There is war raging on outside, and it is ugly. It has been fermenting for years, but now it has blown out of the cage. Like in all wars, the confrontation follows an eternal plot: pit the good guys against the villains. The war plays out in the streets, and courtrooms and boardrooms, and also on prime-time news.
The President knows about it and has thrown in word that something has to be done to stanch the gash. But apparently no hero-cape has swooped in to rescue the situation. It is an important war because it touches on two subjects close to the human soul: money and music.
There are several adjectives that could sum up the problem at hand: piracy, appropriation and so on, but thievery is what it really is. This is the real life, and musicians and other creatives await a flag-waving saviour riding a horse to emerge from the horizon.
These themes feature prominently in a comic strip titled Adventures of NRVFF Super DJ. The 2-part series is the work of two twin brothers with a surname as police-worthy as you will get anywhere; Rodney Afande (aka Justin Rich) and Sidney Afande (aka DJ Nruff); and a friend Emmanuel Nyakwada (Point Blank Evumbi).
The idea for the strip was conceived by DJ Nruff while on tour in the US. Then in 2010, while holding a leisurely talk over lunch, the trio explored ideas on how they could apply their different, but related skills for something revolutionary.
The nascent idea became a reality when the first issue of the book was released to mass appeal. To start off, the Afande brothers elected to cast themselves as characters, and were later joined by legendary DJ Stylez, who also founded the DJ outfit CodeRed.
“All of us are involved in music and chose to use ourselves as characters,” says Sidney, adding that their backgrounds in music, broadcasting and animation would gel with the characters in the book characters, and what they hoped to communicate to the reader.
Unlike in real life, the villains in the book are vanquished and all is well with the world. The storyline follows a Unit of DJs under the Universal DJ Corp who are the Protectors of Music Elements across the Universe. The Corp is made up of DJs, producers and musicians whose job is to defend music from being stolen and distorted by the villains.
“The villains are determined to scoop these assets and this causes chaos and havoc as the two sides battle it out,” says Rodney.
Rodney’s career as a DJ took root in 2002 when he was still a student in Nairobi School, and later apprenticed under the tutelage of elder brother Brian Afande, popularly known as Mr French, who was part of the Disco Jockey outfit CodeRED.
In 2005, Rodney joined HomeBoyz Entertainment as a Radio and TV show presenter and producer, while also lecturing at the HomeBoyz DJ Academy when he was all of 20 years. Meanwhile, Sidney, who had also learnt under Mr French, joined XFM as a DJ.
The three, all of whom are 33, first met in 2008 when Point Blank was a participant on Channel O Sprite Emcee Africa Tour.
It would appear destiny or fate had conspired to bring together the trio, setting the wheels in motion. It so happened that Nyakwanda worked as an illustrator for the popular strip Tinga Tinga, whose offices were housed on the same building the HomeBoyz studio was located.
Success or failure of comic strips, just like other works of literature, depends on readership forged on memorable characters. Contrary to general belief that the books are mostly associated with people of certain ages (children and teens), it been proven untenable. While most adults wouldn’t be caught reading a comic strip in public or on when riding on the bus home, it is a fact that many are voracious fans.
The first two editions of the series were so successful that copies ran out in record time. A reprint is in the works, the creators say.
Coming from musical and creative backgrounds made the concept easier to execute. “We decided to use music because it’s a bridge that has been used to connect people from different walks of life. We might not understand the language but it (music) speaks to us in so many different ways,” says Rodney.
The creators plan to launch the 3rd and 4th issues in 2019. An app is also in the plan to enable readers who aren’t able to get physical copies download the books, wallpapers and special material about the book on their devices.
“Our target market is from ages five to infinity because comic book fans and readers are part of a unique culture of collectors, readers and creatives who follow their favourite hero or villain,” Rodney reports.
“We are also developing an animation so it’s a huge project for us,” he says. Point Blank is a renowned illustrator and animator and his input is expected to play a vital role.
When it was in circulation, the book was stocked by Between the Lines Bookstore at The Village Market.
The creators look up to individuals who abandoned the comfort zone come, choosing instead to create what was thought impossible. Some of the influences include Dr Dre, Jay Z, and Akon.
They also cite comic book legends such as Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane, Jack Kirby, Robert Kirkman to mavericks DJs like Khaled and MajorLazer.
The upcoming two issues will have several big names. But the creators won’t reveal their names just yet. Point Blank, initially reluctant to be part of the characters, has agreed to sign on, “but we had to twist his arm into agreeing,” laughs Sidney.
“We have many special characters from the Europe, UK and US,” says Point Blank.