking a Nigerian Tradition

What does Nigeria's way of preparing this beloved brand of instant noodles say about the country as a whole?

Before I came to Lagos in September to begin a collaborative performance project, I imagined all the ways the place would challenge all I had read and heard about it, and all the ways it might remind me of my home, Trinidad and Tobago. Of all the kernels of similarities I've encountered so far, Indomie is perhaps the most intriguing.

Indomie, a brand of instant noodles originating in Indonesia, has become the household name for all instant ramen noodles in Nigeria.

As a child, I would make Top Ramen, but ours was far less intentionally adorned. I had never seen anyone add anything but Golden Ray. I would try to be fancy with my own and add eggs, but they never quite attained Naruto ramen standards.

Indomie was my first meal in Nigeria. I had arrived in Lagos about two hours earlier. In those two hours I had seen something of the character of the city. In the midst of the clouds of dust and engine exhaust fumes I saw a woman almost fall out the car she was getting into, I saw men sitting atop a truck, like wrinkles in the night sky fabric, I saw selling, so much selling and buying and haggling. It seemed to me that everything was happening here.

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Fela Kuti's 'Zombie' Is Coming Out On Limited Edition 8-Track

"Zombie" and "Mr. Follow Follow" are available in the nostalgic 8-track cartridge.

"Zombie," Fela Kuti's 1976 protest anthem and scathing attack on the Nigerian military, is getting an 8-track re-release.

Knitting Factory Records, Kalakuta Sunrise and Partisan Records have made 300 limited editions copies of Zombie/Mr. Follow Follow which you can pre-order now ahead of its December 7 release.

Fela Kuti's classic song uses zombies as a metaphor for soldiers mindlessly following orders. The song is thought to have triggered the Nigerian government's horrific assault on the Kalakuta Republic, in which the compound burned to the ground, Fela was brutally beaten and his mother, Nigerian feminist icon Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was murdered.

You can pre-order Zombie/Mister Follow Follow on 8-track now and read more about each song from Mabinuori Kayode Idowu's text accompanying the release below.

Purchase Fela Kuti's Zombie/Mr Follow Follow on 8-Track

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