Ali Gets His Arms

Globalisation now has a musical voice. Wax (real name, Nde Ndifonka) is a young Cameroonian artist who brings together worldwide influences into a great debut album entitled Ali Gets His Arms. Released in South Africa in 2005 by Olimit Records, it is also destined to be released in Cameroon, France and the USA.

The album consists of 14 tracks, ranging from traditional Afro-rhythms to Hip hop or pop, and usually a blend of these. It is sung in different languages - English, French, Zulu, Tsotsi-taal, Duala etc. But one thing remains certain - it is designed to please almost anyone, anywhere. As a reviewer comments on the Wax website (see, "You are the perfect embodiment of class, style and excellence.

Your music is uplifting, haunting and sensual. You are destined to bring tears to the eyes, warmth to the heart and movement to the hips. You are the best thing I have listened to in a very long time. I have no doubt that the melodies you have created will be listened to for many years to come because, in your wisdom and talent, you have made them as timeless and as constant as the stars."

But who is Wax? Just another transient artist or a real talent who will grace the African charts for a long time to come. Definitely the latter. Ali Gets His Arms is a self-produced CD, a great feat for this very promising youngster. Having performed on international stages in Switzerland, Cameroon, Ghana, and South Africa where he now resides, there is no doubt that he is pure superstar material.

I stumbled across the CD on the internet, and contacted Wax. He replied my email a few minutes after I sent it, so there I went - a tourist in Africa on his way to his best discovery yet. I went all the way to Pretoria to meet this young talent in, and found - a musician/writer/web designer/athlete/lawyer/what! at the age of 23.

Speak of enigma.

Wax, who hails from Bamenda, a politically radical city in Cameroon, was only nine when he penned his first song: Faraway Child. A decade later, the music of the song earned him runner-up prize in the state sponsored Pay-your-tax Song competition in Cameroon. And a University award for best songwriter. Testimony that one of Africa’s best songwriters was in the making.

But South Africa is where he finally found his groove and decided he would be a musician. “South Africa is a rainbow nation and it is beautiful how so many different genres co-exist here. I grew up listening to the Motown greats, in a country where every single musician played exclusively traditional local music. I’ve also had lots of different influences from the different countries I have been to. I’m a sort of musical mulatto, and I think South Africa is the right place for something like that.”

We met in his small home studio where he records his music. Playing as we talked, I could understand what it is about him that has tipped him to be Africa's next idol. He has a magnetic, penetrating voice, truly melodious songs, and above all, he stays true to the music. So there I was, getting a private session from one of Africa's maestros, and totally enjoying it. We rather talked about the world, war, life, family, and this is one of those rare instances where you meet a musician who really HAS substance.

We went on to talk about the CD. It turns out the title track - Ali Gets His arms was the last song recorded. TIP: type "Ali Gets his Arms" in a search engine, and find out what this is about. I did that, and realised that Wax is a musician with a purpose! The song is about a kid who lost his arms in the Iraq War. He was given artificial arms after a media brouhaha and humanitarian intervention, but Wax poses the politicians fighting the war can replace his dead parents so he can hug with these new arms? In my opinion, it is one of the greatest social commentaries ever sung, falling in the category of Bob's Redemption Song.

The album also features some really good musicians and singers, among them, West Africa's best artist Kora winner, Kunle, form Nigeria, Dave Abbott (UK, RSA), Neill Solomon (RSA), Spokes H (RSA), Mondo (Congo, DR), Rook (USA), Phoenix (USA).

But the most vibrant aspect of this CD is the blend of Wax's Africanness with all the different rhythms and genres from across the world.

The entire album is a real thriller. Wax’ unique guitar style sets him apart and his distinctness remains evident even as he explores different genres. His themes are captivating and the music enigmatically beautiful.

Ding Dong is one hip hop track will make your body MOVE. that On ‘What’s happening tonight?’ he goes into the mind of an adolescent who has a crush on a girl but is too scared to tell her his feelings. Sung in English and tsotsi-taal (South African street lingo) it is playfully sweet, fusing pop, rock and hip hop. “Thursday”, a soft ballad, is about emotional growth after a failed relationship. “Another Level”, featuring Joyous Celebration’s Zolile, combines R&B, Hip Hop and Mbagalum, a traditional Cameroonian dance, to render one of Gospel’s greatest treasures. As Fresh Music’s Benjy Mudie comments, “The album is very varied, great vocals, a great work.”

I think it is about time Africa opened its arms to receive one of its greatest acts yet. We from this side have already done that, and cannot wait fro the time when Wax wil perform for us on our on soil - USA. Fortunately, it will be very soon.