#LifeSnippets: After 4.20

The DVD guy is an essential part of modern living. Netflix and chill are eating into DVDs market but for many Kenyans series, movies are not yet streamed but rather got at fifty bob a DVD.

netflix

Books are more my fix but man shall not live on writings alone, right? So I do have a DVD guy who sorts my ‘mindless o’clock’ needs. Latest visit to DVD shop inspired this snippet.

Late on the Elementary series bus but now that I on it I am hooked. As I waited for an episode to be ‘burned’ I watched the DVD guy side hustle as a ganja seller.

Potleaf

Sale one. Six girls. All of at most 21 probably younger. 3 roughly 5 months pregnant. 2 in tank tops and hot pants. Interesting bevy. Even more interesting was their brazen purchase.

“Let us see the stuff. It’s too slim. Let’s call Benja, his stuff is fatter. No let’s get these then we see. Ok, is it local or international?  We want five. You have 3 only? What peddler doesn’t have stock?” One could never have guessed ganja is illegal in Kenya. The girls could easily have been buying tomatoes from Mama Mboga.

Sale two. Group of boys. High school. Probably form two at most. 16 years. They stood outside. Need looking kid did the buying. More discrete.

“You have? Cool.” Then money was passed and then stuff was passed across. One would not guess they have just bought weed.

Curious me window shopped. Apparently local is Kenyan weed or according to parlance Kush ( for Kushingpeng) and it costs 30 bob a joint. International is Ethiopian or according to parlance Shash (for shashamane) and it costs 50 a joint. The prices are adjusted upwards based on a buyer’s looks or street smarts.

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A decade and a half ago bhang was the drug of choice for social misfits.

Stereotype of a weed smoker was an unkempt man with untidy dreads who probably listened to reggae. Peddlers were in the off-the-way places – car wash guys, rubbish heap with parking boys selling etc. A whiff of bhang was as rare as the sighting of a five shilling note.

Something happened – I do not know what – and weed became cool.

A joint suddenly was just the thing to spice up a house party and shortly thereafter  cookies, brownies, muffins were cooked with weed. This pulled the ladies in and kufumba na kufumbua smoking weed in Kenya has became as normal as smoking a cigarette. And the age of weed smokers is decreasing rapidly. 14 year olds just done with KCPE are puffing away.

weed

But Kenyan law has not moved an inch and in the eyes of the law bhang is a ‘hard’ drug with serious ramifications.

In Kenya Bhang is denoted as a narcotic drug under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act No.4 of 1994. An example of the dim view the law takes on bhang, Section 2a gives the sentence for possession for own use as 10 years.

A decade in jail is what the buyers I observed were dabbling in. As for the enterprising DVD seller with a ‘cool’ side hustle he was dabbling with a trafficking charge which is SERIOUS crime.

The norm in Kenya is to bury our heads in the sand and also play the moral card in regard to any vice. The ‘hypercritical conservative-ness’ helps no one and at some point after a lengthy duration ‘we’ are ‘sufficiently shocked’ at the extent of the reach whatever it is that was being ignored as it went on.

Many governments in countries abroad are having to redo their laws in as for as bhang is concerned motivated by reports of medicinal value of weed as well as the allure of huge taxes to be got.

NACADA, KFCB, etc all screaming morality notwithstanding, I reckon Kenya has to have the ‘legalize or not’ conversation about bhang sooner rather than later.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Beards, sexualization & manhood.

For a while now beards have become cool.

No idea when or how it started but increasingly folk are taking to social media to express their appreciation for beards. The appreciation takes on fanatical levels in November which is dubbed Movember.

the_beard_drinking_glass

For the clueless Movember is to men what No Bra day is to women. In October women go without a bra for a day ostensibly to raise breast cancer awareness while in November men go the entire month without shaving to also ostensibly to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

Whether this gestures achieve their intended noble goals is a matter beyond my scope.

What I am curious about is whether beards have become an S.I unit for manliness and whether beards have become sexualized.

On a given day, tweets will pass on my timeline appreciating beards. That is to be expected as people do take to social media to express appreciation. Interestingly, have never seen a tweet celebrating clean-shaven men. Perhaps it is a passing fad. Just like Michael Jordan inspired shaving bald in the early 90s someone may have made it cool to be bearded.

Fun and games, no?

It is all fun and games until a bank tweets in its official account that ‘Behind every Real man is a real beard’.

It is further fun times until a lady starts a hashtag ‘beards for X’ and publicly asks to be tagged in pics with sexy beards.

Now imagine in October a corporate tweeting ‘behind every real woman are big boobs’ or a man starting a hashtag ‘boobs for Y’ and asking for pics of breasts.

Makes you wonder has beard appreciation gone overboard. Where does appreciation spill over into sexualization? Can men’s body parts be sexualized or men are fair game? Are there different standards for sexaulization applied for men and for women?

Not so random musings…

man-face-cartoon-clip-art-at-clkercom-vector-online-clipart

Now unto the taste of the pudding is in the eating experience.

Normally I shave every week. A clean shave. What is/was called Jordan. Have done so for years. Habit.

In last three weeks have not visited my barbershop for a variety of reasons. My barber is worried sick. Tempted to tell him I am thinking of doing dreads. As a joke. Only I am not sure if I am joking.

An interesting by-product of this is that I (obviously!) have grown hair and sprouted a beard.

The reaction to this from my female colleagues has been interesting to say the least.

“…unakaa mbudaa…” (You look older)

“…usinyoe ndevu, nazilike sana…” (Do not shave the beard, I it like very much)

“…damn!”

“walala sijawahi kuona unakapoa hivi” (Have never seen you look this handsome)

And these are the PG-rated comments. Totally got the ladies eating off my plate.

Same old me, brand new reactions.

Got me thinking.

What is it about beards…

Does a beard maketh a man?

beard 3

Nashangaa. (I wonder…)

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Dark Days

Where does one start writing about dark days…

On dark days all one wants to do is stop…

To stop doing,

To stop the darkness from being all encompassing,

To just stop.

dark cloud

Dark days are days where getting out of bed and taking a shower takes on climbing Mount Everest proportions.

You could have been on top of the world the previous day but then a dark day just happens and knocks you off your stride.

Out of the blue you have the blues.

Scratch that, ‘the blues’ is not this.

This is stay under the covers, switch off the phones, and gallantly try to fight off the cloud that threatens to suffocate you.

While fending off curious looks and offhand statements – “these are white people problems.”, “just shake it off.”, “just cheer up.”

Then just as randomly as a dark day comes, a dark day goes.

Until the next dark day. (Day may be one or many days.)

In the last one month, a friend checked herself out of this planet and another failed in her attempt to check out.

In the same duration someone challenged me why dark days are not written about, talked about and why checking out is shrouded in such secrecy.

Got me thinking…

In one of Chinua Achebe’s books a lady makes a profound statement, “I do not have the mouth to tell the story”.

Because at times folk may be living out a situation but the circumstances of the situation makes them unable to express the essence of the situation.

Also, there is societal baggage.

‘I have a cold’ does not attract judging, stigma or side-eyes as saying ‘I have dark days.’

That is how we are, who we are.

So darks days are hidden, battled with individually, with fatal consequences sometimes.

And the all-round silence on the dark days or the fatalities persists.

Hopefully, one day dark days will be talked about openly.

Then maybe hopefully checking out from this planet will not be so prevalent.

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Until then lemme share these gems I stumbled on:

“Never give in to sadness. It won’t last forever. The broken pieces of life will fit itself into a puzzle once again. Have faith. Have hope.”

And

“Reach out. Not on WhatsApp, text, social media. Really reach out. Feel like this needs saying a lot. People be shouldering heavy loads.”

And this oft repeated quote,

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Pray that someone in the middle of a dark day will read this and get that little extra strength to fight off the suffocating darkness.

Also pray that for those who deal with folk with dark days will read this and get a glimmer of understanding about dark days.

Christmas_candle

I hope…

GOD BLESS KENYA.


Lit Up

Met you online…memory is fuzzy as to the how.

We were not bosom pals but somehow we got each other.

As the Swahili say…akufaaye kwa dhiki ndiye rafiki…

On my darkest day on social media, you had my back…for that I lit up.

Your words then still ring true…’do not let anyone take away your dignity or power…’

For when I got your dark days or on the days you got my dark days…I lit up.

For the drink we were to do before the end of 2015…I lit up.

You were awesome by just being you.

Days later it still sad…it still hard to take…I still have many questions…

But I choose to celebrate you…

As you used to sign out…Bless. Love and Light.

Thank you J.

say-goodbye-french1


Talking Shop

I am technologically challenged.

After decades of an old fashioned phone I finally got a smartphone six months ago. It has only being eight weeks of instagram and my relatives and friends are now holding vigils for me to join Whatsapp.

Despite my stubbornness and yearning for the past I do realise that the world is changing and tech is the present and future.

tech

I am also insatiably curious and thus the the title African Futures – “Technology: Means or Curse?” piqued my interest.

pichaaaa2

Before I fell off the bandwagon ten years ago, I was part of the Nairobi art scene. Kwani? is home for me and thus attending the talk which they were curating was a sort of homecoming.

Got to Goethe at 4.50 since the talk was to start at 5pm. It started at 5.50pm. Time in Africa is obviously an elastic concept. The delay gave me ample time to observe and people watch the creatives. The dreadlocks, the colourful attire, the fancy hairdos, the afro bracelets were still how I remembered them.

Being an introvert my default was to sit at the back and avoid small talk. So imagine my horror when someone from my past remembered me and come to seat with me. To add to my horror I could totally not remember her name. Since asking would have seemed rude she talked and I listened.

She is a creative who became a biologist and who is now a new mum and also setting up a biotech lab. So in the near future Kenya may not need to take DNA samples abroad. She was also reading the Black Anthena. Surprisingly the highlight of my evening!

Finally the talk did begin and I took shorthand notes.

PICHAA

Dr. Kamau Gachigi.

A Materials engineer. Runs Gearbox which deals with Hardware side and is basically quipment for lease. Think of it like a gym. Previously run Fablab at UoN. A scion of MIT. Newest course is How to grow anything. Amazing that this is normal now. Where is your mind most of the time – that is your religion – is tech a religion? Is internal tech a thing – telepathy, premonition – can be explained how?

Prof. Karin Harrasser.

An academic. Author of Body 2.0. Tech has to be looked at as an ecosystem. Tech births new worlds. Rise of black box tech – just use devise and do not care what is inside device. Tech has taken away consent in that you will be dragged kicking and screaming into the brand new tech world.

Jimmy Gitonga.

He need not introduce himself or what he does. He devolved straight into it. Defined tech as useful art that must meet a need. Pace of absorption is phenommenal. What is in smartphones is mind-boggling. And for the young ones it is the normal. Internet has thus democratised. All can access the ‘promised land’. Posed question of whether Africa is a country. Internet and tech have birthed mediocrity and innovation in equal measure. 1st world – I think therefore I am. In Africa – I relate therefore I am.

Marie Lora-Mungai.

A journalist turned producer.  Tech and media are wedded. Tech has drastically personnel need for multi-personnel. Internet in Nairobi has changed drastically. 10 years ago to send a 3 minute story it took 4 days and one had to split it in 15 second parts. Founded XYZ show 7 years ago inspired by a French show. Made everything themselves. Thus creativity/media met science as they needed a cold room to manufacture puppets. Ventured across Africa. Need for distribution led to birth of BuniTV. Urban Africans have smartphones. But slow internet and expensive data means promise of internet is a dream.

Some Q&A from audience:

1. I f tech is too much should we wean ourselves out of it?

2. Content is there but it is not accessible. So how do we bridge gap?

3. Should Africa be a country?

NB: There was a moderator but felt she was superfluous to the whole event.

Remember I attended the talk as a technologically challenged person seeking to reduce my tech illiteracy.

Walked away with very little in that regard. The talk had four panelists two who were scientists and two who were creatives. This dichotomy obstructed rather than aided the debate. The moderator did not quite guide the talk or seek to drill down the issues so the panelists went round and round. The audience also got lost early on so by the time it come to Q&A there were still navigating the daze.

Underwhelmed was the over-riding emotion I left with.

under

Projecting forward and a look at Nairobi Now shows an increase in Talks, Seminars, Conferences being held in Nairobi.

A Talking Industry has emerged with being a panelist, moderator a sustainable side-hustle what with seemingly a deluge of donor funds for folk to TALK.

Respect the hustle but I am reminded of Rabbit’s line in his song Swahili Shakespeare – “….talk haipiki rice…”.

Smart spaces for smart people to talk and talk is all well and good but after all is said and said folk have to actually roll up their sleeves and work.

talking shop

Ama?

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Man about Town

Many years ago I was at the heart of Nairobi’s art scene. I sat in a roundtable and discussed Nigeria politics with Wole Soyinka at the GoDown, danced to Sweet Mother with Chimamanda Adichie in her first visit to Kenya at Club Afrique, spent a fortnight in Lamu with writers from across the globe, attended monthly spoken word gigs organized by Kwani, and so on and so on.

Somewhere along the line I dropped out of the Nairobi art scene. My people say he who once danced watches. And watch I did as new folk entered into the scene. For them the essence was not art for arts’s sake but rather money was the bottom line even at art’s expense. Added to their quest for money was their quest for fame aided by technology and social media.

This led to an interesting occurrence in Nairobi: Increased artsy events, increased number of people in those artsy events, increased number of people proclaiming to be creatives and yet still a nagging feeling that the Nairobi art scene is stagnant at best or filled with posers at worst.

But as I discovered much to my delight a vibrant honest-to-God art scene is very much alive and kicking in Nairobi away from Instagram and Twirra.

Friday – Caged Bird Sings

Reading through Nairobi Now I stumbled on the advert for the musical adaptation of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at Phoenix Players.

The Thursday night show had been bought out by the American Embassy who was the play’s sponsors so Friday night was the first open-to the public run.

caged2

The play featured 6 odes: to man, woman, Africa, America, love and life. It sought to address the issue of being black in America but there was also a bit of localization. The cast of Tone Theatre Productions directed by George Orido worked to deliver an excellent mix of elocution, music and poetry.

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The play lasted a hundred minutes and it carried the audience along its brainy fare with the climax for me being the hauntingly beautiful duet between a flute and saxophone. From a production perspective, the lighting, wardrobe and props were all top-notch.  Mr. Moipei (father to the Moipei sisters) was the musical director and that perhaps explains were the music was beautiful. The intimacy of the setting at Phoenix Players also added to mood.

The 14 member cast was pretty young and featured 3 teenagers who sat for their KCSE exams last year.

Remember these names: Terry Wambui, Wendy Kendra, Linda Manja, Charles Ngambi, George Njoroge and Claire Etaba.  If nurtured well, then these are Kenya’s future stars seeing as Lupita Nyong’o also treaded the boards at Phoenix.

Dreams are certainly valid.

Friday – Singing the Blues

Still buzzed from the creative excellence enjoyed at Phoenix I decided to check out a gig I had heard about and even read about but which seemed incongruous – American mugithi/one-man guitar.

The gig is located at The Blues restaurant in Hurlingham. At the petrol station where there used to be Kula Korner.

blues2

The concept is simple. There is communal as well as individual band equipment – guitars, drum kits, keys – and anyone is free to go up on stage and jam. The talent do not know each other and are as diverse as you can imagine. In addition, a chat with the drummer, a Kenyan guy in his early twenties revealed that the songs performed are on demand and are improvised.

The appreciative audience was also diverse. A trio of young Kenyan guys at the counter, an in her thirties European looking lady, a Kenyan man seated alone downing Tuskers donning a Godpapa, a table of Americans men and women aged approximately 25-65 years.

the blues

What was common was the love for blues and country music with patrons singing the blues as they quaffed beers and kept the kitchen busy.

I totally enjoyed the vibes and the gig gave me an idea too: America meets Kikuyu.

Imagine a random American guitar player going head-to-head against say Mike Rua. Intriguing inter-cultural mash-up, no?

The gig happens every Friday. Check it out if you are a Blues, country music fan or if you just seek a different kind of Friday night out.

Sunday – WeLoveVinyl

My dad had an old Sanyo radio which had the vinyl player or ‘kinanda’ as we called it.

kinada1

Before the needle broke I grew up listening to 33s and 45s of Charlie Pride (my mum) and Jim Reeves, Kenny Rodgers, Kikuyu benga (my dad).

It thus did not seat right that an year after #WeLoveVinyl started I had never graced it and I sought to fix that.

welovevinyl-eventposter

However I may have run ahead of myself.

From the outside in I thought #WeLoveVinyl is a Sunday plan involve girls in small sundresses, music playing on vinyl, many Nairobians, food, drink and your regular to be seen-at gig.

How wrong I was.

#WeLoveVinyl is a niche, for-fanatics Sunday plan. Music plays on Vinyl, there is crate digging but I was wrong on the other fronts.

Began by a group of music lovers, #WeLoveVinyl seeks to connect the small but growing community of vinyl lovers with record sellers as well as vinyl player sellers while creating a Sunday plan of music and fun.

Crate-digging – the act of perusing vinyl records placed in a crate is a delight. I pride myself as a music buff but I discovered I know nothing. There were records upon records.

There was a crate of music about which I was totally clueless.

Rhumba crate had Simaro, Anna Mwale, Tshala Mwala, Bozi Boziana, TP OK Jazz etc etc.

In the Book of 45 was Kikuyu gold. History of Kenyan music in the 45 records. Nyeri Hills Band, Karura Brothers, Nguku Happy Bros, Gatundu Boys, Joseph Kamaru and Sister, Baba Kiwinja, Kamaru Music Stores KMS, DK Undugu Sounds, Equator Records. These bands and recording studios were all up and running in the 1960s!  Also, discovered that AP Chandarana based in Kericho was making Kikuyu music in Kericho in the 60s. Makes you wonder where the rain started beating us.

Crate digging is akin to a treasure hunt and the glint in the eye of music lovers and joy upon getting a prized record is a sight to behold.

The gig is held every first Sunday of the month at Soiree Gardens. Alight at Uchumi Ngong Road, Take the road where iHub is (Bishop Magua House), go down then turn right and follow the music.

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So if you are a passionate art lover check out these gigs and enjoy authentic experiences. If you know of other ‘unspoilt’ artsy gigs happening in Nairobi please do tell.

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I appreciate that art is expensive and commercial aspect has to be cultivated. It is unfortunate that the emerging middle-class are the folk who can afford the art gigs even though for them it is about being seeing and not the art. A necessary evil I guess.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!

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The Caged Bird Sings photos courtesy of .

The WeLoveVinyl photo courtesy of .

Rest of the photos courtesy of Google.


#ConversationWith Kamene Goro: Kicking Ass! (Personal)

The Igbo say if a child washes her hands she can eat with the Kings.

Kamene Goro is an accidental journalist who is lapping up the spotlight while leaving a string of achievements not to mention admirers in her wake.

Two years ago Kamene was a 21 year University of Nairobi Law student. She is now a Senior Anchor at EbruTV who also hosts two hour-long content-intensive talk shows per week.

ebru chics

I met her at Java Junction for a chat over masala tea (me) and vanilla milkshake (her) and it was a laugh-a-minute conversation with her various personalities peeking out and her brains shining through.

She strutted into Java in a low cut pink top complimented with an afro-necklace on her cleavage, fitting knee-length black skirt which hugged her very voluptuous curves, pink high heels with a Masaai-ankle bracelet and spotting cornrows, big shades, many bracelets, a man watch and impeccably done very long nails.

Our chat began with the professional, then went into the personal and goofy…

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ModerateKenyan: Describe yourself.

Kamene: Firework. Phoenix. Indelible.

ModerateKenyan: How would your friends describe you.

Kamene: (laughs for long) Crazy.

ModerateKenyan: Your enemies.

Kamene: (pauses..cocks head to one side..) I do not have enemies. I am simple nice chic to all.

ModerateKenyan: Most important person.

Kamene: Simplest question. My mum. My baby sis.

ModerateKenyan: Most important thing.

Kamene: My career. I am in love with my job.

laughs

ModerateKenyan: Happiest moment in your life so far.

Kamene: (thinks..) I have had so many (laughs). Last year I had worked daily for 4 months straight. Took a break, went to the coast by myself. It was magical…view of the sea, the sunrise in bed. I love space and air. Thinking of it is giving me goosebumps. (laughs…)

ModerateKenyan: Most difficult moment in your life so far.

Kamene: Career going up. My relationship with long-time boyfriend going south. Having to pick between the two. It was terrible. It had to be done. No regrets. Just lessons.

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ModerateKenyan: Favourite music, food, colour.

Kamene: I love colour. Yellow, black, I can wear a rainbow (laughs). White rice should be banned! Hate it. Everything else I will eat. I can cook very well. Broad taste in music. It dependents on my mood.

ModerateKenyan: What can you not live the house without.

Kamene: My phone. We are in a relationship (laughs). Crazy about Instagram…need pics.

ModerateKenyan: What is on your bucket list.

Kamene: Hahahahaha. Too crazy to say. Hahahaha. The PG list is sky diving, scuba diving, visit Tomorrow land and also go to Jamaica.

ModerateKenyan: Random things you would like to share.

Kamene: I LOVE books. I am a member of the 4/20 movement (we laugh and fist bump). I have 5 tattoos (I stare and she laughs), in concealable spaces (more laughs).

*her phone rings…it is her boss…asking about her Just the facts talk show..*

Kamene: I have to go. Work calls.

And she struts out like she walked in.

Confident in her brains, personality, skin and curves.

One to watch. Literally and figuratively.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

Photos – Kamene’s.


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