ADVERTISEMENT

Odi Dance

james-owidhi

King of Dance

By JAMES KAHONGEH

You may have heard of, or even tried out the new dance style in town, the Odi Dance.

Since its invention earlier this year, the Odi dance challenge has become a viral internet phenomenon, transcending the Kenyan border, thanks to career dancer James Owidhi, better known as Timeless Noel.

‘“Odi’ is the short form for ordinary. It is a dance for ordinary people (the dance style was invented in the slums, hence the name.) I started the Odi dance challenge to promote and explore the various dance styles in Kenya,” Noel explains.

Unlike other nationalities, Noel argues, Kenyans do not have their own unique dancing style.

He explains,

“The Chinese, for instance, have the Dragon dance while the Americans have the dab. The idea was to nurture Odi dance to become our signature dance.”

Noel’s love for dancing started when he joined the University of Nairobi in 2007. For seven years after graduating with a bachelor of commerce degree in 2010, he has spent more time on the dance floor than he has worked in the field of finance.

“My father coerced me to study commerce and even got me a job in a bank after my graduation, but I felt out of place in the corporate world and quit after only three months of working.”

DANCE FOR LIFE

“In my first year in university, I met other lovers of dance. We would attend jam sessions around Nairobi whenever we were free, but since we did not have our own team, we would hang around other dance crews.”

Fed up of being hangers-on, the friends assembled their own crew, naming it Air Force, a name that was an instant buzz among dance enthusiasts.

“We were nominated for participation in the 2008 edition of Chaguo la Teeniez competition, which gave us more leverage on the country’s music scene. In 2010, we took part in the Sakata dancing competition and went all the way to the finals,” he recalls.

In 2010, the group caught the eye of music artist, Wyre, who hired them to perform with him in his Kode Dance song. Air Force would go on to become the official dancers in Wyre’s She say Dat remix with Jamaican music sensation Ce’Cile.

“After this performance, we got a flood of requests to perform in various gigs; in the music industry, a dance crew’s success is measured in terms of how frequently they have featured in the music hits of the time,” Noel says.

By 2011, the group had reached the crest of their exploits. This success brought with it product endorsement contracts for brands such as Nokia. The team’s achievements, however, ran into ideological headwinds when Noel became a Christian in 2012.

“Our dance crew was anchored on the foundation of secular music. When I got saved, we could not feature in secular music videos or endorse products such as condoms. We also stopped performing in clubs as this went against my faith.”

Consequently, the crew’s revenue plunged as disillusionment festered among members. The team eventually disintegrated, bringing to an end a fruitful chapter that had begun five years earlier.

“I had to start afresh because I loved dancing, but now on a new slate; sacred music. A friend introduced me to a leader of Dice Crew Kenya, a gospel music group that is part of Nairobi Chapel’s Youth Ministry Club Expressions. Having made a name in secular music dancing, members of the crew were hesitant to work with me. I was, therefore, put on reserve for months.”

For his love of dancing, Noel persisted, and his passion could not be ignored. Eventually, he was appointed lead choreographer of the Dice Crew, a role that saw him also perform at Crossover 101, a gospel music show on NTV. He also worked for the Riara Group of Schools as a dance teacher for one year, between 2012 and 2013.

“In 2013, I met DJ Moz, the founder of Kubamba Crew (K-Krew) who recruited me to his gospel dance group as a hype man.

A hype man is a back-up performer responsible for whipping up the audience’s excitement with call-and-response chants.”

AMAZED AT LOVE FOR DANCE

He adds,

“Between 2013 and 2017, we visited over 1, 500 secondary schools in Kenya and the region. I was amazed at the love for dance by the thousands of students we interacted with. It is then that I conceived the idea of using dance to bring students closer to Christianity.”

Noel thus formed a movement to identify and develop dance talent among the youth.

He explains,

“Many people desire to make a career out of dancing but fear exploitation. Some event organisers do not recognise dancers as artists, and pay them as low as Sh500 per performance. They feature in successful music videos yet their dues are terribly low. This campaign aims to give Kenyan dancers a stronger voice,” he says.

In 2014, he created a YouTube channel, Timeless Noel, to allow dancers in Kenya to explore the various genres of dancing. The channel has attracted hundreds of thousands of views.

“As a dancer or an artist, you should monetise your content by uploading it online. This way, your visibility grows and more money comes in. Don’t wait for event organisers to invite you to their ceremonies to pay you dismally. Be in charge of your talent,” he advises.

Noel, who is now the official hype man for Bambika gospel show on Citizen TV, says he does not see himself working in the banking sector.

“My university education was not in vain because it helps me while negotiating business contracts, but my degree is not me; what I studied is not what I want to do. I am able to make Sh100, 000 a month minus what I earn from my YouTube channel and product endorsements. I am happier to make my money on the dance floor.”

blog comments powered by Disqus