Author Archives: moderatekenyan

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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…


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.


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.


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.


Photos – Kamene’s.

#ConversationWith Kamene Goro: Kicking Ass! (Professional)

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

Kamene Goro is an accidental journalist who is up 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 old University of Nairobi Law student. She is now a Senior Anchor at EbruTV, a pan-African TV station based in Nairobi. She also hosts two hour-long content-intensive talk shows per week.

in studio

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 different personalities peeking out and her brains shining through.

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

ModerateKenyan: Law student to journalist. How, why, when…

Kamene: Always wanted to do Broadcast Journalism. My parents thought I should do a solid degree so Law it was. Parents also thought after years of private school it was time for public school to balance out. So from Rusinga School to UoN Law School. Culture shock at first but then turned out to be best 4 years of my life. Mum always knew of my dream so when she met EbruTV director she told him about it and I was invited for a screen test. Took me two weeks to gather courage go and then I totally sucked. But the Head of News at EbruTV, Mr. Nadir saw something in me and he took me in and mentored me. It was a steep learning curve but I am a quick study. The late Reena Shivisi was my biggest cheerleader and teacher.

ModerateKenyan: What do you do at EbruTV.

Kamene: I am the main anchor. Do the Prime time bulletin Monday – Friday. Occasionally do the Lunchtime as well as Early Evening bulletin. I also host two talk shows: Just the Facts on Thursday 9.20pm and News in focus, thrice a week after Prime time news. In addition I am a general news reporter who regularly goes out on assignment.

ModerateKenyan: Biggest story/interview so far.

Kamene: Interview with Raila on Just the Facts. It was herculean task to get him but it was worth the effort. He is an enigma and he is painted as a villain but he is very very cool. He loves Kenya so much. He is a great man, a great visionary. I learnt so much from him. He is human. Also I love that he got and laughed at my jokes!

raila interview

ModerateKenyan: Worst experience at work.

Kamene: It is hard being a woman in the media industry. It is a harsh world. Quite fucked up. Think Game of Thrones. Men (politicians, corporate big shots etc) can be slimy. Achieving work goals and retaining your respectability is a tough balance. Daily difficult challenges. Different pot of shit daily to gobble up. It looks glam but it is not all glam. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

ModerateKenyan: Day in your life.

Kamene: My baby sister wakes me up at 6am on her way to school. Mum checks in at 7am for a catch-up chat. Listen to music to get into the mood. Pick clothes (hate it, it’s hard, being on TV means everyone has opinion on my outfit). Do not take breakfast. Get to work at 11am and leave earliest at 11pm daily. Basically a 12 hour shift.


ModerateKenyan: Are you a celebrity.

Kamene: (scowls) No! Yuck. Shindwe. Hate that word.

ModerateKenyan: Consider yourself eye-candy/sex siren on screen.

Kamene: (laughs) What is that? (laughs again) I am so oblivious. I am a tomboy. I think like a man. Hahaha. Love my tees and sweatpants.

ModerateKenyan: Come on…

Kamene: Okay. It is hard not to be seen as a sex siren. No clothes can hide my curves (laughs). Cannot change my looks (shrugs). When am dressing I think what would be okay to wear in front of mum-in-law while still having fun and being me. Cannot help what men will see or look at.


ModerateKenyan: Attention due to job.

Kamene: (laughs) It can be crazy…proposals from Nigerians, 400 friend requests on facebook a day, stalkers…(pauses) other crazy things I cannot talk about…hahahaha…no complaints though…it comes with the job…plus I am friendly person, believe living life with open arms..past a certain limit I will block, ignore..I am a big girl…can handle myself…(laughs)

ModerateKenyan: Parting shot on work.

Kamene: (serious pose, hands clasped) You will most likely get once chance at a lucky break. Own it. Run with it. Be on beast mode. Kick ass.


(Keep it here for part two which has the Personal (and goofy) side of Kamene)

Photos – Kamene’s

Eyeing iHub

I am the first to admit that I am quite tech-unsavvy. Totally under the rock. Feel nothing for gadgets. I am not on Instagram, whatsapp, etc. Do not use a smartphone. Tune out when folk spew tech-speech.

So this post is venturing into unknown territory. Possibly into a minefield.

Oh well…here goes…


Many people, even tech-unsavvy me know of iHub but ask folk what it is exactly and not many can give sentence long answer.

In my 2015 quest to at least move a step out of from being under the rock I paid a visit to iHub which is located on Bishop Magua building on Ngong Road.

Practically Kenya’s Silicon Valley.

Through my conversations with folk who work at the iHub and members, I sought to get the essence, the spirit of the space.

My walking “tour” began on the second floor, through to third floor and finally fourth floor. There are many tech companies in the different floors.


Sat at Pete’s Coffee. Rose is real and cool. Drank the House Coffee, freshly brewed, just as good as kahawa tungu ya Mombasa. Drank it sugarless. Got buzzed.

Many working tables and chairs. There is a seven-sitter sofa with a coffee table. A ping pong machine. A bookshelf with books that look like no one has ever opened. 4 rocking chairs which seem out of place prpos. Signage on the walls declares the piper payers: Hivos, Omidyar, etc. A wall with everyday Nairobi street signs which feels like an attempt at Watu-nizing the space.

The crowd on the fourth floor is young, nerdy-looking, no suits, no ties, every pair of eyes glued to a laptop with earphones in ears. The atmosphere is sterile, deathly quiet. Very male-centric. Too few women.


Apparently iHub was born out of Ushahidi money.

So let’s define Ushahidi. Long story short it is traditional 9-1-1 call in text form. SMS-based platform for missing persons, emergencies, elections. Helps with crowd-mapping, helping engineer response. Started in Kenya, has gone global.

So from Ushahidi, techies felt there was need for a community for and by techies. That was five years ago.

That idea has birthed:

iHub research – which researches on tech ecosystem in the East African region. Focus is on Education, Hatespeech. Funded by foundations. Great in theory but lacking in dissemination of information deduced.

UXLab – which works on quantifying user experience, testing apps on users. So it is a great space for techies.

IHub consulting – this is where community meets opportunity. iHub using its clout can pitch for big jobs then subcontract to community members. So it is a great space for techies.

BRICK – Long explanation. What I got – UPS for the bundus.

mLab – mobile apps creation space, mobile apps testing space. Home of M-vitus. So it is a great space for techies.


Having gotten this for dummies break-down my immediate thoughts were:

– Kenyan techies are quite well sorted by iHub.

– Funding this, funding that, funding, funding and more funding. There is clearly a lot of money in tech in Kenya.


– What are the actionable tangible useable in real life things out of iHub?

– How does MKenya wa kawaida relate to, benefit from iHub?

– It appears to me that five years into the iHub experiment at first glance there is not much to show for it.

Word on the street has it that iHub started as a community but with time it became individualistic and cutthroat. That obviously has diluted the original ethos. Coupled with techies getting poached by corporates thus killing the ‘open-concept’ of the space

(Techies, before shooting, please free to enlighten me further…)

Flipping script…

Chatted an entrepreneur who has had company up and running for two years. It specializes in men’s fashion, making accessories and shipping them to USA.

Entrepreneur joined iHub three months ago and a chance conversation there has lead to getting kick-start funds of over a million bob. With that Entrepreneur plans to set up own plant to make the fashion accessories.

Entrepreneur reckons what iHub offers is the networking opportunity available and the sense of shared experience which gives hope and aids smooth-en common challenges.

Entrepreneur raised a valid point upon my asking why he only joined 3 months ago – how can you be part of something you do not know?

Entrepreneur also pointed out that not everyone can be a techie and even as tech is embraced there is need to make tangible things, need to grow real industries, need to get off the tech bubble and into the real world.


Food for thought, no?


(P.S – all images courtesy of iHub or Google.)

Nairobi Restaurant/Kibanda Week

Setting: In a formerly middleclass estate in Nairobi.

Mum: A lady in her thirties, who was in a hurry with a daughter in tow.

Daughter: A girl of 8 or 9 years old.

Daughter: Mum….mum….mum…

Mum: Nini? Harakisha…

Daughter: Mum, ushawahi kula pizza?

Mum: Hapana. (harshly) Kwa nini?

(The two then walked past my earshot.)


This exchange which happened awhile back got me thinking. On food, experiences and economics.

It has been cooking in my head ever since and the on-going Nairobi Restaurant Week has triggered this post.

For those clueless, #NRW2015 is an annual event where high-end restaurants reduce prices and enable more people enjoy fine-dining.


Our local cuisine as Kenyans is pretty basic and it is mostly dependent on where you come from. Rice – coast, Ugali fish – Nyanza, Githeri (mashakula) – Central. Food in Kenya is not cheap and thus folk mostly eat what they farm or readily access.


In the urban setting, food one consumes is dependent both on economic capability as well as exposure.

How old were you when you fast tasted pizza? If you are in your late twenties and above chances are that it has happened in the last decade and losing your pizza virginity was a big deal. Back in the day, kuku quarter and chips and soda was the epitome of cool. Pizza come with the South Africans outlets and it did not quite get traction.


However, in the past decade Nairobi’s middleclass has balloned and with it has lead to an avalanche of trendy food joints.

Through social media into the mix and being with it now involves KFC, Pizza Inn, Cold Stone and other foreign food joints that have opened up in Nairobi. For a few the cost is not prohibitive but for a majority a meal at these cool joints is a cause for major personal budget realignment.

cold stone

So I feel for the daughter who wants to be cool but I also get that the mum has to think of the family budget and thus talk of pizza is unsettling.

To counter the #NRW2015, folk have tweeted and posted on Facebook in jest about Nairobi Kibanda Week.

Underneath the jesting is a bit of harsh reality. There is a Nairobi for Kibandas and one for Restaurants.

Many years ago, Kitu Sewer of Ukoo Fulani Mau Mau rapped, “nikitaka kujua story ya economy ninacheki price ya kaquarter kwa butchery.”

Clearly, food is a great indicator of national, local and personal economy.

Then there is exposure or readiness to embraces new experiences.

Many people who can afford it, have never eaten Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, West African? Why? Comfort zone.

And on the flip side many people have never enjoyed the thrills of Mama Ntilie food in a kibanda. Why? Uptightness.


My people say he who has not travelled thinks only his mother cooks well.

Maybe as Kenyans we need to broaden our palate and maybe, just maybe, there is room for both Nairobi Resturant Week and Nairobi Kibanda Week.

Bon appétit.


(PS: All images courtsey of Google.)

#LifeSnippets – Happily Married!

Setting : At a shoeshine on Dubois lane. Off River Road. In the line of sight of Kampala Coach.

Man 1 : Shoe shiner who looked in his mid-30s. Well-put together, well-fed.

Man 2 : His skinny looking pal who looked 25.

Music playing on the background – Umenikalia chapati by Sauti Sol.

Not kidding!

Conversation was in Kiswahili and Kikuyu.


Man I (starting to shine my shoe): Say hi to the neighbors. And this story of living alone is not good.

Man 2 (walking away from shoe shine stand): Have I told you I am gonna marry this year?

Man 1 : You should! You are what 25? Time is running out. Me I did it at 25. Best decision. When you do your life will be sorted out.

Man 2 : Really?

Man 1 : Look at you. Your trouser is falling. You don’t eat do you? With a wife at home you will be well-fed. You will have to eat her food. If you don’t you’ll tell her where you ate. Look at me (Pats round belly), I tie my belt up here (pats top of belly).

Me : Laughs.

Man 2 : I have heard you. I’ll put effort.

Man 1 : Good. See you kesho.

Man 1 : (talking to me) He’s a nice boy. I try push him onto the nice path. You know its hard to find a nice boy what aint wasting his life with alcohol/drugs. So that’s why I am on his case. Someone who is deep in the drugs you can’t tell him to marry, you tell him to quit drugs. Our men are getting lost and a woman can help ground a man, direct him in the right path.

Me : Aha! (Nodding with freshly shined shoes)

married 2


Alcohol is wiping away a generation of men in Nairobi and across the country.

Men have lost hope and are drinking for a living. Or more importantly drinking themselves to death. Wines and spirits are the biggest business in every hood selling cheap kill-me-quick liquor.

As we focus on the girl-child the boy-child is falling through the cracks.

Quite a huge chunk of men are getting left behind by women in the cycle of life. A woman is working, getting her ish together while a man who grew up with said woman or is even 5years older is neck deep in drink with no plan for today let alone tomorrow.

Little wonder that women are resorting to single-motherhood and the cry around Nairobi is ‘where are the good men’?

It may seem an individual dilemma but methinks its a societal one. The imbalance of men and women is a threat to the societal fibre, an affront to the natural order and just at the basic level two are better than one, no?


married (1)

Food for thought.


#LifeSnippets – Guilt Tax (Kenyan welfare)

Setting : A middle class estate in Nairobi.

Cast : A group of men are seated at the ‘base’. Chewing mugoka, drinking spirits and smoking as they ‘escort the sun’.

‘Base’ is the name for where jobless, hustling guys seat in Nairobi estates passing time, abusing drugs, taking in the sights of the neighborhood and debating anything and everything.


Me: (passing in front of Base, waving)

Cast: Come for a bit!

Me: (walk over wondering wsap)

Cast: We need to talk.

Me: About?

Cast: Ever since you moved on up and started working there is something you have not done.

Me: What?

Cast: Blessed the Base

Me: Ooooh!

Cast: You need to buy us drinks till we drop. Do not think of us drinking your money but more like you pouring liquor on this base and the base thereby blessing you and your money.

Me: (laughs a lot) I have heard. (Walks away)


Unemployment is huge in Nairobi. You may think its only prevalent in the slums and lower class estates but even the so-called middle-class estates are not immune.

Its effect is worse in the middle-class estates as the unemployed are children of retired bankers, civil servants, teachers. They saw their parents work their butt off to secure their education but now that education is redundant as job search becomes the job. Their parents being working class also limits their entrepreneurial spirit as all they were conditioned to aspire to is employment.

No job leads hopelessness. Hopelessness leads to life apathy. Life apathy leads to a drug-full life. Whiled away at base.

Simplification? Yes. Reality? Yes.

If you are lucky enough to get a job and you are from the hood then you will at one time or another pay guilt tax.


Guilt tax is paid when you are walking/driving through the hood and someone asks for a ten bob for a cigarette or you are in the local and someone hustles you for a beer or for additional cash to buy a drink.

You pay the guilt tax not because you are rich or because you have to but because you know but for the grace of God there goes you.

You are not special just lucky.

Away from the hood setting, the guilt tax is also paid in family, extended or nuclear. We all have that uncle who texts asking for an MPesa donation because he has new wife, new child or new cow.

In retrospect, the guilt tax maybe Kenya’s version of welfare.

Plugging the gaps and pushing the broken societal wheel forward.


So maybe I will bless the base after all.



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