"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." - 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
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato
In today's special feature we are covering an exclusive interview focus on the next biggest force in East African music.
It is only a matter of time for the East African sounds to captive the world music industry. We are privilege 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 South Sudan music industry.
Mr. Stephen Kujjo better known as Wad Haj Yousif is the CEO & Founder of SZ-Equatoria Group that focuses on producing South Sudanese based artists visuals and promotional content. Their services includes videography, photography and content creations. Wad Haj Yousif is also an artists, Director, and Editor. Wad Haj Yousif 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 shift with forward-facing of music in East African acts coming from Tanzanian, Kenya, Ugandan and South Sudan.
We are honoured to have Mr. Wad Haj Yousif to give us insightful scope of East African music on NEECEE LEXY blog. Plus, he will be sharing with us his big vision in contributing on the growth of the East African music industry scene. Moreover, how he turned his curiosity of photography into an house whole entertainment brand among the east African communities both in USA and Africa.
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 city of Khartoum in a famous section area called Haj Yousif.
Growing as a kid in Khartoum we have to live with people from different part 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?
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 these bakeries around the neighborhood. The time of year where everybody is at the Bakery. Furoon is an Arabic word Sudanese use to call bakery, which lead us to the inspiration behind the song with Yaba Angelosi. I knew I wanted to do a song about that time of year where 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 top mega superstars in the music industry. Yaba and I worked on some many projects before, one of them is his song I can’t Imagine. Him and myself 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 multi-talented gentleman working as: 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 seen myself as any of those. I spent my life trying to be a professional soccer player. So I moved to United States about 11 years ago. My goal was to find a college here and be part of their team and eventually play in Pro team. However, when I came here it was hard to just go out and play with any team or even just find soccer clubs. Soccer is not a major sport in America.
So I ended up filling my free time with some other activities like taking pictures, watching MTV , Youtube and other boring activities.Fortunately, one day my friend asked me if I can 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 shooting the video. And he was like can you edit it? I was like what? But 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 University of Kentucky and took a course of 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, 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 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 to achieve 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 shout out to every single one of them. And shout out to Camera crew and behind the scenes crew. Special Shout out to director Born Ready and Director Ore Aweda.
Team work makes dream work! The visuals for the music were amazing it got our attention not only that but your name is my childhood city name. What is the mean behind your artist name Wad Haj Yousif?
Once it comes to the stage name, I wasn’t so creative with it. The word Haj usually used in front of a person name to give a sign of respect if the person who 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”
Classic name indeed! Who are your biggest influences in the music right now ?
Oh man! I’ve been listening to different type of music growing up. As I mentioned earlier that Khartoum was so diverse that I we had so much culture of music going on. From Middle eastern music to Congolese music, to reggae and Reggaeton and now Afrobeat.
But there’s always been an artist that all my life that keep dropping hot albums and that is Koffi Olomide. He has to be my biggest Influencer no question.
Which Song you have written is your favorite and why ?
There’s this song it’s not 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 choose this because it talks about life and you have to live your life, be happy, don’t waste any minute of your life. Your life don’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 a artist thus far and why?
People when I tell them I am an artist the first thing 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 form of art.
That kind of conversation is the highlight of my music career. Very memorable and very complicated.
But beside that my memorable moment was this year being a part of performing act at South Sudan Unite event in Phoenix, Arizona. South Sudan Unite is an annual festival that organized by Luol Deng Foundation. It advocates peace and unity within South Sudanese.
You are also the CEO & Founder of SZ-Equatoria, 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 cover photography, video production, marketing, and promotion. I started the company in 2014 after words of encouragement from of 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 managed to work with musicians and artists from different part of Africa. Currently the official artists in the label are Manny Joe and B-Weezy as hip-hop artists, Nketia as an artist and producer in Afrobeat and Highlife all the way from Ghana, South Sudanese gospel singer Amna Millewa. All of them are hold the torch high! And under marketing and promotion I have Odenkyem, a ghanaian rapper and Yung Cutter, a Liberian artist and Producer.
In the video production and photography there’s myself and Born Ready who is a photographer who is evolving into 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 artist such as McLumoex, Yaba Angelosi, Amac Don, and the list keeps getting longer each day.
As an Afrobeat artist, what are your thoughts in the East African industry and how can we support upcoming artists to reach mainstream medium?
I always say to take our music mainstream or world class level, we have to start support our locals, encourage each others, work with one another, and try give each other the push. Also for other artists and producers, we gotta improve our crafts, push to the limit. Improve the sound, improve the art, expand the creativity. That goes the same to videographers/directors and filmmakers.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out 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 practice, eventually you’ll reach high level. Practice makes perfect.
That's great advice! so what can we expect from you in the next 2 years or so ?
Not to sound arrogant but I am looking forward to see SZ-Equatoria taking over South Sudan music industry. I see myself as the engine processor of the music industry.
Who are other talented singers, songwriters, fashion stylist would 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 really hoping to collaborate with Meve Alange. She has an amazing voice. Another person I wanna work with is Lomude. He’s this young south Sudanese artist that very skillful with pretty much any kind of instrument, from guitar to piano to drums. You name it. I also wanna produce an entire album with Xe Jim. Also he’s a south Sudanese talented 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 single to the East African music scene. We are looking forward in hearing more from you soon. We would love to re-interviewing you in the near future. Happy holidays from us to you and your loved ones.
To our readers world wide you can listen/watch Wad Haj Yousif ft Yaba Angelosi new single FUROON detail listed below.
Furoon (Official Video)
Yaba Angelosi feat. Wad Haj Yousif.
Soundcloud/ Apple Store link: