"X-Factor" winner: Singer EES: "People often say: You are white, you are not African"

Eric Sell doesn't look like he's 38 years old.

"X-Factor" winner: Singer EES: "People often say: You are white, you are not African"

Eric Sell doesn't look like he's 38 years old. Maybe it's because of his easy-going, youthful manner and his flashy clothes. He laughs a lot. And when he speaks, there is a lot of positive energy in his voice. The first E in his stage name EES stands for "Easy". "Easy Eric – that's what everyone called me at school," he says in an interview with the star. As far as his style of clothing is concerned, he loves it African, colorful and flashy. Most of the time he wears a kepi, a sun hat or a cap and African jewellery. Even his shoes are in the colors of the Namibian flag - green, red, blue, yellow. At first, some of them may be irritated. But when he talks about where he was born and grew up, everything suddenly makes sense: "I'm an extremely proud Namibian," he says.

"Many think I'm German because I'm white and speak German," says the musician and producer. "When I tell them where I come from, most people are surprised." Eric was born in Windhoek in 1983. His great-great-grandmother emigrated from northern Germany to the capital of Namibia in the 19th century. Just like his late father's mother, who ended up there shortly after the end of the war.

He attends a German kindergarten and a German elementary school. "When I started school in 1990, my class was the first in which blacks and whites were taught together again, since apartheid structures were dissolved with Namibia's independence from South Africa." He spends most of his childhood on a farm. "My grandfather, my uncle and my best friend's parents owned one. I was basically on a farm all the time," he says. "I basically played in the bush from morning to night." From the so-called "Bushmen" (known today as San), he learned how to make fire with sticks, build huts, use a bow and arrow and how to use animal tracks to find water sources.

As a teenager, in the English-speaking upper school, he first came into contact with the music that later made him a very successful artist in his homeland: Kwaito. A mix of reggae, hip-hop and house that symbolizes the changes between the apartheid and post-apartheid generations and is mostly heard by black youth. "I swapped CDs with a lot of my black friends in the playground and I really celebrated this style of music. It wasn't normal for a white African to listen to this kind of music." During his training as an audio engineer in Cape Town, South Africa, he founded his first band "Odyssey Cru" with three fellow students and recorded an album with them. A record label shows interest, but when one of the band members ends up in prison for three months, the deal falls through.

Eric Sell decides to go it alone as EES. But he has to fight hard for his credibility. "There were people who thought I was an actor. A white man playing the role of a black kwaito musician". But eventually success will come. He is played on the radio and has television appearances. In 2006 he landed a big hit with the commercially most successful Namibian musician Gazza and the song "International". Almost two years later he was honored as "Artist of the Year" at the most important music prize in Namibia, the Sanlam NBC Music Awards. Several prizes follow. Eric Sell had already moved to Germany five years earlier for love. About his current wife, whom he met when her parents were working as exchange teachers in Windhoek. He has lived with her in a place between Cologne and Bonn since 2004.

And although he grew up speaking German, he initially had trouble finding his way around. proverbial. "At the time, I had accepted a job in a warehouse and had to take the train from Cologne-Zollstock to Cologne-Mühlheim on my second day at work. However, I had never ridden an S-Bahn before." Overwhelmed by the route network, he speaks to an elderly lady on the platform. "Excuse me, can you explain to me how you take the train here? She gave me a really stupid look and asked: 'Young man, have you never taken the train before?' And I just said: 'No, I'm from Africa'. She didn't find that funny at all and just left."

But the then 20-year-old knew how to help himself: "I knew from Namibia how to read the cardinal points and had noticed how many bridges we had driven over in the car the night before. So I just started running". He needs two and a half hours to work. "In between I ran on the bike path and the street. The cars honked and I didn't understand why".

He now feels at home in Germany. "I love Germany. I always tell everyone how blatantly beautiful Germany is and what a paradise it is because a lot of things work here." And in his opinion, there is a reason for that: "Compared to Africa, many things work here because so many people complain when something doesn't work. People complain when the train is five minutes late. When that's in happens in Africa, nobody says anything. Even if the train is a whole day late, nobody says anything."

Almost ten years after his breakthrough in Namibia, his career is also gaining momentum in Germany. In 2018, together with his "Yes-Ja!" band, he received an invitation to the casting show "X-Factor". To his surprise, he wins the show - and more popularity too. "I got a lot of messages afterwards. I don't think I was able to read them all, although I really tried. However, the contractual cooperation with a well-known major music label that resulted from the victory did not come about I don't think they ever really wanted my music. I was reluctant to sing a cover song during the show. But it's important to me to be authentic."

Even if he has been at home in Germany for 18 years now, he is deeply rooted in his homeland of Namibia. In his online shop he sells local products such as biltong (dried meat) and barbecue spices under his brand name "Nam Flava". You can also buy clothes, shoes, bags, hats and accessories there. "Actually, it's not allowed to print the Namibian flag on anything or to be on stage with the flag, but I got special written permission from the country's president that I can do that because he saw how badly I always love Namibia represent again, no matter where I am and what stage I'm on."

As a white Namibian, it also happens from time to time that he is accused of cultural appropriation. "People often say: You're white, you're not African. Then I reply: Oh, so you're the racist here who sees my skin color, because I don't see any skin color here, I see culture. For me, white people are also included Dreadlocks fine. Let them walk around like that if they want to. I don't understand the problem." In any case, his music unites all kinds of people. "It doesn't matter if it's white or black, it doesn't matter what language or culture: everyone celebrates the same songs at my performances." In the future he would also like to try to sing a few songs in German in order to spread the "good vibes", as he calls it, in this country as well. "I would also like to take part in the ESC and represent Germany." In any case, he has a German passport. "So why not?"

Watch the video: On a safari tour in Namibia, a group of tourists experience a terrifying moment when a cheetah suddenly tries to jump on the wagon.