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I absolutely love the theme song for Shuga: Love, Sex, Money by some of Africa’s biggest talent – Banky W, Wiz Kid, L-Tido and Bon-eye – a great collaboration from West, South, and East Africa (sweet! – and i never say that!). And directed by supremo music video director of the moment, Clarence Peters.

I was on the set for the last few scenes so I’m so excited to see the end product that finally premiered on MTV – super excited! Watch it and let me know what you think!

Shuga: Love, Sex, Money Official Music Video from mtv staying alive on Vimeo.

The last couple of weeks have been in crazy. First I took more or less a 24 hour journey to Seattle to attend a one and a half day meeting and now I’m wide awake at 5am in a Nairobi hotel (though I’ve been awake since 2am willing myself to go to asleep, alas at 4.30am I gave up on that).

In between I’ve been working like crazy at my own company, about to launch a new TV show that I’m really excited about, while also managing new aspects of the Shuga project in Kenya. Crazy, stressed and hectic is how my life has been recently. Needless to say I’m exhausted. But my brain won’t quit, probably the reason I’m wide awake now, as I think about the multitude of things that need to be done – rolling out the media buy for the Brothers for Life campaign in Zambia, developing the new timeline for Shuga’s new components, writing reports to clients, casting for our show, oh and did I mention we’re about to sign on two new clients in Zambia – one to be the biggest that we’ve ever had. Not to mention when I find time in my spare time, I co-manage (marketing only) one of Zambia’s hottest artists. It’s exciting stuff but not for the lazy that’s for sure.

Last weekend we were doing our first open auditions for presenters we were looking for, for a new young and hip show we’re doing. I was less than happy with the results. It made me question what is going on with ‘our youth’ of today. I remember when I was 17 I had already launched an organisation with my sister and we were planning our first edition of Trendsetters. I researched everything I needed to do before going down that path – knowing that print journalism wasn’t something I knew about, but I read magazines to find a style that worked for me and for what we were looking for for the magazine. This seemed to be a foreign concept to the people that came to the auditions.

But I don’t entirely blame them, as my friend wrote in his blog, mediocrity has long been accepted as a way of life in Zambia. While I agreed with his post, I also thought it was a cop out. As an individual you can choice not to fall into that category and certainly not to accept it – which is what I strive to do in my life. These kids that came to audition should not have looked at our national broadcasting channel and thought that was all there was to presenting. Knowing that this is a show for young people, and that we were looking for young, dynamic, full of energy type of people, they should have looked for references to imitate. At one point in the interviews, the judges, including myself, got fed up and literally told people to leave if they were going to come in with low energy and no confidence. Yeah I know that’s mean considering I can be low energy, but hey, I wasn’t auditioning!

The truth that a lot of them spoke about was the lack of opportunities for them, opportunities to nurture their talent, and while presenting might not have been their strong point, some of them could kill it with their singing! But we weren’t doing Zambia’s Got Talent. Though some did have access to DSTV to see international shows like Oprah and Tyra (not really the style we were looking for), the majority of them watch local shows, which frankly, are still in the 80s. This was their only reference point. This was a clear indication that the media in Zambia needs to switch it up, provide new ideas and inspiration to young people. Not to toot our own horns, but nothing is around to do this the way Trendsetters did.

In Kenya, I met a group of young people taking part in our Shuga Rising Stars mentorship programme. They basically get the opportunity to work with the some of the core people across the Shuga initiative from the award-winning director, to the marketing people, through to the public health partners. As I’m a strong believer in mentorships, myself being mentored by Aaqil Ahmed and having my own mentee, I thought this was an amazing opportunity for anyone on this project to be a part of. In a hard to break into industry like the media/creative field, this was an opportunity these young people couldn’t pay to be a part of it.

But after sitting with them, and I did think they were lovely, I just didn’t get the sense they understood the magnitude of what they were a part of. Sure, they recognized they got some great contacts and learnt some new skills, but I wasn’t sure if they could see how it could fit into the big picture of where they were trying to go. OK, me and my I’ll give you my advice even if you didn’t ask for it self did share my thoughts on how they could really own this opportunity and make it work for them. Though, after our one hour talk and I asked them if they had any questions – again, not to be more than who I am, but I’ve also been in the game awhile, not everyone has access to my knowledge (did that really come out as conceited as I think? Insert smiley face) – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have any questions. I’m not one to give up on young people who are determined to make it in their careers, so shared my contacts for them to reach out to me whenever they wanted to. I don’t see why everyone has to go through the hard work unnecessarily, if someone can help you out, that’s why I believe in giving back, each generation has to do better than the one before right? I do believe that, but I’m not getting much hope of that with the young people I’ve met in my six odd months in Africa so far.

I won’t give up on them, without seeing what role I can play – like everyone else – to continue to develop Africa and nurture great talent coming out of the continent. I hope the work I do in Kenya and Zambia will impact them and see new directors, writers, marketers and more coming out of the continent, along with our more traditional career options of educators, doctors, lawyers etc.

I’ve been up for more hours than I’d like to think of and my alarm just went off, so I may as well get up, hit the gym and watch the sun rise over the city of Nairobi.

Until next time.

Finally! Well more like finally it’s been announced, it feels like i’ve been working on this project for 2 years – oh wait, i have been! But finally, today Shuga II: Love, Sex, Money was announced at a press conference in Nairobi – gutted I wasn’t there, but I imagine it’s been well received as everyone has been waiting for the second series of the award winning drama series.

I obviously can’t say what’s in this season’s storyline – though the scripts are still being developed, but I can say it will be more explosive than Shuga 1! And it will also be six episodes this year – I can hardly contain my excitement.

Working on Shuga is great because it’s such a needed product. Sure there have been other tv series on HIV, but very few (bar Club Risky Business) have done what Shuga does, which is paint the realistic picture of HIV as it relates to young people, and some of the freaky ish young people are getting up to today. It would be nice to think that young people aren’t having sex – and according to UNAIDS, there really are a quite who aren’t, as they are choosing to wait longer for their sexual debut (yay!!) but there are also a lot who are having sex. And if Kenya’s stats are anything like Zambia’s where only 7% of young people reported using a condom the last time they had sex (shock,horror), then there is clearly still a need for programmes that educate people on HIV.

But I don’t think education is enough, and a colleague (who also happens to be – i would say Pedagogist, but there is no such word – so studies pedagogy?) Dr Jim Lees and I agree on the need to look at the human and/or emotional factors that make people take risks, even in their own lives (this is also the study of my sister’s Phd). And that’s one of the things that i like about Shuga, it gets into the emotions and psyche of the characters and maybe even help us understand why we do certain things. Ok maybe not completely in six episodes but it’s a start.

Keep up to date with all things Shuga on the site and of course you can search for MTV Shuga on Facebook. I’ll keep you updated, when I can. Bring on the premiere on February 14th 2012!

I’ve spent the last week in Nairobi listening to stats on HIV there during the day – women are up to 4 times more likely to be infected than their male peers and women in their 20s disproportionately affected etc – and at night, my Kenyan family and I are hitting the bars and clubs. Bend over Thursdays as it was known, thanks to the popular song of the same title – no longer exists but doesn’t mean you can’t go to a club on Thursday night (Thursdays are the new Fridays) and not hear Bend Over come on. As soon as it does, the young women in there go crazy and bend over, and thats when you see some all out daggery that leaves your mouth open.

I get it is a dance, a sexual dance no less, but it is just dancing. Though sometimes that dancing can go a bit far. I’m not a prude at all, but as I hear the stats, I can’t help but wonder how our sexuality plays into all of this.

My issue isn’t so much that here in Africa (or is it even many parts of the world?) we, as in black people, seem to be oversexed, my issue is that we’re made to think this is a bad thing. Cultural as a woman (in many African cultures) we are told to say no to sex, we must never be seen to want sex. But at the same time, women continue to be objectified as a sexual object. Is there any wonder than rape and sexual violence continues to occur? Sometimes women not even fully understanding that they have been raped as isn’t their role to serve a man? Or the misunderstanding that occurs when men believe the no to mean a yes?

Thankfully more and more men are choosing to err on the side of caution and accept no to mean no. But this still doesn’t empower women to say yes.

I look at the sexual health messages that are put out, all about the dangers of unprotected sex – which with our HIV rates is still necessary – but no one is talking about sex as a pleasurable act, not even in healthy relationships. So you have the guilt element coming into play. What is wrong with me if I like sex? Am I a slut? Does this make me a bad woman?

I’d like to say things are changing. In Kenya, I was shocked to hear about just how ’empowered’ women are. Women choosing to have sex when they want to and with whom, including being bisexual or bi-curious. This seems great, until I hit the clubs on Thursday night.

The sexual energy was intense – it would be if you’re dancing to Bend Over I guess – but was it a healthy one? These so-called empowered women, demanding the sex that they want are wearing outfits that made me wonder, are they really empowered or is this just a trend?

Let’s be honest, it’s one of men’s biggest fantasies to see two women at it, and who better than to feed that fantasy than women. Doesn’t it immediately make you more attractive to men if you entice them with that fantasy? So my questioning really became a matter of are women doing this because they want to and makes them happy – i.e. they are empowered – or are they doing it because it makes them more attractive to men?

Until we become absolutely confident in who we are as sexual beings and being comfortable with that, can we really, and honestly be sure about the sexual choices and decisions we make? And to support that level of security, we need the society to enable it, not by condemning sex as some moral issue, but embracing it as a healthy and positive experience, that can be enjoyed safely and responsibly.

I truly believe that once we can give young people healthy messages about sex can we then begin to see a change in our sexual behaviours – so that people aren’t hiding or feeling ashamed of their desires, but enjoying them safely. Yesterday I learnt that only 7% of young people in Zambia use condoms, there have been safe sex messages here for as long as I can remember (er over 15 years), so what isn’t working?

For now we’ll continue to see younger and younger girls doing daggery on the dancefloor and hope that’s where it stays.

sorry i have been absent. the last month has been crazy busy as we prepare to unleash four new productions this year – all of which i’m pretty proud of, some more so than others, but that’s to be expected.
so the craziness started when we decided to throw a black tie dinner to raise awareness of our Foundation and the fact that Travis McCoy had recorded a track called One At a Time, exclusively for the Foundation. the track is released on 1st December World AIDS Day. We had less than 3 weeks to pull it off and thanks to the Westbury hotel in London, and some great people, we did it. and it was hosted by the gorgeous Idris Elba

Cathy and Tasha with Idris Elba and Myron Rolle

Three hours sleep and then i was off to Nairobi, Kenya to launch Shuga. The premiere there went down a treat. Everyone loved Shuga! so the question is – where’s the funding coming from to do Shuga 2?

On the red carpet for the premiere of Shuga

Two of the male actors on the red carpet of the launch of Shuga

While I was enjoying the fanfare in Nairobi, Georgia, the SVP of Social Responsibility for MTVNI, jetted into Zambia to preside over the launch of Shuga there.

Ms G hanging with the Cast


If you’ve ever been to the Lusaka Playhouse, you’d be amazed as to how Media 365, who organised the whole launch in Zambia, transformed it. Even the VIP attendees couldn’t believe it! In short Shuga went down a treat.

Back in the office to oversee the distribution of programming – Travis McCoy’s Unbeaten Track, Shuga, Tribes and Embrace me – all for WAD – which at this point was in less than 2 weeks away!

But our premieres are not done yet. Ukraine will be unveiling Embrace Me this week – i just saw the offline and despite the fact that i couldn’t understand it, it looks good – hmmm some competition for Shuga?

And Ben, my trusty coordinator is off to Trinidad tomorrow to see the launch of Tribes. hmmm lucky him, i’m missing the sun already!.

I’ll have pictures from those events next week. But make sure you keep up to date with all things related to MTV Staying Alive Ignite here: http://www.staying-alive.org/ignite

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