ONE ON ONE: Timeless Noel

Saturday January 6 2018

Since its invention earlier this year, the Odi

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. PHOTO| DENNIS ONSONGO 

More by this Author

Timeless Noel is a professional hype man and the magic mind behind Odi Dance which has become the latest Kenyan craze in the entertainment industry. The dance boasts more than 1 million views on YouTube and more than 200 ‘challenges’. Besides being the official hype man for Citizen’s Bambika show, he is also the founder of Made of Dance Kenya, a movement to train and empower dancers.

Is Timeless Noel your real name?

No. That’s a stage name I coined 10 years ago when I founded a dance group, Air Force, together with my friends who were passionate dancers. At the time, I was a first-year student at the University of Nairobi and having a catchy stage name was synonymous with standing out. I think I settled for a good one.

Odi Dance is a craze that has taken over the entertainment industry. What inspired the moves? Did you envision getting here? Have you ever given your best to something yet get stunned at the awesome results?

That is Odi for me. Odi is a name that’s popular in the ghetto which means ordinary. As a dancer, I wanted to create simple moves that ordinary people could dance to and it took me between five to seven years to create the moves. I started with the footwork then named the moves “Odi” after realising how much people loved them.

This gave birth to Odi dance challenge which went viral and caught the attention of International artiste French Montana. One of my friends, Hype Ochi put words to the dance challenge and that’s when it hit me that we could actually make a song out of the moves. I collaborated with him and X Jabidii and here we are.

The Odi dance has been around for less than six months yet it’s a national sensation. What are some of your highlights so far?

For the past few months, I have been waking up almost every day to a new Odi dance challenge done by a politician, celebrity or an ordinary Kenyan. The dance is a favourite to many high school students and most schools have taken part in the challenge. The responses that transcend the Kenyan borders have also been overwhelming. Currently, Odi dance has over one million views on YouTube and the numbers keep growing.

Did I also mention that according to a report released by Google, Odi dance was the most searched local content in the entertainment industry last year?
Getting a chance to grow my dancing skills at Citizen TV is a dream come true. I’m surrounded by great people and this has helped me to grow both socially and spiritually.

How long does it take to come up with a move?
Odi moves are very simple and are inspired by the things we encounter on a daily basis. Anything can inspire a move-from how people walk or twitch their lips to how a dog barks.

After moving up the world as a secular dancer under Air Force, you gave it all up and got saved. What steered the move?
Getting saved wasn’t one of the things I was planning to do. I was settled as a secular dancer. However, one night in 2012, I encountered a bus preacher who told me that God had a great purpose in my life.

I didn’t take his words seriously but later that night I found myself down on my knees and surrendered my life to Christ. I thought it would be easy. After all, He had a great purpose in my life, right? I became so broke that if I had a note in my pockets, I’d be smiling like someone who’s just won a lottery.  When I look back, I’m grateful for how far I have come.

The dance moves… do you give them names for remembrance sake? Yes and interesting. Soon you will be hearing of “Malaria” dance.

Do you have a pre-performance ritual? I have a team of 20 professional dancers who work with me and before any performance, we pray.

Have you ever given up on some dance routines? As much as I love dancing, I don’t think Salsa or hip-hop dancers would have me stay in their crew. I believe that God gave us different abilities so that we can complement each other. While I find excitement in what I do as a hype man, a choreographer might find it uneventful.

Does dance pay?
Dance pays all my bills. Besides being the hype man for Citizen’s Bambika Show, I make use of other avenues such as YouTube and taking part in gigs to supplement my income. I believe that when you are all about excellence and position yourself with the right people, money will follow you.

What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
Go after excellence. Excellence will open great doors for you. Just like in any other career, dancers need to stay informed and at par with the changing trends so research is advisable.

Do you consider yourself as a mentor?
Yes. Last year I started a dance ministry called Ministry of Dance whereby I mentor upcoming dancers. Currently I have 20 dancers who perform alongside me. This year I will be recruiting another 20.

Do you have a life quote that you live by? Believe. Behave. Become

If you were to send a memo to non-dancers, what would you tell them? You are missing everything.

What’s your plan for 2018? I’m planning a Mashinani Odi tour. I want to encourage upcoming dancers out there. I also intend to train. I aspire to create something phenomenal that will last beyond me. Something timeless.