Music

5 Things We Learned from 'The Stoop' Podcast About Making It As a New African Musician In the U.S.

The latest episode of 'The Stoop' dives into the experiences of first-generation African musicians in the U.S.

The latest episode of The Stoop podcast, called Music from the Hyphen Line, is all about the real struggles of being a musician with the dual identities of African and American. The episode focuses on musicians, but the words ring true to anyone who knows what it's like to be a part of two worlds.


The guests, musicians Alsarah (from Alsarah and the Nubatones), Oddisee and Meklit Hadero spoke about their journeys living on the "hyphen line" - that is, the space where two identities collide and have no choice but to co-exist.

Each musician's story is a blueprint for success, especially for African immigrants who want to make it as musicians outside of their home countries. Here are our favorite highlights.

1. Get used to being a part of two distinct cultures

Alsarah spoke candidly to podcast hosts/co-creators Hana Baba and Leila Day about what she called a "love-hate" relationship with her home country, Sudan.

"I get rejected a lot by Sudanese people and I reject Sudan in return. It's like we love to hate each other," she singer said. She joked about feeling "too African for Americans and too American for Africans," a feeling shared by many African immigrants and first generation people.

Alsarah said that even though people sometimes try to make her feel ashamed for being different, she always remembers that, "the only thing shameful is shame itself."

2. Speak to your parents in a language they understand

Sudanese-American rapper Oddissee dropped the wisdom when he spoke about the fact that people growing up in the west are interested in careers that sometimes don't even exist the country where their parents are from.

"I got my parents to understand by speaking to them in their language...I spoke money and they got it," Oddissee said.

Try to understand the world that your parents and family are coming from, be honest about your career goals and work to show your parents that you can be successful.

3. Remember the power of music to make people feel seen

Ethiopian-American songstress Meklit Hadero got us in our feelings when she spoke about how lonely being a part of two worlds can feel. She recalled being called "African booty scratcher" when she first moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia, and not knowing what the slur meant.

When her family moved to a town in Florida from multi-cultural Brooklyn, it was her first time being in a world where people were only "black or white." That's when she realized that music has the power to make people feel seen, she said.

Even if you're between two worlds, there's power in the hyphen.

4. Don't change who you are just to fit in

It can be tempting to shorten your name to make it easier to pronounce or try to change your accent to sound more American, especially when you want to make it internationally.

But Oddissee stressed the importance of being comfortable enough with yourself so that other people fall in line. Don't abandon your culture. If you aren't comfortable with who you are, no one else will be, the rapper who's worked with artists as diverse as Apollo Brown and DJ Jazzy Jeff, said.

Be proud of who you are and let that pride in your culture influence your music and your style.

5. Beware: Your parents may still not get it

No matter what you do or try, there's always a possibility that your parents and/or community just won't get it. Alsarah spoke about people in Sudan who still look at her as if she is crazy, even after the gaining recognition across the globe with her mesmerizing and catchy music, which has overt references to her childhood in Sudan (many of her songs are in Arabic).

Accept this reality with respect for the sacrifices your parents have made. Keep striving for success, and even if they never "get it," you are sure to make them proud.


You can listen to the latests episodes of The Stoop below and via iTunes, and their site. For more about the podcast, revisit our interview with the shows hosts on how they're opening a space for open and honest dialogue between Africans and African-Americans.

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Listen to Samthing Soweto’s Album ‘Isiphithiphithi’

Samthing Soweto's highly anticipated album is finally here.

One of the most anticipated albums of the year, Isiphithiphithi by Samthing Soweto is finally here.

The South African artist's project consists of 12 songs and features Makhafula Vilakazi, Shasha, Kabza De Small, DJ Maphorisa and Mlindo The Vocalist.

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South African Telenovela 'The River' has Been Nominated for an International Emmy

This is the popular telenovela's first International Emmy nomination.

One of South Africa's beloved telenovelas, The River, has received its first ever International Emmy nomination in the category of "Best Telenovela", according to IOL. The River will go up against other telenovelas from Columbia, Argentina as well as Portugal. The 47th installment of the International Emmy Awards will take place on November 25th of this year and will be held at the Hilton in New York.

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Culture
Photo (c) John Liebenberg

'Stolen Moments' Uncovers the Namibian Music That Apartheid Tried to Erase

The photo exhibition, showing at the Brunei Gallery in London, highlights artists from Namibia's underground scene between 1950-1980, a time of immense musical suppression prior to its independence.

Before its independence in 1990, a whole generation of Namibians were made to believe that their county had no real musical legacy. Popular productions by Namibian artists from previous eras were systematically concealed from the masses for nearly 30 years, under the apartheid regime—which extended to the country from South Africa following German colonization—depriving many Namibians of the opportunity to connect with their own musical heritage.

"Stolen Moments: Namibian Music Untold," a new exhibit currently showing at London's Brunei Museum at SOAS University of London, seeks to revive the musical Namibian musical traditions that the apartheid regime attempted to erase.

"Imagine you had never known about the musical riches of your country," said the exhibit's curator Aino Moongo in a statement of purpose on SOAS' site. "Your ears had been used to nothing but the dull sounds of country's former occupants and the blaring church and propaganda songs that were sold to you as your country's musical legacy. Until all at once, a magnitude of unknown sounds, melodies and songs appear. This sound, that roots your culture to the musical influences of jazz, blues and pop from around the world, is unique, yet familiar. It revives memories of bygone days, recites the history of your homeland and enables you for the first time to experience the emotions, joys and pains of your ancestors."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs

The 'Stolen Moments" project began in 2010 in an effort to champion Namibia's unsung musical innovators. For the collection, Moongo and Assistant Curator, Siegrun Salmanian—along with a group of international scholars, artists, photographers and filmmakers—curated a large-scale photo exhibit that also features a 120-minute video projection, focusing on the dance styles of the era, along with listening stations, a sound installation that features "100-hours of interviews with musicians and contemporary witnesses," and displays of record covers and memorabilia from the period between 1950-1980.

The musicians highlighted, produced work that spanned a number of genres—a marker of the country's vast and eclectic underground scene. Artists like the saxophonist Leyden Naftali who led a band inspired by the sounds of ragtime, and the psychedelic rock and funk of the Ugly Creatures are explored through the exhibition, which also centers bands and artists such as The Dead Wood, The Rocking Kwela Boys, Children of Pluto and more.

"There are many reasons why you've never heard this music before," Moongo continues. "It was censored, suppressed, prohibited and made almost impossible to listen to. Its creators are either long gone or have given up on music making, by reasons of adversity, death and despair. And yet this beautiful music exists with a liveliness, as if it had never stopped playing. It is still in the minds of the few who can remember, with the ones who played it, and on those rare recordings that have survived in archives and record collections scattered around the globe. Allow me to share these stolen moments with you."

Photo (c) Dieter Hinrichs


Photo (c) John Liebenberg

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"Stolen Moments" is now showing at the Brunei Gallery in London and runs through Sept 21.

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Foul Language and Depictions of Rape Spur a Book Recall Campaign in Kenya

Kenya's Top Book seller pulls a South African book for youth due to foul language.

A main book supplier in Kenya, Text Book Centre, has announced that they would not stock a book due to its "vulgar and foul language." The book, Blood Ties, was written by South African author Zimkhitha Mlanzeli. The banning comes just after a video went viral in Kenya of a school child having a verbal outburst peppered with strong language. As reported by BBC, the removal was sparked by parents showing outrage after excerpts from the book were shared on twitter. These excerpts contained use of the f-word as well as a description of a rape scene.

As per their statement, the Text Book Centre claims they believe in "upholding high moral standards and raising generations of responsible citizens who are not only educated but ethical." The Kenyan publisher, StoryMoja, has defended the book in a statement of their own. They argue that the book is part of a new series showcasing books that deal with "contemporary societal issues" and that this particular book is a fictional story that grapples with the negative repercussions of peer pressure. "In actual fact, the book guides readers on the steps to take should they find themselves in a similar situation and underscores the sensitivity with which victims of sexual abuse should be treated." The statement also highlights the fact that the publishers had listed Blood Ties for readers in high school or above.


The discrepancy is that some schools have recommended the book as a reader – meaning for younger children aged 12 or 13 – though it has not been approved by the Kenyan Institute of Curricular Development (KICD), the entity in charge of managing texts used in schools. In a tweet, the KICD claimed that the book was not approved and that some teachers may be recommending texts without ensuring they were endorsed by the KICD. The dispute is sparking debate as to what should be taught in Kenyan schools.

As of late this morning, StoryMoja is in the process of recalling all copies of the book from stores and schools across Kenya. In a tweet they claim that it is because they have determined the language used in the book is the issue and not the subject matter.

Censorship is always a contested topic, just last month we reported on Nigerian authorities censoring a music video for "threatening security." Also, Kenya's censorship tactics have been in the global eye since a refusal to screen the film Rafiki for its homosexual heroines despite being lauded at international film festivals.

Here are some reactions from Kenyans on Twitter:





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