An Inside Peak at a Rising Global Star known to fans as simply JO-1 JO-1 can you please introduce yourself to the world. Please tell us more about yourself? Hello world! I am an upcoming artist. My voice is versatile ranging from R&B, Dancehall to Neo-Soul music. I am a singer and songwriter. I am also a dancer. My favorite genres of dance are afro-fusion, hip-hop, dancehall and jazz. In the field of writing I’ve published two successful children’s books entitled, “The Lizard and the Rock” and “The Priceless Hogg Penny.” The first title has a soundtrack CD attached to it where the songs range from a Disney-like feel to pop and calypso. The themes of the song correspond to the themes in the book. I wrote most of the songs including the awarded theme track, “Free to be Me.” What´s the story behind your stage name? I wanted to keep my real name as my stage name. The producers of Grandpa Records thought that the spelling of my name was too simple. So they changed the spelling to look fresher and with an urban flair. In Kenya people pronounce my name as Jo-Un so the spelling of Jo-1 doesn’t change the pronunciation of my name. What are your music influences? My music influences are Rhiana, John Legend, R Kelly and Idan Raichel . Do you consider yourself a 360 artist? Afterall you SING, WRITE, DANCE, ACT AND ARE AN AUTHOR OF Children’s books. Break all of that down for us briefly. Such as the names of the books, songs written, dances, shows, awards etc. I consider myself to be a Renaissance woman and yes, 360 Artist. I mentioned the names of my books already. The first title, “The Lizard and the Rock” is a best-seller and was congratulated by the Premier of Bermuda in the House of Assembly for contributing inspirational, local literature to the children of Bermuda. I also write poetry, articles and short fiction. Several of which have been published in various online and print magazines. My dancing is my life. When I dance or sing I feel free. I want to express that freedom to the world through my craft. Because of dancing I accepted the post of dance judge on Kenya’s number one watched television show, Sakata. I’ve been with the show for two seasons. During Season 3 when I joined Sakata the ratings soared in Kenya and across East Africa. On the show I’m known as ‘Judge Joanne’. This was due mostly to my frank and host remarks. They call me the ‘female Simon’ here. Can you talk to us more about your hit track Chiziqa .What inspired the lyrics and the video? What was it like working with a celebrity rapper Fishahman. How did this union come about and how is the song being received in Kenya and other places. Chiziqa is a fusion of all of my talents- singing, dance and songwriting. The lyrics were inspired by a few girlfriends and I. We were out listening to jazz one night and talking about our lives and the things we were going through. We began making jokes and laughing at our situations saying that when life gets stressful, just wind from your waist. So in the midst of a fun girl night out I promised to write a song called, “Wind from your waist”. In the studio at Grandpa Records I had the lyrics that I had written down. When I sang the chorus the producer would say, “Chiziqa” in between the lines of the song. He said, “This song can only be described as Chiziqa. In Kiswahili ‘chiziqa’ literally means, “go crazy” or “madness”. Fishaman is an artist from Mombasa. Refigah, the owner of the Grandpa Records label suggested that he do the collaboration with me. At the time I had a couple other artists in mind for the colabo however once Fisha arrived at the studio I understood why Refigah had suggested him to be on the track. Fishaman was so relaxed and easy to work with. The studio time was like magic as we completed the song. He was always gracious and fun to work with the whole time. Several months later when we performed in Mombasa I got to go to Fisha’s house to meet his family. In Kenya Chiziqa is being received well. At first the public were shocked because they didn’t know that I could sing. Now that the shock factor has worn off Chiziqa is gaining traction on local television and radio stations across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. One challenge for me is that although Kenyans are avid consumers of American pop music, the rules change for people living in Kenya. People want musicians living here to sing in Swahili. My song is a mix of Swahili and English. So how was the recording and writing process behind this album? When my creativity flows songwriting flows easily. That’s how it was writing Chiziqa. I’m used to writing songs with deep, wordy lyrics like the soundtrack for “The Lizard and the Rock”. Chiziqa was a new type of ‘pop music’ songwriting for me which I enjoyed. The recording process was equally enjoyable where everyone in the studio were dancing to the track even though it was still in the process of being completed. We knew that this song would cause everyone to ‘wind from their waist.’ What´s the concept behind your choice of producers and who do you work with? The concept behind my choice of producers is being able to connect to the average, Kenyan listener. Grandpa Records makes music for all of Kenya, East Africa and is now promoting their music in West Africa. Some artists only focus on the urban, Nairobi population when producing music in Kenya. I wanted a sound that everyone could relate to. This is why you hear the dancehall beats coupled with the afro-coast sound. We heard you have lived in some exciting places. Name some of the countries you are receiving love from and have worked in. Give us brief stories from each place you’ve resided in. I was born and raised in Bermuda. My father is Bermudian and my mother is Canadian. I’ve lived in the United States, Israel and I am now living in Kenya. I also spent 3 months in China teaching English. In the United States I completed my college education and was trained in modern and afro-fusion dance styles. It was my first time living outside of my tiny island Bermuda. Many things were a cultural shock for me including the in-your-face racism, large shopping malls and restaurants everywhere. It was while living in the U.S. where I developed a passion to visit and live in other countries. After living in the U.S. my husband and I moved to Jerusalem in Israel. I had never been much of a language person however in college I caught onto speaking and writing Hebrew. I wanted to continue learning Hebrew so this was the initial reason for moving there. While there I also picked up some Arabic. My two sons were born there. About two weeks after my second son was born I got the opportunity to sing with Israeli pop star, Lee Fishman. There is a track on YouTube called, “Chelsea” where you can hear my soprano voice in the background doing the adlibs. We moved back to Bermuda for 4 years and then wanted to branch out again. We found ourselves living in Nairobi, Kenya and we are still here. I am happy at the way my career has taken off here in Nairobi. Here is where I have found my wings. How did you get into acting? Was Sakata your first television show and how is that explain? Sakata is an aired dance competition. I am the female judge on the show. The job of the judges is to observe the performances, give comments on the performance and provide a score based on our rubrics of dancing. Although there is some drama that goes on, we are not scripted. Everything that happens during the show is our own reaction to what is happening in front of us. We saw you in a few commercials for Kenyan Dance TV Show Sakata; however how was the one filmed off set on the beach? How long did that take and did it remind you of your birth country Bermuda? During Season 4, Citizen Television, the owners of Sakata decided to do regional auditions. Previously auditions were only held in Nairobi. One of the locations for the auditions was in Mombasa. I love Mombasa and yes, it does remind me of Bermuda. During the week of production I swam in the ocean before and after every filming. It was suggested that we do the audition commercial for Nairobi on the beach. It was fun. I was barefoot in the sand while doing takes for the commercial. There was a camel in the distance on the beach and families were swimming in the ocean. The beach commercial became the most popular commercial for Sakata and the Nairobi audition turnout proved it so. Who are some of the celebrities you’ve met along this journey? Along my journey to Kenyan stardom I’ve met many celebrities along the way. Some have been wonderful and others have behaved like divas. Some of the celebrities whom I’ve met are Wyre, DNG, DNA, Kenrazy, Lenny, Amelina, Amani, Size 8, DJ Cream, Lam (South Sudan), Lee Fishman (Israel) . What's happening next in Jo-1s world? I will begin touring across Kenya and East Africa soon. My dancers and I are looking forward to it. I am presently in the studio recording another track with Grandpa Records. I plan to release another single and then work towards an album I’m currently working on through the agency Hismultimedia Intl Inc. In the writing world of Jo-1 “The Lizard and the Rock” e book was recently launched this year as well as a memoir that I have written that is a part of the Bermuda Anthology. I continue to write articles and blogposts in the meantime. Later this year Sakata will commence Season 5. I’m feeling more confident in my own skin these days and am looking forward to a successful year.
Q: What's it like growing up in Mpls? Does the city have interesting stories about Prince? A: I only lived in Minneapolis until I was three, but I have fond memories of it. Even now that I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, I still feel like I'm a part of Minneapolis. I think a lot of Minnesotans have "Minneapolis Pride", even if they don't live in Minneapolis. Minneapolis has so many fun things to see and do, and the arts are very important here, with so many theaters and live shows. Prince put us on the map for music. I hear Prince stories everywhere I go in Minnesota. I've met so many people who were associated with Prince, including one of his dancers, and even a former Paisley Park employee working as a cashier at the local grocery store, so I've heard many Prince stories. I wish I could've been a Chanhassen resident when Prince was still alive, because I know that many Chanhassen residents saw him casually riding his bike around