Chester Bennington’s cry for help.

Photo Credit:Reuters

I was quite young when Kurt Cobain took his life. His wife, Courtney Love sort of reaped from the fruits of his fame. Sort of, because as years went by, the poor woman became a total wreck, weighed down by drugs and the remains of a blotched facelift that left her bordering on ugly. Once Cobain died, she made constant headlines-but for all the wrong reasons. Like her late husband, she was a victim of depression, suffering it far longer than he most likely did.

Kurt Cobain Photo Credit: Michel Linssen/Retna


Michael Hutchence, frontman of INXS sang one of my best rock/alternative songs, Elegantly Wasted. Michael had an impressive career; I found out that besides being the lead singer of a band, he was an actor. He too was found dead at a hotel in Sydney with his death later found to be as a result of suicide.

Michael Hutchence

Michael Hutchence Photo Credit: Filmink

There are other old time rockstars who took their lives in the past-Richard Manuel, Tom Evans, Boston lead singer Brad Delp, who 10 years ago lit two charcoal grills in his bedroom and sealed the door. He died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Today, the world mourns Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame who hung himself at this home in California, yesterday. This comes just two months after his friend, Chris Cornell, another Rock Singer, hung himself at his hotel, following a concert performance in Detroit. And Cornell’s last tweet?

#Detroit finally back to Rock City!!!! @soundgarden #nomorebullshit’

Getting fans excited till the next day they had to use the hashtag along with one that said #RIP. Here’s the thing though, did the hashtag carry with it a warning?

  • #nomorebullshit- I’m about to kill my self
  • Please tell me there’s #nomorebullshit so that ill stay. Promise me.

Chris Cornel Photo Credit: Rollingstones Magazine


Or perhaps these cries for help are buried in the lyrics of their songs? A quick look at Bennington’s latest song, Heavy, released on February 17, 2017.

I don’t like my mind right now
Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary
Wish that I could slow things down
I wanna let go but there’s comfort in the panic
And I drive myself crazy
Thinking everything’s about me
Yeah, I drive myself crazy
‘Cause I can’t escape the gravity

Obviously Bennington didn’t take the death of his friend well. The rocker had spiralled down into a deep dark place that needed clinical intervention. Looking at the date Heavy was released and when cornel died, I feel Bennington’s depression had been on for a while and his friend’s suicide only nudged him that way. Here’s why I think so.
It’s in his farewell note to Cornel:

I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with Rocky Raccoon playing in my head and a concerned look my wife’s face. She told me my friend had just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept. I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known.

I’ll be honest; I am not a Linkin Park fan. In fact the only song of theirs that comes to mind is Encore, which they did with JayZ. But when my friend, Moji –an avid fan- texted yesterday telling me about his death and Google later explained that it was as a result of suicide, I felt it was one rockstar death too many.
And again I have to ask about those who interacted with or lived about Chester Bennington. Didnt they notice he was depressed? Some would say they never knew, or that he looked ’perfectly fine’ that morning. Others, ‘well he knew he could always come to me for help’
The thing is Bennington did reach out. It’s all he did in that song Heavy. The grey depressed look and feel of the video , the rushes that showed him in physical combat with himself and again the lyrics?

I’m holding on
Why is everything so heavy?
Holding on
So much more than I can carry
I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down
If I just let go, I’d be set free
Holding on
Why is everything so heavy?

And if this isn’t a cry for help, I don’t know what it is .
A friend once told me about how his childhood friend took his life. He said he’d been depressed when he found out but more than that, he admired his friend for the courage. For some reason, I think Bennington too felt some inspiration from Cornel. He’d called out and no one answered; or heard, maybe. So sad.
We all need to open our hearts, hear and help. Depression is real and suicide shouldn’t even be an option. Rest in peace Chester Bennington. We the world should have done more.

Rossouw Nel shares how he maintains a full time job and a side gig

Rossouw Nel leads Digital Marketing and Communications teams spread across 19 different African countries but when he’s not , he’d probably be found at events as one part of Capetown’s DJ duo, Ross&Marty.

Rossouw at a friend’s wedding, two weeks back, where he DJed informally for a bit

Some would call it a side hustle; others, an opportunity to share passion. Without a doubt, alot of passion and drive has gone into it right from their first gig in 2007 when the team approached famous Fashion Designer , David West asking him to DJ his event.

It is said that entrepreneurs need to be relentless and audacious in their pursuit of opportunities, whether it be in the creative industries , sales or any other form of business. This particular story- which you’ll read more of in detail- is as good as any example of this. 
So Rossouw DJs alongside his friend, Martin at weddings, festivals and parties but then is very happy to return to work Monday day morning to a job he equally loves.

In many cases one suffers – either the side gig or the main job but in Rossouw says he’s found a system to make both work. He explains, 

‘I find when you’re writing, or composing music you can spend a whole Saturday morning and at the end wonder if you’ve made progress. I think a person needs to give themselves the space, to say ‘that’s okay, it was time spent exploring an idea even if you have nothing to show for it’. 

Basically, it’s all about proper planning. In my  interview with Rossouw , he also discusses how he handles teams from different African countries, the role of Digital in promoting the pan African movement as well as a list of his top African songs. By and large, you’ll get an idea of how to have a side hustle even with a 9 to 7!

                                     ***

Amina
: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the process of handling teams across 19 countries?


Rossouw
: I’ve learned that it’s important to have a sense of the larger purpose of the work you’re doing as a team. Often you’ll find two people disagree about the way to do something and after an open conversation you’ll realise it’s because they have very different ideas of the bigger goal. I’m learning about the methodology called Agile at the moment. One of the principles I’ve gotten from it, is that you don’t start by saying “We’re gonna build a car”. You start by saying “we want to transport people”. And then you figure out as a team what form that solution should take. It could be a bicycle, a bridge, a hoverboard or a camel. It depends on the needs of the people you’re trying to serve.    

Rossouw(Third from the left) with members of his team in Accra


Amina: Describe a day in your life. What do you love most about your job.

Rossouw: My day always starts with coffee! I use a little Bialetti kettle to make espresso on the stove in the morning. At work I like that everyday is different and that I get to talk to colleagues from across the African continent everyday. They describe what they’d like to do for their project or business and we figure out what part digital can play to achieve that. 


Amina
: Are there any two African countries that you’ve found are similar and what makes you say that?

Rossouw: I think it’s tricky, because I wouldn’t want to simplify. When I went to hill towns north of Accra this year it reminded me a bit of parts of Kigali. I haven’t had a chance to visit your country, but I’d like to. I’m reading Stars of the New Curfew by Ben Okri and I’m sure I’ve developed an idea of what its like driving on a road in the Delta region( in Nigeria) that is different from what it would be like if I one day visited it. It’s something I think about often, how we can imagine the space around landmark and when you get there in real life, the imagined place doesn’t disappear in your head, it sort-of exists in parallel to it.


Amina
: In terms of communications strategies , which countries have you found have similar requirements?
Rossouw: I was speaking to colleagues in Sierra Leone a month ago, and I said the key in doing non-profit communications is to make the thing you’re offering the public clear and accessible. So instead of telling the public what you’ve done in the past, show them what there is right now that they can benefit from. I think that is true whether you’re working in East, South or West Africa. Although I have seen that online audiences in some countries are more cynical, while others are more willing to embrace a cause sincerely. 


Amina
: We are going flip mode now; Let’s talk about the DJ Rossouw. Tell me how it all began.


Rossouw
: My friend Martin Mezzabotta and I deejay together as ‘Ross & Marty’. Back in 2007 we started deejaying at a place called Evol on Hope Street in Cape Town. Initially we were immature and snobby in only playing vinyl records. On the one hand there’s a joy in finding some forgotten song from 1978 and getting a room full of people to dance to it. But on the other hand, it ultimately became very limiting, in that you can’t play new local music and there’s also the physical burden of lugging two turntables and crates of records around.

South African DJ duo Ross ( left) and Marty


Amina: So what was your first gig like?


Rossouw
: It was at that place called Evol, in February 2007. I asked fashion designer David West to give us a chance and he said yes. I can’t remember exactly what we played, but it was mostly 70s punk and 80s synthpop. Things started going downhill for us after we tried to have a night where we tried to set a record by only played songs that contained sexual innuendo. It did not go well.

Amina: That must have been terrible! But what I find inspiring about that story is that you felt bold enough to reach out to someone as famous as David West to give you a chance. Was that a difficult process?


Rossouw
: The record-breaking attempt wasn’t really terrible, I just felt a bit foolish. I mentioned it to Marty recently and he has said he has a different memory of the night, that it was just because we were playing early. But in my mind, it was a turning point, where we had jinxed it because we were overconfident, thinking people will dance no matter what we play. 

On your question about asking David West for the first time if we can play, I didn’t know who he was at the time. The doorman just pointed me at this guy sitting on the side in an American flag boiler suit. It’s only later someone told me that he’s an accomplished fashion designer.


Amina
: Ahhhh! Still you have come a long way since then. And now- how do you decide on what gets played and when?


Rossouw
: I Imagine most DJs have a set of favourite songs that they know people will enjoy while also being unique or retro enough so it feels like a special experience. Then you have your own personal favourite songs, that you see if you can get away with, by squeezing it in-between two hits. The way it typically works is one of us will queue and start playing the song, then Martin and I debate for 15 seconds what the next song should be. I think there’s a lot of value in that, whenever you’re doing something creative, to have more than one mind to bounce it back and forth. I got a new piece of gear in November that has enabled us to more easily match the BPM between songs, so now we also plan a night’s set in terms of seeing the tempo like waves, where we start out slow and build gradually.

At a festival playing someone’s song!

Amina: What is a no fail way of getting your guests pumped?


Rossouw
: For me the most reliable songs are late 70s songs by punk bands pretending to be disco bands. So ‘Money’ by the Flying Lizards as well as ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie. In terms of local music, I think there’s no better pop song than Brenda Fassie’s ‘Weekend Special’.


Amina
: Brenda Fassie was huge in Nigeria, back in the day. Very Nice and what are the five things a person needs to maintain a full time job and a side gig( passion)


Rossouw
: I wouldn’t say I’ve found the perfect balance yet. But I’d say I prioritise my job and that gives me peace. I don’t want to put that pressure on my creative pursuits, where it becomes my whole existence. I find when you’re writing, or composing music you can spend a whole Saturday morning and at the end wonder if you’ve made progress. I think a person needs to give themselves the space, to say ‘that’s okay, it was time spent exploring an idea even if you have nothing to show for it’. That said, I do think it’s important to put some restrictions on yourself:

  • Create artificial deadlines by promising to show what you’ve made to a friend on a specific date
  • Hobbies need to be sustainable with the expectations that friends and loved ones have of time together
  • Develop daily and weekly habits that are easy to keep. It should require little decision-making and willpower.
  • Separate the professional-you from the creative-hobby-you. You’ll need different answers to the question “what do you do?” depending on whether you’re at the airport or a festival.
  • Your creative pursuit can make you a more energized, happier person. If it doesn’t, switch.


Amina
: And I have to ask you, what are your top 5 African songs to listen to?


Rossouw
: I’m gonna disappoint you slightly and not choose dance songs, but rather beautifully sad songs that I like a lot. I know the Sauti Sol song is a positive love song, but I’d say the melody still has a sombre tone. These are songs that would fit a playlist for when you return home after a long time away.

  • ‘Lanitra Manga Manga’ – Salala (Madagascar)
  • ‘Onhipiti Ossanta Toniyo’ – Associacao A Luta Continua (Mozambique)
  • “Weeping” – Soweto String Quartet (South Africa)
  • ‘Sura Yako’ – Sauti Sol (Kenya)
  • ‘The Wedding’ – Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya (2011 version on ‘Sotho Blue’ album) (South Africa)

Amina: What no Nigerian music? That can’t be right! Thought you once mentioned something about Temi Dollface but back to digital. How important is digital and the creative arts in the growing pan African movement? 


Rossouw
: I’m not the best person to speak on this, but I am passionate about it. I look at it this way: think about all the music, writing, film and fashion styles that have come from America. Now think about the small set of styles people from outside of our continent associate with the word ‘African’. Maybe they’ll think of Highlife music and Kente cloth. But there’s no limit to how many different styles can come from a place. So in theory every city generates their own distinct style of fashion, music, film, design. And that has a huge value in terms of identity, what gives people a sense of belonging to a place. But it also has an economic value, in that people can produce things in that style and make a livelihood from it. The internet has made it possible for someone in Dakar to see a Johannesburg fashion designer’s latest range, the day it comes out. Someone in Addis can follow a musician in Nairobi. This is all basic stuff, but it is the benefit of digital, the low cost of production and distribution, the ease and speed with which people can access new things. It means you can include local produce from a neighbouring country in your entertainment diet. I think it would be good to get a better balance in how much of the entertainment we consume is imported from across the ocean. Ben Okri said that way to destroy people is to poison their stories. So I believe there’s a big social and psychological benefit in growing the creative industries here on the continent.


Amina
: I definitely agree with that. Thanks for making out the time, Rossouw.


Rossouw
: Thanks for having me.

                              ***
I’m sure you’ve been inspired by Rossouw’s story like I have. A full time job shouldn’t stop you from going after your passion. What’s important is getting the right balance. Feel free to visit his website http://www.impendingboom.com to see more of what he does.

You can also subscribe to Ross&Marty’s SoundCloud channel and listen to some of their amazing work

For World Poetry Day I choose ‘ If’

I’m not really a poetry person which is ironic because I have an exercise book filled with poems I wrote as a teenager( no, it wasn’t Of ‘Roses are red, violets are blue’ orientation, was some serious stuff)and I have a first degree in Literature.

For those who may not know, studying Literature involves a semester of at least 30 books, not counting lengthy plays like Wole Soyinka’s ‘The Bacchae of Euripides’ and learning the at least 20 poems including Ullyses, The Rape of Lock and ‘ The Rime of the ancient Mariner’- mostly pieces that were out of print so you had to lay siege at the Library with spy skills that would put Sherlock Holmes to shame.

Even after four years of that poetry is not my thing but there are four pieces that touch me and yes, I like.

  1. 1. A telephone conversation by Wole Soyinka 
  2. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
  3. When you have forgotten Sunday  by Gwendolyn Brooks
  4. My personal favourite, ‘If’ by Rudiyard Kipling which I will share.       

If 

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 

    And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 

And lose, and start again at your beginnings 

    And never breathe a word about your loss; 

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you 

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 

    If all men count with you, but none too much; 

If you can fill the unforgiving minute 

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Now, do you see why I choose ‘ If’?

How Amsa Yaro Crapulli started her International Jewelry business


Amsa Yaro Crapulli, a videographer turned business owner, creates amazing jewelry.

Really, she does.

For her, It began with making beaded earrings, bracelets and necklaces and then continued till it was obvious that Amsa’s creations were no longer business as usual. Gradually precious stones and other uncommon materials were replacing the popular beads she started her trade with. 

She says,

‘I started making my own beads from paper and fabric. I also started teaching many how to make recyclable art, you know. Using things that are not the usual to make something wearable and worth keeping.’

‘Worth keeping’ is a phrase that probably echos in our subconsious as we scan shopping malls and market stalls, scoping out things to buy. Most of us want fashion accessories that stand out and thats what Amsa Yaro’s Yarolli brand has suceeded in doing. 

With this ‘beaded’ ring…

The Amsa Yaro studio churns out jewelry you want to wear with your carefully selected wedding , evening cocktail and smart casual outfits. I know i along with sizaeble number of clients that raid her online store find her jewelry impressive.

I recently had a chat with Amsa and she shared some of her trade secrets. Check out the interview below:

Amina: Tell me about Yarolli. Whats it all about?
Amsa: Yarolli is about wearable art. Making art that can be used in our daily lives and can add funky and eccentric style to our look. But I realised that having just Yarolli was a bit restricting because I have interest in other mediums so without clouding Yarolli over, I am, right now, working on developing a brand that would ring true to all I want to do. That is where Amsa Yaro Studio comes in.

Amina: Ah.Please explain further.

Amsa: This way, I can express myself as a mixed media artist another without falling out of my collective and still be true to myself. Yeah, it is like a collective because This covers my illustrations, fabric design, sewing projects, jewellery, painting, sculpture and all. I am Magpie of artsy things so yeah, things are crazy right now but they will fall in place soon. And if they don’t, it’s all part of the advent.

Amsa Yaro Studio

‘Queen Amina’ by Amsa Yaro Studio

Amina: I like that. Personally, I have come to realise that it is very important to enjoy the ride without too much fixation on the destination. Many dont seem to realise that, see? So what inspired you to start your jewelry business?

Amsa:What inspired me was my need to have productive hands or tools. I have always had the desire of making things and bringing ideas to life so making jewellery was my gateway craft. I started making jewellery while waiting for NYSC (Nigerian Youth Service Corporation which is a compulsory year long service for graduates) and this pushed me deeper into the crafts world where I helped myself with all the info I could get my hands through the internet. 


I started making my own beads from paper and fabric. I also started teaching many how to make recyclable art, you know. Using things that are not the usual to make something wearable and worth keeping. Then this grew to more than just jewellery and I allowed to myself to make and learn other crafts like crochet, printing and now, here I am, making sculptures, jewellery and other décor products from paper, fabric and anything I make an interesting art piece from. And if I can share what I make with the world, why not?

Masks!

Amina:Wow.Why not indeed? They say the grave yard has the largest gathering of talents on earth. It would have been a terrible shame if yours ended there. So now that you have all this up and running do you have long term plans of-building an empire round it? I guess what im trying to say is what is your vision for Yarolli?

Amsa: My vision for both Yarolli and Amsa Yaro Studio is not just to reach the level of making products for a vast variety of customers. I want it to become an ideal. An idea that is worth cultivating in our society. Being mindful about what we use and how we can give more meaning or an extra lease on life. My vision is to become a school of thought in which art can be brought into every day life but at the same time, valued because of the stories behind them. I hope to have spot one day where anyone willing to experiment with their creative side can come and express themselves without fear.

Amina: You seem to be checking all the right boxes! I think sharing knowlege is an intergral part of success. So when you say you want á spot’for those who want to explore their creative side, im thinking,’Na wa o, is she pychic?’ because really, my next question was and still is, how would you say your product has impacted others? 

Amsa: Oh wow. Impact is a big word. For me, having them happily buying it and taking them home is worth gold. I think my biggest effect is the customer actually realising that what they just paid for was made by something they would never think of but can be found all around them. Hopefully, this lets them find new ways of re-using materials and objects. Just as how a wine bottle can be used as a lamp stand or how paper can be sewn to fabric and such, limitless possibilities from things we easily discard as trash.

Amina: For the benefit of those reading this, could you tell us five things a person needs to start a jewelry business?

Amsa: Oh, it’s really easy to start. You pick out a name and register it. Done. You have a business. The not so easy part is making it more than a registered name at CAC.

  1. Secondly, You need to be dedicated to what you have started. You need to have passion for it. I think That’s one of the reasons why I am still on it. I started this because I love the arts. The process from start to finish gets me going. I have many failed starts oh. But that’s what business is about. It’s a risk worth fighting for and I will keep fighting the good fight.
  2. Get the right tools. They don’t have to be expensive. I believe that even with this crazy economy, you could find a good set of tools, beads and findings with 20,000.
  3. Get a good phone. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive but ensure it has a good camera. This way, it reduces your need to find a photographer because you start up budget is small. It is also very useful for your networking and marketing as well.
  4. Find an angle. By that I mean, who is your target customer? What kind of customer would you want to make for? Do you want to make coral bead necklaces only? Then brides-to-be, wedding planners and bridal shops are your target audience. You want to use semi precious stones, then stylists, high end retail and gift stores are who you should look at.


Amina:
Thanks so much for your time, Amsa.

Amsa:Its been a pleasure.

Just a bit more about Amsa …

Amsa made her wedding bouquet for her walk down the aisle in 2015

Amsa is a graduate of Mass Communications from the University of Maiduguri with a post Graduate Degree in broadcast Journalism from Fanshawe College in Canada, where she now lives, creates and sells her art mostly online. To order some of the amazing pieces featured on this blog and more , like her page Amsa Yaro Studio or order from her Facebook online store