By Caroline Uliwa -- Published in Sunday News 24th June 2012 - You might have heard him on retro radio show ‘Boogie’ that airs Sundays from 6pm on Times 100.5 FM; or seen him on the judge panel of popular television dance competition series Tikisa on ITV last year. Joett—a one-name recording artist, songwriter, choreographer and vocal coach is a native of Tanzania and Managing Director of his own company Joett Ltd. His debut single Afro Lover was released in the UK in 1996 to critical acclaim. His recent comeback single I Could Never Live (Without Your Love), inspired by a voice training exercise he’d created for his students, was released worldwide via Island Def Jam Digital Distribution on December 20th 2010 and on CD in Tanzania on Valentine’s Day 2011. A 70s disco remix of the single was later recorded and released on October 23rd 2011, on the launch of his very own radio show Boogie on Times 100.5 FM. Two follow-up releases from his back catalog hit the market on March 12th 2012 with a global re-release of Afro Lover and the official release of Heaven Said, the latter being a track that was recorded in London in 1995. I caught up with Joett for a chat on his radio show, and wanted to get to know more about his musical journey.
How did you come to music?
When I was 7 years old I remember saying ‘I am going to become a singer.’ I achieved my dreams, somewhat, and now I’m on my way to helping others achieve their singing dreams too. I like to call it “giving something back to the community”.
In 1996 your single ‘Afro Lover’, produced by multimillion selling record producer Tambi Fernando peaked at #6 in a UK dance chart and was in the top 10 in various other dance charts in the UK. How did you get there?
I was introduced to Tambi Fernando in London by a close friend, Deborah Cabral, in 1995. We immediately hit it off and before I knew it my first single Heaven Said was recorded. But it was the next recording—Afro Lover, that landed me a record deal with MusicBox International. The single was released in 1996.
Tell me more about your record deal?
I worked with Tambi at Dolphin Studios in London, and then later the studio was relocated to Dubai. Afro Lover was recorded in Dubai and the record label MusicBox International had its headquarters in Dubai and retail outlets around the world. Tambi was mixing my new track in the studio when a record executive – Fawaz Hallak from MusicBox, walked in. And he immediately said to Tambi, “I’ll sign this artist!”
Why did you leave the label and what did you do after?
Fawaz ultimately left the company. He was the only A&R (Artist and Repertoire) guy at MusicBox and so without him at the helm to support me I asked the record label’s management to release me from my contract. I went on to train as a vocalist with Sybil Esmore, a protégé of legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. I also attended the Music Industry Business Course on the River Thames in London, where I learned all the ins and outs of record label management and promotion…including discovering, managing and promoting new talent.
Did you know you’d be a vocal coach?
No, I had never intended to teach singing. This happened quite by accident, when my neighbor, who has a recording studio, asked me to train a couple of his acts. The next thing you know I’m advertising in the papers and the phone is ringing off the hook. And then I landed TV interviews with East Africa and Capital off the back of that. It caught me by surprise really. I had no idea there was a demand for this in Tanzania. It has since become a fulltime occupation for me.
What with hosting a Radio show and gigging on TV, teaching, producing and promoting new products, how do you balance it all?
I lead a regimented lifestyle, I always have. It helps to be organized. My work schedule is pretty tight but because I follow a well organized program, I manage. It’s about time management, I suppose.
In 2010 we saw the release of ‘I Could Never Live (Without Your Love)’, and now you’ve also released an old track ‘Heaven Said’, tell us a bit about the history there.
“I Could Never Live (Without Your Love)” began life as a training exercise I had created for my students. The song was only a few lines at the time to illustrate the application of certain elements of singing using the scales structure my students go through in voice training. One of my students encouraged me to finish off the lyrics and to record it as a song. And so I did. The CD single is available from A Novel Idea bookstores in Dar, Zanzibar and Arusha; and on MP3 download from all the major online stores like iTunes, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody and so forth. I then teamed up with former New York concert pianist Luiggi Tamburi (on piano) to record a voice training program around the song in 2010, which I now plan to release as a ‘Learn to Sing with Joett’ CD this year.
Any future plans for an album or concert…?
I did a jazz set for a while after the release of my comeback single. I have a follow-up single ‘Color Me Beautiful’ due for release in August, and a boyband I’m creating and training—also scheduled to debut around August. I had plans for an album entitled ‘Vintage In Color’, but not anymore. I’ve shelved that. The reason being it costs an absolute fortune to do as I only work with the best producers in the United Kingdom and they don’t come cheap. And in this business there are no guarantees you’ll get a return on your investment. However, as a member of the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), I’m well positioned to pitch my songs for licensing to record labels in the USA and Europe. Which, when done properly, can be quite lucrative. As far as that goes this’ll probably be my future career path. And as for giving concerts, most probably, yes. I love performing.
With your Boogie radio show, you obviously love disco music from the 70s and 80s. What’s so special about this genre for you, so much so that you’ve dedicated two hours to it?
Two hours isn’t enough. That’s the sort of feedback I’m getting from my listeners. 70s 80s disco is real music in my book. It has set the tone and trend for almost every genre you hear today. It calls for a celebration.
What is your utopia for the Music Industry in TZ from what you’re seeing?
Personal development through training in all areas of music would ensure that Tanzanians get to raise the bar in order to be on par with the Americans and the Europeans. A tall order, but it can be achieved with proper training. And that’s what I’m here for…to help Tanzanian artistes go to the next level.