PHOTOS: Get to know 6 African artists behind ‘Cocoa na Chocolate’

PHOTOS: Get to know 6 African artists behind ‘Cocoa na Chocolate’

Interviews by Malaka Gharib. Portraits by Gretchen Knoth.

Behind all that style and swagger, what are the thoughts and feelings of some of Africa’s biggest musicians?

We got closer to the colorful stars of ONE’s “Cocoa na Chocolate” video at a rehearsal in Kensington, Maryland earlier this year when they came to the United States for the US Africa Leaders Summit.

In these interviews, the stars reveal their perceptions of American youth, the importance of African traditions, and even their morning routines.


A.Y., Tanzania

121,000 followers on Twitter
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

“In the morning, when I wake up, I always thank God. And then I take my phone and check my schedule. If I come home late and sleep late, then find out that I have to be somewhere at 7:30 a.m., I know I’m screwed. But other times, when the first point is around midday, then I’m jumping like Tom and Jerry.”

What makes African youth different?

“Young people over there [in Africa] are thirsty. They want to be like America. They want to be like Europe because of your infrastructure and investments. That’s why we’re here, because we want to motivate the African youth to invest in different ways.”


Judith Sephuma, South Africa

81,168 fans on Facebook

What makes our generation different from our parents’?

“Our generation today we have the opportunity of being guided into doing the right thing and living the right way. A long time ago we were so oppressed that our parents couldn’t discuss certain things with us. A mom and a daughter couldn’t talk about sex. And now we have the pleasure of talking to our children as freely as we can.”

“Our children trust us better. They can come to us.”

How will the US Africa Leaders Summit change your career?

“Whether we like it or not, [the Do Agric artists] are now a step higher than we were before in our careers. We are looked at very seriously now. The Do Agric campaign is one of the most credible campaigns one can be involved with. For me, this is something our children can learn a lot from.”


Buffalo Souljah, Zimbabwe

83,800 followers on Twitter

Buffalo Souljah_2
What makes African youth different?

“No matter if I want to wear Timberlands, or I want my hair braided, when my mom comes, when my parents come, when my grandfather comes, I still have to go down on my knees and greet them in a certain way.

We tend to confuse swag with manners and culture and tradition. Despite the whole Ebony influence [in Africa], the culture is still there. In the back of your mind, yeah, you’re doing whatever, but there’s certain things I can’t do, because the manners and culture still follow you.”

IMG_9865Wax Dey, Cameroon

14,200 fans on Facebook

What is your perception of American youth?

“We have a lot of perceptions about African youths and what they need and how we need to invest in them. But I think increasingly it’s the same thing everywhere. I think there’s a conversation about American youth that is missing. What does the future hold for them? The dynamics in the world are changing because of globalization.”

IMG_9888Femi Kuti, Nigeria.

20,500 fans on Facebook

Femi Kuti
What do you do first thing in the morning?

“I wake up, I brush my teeth, I use the toilet, I take a shower. Then I practice for an hour at least, then breakfast. Then I go back to practice. I try to do six hours. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, everyday. Same routine.”

Besides a musician, what do you call yourself?

“I like to leave it plain and simple. Some people like to call me an activist, but I’m just being me.”

What do you wish for most in the world?

“For world peace. I really want everyone to be happy. I want them to put on the news and see no more suffering. Just everybody being happy.”


Victoria Kimani, Kenya

23,700 followers on Twitter
What makes American youth different from African youth?

“I think the No. 1 thing about American youth is their freedom. There’s freedom of speech. They’re able to express themselves.”

What do you hope comes out of the US-Africa Leaders Summit?

“I really hope that somehow Africa will become more united and pull a little bit closer to the American way of doing things – especially for me personally, gay rights. I have so many homosexual friends, and right now in Uganda, it’s life in prison if you’re gay. I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. Nobody deserves to spend even 1 minute in prison because of sexual orientation.”


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