Category Archives: Event

Les Mangelepa at 40

Words are read but music is heard so it is hard to write fluently about a musical experience.

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But this story is about more than just music.

Since November 2011, Rashid of Roots International has hosted a live music gig at Choices on Baricho Road dubbed Thursday Nite Live.

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A glimpse on Nairobi Now that gives me the ‘in’ into Nairobi’s art scene revealed that the legendary Orchestra Les Mangelepa would be performing on Thursday 16 June.

I battled Nairobi traffic, got to Choices at 7.45pm and snagged a good seat that would enable me to get a good view of the stage and also of the crowd.

The crowd was a mix of young and old itself a testimony to the endearing and enduring nature of the music of Les Mangelepa.

The gig was set to start at 8pm but in typically Kenyan fashion it did not. Not complaining though as I got to overhear a conversation that was as funny as it was informative.

Three members of the ORIGINAL Orchestra Les Mangelepa can boast of forty years of marching to their step.

The three are Kabila wa Kabanze Evany, Nzazi Kalenga Kibawa Vivy and Kaniki Lutulu Macky.

The band members of Les Mangelepa walked into Choices and their humble bearings meant that many did not recognize they were the stars of the night. From my vantage position I observed them, picked out the trio of legends whose dressing revealed they are sapuers.

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At a quarter past eight Kenyan cartooning legend Paul “Maddo” Kelemba went up on stage and wore a new hat. That of the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Ketebul Music which is a not for profit organization that seeks to curate the music traditions of East Africa.

Maddo proceeded to give his audience an education on the origin of Les Mangelepa. His mastery of Lingala and the in’s and out’s of Rhumba in Kenya was a marvel to behold.

After the impromptu lesson it was time to invite Les Mangelepa to the stage. Maddo started with the new band members before completing with the three living legends – Kabila wa Kabanze, Nzazi Kalenga and Kaniki Lutulu.

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Les Mangelepa then gave a brilliant performance. The first hour went by so first. The dance moves of the three oldies were breathtaking. The trio then took a 10 minute break and performed for another hour getting the crowd on their feet.

Personally I was blown away. It was wonderful listening to hits like ‘Embakasi’, ‘Maindusa’, ‘Nyako konya’ and ‘Safari ya Mangelepa LIVE.

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Rhumba bands fragment every so often so for a band to mark its 40th birthday is an AMAZING feat.

Félicitations Orchestra Les Mangelepa!

The legendary band is marking 40 years in the music scene with a tour of Europe.

Hope they will celebrate their four decades in music with a performance in Nairobi West.

Long live Muziki ya Bakulutu.

GOD BLESS KENYA.

 


Skywalking in Ngare Ndare

Do you have a fear of heights is an interesting question which I rarely know how to answer. See I have done a picnic atop KICC and had a ball but I also think of what if a flyover gives way when I am crossing the road.

So when I was confronted with a canopy walk made of wire mesh and rope that is 25 metres above the ground and half a kilometre long I was torn between hell yes I want to go up and hell no, what if the canopy walk snapped.

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Seeing an old man walk up the steps and begin walking made up my mind to walk the canopy. The oldie was John Fox.  John is a travel writer who has been writing about Africa for close to three decades. His articles feature on the Sunday Nation under the banner Going Places.

I am not a small man. So stepping on the wire mesh was a leap of faith and I held on to the sides with a vice like grip while looking straight ahead at John.

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Step after step and I finally believed the canopy would not break and I was able to enjoy the unique birds-eye view.

It was exhilarating seeing nature up close with huge 200 year old trees, fresh air and sounds of the Ngare Ndare forest for company.

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Aside from John, his two sons and I, our pack of six also included two crew members of a production house, a director of the Northern Rangeland Trust as well as Ranger Ibrahim Maina.

Ibrahim is a walking encyclopaedia on Ngare Ndare Forest. He regaled us with descriptions of the many indigenous trees, told us of the herd of elephants that had visited in the morning and what kind of wildlife visited the mud bath at Ngare Ndare.

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The Ngare Ndare Forest is an important corridor for elephants and other wild animals that links the Lewa Conservancy and the Mount Kenya region.

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In 2015 I had visited it as one of the legs of the Safari Rally was held there in a very old road which appeared to have been built at least 70 years ago.

This time round I was visiting it as part of my visit to the Lewa Conservancy and the management of the Northern Rangeland Trust wanted publicity for it as part of the Safaricom Lewa Marathon.

As part of the 2016 Safaricom Lewa Marathon participants and visitors are encouraged to day a trip to Ngare Ndare Forest.  The delights are the exhilarating and terrifying canopy walk as well as a mud bath (for the wildlife), stunning waterfalls and camping opportunities.

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Ngare Ndare is Maa for water for goats.  There is a stream that crosses the forest and a bridge to cross over was built in 1947 by the Italian Prisoners of War. It is still in use and quite a delight to behold for a history buff.

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Driving out of Ngare Ndare we gave Ranger Ibrahim and his two colleagues a lift to the nearest town where they live. At one point we have to share the road with a huge herd of domestic animals and Ranger Ibrahim explained that the community is allowed to graze in the forest in a rotational format to ensure a win-win situation for the forest conservancy and the community.

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Aside from the two Kenya Wildlife Service/NRT rangers was Joy, an intern from Egerton University who was on attachment at Ngare Ndare. She incidentally played a starring role in convincing someone from our party to walk across the canopy.

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40-something year old J suffers from phobia of heights. But in an amazing display of mind over mind Joy pep-talked J across the canopy walk and J was eternally grateful for the memory.

Many of my friends upon seeing the pictures of the canopy walk and finding out that I had walked across asked the same questions:  1) Were you not scared? 2) What if it snapped? 3) Are you crazy?

I am glad I walked across the Ngare Ndare Forest Canopy and I will definitely walk across it again upon my return to take in the waterfalls, mud bath and campsites because there is something quite liberating about staring at fear or doubts and overcoming.

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Ngare Ndare Forest is a lovely unique getaway.

Go on!

Visit it 🙂.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Of fairy tales coming true

On Sunday 1st of May 2016 the eyes of many football fans in the world were fixed on Old Trafford to see if Leicester’s fairy tale would reach its climax at the Theater of Dreams.

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A win and the 5000/1 underdogs at the start of the season would be crowned EPL champions at the home of the twenty time champions.

I had a front row seat to witness this unlikely spectacle and I was living a fairy tale.

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Walking in Manchester on match day was akin to Nairobi on Mashemeji derby day. Fans decked in their club’s colors, singing and chanting. The visiting Leicester fans were the noisier and livelier.

In the tram to Old Trafford, chatted with 50 year old Steve. For 43 years, he had been going to Old Trafford. Began with his dad and never stopped. Tradition inculcated. Steve bleeds Red for Manchester United and his passion is life and death.

Outside the Old Trafford tram station met Denise. A Leicester City season ticket holder who despite living in Dubai had attended all but two home games. She is the embodiment of the Leicester roots that had sprouted the fairy tale that had captured the world’s imagination.

Walking towards Old Trafford with the thousands of fans was like making a pilgrimage. Stalls selling merchandise, open trucks offering fast food and beer on the go, hawkers calling out for their wares, fans singing all made one forgot the freezing rainy weather.

Several searches and into the stadium I went. “This is it! This is it!’ was the mantra I continually chanted under my breath as I searched for my seat.

I could not stop shaking. Perhaps due to the biting cold but mostly due to the overwhelming sense of occasion.

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Seeing the teams warm up, seeing at close range the players I had only ever seen on TV so close was exhilarating.

The teams then went back to the changing rooms and I settled back on my seat watching the stadium fill up.

A few minutes before 4 and the teams lined up at the tunnel to walk into the stadium. The atmosphere was electric with 75,275 fans attending the historical match and the noise levels hitting a crescendo.

As the teams began their walk into the stadium, the announcer said “Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to the Theater of Dreams, Manchester United and Leicester City.”

I screamed. The fan next to me screamed. Everyone screamed. I have never heard so much stadium noise. Words cannot do justice to the atmosphere at Old Trafford. You have to experience it to understand.

Antony Martial’s early goal got me flying off my seat. Wes Morgan’s headed equalizer and the unbridled joy of the 3,000 traveling Leicester fans was a sight to behold. The first 45 minutes flew past breathlessly. In the second half the pace was less frantic but the drama was still as intense. The second 45 minutes were topped off with a red card for Leicester and penalty denied for Manchester United.

The match ended 1-1. An apt result for the player’s endeavors on the pitch and in my mind as a Manchester United fan as well as a Friend of Leicester.

Leicester players walked across the pitch to acknowledge their fans. Manchester United fans gave Leicester players and fans a standing ovation. I marveled at the delightful touching moment of sporting camaraderie.

Outside the stadium, Leicester fans were in great cheer. They may not have bagged the three points to win the title but they had got a point and anything other than a Spurs win the following day and their team would be champions.

So they sung and sung and sung. In praise of coach Claudio Ranieri, in praise of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez.

“We are going on a European tour..European tour..European tour” was chanted repeatedly.

Amidst the boisterous traveling Leicester fans were Kenyans and Burundians. Surprisingly. I talked to them in Kiswahili and they spoke of their over ten years support for Leicester and the delight of seeing them almost be champions of England. One of the Kenyan gentlemen again from Mombasa proudly informed me that he was the barber for Mahrez and showed me pictures to prove it. Fairy tale things.

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This is a story about fairytales. Watching the game in person was the furthest thing on my mind when I sat watching Leicester City’s 4-nil win over Swansea on Sunday April 24th.

“Ulloa again. 3-0. Three points seemingly bagged without Vardy. 8 points ahead with 3 games to go. Your move Spurs. #FriendsOfLeicester

Is what I tweeted after Leonardo Ulloa scored the third goal in that match.

“Next Sunday – Man Utd v Leicester. Teren. Top 4 chase v Title chase. #FriendsOfLeicester tings will be tested🙂.”

Was my follow-up tweet.

What I meant was that my decade’s long love and support for Manchester United would be tested by my season long love of at that point runaway league leaders Leicester City.

Manchester United after a topsy-turvy season were somehow still in contention for a top four finish in the English Premier League and a chance to play in Europe. A minor fairy tale given the nature of the season with manager Louis Van Gaal in charge.

However the bigger fairy tale was the almost being relegated to top of the table exploits by Leicester City. A collection of castaways, journeymen, and nobody’s who had somehow not only managed to escape relegation but to everyone’s shock sat atop of the English Premier League.

Imagine my joy when the following day, Monday, I learnt of an opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom to watch the Manchester United versus Leicester City game at the Old Trafford.

But there was a twist to my taste of a fairy tale experience. I needed a UK visa urgently. Tuesday was spent filing and dropping the application while Wednesday and Thursday were spent praying, crossing my fingers and refreshing my email.

An email from the visa processing office on Thursday had me running across town to Westlands to get the results which to my eternal delight were positive. My joy knew no bounds. My fairytale was on track.

Lift off from JKIA was Friday lunchtime. Touchdown in cold and rainy Manchester was Saturday morning.

The tickets availed required dressing up and thus a trip to Primark to suit-up was the first order of business. Three hours, two carry-ons bags and a MacDonald’s detour later I was back in my hotel room.

A quick shower and out I went to navigate Manchester. First port of call was the mecca for many a football fans. Old Trafford. A stadium and museum tour were the goal. Got myself to the tram station after several wrong turns, managed to buy a tram ticket from the automated machine and I was on my way.

Three stops later I alighted at the Old Trafford station. Purposeful strides. Heart beating faster. Mind on overdrive. Imagine my shock when the first signage I saw was Emirates. Did a double take and realized that this was the Manchester Cricket Grounds. Sharp intake of breathe and off I went again. Couple of minutes later and I was at the Sir Matt Busby Way. A motley of fast food joints and a pub aptly named Trafford were begging to be sampled but I had my eyes on the ball.

And then finally there it was. Old Trafford. In its magnificent imperious splendor. The Theater of Dreams. I was in dreamland. Spine tingling. Mouth agape. Hands on my head. Heard myself chant Oh My God repeatedly. Sat on a bench to steady my shaking legs. This was it. This was my fairytale come true.

After halfway composing myself I made my way in. Stewards in the black uniforms and bright yellow reflector coats stood at the entrance standing between me and my goal.

With thousands of fans in Manchester for the historic game to my horror the stadium and museum tour was sold out. I was in shock. So near yet so near. Fairytale was turning to night mare.

As I stood there for who knows how long to catch my bearings a steward brought the news that there was an opening for a 30 minute tour. Oh joy! I jumped on the opportunity faster than Bolt at the Olympics.

Started with the museum tour which was orgasmic. The trophy room is overflowing. The memorabilia from Keane, Cantona, Schmeical, Giggs playing days was a marvel to behold. The video reliving the 1999 UEFA champions’ league final win gave me goose bumps. Seeing the three trophies from the treble year as well as the three jerseys from each of the treble season competitions brought so much pride.

Then was the stadium tour. Walking in and reading the “You are now entering the Theater of Dreams” sign on the wall almost made my heart stop. Short flight of stadium and bathed in glorious sunlight was the stands and pitch.

Standing at the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, facing the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand with the Stretford End on my left. A sea of red folded up seats. The pitch in impeccable condition. Sensory overload as an old gent gave us a speech on the different stands and cracked us up with dry British humor. Time stood still as I absorbed all these then flew as the old gent abruptly announced it was time to leave.

Traced my steps back to the museum and relived the memories. Then finally grudgingly walked out of the stadium.

 

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As I sought to say thank you to the stewards who had given my dream life and to ask for directions to the merchandise shop another fairytale experience awaited me.

“Habari yako” asked one of the stewards. Kiswahili at Old Trafford was surreal. “Mzuri,” followed by “Ala, hutoka wapi wewe?” Was my reply once I got over my shock.  “Wewe wafikiri natoka wapi? Huko huko utokako” was the swift reply.

With the ice broken we chatted for 15 minutes. Mohammed from Mombasa left Kenya close to thirty years ago to study in the UK. For 25 years he has worked at Old Trafford in his own words, kutafuta rizik. When I marveled at the fact that he must have seen all the Manchester Legends up close, his reply was simply, wanatalanta…lakini si ni binadamu tu…What was a magical dreamy experience to many was routine day’s work to others. Grounded me.

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Different from Kenya where the full buffet of EPL matches is on offer to football fans, in the UK very few pubs show the games. So when I walked into Trafford Pub run by Stacy and Sarah and found the Arsenal Norwich game on-going I pulled a seat and soaked up the British pub experience.

Still walking on cloud nine I made my way back to the hotel with a spring on my step.

The title deciding Chelsea versus Tottenham game would find me 30,000 feet in the air as I traveled back home on Monday night.

Having watched a game at the Old Trafford I now broke new ground. One of my traveling companions streamed the game on the plane and my fairy tale continued as I watched Spurs throw away a 2-nil lead at the break to draw with Chelsea.

Eden Hazard’s beautiful equalizer was met by loud cheers and the final whistle and the ensuing brawl by high fives.

Incredibly Leicester were champions of England.

A fitting end to an incredible UK tour that was the stuff of fairy tales.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

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PS: This trip was part of a promotion by gaming platform mCHEZA to reward its customers by giving them fully paid for VIP trips for European live match experiences. Other games lined up for the lucky winners are the UEFA Europa league 2016 finals on May 18th and the UEFA Champions League Finals on May 28th.


Talking Women with KikeTele

The 2016 International Women’s Day theme is ‘Pledge For Parity’ .

On the eve of the International Women’s Day KikeTele held an event, ‘Women Game Changers’.

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These are my notes from the event.

First impressions:

Full auditorium.
Mixed audience.

Afro print aplenty.
Moderator introduces panel reading from a paper. Shouldn’t panelist introduce themselves?

****

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights) opening:

What are the reasons for cultural practice’s
Context of pain as an African woman
Decision making at community level – household & community level

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell (Country Director for the University Research Company, Kenya) opening:

As a mother moved
Big up to Lightbox for aiding community telling story
It’s until community says no
Matter of choice – how can they be empowered to make choice
Dialogues with community – when you know why then your what changes
Convos shouldn’t happen at this table they should happen at village level
Let girls dream
FGM is an issue for global concern

Kennedy Otina (Coordinator Men to Men FEMNET) opening:

At times you wonder if you are doing anything
What happens if my daughter gets married in Samburu
(ModerateKenyan aside – Should it matter it’s your daughter/sister?)
FGM is impunity. Extreme patriarchy. Men deciding on women sexuality.
Power relations???
60 year old man marrying 12 year old – the men are weak, girl are red-blooded, (!!!!)

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(ModerateKenyan aside – Rambling thoughts galore)
(My friend  seated next to me – Do you want me to write my thoughts?

It’s really rich of him to talk about patriarchy and then go ham on the ‘our daughter’ nonsense)

What are we not doing?

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights)

Let’s talk about the silence, agency, power.
What are the practice’s impact on women
FGM confers ‘womanhood, respect, status’ in community
Understand nuances not to validate but for clarity and effective approaches to deal

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell

When you understand the why you get the what
Not every culture is bad

(ModerateKenyan aside – Can we give alternatives?)

Amref is already giving alternates  – everything but the cut
Tell community about danger of FGM health wise
Not big stick but education of community is best
Narrative is changing
Create solutions with community

How have you addressed power issues

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell (Country Director for the University Research Company, Kenya)

Men pretend to know everything
Men pass buck
Power is in favour of men
Laws are hindered by enforcers who are part of community who turn a blind eye – chiefs come from same community that perpetuates.

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***

Notes exchanged between ModerateKenyan and a friend:

ModerateKenyan  – NTV’S Rose Wangui recently did a story on morans who have stopped FGM. Chief Moran leading campaign. Anticut warriors.

My friend  seated next to me – But do they have an NGO that knows how to use buzzwords?

ModerateKenyan  – Hahaha! Wish she was here. She has done stories on Northern Kenya for a decade plus.

My friend  seated next to me – I’d love to meet her… She sounds interesting.

ModerateKenyan Actually her story on beading was the first one to lift the veil

My friend  seated next to me – Write a blog post!!!

ModerateKenyan – Tutaona.

***

Question time:

(ModerateKenyan aside – Reveals the many NGOs in Kenya – many in audience who stood to ask represented an NGO)
NGO talk is grating
The Girlchild vs boychild question came up
A question on what of communities who do FGM in hospital, in modern space to fulfill rite? NGOs have concentrated in the so-called marginalized areas but anecdotal evidence shows FGM happens in suburbia Nairobi.

Panel response:

Saida Ali Mohamed (Consultant -Feminist analysis and women’s rights)

Role for broader sexuality conversation for boys and girls
Crude abortion – should safe abortion be possible
Safe spaces for girls availability
Have sex. Do not get PG. How now?
Autonomy of woman body in context of societal

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell

Medicalization of FGM has to be checked. Doctors, nurses arrested.

Kennedy Otina (Coordinator Men to Men FEMNET)

What are the numbers to support  boychild neglect
Human rights are gender blind
Men are jobless and still want to be powerful. Confusion.
Bringing forth a new generation of men
If we empower women it doesn’t mean that men are dis-empowered

More question time:

A Samburu warrior stood up and made a commitment that he will marry chic who ain’t  cut
Same warrior asked Is there alternative to ‘fight against FGM’ – breakage of family/society, alienation of girl child have long-lasting impact

(ModerateKenyan – felt this was the crux. A shoewearer who could have provided great insight and also moved conversation from NGO-speak to real talk. Shame time run out and moderator ended discussion.)

Panel concluding remarks:

Saida – s/o to Samburu girls in audience
Dr. Mwangi-Powell – tell someone about dangers of FGM
Ken – men shout it that you are against it

*****

Felt the conversation ended abruptly.

Wanted to talk to the Samburu girls in the audience and hear their voice.

Wanted to talk to the Samburu warrior going against the age-old cultures also wanted to engage him on how he thinks the fight against FGM should be tackled.

Got thinking as a communicator why the FGM campaign is taking so long to reach the audience. Is culture chipped away slowly or at once? Are the works that have been done in last 20 years and that are being done now chipping away at the roots of FGM and results will come soon?

Got challenged as a man to check my privilege which sometimes is subconsious.

****

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Mwende Ngao who was moderating second panel began with spoken word

Politics of Womanhood – Women belong to every one apart from themselves
Kesho it’s international women day – pledge for parity
Parity is 117 years away – It’s serious.

Talk would centre on – Women artistes – portrayal of women in art

Moderator introduces panelists. Reading from phone. Why not let panel intro themselves?

Aleya Kassam (writer)

Began by saying ‘Such a chaste audience’
She read a blog post – brilliant vivid writing. Huge applause at the end.
Conversation on Aleya’s writing with moderator
Astounding how women are writing in plenty but are invisible

Moderator did question and answer instead of conversation
Also zero involvement with rest of audience/panel

As Monitah set up moderator read another spoken word piece

Monitah (musician)

Sang 3 songs
She looked she was enjoying herself a lot
She was being herself
Moderator – How do you deal with non-mainstream tag? Monitah –  I do my music, I am me, That’s bottomline
Moderator – Challenge as a woman in media? Monitah – being hit on, want more women at the top
Moderator – Plans for your album? Monitah – working on it, follow me on social
Moderator – Arts place in society? Monitah – it’s key to give folk something to think about. Plant seed.

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Question time:

Is there a point to your art

(ModerateKenyan aside -this question GRATES!)

*****

My friend, her friend and I had to leave at this juncture for various reasons.

As we left we chatted on the almost two hours spent at the event.

Authentic talk vs Talk for pay.

Heard one talk, heard all talks until it sounds hollow.

Whether one should have standards or whether one should accept standards do not pay bills and accept to be a mouthpiece for something they may not be very passionate about.

Additionally whether the talks really help or they are an echo chamber. No divergent views expressed.

I have talked about Talking Shops in Nairobi before.

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An aside from the conversation was self-publishing and the perils. With the bigger picture becoming  whether as a friend one should harshly critique a friend’s creation or one should be ‘supportive’.

You read things or listen to songs and ask doesn’t the creator have friends? What if the friends are too timid to share harsh truths?

So my appeal as a creator is if something is good PRAISE it and if something is mediocre BASH it.

Moreso if it is done by a friend. Only way for our creativity to grow.

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Our exit conversation also tackled:

Afro print and Afro-centric wear which have become the uniform for creatives. Note to all ourselves: do not jump onto bandwagon🙂

Moderating is HARD. Curious: Who is your favorite moderator?

*****

March 8 is International Women’s Day.

I gotta say:

Women are AWESOME!

I CELEBRATE all the women in my life.

Thank you all for being a BLESSING.

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**********

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Spinning the ICC, Governing by PR

Let me let you in on a little secret.

I lined up to welcome private citizen Uhuru Kenyatta who returning from his Hague date. Ssssssssh. Keep it between us.

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As a schoolboy lining up for retired president Moi – who prophesied that KANU would rule for 100 years to much derision (Who is laughing now?) – was normal. He seemed to always be on the go and he (or his handlers) felt that school children should either be lining the road waving or singing for him at different forums. Moi also said “now you are saying Moi must go but one day you will say Moi must come.” And the hullaballoo at Moi’s birthday did somewhat validate his statement.

So Chief Chef Lenku’s circular requesting for peace-loving Kenyans presence along the roads which the private citizen/President was not a shocker. After all the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Curiosity and my continued study of human nature fuelled my ten minutes walk to Makadara along Jogoo Road. And my timing was impeccable. Fifteen minutes upon my arrival the motorcade made its appearance.

It is common knowledge that Uhuruto used ICC case and astute PR to ascend to power. Communities which felt under siege came together to protect their sons using the tyranny of numbers. And spin or PR if you like whitewashed the picture (and eyes).

Just how much this ICC and PR narrative sold is now unfolding.

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The mass of people at Makadara was positively buzzing. These were not rent-a-crowd folk. These were people sharing a common unshakeable belief. Not subject to reason or logic. It is because it is kind of belief. It felt like a stadium or a church.

Young and old. Male and female. Seated and standing. All waiting. Happily. Anxiously.

Snippets of conversation in the alternative national language floated around me. “He is ours.” “God-given.” “He is our blood.”

One side of phone conversations was overhead; “I am here. I could not miss it for anything. Where are you standing?” Also, “Where are you?….you can’t make it…he is almost here.”

Then the outriders’ zoomed past signalling the much awaited moment was near and the buzzing crowd became alive. Screaming, chanting and dancing. The junction into Buruburu from Jogoo Road was blocked as the frenzied crowd demanded an address.

Before I walked away I caught a snippet of Uhuruto and their astonishment was clear. The narrative gelled together around ICC and PR had worked beyond their wildest dreams. More conversation snippets floated around me. “See what we voted for?” “See the fruits of our labour?”

The ICC case and astute PR has managed to turn Uhuru support into a fanatical undertaking. The support is more than political. It is something akin to religion. And religion is now being woven into the narrative. Uhuru is viewed as the Chosen One. A popular chant of Uhuru supporters is “Si nguvu/si uchawi, ni maombi.” (It is not our strength/it is not witchcraft, it is prayer.) Songs have also being composed to that effect. Uhuru’s presidential victory is touted as an answered prayer.

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Another by-product of the ICC case and PR is flag-waving patriotism. Most of the crowd at Makadara had the flag. Matatus and even private cars flew the flag. The flag being used was Kenyan but is the Nation Kikuyu? Put another way, to the crowd at Makadara is the Kikuyu nation synonymous with the Kenya nation? Or another way to ask the question is did the challenge mutate from personal to communal to national? And now international?

Articles 147 and 134 are in the constitution. Ruto is a Deputy not Vice. It follows then when principal is absent the deputy acts. But politics is about perception. And Uhuruto use of PR is phenomenal. So amid much fanfare President Uhuru became a private citizen while Deputy Ruto became Acting President complete with trappings of power.

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A fact that one following the ICC case may found hard to believe is that post election violence actually happened. The Kikuyu bore a substantial brunt of the violence. The Uhuruto bromance aside, the hoi polloi still harboured a grudge. A Ruto presidency was unfathomable. Too much blood under the bridge it was said. But after ‘the handing over power’ show a Ruto presidency is now somewhat discussable. Which given numbers tyranny, then a ten plus ten Uhuruto reigns may not be fiction.

Remember the 100 years prophesy? Tingisa kabisa.

So what do all these variables portend for mkenya wa kawaida or for Kenya?

Is the ICC case good for mkenya wa kawaida or for Kenya?

Is the management by PR good mkenya wa kawaida or for Kenya?

I have no idea.

You?

GOD BLESS KENYA!

p.s – ALL images courtesy Google.


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***


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