Tinie Tempah headlines MTV’s Staying Alive London Fundraising Gala ‘Found’ to raise money for fight against HIV!

Remember in the 80’s when aids and HIV campaigns were everywhere? When the overriding message for school kids, lusty teenagers and adults was wear a condom and safe sex. Well, guess what, its still a thing.

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TALIA STORM AND TINIE TEMPAH ON THE MTV ”FOUND” RED CARPET EVENT IN LONDON.

HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer and HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide and an estimated 39 million people have died from AIDS-related causes so far, including 1.5 million in 2013, according to the World Health Organisation.

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The key to preventing more deaths is education and getting into young minds early. Global youth brand MTV have been passionate about helping champion this crusade for years, both with programming and by events and fundraisers, and also consistently getting key influencers and celebrities on board to help spread the awareness.

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This past week, music act and man about town Tinie Tempah headlined MTV’s Staying Alive London Fundraising Gala ‘Found’ to raise money for fight against HIV.
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JASMINE WITH TINIE AND HIS MANAGER DUMI.

Tinie performed his new single ‘Not Letting Go’ for the first time on the night and the catchy summer time hook ( also sung by pop sensation Jess Glynne), had the crowds up on their feet dancing and singing with Tinie , all reciting the lyrics word for word.

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Even when I was working at MTV for over a decade they were tirelessly fighting for air time and hitting up their bigwig A Lister’s to jump onboard their campaign, so it’s great to still see it go from strength to strength, under the leadership of the MTV Staying Alive executive director Georgia Arnold. Georgia opened the night with a touching speech, highlighting the important international work being done by the charity.

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MTV EXEC DIRECTOR GEORGIA ARNOLD WITH TINIE TEMPAH.

Backstage beforehand Tinie told us “I can’t wait to perform, it’s an honour to be part of raising funds and awareness for such a worthy cause as the fight against HIV and AIDS and to be the face of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation”.
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Of course Tinie (who was joined onstage by his long term DJ, DJ Charley), was impeccably dressed. A past Brit award winner and prominent figure in British fashion, Tinie was named Best Dressed Man in GQ’s Men of the Year Awards 2012 and in 2015 was selected as the ambassador for the London Menswear Collection so he is always at the top of the male grooming game. Tinie was support by the very talented singer/songwriter, Tallia Storm who sang her new single ‘Social Security’.

FOUND FUND RAISER.

At London’s Victoria House the event saw VIP’s and celebrities turn out for the exclusive, intimate fundraising gala. Attendees included MTV presenters Becca Dudley, Laura Whitmore, Dutch footballer Edgar Davids, ‘Victim’ Actress, Anna Nightingale, 
Publicist Jessica Huie MBE, singer/songwriter Sonna Rele tipped to be the next big thing from Universal Records. The evening saw a host of VIP’s in attendance including legendary Dutch footballer Edgar David’s (seen pictured with Tinie) although there was no sign of Chuka Umunna following rumours of a campaign song from old pal Tinie Tempah for his short lived Labour leadership race which he mysteriously withdraw from the following day.

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TINIE WITH FOOTBALLER EDGAR DAVIDS.

On arrival we were greeted by an interactive Staying Alive space with information on the charities projects and young leaders as well as a chance to play the Big Reveal Game, which had some fantastic prizes including the top prize of an iPad Air 2. Dark mood lighting engulfed the venue as though we were on a mysterious adventure to unlock hidden secrets. The ornate Found logo – a large gold key – appeared on walls throughout, as if reminding us of the treasure to be unlocked.


The especially chosen 250 guests enjoyed a Champagne reception, unlimited drinks all evening and canapés with a twist followed by a delicious bowl food menu.

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The unforgettable Supreme Fabulettes oversaw the auction-bidding proceedings, as they paraded throughout the crowds to entice prospect bidders to take part; their huge regalia dwarfed the guests who were spurred into action.

After the auction guests were ushered into a second room, there, to our delight was the FOUND funfair, a marketplace of retro games, candy stalls and prizes to be won.
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SINGER / SONG WRITER SONNA RELE WITH TALIA STORM.

We found a third room and slipped into the hidden VIP lounge at the side of the stage to watch performances from headliner Tinie and support act Tallia whilst enjoying private Champagne bar service.

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TALIA STORM PERFORMS AT MTV’S FOUND FUNDRAISER.

Afterwards Tinie said: “There’s so much stigma about talking about sex. But the more you’re able to have these conversations with older people and get appropriate advice. “The most important thing is before you do it – wear a jimmy.” he added: “I know what it’s like in the heat of the moment, but stop and think. It only takes two seconds to say ‘have you got a condom? It’s your life that you’re playing with. Aids and HIV is the second biggest killer of young people in this generation. It’s affecting a lot of young Africans and I’m someone of Nigerian heritage so it’s an issue that’s quite close to me’’.

An estimated 3.2 million children are living with HIV. According to 2013 figures from the WHO, most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Over 240 000 children [210 000–280 000] became newly infected with HIV in 2013.

MTV SHUGA.
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MTV also keep on the ground momentum from events like this up with their on air programming. An MTV series titled SHUGA has been ground breaking in leading the way through its local storylines and pro-social narrative.

Set and filmed on location in Nairobi, the soap opera came about after UNICEF teamed up with MTV to create a health campaign to impact the lives of youths in Kenya, where an estimated 6.5 percent of its population lives with HIV.

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Shuga is an MTV television soap opera that was first aired in November 2009 on MTV Base as part of an initiative dubbed “MTV Staying Alive Ignite!” It later became a hit and was aired in 40 different African countries before it was aired internationally in over 70 television stations. It was thought to be a very controversial series by the senior generation of Kenyans because it contained some scenes that contained sexually explicit content. It bagged a Gold award in May 2010 at the World Media Festival in Hamburg, Germany in the Public Relations Health category for its vivid and uncompromising focus on love, emotions and sexual behavior amongst the Kenyan youth.

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In 2013, production of the series was moved to Nigeria, where the third and subsequent seasons are set. Dubbed “Shuga Naija”, the new version is a multimedia campaign, which educates youths on HIV, safe sex and teen pregnancy. It also touches on maternal and child health, family planning, gender-based violence, and women empowerment. It was produced in partnership with Nigeria’s “National Agency for the Control of AIDS” (NACA). The season 3 of the series was broadcast via 88 television stations across the world, with estimated household viewers of over 550 million and MTV Shuga, has a combined reach of over 1 billion households.

The MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

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The MTV Staying Alive Foundation is an international content-producing and grant-giving organisation dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV among young people. The Foundation creates and distributes challenging and entertaining HIV-prevention content across MTV channels and with third-party broadcasters, while finding and funding young leaders who are tackling the HIV epidemic in their own communities. To date, MTV Staying Alive Foundation programming has reached 100% of the top 50 countries affected by HIV, and has awarded 500grants in 66 countries around the world, distributing over $5 million to grassroots HIV-prevention projects and directly benefitting 2.6 million young people.

Modern HIV testing is extremely accurate. A single screening test is correct more than 99% of the time. Staying Alive is not just a token CSR brand. So far it has helped change lives. Since 2005, Staying Alive have reached over 500 million young people, distributed over 7 million condoms, helped 200,000 get people tested and supported the growth of 538 projects worldwide.

(ALL PHOTOS COURTESY MTV Staying Alive Foundation).

Jasmine’s Juice – Beyond Bollywood, The Musical Comes To London!

This week saw the opening of the brand new west-end musical ‘Beyond Bollywood’ making its UK Premiere at the London Palladium, just seconds from Oxford Circus tube.

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BEYOND BOLLYWOOD IS SHOWING NOW FOR 60 PERFORMANCES AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM.
All pics copyright Amit Ashar & Ibrahim Merchant.

The show premiered in Mumbai, India in the summer of 2014 and has garnered tremendous appreciation ever since. With a heaving red carpet of princess-like-ladies wrapped in jewel coloured saris, paparazzi, onlookers, camera crews and celebs like Wayne Sleep, the premier night in London was buzzing!

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The diverse audience were treated to an incredible show full of cheesy lines, blingtastic pomp and were transported right into the epicentre of a full on Bollywood film scene.

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However, be warned, you can’t attend a Bollywood spectacle without also transporting yourself into a fairy-tale state of mind. Cheesy lines (‘‘this theatre is my heart and dance is my heartbeat!’’ ‘’Follow your heart, where dreams turn into reality!’’ And ‘’there is nothing to fear when Balloo is here!) and ghostly apparitions that appear in a cloud of white dust, are all par for the course, and like a pantomime you have to get into the spirit of things to truly appreciate this genre.

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Set in Munich Germany and India, the story follows Shailey Shergill, whose mother owned a run down Indian theatre in Munich that her father is intent on selling. Her mothers dream is to turn it into a success with traditional Indian dance shows. Shailey travels to India and is taken on an adventure of Indian culture, festivals, rituals and dance that are breath taking!

Written, choreographed and directed by self-taught dancer Rajeev Goswami, with lyrics by Irfan Siddiqui and featuring an original, infectious score by Salim-Sulaiman, we were hit hard with a high-impact, full techni-colour, leaping, spinning and twirling dance opening, right from the start. A group of live musicians with their instruments set the scene for the story with their tabla’s, sitars, keyboards and vocals all conversing together onstage. 45 dancers, technicians and musicians from India make up the cast and its obvious with their style and technique that they’re the real deal.

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The dancing is mesmerizing with its very stylised Indian choreography, with staccato hand gestures and swirling, twirling spins that Margot Fonteyn would be impressed by. In fact, so much of the choreography mirrors a western ballet or musical in structure. Barefoot, grounded pirouettes like ballerinas, thudding foot taps like tap dancers, even a pas de deux routine with male and female solos that came together to form a perfect otherworldly union. The sounds of the rhythm of shaking ankle bells, juxtaposed against intricate body popping locking techniques had us all gripped.

With huge, full cast, ensemble song and dance numbers, to tracks like Jai Ho (the very catchy song composed by A. R. Rahman for the 2008 film, Slumdog Millionaire), and oodles of high intensity dynamic smiley dancers, this is Bollywood come to life in an eye popping, mindboggling way. Beyond Bollywood mixes Indian and western dancing and fuses them with a pizzazz and vigor in a way that I’ve not ever seen before (and as a former dance student, trust me, I’ve seen it all!).

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The musical explores the friction between two choreographers who specialize in traditional folk dancing and Bollywood hip-hop routines. During a section, which showed a western music video style, sexy girls dance routine, the character onstage looked disgusted and unimpressed stating ‘’this is not choreography but pornography!’’. Hilariously, my mother turned to me with a nod and knowing look that said ‘’I told you so!’’

The high points of the show are a black and white gloved number titled ‘‘Sheila’’, which is arresting and hypnotic, as if you are sat in the center of an exotic Bob Fosse number, a beautiful contemporary dance section, a traditional Kathak routine, a lilting Garba dance from Gujarat, a high impact Bhangra dance originated in the Punjab, a dreamy gold and red shaolin monk style Chhau martial arts dance and a section where ‘its raining men’’.

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As well as all the high impact energy, fantastical staging, flashing lights, haze smoke, loud noise, fiery dancing and drumming, there is also much visual spectacle with huge colourful Vegas showgirl and Indian regal costumes. In fact, the ‎incredible array of jewel-coloured costumes seem to change in mere seconds over and again, as do set designs and graphics honouring Indian deities, cultural traditions, festivals and landmarks.

There’s also much slapstick humour too with quirky, contradictory characters. My mum was high as a kite afterwards telling me ‘’it reminded me of my motherland that I left behind when I came to the UK in the sixties. It reminded me of our big family gatherings, colourful festivities and the sheer beauty and exuberance of my homeland. I feel very proud!’’

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It’s clear that the very best of Bollywood’s creative talent have brought this spectacular event to life but they’re in London for 60 performances only. The last big Indian west end extravaganza was way back in 2002 when Andrew Lloyd Webber brought Bombay Dreams to London’s west end. Now he’s done it again with Beyond Bollywood.

The colour, energy and sheer exuberance of Beyond Bollywood is a great experience for audiences from all backgrounds and takes you on a truly authentic cultural tour of India capturing the fire, heat and wonder of the country. Rajeev Goswami has accomplished his mission to bring an authentic representation of India to the west, beyond the glitz and sheen and cultural clichés synonymous with Bollywood. Beyond Bollywood is not just a musical; it’s a theatrical experience never seen before outside a Bollywood movie.

Many snooty brands that gave this show negative reviews just didnt get the tongue-in-cheek vibe of the genre. It’s not Shakespeare-it’s kitsch!
3.5 / 5 STARS FROM ME!

Visit http://beyondbollywoodmusical.com/ for more details on the show.

Namibian Annual Music Awards 2015 – Namibian Music Stars Riding The Charts And Flying High!

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JASMINE PRESENTING THE BEST ALBUM AWARD AT THE NAMIBIAN MUSIC AWARDS 2015.

Joan Collins was in New York this week being honoured by private members club, The Friars Club. As she made her toast she stated ‘’there is this old saying that goes around in Hollywood ‘’at 20 a woman is like America – fresh, new and ready to be discovered. After 40, a woman’s like Asia – she’s mysterious, exotic and inscrutable. After 50 a woman is like Australia – not easy to get to but when you get there she is warm and welcoming. After 60 a woman is like Africa. Everyone knows where it is but no-one wants to go there!’’

This shows us how out of touch with the modern world both Joan Collins and Hollywood are if they’re still thinking like this. Africa is the continent that most of my media savvy peers and business minds have been clamouring to visit this past few years. With the world finally waking up to the fact that it’s not just about sickness and poverty, Africa has been quietly killing the fashion, media and business worlds. You only need look at who is buying up most of London’s expensive property (Nigerians) and the fact that the world’s richest black woman is not now Oprah, but Nigerian oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija with an estimated fortune of $7.3 billion. Africa isn’t just safaris and exotica though. It has culture, history and a landscape that is unrivalled.

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AIR NAMIBIA FLEW US FROM LONDON, VIA FRANKFURT TO NAMIBIA IN THEIR LUXURIOUS CABINS WITH INCREDIBLY HOSPITABLE CREW.

Just this past weekend I was in Namibia for the 5th Annual Namibian Music Awards which took place again in the seaside town of Swakopmund, at the Swakopmund Sports Indoor Centre. The Town of Swakopmund was once again, the proud ‘Official Host’ of the Namibian Annual Music Awards 2015. (NAMA). Flight operators don’t make it easy though; with us having to take three flights to get there from London, but luckily Air Namibia have a first class service that is above and beyond comfortable! Also, once you’re there its more than worth it with first class hotels (my faves are The Swakapmund Hotel and Entertainment centre and Hotel Eberwein), restaurants (my favourite is the Jetty which is akin to a New York brassiere right on the ocean on stilts), and incredible fresh food options.

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FOOD ALL ACROSS SWAKOPMUND IS DIVERSE AND DELICIOUS- MY FAVE- THE JETTY RESTAURANT RIGHT ON THE SEA ON STILTS!

I was lucky enough to be working there as an international judge for the music awards and also presenting the Best Album award on the night. We spent 30 hours flying there, a day and a half working, with a day off afterwards and 30 hours flying back via air Namibia, so I was up in the air more than I was actually in the country!

As ever, the sheer world-class standard of both the show and performers blew me away. With a huge stage, striking set, incredible graphics and lighting as well as huge screens and camera cranes, this was one expensive, well-organized event, and one that surpassed expectations. I’ve been to many award shows around Africa and I have never seen one being delivered like this years’ NAMA’s.

As is the norm across the African continent, the awards ceremony was split over two nights, with the Industry Awards taking place on Friday to award the smaller categories, and the main event on Saturday night awarded artists in the higher-profile, more popular categories. Both nights of the ‘blue carpet’ event were televised live on Namibian TV on main broadcast sponsor NBC who had a buzzing red carpet crew, which streamed online throughout. Many people watched the awards via live stream with over 17,000 viewers with 62% in Namibia, Rest of Africa 18%, Europe, America and Asia 20%. Their tech, handled by the MTC brand, was more on point than most London awards I’ve attended with ‘’NAMA free wi-fi’’ running strong across the venue for social media engagement and of course a lot of banter and trolling of performers and winners.

The show hosts were local stars Gazza and Lady May, who was driven into the arena in a uber flash Bentley for the opening performance alongside Keko (from Uganda). Later one of the rock performers The Namibian Cowboy rode onstage on a Harley motorbike, and the best female winner Oteya started her performance spinning down on a high wire from the vertiginous ceiling. One winning act was even accompanied onstage by a tribe of authentic Herero tribes people dancing and hollering.

Show host / artist Gazza won numerous awards! The award for male artist of the year as well as Best Collaboration and Radio Song of the Year for ‘Shuna’ featuring DJ Bucks and Uhuru from South Africa, as well as Best Musical Event of the Year for his Ondjila album launch were all his for the taking.

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WINNERS AT THIS YEARS NAMA MUSIC AWARDS 2015.
(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT; BEST HIPHOP – KK02, BEST R&B – LIL D, BEST MALE – GAZZA, BEST FEMALE – OTEYA)
ALL SHOW PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COPYRIGHT – NAMA.

This year’s show also included live performances by StarDust, Nianell, Riana Nel, Bullet Ya Kaoko, Tswazis and Female Donkey. My favourites were Female Donkey, Tswazis and Nianell.The vivacious Tswazis, kept us all bouncing in our chairs and on our feet with their dynamic choreography, straight after they won the album of the year category, which I presented to them.

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PERFORMERS AT THE NAMA2015 SHOW.
(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT; FEMALE DONKEY, SEAN NAUDE (THE NAMIBIAN COWBOY), LIZE EHLERS, ELIZE)
ALL SHOW PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COPYRIGHT – NAMA.

NAMA Executive Chairman, Tim Ekandjo told me ‘‘the performances were on point, entertainment value was high, the stage was bigger and better and the production of the show was accurate. That is exactly what makes a great show. After having delivered a sterling NAMAs 2014, we knew that we needed to maintain the standard or improve it and we decided to improve it against all odds to be the best amongst the best in Africa and the world, and we have achieved that with flying colours. We would therefore like to confidently declare the 2015 NAMAs as a resounding success!’’

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NIANELL PERFORMING AT NAMA2015.
ALL SHOW PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COPYRIGHT – NAMA.

Hundreds of music lovers both local and regional flew in for the NAMAs. It was also attended by Ministers and political leaders who spoke about how proud they were that Namibian music was starting to get a wider regional recognition around the continent.

Now habitual stage invader Kanye has a lot to answer for. Nowadays acts globally are all trying to pull a rebellious moment onstage. Namibian artist LeShawn bounded onstage near the end of the ceremony to cuss the media and the public for not paying attention to his music, and industry efforts. The audience didn’t bat an eyelid and all continued with no drama lol.

The same morning as the show there was also a conference on ‘How To Succeed in the pan-African music industry’ seminar hosted by the NAMA Academy where a panel of international judges including myself, talked about our opinions on the songs and videos and took questions from the gathered audience. Artists turned up in huge numbers and engaged with us for over an hour. In fact one of this years nominees was spotted and earmarked for international collaborations, posed for Pan African breakthrough with extended support from Pan African and international media partners, showing that NAMA is an unrivaled primary platform to showcase and celebrate the best of Namibian music to audiences not just across Namibia, but also across Namibia’s borders to audiences across the rest of Africa and the world – opportunities that have never been possible for Namibian artists historically.

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THE BEST SKYDIVE LOCATION EVER- OVER THE NAMIB DESERT!

The next day I was determined to make the most of my day off so spent the morning skydiving, the afternoon on a sea safari and the evening quad biking through the Namib Desert.

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THE SEA SAFARI- DOLPHIN CRUISE SAW US FROLICK WITH SEAL, PELICANS, FLAMINGOS AND WHALES!.

An incredible country with very welcoming people and an abundance to do, from visiting local villages and tribes, fishing, safari, quad biking and sand boarding in the desert, dolphin cruises where you can view thousands of friendly seals, pelicans, dolphin and flamingos or just marvel at the unusual birds and plants that populate the region. Palm-lined streets, immaculate old buildings and well-kept gardens give Swakop (as the locals call it) a unique atmosphere, and make it a pleasant oasis in which to spend a few days.

Swakopmund is Namibia’s largest coastal town and is a huge draw for merrymakers and vacationers from all over the globe. This seaside resort showcases its German origins in its European-style colonial architecture, creating a breath-taking juxtaposition against the landscape of the Namib Desert.

African music is booming, and so is its web presence. Ever-expanding numbers of websites, blogs, e-tailers, Tumblrs and online magazines dedicated to African-influenced sounds represent a genre of music that is as fast evolving as the social and online media that shows it love. A new generation of African and diaspora music stars like P Squared, Ice Prince and D ‘Banj have gained attention in recent years, and African hits are a perennial trend on international radio and chart playlists too. Don’t sleep on the amount of talent this great continent is developing and selling globally.

This years Namibian Annual Music Awards juxtaposed with this absolutely unique location, made it a musical adventure with action both in the air and on the ocean. Salute Namibia!

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QUAD BIKING ACROSS THE NAMIBIAN DESERT IS A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE!-IT’S WHERE THEY SHOOT STAR WARS AND MAD MAX!

List of ‪#‎NAMAs2015‬ winners Saturday night:

Best Male Artist: Gazza
Best Female Artist: Oteya
Album of the Year: Tswazis
Radio Song of the Year: Gazza
Song of the Year: Paradox
Best Newcomer: Kalux
Most Popular Artist: Paradox
Best Music Video: Black Vulcanite
Best Duo/Group: StarDust
Best Collaboration: Gazza
Best House: StarDust
Best Afro Pop (inclusive of Township Disco): Oteya
Best R&B: Lil D
Best Rap/Hip-Hop: KK
Best Kwaito: Exit
Best Traditional: Donsy and Daisy
Best Soukous/Kwasa: Blossom
Best Damara Punch: Dixon
Best Oviritje: Bullet ya Kaoko

Official Website: www.nama.com.na

Facebook: facebook.com/namibianawards

Twitter: @namibianawards
Instagram: @namibianawards

Jasmine’s Juice – Tobago Jazz Experience 2015 – Can you afford NOT to have this on your travel bucket-list?

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JASMINE HANGING OUT WITH MISS JILL SCOTT BACKSTAGE AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE 2015.
(Pic copyright Darren Des Vignes)

With summer vacations and music festivals all being prepared for, it’s the perfect time to let you into a little secret so you’re prepared for next year. There’s a place just hours away from the UK, (we flew direct by BA), where you can experience paradise white sandy beaches and twinkling turquoise oceans fringed with palm trees, trek in rainforests and swim in waterfalls, juxtaposed the same night with the perfect nightclub experience, indulge in diving, snorkeling, fishing, bird watching, mountain bike along its spiraling roller coasting roads, watch turtles giving birth, visit cocoa plantations, join in local traditions like pulling seine (where you help local fishermen pull in huge nets with two tug of war line ups accompanied by soca music), and even fit in a week long music festival along the beach.

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This past week I was lucky enough to be working at Tobago Jazz Experience 2015, where thousands of local and international music lovers make the music festival their April annual pilgrimage. Since it’s start in 2008 headliners have included Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, India Irie, John Legend, Angie Stone, Trey Songz, Chaka Khan, Emeli Sande, Janelle Monae and more. Over the week you can see regional and locals acts alongside the international ones. The headline acts tend to be R&B and soul, whilst the local acts are more along the straight definition of jazz and soca.

This year’s brilliant line up included regional soca hero Machel Montano and singers and song writers Jennifer Hudson and Miguel on the Friday night, Jamaican dancehall act Busy Signal on Saturday and Philadelphia native Jill Scott and R&B legends Kool and the Gang on Sunday.

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JENNIFER HUDSON AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE 2015.
(Pic copyright Darrin Des Vignes)

The venue is the stunning outdoor beach space at world famous Pigeon Point, where a giant stage is set up against the backdrop of the ocean. Unlike British music festivals where we dance around with wild abandon and crowd surf, the Tobagonians prefer to sit on padded white wooden chairs and take in the music whilst singing along. There is certainly no bad behavior due to alcohol here. They like a good drink, but are nicely behaved with it.

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TAKE A SEAT AND BE WOWED AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE 2015.

Also to be seen is the tradition before any formal gathering of the playing of the national anthem where all present stand stock-still and sing along facing the stage. Its like a giant game of musical statues where small children kicking around a football will suddenly drop to soldier-like attention and pay homage to their proud national roots.

Tobago’s African heritage and multi-cultural influences have shaped its unique cultural identity, which account for its language/patois, social traditions, cuisine and music.
With a population just over 60,000 I noted numerous multi-religion denominations. The largest percentages are protestant Christians. Maintaining the islands heritage is important and the locals couldn’t have been more welcoming in sharing their stories, traditions and cuisine.

At the festival, food includes the usual West Indian fare of chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, plantain, rice, wraps and tamarind and chocolate balls. Arts and crafts and giant group photo booths keep the revelers busy too. The weekend pass costs around £100, a great deal for three days of entertainment. Luckily, I had packed right and fitted right in with all the ladies, who were mostly rocking colourful, printed, all-in-one playsuits. They also don’t do heels. Its flat sandals all the way.

Jennifer Hudson kicked off the headliners on Friday night with an incredibly engaging, powerful set where she sung her heart out and made it look totally effortless. She spoke to the audience regularly and her humour and personality captured everyone for the duration of her set. Rocking a white duster coat and pale rose-gold leotard underneath with white ankle boots, she worked it! With a full band she went through all her hits including Spotlight, her Empire TV show track “Remember the music”, “I am telling you” and more. She made her powerhouse vocals soar and reached DEEP down to hit strong, vigorous and spirited, velvety notes, even having to pull her own mic away from her body, such was the power of her voice.

The most surprising thing for us Brits, was that even on the stars biggest, most popular songs, no-one stands to wild out and dance as it’s a ‘’seated affair’’. Dancers can dance away at the side so that’s what I did. They were probably thinking ‘’mad drunk Brit’’ but I was sober, just high on the moment.

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MIGUEL ADORNS THE CROWD WITH THOSE KRAVITZ-LIKE VOCALS AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE 2015.

(Pic copyright Sarah Eckert – Moore)

Between each acts set, the local dj’s play popular songs that the crowd sing-along to. So we were all in full vocal anticipation for our next act Miguel. The crowd didn’t seem as excited by him except at the front where the expected screaming ladies were screaming for his attention. Even after a flat start he managed to rescue his set with his hits like “How many drinks”, ‘’Adorn’’ ‘’Sure thing’’ and ‘’Do you’’. When he asked the audience ‘’do you like drugs?’’ as his intro to ‘’Do you’’, I’m sure I collectively saw every audience member raise their eyebrow and lean back in disapproval lol.

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MIGUEL FOCUSED ON HIS FANS AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE 2015.
(Pic copyright Sarah Eckert-Moore)

His Rock infused, funky hip-hop set saw him leaping to the floor in splits and falling to his knees regularly. I found him a little self-indulgent and he seemed to be performing for himself but this is a newbie error and I’m sure he will learn to engage with the crowd earlier on in his sets to make it feel more inclusive. He was more conversational towards the end telling us “I feel like a Tobagonian, Can I be a Trinidadian?”

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MACHEL MONTANO HD HAS THE TOBAGO JAZZ CROWD JUMPING AND WAVING!
(Pic copyright Jonathon Fraser-Urquhart)

Regional hero, Trinidadian soca veteran Machel Montano was worth the wait. His brand of high intensity jump around soca hits like ‘Like a boss’’ , ‘’Party done’’ and ‘Endless wuk’ had the crowd finally on its feet as he roared through anthem after anthem. The crowd jumped and waved flags and at the end of his set I felt like we’d just indulged in a full on aerobic class on the beach!

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BUSY SIGNAL KILLED THE CROWD WITH HYPE AND EXCITEMENT AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE 2015.
(Pic copyright Darrin Des Vignes)

Saturday’s festival day is called Youthopia and focuses on giving the spotlight to the new, young up and coming acts. This night was headlined by Jamaican dancehall reggae artist Busy Signal, whose set was just that, busy! He was extremely high energy and engaging from start to finish chatting out all his hits like ‘’What if’’, ‘’Brighter days’’, ‘’Whatsapp’’ and ‘’One more night’’. He pulled up and rewound his hit ‘’Text message’’ numerous times to the crowds delight! He even covered Mariah Carey / Harry Nielson’s ‘’Without you’’. Along with new freestyles over Jay Z, Alicia Keys and Rihanna classics he left the crowd a hot, sweaty, delighted mess. We were all were ecstatic and gratified that he played all his hits just as we wanted them, sing-along anthems. A wicked live performance!

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JILL SCOTT SOOTHED US WITH HER HONEY VOCALS AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE 2015.
(Pic copyright Darrin Des Vignes)

Sunday saw the double threat killer line up powerhouses of sweet neo-soul star Jill Scott and legends Kool and the Gang.
Jill Scott strode regally onto the stage in statuesque platform white shoes, wearing a long sleeved white dress open to the navel, showing a black camisole beneath and commanded our attention like a Queen. Rolling through all her classics like ‘’Give it to me’’, ‘’Long walk’’, ‘’He loves me’’ and more.

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JAS AND JILL GO UP THE BEACH FOR TOBAGO JAZZ 2015.
(Pic copyright Darrin Desvignes)

Backstage after her set she told us why Tobago holds a special place in her heart ‘’it’s the energy out here, I wanna take a shower and pop my feet in the ocean water, the sunset last night was heavenly. Honey, the locals here are living in paradise!’ One of my special moments in Tobago last night was just being in my villa, alone, naked. Floating in my pool and seeing the stars and moon. It was perfect and divine. I prayed. I’ve had an interesting last two days’’.

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JASMINE WITH GEORGE BROWN- KOOL AND THE GANG, BACKSTAGE AT TOBAGO JAZZ 2015.
(Pic copyright Darrin Des Vignes)

Kool and the gang had a quick chat with us before hitting the stage. George said ‘’We hope the crowd enjoy the show. Our first time in Trinidad was in 1972. Being in Trinidad for two weeks back then inspired our song “Caribbean festival. We love the Tobago ocean. The secret to our longevity is we’re very eclectic with our music. We don’t stay one genre specific. A favourite song of ours to perform is obviously Celebration to close the show”.

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JASMINE WITH ROBERT BELL- KOOL AND THE GANG- BACKSTAGE AT TOBAGO JAZZ 2015.
(Pic copyright Darrin Des Vignes)

Robert Bell added ”When it comes to younger acts these days our favourite young act would be someone like Usher. He’s doing today what we did in the 60’s and 70’s. If you look at lyrics then and now they’re different. We sang about love and people being together and now it’s about other different stuff. Most of Kool and the Gang songs are stories with a moral. ‘Get down on it’ is not a sexual connotation, it’s about getting up and doing it in life. We also love Maxi priest, Bob Marley. Dream collaborations for us would be Stevie wonder, ‎Quincy Jones, Pharrell, Chase and status…the lyrical depth of their music inspires us. We also have a new album coming by September’’.

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KOOL AND THE GANG SAAAANGGGG AT TOBAGO JAZZ EXPERIENCE.
(Pic copyright Darren Des Vignes)

And with that they were off to turn Pigeon Point beach into a dancing, writhing mass of bodies all gyrating to hits like ‘Fresh’ ‘Tonight’s the night’, Joanna’, ‘Too hot’, ‘’Hollywood swinging’, ‘Cherish’ and of course my fave ‘Ladies night’’! Wearing white crisp shirts with silver sequined trousers they did unison dance routines, bad cartwheels and even rocked crazy head-wear to keep us all entertained.

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A beautiful week that I was blessed to call work. So when you’re thinking of booking your next vacation, maybe align it with a beach music festival (I have some insider info that makes me very excited about next years lineup!), and remember, Tobago Jazz Experience is much more than music. Can you afford not to put this on your once in a lifetime travel bucket list?

COLLLAGE 2

Jasmine’s Juice – Royal National Lifeboat Institution…The 24-7 Crew Saving Lives on The River Thames.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution – the charity that saves lives at sea…and in London!

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JASMINE WITH THE TOWER RNLI TEAM- GILES, KEITH AND STAN.

Most born and bred Londoners think we know all about what our great city has to offer, but even decades into the game I’m still fascinated by pockets of our community that I know nothing about.
This week I was invited to spend the day with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution station based at Embankment, (but called TowerRNLI , as that was their initial base years ago). In terms of history, the RNLI started in 1824, with small with privately set up lifeboats, which over the years grew bigger.

The TowerRNLI were formed in 2001,in response to the inquiry into the collision between the pleasure cruiser Marchioness and the dredger Bowbelle in August 1989, which claimed the lives of 51 people. 64 year old Staff Helmsman Keith Cima welcomed us into a kit room full of safety uniforms and yellow willies and told me

‘’a lot of young people lost their lives that night. There were a number of enquiry’s after that disaster and one of them was about safety on the Thames and the RNLI were then asked to provide cover on the river. We are specialists in search and rescue. We cover 16 miles of the Thames from Battersea Railway Bridge to Woolwich but most action happens here in central London’’.

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THE BOSS – HELSMAN KEITH CIMA.

(Yellow wellies are an essential piece of RNLI crew kit – they give crew members protection, warmth and, importantly, grip when they’re out in rough seas so Yellow wellies have become an iconic symbol for the lifesaving charity)

If you think London’s roads are busy then spare a thought for the waterways. The Thames is like a daily floating carnival. Staff Helmsman Keith welcomes us into their kit room and explains ‘’ It’s a very busy river in a capital city of 8 million people, but its also a community in its own right. Apart from us there are the marine police who we work very closely with, the fireboats and crews, the watermen, the tugs and cargo ships that deliver sand and aggregate for the new buildings being built and of course there is the commercial passenger traffic. There’s a commuter service on the Thames, which carries hundreds of thousands of passengers a day between Woolwich and Putney, like a bus service on the river. There are also thousands of boats full of tourists, let alone private boat owners and lots of canal boat users. On a busy summers afternoon that water out there is packed with all sorts of boats, all obeying the rules of the river road. Many of us all know each other, the marine police and passenger boat drivers. Whenever there’s a problem on the river everybody mucks in. Sometimes a passenger boat will see something and call us on the radio, and point the bow of their boat towards the danger. We are a community in London in our own right.’’

I follow @TowerRNLI on twitter, and am constantly fascinated with the incredible photos and stories about our river at all hours and how crazily busy they are. I’m also impressed by the fact that they’re even on twitter! Keith laughs ‘’over the last decade social media has become a great way of reaching everyone, so to us social media, community websites and TV stations are really important to let us know what’s happening on this river and at the RNLI.’’

RNLI TWIT

In that horrid way that we like to follow morbid news, I am always glued to their twitter feed when I read that someone ‘’has entered the water’’. Keith explains the many reasons…’’This station tower lifeboat last year was called about 543 times and over half of these call outs refer to people entering the river for one reason or another. Accidently falling in, devilment – doing it for a dare, perhaps drink and drugs and despair are a factor. Not all go into the river. We assistant many whilst they’re still on shore and we assist and talk them down safely. There are all sorts of people that are affected by this, it can be anybody, its not confined to one particular group in society.’’

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Keith also explains that drunken partying isn’t limited to nightclubs on land ‘’ If you’re with a group of lads, drinking or behaving wildly look out for each other. The party boats are always fun late at night when something’s kicked off. Often alcohol is to blame, and then it gets messy if they fall off. The remaining things are miscellaneous, boats breaking down, dogs needing to be rescued, if we don’t rescue dogs then their owners or members of the public will, and then that’s another job. In all of these 543 calls out, a very large proportion involve medical work, so we’re all trained in medical work. Our staff can see horrific things that they didn’t expect to see. That can have an affect on all our staff, so we ensure that our crew are ok afterwards. The RNLI has a very good 24-hour support helpline’’.

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TOWER RNLI VOLUNTEER GILES HARRISON.

Volunteer Giles Harrison shakes his head ‘’One of my most memorable shouts was a few weeks ago on Valentines evening on one of the restaurant boats, they had a man that had collapsed. A German man and his girl friend had come over for a romantic evening out, he’d prosed to her and given her a ring, they toasted with a glass of champagne and then he collapsed with a severe allergic reaction to champagne. We took care of him and then passed him over to the ambulance service, so that’s an engagement story he’s not going to forget!’’

There are 237 RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland. Their operation relies on 4,800 dedicated lifeboat crewmembers – 95% of whom are volunteers. There are three London lifeboat stations, on the River Thames; Chiswick, Teddington and Tower. Most of the RNLI’s lifeboats at its 237 stations around the UK and Ireland, are operated by volunteers, but, at Tower and Chiswick, full-time lifeboat crews work 12-hour shifts to ensure this on-call commitment on the River Thames in the heart of the capital and they’re backed up by many volunteers. There are over 150 dedicated crewmembers on the Thames, ready to serve London 24 hours a day, every day.

Keith told me that volunteers come from all walks of life ‘’ In terms of lives saved on the Thames, 231 people were rescued by tower station, Chiswick and Teddington last year. This year so far we have already saved 7 lives. We have volunteers that are from all walks of life emergency services, lawyers, BBC film producers, environment agencies, academics, business, banking and more. We have lots of women too. There’s a waiting list for people to join this station. We have probationary periods where we work with new people. We train them in a very structured way, then after 18 months they go down to Poole where they do intensive training.’’

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Lifeboat crew training

As only one in 10 RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew members has a professional maritime occupation, the RNLI provides rigorous training – most of which takes place at the charity’s specialist training facility, RNLI College.

The crews receive on going, specialist training, which ensures they can operate safely and effectively in the most difficult and dangerous conditions. In RNLI College’s sea survival pool, darkness, thunder, lightning, and helicopter recovery can all be simulated. In this facility, crews can learn vital survival techniques and go through capsize drills, so they know what to do should the worst happen while they are at sea on a rescue.

They undergo extensive RNLI training and must maintain a high level of fitness throughout the lifeguarding season – their fitness levels are tested monthly.
In 2014, RNLI lifeguards responded to 17,050 incidents, rescued 1,769 people and saved 92 lives.

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The Tower station is a floating station so we had to shoot our TV interviews with RNLI crewmen with our newly found sea legs. The crew work in 4 days on/4 days off shifts, and have living quarters on site. RNLI lifeboat crewmembers are on-call 24/7, 365 days a year. Most have a full-time day job, but they carry a pager and, when it goes off, they rush to the lifeboat station and launch the lifeboat to rescue those in danger.
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TOWER RNLI HELSMAN STAN TODD.

Helmsman Stan Todd told me ‘’I got involved with the RNLI 35 years ago after I left the army, I saw bangs up in the sky and saw the Brighton lifeboat launch. I was looking for a new commitment in my life and I joined the Brighton Lifeboat Station there and then. One of the great things about working here is that you never know what you’re going to next, it could be a fire, person in the water, helping a lost of disorientated person, we get a lot of swimmers who think it’s a good idea to get into the water after a couple of drinks, then they find out how cold the water is and cramp up and lose the ability to swim. A lot of our jobs are to stop kids getting into trouble that are playing on the foreshore and may become trapped by the incoming tide’’.

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Flood Rescue

The RNLI flood rescue team is a group of volunteers specially trained in swift water rescue. They also travel in the UK and worldwide to help rescue people affected by flooding. In November 2009, RNLI flood rescue volunteers went to Cumbria to help the people whose homes were severely flooded after very heavy rain. Using nine inshore lifeboats specially transported to the area, they rescued around 300 people from the floodwaters.
With heavy rain in 2012, the RNLI’s Flood Rescue Team had its busiest year to date, with 12 deployments in areas including Teesside, Aberystwyth, Belfast, Bridgwater, and St Asaph. In 2013 / 14 the teams were also kept busy in Wales, North Devon, Berkshire and Somerset.

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STAN TAKES US FOR A ‘SHOUT’ ON THE RIVER.

Keith confirms it’s risky business in the heart of London too…’’compared to a coastal station we have no big waves and winds, but the risk is transferring from a lifeboat to passenger boat or jump from boat to mooring post to rescue a drowning person clinging on, some people in the water are dangerous and volatile. Some of our casualties are violent and armed and there’s a risk, but the risks are outweighed by the enormous satisfaction of helping someone that’s hurt or badly distressed. To see someone who you’ve seen completely lifeless in the water, then resuscitate them and see them walk off the pier 30 minutes later is the most extraordinary privilege known to man and that’s the point of the job. That’s why our volunteers keep coming back.’’

RNLI volunteers have responded to the Mayday calls of those in distress for more than 190 years. In 2014 alone, the charity’s lifeboat crews launched the lifeboats 8,462 times, rescuing 8,727 people. That’s an average of 24 people every day! Apparently double the number of people die due to water related incidents than fire.

Keith talks through a typical day ‘’Firstly we’re afloat, we move up and down with the tide and it gets rough so it can knock you off your feet. Our shifts last 12 hours. We start at 6am and take over from the night shift and get a brief of what’s happened overnight. We start with safety checks on the boat, there’s always cleaning to be done. We usually get a visit from visitors, which is fine as only 39% know we exist. We have admin and paperwork and training and so go out on the water to practise anchoring, mooring and first aid, but we’re always awaiting the bell to go and then that’s the coastguard asking us to launch. The day is always busy and interrupted by the bell, which means someone is in the water and needs help .We have to launch within 90 seconds.’’

river rnli

Keith keen to point out as the sun gets hotter and you feel a dip in the Thames would be a fun thing to brag about ‘’The message for Londoners is this is the best river running through any capital in the world, but it’s also a very dangerous and very capricious river with very big, very strong tides in it. It’s not a rover to go in, you may think you can swim 200 yards across the river, but you cant the river will always beat you so stay out of the river, if you’re drinking stay away. Many of our casualties are drunk people who overindulge and over balance and fall in. if you ever see anyone in trouble near any of London or the uk’s water dial 999 and ask for the coastguard’’.

Giles has the final word ‘’What I love about being a volunteer with the RNLI is it’s rewarding and exciting, we’re here to save lives at sea and prevent loss of life on the Thames. That’s what we’ve been doing for 124 years and its an honour to be a part of such an honourable tradition!’

This lifesaving charity relies on voluntary donations from the public for over 92% of its income. It costs them over £140 million each year to run our lifesaving service. It costs around £1,400 each year to train each of their 4,600 lifeboat crew and £500 to train, to RNLI standards, one lifeguard each season.

This May Day (April 28th), the RNLI is issuing its own call for help, appealing for the public to support its national fundraising campaign.
All the money raised will help the RNLI’s volunteers to continue to save lives at sea. Funds will go towards training and kitting out the charity’s 4,600 crewmembers and maintaining the charity’s 237 lifeboat stations.

Fundraising kicks off with street collections in London on 28 April and, following that, collections and fundraising events are taking place throughout the UK and Ireland across the May Day bank holiday weekend.

Show your support by making a donation, buying and wearing a yellow welly pin badge and by taking to social media using the hashtag #YellowWelly. 


To donate, visit RNLI.org/Mayday. 

Text MAYDAY to 70007 to donate £3 #YellowWelly

Jasmine’s Juice – Man Dem On The Wall – Hackney Empire comedy show THIS Saturday!

Fast rising YouTube and TV stars, Mandem on the Wall (regulars on E4′s Youngers) debut their very first live stage show, a hilarious evening of comedy sketches, music and video, this weekend at east London’s Hackney Empire.

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With over 40 million views online already, it will be clear what the fuss is about when you see the heaving queues outside the location as the boys take over Hackney Empire with their unique brand of humour. It’s going to be Mandem Madness!

What makes Mandem On The Wall different is purely based on comedic style, character and vision. The world of Mandem On The Wall, is based on three characters ‘Yungah Baker’ ‘Failia’ & ‘Yungah Baby Tinie Winie’ who sit on a wall and discuss events of their everyday lives, on a urban estate, but without the glorification of violence, their comedy is a mixture of social realism and flights of fantasy and musical parodies

We should care because the three characters that they have created have been inspired from key types of people within groups of friends of their demographic, targeting the truth, making their characters relatable and loveable

The comedic trio came together in 2011 after meeting at a variety showcase, ‘’Percelle Ascott and Jovian Wade performed a duo comedy sketch and Dee Kartier, a stand up comic, performed one of his well known sets. A week later after the performance, we met up and created the comedy concept of Mandem On The Wall. Within a few months we formulated our characters and scripts and released our first episode on 24th December 2011, within the first hour we received 10,000 views and as the next few months preceded the thousands of views turned into the hundred thousands and we soon hit the millions. And now after 3 years we stand as a very recognisable brand, not just a TV/online show, but also as a part of pop culture and an aim to create a legacy of entertainment in the UK, with the aim to emulate the Wayan Bros in America”.

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Their background is varied….

Joivan Wade, Actor/Writer, a BRIT School, performing arts and technology graduate where he attained a Triple Distinction in his BTEC in Performing Arts (Acting). Also received training via The National Youth Theatre and D n B Theatre School. Joivan was selected out of thousands of individuals to take part in the Ensemble as part of the International Student Drama Festival.
Percelle Ascott, Actor/Writer, also a BRIT School, performing arts and technology graduate with a triple distinction BTEC National Diploma in Theatre (Acting). He has also worked with the BBC, the first being Excluded part of the BBC 2 Schools Season, which aired on 21st September 2010; Silent Witness as a leading character Joel Barron which aired on the 8th-9th April 2012.
Dee Kartier, Comedian/Writer, first hit the stage at the age of 16, performing at comedy clubs around London (i.e. Choice FM comedy club) and later on began to take on the rest of the U.K. performing alongside British comics such as, Eddie Kadi, A Dot, Kat, Paul Chowdhry and many more. By the time he was 19 he had developed his own unique style and brand of comedy. His humour stems from his experience as a young Ugandan boy growing up in Peckham (South London).

They tell me ‘’We stand for being pioneers in the transition of talent from the online world to the TV and film world, taking risks and pushing entertainment into the social media age, we stand for being role models to our demographic from as young as 7, showing them that with planning, executing ideas and perseverance you can do whatever you want, we stand for creating opportunity for ourselves and for those who lack opportunities in the entertainment industry, we are the voice of BAME (Black Asian and Ethnic Minority) youth”.

Of course, with the election coming up in May, I grilled them about their points of view;

Percelle Ascott says…
Do you vote?

I haven’t personally voted before, but the upcoming election I am looking to change that, but not only change that for myself, but to invoke that change in more young people like myself. With our voice and following we don’t just have to, but need to, as politics are the core fuel for what affects everyone, no matter a persons background or environment. It’s not that we don’t care, but we are not all aware, so someone like ourselves can help change that

Why/why not?
I haven’t done so, as I had taken a route that I regret, but I had given up that I can make a difference and be heard! How do I know my local MP will hear my worries and concerns and take that as serious as I would, if they don’t understand my perspective? After all, what is the general age of most politicians? However, like I said, my thoughts on how I approach politics have changed. A motto that I live by, is ‘Be The Change, You Want To See’ with the power of social media, we are looking to stir frenzy, in hope it can shake up how we all view politics.

What should politicians do to engage with young people/ black communities?
The problem has been, politicians placing blame upon people who do not register to vote, we shouldn’t be demanding their attention, they should trying to engage with us.. key word ‘TRYING’ to put it plainly, if you do the same thing expecting different results… that is insanity. My community will not listen unless you prove to them you care, I’m sure that is very general across all communities, I am not a politician or neither an expert to now suggest methods of how to do it, but if it’s only caring at a period that suits you (campaigns for the lead up to the general election) then you’re doing it wrong. Change is happening everyday; we live in a new age, a social media age, maybe enlist the help of influential people that young people listen to. We have friends that are way more powerful with the demographic they are trying to target, maybe it’s time to accept that you do not hold all the answers and ask for help. After all, democracy is in the shape of teamwork

Why should we care about voting?
Like I mentioned previously, change is happening with or without you, and if you have an opinion that you would like to express, we can only keep trying to see that change by voting. With every election happening every 4 years… 4 years is a very long time to have to accept policies you may not like, people in the past have died in order for us to have the freedom to vote, so let’s use our opportunity to make some real change

Which party best stands for what Man Dem On The Wall stand for?
None. Unless our beloved characters were to create their own party and run for government then maybe there would be one. But as for Joivan, Percelle & Dee (The actors behind the characters) we will be choosing very wisely, so let’s see how the next few weeks pans out

Joivan Wade says….
Do you vote? Why/why not?

I did vote, the reason why I voted was not because I necessarily understood politics but because i was encouraged by my mum to vote based on the fact that the elections would effect me and the way we live. I think its important to vote, essentially we control what our government looks like. the only way we give up that control is by not voting, which is why its imperative we vote and encourage others too as well.

What should politicians do to engage with young people/ black communities?
Politicians should first lookout schooling system everything is grass roots so it starts from the school system, in order for people to act, they need to care, they need to understand. put it in terms relatable with the kids things they understand and care about, (lack of EMA and rising travel fairs) this is also politics but at a level young people can understand. also this is a social media generation so social media campaigns role models young people look up to and can identify with will be useful in the pursuit of engaging young people.

Dee Kartier says…
I don’t vote because I don’t feel there’s a party out there at moment willing and strong enough to fight for the needs of my community. Number 10 is full of old white men in suits. This doesn’t make young people like myself feel like any political party is even going to empathise with anything we go through. So why on earth would they fight to eradicate a problem, if they don’t believe it exists? In a nutshell, parliament needs to reflect the image of today’s Britain.

Jasmine’s Juice – Actor and Musician Idris Elba – ”Mandela, My Dad And Me”.

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Idris Elba at the first showing of Mandela, My Dad and Me, at the BFI.
PIC COPYRIGHT- Gary Bartlett.

Many may be surprised to learn that even though most people know Idris Elba as an accomplished actor, its actually through music that I’ve known him the longest.

When younger we all used to attend west London nightclubs Subterania and Hanover Grand. Idris was always the music geek standing tall and alone in the corner, in a zone, nodding his head to all the fresh beats being spun by DJ’s back then.

Even when I headed up MTV Base, Idris would come and see me and send me any music he was working on. So it was a huge, wonderful surprise to me few years back, when I heard that my old mate was now a Hollywood star. As I sat with him at lunch in the MTV Camden cafe, my colleagues both male and female would turn into bigger groupies than they were for music stars. ”Jas is that Stringer Bell? How do you know Stringer Bell? Omg what’s Stringer Bell doing here? Can I get a photo?”. Wow it was mind-boggling.

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Now Idris’ tenacity has paid off and his acting reputation, post him playing the lead Mandela, is helping him promote his music brand.

This week at London’s BFI, Idris Elba presented a new documentary film to an audience for its first ever screening. Titled ”Mandela, My Dad and Me”, it chronicles the journey of his finishing up making the Mandela movie, simultaneously to his father passing away from cancer, and how his love for music handed down from his father to son, helped the grieving process, eventually leading to Idris finishing a music album based on South African sounds, in his fathers memory.

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At the London premiere were Idris family and friends who heckled him playfully. His aunt who had once given him £200 as a child to help on his way and his cousins and best friends who taunted him about his choice of football team (Arsenal) and more.

The BFI red carpet saw a throng of paparazzi with local TV shows doing their live links from the red carpet. Also in attendance were lofty menswear designer Ozwald boating, alluring music genius Benjamin Hudson- aka Mr Hudson, gravelly toned musician Maverick Sabre, regal MOBO CEO Kanya King, TV bigwig Jane moat, film director Mo Ali, British Urban Film Festival CEO Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe and more.

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KANYA KING, JASMINE DOTIWALA, MAVERICK SABRE AND MR HUDSON.

Once seated, Stuart Brown – Head of Events at BFI – welcomed us and reminded us that we were the first audience ever to see this film. Idris’ agent also shared moments with us.

“Idris has an incredible great energy, my proudest moment was when he signed up for Mandela. He filmed in SA and for four months immersed himself into the culture and music. When filming was complete Idris called me again. He wanted to create an album that would encompass the making of the film. But alas, whilst Idris was making it, his father battled with cancer and passed away. This film honours Winston Elba’s journey”.

The film is an ode to Idris parents with a particular focus on his father Winston, who is from Sierra Leone and worked at a Ford car factory. His mother, Eve, is from Ghana.

The film is not all high budget gloss and structure. It’s a fly on the wall style, amateur shot piece of content that gives the viewer the feeling that they are watching his own personal videography following his day-to-day activities.

The glamour of the red carpet, the monotony of a million press junkets, frustrating times keeping the peace between musicians in his studio, footage of him attending Mandela’s private burial, (Idris tells us ” the Elba name being recognised at Mandela’s funeral just blew my mind”), all whilst dealing with his fathers passing.

Idris personal camera also shared with us great access all areas moments like him visiting the white house for the second time. Idris imitated Obama declaring ”the man that played Mandela is here, last time he was swarmed by the ladies, so I just want to say, ladies please leave him alone!”.

Idris shares many snippets of info during the film ” ‎this film is a doc about what it’s like for an actor to who does music. My dad played all sorts of African music all my life. This album is an ode to these gents. Gents like Gregory Issacs and Culture. I used to make turntables out of cereal boxes at aged ten, and then the acting bug came and took me. My dad as an elder African gent was my skeleton blueprint for playing Mandela. I wanted to understand what Mandela was listening to when he was alive so immersed myself in South African music. . I wanted to get back to SA to make an album. We were set to go and then in a short space of time dad got ill and died. But I knew he’d want me to do it. I re-visioned how I was gonna grieve. After his funeral I went to SA and knocked this out in the studio, the grueling SA promo with my family was mad. But I channeled my dad’s energy. After the Mandela film it should been the greatest time of my life and……I dunno”

‎Idris knows his limitations and so roped in his mates to help with the South African influenced music album. He cast ”Ben aka Mr Hudson as ”the music guy who would help me shape this”. He also flew George The Poet and Maverick Sabre out to contribute too. A lot of initially hesitant local South African music stars were also persuaded by the Elba charm to get involved. Household names out there include Aero Manyelo, Dj Spoko, Mama Northembi and the Molatollo Queens who have been African music legends for six decades.

Idris was keen to let us know that he paid all the musicians involved a respectable fee for their services. “It’s not a vanity project it’s a proper album”.

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PIC COPYRIGHT- Gary Bartlett.

‎During the post documentary Q&A session hosted by a pretty disappointingly prepared Daily Mail staffer Baz Bamigboye, Idris also shared news about new acting projects like a half hour TV doc called “King for a term” about his childhood where he plays his father. There were also many moments referring to a possible new role in Star Trek.

The James Bond question reared its ugly head again with Idris patiently explaining ‘‘The Bond rumour is now eating itself. If it were ever going to happen, it now never will. Daniel Craig started the rumour in The Sun and its just spread. I have never had a meeting of any sort with the James Bond team”.

Idris clearly has a yet untapped comedy funny bone that appeared quickly and regularly during his chat. But pushed on his interest of politics and whether he would vote this May he responded ” my Dad was very interested in politics but that passion didn’t pass down to me. Raising awareness for Ebola this past year I guess was a political move, but I’m not interested in being a part of the politics game. Also I’m very out of touch with UK politics so…. I’ll keep it real…”. And just as it looked as if he were about to say ”so I’ll keep it real and probably won’t vote” he smoothly added ”but you’re right, yes, I should vote though, you’re right”.

Naturally there will be people rolling their eyes at the fact that Idris is an actor and now a wannabee music star. Idris responds ‘‘People who don’t take me seriously cos I’m actor actually propel me forwards more”.

His ego is clearly no Kanye. He also shared with us his meeting with Parlaphone Records when he went to pitch them his album. The staff in the boardroom clearly knows they’re on camera and do their best to look and sound enthusiastic. Idris laughed ”Bringing messages from Africa to the exec suite! I try to be the same wherever I am. I just played it to the Parlaphone team. But the truth is it didn’t sell well and the label dropped me after this album. They just didn’t see my vision”.

‎Don’t panic though; the big screen isn’t going to lose Elba to music. ”I am building my profile and DJ house music, but when I’m acting I’m totally focused just on acting. After my experience I just wanted to shine some light on Africa, which has already seen a big explosion in the UK with afrobeats and African films from Nollywood. I see a lot more bridges between Africa and us in the future”.

Jasmine’s Juice Featuring Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint Tour.

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Nicki Minaj works it at her O2 gig in London.
Pic credit- Grizz Lee Arts.

People who claim to be gatekeepers of music genres and dictate to the rest of the world what’s good and isn’t, are draining and out of touch. Art is subjective and if it captures you, you shouldn’t be made to feel inferior for liking it.
A few years ago, I was alerted to a still then unknown female rapper, called Nicki Minaj. I watched her spit a short 16 bar cipher and immediately fell in love with her style, attitude and character accents.
My excitement about her wasn’t shared by all though. ‘‘What’s she even saying though?’’ She’s not hip-hop, she’s pop’’ and so on.
6 years later she’s a superstar selling out stadiums globally, and has youth from every background, class and culture all united and rhyming her lyrics altogether in joyous unison. As soon as hip-hop acts go mainstream and commercial, the hip-hop snobs disown it as not real enough. I recall Jay Z once told me ‘’if they say I’m a sell out great! Im selling out stadiums homie!’’
I am from the Foxy, Lauryn, Brat, Misy Elliott, Monie Love, Latifah and Kim era so I can say for sure, that Nicki has surpassed their global reach and achievements. Of course their journeys helped lay the path for her existence. Lauryn Hill had a moment in time of Grammy wins and worldwide fame, but arena tours and big commercial expansion on Nicki level? Nah son. She is touring all over the UK this month. Here’s why she’s selling out arenas.

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Pic credit- Grizz Lee Arts.

LIVE

*What blew me away was her PRESENCE. It’s easy for many acts to be great on tracks, but crap live. Nicki smashed it at levels above and beyond I was truly expecting. She hardly ever mimed, she danced her heart out, spoke to us and her presence was immense! She is determined, demands you acknowledge her regal Royalness, and even though near the end she was a lil out of breath, she worked her world-famous ass off onstage. If you are at any of her live shows this month, you will see her lead a two hour set full of hits, with a very impressively rehearsed and choreographed show.

*Contrary to popular belief, she’s not just a naked butt. She makes incredibly catchy successful hits. Check out Starships, Superbass, Anaconda and more. The production on her albums is also totally unique with a very high quality panoramic sound.

*Hard, soft, pop, rap, she always gives you lots to choose from. However, it’s clear that her fans want the attitude, high intensity frenzied vocals they initially bought into, not the slow ballads, as this live ballad section had many escaping for drinks and toilet breaks.

*Frankly. It’s incredible that she can even get an audience singing ‘’grand piano’’ alongside her and hold a ballad section. She pushes her own boundaries, steps out of her comfort zone and admits herself, that she’s not a singer. Shouldn’t we applaud ambition?

*She unites music lovers. The live show started with a hip-hop section, then ballads, then reggae, and finished off with a euro dance/ EDM section. She had white kids twerking and black kids raving. COLD. She brought up a fan – Ellie from Hertfordshire – who sounded very well spoken. Even Nicki looked surprised that she knew every word, and did an impromptu call and response with the audience asking ‘’do you all rep Hertfordshire….or Brixton?!’’

*She’s both vulgar and vulnerable, but she juxtaposes her nasty lyrics with school education advice. ‘’I want you all to promise me you will never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough. Make sure you take yo ass to school. Don’t be a quitter, be a winner. When I return, tell me about all the accomplishments you’ve all made!’’ Come on!

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LYRICALLY GIFTED.

*Some think she’s just a vulgar hood-rat done good. But Nicki is no more vulgar as artists like Janet Jackson and Madonna, but cos she raps her words it seems much more shocking and in your face. To this day, the most vulgar thing I’ve seen in female pop music is Madonna’s SEX book. Now that was truly nasty.

*As a rapper, her vocal dexterity, flow, speed and wordplay is formidable and first-class. When she raps I feel like I’m watching a boxer or sprinter at their peak. Oh, and she’s funny too.

*Watching the audience rap alongside her every word, you could practically see them put on a superwoman cloak of empowerment, akin to the teens watching Elsa in Frozen. Nicki’s a rebel and she makes us feel rebellious, and makes women feel like bosses and go getters that can be both sexy and vulnerable.

*If you really know her music, you can see that she has a very diverse breadth of content. Her fans can relate to more poignant songs too, like “All Things Go,” the song in which she addresses her relationship breakup, an abortion she had as a young woman, and use of painkillers. There’s always a NM song for every mood. We all need a music act or album to go to when you’re in a particular mood. When younger and I felt I needed to vent or get myself hyped I would put on Wu Tang. Now I play Nicki.

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SHE’S NOT A BUSSINESS WOMAN. SHE’S A BUSINESS.

*Nicki is not just a music artist, her brand encompasses music, fashion, film, art and beyond. She has expanded her brand with ads for her own perfumes, adidas, Beats by Dre, Roberto Cavalli, a wine beverage called MYX, MAC and many many more. She is getting paid. In full.

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FEMINISM

*The Internet is rife with blogs and articles about whether Nicki is great or terrible advocate for feminism. Don’t you love it when feminists try to police other women’s bodies and sexuality? Old worlde feminists refuse to understand her. Naked flesh to them automatically equals a supressed and exploited female. Don’t be fooled by her big butt and intimidating expletive-filled lyrical content.

*Nicki has defined her own lane, established a new role for female rap stars, and achieved equal rights in the hip-hop game. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women. If you’ve followed her from the beginning you’d understand that she is about being a strong feminist, on an equal playing field with the men in her industry. Isn’t that a feminist? Watch and listen to her ‘’Lookin Ass’’ video. It’s vulgaryes, but do you understand what she’s saying? She reclaims her own sexuality whilst telling men why she in charge.

*Why do we only seem to look at pop culture for our feminist icons? Nicki’s feminism might not be everyone’s feminism but you can’t deny her talent. She’s one of the girls, but she’s one of the boys too. She’s part of the females changing what the image of an empowered woman looks like.

*She’s the musical equivalent of a woman saying she wants to be a welder or a bricklayer. Taking on male rappers in the hip-hop world, duetting with them and killing them on their own tracks like she did with Kanye on his hit Monster.

*She’s not just the second-class, token female in her Cash Money Records crew, like Foxy or Kim were in The Firm and Junior Mafia. Oftentimes she’s bigger than her male rap family members Lil Wayne and Birdman.

*She may have had disagreements with other ladies in music like Kim and Mariah, but generally she is about championing other ladies. She will duet wit Beyonce, Skylar Gray, Arianna Grande, Jesse J and Jessie Ware.

*Some folk get their knickers in a twist when Nicki says lines like “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun” and “he want something he can grab” line. Should there be no balance in the world? Since I was a kid magazines have been brain washing me into thinking that if my butt looks big in this it’s a bad thing. That every summer feature is about getting the weight off and every winter feature is about not putting on the pounds under all that winter laying. We are subtly told that thin is better, more valued and respected. What if your body type is naturally curvy? I’m not skinny or curvy but I can see why it’s good to let the curvy girls have their moment too.

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NAKED

*I’m not usually a fan of ladies being nastily naked, but somehow with Nicki I don’t mind her overt sexuality for as long as it feels like its being owned by her, and not put upon on her by a man, in the same way as say…The Cheeky girls lol. Her hits may be co-written by men and men may direct her videos, but ultimately I don’t get the impression this is a lady that could be forced into anything she was uncomfortable with. After all, she surgically enhanced her own features and body herself way before the fame. Blame media for that, not just men.

*When a black woman is naked she’s akin to a porn-star-video-chic. When it’s a black woman its vulgar and trashy. When models like Cara Delevigne and Kate Moss are naked its called art. When Madonna and Lady Gaga get naked its ‘’artistic. WTF? Can anyone say Double standards? The world is so threatened by the naked female of colour. Is it the curves or the colour that freaks people out? Isn’t it empowering that Nicki makes curvy girls feel ‘’normal’’?

*Black women’s naked bodies have been objectified and SOLD throughout western history. The majority of black women I know don’t like the way they are forever stereotyped but still respect Nicki’s hustle. She’s done what she has to do, got that initial attention and debate going and swiftly switched it up. In a society that puts down black and brown skin tones, hair texture, and body shapes, Nicki’s affirmation of her own beauty resonates with all women who do not comply to Eurocentric ideas of beauty.

*Confident, sexually empowered women are seen as dangerous. Don’t sleep on her, Nicki is a multiple threat.

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ROOTS AND CULTURE

*She reps her Trinidadian and West Indian roots hard. She has a massive dancehall influence I her some of her tracks like Trini Dem Girls and at the O2 she had thousands of people chanting….”Brixton girls dem a pop da booty”.

*She loves the UK. She told us ‘’ I can’t believe I’m back in my second home. Did anyone bring me some scones and tea!?!’’. And I checked, she doesn’t say this in every city she attends. ‘’Every time. I come to London you guys make me feel at home. Nobodies f*&*%$£ wit London’’.

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FASHION

*One of the new generation Queens of reinvention – when she first came out it was all Lil Kim style bikinis and flouresent, day-glo wigs now, with the guidance of her stylist Rushka Bergman she’s transformed herself into a haute couture icon too and featured in Italian Vogue.

*If you were expecting just over the top black Barbie this tour she’s one step ahead of you. Her opening outfit was all black lace everything. Black bra with see through chiffon sheer sleeves, a draped black chiffon skirt., lace tights, black PVC wrist cuffs topped off with a long raven-black ponytail and lots of cleavage.

*We also saw the more risky bikini’s, see through cat suits, bright pink Barbie doll and sequined, shimmering couture goddess.

*Her lyrical style may once have been Katy Perry meets Kanye, now her visual’s are competing with the avante guarde looks usually favoured by the Lady Gaga’s and Madonna’s.

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THE ULTIMATE PERFECTIONIST.

*I produced her when she was the host of last year’s MTV Europe Music Awards, and can tell you that she’s a very hard-working businesswoman, who really takes pride in writing and rapping in a way that still shows that she’s still hungry, and made a freestyle flow for the show in minutes to engage her Scottish hosts.

*One thing the viewers didn’t see was that when a photographer backstage pulled out a plug and her teeny tunnel area where she was changing and half-naked was plunged into darkness. She had mere seconds to change her outfit. She was an UBER professional and changed by the light of three of our mobile phones with not one quibble of cuss there or later.

*The day before the show, when she wanted to perfect her script, I was summonsed to her hotel suite after midnight so she could ensure it was right on show day. She dictated her changes to me whilst being pinned and fitted for numerous costumes, multi-tasking like a master.

*When being directed or advised for stage direction she truly listened, making her own changes and decisions, and adding more than the producers of the show could’ve hoped for.

*So, maybe Nicki isn’t the savior of feminist. Maybe she’s a feminist, maybe she’s not. Ultimately she’s just a woman pushing boundaries, hustling her brand, speaking for local communities with a global voice and just trying to exist in this male dominated music world. Now that’s the definition of hip-hop as I know it.

Of course I’m only writing from an older, music industry stalwarts point of view. Here’s what one of her biggest fans – Rosie Gilbert – told me after I noticed her over excited, leaping around, petite white girl self, get rescued from the crush of the front row and placed next to a ‘safe seat’ next to me.

Why do u love Nicki so much?
I love Nicki Minaj because she can go from different genres so easily so no matter what mood you are in there is always a Nicki song for it. She is also a genuine nice person she tries to do enough for her fans and for people who are less fortunate than her.

How long have u been a fan?
I wouldn’t say I have been a fan from day one although I did enjoy bedrock when it came it. I started becoming a proper fan about 3 years ago when I moved into my scout leaders house and her son always had the pink Friday album on so I just started liking her from there.

Why is she different?
She’s different because when she first came out she was crazy and I think everyone (including myself) didn’t think she’d be around for long. When she started getting bigger she calmed down and started doing all different music from slow songs like dear old Nicki to Dance/rap like Twerk it. She always has something different round the corner and I love the fact that you never know what she could come up with next. She also puts so much emotion into her music so when you’re listening to her sing you know it’s coming from the heart not just some lyrics someone wrote for her.

Who else are you a fan of?
My music taste is very strange as well as loving Nicki I enjoy Bring me the horizon which are a scremo/ Rock band. I also enjoy Elvis, which is influenced from my mum and country music like Johnny cash and Gareth brooks.

How does Nicki make you feel?
Nicki Minaj can make me feel different emotions depending on what song I listen too. Songs like flawless and boss ass b*tch (you can just put boss ass in your article I don’t know weather you can say bitch) can make me feel like I can do anything and I can achieve anything that I set my mind too. Where as songs like the crying game and save me make me realise my past and how much I have been through.

What’s your top track of hers and why?
I don’t have a favourite song of hers but I would say my top 5 favourite songs are iddy biddy piggy, boss ass, save me, buy a heart and moment for life.

How would you sum up her show?
I would sum up her show as an experience I would never forget. I have been to other concerts before none of which compare to Nicki. She is just so amazing and to be honest I didn’t know whether she would rap or dance live, so to see her rapping and dancing in front of me was amazing to watch!.

Jasmine’s Juice Featuring Darcus Beese, George The Poet, JLS’ Oritse and his artist A.M.E at Industry Takeover.

This weekend I joined hundreds of young people at Ravensbourne College next to the o2 arena where we gathered for a day titled Industry Takeover. A day where young people can attend a variety of seminars, panels and performances to educate them about getting into the music industry.

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JASMINE WITH GEORGE THE POET, POST PANEL. (AND HE’S STILL SMILING- PHEW!)

DARCUS AND GEORGE.

I was chairing two panels. One with two music industry icons of past, present and future. One is a widely respected legend of a man that’s kept his head down, and is always described as having gone from the tea boy to president of island records. He’s the Michael Jordan of the industry bigwigs-he’s signed a lot of our favourite music acts, and guided them to huge careers and so has a mammoth plethora of knowledge, about how you can make it in this game! The other, is a breath of fresh air in our industry- a recording artist, spoken word performer and public speaker, that’s been winning over hearts and minds everywhere, from the living room to the boardroom since he was a student. Already nominated for awards, and aligned with big brand names that are all keen to have a part of him, his star is swiftly rising and his story and thoughts will inspire you all. Guessed who they are yet? Yep- Island Records President Darcus Beese OBE and George the Poet- NW10. LOL.

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Both talked about the importance of paying your dues in the game. Darcus used to made tea and collected people’s dry cleaning. Car clamping had just been introduced when he started, so he used to have to go and sit in their cars, wait for the car to be de-clamped and then drive back to the office. George, at 16 started making raps out of his GCSE exam notes. That’s clever.

Both grew up in and around west and northwest London and their communities helped shape who they’ve become. Darcus’ career officer wanted him to be a P.E teacher…then he became a hairdresser, which was around the corner from CBS Records and he did their A&R ‘s hair. A bit of networking later and he’s making tea at the record label.

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DARCUS, GEORGE AND JASMINE ON THE PANEL.

During the industry takeover event, there were many young black men watching them both on this panel and just by being on the stage, both Darcus and George were showing them that its possible for a black British man to make it. As a testament to bringing new blood through, I’ve watched Darcus hire young people that are from a diverse set of backgrounds and not just into entry level roles but roles with progressive career paths.

George studied Politics, Psychology and Sociology at Cambridge University. Now teachers there are telling their pupils to go and look him up. He’s being used to educate the younger generation at school- how crazy is that? He’s studied at Cambridge, has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, Chambers of commerce, published poetry guidebooks, and been to Buckingham Palace a couple of times. A great leap for a young boy who grew up on an estate in Neasden, Northwest London. He emphasized that navigating these areas properly has been important and he’s managed to juggle and balance the language of the streets, home and business, but many don’t.

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Darcus has signed numerous acts over the years. From Florence & The Machine, Sugababes, Mumford & Sons, PJ Harvey, Ben Howard, James Morrison and Robbie Williams, but the percentage of successes to failures ‘’is unspoken about in the industry’’. For every success story there are at least 5 other failures. Darcus only ever signs the type of acts that excite him- he spoke about Georges qualities that stood out for him, the strongest being ‘’a strong sense of self. ‘’George could’ve gone with many other labels that were offering him more money but he came to us cos he believed in what we were offering him’’.

George spoke about what kind of label head Darcus was and how he supports him day to day. I also grilled him about the fact that when most acts that go from street success to commercial success, managers and team mates get let go in the process-I’ve seen it happen to Jay Sean, Chip and more. I asked what is it important to know about who to keep in your team and when do you outgrow each other? George emphasized that the team had to grow together with the same values and future ambitions or it won’t work.

Darcus educated the audience on ‘’Recoupable costs’’. As we can imagine, the superstar glam factor attracts more acts to the game than their passion for music. Darcus gave us real stats about how all the pictures in papers and online of acts with chauffer’s/free clothes/ bling etc adds up to actual costs that the act has to somewhere along the line pay back-meaning many end up broke. Don’t imagine brands give you free gifts and don’t expect you to talk about them online and in press. Trust, you will be talking about free chicken 24-7 if you accept that black Nandos card.

We also touched on piracy, budgets and how much have things changed in the game regards cash for press/parties, marketing, music streaming, digital teams, Social media and more.

Darcus’ label runs a roster with 90% British acts, so I had to ask him his thoughts on how fairly he thought THE BRITS represents black British acts? Was the recent Kanye / grime movement a good or bad thing and why? We all had a debate about this onstage lol.
Want to know all the answers to these questions and more? Check out the Urban Development site where they will be uploading videos from the day.

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ORITSE/ OWS AND A.M.E

The second panel was with former JLS member / now solo artist and businessman Oritse and his artist A.M.E. Pop boyband JLS achieved a lot of what those that came before them didn’t. Seeing an all black boy band was not the norm when I was a kid watching TV. And they certainly wouldn’t have such huge national success.

JLS were originally signed to Tracklacers production company New Track City, and then went on to become runners-up of the fifth series of the ITV reality talent show The X Factor in 2008, coming second to Alexandra Burke. They’ve had numerous UK no 1 hit singles; the band’s self-titled debut album has sold over 1 million copies in the UK. They won BRITS, MOBOS and more. JLS also sold over 6 million records in the UK alone and more than 10 million records worldwide. And they were originally formed by …now solo star and businessman boss, Mister Oritse Williams!

With all the product placement deals they did, like launching a range of condoms called “Just Love Safe”, teaming up with Alexandra to release a clothing range, releasing JLS dolls, their iconic hoodie range, they endorsed Nintendo Wii Party, they were also part of the Walkers crisps ads, its no surprise that as of 2013,they were the 16th richest reality TV stars in the UK, with an estimated fortune of £6 million per member.

Clearly Oritse soaked in a lot of knowledge during his time with the band and his early grafting juxtaposed with this has meant he’s now set up his own business and started signing acts.

Oritsé Jolomi Matthew Soloman Williams. A long, strong name. I grilled him about his musical journey, the good, the bad and the ugly, so our audience could get a better idea of how to navigate the music industry, and there’s no way better to understand someone’s journey than to walk in a mans shoes. So we talked through his early career moments, how growing up in west London environment shaped him and gave him the qualities he needed to get this far in the music industry. His early influences were Puffy, Jay Z, Russell Simmons and our very own Megaman of So Solid fame.

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JASMINE WITH ORITSE (NOW OWS) AND HIS ARTIST A.M.E.

Since the age of 12, along with his brothers and sister, he also cared for his mother, who was diagnosed with sclerosis. I myself was my dads carer for his last 3 years and it was all consuming, exhausting and heart breaking- so I know Oritse’s experience as a carer toughened him up for his future.

Oritse says one of his first big breaks was when working at Deal Real Records and DJ Trevor Nelson and the MTV Base show The Lick came in to shoot a show. Oritse brought his guitar into work and even though his bosses had encouraged him not to get in Trevor’s way, he did, and got his first break performing.

Oritse got his first lesson in copyright after having to change his boy bands name from UFO (“Unique Famous Outrageous”) with Aston, Marvin and JB, to JLS (“Jack the Lad Swing”) as there was already a rock band called UFO. But it didn’t hinder their progress and even though they were runners-up to Alexandra Burke on the fifth series of The X Factor in 2008 they still came out winners. I often say that when you lose you really win.

So whilst many ‘’serious music acts’’ have gone on record to dismiss reality acts on music shows as killing and lowering the tone of the music industry- its clearly been a godsend for Oritse , he even won the ITV dancing competition Stepping Out in 2013 with his wife!

It would be crazy to be on this panel and not to mention the ground-breaking news that Zayn left 1Direction the same week. Zayn had mentioned reasons for leaving were stress and wanting to be a normal 22-year-old guy. I made numerous tour diaries with acts like Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, All Saints and Another Level in the past, so I know life on the road can be intense with the same people day in and day out- but Oritse disagreed, he said it was the best job in the world and he just didn’t understand that angle at all!

Life’s tougher now in some ways. Back in the day- boy bands like Boyz to Men, Another Level and Damage wouldn’t have had to cope with social media trolls and millions of uniformed and aggressive opinions. Oritse admitted JLS got a lot of hate as well as love online, but that it was about treating it all not too seriously.

People often think that JLS’ boss was Simon Cowell, but it was actually industry stalwart Nick Raphael and Oritse has learnt lots from Nick, that he’s now using to form his own company Overthrow Recordings. We always moan that British black people don’t own their own businesses and Oritse’s ambitions for O Street Ent are ambitious.

His mates Marvin and Aston are also releasing solo material- so no doubt that will be positive competition-after all there’s more than enough room in the industry for everyone if the songs are good enough.

Oritse’s first solo single is under his new artist name OWS (as in Oritse WilliamS in case you were confused lol) and is called WATERLINE and features Pusha T. you can see both OWS and his act A.M.E performing at club OSLO in Hackney this April 21st!.

22 Reasons Why Usher is The Best Commercial Male R&B artist of Our Time And Has a Place in The Legend’s Book.

I’ve worked with Usher for over two decades at MTV, Channel 4 and more.
From making shows like Making the video and Tour Diary’s with him, as well as having him turn up at my birthday party in Kensington, and not demand a VIP experience (cos everyone there from Lennox Lewis to Joe, Damage, Tim Westwood and The Honeyz were there too), to always being the ultimate polite affable professional. He’s sold over 50million records and counting and transcends geographical boundaries and age barriers. He is the Michael Jordan of R&B. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the facts below.

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(PIC COURTESY MERVYN LYN)

1- Usher Terry Raymond IV, this quarter performed sell out arena shows of his ‘The UR Experience’, at 23 cities across Europe including London, Manchester and Birmingham and had millions of fans from teenagers to mature adults singing alongside him for a solid two hour hit fest. He switched up most of his classic old hits and remixed them with a live band keeping us all on our toes! There were loads of fireballs and fireworks too.

2 – For the past two months he’s been all over Europe to places like Montpellier, Paris, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Zurich, Vienna, Nottingham, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham and finished off in London, a full tour, no dates missed, no extra desperate tabloid features of bad behaviour to help him sell tickets. He’s a straight professional showman. Even after years in the game theres no question about the standard of his vocals- he TORE IT UP. His brand is his bond.

3 – He’s a pioneer. Before there was Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Omarion, Mario, Ne Yo, and the rest of the great pretenders, there was Usher. Check his YouTube video view numbers. They’re in the 100millions. Yes, that’s 100,000,000 and counting. He’s been holding the R&B torch since he was a kid. The others merely follow in his footsteps.

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(PIC COURTESY MERVYN LYN)

4 – Before Kris Jenner became the ultimate momager to Kim, Khloe and the rest, Ushers mum Jonnetta Patton was THE music industry momager, and everyone knows and respects her.

5 – Before Jay Z and Kanye had celebrity girl friends, Usher had one of the biggest ladies in the game with TLC’s Chilli- check them out in that hot video for U Got It Bad.

6 – But of course in true celeb style he then cheated on her in real-life, and made the hit song and video Confessions to ‘’tell it all’’. Way before Taylor Swift made it a thing.

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7 – His introductory debut single, Call Me A Mack, highlights him singing and rapping and was released 22 years ago in 1993 when he was just 14, and the video featured Janet Jackson and Tupac with their Poetic Justice acting cameos!

8 – At an age when most 36 year olds are going through a midlife crisis of not having achieved their goals, a mortgage and more, Usher is a music industry veteran having been mentored early on by both legends Puffy and Jermaine Dupri.

9 – He plays the media game. I work with a lot of really dedicated music acts in my time in this music game, but Usher is absolutely up in my top five of talents that everyone loved to work with as he is always about delivering the absolute vest result with real hard graft. In the studio I’d watch him easily write and put down vocals. In the dance studio he would out dance and rehearse his choreography until he and his team were all perfect and happy. My absolute favourite experience of making an MTV Making of video, was making his ‘’Yeah’’ video in L.A where anyone who was anyone in urban music, swung by to hangout and watch as he made a classic.

10 – Usher has had 23 years in the game, but the 36-year-old singer, businessman and dancer has lost none of his passion for the stage. One of his first fans was Jay Z telling him he was a big fan- and we were there to witness that moment!

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11 – What I’ve learnt about working with celeb entourages and teams over the years, is that the most level-headed, good talent, tend to keep their same old, die-hard, loyal team with them. They treat each other right. Usher’s always rolled with the same team, always polite, punctual, professional and helpful. No crazy hood rats or wild needs (like Puffy who always demanded a leopard print ironing board and a person just for lip balm) .

12 – He’s never egotistical and pays homage to acts that inspire him, even those that came after him. Like Eminem gets the nod for encouraging him to be vulnerably honest.

13 – There aren’t many music stars with careers spanning over two decades that are only 36. The R Kelly’s, Mariah’s, Madonna’s are at least one if not two decades older.

14 – His show at the o2 featured all his old hits but with new takes on his earlier songs with everyone from kids, teens, young adults and grandparents all singing along.

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15 – In an era when high intensity dancers like Beyonce and J Lo often resort to lyp syncing (miming), Usher still sings live and powerfully. He sweated A LOT on stage! (Wearing his favourite racoon hat probably didn’t help!). Neither did pirouetting and flinging himself down into splits every so often – he has the stamina of an act half his age.

16 – In recent years Beyonce has been called the ultimate all round performer with her singer/song wrier/dancer/artistic skills. Usher is the Beyonce of the male world. He was also here first.

17 – In a world where Iggy Azalea can sell out arenas on two hit songs and a grubby rep, and we question WTF? Usher easily fills two hours of show with back-to-back Usher classics. The lighting and sets were imense, intense and stylish.

18 – He’s a humble man giving thousands of hours to pro-social causes, community events and school talks but never publicises them. Don’t believe me? Google it.

19 – A multiple performing arts and business threat, he backs winners. He gave the world Justin Beiber, and gave Justin Beiber that much needed initial credibility that he badly needed.

20 – He’s adored and loved around the world for making dance anthems like U Make Me Wanna, U Turn, Pop Your Collar, Love In This Club, OMG ,U Make Me Wanna ,Nice and Slow ,U Remind Me. We sang along to all these hits and more this week. Many men in the audience were tweeting their fear as their girl friends were screaming as Usher asked if they were single!

21 – His o2 show took us on an urban music journey that included R&B, funk, ballads, high impact sets, and crunk. Fans in the audience included boy band members from JLS, top Radio1 DJS and countless celebrities. He came; he encouraged us to be slightly ratchet and made me want his matching gold rope chain, gold blinging trainers and gold mic. (He also changed his trainers onstage, three times. ….I dunno!)

22 – A brass section and a troupe of highly talented dancers helped him give the performance of a lifetime. He had us doing karaoke a lil more than I usually like, but with a solid two-hour show with no breaks, he proved he’s still got it. Looking at twitter afterwards it was clear, Usher made his fans wanna scream yeah and climax all night long!