Nde Ndifonka, popularly known by his stage name Wax Dey, is a Cameroonian singer, producer, tele-presenter, writer, businessman and activist, based in South Africa.
Wax Dey is part of a new generation of Cameroonian artists who have decided to reintroduce Makossa into the urban scene, mixing hip-hop and afrobeat, while retaining his signature, his guitar riffs, and his melodies at once. Melancholy and dancing. He has made a mark across the African continent as one of Africa’s influential youngsters, excelling as a social activist, humanitarian, renaissance writer, and musician.
In 2006, world music specialist Richard Nwamba declared that Cameroon had found a youngster capable of walking into the shoes of Richard Bona or Sally Nyolo.
Early life and education
Wax Dey was born as Nde Ndifonka in the politically radical city of Bamenda, Northwest Region, Cameroon in 1981. His love for music was spurned by a VHS tape which his father bought during his early childhood, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. This tape of the 25th birthday reunion concert of the Motown greats was used by the family to clean the player when the needle got dirty, and so it was that Wax grew up watching and listening to Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Jackson 5, Diana Ross and many more.
For seven years (1990–1997), Wax went to boarding school at Sacred Heart College in Mankon, Bamenda. The college had the most popular choir in the city of Bamenda, and in his last years in the school, Wax took to playing guitar for the choir, after several years of not playing the instrument. Sacred Heart College was also the place where Wax would write his first song, “Faraway Child”, a song which became an anthem among his classmates. The melodious nature of Wax’s music, and even many of his chord progressions are till date, reminiscent of many of the songs they were taught in the Sacred Heart Choir, by Marist Brother Joseph McKee, brother of Gospel great Mary McKee and himself an adept musician.
Wax got into Law School at the University of Buea in 1997 at the age of 16. He and a handful of ex-Sacred Heart College mates immediately started changing the music scene. He wrote a musical “Political Showdown in UB” staged by these mates, and it became an instant hit. With friends like Ndelle Kevin (Ice), Enow Kingsley and Nsame Gideon (King), Wax would create a new culture of show business in the small university town. He became known as a performer and concert organizer, organizing sell-out shows like Divas 99 and LahSound Music Awards in 2000, and even the Law Society Concert in 1999, during his term as President of the Law Society. It was during this period that Wax began his first studio recordings.
After graduating, he left for South Africa for postgraduate studies and also to start a new life. He arrived at the then Johannesburg International Airport with nothing but 20 dollars to his name.
While studying in South Africa, Wax began performing to pay his bills. He wrote a story for DRUM magazine, for which he was paid 500 rand. That he used to buy a second-hand guitar, and began playing at private parties until he found an agent, Lara Patrocino, who introduced him to corporate gigs. It was Lara’s belief in Wax that first made him think of himself as a real musician, but a career only kicked off when veteran producer, Neill Solomon, brought Wax together with Zulu crooner, Shaluza Max at Passage One Music. The duet, African Lady, done in French, English, Zulu and Duala caught the attention of Dan Chiorboli, who invited Wax to perform at the Awesome Africa Music Festival in Durban in 2003. There Wax met Gito Baloi of Tananas fame, who fell in love with his music and arranged to record a CD with him. Less than a week before they were due to start recording, Gito was viciously murdered.
Determined to carry on the project, Wax roped in other co-producers, and began recording Ali Gets His Arms. The product is a 14-track album that summarizes the effervescent personality of this young musician. “Ali Gets His Arms” was the last recorded song written in the studio. The profoundness of Wax’ artistic disposition was evident when he first appeared on TV as a dreadlocked youngster singing passionately about the plight of Ali Ismail Abbas of Iraq, a 12-year-old boy who had lost his limbs and entire family in the Iraq war. Ali was fitted with new arms after a media commotion. In the song “Ali Gets His Arms”, Wax protests “Ali gets his arms, but he has no one to run to”. Lines like this have endeared him as a writer and a musician to listeners across the continent and the world.
The album sourced from different cultures to explore African music. “Wehim wo”, featuring Nigerian Kora Awards winner Kunle, is done in Yoruba and English and explores some deep folk rhythms. Another number fuses Mabghalum, a traditional Cameroonian dance, with hip-hop, to render one of Gospel’s treasures. The album also features Zolile, gospel singer from Joyous Celebration giving it a local South African feel.
After performing countless live shows with different musicians, Wax brought together his dream team: South African drummer Simon Annett, Congolese bassist Simon Valouveta, Congolese pianist Nelson Malela, Cuban percussionist Joseph Averjel, and occasionally Congolese guitarist Chris Bakalanga. After a week in the studio with engineer Paris Zannos, he emerged with the highly acclaimed African Soul.
African Soul, his 2008 release, with soulful songs like “Butterfly” propelled Wax to the stature of a respected afrosoul icon. African Soul is a musical journey through a penniless youngster’s bold move from Cameroon through, several international borders, to South Africa where he finally gets a chance to pursue his African Dream. It is a story that has been adopted by the City of Joburg in their latest international “reality” tourism campaign, a campaign that uses Wax’s image and achievements to attract other entrepreneurial youths to the City of Gold.
One of his best work is the semi-biographical album African dream released in July 2009. In the album, he tells stories of love and war, drawing blood from afro-pessimists, celebrating love with beautiful urban soul rhythms, and strengthening his appeal as a humanitarian activist. Listeners can expect to experience a Wax again reinvented, delivering a conservative yet universal urban sound that will entrance listeners for ages to come. The first single from the album, “Miss Real, Mr Regular’ defines Wax’ unique vocal charm, and is sure to mark the rise of one of the world’s finest soul singers. Think Joan Amatrading meets The Cure. With a youthful, contemporary touch of Africa.
Wax remained active in the humanitarian circle, undertaking projects such as a music therapy programme for children in South Africa (with Save the Children UK) and a counter-xenophobia music campaign known as My Brother’s Keeper, run with Kalawa Jazzmee Records and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Wax Dey won the award for the best African collaboration at AFRIMA in 2014, for the song “Coco na Chocolate”, co-produced with D’banj (Nigeria). A total of 19 African urban musical stars performed the song, produced to promote African Union’s agricultural agenda, in 10 different language: Fally Ipupa (Congo), D’Banj (Nigeria), Tiken Jah Fakoly (Ivory Coast), Rachid Taha (Algeria), A.Y. (Tanzania), Buffalo Souljah (Zimbabwe), Dama Do Bling (Mozambique), Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania), Dontom (Nigeria), Femi Kuti (Nigeria), Judith Sephuma (South Africa), Juliani (Kenya), Kunle Ayo (Nigeria), Liz Ogumbo (Kenya), Nancy G (Swaziland), Omawumi (Nigeria), Victoria Kimani (Kenya), Vusi Nova (South Africa) and Wax Dey.
Next two years, he worked with the ONE Campaign across Africa to spearhead big musical collaborations such as the song “Cocoa Na Chocolate”, used as campaign tools in the fight against poverty. The campaign rallied over 2 million Africans (mostly from Nigeria) around a petition to African leaders to increase investments in agriculture. In 2015, he initiated and co-produced the song “Strong Girl”, led by Waje and featuring top singers including Yemi Alade and Judith Sephuma. The project rallied over 1.5 million Africans to sign a petition pushing African leaders to empower women for better economic participation.
In May 2016, he set up shop in Cameroon, and co-founded Calabash Music. This was followed by the release of the album “360 Degrees” and two singles: “Saka Makossa” featuring Nigerian superstar Yemi Alade and “360” featuring South African rap genius, Nasty C.. Queen of African pop, Yemi Alade, joined forces with Cameroonian singer and reality TV star, Wax Dey to collaborate on the hit song called “Saka Makossa” (lit. “Dance Makossa”). Saka Makossa was originally recorded in 2014, but the pair only decided to release it in 2015 through Lolhiphop Records and Effizie Music Group.
Wax Dey’s 2016 album “360 Degrees” is a bundle of melodies. It encompasses African music in many ways. It consists of House from South Africa, Afrobeat from West Africa, Zouk from the Caribbean, Makossa & Njang from Cameroon and Rhythm and blues & Hip hop from the West. The album has 11 tracks with collaborations from top artistes all over Africa: Yemi Alade, Omawumi, Banky W., Runtown, Kayswitch, and Shaydee from Nigeria; Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, Simphiwe Dana, Lection, Jaden, Buhle and Ruff Sketch from South Africa; and Stanis & Realm Squad from Cameroon.
Wax Dey won the award for best male artist in 2016 edition of the All Africa Music Award (AFRIMA) in Lagos, Nigeria He also performed at the award night along with Kiss Daniel (Nigeria), Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania), Brymo (Nigeria), Seyi Shay (Nigeria), Fally Ipupa (DRC), Yemi Alade (Nigeria), Victoria Kimani (Kenya), Tiwa Savage (Nigeria), Aramide (Nigeria), Niniola (Nigeria), YCee (Nigeria), TJAN (Nigeria) and Flavour (Nigeria) among others.
In 2017, he was appointed as a UNHCR LuquLuqu Ambassador, joining an elite group of United Nations High Level Influencers, including Nigeria’s 2Baba, Ghana’s Stonebwoy as well as South Africa’s Goliath. Previously as an activist, Wax Dey has led several big humanitarian campaigns across the African continent. For example, he founded South Africa’s Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Week which has become an annual Government calendar event.
He has worked as a TV presenter on Africa Magic, and has appeared on several other top African shows, such as Big Brother Africa. In 2013, Wax Dey started his own prime-time reality TV show, Number One Girl, which has been broadcast on Canal 2 and Equinox TV in Cameroon. He also presented the Good Morning Africa show on DStv’s channel 114.
Named by Ladybrille magazine as “Man of the Month” for May 2010, Wax was known as a writer and counter-trafficking expert, before pursuing a career in music. His first published book The Chosen One was used for Grade 11 English in South African public schools.
Awards and recognition
- In 2010, he was named by Ladybrille Magazine as Man of the Month, for the use of music in spreading social awareness among youths.
- In 2012, three nominations in Cameroon’s Entertainment Awards, known as one of the biggest events celebrating Cameroon’s entertainment industry, as Best Male Artist and Best RnB/Pop, as well as Best International Collaboration for his sensational duet “I don see my wife” with Nigerian superstar, Dontom.
- In 2014, he won the award for Best African Collaboration at the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA).
- In 2014, Top 35 African under 35 by Young People in International Affairs (YPIA).
- In 2015, Wax Dey was nominated Best Humanitarian Artist and Best Dancehall at the Africa Music Magazine Awards
- In 2015, Best Male Artist at the Cameroon Eleganzza Entertainment Awards.
- In 2016, Best Male Artist in Central Africa at the All Africa Music Award (AFRIMA).
- In 2016, Avance Media named him among Cameroon’s 50 Most Influential Yong People.
- Ali gets his arms (Olimit Records, 2005)
- African Soul (Lolhiphop Records/SHEER Sound, 2008)
- African Dream (Lolhiphop Records, 2009)
- Peggy (by artist Peggy; as Producer, Executive Producer; Lolhiphop Records, 2007)
- I don see my wife (2013) with Dontom
- Makossa with Yemi Alade
- Number one girl
- Kiss of the death
- The Chosen One (play; Ditlou Publishers)
- Faraway Child (Southern African Short Story Review)
- On the Bridge (Southern African Short Story Review)