Category Archives: Arts

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.

caged3

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.

***

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.

***

GOD BLESS KENYA!

****

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…

curves

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.

frontal

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.


#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.

student

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.

editing

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.

studio2

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.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

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

Photos – Kamene’s


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!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers

%d bloggers like this: