Social media having the hold that it does means celebrity is a free-for-all these days. And as Africa’s internet population increases, and becomes ever more engaged with slowly but surely improving bandwidth and connection we’ll soon see more characters, savvy brand vendors, unintentional internet pin-ups and the likes clocking up hits at a Youtube channel near you. For better and for worse. Here are 7 viral phenomena you’ve more than likely come across in the last couple years.
When something goes truly viral it’s completely out of the originator’s control. Jim Chuchu, Dan, and Blinky Bill, together the geeky Afro-electro pop Kenyan band unassumingly called Just A Band, discovered this when in 2010 they resurrected a mythical icon from their childhood in their second promo video Ha-He – a fictitious character called Makmende, Kenya’s equivalent to the Chuck Norris craze from about 4 years before. ‘Makmende Amerudi’ (Makmende is back), announced the video’s cover graphic and a nation remembered. Up went the Facebook page and in came the Makmende-isms: “When Makmende enters a room he doesnt turn on the light he turns off the darkness,” or “Makmende is able to tweet 141 characters”… At last count there were were 78,671 fans still actively posting such. The widespread resonance crossed borders as word about Kenya’s first viral sensation took on a life of its own, larger than the song itself, threatening to overshadow the band itself, and even reaching the radars of Wall Street Journal,CNN and Huffington Post.
Don’t Touch Me On My Studio
In a country still struggling to fill the gaping holes left in its society’s fabric by the apartheid system, it’s useful to keep handy the willingness to laugh. One April morning last year, South African broadcaster ETV had as guests political analyst Lebohang Pheko and the right-wing party AWB’s secretary general Andrie Visagie. No amount of planning could have prepared the show’s producers, its viewers nor its impassioned participants for what followed when the discussion turned to the sensitive topic of abuse of farm workers in South Africa. It was a classic moment in live television forever immortalised by Youtube (50000 views in 24 hours). The phrase ‘Don’t touch me on my studio’ would remain at the centre of a joke the whole country shared for months to come. There is even a website with a collection of the various parodies of the incident that emerged soon after. (The action begins at 0:31)
Let Me Take U To Da Movies
Before Rebecca Black there was this chap. Bangs is a Sudanese immigrant in Australia, having moved there as a refugee from his country. Now we all know a Bangs – that young guy infatuated with rap, the style, the image, the simplistic beats that fancies himself as a bit of a rap star. The difference is Ajak Chol put it out there. His innocent proposition ‘Let Me Take U To Da Movies’ has fed the car-crash curiosity over 5 million viewers to date since it hit the internet in 09. I know too many rappers who won’t see these kind of numbers even if they rap for the rest of their lives. Even more surprising is that on the back of this viral he had people queuing around the block to catch a glimpse of the overnight celebrity at a gig he did in. There must not be a lot do in Melbourne…
Cute little Contina’s home is more than likely one of the millions of African households to whom Christian television network TBN broadcasts daily. In every one of those homes someone has a favourite pastor. My mother’s is Benny Hinn. She calls him her spiritual father. It’s safe to assume then that Pastor Chris Oyakhilome PhD, named in Forbes’ list of Nigeria’s 5 richest pastors, and who heads up a successful healing ministry not unlike Hinns’, is big at Contina’s house. In this video, she takes to the pulpit to do her Pastor Chris impression – preaching, barking commands of praise, speaking in tongues, slaying in the spirit and all sorts. It’s even more interesting when you scroll down the comments.
Although franchised all over the world, leading Peri-peri chicken brand Nando’s commercials are made in South Africa for local audiences, and use satire as their hallmark to genuine laugh out loud effect. Listed in Advertising Age’s top 30 marketing brands in 2010, the brand wins with every campaign, always a guaranteed talking point and anticipated as much as the product is. Here they take shots at local mobile phone service network Cell C. You really have to be there (South Africa) to get it. But there are others if you have a wander on google.
Don’t Jealous Me
I am most impressed at the way Tolu Ogunmefun aka T-Boy aka Don’t Jealous Me has seized the opportunity to leverage his own brand of very literal humour and just ran with it. In this interview with Factory 78 we find out his intentions to do the full 360 – rap, act, merchandise, whatever. The folks behind the new British online sitcom Meet the Adebanjo’s have done a smart thing and harnessed his endorsement. Consistently, almost fortnightly he’ll do a parody song, do a random youtube address to his subscribers, run skits. The Facebook Date is one of his popular virals to date.
You could say O’ and Teju Komolafe set it off for T-Boy. Based in the US, they were the first to blow up with an idea so simple it’s genius: The African version of anything in pop culture is going to be funny with a little bit of thought. They’ve been a little quiet compared to 2-3 years back when these twin stand up comedians first surfaced with their take on tunes like Lollipop, Crank Dat Soulja Boy. So their latest, The Black and Yellow remix is something of a comeback, way past the 2 milli mark and seen even in the last issue of Vibe Magazine.
I’m sure there are more though. Who are the Youtube celebrities of African descent that you’ve laughed, marveled or even been disgusted at in recent times?