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Interview: Desmond & The Tutus


Okayafrica recently caught up with South African indie rock band Desmond & The Tutu's (quite a name-we know). Check out our conversation with them below, where we discuss the inspiration for their name, and possible plans to expand and bring their music overseas.

1. Who is Desmond and who are the Tutu's?

My name is Shane, I am the singer. Craig (my baby brother) is our drummer. Douglad (our childhood buddy) is our guitarist and Nic (Doug's brother in law) is the bassist.

2. Why the name?

We started the band quite young and a funny name was a huge priority for us. We loved the idea that you could take any celebrity's name and turn it into a hilarious band name by inserting "& The" between the first name and the surname. After going through about 3000 name options, each one equally hilarious, we decided to keep it South African and settled on Desmond. 7 years down the line, and the joke is a little stale to us but it reminds us of a simpler time!

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3. Has there been any controversy with using the name (considering the iconic position of Desmond Tutu)?

We haven't had any complaints, in fact we got a letter from the arch's office saying that he is "proud to be associated with us". That's about as much official correspondence as we've had about the name. Of course our ultimate band dream is to have Desmond Tutu himself star in a music video!

4.When/How did you all come to start the group?

In 2005 Craig, Doug and I (after years of hopeless music aspirations) started working on material as Desmond and the Tutus. We could tell immediately that we were on to something special and recruited Nic to play bass. We came up with the band name after our first practice and that was it.

5. What genre would you say your music falls under? How is the band different from others in the genre?

We have called our music various vary pretentious things in the past, but we'll just stick with 'indie rock' going forward. What I believe sets us apart is the element of fun, it's a huge priority for us, we have to have fun and so does the crowd -  otherwise someones not doing their job!

6. Is this type of music very popular in South Africa?

Look, it's not gospel but there is great support for local rock bands all over South Africa and we have done quite well here. Of course we'd like to take our songs to the world, but it's a little more complicated than buying a couple plane tickets.

7. You all seem like a very energetic bunch and the music speaks to that as well... Does the long hair help with bringing that energy onto stage or is it just the look you prefer?

The hair holds the power! Many times I have contemplated getting rid of it and going for a more modern cut, but I care about my bands career too much!

8. If you could pick any "rock n roll" artist in the world to perform or record with, who would it be and why?

We have had the opportunity to play with many of our favourite bands in the last couple years (The Drums, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bloc Party, Two Door Cinema Club).

10. What does the 'N' in "MNUSIC" represent? Why MNUSIC for your album's name?

Like a lot of what we do, there is no real explanation for the N in Mnusic. Dobson, the guy that acted in our infomercial for the album, kept pronouncing the word Music as if there was an N after the M, so we figured - that's it.

11. When is the next show so folks can go see you on stage?

We are always out and about, check out our website/facebook for info of when we're playing near you.

12. Lastly, do you all agree with these celebrity lookalike comparisons? (especially in the "Tattoo" video)

Never heard of them.

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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

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The story revolves around the lives of three young friends from different socio-economic backgrounds, with completely varied attitudes towards life, but bound by a deep friendship. There is Asma, the conservative academic genius who dreams of going to medical school and hails from a modest family. Hibo, a rebellious, liberal, spoiled girl from a very wealthy family who learns to be a better friend as the film evolves and finally Deka. Deka is the binding force in the friendship, a brilliant though sometimes naïve teen who finds herself torn between her divorced mother's ambitions to give her a better life having saved up all her life for her to go to university abroad, and her own conviction that she wants to study and succeed in her own country.

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