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Meet Joanne Ball Burgess aka Jo-1 – dancing with the stars

We know you as a dancer, primarily, but how long have you been doing music?

I’ve been singing since I was a seven-year-old and dancing since I was 12. I’ve always blended dancing, singing and song-writing. For the past several years, dance as a single unit has taken centre stage, which is fine because dancing is what makes me feel most in my element. You were signed at Grandpa Records but bolted after just one single.

What happened?

Actually, I did two singles with Grandpa. It was great for the publicity, but that is not all what I am about. Hard work and creative endeavours are what feed me and put money in my pocket. If that is not happening, then I need to re-assess my strategy. It has taken me three years to come up with a sustainable plan as well as build a team that would support me to do what I love and earn from it.

Why do you focus on dancing more than music?

That is like asking Leonardo Da Vinci why he focuses on painting more than science. Some items are seen more than others, but that does not mean that I do one more than the other. Dance and music go hand-in-hand.

Just watch out for 2018 because Kenya and the world will seemy blend happen in a beautiful way. Who are your musical influences? I am greatly influenced by Whitney Houston and Mr Vegas; basically 90’s dancehall and R&B.

Which artiste do you wish to collaborate with?

Journalists have asked this question so many times. Am I supposed to say Wyre? You were a dance category nominee at the just concluded Café Ngoma Awards.

How did the recognition make you feel?

I appreciated the recognition. Many people do not know the amount of behind-the-scenes work that I put into my job as a dance judge on Sakata Mashariki when it was on air. I think most people who want to judge creative industries simply show up with bling and no deeper research.

Remember I moved to Kenya from Bermuda. I learned and performed East African dance genres as well as studied Kenyan and East African music and how it had and was impacting on the dance industry. I had conversations with dancers as well as my own research on other specific items of my job. I always had tonnes of notes before a show.

The time I spent preparing wasn’t required, but for me, I felt that I was doing this for the dancers and the dance industry. There are some who do it for the popularity and, yes, that is one of the perks of the job. But when you have the opportunity to speak into someone’s life, whether or not they like what you have to say, it must be honest and from the heart.

Which plans do you have for 2018?

I have a couple of dancehall songs to release this year. I will continue to teach dance and dance fitness to the Nairobi community; both children and adults. In 2018, I also have several opportunities to dance and teach in different countries, so, local dancers who are interested can contact me. You are a yoga teacher, dancer and singer.

What would you tell other people who look at you and admire these things?

I just returned from a month in Zanzibar where I trained to become a certified yoga teacher. During that time I was also working on releasing my latest song, No Ordinary Christmas. People often ask me how I could do so much.

Being open to new ideas, not letting one’s ego prevent one from learning something new, learning to forgive and let go of those who have caused me pain and hurt and keeping my body and soul healthy by making healthy food choices and keeping alcohol to a bare minimum, are things that keep my mind clear and give me the energy I need to multi-task and do it well.

What is No Ordinary Christmas all about?

Life sometimes can be ordinary. We hear about the miracles of long ago and how the Christmas story happened but we were not there. So, it’s about learning to realise that the extraordinary moments are found in those seemingly ordinary moments that bring us joy in life. Through peace we can experience the miracle of the holiday season.

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