Category Archives: Arts

My meeting with Wole Soyinka.

Dated Nov 2006.

Yes, penned this almost 8 years ago. Time does fly.

Ex-student leader turned politician – Kingwa Kamencu

Two Caine Prize winners –  Binyavanga Wainaina & Yvonne Odhiambo

Celebrity blogger – James Murua

****

 

The Kenyan in me just had to share this real account of my afternoon with self-exiled, Nobel Laureate, soon to be president of Nigeria(for real!).

To start with I must digress….the previous day I was meant to have coffee with an ex-student leader turned politician. Sounds familiar? She is also a writer but she stood up as she just had to fit a suit for a big event next day. Imagine my shock when I turned up for the event in my usual shirt and trouser!

The event which was dubbed “Moderated session” (what’s with the NGO-speak?) was meant to start at midday but was at last minute in our very African way pushed to 2.30pm .Had things to do at the office as I am just an ordinary Kenyan struggling to make an honest living (navumilia) but by 2pm was to ready to roll. I could not miss this for anything! Driver picked me up promptly as scheduled, we passed through the bank (grants to be signed, art is expensive!), then went to British Council to pick up my boss (meeting for more cash. clearly art is expensive) then proceeded to The GoDown which is funded by the Ford Foundation (clearly mzungu money hard at work for Kenyan art but what’s that about who pays the piper calls the tune?).

Anyway riding in a car with two Caine Prize winners (big literary award-cash prize=0.7M) and also the only celebrity blogger in town must be what they call fringe benefits of my job!

Get to The GoDown and as usual I’m amused by the fact that almost everyone here has dreadlocks (fad, trend or arty?). Polite meet and greet then ensures and there are more art big shots in attendance from film and soaps producers to globe-trotting writers to university dons all psyched to meet The Man. 

Out of the blue or so it seemed, The Man appeared and just like magic digital cameras and camera phones were unleashed (How else would you make people believe?) to capture the moment with The Man.

After a walk around The GoDown (practice for the presidency?) we are the ushered into the boardroom which is in a photo gallery (it’s an art world thing).I pick a seat as far away from the Man (mkenya wa kawaida only here to be a fly on the wall).The Man walks in and shock on me, people stand in awe then he tells us to seat. President anyone?

The session started with round table introductions. I chocked on mine – The Man does not know of Kwani!, Kenya’s biggest literary journal? Clearly homework is for the rest of us. I had tried to Google The Man but jambonet (as usual) let me down!

A powerful opening speech by my boss set the tone and the questions posed to the Man varied from how do you write? When do you write? Who do you write for? To humor, politics, sheng, structure of language, creative process all which the Man answered with wit, candor and an amazing show of brain power for a 72-year old. 

Time flew really fast and was thoroughly enjoying being a fly on the wall till the Man’s chaperone brought the talk to an abrupt end thus bringing me crashing back to earth. Now I know why they call it a “moderated session”. 

An impromptu autograph session then followed and it degenerated into a free for all photo-op. You should have seen everyone run around the table to position themselves for a photo with the Man. Then as suddenly as he had appeared the Man was off, most likely to meet another group of awe-struck Kenyans.

After the expected tea and bitings, it was an opportunity for the writers to sit and talk shop while for me an Art Outsider, it was back to by daily routine, its 5’oclock,got to get home, how to beat the jam and such mundane stuff. But for a couple of hours I had been an Art V.I.P and I think one could get used to this!

PS: 
The Man is tall, medium-built, and bespectacled, with an afro and bushy beard (100% white).No crazy arty look. (He is dressed in white shirt and trouser and half coat).His voice is medium-pitch, he has a ready smile and even readier scorn (clearly genius has no patience).He has an amazing memory, can switch languages at ease and is a natural comedian (quite a contrary to his serious books!).He struck me as a typical guka (grandpa) – fussy, short-tempered, and self-opinionated, stuck in his ways but with his heart in the right place.

PS: 
The Man has been approached by a very popular party in Nigeria (5m registered in two days and the party is not even registered) to run as its presidential candidate. He says he will run not because he wants to but just to prove a point to Obasanjo! (In Africa? Yeah right!)

******

Wole Soyinka has confirmed attendance to the 2014 Storymoja Hay Festival.

His name is pronounced SHO-YI-NKA.

**

GOD BLESS KENYA!

 


I am at ease…

Chinua Achebe has gone to meet his Maker.

As is wont nowadays the news started as an online unconfirmed story before his family confirmed the worst. I got the confirmation via a BBC World Service news bulletin.

There is a point to my rambling. There was a time when BBC was the authority of news in Africa. During those days autocratic authorities practiced censorship. Now online social media is the first to break news. Time certainly do change. Also Achebe worked for radio in Nigeria and he also had a relationship with BBC.

So the dots do connect. You just have to know where and when to look.

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe

I have read all of Achebe’s books and his style of weaving the old and new is breathtaking. I have visited Nigeria from the comfort of my house. I have come to learn of Nigerian traditions and culture via Achebe’s books. As a history buff Achebe helped open a window into how life was before and after the coming of the whiteman. I have enjoyed countless hours immersed in an Achebe books. For all these I say thank you.  Also I have grown as a writer due to my reading and thus by extension I owe Chinua Achebe a thank you for the inspiration.

As an aside, over and above mourning his death I also mourn that I will now never have a chance to meet him. I have been blessed to meet Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Adichie and early this year I spoke of how a brilliant hatrick it would be to meet Chinua Achebe. Sadly that now will never be.

If I had had a chance to meet him I would have asked him about his simplicity in his writing which is something every writer aspires to and which Achebe seemed to achieve effortlessly. I also would have love to chat him about his passion for Nigeria as I am passionate about Kenya and I seek to write to make Kenya better.

Chinua Achebe’s life was a life well lived. He was a storyteller extraordinaire and he will live forever in the memories of all of us who savoured his work and that is why although I mourn I am at ease.

Fare thee well.

‘There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter… Once I realized that, I had to be a writer.’

– Chinua Achebe

‘I was conscripted by the story, and I was writing it at all times – whenever there was any opening. It felt like a sentence, an imprisonment of creativity.’

– Chinua Achebe

‘It is only the story…that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it,we are blind. Does the blind man own his escort? No,neither do we the story; rather, it is the story that owns us.’

– Chinua Achebe

PS: Every African needs to read The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

***Image courtesy of Google***


Adawnage!

Adawnage are AWESOME!

I stumbled on their music recently and I was blown away. Their album Safari is worth a buy. Just listen to Uwezo and you will be uplifted. A review of their album can be read here.

Courtesy | Google

When I learnt that Adawnage would be performing at The Lounge this past Friday, it was like Christmas had come early. The Lounge is a Christian hangout which happens every Friday at Petma Restaurant (directly opposite KFC) on Kimathi Street. It is organized by DJ Soxxy, he of the Kubama Krew fame.

The event which was sponsored by Coke Zero was highly publicized online. However there was conflicting information. Some places said it would start at 7pm, others said it would start at 8pm. I was there at 7pm. In future, if you read conflicting start times for an event in Kenya, take the later time and even then be sure that the said time is not an exact start time but rather an ambiguous marker of the neighborhood when the event may start.

The event started at 9pm.

Adawnage who sound awesome in their album sound even more amazing performing LIVE.

They performed for two hours (two one hour sets) and their pure unbridled energy was infectious, uncommon and wholesome. They sang songs out of their Safari album, sampled tracks from their soon to be released album and did covers of songs by Zidi the Band. They were also joined on stage by Number 8, Makena and Carlisto for an explosive show.

I was blessed, entertained and ministered to.

Their lead singer Rosemary whose stage presence was a marvel to watch took time out from performing for a one minute sermon which was my take home: It may be the days of microwave solutions but it pays to wait on the Lord. Whatever you are trusting Him with, He will come through for you, at the right time.

It was totally worth my time and worth the wait and sideshows that The Lounge entailed.

Be sure to grab a copy of Safari as you await the release of their new album.

If you would like to watch Adawnage perform LIVE, they together with ZIDI the BAND and Dann NumberEight present Ziada Nairobi at Parklands Baptist on December 12, 2012.

Time: 3pm – 6pm.

Charges: Free.

Theme: One nation under God.

Featured artistes: Makena, Mercy Wairegi, Carlisto, Nasara the poet.

Reason: Spreading the message of Peace, Love and Togetherness in our lovely Nation.

Methinks it is quite a plan for Jamhuri Day.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Beauty of Concours d’ Elegance

Check out here for more info on  Concours d’ Elegance.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Nanjira Unwrapped

Nanjira Sambuli is an emerging voice of Kenya’s digital space.

At 24 she is definitely punching above her age but as the Igbo say, if a child washes his hands he could eat with the kings.

The World Bank, United Nations Environment Programme are some of the international bodies that seek her services.

She is consistently at the center of unfolding conversations in Kenya’s and international cyberspace.

She is @NiNanjira on twitter and her bio reads – New Media Evangelist. Musician. Futurist. Polymath. Pan-Africanist. Representing Africa one tweet at a time! Africa isn’t poor, just mismanaged.

Recently she was a panelist in a talk dubbed ‘Perspectives of the Digitization of Art and Life in Kenya’. The panel consisted largely of folk with Prof.’s and Dr.’s in their titles and she was able to comfortably hold her own.

In the midst of her busy schedule she graciously made time to chat with Moderate Kenyan on matters professional and personal.

PERSONAL

Moderate: What words describe Nanjira

Nanjira: Introvert. Melancholic. Open-book. Spontaneous.

Moderate: How would competitors/friends describe you

Nanjira: Competitors would say overly passionate. My friends would say I am funny and goofy.

Moderate: Most important thing to you

Nanjira: It goes through phases. Currently it is seeing Kenya go through this crazy phase and jump into a progressive path. Kenya has never gone through civil war. I hope that we do not have to go through it to realize what we have. I also want to break barriers that exist globally for the youth and foster collaborative exchange of ideas.

Moderate: Most important person to you

Nanjira: (pauses) Me! It is I who is the master of my fate with God as my guide. I know I am gifted, a polymath, I have to make my gifts count before I die.

Moderate: Most influential person in your life

Nanjira: My closest pals right now. My immediate circle of friends number six or seven. They have refused to let me be less than what I can be. They call me out and keep me accountable always.

Moderate: Happiest moment in your life thus far

Nanjira: (pauses and ponders for a while) Eish, this is a hard question. I am honestly drawing a blank. I guess my happy moments are too many for me to pick one.

Moderate: Difficult moment in your life thus far

Nanjira: My childhood. We moved around a lot and thus I was not rooted. I became a loner and do not have any childhood friends. It is a plus now as I learnt how to detach and also can easily be a global citizen.

Moderate: Key lesson learnt

Nanjira: I have learnt that as fire is the test of gold, adversity is the test of strong men.

PROFESSIONAL

Moderate: You describe yourself as a New Media evangelist. Explain

Nanjira: I am passionate about communication and realize the limitless opportunity that the digital space provides. Think of me like a preacher who tells people the importance of having an online presence. I am the Generation Y poster child!

Moderate: Are you an activist

Nanjira: (laughs) No! I have been called that but people close to me know how I hate that word. I reckon activism is a call to action. I am not yet at a position to do that so I stay away from it. I am into advocacy and awareness as I reckon that for enlightenment people need facts.

Moderate: Are you for hire on the digital space or is what you do about conviction

Nanjira: No! I would not endorse anything I do not believe in. Money is fleeting. Reputation and ideals are more tangible.

Moderate: You would not work for the politicians populating the digital space

Nanjira: No! I would not endorse a candidate for money. Politics can really burn someone. I would agree to be hired to explain the ecosystem but never to pigia debe a candidate.

Moderate: You are big on Pan-Africanism. Tell me about it

Nanjira: I am informed by the connections I have made online. I have encountered an African Diaspora driven by a wish to make Africa better. It is a re-birth of the Pan-Africanism that was big immediately after independence. I reckon we are carrying on the spirit of our fore-fathers.

Moderate: “Africa is not poor, just mismanaged” is a quote you repeat often. Why

Nanjira: It is more than just a quote. It is a mindset. It is something that I have strong convictions about. It is my mantra. I am living it in the tasks and projects that I undertake.

Moderate: What kind of projects are you currently undertaking

Nanjira: I am part of a project that is engaging researchers, lecturers and such like policy folk and showing them how to tap into the digital conversation. The project seeks to bring the intellectuals on border as regards digital sphere and demystify new media to them.

Moderate: You are an actuarial science graduate, a dread-locked musician and a consummate creative. Contradiction or not.

Nanjira: Actually not. A look at history tells you that the greatest creatives were the folk who knew a lot. Da Vinci springs to mind. And Math which is just sequential logic is art!

Moderate: Ever put your actuarial degree to work

Nanjira: I interned in a bank and also in an insurance firm. Yes, shockingly. Even wore suits to works. (laughs). In my current undertakings as a digital evangelist I do work with numbers a lot. For example I am part of a World Bank open data project that seeks to undertake an in-depth analysis of foreign aid given to countries, its intended use and its actual use. So yes, I am using math artistically.

Moderate: Parting shot

Nanjira: To thy own self be true.

Moderate: Thank you for your time.


The Igbo also say you can tell a ripe corn by its look.

Nanjira Sambuli is definitely someone to watch and Moderate Kenyan is watching.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

(Photo credits : Reumac, Steve Kitoto and Truthslinger respectively)


Juha Kalulu

A wise man once said that when you do what you love than you will never have to work a day in your life. Every day will be a continuation of the love-affair with your passion. Very few people are lucky enough to experience this.

Edward Gicheri Gitau who is the man behind the long-running comic strip on Taifa Leo – Juha Kalulu - is among the lucky few.

I was privileged to meet him and as a creative I was totally inspired and challenged by what he shared.

Mr. Gitau who is 82 years has sketched Juha Kalulu for a whooping 62 years and he is still going strong.

He began at inception of the Nation Media Group’s Kiswahili publication in 1960 when Taifa was a weekly which soon became a daily – Taifa Leo – and he had to quickly adopt.

The name Juha Kalulu which has come to be synonymous with Mr. Gitau has an interesting origin. Mr. Gitau worked as an electrician in what was then known as Tanganyika in 1948-50.

While there he struck up a friendship with Malawians and from them he picked up that in one of their dialects Kalulu is a hare. From his Kiswahili, he knew that a Juha is a person who is mostly clueless or ignorant.

In most societies, hares are known to be cunning – ‘Sungura Mjanja’ – but Mr. Gitau twisted that and Juha Kalulu is in his words “Sungura Mjinga” loosely translating to an idiotic hare. Therefore Juha Kalulu is a creative wordplay.

An accident while at work ended his career as an electrician and his sojourn in Tanganyika. Upon his return to Kenya he started employing his creative mind to cartooning and his childhood love for drawing found on outlet. He worked briefly for a several publications in the 1950s – notably Tazama – before joining Taifa.

Mr. Gitau who was taught English and Geography by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta at Githunguri High School has through Juha Kalaulu rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty. His proudest moment was when President Kibaki wrote the foreword to his book ‘Vituko vya Juha Kalulu‘.

While his age-mates have long retired, the veteran cartoonist is still cartooning with a work ethic that is completely amazing. He manually sketches every illustration and then personally hand-delivers his artwork.

Despite his advanced age his zeal and articulation to his craft are still solid and intact. His fluency in English and Kiswahili is impressive. His dress style – suit and tie – is that of an English don. His humor and sharp mind are thoroughly engaging.

He has no desire to retire but then if you really think about it since he started cartooning he has never really worked a day in his life but rather he has enjoyed living his passion.

His parting words were:

“Do not pretend that you are doing what you are doing, just do it to your best capability.”

“Do not wait to be pushed, just do it with all your mind.”

I am thrilled to celebrate Edward Gicheri Gitau a.k.a Juha Kalulu who is a LIVING LEGEND!

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Unnecessary Noise

DISCLAIMER: This post should NOT be used to attack a community or vernacular music. NOT all vernacular music is bad. NOT all members of any given community are chauvinistic and archaic in their thinking.  Any comments that are even remotely inflammatory will be deleted. Kenya is bigger than all of us!

I listen to Kikuyu music, both secular and gospel. A lot of Kikuyu music is very informative and the beat is quite catchy.

Current song I am jamming to is Agiginyani by Shiru wa GP. An awesome keep-your-head-up gospel song.

My attention has been drawn to an emerging genre of Kikuyu music  that is inflammatory, provocative and in very bad taste. In a country that is yet to heal after the post-election violence, these songs are a harbinger of bad tidings.

I shall not sit back and watch my country burn. This post is blowing the whistle. I do not know the extent of the fire that these songs have caused. What I know is the Demathew, Kamande and Muigai are some of the most popular Kikuyu musicians with mega sales of their VCDs. Thus I shudder to imagine the number of households that are playing these songs.

For the many who cannot hear Kikuyu, I have translated snippets of the songs and in Demathew’s case explained the nuances as he sings in parables. You can ask your Kikuyu friends to translate further.

Uhuru ni Witu (Uhuru is Ours) – Kamande wa Kioi

Translated snippets:

Greetings people of the house of Gikuyu and Mumbi. I bring you a message from all Kikuyu musicians. This is a message from God. Uhuru is the Moses of the Kikuyu nation. He is meant to move Kikuyus from Egypt to Canaan. Do not agree to be divided. Let all votes go to him. He is ours. He is anointed by God, poured oil on.

Raila, there is a call. Go to Mama Ngina’s house, a king has been born there. Once there ask where Uhuru is seated and pour oil on him. Just like Samuel did for David in the Bible. Stop chasing the wind Agwambo, go to Icaweri and anoint Uhuru.

You thump your chest about Hague, is Hague your mother’s? There is a curse from God. Philistines who do not circumcise cannot lead Israel. When Abraham stressed God, he was told to go get cut, even you General of Migingo, your knife is being sharpened.

Listen to the entire song  here.

Hague Bound – Muigai Wa Njoroge and Muhiko

Translated snippets:

Question: If it was you who is being pushed to The Hague what would you do?

Answer: I would call my family and divide up my property and then ask my mother to pray for me.

Question: What if you knew that Hague you are being pushed there by an uncircumcised man who wants to push you there and take over your wife and all your wealth? A man who can do anything to ensure you are in problems.

Answer: There it is better to die. Things for a man are not governed by an uncircumcised man. I would kill him. Its better they increase my charges.

Question: What would you tell your crying supporters as you are being shipped to Hague?

Answer: I would tell them to pray for me and know I am being persecuted for my love of my community.

Question: When you get to Hague how you would ensure the white man does not cheat you?

Answer: I would ask for proceedings to be done in Kikuyu.

Question: When on the dock what would you be thinking of the uncircumcised man who is the source of your predicament?

Answer: I would ask God to forgive him. I would also ask that he gets circumcised so that he matures mentally. I would also ask Kenyans to be very wary of that man.

Listen to entire song here.

Mwaka wa hiti (The year of the hyena) – Demathew

Translated and explained snippets:

As Demathew I prophesize and let the stones hear me if men wont.

It is now the year of the hyena. Who will teach you and your ears are blocked?

When a man is seated he sees further than a boy on top of a tree.

You are like a greedy hyena seeing a man walk and following him hoping that his arm will drop off. You follow him till he boards the train and the arm does not drop and you never eat. (A reference to all that may benefit from ICC)

Before Jesus was crucified He stood in the court Judge Pilato and he answered all questions, Judge Pilato said Jesus is free but the crowd asked that a thief be freed instead. (ICC will show Uhuru’s innocence)

Where are you (Peter Kenneth) from? If you were one of us, you would be pained by the people burnt in Kiambaa church. My brother lost his property in Kisumu, how can you tell us he (Raila) is our community’s friend.

Father (Jomo Kenyatta) I feel sad when I see your son (Uhuru) being persecuted by men of ill-will and a woman (Martha Karua) is carrying their bags.

In-law (Kalonzo) things are not going well for you now. You are clueless and your matters are now being discussed by women in the market. But I still remember how you saved me (after 2007 elections) when leopards had attacked me.

Listen to the entire song here.

After listening to these three songs I shuddered. If the leading lights of Kikuyu music are doing this, then how much more prevalent is it? Are other communities also producing such inciteful vernacular songs? This is a ticking time bomb right under our noses!

Let us think of how to put out this fire before it is too late!

PRAY FOR KENYA!

GOD BLESS KENYA!

 


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