Monday, September 11, 2006

Professor Jay’s passion is music


EDGAR R. BATTE
He loved to sing as a child and started writing his own rhymes at 15. Today, he has two albums to his name and has won several music awards back home in Tanzania. Edgar R. Batte caught up with him

*This should be your first visit to Uganda, how have you found it here?
Uganda is beautiful and the people are a lively lot. They know how to party. Of late, you've been in the media for sueing Jose Chameleone over stealing rights to your Nikusaidieje song and then you guys have made peace.

*Why the sudden change of mind?
We are talking about the growth of East African music and that is why I made peace. We have to build the music industry and need each other's support if we are to market our music across boarders. Such solidarity has worked in South Africa and West Africa and I believe it can also work here.

*So what was the beef all about?
I don't want to say we had beef. I think it was simply a misunderstanding. I would have gone to court but it's not cool. When I told Chameleone that I wanted us to make peace, he was shocked but I think sueing him won't benefit me. My dream is to see East African music grow. Chameleone is big in East Africa and I think we can do something together. As a matter of fact, when I came down, I realised many more artistes, both underground and big names, had recorded songs using the Nikusaidieje beats.

*Do you have any plans of working with Chameleone on any project?
Yeah. In fact we are in studio recording a duet as proof that we are back together. Our fans should look out for our forthcoming duet dubbed Ndivyo siyvo.

*Any plans for you in the Ugandan market?
I know people love my music but they don't know the guy behind it so I think I need to promote my music down here. I love the Ugandan crowd, it's so lively. I have talked to Klear Kut, Michael Ross, and Ngoni and we are set for some musical collaboration soon.

*As a big artiste in Tanzania, what is your career portfolio?
I have won best hip-hop award for BBC East Africa awards for the 2005 edition and in 2001, my single Mdio Mzee won an award for best hip-hop in the Kilimanjaro Awards followed by the best composer award in 2002 and yet another for best album (Mapinduzi Halisi) also in the Kilimanjaro Awards.

*You are really passionate about music.Is it something you grew up to like or an interest you developed over time?
As a kid, I always listened to music. My brother would bring home classic collections and this was the time when emcees like Running DMC hit big in the hip-hop circles. They sang about black solidarity and I always tried hard to sing like them. In the late 80s and early 90s, we (and my friends) started miming these songs at open school shows but this was just to win cheap popularity especially among girls. By and by, I started developing a deep interest in music.

*Tell us about yourself. Who is Professor Jay?
Professor Jay's real name is Joseph Haule and I was born to Mr Leonard Haule and Ms. Rosemary Majanjara on 29th December, 1975, in Dar es Salaam. I am the sixth child in a family of nine. I always want to reach out with a simple approach, which makes me a sociable person.

*How did you make headway into the music industry?
I didn't actually discover myself, my cousin Frank Majanjara did. He always encouraged me after discovering I had some potential. As I continued to mime rap and hip-hop, I started synchronising in my own words. At 15, I began writing my own rhymes and in 1995, I formed the Hard Blusters Crew, with my three friends Big Willy, Fanani and producer Ludigo. We released our first album Fungakazi (working together) which introduced us to the crowds.

*When you look back at your musical journey, what marked your big break through?
Off our maiden album, I wrote and released a song called Chemisha Bongo, which was tagged as a revolutionary song. Soon it was an anthem on all airwaves. This song brought our fathers to listen to our music. Hitherto, bongo flavour was considered to be music for the street/ghetto people. Chemisha Bongo opened the way for other artistes into the game. It had an irresistibly strong message.

*What was so magical about Chemisha Bongo?
It tells the story of a child who did not want to go to school because he came from a well-to-do family but was opened to the 'real' world when his parents passed away. Relatives stole all the property his parents had and he was left with nothing and regretted not having gone to school. So parents used this song to caution their children and encourage them to work hard for their future.

*When did you go solo?
I went solo in 2001 and released my first album titled Machos Jasho Na Damu (Tears, Sweat and Blood). I dedicated this album to those hustling with life, those living on the streets and the ghettos. It was a word of encouragement for them not to give up hope.

*How did you carry on from there?
In 2003, I released my second album, Mapinduzi Halisi which had the hit song Zali la Mentali that enjoyed some good airplay especially on East Africa television. And in 2005, I released J.O.S.E.P.H. It has the Nikusaidieje hit that has won me an award for best song in Tanzania in the country's Kilimanjaro Awards.

*Last message…
I think as artistes, we might borrow ideas from the West but I feel our pride as Africans shouldn't be compromised. We still need to represent Africa. We have so many problems and as artistes, have a voice which can cause change.

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