How Jiji director Enos Olik transitioned from music to TV

4 July 2024

How Jiji director Enos Olik transitioned from music to TV

Enos Olik’s love for music started in 2009, when he was a member of a three-man band, Aziza Muzik, later becoming one of the most sought-after music video directors in Kenya. Now, he is determined to create an equally strong legacy with TV directing, a journey that saw him helm Showmax’s music drama series Famous in 2021. In 2024, he’s back with a new project, Jiji, the Showmax Original youth drama series that takes him to the very heart of Nairobi’s neighbourhood of Jericho, where four high school girls fight to escape the grip of a local kingpin.

Now streaming on Showmax, Jiji is Olik’s second biggest project as a director and one that he hopes will open more doors for greater things to come – perhaps, a historical narrative about Kenya. “Bringing such a story to the screen would be a dream come true. I feel it’s the perfect time to celebrate our heritage even more and share it with the world,” Olik says.

What’s that one music video that you’d say made your name known in the industry?

Ah, it has to be Sauti Sol’s “Nishike”. That video was a game-changer for me. It was bold, fresh, and it got people talking. It really put my name out there and showed the industry that I had something unique to offer. Plus, working with Sauti Sol was an absolute blast, having come from the same high school and eventually doing music together.

Did you always know you would transition to TV directing when you started out in music?

Honestly, I always had big dreams. When I was starting out in music, I knew I wanted to tell bigger stories. Music videos were my playground, where I learned the ropes. TV directing and making films felt like the next natural step. So yes, in the back of my mind, I always knew I’d end up here.

Jiji is on Showmax

What’s the most important lesson that you learnt from directing music videos that you have employed in directing TV shows?

In music videos, every shot needs to be a hit, like a well-timed verse. I’ve carried that into TV directing. Each scene has to be visually gripping, something that sticks with the audience. It’s all about making every frame count. This is also my approach when I do long-form narratives like Jiji.

Visuals, visuals, visuals. Is this why you’re also one of the best cinematographers in the film/TV industry in Kenya?

In cinematography, the first rule is simple: serve the story. Every shot, every angle, every lighting choice should amplify the story you’re telling. Cinematography is like seasoning in a good meal—it has to enhance the flavour, not overpower it.

Jiji is your second major project after Famous. What directing lessons did you learn from Famous that you employed in Jiji?

Famous taught me a lot. I learned the importance of character depth and pacing, which I brought to Jiji to ensure that we developed a story that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. Naturally, we grow from every work we do and with Jiji, it’s more about approaching an ascending step in terms of storytelling.

You have managed to capture your passion for music even on screen, from Famous to now Jiji’s soundtrack. Tell me why music is very important to you even with your transition to TV?

Music is the heartbeat of my work. Music makes our hearts race towards love and whatever we’re feeling in the moment. It sets the tone and brings out emotions that dialogue alone can’t, or in some instances, adds to the emotions of the scene or sometimes not. To sell the authenticity of our world in Jiji, it was also important to add the sounds and music that tell the journey of Jiji as a character too. Jiji’s soundtrack is composed of a mixture of Kenyan hip hop of sub-genres like urbantone, gengetone and kapuka, and Kenyan RnB from new or less well-known artists like Davaji, Trap Zabini and Clinchy.