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British trio win Nobel Physics Prize for exotic matter research

Posted AFP

on  Tuesday, October 4  2016 at  14:19

British scientists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz won the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday for revealing the secrets of exotic matter, the Nobel jury said.

"This year's laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter," it said.

The laureates will share around $931,000 prize sum. Thouless won one-half of the prize, while Haldane and Hosterlitz share the other half.

The jury said their pioneering work "has boosted frontline research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers."

Topology, in which the three laureates specialise, is a branch of mathematics that investigates physical properties of matter and space that remain unchanged under deforming forces, including stretching.

It holds exceptional promise for quantum computing and tiny quantum devices as topological states can transport energy and information without overheating, unlike traditional quantum mechanics.

"They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures," the jury noted.

In the 1980s, Thouless was able to explain a previous experiment with very thin electrically conducting layers in which conductance was precisely measured as integer steps.

"He showed that these integers were topological in their nature. At around the same time, Duncan Haldane discovered how topological concepts can be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials."

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Hugh Masekela arrives ready to jazz up Kenya

Posted BRIAN MOSETI in Nairobi

on  Friday, August 12  2016 at  11:22

How does one write about a man whose musical career spans nearly three quarters of a century? One whose musical career has produced jazz hits such as Stimela, Coal Train, Grazin’ in the Grass, Bring Back Nelson Mandela and more than 30 albums and a Grammy Award to boot?

How does one write about 77-year-old Hugh Ramopolo Masekela?

His presence is not just felt on stage—when he closes his eyes, cradles the trumpet and blows out rhythms that have mellowed kings and queens. His presence is also felt offstage as he struts into Michael Joseph Safaricom Centre, Nairobi, clad in a brown half-coat, orange African print shirt, brown trousers and shiny black shoes.

Reporters and cameramen swarm around the South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer to get a shot. He breaks into a playful jig.

More affectionate

Hugh Masekela then walks around the captains of industry, journalists, bloggers and jazz enthusiasts invited to meet him before his performance and hugs almost everyone.

As a rule, he does not greet people by hand, saying hugging is much more affectionate (in any case, he does not know where the hand of the next guy has been!)

The jazz maestro is in Kenya for the Safaricom Jazz Lounge, due Friday at Uhuru Gardens. Gates open at 6pm (+3GMT).

Asked what Kenyans should expect from his show, he had this to say: “Get your dancing shoes on, because our band makes people dance. I’ve been to Kenya five or six times and every time the audience has entertained us even more than we have entertained them. The love for music here is so great I’m thinking of defecting.

“Also, we are musicians; we can’t dictate what we play, the audience chooses. You just play a song and the crowd goes with it.”

He, however, lamented that Africans have become too Westernised, at the expense of their culture and heritage.

“We are not visible because we don’t have a strong heritage. Only the African landscape like Serengeti or the Maasai Mara are visible, and this is because we are not recognised through our music, cultures, dressing and such, because we copy too much from the West,” he said.

Masekela belongs to the same league as African musicians of international repute such as Miriam Makeba, Zimbabwe’s Dorothy Masuka, Fela Anikulapo Kuti of Nigeria, Hedzoleh Soundz, Francis Fuster and Dudu Pukwana. Yet this has not dampened his resolve or desire to see more beautiful music come out of Africa.

“All the greats to have come from Africa,” he said.

Heritage music

“Those who have stayed in the scene for long, like myself or Makeba, sing heritage songs. Yet those are not the songs young people are doing; they want to do fashionable music.

Saying that across Africa the jazz scene is picking up, he added: “There is an upsurge of people who want to learn heritage music lately, and I have seen very good jazz come out of Nairobi from people like Eric Wainaina.”

To keep himself strong, Masekela does tai chi and yoga, swims and is a swimming pool lifeguard.

The proceeds from the concert, will be spent on children from slum areas and those interested in music but cannot access training or resources.

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Mamman Sani's electric sound finally travels beyond Niger


on  Wednesday, July 27  2016 at  13:32

Now in his 60s with a greying goatee, electric organ maestro Mamman Sani long ago turned local legend, but it took decades for his dreamy hypnotic sounds to travel beyond dusty Niger.

Until very recently the self-taught musician's only commercial recording was a cassette tape dating back to 1981.

But nowadays he spends his time between his house in Niamey and a recording studio in Ghana, where he aims to produce dozens of albums.

At home, where he made a living as a teacher then worked for the UN's cultural agency Unesco, Sani's music has long featured on national radio and television, most often as interlude music between programmes.

In a quirk of fate, however, it was the original decades-old cassette that brought international renown, when in 2013 young US musician-cum-ethnomusicologist Christopher Kirkley stumbled on it in Niger's national museum while exploring West African sounds.

"The space was overflowing with dusty CDs, cassettes, and reels, and hunkering down from the insufferable heat outside, I prepared to spend a long week in research," he said.

"Mamman's cassette was the first I pulled from the shelf, and I almost passed over it. But I was captured by the photograph — a black and white picture of a young man with a goatee and a knit cap, hands on what appeared to be an organ."

Pixelized sand

"The music proved equally intriguing. The instrumental compositions were simple but dreamy, repetitive but hypnotic. It was esoteric and bizarre, unlike anything I had ever heard — the imaginary audio track to an arcade game of desert caravans trekking through a pastoral landscape of pixelized sand."

In the same way that Ry Cooder propelled Mali's Ali Farka Toure to world fame, along with the musicians of Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, Kirkley set out to launch Sani in France and Europe with three  vinyls, including "Taarit", and a 2013-2015 tour.

"Mamman is one of the first people to create this hybridization of folk music with modern synth," Kirkley said.

"I think that Mamman's music would have been very interesting to a lot of electronic musicians at the time he was recording, but the barriers of connectivity kept Niger rather isolated."

"Either way, Mamman's music remains avant-garde and very personal, uncompromising even," Kirkley added. "I'm just happy that we've had a chance for his music to finally be heard."

Love at first sight

Born in 1952 in Ghana's capital Accra to a Nigerien father and Ghanaian mother, Sani moved to Niger in the late 1950s but began playing music only in his late teens while studying to be a teacher.

"A builder used to lend me his harmonica at weekends and I'd play French hit tunes on Saturday nights," he said.

He refused to study biology, taking English instead because he was afraid of algorithms "though musical improvisation often is algorithms!" he joked.

After the harmonica he learnt to play guitar, using bicycle brake cables for some of the strings.

He listened to black American stars Otis Redding, James Brown and Percy Sledge, composing his first tunes and playing at night in public.

It was only in the 1970s that he came upon his first organ thanks to a musician from Burundi who was then on tour. "It was love at first sight," he says.

In 1979 he saw an ad for a second-hand Orla electric organ going for 400 euros. Strapped for cash, he sold his motorbike to buy it.

After teaching himself the keyboard he quickly became prolific and was soon to start composing theme music and interludes for national television while working for Unesco.

But three decades later, despite becoming a houehold name he still finds it hard to make ends meet and this year had to sell one of his two prized organs.


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Video shows musician Olomide assaulting woman

Posted NYAMBEGA GISESA in Nairobi

on  Friday, July 22  2016 at  16:44

A video showing Koffi Olomide, one of Africa’s most popular musicians, physically assaulting a woman at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi has gone viral.

The Congolese musician is seen kicking the woman, said to be a performer with his Quartier Latin band, in the presence of other passengers and the police after arriving at the airport.

Olomide is in Kenya for a performance this weekend.

Act of violence

Despite the act of violence, the police did not arrest the musician, popularly known as Grand Mopao or Mopao Mokonzi, and so far have not issued any statement.

According to the band members, Olomide overreacted after he was informed that the unidentified dancer had slapped his wife, Cindy, after a disagreement. Cindy is the CEO of the band.

The musician has a history of being involved in scuffles, especially with women. He was almost jailed in Zimbabwe for beating a fan.

In 2013, the Congolese rhumba star assaulted a freelance journalist at the upmarket Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Zambia during one of his shows.

Police dragnet

Two years earlier, he eluded a Zambian police dragnet and exited the southern African nation on a motorbike following differences with his promoters at the time.

In 2012, Olomide was given a three-month suspended prison sentence for assaulting his producer, Diego Lubaki, over a debt.

Olomide plays a kind of music known as soukous, in which dancers show aggressive erotic moves, and his music has been banned in some countries because of the raunchy performances.

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Nigerian journalist wins BBC World News Komla Dumor award

Posted BBC

on  Tuesday, July 19  2016 at  14:40

A Nigerian journalist has won the second BBC World News Komla Dumor Award.

Didi Akinyelure is a prime-time news anchor in Nigeria and presents business news for CNBC, which broadcasts across the continent.

She will start a three-month placement at the BBC in London in September.

The award was established to honour Komla Dumor, a presenter for BBC World News, who died suddenly aged 41 in 2014.

Ms Akinyelure said Mr Dumor was someone she admired.

"He told the African story with so much passion for the continent, giving a balanced view and inspiring so many."

One of the judges who selected Ms Akinyelure, BBC Africa's Josephine Hazeley, said Ms Akinyelure particularly excelled in telling business stories, "which was an area Komla was also passionate about".

The first Komla Dumor Award was won by Ugandan news anchor Nancy Kacungira.

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Nigerian literary icon Elechi Amadi dies


on  Thursday, June 30  2016 at  13:52

Popular Nigerian author Elechi Amadi is dead.

Amadi died at the age of 82 after a short illness.

He is best known for his famous book The Concubine.

Forbidden traditions

The Concubine pictured the culture of marriage and forbidden traditions and was originally published in 1966.

It has remained a recommended text, which is widely read in schools across Africa.

Amadi's other books include Sunset in Biafra, Peppersoup, The Slave and The Road to Ibadan.

Political appointments

A physics and mathematics graduate of the University of Ibadan, Amadi joined the Nigerian army and continued serving in it during the civil war, despite coming from the Niger Delta, which was part of the breakaway state of Biafra.

When retired as a captain, he also worked as a teacher and held several political appointments in his native Rivers State.

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Cameroonian singer Anne Marie Nzie dies at 84


on  Wednesday, May 25  2016 at  09:56

Legendary Cameroonian singer Anne Marie Nzie has died at the age of 84.

The veteran musician nicknamed "Queen of Cameroonian Music", "Queen Mother of Cameroonian Music", and "Queen Mother of Bikutsi" was an ardent supporter of Cameroon’s long-serving president and her age mate, Paul Biya.

She dedicated the song Liberté to President Paul Biya and his Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) political party.

Opposition party

Ms Nzie openly protested after the leading opposition party in the country, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), used the song during Mr John Fru Ndi's presidential campaign in 1992.

The singer was confirmed dead Tuesday after remaining in a critical state at the intensive care unit of the Yaoundé Central Hospital since May 9.

She was one of two oldest Cameroonian musicians still active.

Born in Lolodorf in the South Region of Cameroon, Ms Nzie began performing Bikutsi, the music native to her home in central Cameroon, in the 1940s.

Rich repertoire

The Cameroonian minister of Arts and Culture, Prof Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, has described the musician’s demise as a “great loss to the country”.

The minister had earlier visited the artiste at the Yaoundé Central hospital.

Anne Marie Nzie leaves behind a rich repertoire of music.

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History and horror of Rwandan genocide


on  Sunday, May 22  2016 at  14:22

Give a dog a bad name and hang it does not rank high up with the best first lines of a book review, just as the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi does not make for comfortable chitchat.

However, Oduor Jagero fuses the two concepts in his book, The Ghosts of 1894, and succeeds in telling the story of the Rwandan genocide in an absorbing albeit unsettling way.

The Ghosts of 1894 is as much a history of Rwanda as it is the story of Habineza, a Tutsi of means, who has never known stability and peace, his father having had to run away, first from Rwanda to Uganda during the Hutu revolution; and later from Uganda back to Rwanda at the height of Idi Amin’s madness.

Shot down

Habineza, like his father did, has to run away from Rwanda when President Juvenal Habyarimana dies after his plane is shot down. He runs to the Goma refugee camp in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and from there to Kenya. But the infamous 2007/2008 post-election violence pushes him from Eldoret back to Rwanda.

Though the book starts in 1894 (a few years after the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 — the Scramble for Africa), it is focused on Habineza’s flight from Kigali to Goma. The author, in a chilling yet meticulous manner, paints the life of Habineza with broad strokes of hate, love, despair, hope and resilience, on the canvas that is his Tutsi heritage in an environment dominated by the Hutu.

Throw up

For example, like the character in James Clavell’s King Rat, Kabasoga — a Hutu who works on Habineza’s property for a living — deserts Habineza at the latter’s most vulnerable, denouncing him: “The sight of you and your fellow Inyenzis ... makes me so sick I want to throw up.”

Inyenzi is Kinyarwanda for cockroaches, and was the Hutu’s derogatory term for the Tutsi. Roaches were meant to be crushed; as the proverb goes, “When a hyena wants to eat its children, it first accuses them of smelling like goats.”

Habineza loses his wife, Rosy, to the Interahamwe, who rape then kill her, right in front of the children, Akamanzi and Nshuti. This is one of the many chilling episodes in the book. After his wife is killed, Habineza teams up with Vestine — a Tutsi woman previously married to a Hutu. Vestine has a daughter, Juliet.

Displaced persons

Together, the two adults and their three children walk, run, and hide in the bush in their bid to reach Amahoro Stadium, an improvised internally displaced persons camp guarded by UN forces.

They are joined by Sandra Moore, a correspondent with the New York Times, who, while running away from the Interhahamwe, hid in Habineza’s house. Yes, during the genocide not even journalists were spared.

So begins a journey that will see them run from the army, get shot at (Nshuti dies from a bullet wound), live in the forest and, just before they are separated, be lured into an Interahamwe camp where both Sandra and Vestine are raped.

The three adults, after searching among the dead and not finding the children, assume they are dead. On their part, the children escape from the mayhem in the camp and assume their parents, too, are dead. The forests will be their homes, wild fruits their food, and death their constant shadow. It is their will to live that keeps them going until they meet again in Goma.

A rogue media

Throughout the book, we are reminded of the destructive power of a rogue media, unfettered state-sanctioned propaganda, and the transient nature of the politics of exclusion. Those in power today, we are shown, could be out tomorrow, their military might notwithstanding.

At the height of the massacre, Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines, for example, when not playing the hate-filled songs of Simon Bikindi or setting Hutus against Tutsis, is alerting the marauding Interahamwe of the locations of the Tutsi.

As with testimonies from survivors of the genocide — or books and movies on the same, we are left asking: What happened in Rwanda? Is it the curse of ethnicity? Is it poverty? The colonialists?

Weary wisdom

The Ghosts of 1894 offers opportunities for candid self-examination. It is not just about Hutus versus Tutsis, but us versus them. For example, a French soldier is offended when he is called Frenchie in response to his comment, “Think of them [Africans] as flies. Who cares if one fly dies? Life goes on.”

“Where did you study journalism?” he asks Sandra.

“Columbia University. Where did you study racism?” she retorted.

How do we prevent future genocides? Do we resign ourselves to the weary wisdom of Habineza that, “The future is a terrible place to talk about… that listens to what you have to say about it only to prove you wrong?”

A must read

Or do we heed Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame: “It’s about doing the right thing and making sure that things like hate speech and other dangerous divisions in society are prevented.”

Jagero’s book, despite numerous lapses in editing, is a commendable effort at retelling the story of the genocide against the Tutsi for posterity.

His choice of title and the cover design are a refreshing break from the available local books. It’s a must read.

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Cote d'Ivoire song defies al-Qaeda after Grand Bassam attack

Posted BBC

on  Friday, March 25  2016 at  11:20

Ivorian musicians have collaborated to release a song saying they are "not afraid" after Islamist militants killed 19 people on a beach.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said it was behind the attack earlier this month.

The song "Meme Pas Peur", meaning not a bit afraid, was filmed on Grand Bassam beach, where the gunmen opened fire.

The lyrics, sung in French, include the lines "you kill innocents for lost causes" and "you won't go to paradise".

The defiant lyrics insist "in Ivory Coast, we're on our feet".

Some lyrics are directed at the militants including: "What are you doing on the beaches? Because of 70 virgins, you kill innocent people.

"In the name of God, you there, you won't go to paradise".

And some are critical of the AQIM's interpretation of Islam, arguing "Islam is a religion that promotes love, you kill innocents for lost causes".

The song's producer Chico Lacoste said that he decided to make a song to "tell the whole world that: 'Yes it's true that Cote d'Ivoire has been hit but we have not fallen down'".

The BBC's Tamasin Ford in Abidjan says music is a typical reaction to a crisis in Cote d'Ivoire and was used to ask for their war to stop and push for reconciliation.

A song has even been released in reaction to the bird flu epidemic, our correspondent adds.

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Trevor Noah pens book on apartheid childhood

Posted AFP

on  Wednesday, January 27  2016 at  15:31

South African comedian Trevor Noah, the host of America's The Daily Show, will release a book about being the child of an illegal mixed-race relationship under apartheid, his publishers said Wednesday.

Noah, who grew up in the township of Soweto, shot to fame last year as the surprise choice to host the nightly satire show, taking over after Jon Stewart's celebrated 16-year stint.

A child of a then prohibited relationship between a black woman and a white Swiss father, Noah has often joked about his upbringing as a mixed-race boy among black children in Soweto where both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived.

The book details "growing up in South Africa during the last gasps of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that came with its demise," said Pan Macmillan South Africa in a statement.

"I couldn't find a good book about myself so I decided to write one," added the 31-year-old comedian.

"And just like me this book doesn't have an appendix."

The book is due out in November.