Saturday, 4 February 2017


I first met Joseph Otieno Adamson when he was managing a music studio in Hackney, East London, 1999.  I was then hosting a World Music Nights at two venues in the city. Some of the artists had been recorded and produced or were known to Joseph since the days he was a popular musician in Nairobi in the 1980s.

A few years later, JJ   launched Africans in London TV (AILTV). In an interview with David Gancio of TV Bay, a specialist broadcast magazine in 2009 noted:
“The design, approach and general vibe of AILTV are a happy, interesting one and I found myself enjoying the broadcast...and thinking this is Real TV...”
Why do they call you JJ?
I am called Joseph, so was my came from our fans, when I was with Earthquake band in Kenya in 1982.  I was always jovial...
And you were one of the co- founders of Earthquake.
Yes. It was a very international band.    We were the first group to use a drum machine and synthesizers ...I composed, Kutangatanga,   a hit on radios in Swahili and Lunyoro. My mother is from West Uganda where Nyoro is spoken.  But, despite having that huge hit and counter freight copies sold as far as in Zimbabwe... we did not receive any money. This is one of the problems facing Africa. 
Flanked with Triple Earth Record Label director, Ian Scott at the one day World Music conference, JJ Adamson initiated with Global Fusion Music and Arts at Charlton House, Greenwich,  in 2014. Pic by F Macha
How long did you last?
By 1984, we were very successful; then we split up.  Wherever you went and said you had played with Earthquake, doors would open.  One of our guys, Kenyan music producer Bruce Odhiambo, is nowadays an active politician.
Then what happened?
 I moved to Mombasa. I had a very good manager, an Australian, the late Osie Walker.  I built a reputation and travelled a lot.
And then?
In 1989, Mr Walker made contact with a rock band in Swansea (Wales) which had come to Africa wanting to play with local musicians. I stayed with them for nine months.  I was also writing my own music and freelancing like doing a soundtrack for– Cheetah- American adventure film set in Kenya in 1989. I had sessions with several UK based African musicians too, like Taxi Pata-Pata. I realised that no African musician owned a recording studio.
Why was owning a recording studio so significant to you?
I was shocked that my fellow African musicians were being paid well, but not investing. I began buying a few equipment and from 1994 operated a bedroom studio that expanded to a proper studio until 2000. I recorded and produced over ten albums of original African music.  I was one of the first to insist on quality sound and proper mastering. I set up standards, which I still believe in.
What happened next?
Prompted by my wife, from 2001 until 2005, I joined the University of West London,Thames Valley and graduated with Bachelors of Arts in Audio Technology.

How did AILTV start?
Most of the things I have done are usually set off by mixture of creative need and frustration. Since coming here, I had noticed no good, mature programs about Africans in media and TV.  I began with the idea of having a postcard from London to East Africa, and asking how we can run a TV station. I was also thinking on ways to integrate the web.
And how was the process?
I was aware that there were a few Africans running television programs but were religious or for regional communities. I freelanced as sound engineer, presenter and a cameraman. This gave me an insight into the mechanics of running such things and what was missing in terms of the African experience.
Ever innovative, JJ talks at the Charlton House during a one day World Music Conference he co initiated with Global Fusion Music and Arts in 2014. Pic by F Macha 

Was it easy?
We live in a country (UK) that has freedom and professionalism. Over the years, there has been a lot of civil achievement, which we as a people do not capitalise on. Most of us are just busy doing jobs and sending money home. I am not saying that is not important but we are too relaxed.
Constantly tying. Efforts to launch African music nights in Tottenham in 2016...

What exactly is wrong?
We Africans and blacks in general are not very fond of critical thinking.  As individuals, we may put on videos online but we need to work as one voice.  The whites have debating groups in all universities. That is to stimulate critical thinking. As immigrants, we always talk of us blacks and Asians being pushed backwards. But our Asian counterparts have moved on. They work together and have become a strong economic force.
Is that the spirit of AILTV?
AILTV should bring us together. Is progress having gadgets like phones and cars? They are important; but what have we created?
How can this be achieved logistically, technically...
AILTV needs writers and personnel to run and produce programs 24/ 7. To function well we need at least 10 people. They must be the right people and be paid.  If we look at the way established television stations operate you will note these guys have support teams. With us Africans once, someone knows or runs something significant they want to be king.
JJ with popular Tanzanian bloggers, Jestina George (left) and the most known Swahili Blogger on earth, Michuzi. Pic by F Macha, London, March 2010.

To elaborate JJ puts on a recent interview he did with a UKIP (United Kingdom Independent Party) candidate who is black. The footage is on the big TV screen, smaller screen, laptop and mobile phone.
If you look at the image, you notice the quality (“pixels”) is the same in all screens regardless of size. ... When we started in 2007 and I told people AILTV was online media broadcast there was mistrust as if that was planet science. These days it is quite normal. Can the images be seen in a similar quality like I just demonstrated?  Since You Tube was launched ten years ago, is there any African who was signed as a result? Most of us are uploading stuff so we can show our friends. But what does that help in the long term?

In other words, AILTV is a forum for every African...
 Whoever is interested in AILTV is the right person. ...lately there has been a surge of interest from across the world watching AILTV from Brazil, USA, Tanzania etc. I have the stats here.
Your mindset is very pro Pan African
The other day I went to cover a forum addressed by Kwame Nkrumah’s daughter, Samia.
JJ puts on a clip of politician Samia Nkrumah in London. In 2008 the Huffing Post coined the phrase “The New Mandela is a Woman” to describe her.
Contact AILTV at
Tel 07541 252 009/0208 350 6466

First Published in  Informer East Africa  2015

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