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Tanzanian Bongo Flava Artist Ommy Dimpoz Should be on Everyone's Radar.

Tanzanian Bongo Flava Artist Ommy Dimpoz Should be on Everyone's Radar

Tanzanian artist Ommy Dimpoz speaks to us about being a new-generation bongo flava artist, signing a major deal with Sony Music Africa and how connection with his fans defines what success means to him.

Ommy Dimpoz, real name Omary Faraji Nyembo, is a new-generation Bongo Flava artist from Tanzania. Bongo flava is a unique style of Tanzanian hip-hop and R&B which originated from the streets of Dar es Salaam and is undeniably the most popular genre among Tanzanian youth.

With almost a decade in the music industry now, Ommy Dimpoz continues to meticulously carve out his own path while making some serious career moves. Initially signed with Rockstar Africa Record Label, the artist recently signed a major deal with Sony Music Africa ahead of his debut album which is set to be released at the beginning of next year.

The Tanzanian artist started out his music career by writing songs which were inspired by his favorite bongo flava artists and performed them at graduation ceremonies shortly after he had completed high school.

Encouraged by those around him to continue with music, Ommy Dimpoz first broke into the industry as a vocalist for veteran bongo flava artist TID and then went on to release his chart-topping debut single "Nai Nai" featuring Ali Kiba in 2012, cementing his place on the music scene. The artist followed up his debut with several other numbers including "Mama" featuring Christian Bella, "Me and You" in collaboration with Tanzanian songstress Vanessa Mdee and "Hello baby" featuring Avril.

We caught up with the Tanzanian artist who is currently based in his home country and spoke to him about his music journey, artists who inspire him, recent collaborations and what the future holds for him as a musician.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You've recently joined Sony Music Africa. What informed that career move and why now?

I've been working with Rockstar, and I'm still working with them but we need to go far from here. I've been in this industry officially since 2012 and the way forward is that you need to get across the big level and grow as an artist. To be in partnership with Sony is a big privilege. And as you can see, all these big artists in Africa and in the world work with the big labels. Working with Sony is a big opportunity for me and I think it will change something in my career.

How did your journey with music begin?

It just happened when I was in high school and I was attending a graduation ceremony and I think I just fell in love with the music. Then, I decided to start writing some songs. I used the beat from different Bongo Flava artists to write my own lyrics on those beats and instruments. I started performing at graduation ceremonies and everybody was like, "I think you can be a good artist." That's how it all started. After high school, I went to college and did a certificate in business administration. I then decided to go straight to the music and joined the music band, Top Band. From that moment, that was how my journey started.

READ: 14 Bongo Flava Classics You Need In Your Life

Are there any bigger projects that you're currently working on, whether it's an album or an EP?

Yeah, I'm working on my album and that will be my first album. Most of the album is complete and now it's just the final touches but it will be dropped early next year. I'm also still working in the studio on some other projects. It's still a secret but there will be a South African element, a Nigerian side and a Francophone country. There are some vocals I'm still waiting on but it's almost done.

Ommy Dimpoz - OkayAfrica Ommy Dimpoz stars in "You Are the Best" Music VideoStill taken from YouTube.

What are some of the veteran bongo flava artists that have personally inspired your own music?

There's a couple of bongo flava artists, because here, we have a lot of legends here. One of them is TID. TID is one of the biggest bongo flava artists in the country. And then there is also A.Y. as well. I mean, there are a lot to be honest but I love all kinds of music. Aside from bongo blava, there is a traditional music called taarab. So I just listen to different types of music and there are a lot of people who have inspired me to do music as a result.

Recently, you released your single "Dede" featuring DJ Tira, Dladla and Prince Bulo. Walk me through how that collaboration actually came about?

I was in South Africa for my medical check-up following a surgery and was just sitting in my apartment. I was watching some of the local and international television channels. I found out DJ Tira got a lot of air time because of course, he's a legend. I decided to DM him on Instagram and I said, "Bro, I'm interested in doing music with you." He then said, "Yeah, no problem." So, I had this song "Dede" that I recorded here in Tanzania by using local bongo flava instruments and sent it to him. That is how we connected and the rest was history.

We were sending each other the music, then later on, we met and we started talking, and now, we're like friends. I remember also we met for the video. That time, I think the first time we met, it was for the music video shoot.

The music video is as vibrant and upbeat as the song itself. What was your vision for that music video?

You know, with the music video, I just arranged with the video director and told him that I need to have a great vibe between Durban music and Jo'burg music, especially with the dancing styles. I told him that I needed some dancing from Jo'burg and some dancing from Durban. The music is largely based in Durban but I wanted a good mix between the two which is why we used those pantsula boys in the video as well. I also told him I needed the video to look really colourful.

Ommy Dimpoz - Dede (Official Music Video) ft. DJ Tira, Dladla, Prince Bulo www.youtube.com

Many artists have obviously been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How have you been navigating making music and connecting with your fans during this pandemic?

First of all, it's weird to say this but everybody believes there's the coronavirus everywhere but in my country. There was even a day our president just made a statement and said that we need a national prayer and after that prayer, it will all be good. And now, we are living like the country is coronavirus-free. When you come here, there are no masks, people are doing chores and their normal activities. It's like we are back to normal. For me, I can tell the truth, it was hard for me to even travel within Kenya last week. There are so many restrictions and I felt like, "Oh my God, I'm not free. Let me go back home."

Are there any anxieties or fears on your part that Tanzania, compared to the continent and the rest of the world, doesn't have as many restrictions in place?

Of course. For almost two years, I was very sick and going up and down to the hospital and everything. And so for my health, I can say it has been hard for me, you know? I'm still looking for my health but there has been a little bit of anxiety. You see how things go here compared to other countries out there and how they're taking these things seriously.

What would you say the representation of Tanzanian artists on the international stage looks like right now?

They recently announced nominees for the MAMAs for next year. I mean, you can see there are maybe four to five Tanzanian musicians on the list and we used to get maybe just one nomination in the past. I think we are growing and we are trying to find our own sound. You see how I did this collaboration with DJ Tira? We used a South African sound but I still remained me. I didn't change completely to sounding like the South African sound. I always tell my fellow artists that when they collaborate, they can try out any sound but must still remain themselves. I think we are getting there.

What does success look like for you as an artist?

Wow. It's a hard question. But what I can say is successful, apart from maybe getting money, opportunities or material things, is how I connect with people at different levels. It's about how to make a connection and how to use your platform and image to help society. That is success for me. If you do something and that thing can help or change something in society by using your name, that is success. For me as a musician or public figure, success is how you connect with people and do something positive for society and the people who are around you.

Listen to Ommy Dimpoz on Apple Music and Spotify.

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

How Patrick Quarm Uses African Textile to Tell Stories About Identity

Ghanaian Artist Patrick Quarm speaks to OkayAfrica about his mixed media process and his avant-garde approach with African print fabrics.

Growing up in the residential area of Takoradi, Ghana, artist Patrick Quarm had a fascinating thrill for drawing the everyday. His major inspiration was spending the day outside, walking to town, and watching people making do with their routines. As a curious teen, he would sketch and take photographs of them.

After leaving Ghana in 2015 to obtain a master’s degree at Texas Tech, Quarm’s artistic perception took a different leap. He had experienced an identity crisis. He started to question his artistic intelligence and what it was communicating in respect to his identity. In response, he adopted the African fabric to fluidly express that notion of identity in his work.

Quarm’s art is bold, aesthetically African, and possesses a gritty ideology that is just as rare in the art world. With his arts, he is keen to unmask history and how it shapes us in the present. Intuitively, Quarm’s art isn’t what it appears to be from a first glance. He operates with several portrait layerings to express his multidimensional ideas, using shapes like circles to tell the tales of loopholes that rest within African history with colonialism.

OkayAfrica spoke with Quarm about his avant-garde approach and more.

Patrick Quarm painting

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

When did your journey as an artist begin?

I would say I was born an artist. As a child, I would pick up my pencil and begin to draw anything I found of interest. I remember in elementary school, I was so good at drawing and it came naturally cause I never took a class in it at that time. I think high school was when I decided to study visual art; the Ghanaian education system gave us the opportunity to pick what we wanted to do. I majored in picture-making which was what it was called then. From there, I did my undergrad at Kwame Nkrumah University of science and technology, I majored in painting. During that time, I used to paint fine realistic art and I did a lot of portrait commissioning but when I looked at the international art world, there was something so interesting about them, they were very simple but possessed so much value, I wanted to be part of that. So that motivated me to apply for a master’s program in Texas Tech which I got into with a full scholarship. The best thing about the program was it gave me a space to isolate myself and meditate on what I wanted to create and how I could polish my skill. That’s when I started working with African print fabric and right after my MFA in 2018, my career as an artist emerged fully, collectors and galleries were so interested in what I was doing because there was a different idea and niche to my art.

Who and what were your biggest inspirations when you started making art?

My inspiration comes generally from living. So I grew up in Takoradi— a small town in Ghana compared to Accra. I grew up in a very residential private area so whenever I went to the town,I would see an influx of people doing a lot of activities, trade, buying stuff and I really took that as inspiring because at an early age, I realized I just enjoyed seeing people in their daily activity and routine. I remember I would walk around with a sketch book and camera, drawing and taking pictures. Just everyday life is my inspiration but looking at my work, I’m more inspired by history, the evolution of Africa within contemporary spaces, thinking of it in terms of past, present and how modern Africa is continually evolving within these spaces.

Patrick Quarm close up painting

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

What were your parents' remarks when you chose art as a career?

My parents were very supportive, they weren’t typical African parents that were like, “what are you doing with art?” My mother was very inspirational, she gave me my first studio when I was in high school in Ghana. She really didn’t get what I was doing but she liked the idea that I was doing something and she wanted to support me without questions. I remember my father asking me where I had gotten my talent from because, for generations, there weren’t any artists in our family. One of the profound questions my father asked me when I was young was, “Why is it with everything you do, art is what interests you?” And I told him I loved it, that I couldn’t see myself doing anything else and his response to me was to keep doing it but make sure I got good at it. Those words come to me as comforting when I hit dead ends in my studio.

Why did you decide to use African textile in the development of your work?

It didn’t happen by accident, it’s a matter of choice. I came to the U.S. in 2015 for my master’s program. Before that, I used to paint so realistic but painting to me after that point wasn’t about skill, it was about ideas, conversations, dialogues, experimentations and other things. I kept asking myself what I wanted to say in my work— what should I communicate with my work, what I wanted people to get off my work. So I started thinking about my identity and how fluid I was between all these cultures, and that began my basic concept. The African print fabric was one of the most culturally significant materials I could use to tell that story of identity and knowing its history, I was aware that it was something I could use. Though the African print fabric wasn’t originally from Africa, it came from Indonesia through colonial trade but I wanted to communicate that concept of dual-identity, to establish a conversation around culture and hybridity.

Patrick Quarm artwork

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

Did moving to America change something about you and your artistic prowess?

Of course, something changed especially in my artistic style. I used to paint hyper-realistic portraits before I came to the U.S, but immediately I began to establish a language in my work, it took a different style. I went through a lot of thought processes of what my art should communicate and so a lot of processes started sipping into my work like glueing, cutting and other things— but they were very intentional and that helped in the expansion of my ideologies. My studio is like a laboratory to me, I always confront myself with questions and ideas. I just love the concepts I have created and when I look at my work, I recognize an evolution.

Why were you so keen to highlight African identity in your art?

To me, it was always like taking it from the personal and making it universal. Coming to the U.S, I went through the process of merging a new culture to mine. During that time, I questioned my Africanness, who I was and why I was pictured a certain way, and what had shaped me. It became a quest to understand these questions so I started using a visual language to communicate that. Why I highlight African identity is to look at things from a different perspective especially from an African eye, there is no one way of defining things within the world we live today; things are always evolving and taking other forms. When I talk about Africanness and identity in general, I want to visualize it from the new point of view because there is always a different definition of the new from the old. After being in the U.S for six years, I went back to Ghana and I realized that things have taken a new look, people were doing things I had seen folks in the U.S do and it struck me how fluid things could be.

Patrick Quarm textiles

Photo Credit: Patrick Quarm

Aside identity, what other themes do your work as an artist communicate?

My work spans across several ideas and theories. I talk about history in my works interweaving it with our identity as Africans. My works aren’t analyzed by what is on the surface or what people see, there is always an extension to it. This idea comes from my trying to talk about colonialism. Our history from a colonial lens is segmentational. For me, when we talk about African identity, we don’t have to talk about it from now, we have to look at it from the past. My works have layers that slice through history, to analyze the nuances from a complex entity that sprouted out. My works are multi-dimensional, I use circles to illustrate that, circles which signify loopholes or viewpoints through time, where we can have access to the past whilst dwelling in the present, just like saying remnants of the past dwell in the present.

How has your life in the studio been?

My studio is my escape, it’s the one place I run to when there is a lot of chaos around me, it just consumes me. Sometimes when I have so much on my mind, I just pick a chair and stare at my art, it helps me reflect on what to create next. The studio is my lab, it’s a place where I bring in all these ideas. Sometimes when I stroll out and I find an idea, I either have to come and sketch it out or take a picture of it— I just love the space.

News Brief
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for MRC)

Watch Burna Boy Close Out the Billboard Music Awards

The Nigerian star played a medley of "Last Last" and "Kilometre."

The 2022 Billboard Music Awards returned last night, Sunday May 15, broadcasting live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

In the big slot of the night, closing out the award ceremonies, was none-other-than the African Giant himself Burna Boy.

The Nigerian superstar, who's coming off a headline-grabbing sold out show at Madison Square Garden, jumped onstage to perform a medley of his brand new single "Last Last" (which just dropped last Friday) and the high-energy "Kilometre" backed by a full band and a drum line.

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Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Rwanda's Salima Mukansanga Sets Historic Sights On FIFA World Cup 2022

The Rwandan official has been named as one of the first female referees in history to officiate at the men's FIFA World Cup.

For the first time in history, a select group of female referees has been chosen to officiate matches at a FIFA Soccer World Cup. This year's international sporting event will be hosted by the Middle Eastern country Qatar and runs from November 21st to December 18 later this year. Among the history-making female cohort is Rwandan referee Salima Mukansanga, who made headlines earlier this year after becoming the first female referee to a match in the African Cup of Nations.

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It’s A New Dawn for Young Jonn

Young Jonn tells us why he switched to singing, dishes on his relationship with Olamide and provides all the details about his debut project Love Is Not Enough.

For years, Young Jonn crafted several of the ear-gripping tracks that dominated music-consuming hubs across Nigeria. His potent beats, manufactured and readymade for Olamide, saw the Nigerian star rapper unleash neck craning flows over them, painting real life scenes. The two became an errorless combo, making tracks certain to transform into monster hits. Young Jonn’s production handiwork includes the snappy drums and twinkling synths of Lil Kesh’s “Gbese,” the booming percussion of Olamide’s “Science Student” and the blend of muffled drums and keyboard drones on Olamide’s behemoth hit, “Wo.”

But in the last two years, Young Jonn’s production credits slowed as he focused on honing a different part of his artistry: singing. The evolution was complete this year as the sonic polymath unveiled his debut project, Love Is Not Enough. At just five tracks and less than 15 minutes in length, the record is skinny, but it provides Young Jonn ample time to brood about his own delicate feelings. All five tracks share the same sonic fingerprint of chilly vocals, sticky hooks and melodic, gummy beats. “Dada” shines as a favorite, with Young Jonn lacing the track with calmly measured verses, and the chanting hook, the highlight of the song.

Love Is Not Enough in all its dimension is filled and padded with layers of expressions about how doubtful love can be, how much we want to relive those blissful memories and about how attached we can be to someone. Young Jonn seems to have gone round those stages and becomes vulnerable in his songs, his creations revolving around these relatable experiences.

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