Updated: Oct 29, 2022
"Every year I develop my art skills which bring us to my recent years when I started to work with other artists and musicians to create records." - Wad Haj Yousif
Stage Name: Wad Haj Yousif
Hometown: Khartoum, Sudan is home town, but I am South Sudan
Profession: Producer/ Artist / Photographer/ Videographer/ Director/ Editor
Enterprise: SZ-Equatoria Group
CEO & FOUNDER
Today's feature covers an exclusive interview focusing on East African music's next most prominent force. It is only a matter of time before East African sounds are captive in the world music industry. We are privileged to have the chance in interviewing one of the man behind that vision. He is non-other than the boss himself, Mr. WAD HAJ YOUSIF as, the engine processor of the South Sudan music industry.
Mr. Stephen Kujjo better known as Wad Haj Yousif is the CEO & Founder of SZ-Equatoria Group which focuses on producing South Sudanese-based artists' visuals and promotional content. Their services include videography, photography, and content creation. Wad Haj Yousif is also an artist, Director, and Editor. Wad Haj Yousif's art is beyond just singing.
The African music scene ought to be world-renowned, featuring an impressive array of diverse skills. When you hear of African music, often the focus is on Southern and Western African Afrobeats. In the recent year, we saw a shift in forward-facing of music in East African acts coming from Tanzanian, Kenya, Ugandan, and South Sudan.
We are honored to have Mr. Wad Haj Yousif give us the insightful scope of East African music on the NEECEE LEXY blog. Plus, he will be sharing with us his big vision for contributing to the growth of the East African music industry scene. Moreover, how he turned his curiosity about photography into a house whole entertainment brand among the east African communities both in USA and Africa.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” ― Plato.
Tell us about yourself.
So a little about me, my name is Stephen Kujjo from South Sudan. I grew up in Sudan ( North East Africa). I spend my childhood in the city of Khartoum in a famous section area called Haj Yousif. Growing up as a kid in Khartoum we have to live with people from different parts of Sudan. The city was so diverse. We celebrated so many holidays, religious and non-religious.
What is the inspiration behind your latest single FUROON ft Yaba Angelosi ? and where do we buy it?
If you’re a Sudanese, you know around Christmas time, people are busy preparing for the holiday, from rearranging the house to baking Goods. And for us to bake goods, we have to go to these bakeries around the neighborhood—the time of year when everybody is at the Bakery.
Furoon is an Arabic word Sudanese use to call bakery, which leads us to the inspiration behind the song with Yaba Angelosi. I knew I wanted to do a song about that time of year when it’s so busy in the bakery so I contacted my good friend Yaba Angelosi. He is a famous South Sudanese artist and producer—one of the top mega superstars in the music industry. Yaba and I worked on many projects before; one of them is his song I can’t Imagine. He and I directed and photographed back in 2016.
I knew Yaba would be the perfect person for this track, so I explained to him the concept for the song and he was like I see your vision, but what would make this a hit if we made the track more dramatic.
A few days later, we got beat produced for us by this talented Nigerian Producer named Pr3sto Music (pronounced Presto Music).
The song is currently on Soundcloud under the title “Furoon” Yaba Angelosi featuring Wad Haj Yousif. But soon, it will be available on all media streaming sites when I release my album
You are a multi-talented gentleman working as a videographer/photographer, Editor/director, and artist/Executive Producer. Those are an incredible combo of art skills set you got there, sir. How did that all start?
Thank you, It’s funny because I never saw myself as any of those. I spent my life trying to be a professional soccer player. So I moved to the United States about 11 years ago. My goal was to find a college here and be part of their team and eventually play in the Pro team. However, when I came here, it was hard to just go out and play with any team or find soccer clubs. Soccer is not a major sport in America.
So I ended up filling my free time with other activities like taking pictures, watching MTV, Youtube, and other boring activities. Fortunately, one day my friend asked me if I could shoot their music video with my camera. At the time, my family just bought a Nikon camera. I didn’t know it could take videos because I always used it for photos. Anyway, we ended up shooting the video. And he was like can you edit it? I was like, what? But the next day, I went and watched Youtube videos on how to edit, and that’s how I learned to edit using Adobe Premiere. The video came out fine, and I was like, I think I can do this. From that day, I started learning more about the art of Photography and cinematography. I went to the University of Kentucky and took a course in Photography to build my art foundation.
Every year I develop my art skills which brings us to my recent years when I started to work with other artists and musicians to create records. The first record I helped organized was never released but I didn’t give up. My official first released record was Give Me Your Heart By my good friend Nketia featuring Sarah Musayimuto a Ugandan artist based in Denmark. After that song I had confidence in myself to be an executive producer.
Wow, a classic illustration of finding your passion for art. Speaking of video director and producing. You have recently just directed/ edited a new music video with Yaba Angelosi featuring yourself as an artist for the song called “Furoon,” extended by deep Jungle. Tell us about the concept behind it.
Yes, Yaba and I directed that video. Since it was our song, we made sure we put the vision we had for this song in visual. We wanted the video to be as crazy and creative as possible. We had written down the storyboard for the video and everything. We planned for it, but we had so much difficulty achieving those plans. We have to re-write and change the story or readjust the content. We shot the video in a total of 4 days shoot in two separate weekends. We were glad that all the actors and actresses were so patient with us. I will take this opportunity to give a shout-out to every single one of them. And shout out to the Camera crew and behind-the-scenes crew. Special Shout out to director Born Ready and Director Ore Aweda.
Teamwork makes dream work! The visuals for the music were terrific. It got our attention. Not only that, but your name is my childhood city name. What is the meaning behind your artist's name Wad Haj Yousif?
Once it came to the stage name, I wasn’t so creative with it. The word Haj is usually used before a person's name to signify respect if the person is elderly. In this case, the city I grew up in was named after an elderly whose named Yousif(Joseph). “Wad” is an Arabic word for son. I call myself Wad Haj Yousif or “Son of Haj Yousif,” or “Son of City of Haj Yousif.”
The classic name, indeed! Who are your biggest influences in music right now?
Oh, man! I’ve been listening to different types of music growing up. As I mentioned earlier that Khartoum was so diverse that we had so much culture of music going on. Middle eastern music to Congolese music, reggae and Reggaeton, and now Afrobeat.
But there’s always been an artist that keeps dropping hot albums all my life, and that is Koffi Olomide. He has to be my biggest Influencer, no question.
Which Song you have written is your favorite and why?
This song has not been released yet, but hopefully, by 2019 will be released. It’s my all-time favorite because I was impressed with my writing. But my favorite released song will be Part II featuring Yung Cutter. The reason is choosing this is because it talks about life and you have to live your life, be happy, don’t waste any minute of your life. Your life doesn’t come as part one and part two. So don’t wait for part II; the time to live is now!
What is (are) your most memorable moment (s) as an artist thus far, and why?
People when I tell them I am an artist, the first thing that comes to their mind is, “ do you sing?” But then I try to explain that art is beyond just singing. Pretty much everything I present in my work is a form of art.
That kind of conversation is the highlight of my music career. Very memorable and very complicated.
But besides that my memorable moment was this year being a part of the performing act at the South Sudan Unite event in Phoenix, Arizona. South Sudan Unite is an annual festival organized by Luol Deng Foundation. It advocates peace and unity within South Sudanese.
You are also the CEO & Founder of SZ-Equator ia and can tell us about the work your enterprise offers.
Oh, Sweet SZ-Equatoria! Yes, I am the founder of SZ-Equatoria. It’s an entertainment group that covers photography, video production, marketing, and promotion. I started the company in 2014 after words of encouragement from my two friends, Suzi Lado and Lobojo Kennedy (RIP).
The idea behind the company is to push up and help bring out the skills of talented African Youth.
Since then, I have managed to work with musicians and artists from different parts of Africa. Currently, the official artists on the label are Manny Joe and B-Weezy as hip-hop artists, Nketia as an artist and producer in Afrobeat and Highlife from Ghana, and South Sudanese gospel singer Amna Millewa. All of them are holding the torch high! And under marketing and promotion, I have Odenkyem, a Ghanaian rapper, and Yung Cutter, a Liberian artist, and Producer.
In video production and photography there’s me and Born Ready, a photographer evolving into a film director. SZ-Equatoria has been expanding and expanding since it was founded. Now its footprint is all over South Sudanese music. The company has worked with South Sudanese artists such as McLumoex, Yaba Angelosi, and Amac Don, and the list keeps getting longer daily.
As an Afrobeat artist, what are your thoughts on the East African industry, and how can we support upcoming artists to reach mainstream media?
I always say to take our music to mainstream or world-class level; we have to start supporting our locals, encourage each other, work with one another, and try to give each other the push. Also, for other artists and producers, we gotta improve our crafts and push to the limit. Improve the sound, improve the art, and expand creativity. That goes the same for videographers/directors and filmmakers.
What advice would you give to someone just starting their music career and hoping to make it in the industry?
My advice will be: There’s always room for improvement; if your music is good, Keep it up, don’t get too comfortable; say to yourself I can take it higher and better. And if your art is poor, that's fine, keep practicing, and eventually, you’ll reach a high level. Practice makes perfect.
That's excellent advice! so what can we expect from you in the next two years or so?
Not to sound arrogant, but I look forward to seeing SZ-Equatoria taking over the South Sudan music industry. I see myself as the engine processor of the music industry.
Who are other talented singers, songwriters, and fashion stylists would you hope to collaborate with?
So far I have got a chance to meet some of the best artists from East and West Africa. I have met Tekno, Teddy-A, Eddy Kenzo, Iyanya, J-Martins. But nothing was more honorable than getting advice from these Master Kraft, Yaba Angelosi, Dynamq, DJ GIO, and the great legend of South Sudan, Emmanuel Kembe.
I am hoping to collaborate with Meve Alange. She has a fantastic voice. Another person I wanna work with is Lomude. He’s a young south Sudanese artist who is skillful with pretty much any instrument, from guitar to piano to drums. You name it. I also wanna produce an entire album with Xe Jim. Also, he’s a talented South Sudanese artist with a unique voice. Lastly, I would love to collaborate with Adidas to share my fashion and style with the world.
AMAZING WORK! Thank you so much for being our guest feature on NEECEE LEXY. We wish you all the best as you continue to thrive and bring hits singles to the East African music scene. We are looking forward to hearing more from you soon. We would love to re-interviewing you shortly—happy holidays from us to you and your loved ones.
To our readers worldwide, you can listen/watch Wad Haj Yousif ft Yaba Angelosi new single FUROON, detail listed below.
Now Playing: Furoon (Official Video) Yaba Angelosi feat. Wad Haj Yousif.
Facebook Page: SZ-Equatoria
Soundcloud/ Apple Store link: CLICK HERE
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