Stanley Shakes Off Past to Become Star

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By Charles Tjatindi

SWAKOPMUND

The crowd explodes in wild cheer and ululation as the artist, dressed in smart casual pants and lace-up sandals, takes to the stage.

Modestly, he greets the crowd before blowing them away with the sounds that have made him a township name. The artist is none other than Stanley Hamaseb, or simply “Ou Stakes” as he is affectionately known by his ardent followers.

Stanley became an overnight sensation with the release of his first album in 2005, which featured the song Tse Tse Tse. The album immediately drew attention to the lanky singer’s career. A number of songs from the album received prominent airplay on radio stations and jukeboxes around the country.

It was, however, only in 2006 that Stanley recorded his big break with the release of his second album – Ti //nam saro. The album propelled Stanley to stardom where he brushed shoulders with the best in local music. Ti //nam saro became an instant party album and could be heard from his hometown of Swakopmund to areas as remote as Karasburg in the South and Opuwo in the northwest.

Never in Stanley’s wildest dreams could he have known that Ti //nam saro would also be his major breakthrough in the local music awards. The album earned him four awards at the last NBC/Sanlam Music Awards. Ou Stakes scoped the Best Selling Album, Best Afropop, Best Ma//gaisa and Best Collaboration. Finally, the name “Ou Stakes” has been firmly established!

Although the awards had critics’ tongues wagging as many thought Stanley deserved the coveted main prize of Artist of the Year, Stanley had no regrets.

“Whoever thought I could come this far? I have to be content with what I received. I also think I should have won that prize, but it didn’t happen. That is just a prize, it does not mean you are a bad musician if you do not get it,” he said when asked on his feelings on the awards.

Stanley is the oldest of four children born to Cecilie Soabes and Titus Bamm and is their only son. He went to school in Swakopmund but dropped out before completing his sixth grade. Finding the going tough, Stanley resorted to selling newspapers on street corners to eke out a living. He would wake up early in the morning to tackle the walk to the town centre from the Mondesa Township, where he would get his share of newspapers for the day. Although selling newspapers managed to provide food on the table especially for his siblings and mother back home, Stanley soon got bored and longed for something more challenging. His next stop was working as a caddy for semi-professional golfers in Swakopmund.

“At first these golfers used to pay me with tips, but as I kept showing up every time they had a training session or tournament, they soon enlisted me as a permanent caddy for some of them,” recalled Stanley
Again, Stanley dropped his newly found job after a mere three-month stint, with dreams of landing a better job that would allow him to provide adequately for his family. This time around, luck seemed to evade him. He ended up frequenting the streets of Mondesa and doing odd jobs for people to get by. Soon his life on the streets took a dramatic turn for the worst and he got messed up in a group of friends involved in petty crimes to fill their pockets.

It was at this point that Stanley had to pay dearly for the choices he made. He was arrested after a break-in attempt at one of the houses in Swakopmund and was sentenced to four years in jail.

Although he had music influences from a very tender age, it was only behind the dense walls of his cell that he started composing songs. His was inspired by musicians of that era who had popularised ma//gaisa, then referred to as ‘Damara punch’. These were the likes of Peter Josef Augab and Michael Owos-Oab. Stanley soon realised that he could sing about anything and was gradually gaining popularity among inmates.

“Suddenly I knew what I wanted to be when I left prison. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to become a singer…” Stanley said.

It was in this correctional facility that Stanley met his would-be producer and promoter, Steven Naruseb.

“Steven and I met through a friend who would visit me in jail. We became good friends. He urged me not to let go of my dream of becoming a singer,” said Stanley.

Inspired by his situation behind bars, Stanley managed to compose songs for an entire album, which he took to Steven upon his release. Although Steven helped with fine-tuning some of the songs on the album, it failed to produce results upon its release in 2004. They had to wait for another year before their efforts could start bearing fruit.

“If it wasn’t for Steven, I do not know where I would have been by now,” remarked Stanley, attributing all the success he enjoys as a result of his relationship with his producer.

“That man can produce magic,” he said.

Stanley is the proud father of two – a six-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. Holding his recently won awards, he said that he is a changed man.

When he looks back at the time that he lost “wrecking” his life, he remains adamant that such life is all part of a history – one that is not bound to be repeated!

He appeals to young people to avoid involving themselves in criminal activities, as they would only destroy their future.

“Look at my story and realise how much time I wasted doing nothing in jail and learn from it. I can assure you, crime does not pay – education is the only way,” he advises.

Stanley sees a bright future for Namibian music. He said there is enough for everyone on the local music scene. He also supports the idea of collaborating with other artists to popularise the different Namibian music genres. He recently collaborated with hip-hop artist Jericho and plans to take his music beyond the borders to neighbouring Botswana and South Africa.

“I have big plans. I know that with my producer’s assistance and with the help of the Lord I will be able to achieve them,” he said in conclusion.

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