SPARK AFRICA: BUDDHA BLAZE AND THE EAST AFRICAN HIP HOP MOVEMENT
Exclusive Interview with TRIBES editor and senior writer, Alana Jones.
Buddha Blaze has been building a home for Hip Hop in Kenya and bridging markets across the Motherland for some time. Touting a career resume in the arena of music entertainment, jam packed with groundbreaking moments in African Hip Hop, Buddha Blaze has helped to generate the growing wave of rhymes from the original underground. Thus, we introduce you, TRIBES readers and family, to Buddha Blaze, our TRIBES in Nairobi correspondent and connection to one of the world’s next and most exciting popular music and culture movements.
Buddha Blaze’s media coverage of his Hip Hop community coupled with his entertainment production projects, and contributions to the movement of Hip Hop music and culture, more generally, have taken all variety of forms. Creative partner of Spark Africa, a multi-media authority on African urban culture and entertainment, Buddha Blaze is also founder of Slam Africa, Kenya’s premier poetry event and creator of Kenya’s first hip-hop website, kenyanhiphop.com. Former editor and writer for East Africa’s first entertainment periodical, PHAT! Magazine and coordinator of the Spark Africa-managed WAPI (Words and Pictures), a global artists’ movement, Buddha Blaze is a Hip Hop activist with a passion for global art, culture and music.
Committed to providing a platform on this world stage for budding African artists, Buddha Blaze has successfully elevated Hip Hop music to new levels in Kenya and helped shine a spotlight on African artists before world audiences. In 2002, Buddha Blaze spearheaded a mass media campaign to have local radio stations play music by Kenyan artists. The result was an explosion of national and regional recognition for local artists and an opportunity for young Kenyan’s and Hip Hop heads in the region to hear themselves and their brand of Hip Hop music on the radio. Buddha Blaze also led the first group of Kenyan artists to the KORA All African Music Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2003. “Hip-hop has always had a positive influence on the youth from the urban centers of the world,” says Buddha Blaze as he mentions some of the artists to play WAPI stage, including Dead Prez, Blak Twang, and Kamau. Blaze has also taken WAPI events on the road, sponsoring concert festivals in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Malawi.
TRIBES: How did you fall in love with Hip Hop music and culture? Who were some of your Hip Hop favorites, then? And now?
BUDDHA: I grew up on Hip Hop, just like the average kid having heard the early Hip Hop tapes- Biz Markie, Kool Moe Dee and the rest. It was natural that as an urban African kid, I just fell in love. Biggie, Nas, Rakim are my Hip Hop icons that I look up to. Talib Kweli is the truth! I can’t wait to bring him to Kenya.
TRIBES: When did you first encounter Kenyan Hip Hop? Can you tell us a little something about the Hip Hop scene in Kenya?
BUDDHA: In 2000, there was a group in Kenya called K-South this is one of the early groups that influenced Hip Hop in the country. I was just minding my business when I bumped into one of the members, Bamboo. I told him I was a rapper and he showed me his world. Which was a whole lot of Hip Hop. At the time, it was them and Kalamashaka that were starting hip hop movements in Kenya.
TRIBES: Is there a characteristic sound or quintessential Kenyan Hip Hop style?
BUDDHA: The Kenyan sound is very edgy, gritty beats and lyrical. You have to have punch-lines or else the song gets no love.
TRIBES: What is your dream for the Hip Hop community in Kenya? And the world?
BUDDHA: For Kenya I would love to see more Kenyan Hip Hop integrated into the world. For the world, I would love to see more Hip Hop artists collaborating with each other on an international stage.
TRIBES: Will you tell us a little about Spark Africa- its origins, mission, and current projects?
BUDDHA: Spark Africa was an idea that came about by highly creative individuals. My partner, Shingirayi Sabeta from Zimbabwe, Khanyi Zwane from South Africa and I are from Kenya. We were tired of the way Africa was being depicted as a dark continent and wanted to be the creators of that spark- that illuminating light that shines across the world. We are multi national Africans and want to enforce the unity amongst Africans. Spark Africa is an urban multi media, events and creative company that is meant to champion the “new Africa”. Our strengths are in publishing, music, events and below the line branding.
TRIBES: How did you become involved with PHAT magazine and initially enter the world of Hip Hop and the entertainment industry?
BUDDHA: At PHAT I was a reporter who ended up being an editor just because I had so much love for the industry. The sky was the limit for me.
TRIBES: What are your ultimate aspirations as a journalist and Hip Hop supporter?
BUDDHA: My inspiration is to see the entertainment industry in Africa be one to be proud of. We want to have artists that we can take around the world and not care about cultural differences but ones that make music for the world.
TRIBES: What sparked your move from print to radio and television? To blogging and social media?
BUDDHA: It’s just growth really. You have to roll with the moment. Everything that we do just feeds into what we become. At Spark Africa we do not live a career, we live a lifestyle.
TRIBES: Has the work of building strong virtual Hip Hop communities on the web been difficult?
BUDDHA: It’s actually been a blessing, in Kenya there’s a lot of interest in Hip Hop, both online and on the ground. It’s been really easy. We have had international artists such as Dead Prez, Ian Kamau, Knaan, Blak Twang, Nneka join us, so for me it’s all love.
TRIBES: In your opinion, who are the Kenyan artists to watch in the coming months? Who should TRIBES readers make sure to add to their summer playlists?
BUDDHA: I recommend you watch out for that kid Bamboo. Then there is Octopizzo, Doobiz and on the BET Awards watch out for my little nephews, Camp Mulla. they’ve been nominated as Best International.
TRIBES: For the Summer 2012 edition of TRIBES Magazine, we’ve put together a calendar of great world summer music tours for our readers. Will you be attending any summer concerts or music tours/festivals that you would like to encourage the TRIBES family to check out?
BUDDHA: Yeah, I’m working on the Wale tour in South Africa and Kenya. Dates not announced yet. On August 4th Watch out for that kid Tumi from the Volume at the Blankets and Wine Festival in Nairobi.
VISIT: SPARK AFRICA facebook.com/sparkafrica facebook.com/wapiweb