Thursday August 14, 2003. Most people in Toronto – and most of Ontario for that matter – still have a vivid memory of that day. My recollection starts around 4pm on that sweltering summer afternoon. I was sitting in front of my computer editing my design portfolio in preparation for a job interview. I briefly stood up to stretch out my legs and just as I was sitting back down, the screen suddenly went blank. I thought I might have mistakenly kicked the extension cord underneath my cramped desk. I kissed my teeth thinking of all the unsaved edits I would have to recreate from scratch. I crouched down underneath the desk, pushed the plugs into the power bar and flicked the power switch a few times but the computer still wouldn’t come on. I looked over at the boxed fan in the corner and noticed that its spinning blades were gradually slowing down to a halt. It took a few more switch flicks and a trip to the circuit breaker to confirm what I had once concieved impossible – there was a power outage. As we say in Nigeria, they have taken light in Toronto!
Outside on the street, the scene felt vaguely apocalyptic. The unresponsive traffic lights created a noisy chaotic mess of car horns honking and screeching breaks. Initially, long queues of people looking for any drink or snack to keep them cool, formed outside convenient stores. A few hours later those same shops were practically giving away tubs of ice creams as they melted down to liquid sludge. By night fall, the mood had turned from restless to festive (or at least resigned). Barbecues were popping up everywhere as people resolved to rescue their meats by eating or sharing as much as possible. Phone lines were down so we roamed the streets paying unscheduled visits to anybody we knew along the way. That night, in pitch darkness, I lay on a mattress in a friend’s backyard and looked up at the sky. It was the first time I had seen so many stars so clearly in the city. For Toronto, the power outage had turned into a big adventure. By the time the problem was fixed the next day, quite a few people were disappointed it had not lasted longer. When the anniversary of “The Blackout” came around, there were even jokes about reenacting it.
In the developing world where more than 1 billion people currently live without electricity, nobody wishes for a power outage. It’s not an adventure, it’s a frustrating nightmare. Throughout my childhood and my frequents visits back to Nigeria, few things have been more constant and disappointing than the electricity issue. We find ways to work around it but we should not have to: Nigeria has one of the world’s largest gas reserves and is Africa’s top energy producer. So why is electricity often limited to a few hours a day to the less than 50% of Nigerians that even have access to electricity? In her new documentary, “Take Light”, opening soon at Hot Docs Festival, Director Shasha Nakhai, explores the Nigerian electricity issue (and it’s many consequences) through the stories of everyday people connected by the grid.
Your new documentary takes an unflinching look at the electricity crisis that has plagued Nigeria for decades. What is your connection with Nigeria and why did you choose to make this documentary?
Shasha Nekhai: I grew up in Nigeria. I lived there for the first 15 years of my life and my family has been there for about 40 years. Growing up my entire childhood has been framed by the power issues in the country. Almost all of my childhood memories have something to do with NEPA*. I remember some nights my parents would fan me to sleep because there was “no light” and it was too hot and I couldn’t fall asleep. When I came to Canada at 15 and started moving between Canada and Nigeria, it was only then that I realized how absurd the situation was and I think coming up with the idea for the film is rooted in moving between the two worlds.
Posted in Contest, Event, Film, Music, SUPAFRIK, Uncategorized
Tagged documentary, hot docs, Movies, Nigeria, Shasha Nekhai, Storyline
Almost two weeks later, the city is still buzzing with talk of Mr. Eazi’s epic Toronto show. There are a few video clips floating online that might approximate the experience but it was certainly one of those “you had to be there” moments. By the time his 16 song run of back to back hits had concluded, the rising Afrobeats star had made it clear that if his time had not already arrived before, it had certainly arrived NOW. Shedding off his usually laid-back stage demeanour, Mr. Eazi energetically attacked his performance like a man possessed with purpose. He utilized every inch of the massive stage at Rebel, at times walking on the thin side walls separating the VIP section and then finally wading through the almost 1500 strong crowd just to “feel what the vibe felt like in the middle”.
Backed by a DJ, a 6 -piece band and a trio of dancers, Mr. Eazi commanded the crowd like a seasoned veteran. At times it was easy to forget that the “Skintight” single that catapulted him onto the radar of the burgeoning Afrobeats scene (in Nigeria/Ghana/UK) was only released in 2015. How many times have you seen a performance with a relatively new artist where every single song in his set gets the full “sing along” from the crowd? Despite his somewhat defensive insistence that he was not a “singer”, Mr. Eazi has nothing to worry about his vocal performance going forward if his shows remain at this high energy level where he sounds best. This was not his first live show of this magnitude but it was certainly one of his top ones. The Toronto performance seemed to mark a turning point from being reluctantly thrust into the spotlight to boldly and believably owning every second of the moment. The concert concluded with a long awaited performance of his summer smash “Leg Over” and then quickly pivoted into a big after-party in the nightclub upstairs. With Mr. Eazi staying on as the party’s host and hype man, the night ended on a euphoric high note long after the 2am last call had been announced. Toronto’s “Summer of Afrobeats” had found its crowning moment.
Mr. Eazi’s morning the day of the show had started out on a low key note. When we met up with the artist at his suite in the King Edward Hotel to take him out for an exclusive photoshoot, we found him sitting on the carpeted floor, slouched against the wall, trying to stave off the jet lag and tour exhaustion with a tall cup of coffee. We had expected to find him in a celebratory mood. Just two days prior, he had been announced as Apple’s coveted “Up Next” artist of the month. His image was already gracing Apple billboards around the world and he had just performed on the Late Late Show with James Corden. After cornering the Afrobeats market as its second most streamed artist, Mr. Eazi was about to become known to an even wider demographic: potentially all 27 million subscribers of Apple Music. He had every good reason to pop champagne at 11am if he so desired but his mind was already elsewhere: two steps ahead plotting how to maximize the opportunity. We observed his pensive mood and decided to shoot him in that intimate moment rather than force our original vision.
As he tried on different outfits for the shoot, phone calls kept pouring in from friends calling to congratulate him on his moves: “Chale, I just dey watch your instagram and it’s like wow!”. There were also business calls. There seemed to be a lot of things in motion and Mr. Eazi was certainly hands on with his career. When the shoot was over, I had a chance to talk to him about his career and the future of Afrobeats: a genre whose DNA is already being grafted into songs on the pop-charts without the involvement of African artists themselves. He was appreciative of the attention his music was getting but was under no delusion nor apprehension about the hard work it would take to reach his full potential especially outside Africa. So why not just sign to a major label? Labels have been sniffing around almost since the beginning of his career but him and his team have a long term strategy. “The machine” still had it’s use but they have come so far without it, they had the liberty to pick and choose which cog of the machine they wanted working for them. It was refreshing to hear.
We strolled up Yonge St and made a detour through the Apple store so he could pick up a charger for his MacBook. Some of the blue-shirted staff stared at him as we walked around the store. We were both puzzled as to what was going until one of them pointed at one of the display iMacs which was a running a video loop of Apple “Up Next” artists. He explained that Mr. Eazi was featured as the default screen on devices across Apple’s 498 stores in 22 countries. Big! Before he was ferried off to his rehearsal for the night’s show, I remarked that 2017 had been his best year so far. He was quiet for a moment, perhaps weighing his present status against his vision for the future then he smiled and replied “Ehn? You think so? Just wait for 2018!”
Words/Styling/Direction: Chinedu Ukabam for SUPAFRIK
All clothing: Chinedesign (except artist’s own black pants)
Accessories: Papaya & Co (Ankara Tie and pocket square), Bohten (all glasses)
Note: SUPAFRIK was a co-presenter for Mr. Eazi’s Toronto show “Life is Eazi”. More photos from the shoot can be found on the Chinedesign facebook page here: Also check out the official mixtape of Mr. Eazi’s Toronto stop. Compiled and mixed by DJ Revy B, The Eazi Motion Mixtape is a quick 25 minute intro the sounds of Mr. Eazi.
Posted in Fashion, Music, SUPAFRIK, Uncategorized
Tagged Afrobeat, Afrobeats, Bohten, Chinedesign, Chinedu Ukabam, Detty, Detty World Tour, DettyToronto, Fashion, Ghana, Leg Over, Mr.Eazi, Music, Nigeria, Papaya and Co, photoshoot, Rebel TOronto, Skintight, SoTeeOh, Starboy, SUPAFRIK, Wizkid
*Toronto* We hope you are having an awesome spring weekend. Just in case you haven’t heard already: We are having an epic Long Weekend Afrobeats Dancehall Soca Jam at the Mod Club Saturday April 15 by combining our notorious #WeAreGumbo series with two other party crews #HighPowerToronto and #QualitéDeLuxe from Montreal. Good vibes and tropical beats from DJs Revy B, Nino Brown, Kyou, Dre Ngozi, Poirier, Sean Sax and Mr. Touré. 7 DJs. 3 Parties. 1 (Sweaty) Dance.
Early bird tix sold out the same day we released them! $15 advance tickets are 70% sold so don’t wait too long. Ps $20 tickets will also be available at the door.
Posted in Event, Gumbo, Music, Uncategorized
Tagged chi, Chinedu Ukabam, Dre Ngozi, High Qualité Gumbo, Kyou, Mod Club, Mr. Touré, Nino Brown, Poirier, Revy B, Sean Sax, SUPAFRIK, Wan, wan luv
Thank you for joining us at Royal Ontario Museum earlier this February as we programmed and activated some spaces for their #FNLROM Black History Month Special. We converted the Rotunda into “The Afro Lounge” and Bronfman Hall became “SUPAFRIK Central”.
The Afro Lounge: Designer Chinedu Ukabam invited FNLROM guests to the coolest new spot in town, “The Afro Lounge” where they could order Suya, grab a drink, and play the African strategy game Oware(also called Ayo or Mancala). There was also a dressing room in the back to try on exclusive pieces from ILU, his unreleased Chinedesign summer collection inspired by Igbo proverbs from Nigeria and the ROM exhibition Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana. Photographer Jalani Morgan was on hand to capture images for an interactive lookbook edited by Maz Osman. You can find the look-book we created on our page.
SUPAFRIK Central: To bring the #SUPAFRIK effect to the ROM,we assembled an art-dance-food party. It featured some new talent like ADL dance crew as well as frequent collaborators like Golden Stool Restaurant (whose Jollof rice was sold out before 10pm!), DJ Revy B and DJ Deemaks, who debuted a live Afrobeats video mix. By the time the spontaneous electric slide broke out in the middle of an Afro house set, it was clear that this was one of the best FNLROMs yet!
Stay tuned for what we have coming up in spring!
Posted in Event, Fashion, Food, Music, SUPAFRIK, Uncategorized
Tagged Chinedesign, Chinedu Ukabam, dj deemaks, fnlrom, jalani morgan, rom, Royal Ontario Museum, SUPAFRIK
MONTREAL! Gumbo is back again by popular demand! Thank you for making our debut in Summer 16 a smash! Use code SUPAFRIK for $5 off here: http://GumboMTL.eventbrite.ca
We’re coming with a top DJ in the Afrobeats scene: Deemaks. He’ll be joined by Toronto vet DJ Sean Sax and MTL hometown heroes Mr. Toure (Qualite De Luxe) and Bonbon Kojak(Moonshine). Together they will chop it down and mash it up to create a very special edition of the Afro GUMBO mix. It’s carnival season from Brazil to New Orleans to Trinidad so get ready for bacchanal! Tell a friend to bring a friend to the most anticipated international party coming to Montreal! Brought to you in partnership with Fockus, CME and Oasis MTL.
Use code SUPAFRIK for $5 off here: http://GumboMTL.eventbrite.ca
Here’s a flashback to our first time in Montreal (Gumbo 5) with DJ Camron, Sean Sax, Mr. Toure and Don Barbarino. Pure vibes! If you were there you already know. If you were not, come see for yourself at the next one! We are looking forward to rocking with the MTL fam again!
Posted in Event, Gumbo, Music, Uncategorized
Tagged african, african music, Afrobeats, AFrohouse, chi, Chinedu Ukabam, Deemaks, Gumbo, montreal, Soca, SUPAFRIK, supafrik 9, wan luv, WeAreGumbo
SUPAFRIK and Shaman are bringing our popular GUMBO party to the Royal Ontario Museum for their Friday Night Live series, followed by an after party at Tattoo. The night will start with Afrofusion dance lessons lead by some of the best dancers in the city – Esie Mensah and Pulga Muchochoma. We asked them a bit about what they love to get to know them a bit better before they make us sweat on February 5! First up, Esie Mensah.
Esie Mensah is a dancer who is trained in several disciplines – Traditional African, Commercial, and Contemprorary dance. She’s created her own unique style, Afrofusion
, which is an amalgamation of her entire dance background. She’s the founder, director, and choreographer of the Black Stars – an elite Afrofusion dance group based in Toronto. She produced a show, Akoma,
that ran a the Betty Oliphant Theatre between October 30 to November 1 2015, and has worked with some of the music industries largest stars – JaNelle Monae, Nelly Furtado, Jully Black, Flo Rida, Mariana’s Trench, and most recently, Mr. Vegas
1. Why do you think African dance has become increasingly popular?
I think there’s been a major shift within this generations of Africans on the continent and Diaspora. I feel that all Africans everywhere are wanting to just show off a culture that has had no love. The things we do naturally are getting glorified which is making everyone everywhere feel proud to be African.
2. What are your top five favourite songs to dance to?
- Timaya – Sanko
- Ola – Olatunji
- Black Coffee – Superman
- Chop Am – Reekado Banks
- Shoki – Kesh ft Davido
3. Share a clip with us of you dancing!
4. Where can people find you in the city?
Follow me on twitter and instagram @esiemensah!
Happy New Year!
We hope your 2016 ring-in was filled with love, laughter, and lots of Afrobeats. On our end, we’ve been quietly working towards getting ready to kick in SUPAFRIK’s 2016 debut, and it’s looking to be a great. We have linked up with some of the marquee institutions in Toronto, and we’re planning on sprinkling contemporary Africana fairy-dust everywhere we go. Keep reading to find out more!
January 21-24 | Gladstone Hotel | 1214 Queen St. W, Toronto |
‘Style & Profile’ at Come Up to My Room
SUPAFRIK Founder Chinedu Ukabam has been selected as a featured artist at “Come Up to My Room” at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St W). In case you aren’t familiar, it’s the biggest alternative design festival in Toronto. The hotel invites artists and designers to transform rooms and spaces into a world of their own. Chinedu’s installation, “Style and Profile”, is an ode to Afro-Pop-Art. It is inspired by African barbershops and explores notions of identity in all its seriousness and absurdity. He will be creating original prints and mixed media artwork, and collaborating on some furniture designs with his old friend and man of many woods Gregorio Jimenez. We’re inviting you all to come up to HIS room. PS: The big reception party is on the Saturday 23rd.
$10 | General admission (per day)
$25 | School groups book tours with firstname.lastname@example.org.
$5 | Student day on Jan 22 (with student id)
February 5 | Royal Ontario Museum | Water Carry Me Go @ Royal Ontario Museum Friday Night Live and Kuumba
This one, we’re super excited about! Water Carry Me Go is a fashion-art exhibition featuring seven African and Afro-diasporic designers from Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, UK and of course, Canada. Each designer is creating an avant-garde garment for the show. The unique exhibit will centre on the theme of water, an element that connects Africa and its Diasporas in a multitude of ways—as a passage, a cause of displacement and the origin of mythology. The show aims to dismantle artificial distinctions between fashion and art. We could not have done this without the support of TD Bank, Seven Continents, and Honour Carpentry. “Water Carry Me Go” will first debut as a performance art piece with “live” mannequins during the Royal Ontario Museum’s Friday Night Live, before being permanently installed at the Harbourfront Centre’s Architectural Gallery from February 6-12 for their Kuumba festival. Learn more about the artists here!
ROM Friday Night Live | Tickets can be purchased at this link
Kuumba @ Harbourfront Centre| Admission is free for everyone.
February 5 | Royal Ontario Museum | GUMBO #4 @FNLROM + Tattoo
GUMBO is back, this time at 2 locations! The ROM will be hosting the 4th edition of the popular GUMBO music series that Chinedu and Wan Luv started last summer. The first party was at Caribana. The last party took us to New Orleans. This time, we’re pulling out all the stops for Carnival time. First, it’ll start it off as a public dance class with renowned choreographers Esie Mensah and Pulga Cesar Muchochoma with music by DJ Revy B to get you up to speed with all the latest dances from Africa and the Caribbean. Then, it’ll morph into an intense Afrobeats/Afrohouse Soca Reggae dance party with Deemaks, Sean Sax, and Donet at Tattoo (567 Queen Street West).
ROM Friday Night Live | Tickets can be purchased at this link
GUMBO After party | gumbo4.eventbrite.ca
We’ll be updating you all with more information leading up to the event! Be sure to follow us on Instagram @SUPAFRIK and on Twitter @Chinedesign. If you have any questions, email hawa@SUPAFRIK.com.
Posted in Art, Event, Fashion, Music, SUPAFRIK, Uncategorized
Tagged African Barbershop Signs, Afrobeats, AFrohouse, Chinedu, Chinedu Ukabam, Come up to my room, CUTMR16, Deemaks, Donet, Esie Mensah, Gladstone Hotel, Gumbo, Kuumba, Pulga Muchochoma, Reggae, Revy B, rom, Royal Ontario Museum, Sean Sax, Shaman Fam, Soca, TD Bank, then and now, Toronto, Wan and Chi