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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Last year there were about eight African players who were drafted into the NBA. What do you feel that says about not only African talent but the recognition of that talent when it comes to basketball within the NBA?

I think it's definitely heading into the right direction. Looks like the NBA's just trying to go global, not only Africa, but Europe as well. But I think as far as just Africa, they're definitely heading into the right direction. We're starting to have a plan more so than anything.

I think we're sending a lot more people that know about the game to Africa so they can get kids to start at a younger age and to learn the game at a younger age. So by the time they get a little older, by the time they get to the point where they can come over for college or they can come for the NBA, they'll be well-prepared.

I think the main focus has been just growing the game. Everybody's always been talented in Africa, but it was just the lack of resources. Getting people over there that can teach them how to play at a young age has been the most improvement. And, obviously, they got the NBA Africa over there that's been doing very, very well. They just started up the league, as well.

How would you describe your experience being a part of the Utah Jazz so far?

Everybody here is great people. The organization, they've been very good to me and they're just an A-1 organization. They have a lot of class. Everything is well put together. The preparation, like I said, has been very, very good. This is the first winning organization I've been a part of in a long time. The fact that they have a goal in mind that trying to accomplish it has been great.

Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

What are your hopes for the NBA in terms of representation in the next five years?

Man, I think it's growing so fast. How would I want the NBA look like? I would say me being an African, I guess I would want more African players as well. Like I said, it's just it's going so fast and it's going into the right direction. I think the fans are appreciative of it, and I think as far as just being more involved with the community as well. You can never go wrong with that, and just making people feel as involved as they can with us. So that's where I would like to see the NBA going, and doing a lot more stuff, doing a lot more stuff in Africa as well.

Sport undoubtedly has the ability to bring communities together. Would you say basketball has brought together communities within the African diaspora?

Yeah. You know you say sports in general brings everybody together. Sports, whether it's sports, music, or fashion, has everybody connected because they want to see what's going on. And even here in America, people hear about certain players in different countries as well.

I think sports has always been connected and it's a great thing because it has a purpose, and especially growing up how it gets you to dream as a kid. You get to have a dream, and it's something that you can put in perspective, and it's a goal that you can have in mind to try to target.

Growing up, basketball was something that I always wanted to do and I saw my brothers doing it. And even in Africa, that's where my brothers started playing. Then when we came to America, it was just something that I felt is the only kind of opportunity I had to get my situation better. That's how I looked at it.

"Sports can definitely change lives is how I look at it."

Would you say when you started playing basketball, particularly in school, the goal was always to make it to the NBA?

Personally, the aim was always to make the NBA. My mom, she wanted us to use it as a way to get an education because you know you can make a way from sports getting a free degree and stuff like that to get your school to pay for it. But I have papers, I have letters of me writing in second grade that I wanted to play in the NBA. I think that's always been a dream of mine.

What do you want to see more of in terms of basketball in your home country of the DRC?

Oh, man. That's a good question. What I would like to see more of is just more of us players going back and trying to make a difference in the kids' lives by changing the mentality of what's going on. There's a lot of stuff that the country and the continent has been through. I have a big vision as far as starting up programs over there, whether it's a school program, a basketball program, even food program because there's a lot of people who are dying of not having enough food as well.

My foundations that work there, we definitely have a plan on growing the continent as far as in any way needed, whether that's providing more food, providing more education, trying to get schools going. A lot of stuff that needs to be going on over there, whether building up the streets and stuff like that and getting people in safer places.

Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

Would you say that there is still resistance to basketball on a continent that greatly reveres soccer?

Yeah, for sure. I think the reason why the NBA is pushing for it so much is because you're seeing some good players coming out of Africa now, so there's no question that there's talent there in basketball. It's just a matter of sending the right people over there, and like I said, starting basketball programs up.

Every day in America, kids start camps at six years old, eight years old. In Africa, they don't get the chance to start basketball until probably 14, 16 years old. But I think the main thing is starting up basketball programs like opening up gyms. Like there's no access to indoor gyms. Everything's in the outdoors and stuff like that. When I went over there, there's kids there playing basketball with no shoes or non-basketball shoes.

And then in soccer, it's a little different because soccer is already outside. But basketball, in the NBA, is not played outside, so that's the thing that's a little different.

Do you think it's coincidental that this recognition of African talent (artists, musicians, film makers) across the globe is happening at the same time?

Definitely not. What's funny is me and my friend was just talking about this a couple of days ago. Probably 10, 15 years ago if you told somebody you was African, they would look at you kind of different, look at you kind of funny. But today, when you tell them you're African, they want to know more about it. They want to go over there. They feel like you're somebody special that's from the continent.

I think that's just because there's a lot of great stuff happening and Africa is putting out great stuff like you say with the pop culture and for some reason everybody's listening to Afrobeats now.

Everything is going good for Africa right now. I think that actually it's going in the right direction. And I think a lot of people just wasn't knowledgeable when it came to Africa, but I think with social media. that has helped the way it's been going. There's a lot more positive stuff that's been put out there.

Do you think that the rest of the world is making genuine headway in terms of the perception of Africa outside of tired stereotypes?

Yeah. For sure. Out here [in America] they have these tests that they take to find out what part they're from in a African country. Everybody always comes back to me and tells me I have this type of African in me and then they're trying to figure you out even more about being African.

When you see that, I think that's pretty cool because some of those people are the people that were saying negative stuff about Africans just in general. The minute they find out that that's in them, they want to find out a lot more about it and they think differently, and they start respecting the continent more and they want to dive deeper into the history of their ancestors. So, I think that's pretty cool to see.

To go back to your point on the rise in popularity of Afrobeats particularly, what personal impact would you say African music has had on your own life?

"Right now, I mean everybody knows about Burna Boy."

Everybody keeps talking about him, especially out here. I mean my teammates, American teammates and I even got some French teammates that when you walk in the locker room and they're playing his music and you wouldn't be hearing that four or five years ago.

I think the fact that everybody now is trying to get the Afrobeats thing going is pretty big. And like you said, African music, fashion, even sports, this stuff makes everybody connect. Some of the folks don't even understand some of the stuff Burna's saying but they're saying what he's saying anyway.

If you had to sum up what you want to bring to basketball and to the NBA this year in one word, what would that be?

Growth. I think just growth, honestly. Where life is right now there's so much going on around the country, but I think everybody just kind of got to go with an open mind and I think we all got to just keep growing because staying stagnant isn't good for nobody. There's a lot of stuff that we could change and there's a lot of stuff that can improve for sure so I think growth would be the main thing.

I mean I'm driving myself to being a whole different person than I was a few years ago, two years ago, even a year ago. I think with time, there's going to be a lot of stuff that can be changed and a lot of stuff always going to change. Like I said, now everybody somehow wants to be African.

News Brief
(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

Burna Boy Tops 2022 African Streams on Both Spotify & Apple Music

The Nigerian star dominated African streaming lists across both platforms.

On Wednesday, November 30th, Spotify announced its 2022 Wrapped campaign and personalized user experience. In line with that, the music streaming powerhouse also revealed the top songs, albums, and podcasts that dominated the playlists of its 456M listeners around the world.

With the rise of Afrobeats and Amapiano this year, also came the domination of some of Africa’s leading artists and based on the numbers that Spotify put out, Burna Boy was leading the pack. The African Giant dominated the list as The Top African Artist Streamed Globally, Top African Artist on Spotify, and Top Songs Streamed Across Africa ("Last Last").

Spotify's Top Breakout Artist in Africa this year was Asake and the Top African Songs Streamed Globally was the ever-present "Love Nwatiti" by Ckay.

Apple Music also released a list of the top songs and albums for 2022, and again, Burna Boy topped the list. The release of his sixth studio album Love, Damini generated massive critical acclaim and the leading single “Last Last” quickly a global anthem.

According to Apple’s analytics, the album was the most streamed on Apple Music Nigeria, Apple Music Ghana and Apple Music Kenya in 2022. It is also the third most streamed album on Apple Music South Africa in 2022.

According to Phiona Okumu, Head of Music, Spotify Africa, the Spotify Wrapped campaign is also an opportunity for African artists to continue to thrive both home and abroad.

“As always, we also have our Wrapped creator experience for podcasters and artists. With access to their own individualized Wrapped microsite experience, creators can dive into all the ways in which their fans listened this year. We are so excited to continue to support the growth of these artists globally and at home,” said Okumu.

The “Ye” singer has continued to push boundaries and like many of his successful peers in the African music scene, have shown the world that African music, art and talent can push global boundaries and make the world listen.

Following numerous sold out tours, including an eye-popping headliner show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, it is not difficult to see why the afrobeats heavyweight continues to thrive and put Africa as a whole on the map.

Graphic provided by Spotify.


Music
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Roc Nation

Burna Boy, Tems, Zakes Bantwini, Eddy Kenzo & More Are Nominated For 2023 Grammy Awards

They are joined by Angélique Kidjo, Rocky Dawuni, Nomcebo Zikode and more African artists on the nominees list for next year's Grammy Awards.

The Recording Academy has released its list of nominees for the upcoming 2023 Grammy Awards show and several African artists have been given a nod.

Nigerian superstar Burna Boyand Beninese legend Angélique Kidjo are both nominated for Best Global Music Album.

Uganda's Eddy Kenzo, Ghana's Rocky Dawuni, South Africa's Wouter Kellerman, Zakes Bantwini and Nomcebo Zikode, and Burna Boy are all in the running for Best Global Music Performance.

Nigeria's continually buzzing Tems is nominated for "Wait For U," her collaboration with Future and Drake, under the Best Melodic Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. Angélique Kidjo is also nominated for her Woman King song "Keep Rising" under the Best Song Written for Visual Media category.

African music has been taking center stage, and the recent nominations have further proven that the world is paying attention to the sounds coming from the African continent.

The 65th installment of the award show will take place on Sunday, February 5, 2023, at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. It will be exciting to see all of the honorees from the continent and how their hard work has paid off.

Last year, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tems, Femi Kuti, Made Kuti, Angélique Kidjo, Rocky Dawuni, and Black Coffee were the African nominees.

Last year, Kidjo won an award for her 16th studio album Mother Nature, marking her fifth Grammy win. During a visit to Ghana earlier this year, Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, told reporters that the Grammys were considering an Afrobeats category. Mason said he had been meeting with important decision-makers in the genre to explore the possibility.

Scroll down to see the list of African artists nominated for the award show this year.

Check out the complete list of nominees here.

Best Global Music Performance

“Udhero Na,” Arooj Aftab and Anoushka Shankar
“Gimme Love,” Matt B and Eddy Kenzo
“Last Last,” Burna Boy
“Neva Bow Down,” Rocky Dawuni featuring Blvk H3ro
“Bayethe,” Wouter Kellerman, Zakes Bantwini and Nomcebo Zikode

Best Global Music Album

“Shuruaat,” Berklee Indian Ensemble
“Love, Damini,” Burna Boy
“Queen of Sheba,” Angélique Kidjo and Ibrahim Maalouf
“Between Us … (Live),” Anoushka Shankar, Metropole Orkest and Jules Buckley featuring Manu Delago
“Sakura,” Masa Takumi

Best Melodic Rap Performance

“Beautiful,” DJ Khaled featuring Future and SZA
“Wait for U,” Future featuring Drake and Tems
“First Class,” Jack Harlow
“Die Hard,” Kendrick Lamar featuring Blxst and Amanda Reifer
“Big Energy (Live),” Latto

Best Rap Song

“Churchill Downs,” Ace G, BEDRM, Matthew Samuels, Tahrence Brown, Rogét Chahayed, Aubrey Graham, Jack Harlow and Jose Velazquez, songwriters (Jack Harlow featuring Drake)

“God Did,’ Tarik Azzouz, E. Blackmon, Khaled Khaled, F. LeBlanc, Shawn Carter, John Stephens, Dwayne Carter, William Roberts and Nicholas Warwar, songwriters (DJ Khaled featuring Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, John Legend and Fridayy)

“The Heart Part 5,” Jake Kosich, Johnny Kosich, Kendrick Lamar and Matt Schaeffer, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)

“Pushin P,” Lucas Depante, Nayvadius Wilburn, Sergio Kitchens, Wesley Tyler Glass and Jeffery Lamar Williams, songwriters (Gunna and Future featuring Young Thug)

“Wait for U,” Tejiri Akpoghene, Floyd E. Bentley III, Jacob Canady, Isaac De Boni, Aubrey Graham, Israel Ayomide Fowobaje, Nayvadius Wilburn, Michael Mule, Oluwatoroti Oke and Temilade Openiyi, songwriters (Future featuring Drake and Tems)

Best Song Written for Visual Media

“Be Alive” from “King Richard”; Beyoncé́ and Darius Scott Dixson, songwriters (Beyoncé́)

“Carolina” from “Where the Crawdads Sing”; Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)

“Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick”; Bloodpop and Stefani Germanotta, songwriters (Lady Gaga)

“Keep Rising (The Woman King)” from “The Woman King”; Angelique Kidjo, Jeremy Lutito and Jessy Wilson, songwriters (Jessy Wilson featuring Angelique Kidjo)

“Nobody Like U” from “Turning Red”; Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (4*Town, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O’Connell, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo, Grayson Villanueva)

“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from “Encanto”; Lin-Manuel Miranda, songwriter (Carolina Gaitán — La Gaita, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz & Encanto — Cast)

Sports
(Photo by Youssef Loulidi/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Morocco Advance to the Round Of 16 in the World Cup

Morocco join Senegal as the second African country make the knockout stages at Qatar 2022.

Morocco have officially joined the string of African countries who have been excelling at the FIFA World Cup.

By beating Canada, 2-1, the North African country finish at the top of their Group F, besting strong footballing countries like Belgium and Croatia, and advancing to the last 16 teams in the World Cup.

During the game against Canada, the Moroccan side strategically capitalized on its opponents' mistakes, especially those from Canadian defender Steven Vitória and goalkeeper Milan Borjan. At the height of the game, Vitória attempted to pass the ball back to Borjan at the same time that Youssef En-Nesyri was giving chase. Borjan left his net to play the ball but En-Nesyri’s seamlessness with the ball overpowered him and gave Hakim Ziyech the leeway to easily score a goal from a distance.

By half-time against Canada, Morocco was already in the lead, with strong indications pointing to the possibility that they would push through the knockout round. The win came with an eruption of celebration from fans who witnessed the team win at Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar.

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Music

M.anifest Returns With Innovative New Project 'THE E.P.ILOGUE’

The Ghanaian rapper's new six-track EP features Anik Khan, M.I Abaga, WavyPae, Alee, and writer Nayyirah Waheed.

Following the release of his critically-acclaimed Madina To The Universe album, award-winning Ghanaian rap artist M.anifestis sharing innovative new project titled The E.P.ilogue,, a project that was put together throughout the year while M.anifest was touring Europe and the United States.

The six-track project includes star-studded collaborations from world-renowned artists from the U.S to Ghana and Lagos. Some of the names included in the credits are Anik Khan, M.I Abaga, WavyPae, Alee, and writer Nayyirah Waheed.

While describing the project, poet Waheed hints on the idea that above everything else, M.anifest is a fearless creator:

“From creating a new form to introducing new sound — it is new forms of Universes he continues to explore on MTTU + The E.P.ilogue. Here, M.anifest is inventing creations. He is touching everywhere from Madina to the universe and beyond,” states Waheed. “He is unafraid of the After — and taking us straight into the end of a universe + what comes After. M.anifest is a new astronaut.The E.P.ilogue is a new astronaut. It's time for new astronauts.”

The E.P.ilogue is an extension of the album he released last year titled Madina In The Universe, a project that boasted of the rapper’s sharp lyricism and unique flow.

Born in Accra, Ghana, M.anifest has reached great lengths and expanded the scope of his work beyond African audiences. With African music becoming a global force, and the world of streaming becoming a medium for that to happen, M.anifest has collaborated with global music legends like The Red Hot Chilli Peppers' Flea, Erykah Badu, Kojey Radical and Burna Boy, to name a few. His new project The E.P.ilogue is his sixth compilation and presents him as a creator who is relentless as an innovator and is unafraid to deviate from the status quo. The Ghanaian MC is no stranger to gracing the stage outside of Africa, his recent shows had him performing at packed out shows in London, New York, Oakland and Berlin.

Listen to The E.P.ilogue below.

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