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Simiyu’s quest to change the soul of Kenya Sevens

The national sevens rugby team head coach Innocent Simiyu gets a second bite of the cherry and a chance to right the ship after a torrid first year as the head coach.

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Speaking at the team’s pre-season training session at the RFUEA grounds, Simiyu cut the image of a man at ease with his challenge and one who has the respect of his charges ahead of what will be a tough and long season.

“It was not all doom and gloom last season. We exposed several young players. I was happy with our expansive game. Into the new season it is time for the foundation we laid last season to now flourish.”

Pundits have questioned whether he is his own man or a merely lackey of the Union. Simiyu may not have the large-than-life personalities of Benjamin Ayimba or Mike Friday but in his unassuming, professorial nature there is steel that shines through.

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“Biggest thing I want to do is to improve the Kenyan rugby player. When a player is dropped from Shujaa, he drops in life. If we can improve the player such that they can improve their life for good and also when they stop playing they still contribute to the Kenya sevens eco-system then I shall have achieved something. Player is key. Changing the culture and creating purpose is the way.”

Having covered the team for close to half a decade at close range I was intrigued as to what change in culture meant for the former Impala RFC captain and coach.

“Culture is how Kenya Sevens team behaves, operates and interacts with society. We have to change that. Purpose is who we are and why are we here. If cam get clarity on that then there is sustainability in what we are doing.”

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The national sevens rugby team last season struggled in the World Rugby series blowing hot and cold before finishing 12th with a mere 63 points. Many questioned the ability of Simiyu who despite being a top rugby player in his day had little experience as a coach.

“There will always be doubting Thomases. It is life. For us key is to improve the player, play better, develop the game and off course win. Yes, we understand the expectations of Kenyans who want us to win everything.”

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In his first season coach Simuyu despite a target of 10 points a leg, only led Shujaa to 2 main cup quarterfinals in the 10 legs of the series. He cited a poor pre-season for the team’s dismal run. This season he has had the luxury of starting early and not spend most of the season firefighting. With 12 players in camp ‘Namcos’ asserts that training has been good and that he has had 100 percent attendance.

“Quite excited. Wish we keep the momentum and energy that we have started with. I have a feeling that things will be very good this season.”

Simiyu only had Team Manager Eric Ong’weno in his technical bench for most of the season after Strength and Conditioning coach Ian Gibbons resigned early on. Ahead of the 2017/2018 season Kenya Rugby Union has promoted performance analyst William Webster to assistant coach and rehired Geoffrey Kimani as the strength and conditioning coach.

“It is reliving. I was quite lonely. It is lovely that we have a full set of management. Kim has hit the ground running. He is in familiar grounds and we are happy to have him back. As for Will, he is good in analysis and this relives the pressure on me to focus on tactics.”

Shujaa have a busy season ahead with the World Sevens Series starting in December in Dubai, the Commonwealth Games in Perth Australia in April 2018 and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Fransisco USA in July 2018. This means a happy, committed and settled squad is key and areas like contracts, health insurance have to be sorted out early.

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“Contracts have been given. The players are to read then sign. The contracts are better and all the benefits are there. It is one of the best packages given. We have improved what we are offering because it is going to be a tough season. The players will tackle 16 tournaments and we require 100 percent commitment so we must compensate them.”

Last season Simiyu fell short of his 10 points per leg goal and this season he has a different outlook in as far as goal-setting.

“As management we shall be player-centric. It is not about us but about the players. Process of goal-setting is bottom up. Players set individual targets, then we set team targets. So they have the developmental forms to fill then we take it from there.”

The national sevens circuit kicked off with the Driftwood leg in Mombasa and will conclude with the Dala Sevens in Kisumu five legs later. The circuit curtain rises for the Safari Sevens which is scheduled to be held in early November while also on paper being a chance for the technical bench to pick new players.

“There is a selection committee of 5 checking out the players in the circuit. We want all the players to show what they have got. We have the core 12 in training then we pick 28 from circuit to make 40 then we whittle down to around 30. Even the 12 have to play a minimum of 2 legs. It is not a surety that they will be in the team, they have to prove themselves. They are on probation.”

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For many coaches it is winning that is the bottom-line but for Simiyu there is seemingly a desire to build a legacy that can withstand the test of time at Kenya Sevens. Given that the team has had five coaches in five years ‘Namcos’ will have to deliver results on the pitch to be given time to build the culture that he envisions.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

(transcribed from an interview with Innocent Simiyu on 5th August at RFUEA grounds)

PS: All images courtesy of Google.

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Papa Wemba and the importance of being elegant

“There is too much materialism in the world…everyone is focused on big house, big car, beautiful expensive clothes.”

Most musicians live flashy lifestyles but Congolese musicians really live it up and thus this statement that Papa Wemba makes on his way to church holding two young boys and looking quite the deeply religious man half way into a film where he is the star made everyone watching the film at the Alliance auditorium spontaneously burst into laughter.

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The film ‘The Importance of being elegant, focus on Papa Wemba’ is intense.

It captures a variety of issues and makes one pause to think. There is laughter but like the film which is shot in a grainy style there are issues which tug at the heart and not in a pleasant way.

Papa Wemba was a legendary Congolese musician. He started off with the influential Congolese band Zaiko Langa Langa in the 1960s, had a stint with Afrisa International before founding his own band Viva La Musica in the early 1980s. One of his songwriters was Antoine Agbepa now internationally known as Koffi Olomide, a star in his own right.

The film was not about Papa Wemba the musician but rather Papa Wemba as the Patron of the Sapeurs and the effect, the ‘religion’ of Le Sape has had on a generation.

Congolese men have cut a niche for themselves across Africa and Europe as men who put in the effort in dressing up and looking good. Sapeurs under the stewardship of Papa Wemba have taken this to a different level and the effort and expense put in dressing well and expensively is stunning. By the way Le Sape loosely translates to “Society of Atmosphere-setters and Elegant People”.

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One of the characters in the film is Archbishop who is sapeur living in Paris. Archbishop travelled to Paris in 2001 leaving behind a well-paying sales job in Kinshasa after being inspired by Papa Wemba. After 16 years in Europe Archbishop still has no papers and has to keep renewing his temporary refuge status as he tries to get political asylum. As he eats a meal of bread and soup the Archbishop gives a damming indictment on the influence of Papa Wemba.

“We live in France but Papa Wemba is the president of an invisible country, Le Sape. How?  How is a musician more important than the president of a country? Politicians are manipulators. That is how they get what they want. Papa Wemba is the biggest manipulator.”

Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the resource richest countries in the world but colonialism under Belgium, dictatorship under Mobutu and uncertainty after his toppling has left DRC divided and many Congolese living in abject poverty.

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Thus being a sapeur is as much a quest to be a dandy as a quest for identity, a sense of belonging and a brotherhood. One would go as far as to say being a sapeur is a religion and Papa Wemba was the god.

Papa Wemba was accused of being involved with a network that allegedly smuggled hundreds of illegal immigrants from DRC to Europe. He was arrested, spent a couple of months in jail in Paris before being released on bail.

After his release, Papa Wemba became deeply religious. To those watching the film his religious views were in sharp contrast to his lifestyle.

At one moment he is clubbing in Paris where he was based and in the middle of drinks he preaches to his crew telling them about Jesus and how they do not need to change from the drinks, drugs, women and the good life but just take five minutes to commune with God daily.

Sapeurs in Africa and abroad are men (and women) who do menial jobs to make ends meet. Lack of education and papers makes them to operate below the radar living on the fringes of society. This however does not stop them from living it up fashion-wise. A coat for 8,000 euros (Ksh. 990,000) is a normal purchase for a sapeur. This means that forays into the illegal side happens to sustain this lifestyle.

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Another character in the film is Anti-gigolo a sapeur in Brussels. He was given the name by Papa Wemba due to his monogamous lifestyle in Kinshasa. Interestingly he now lives in Brussels but on a visit to Paris he and his boys drive into the red light district checking out the Congolese ladies on display in the shop windows. Anti-gigolo delves into a monologue of how these ladies from Kinshasa have being cheated to come abroad and now sell themselves to sustain a fancy lifestyle.

Songs for pay is another theme addressed in the film. Called dedication and done by musicians across many genres dedication becomes sinister when people around Papa Wemba sell the dedications informing interested parties of their ability to have access to Papa Wemba.

With too many dedications and too little time in the songs, the hangers-on end up not delivering on their deals. This leads to Papa Wemba’s personal bodyguard nicknamed Poison to chasing hangers-on from the studio. Then he asks Papa Wemba to give him a mention but not as Poison but as ‘KGB Protector Number One.’ Cue more laughter at the irony.

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Not that Papa Wemba minds the trade, he is also making money of it with a sound man stating how even cars are given for dedications. In a conversation with a woman who wants to be mentioned in one of Papa Wemba’s songs, the woman tells Papa Wemba that she can steal clothes, shoes and perfume and that can be payment.

Papa Wemba asks her to also steal underwear because he hates it when he undresses a beautiful girl and she has torn underwear. This as his wife who cuts a matronly figure prepares dinner for her husband.

Religion and a decadent lifestyle. Migration and immigration. Running away from poverty in DRC to wallow in poverty abroad. Guys working in menial jobs yet spending money like kings. A quest for identity turning into a cult following. Music as art and also a cheap base commodity. Inspiring and manipulating.

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Contradictions.

Elegant contradictions that live together side by side until they become the norm and one is totally thrown off when light is shone on the contradictions.


Fort Jesus by night

Centuries upon centuries. The Fort still has me in awe. It was delightful to see it at night.

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An art exhibition under the moonlight. Only in Mombasa.

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Looking across into the Indian Ocean. Now there are lights, imagine how it must have been when the Portuguese lived there centuries back.

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Kahawa tungu. Enjoyed as I watched an acting troupe rehearse at the courtyard of the Fort.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!


Hibiskus in Mtwapa

In my recent visit to Mombasa I opted to be based in Mtwapa.

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Last time I had been to Mtwapa it was an a day trip and Mtwapa had grown, complete with a new bigger Tuskys.

As usual when I land at a new place I walk around and mtwapa was no different as I went looking for ‘Jumba la Mtwana’ of which there was no coherent signage. I got lost and upon my return to Mtwapa proper got lost in a ‘ghetto’.

To get my bearing I took a boda boda to Moorings which did not tickle my fancy.

Checked out German Banhoff only to find it had been sold and was was now Bistro. 

My immediate need was a place to charge my phone and a place to shower after my night travel and over five kilometre walk about under the scorching sun.

In my quest to be tech-agile I downloaded Airnb but I was unable to navigate it. Going into google I checked out TripAdvisory and amidst the din I stumbled on a gem.

Hibiskus Lodge.

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Asked a boda boda guy and it was love at first sight.

The rooms which are big, spacious, airy range from 900 shillings to 1800 shillings and in most of them you can cook for yourself.

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It is a gated private villa with the owners living there so you are assured of quality.

There is a lovely sitting area where meals are served and it also serves as the common room with a TV as the rooms do not have TVs.

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Books and artwork dot the Lodge.

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The books are ALL in German.

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As is the menu.

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There is a swimming pool.

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The Lodge is located 15minutes walk from the Mtwapa Creek which has beautiful scenery.

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And for the famous sin city that is Mtwapa, the lodge is located 15 minutes walk from the centre of the nightlife action.

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Hibiskus Lodge is owned by Peter and Ingrid and I highly recommend it.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Inside the Kenya Anti-Doping Act 2016

The extent to which the Kenya Anti-Doping Act of 2016 which was passed by parliament and signed into law by the President differed from the version approved by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is startling.

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Contrary to what the government termed as minor questions by WADA as to the reason for Kenya being declared non-compliant by WADA a total of 24 queries were raised by WADA in regards to the Act in a document that I have seen.

For instance, Section 3 (b) which indicated to whom the act applies to has provisions which narrow the scope of the Act to only focus on athletes instead of ALL sports women and men.

Part VI of the Act that tackled General Provisions and which is at the core of the Act was found to have been severely mutilated. Removed were the parts binding all sports people to the anti-doping rules, the making compliance to anti-doping rules a requirement to participation in sports in Kenya and the requirement for cooperation with Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK) by all sportspeople.

WADA also had in issue with Section 26 (k) which terms unlawful stocking, distribution, transporting, selling or dealing in prohibited substances as prohibited activities in the Act. WADA does NOT consider this an anti-doping violation.

WADA is also uncomfortable with the lack of clarity in Section 42 (6) on how anti-doping violations would be handled.

Section 30 (4) which gives powers to an anti-doping compliance officer to arrest, search and detain a suspect for 24 hours was found to take Kenyan anti-doping officials into foray of criminal and prosecution procedures.

WADA took issue with a recommendation in Section 37 (2) that ADAK would annually submit a report to the Cabinet Secretary of Sports. The WADA code is transparent and so it would want public publication of the report and a copy given to WADA.

Section 7 (1) which laid out the functions of ADAK was found to have severely whittled down the functions of ADAK. WADA is for an ADAK that is totally independent.

Section 15 which tackled the conduct, regulation and powers of the ADAK board raised eyebrows with WADA. The board is top-heavy with government officials and political appointees. In the Schedule of the Act WADA once again took exception with the sweeping powers given to the ADAK board.

Section 23 (1) that established the Therapeutic Use Exception Committee was found to be altered from the final version approved by WADA.

Section 24 (2 & 3) that gives guidelines on Therapeutic Use Exception was found to have been modified and clarity lost.

WADA sought clarity in Section 31 (1) on whether the tribunal for dispute resolution would be before or after court process and what the disciplinary procedure would be.

Section 27 (6a) had a surprise reference to the Athlete Testing Programme which WADA sought clarification for as it was not in the definitions.

Section one alone of the bill had 10 comments with WADA questioning the deletion words or changes in phrasing. WADA questions were – Clarify how “prohibited activity” can be defined and why this replaced “anti-doping rule violation? Clarify whether a healthcare practitioner would fall under Athlete Support Personnel or there is a distinction?

The definitions of “national level athlete”, “out-of-competition testing”, “prohibited association”, “trafficking” were changed compared to final version approved by WADA.

All in all quite starling how the government managed to submit a law with SO SO many errors and put at risk the Olympics dreams of all Kenyan sportspeople.

This kind of incompetence needs to be punished by the President.

 

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Now to salvage the situation, the Kenyan government delegation led by Cabinet Secretary Foreign Affairs Amina Mohammed and the Cabinet Secretary Sports, Arts and Culture Hassan Wario met with World Anti-Doping Agency officials led by WADA Director General David Howman for day long deliberations in Montreal Canada on Tuesday 18th May.

The road map agreed with the government of Kenya and WADA will see adoption of the amendments to the Act, presentation of the amended clauses to parliament followed by presidential assent. Thereafter the amended bill will be presented to WADA where the WADA compliance committee will review and give approval.

While this process is on-going Kenyan athletes will be allowed to participate in international sport and Kenya will have representation at the Rio Olympics.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

 


Beards, sexualization & manhood.

For a while now beards have become cool.

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

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

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

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

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

Fun and games, no?

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

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

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

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

Not so random musings…

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

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

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

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

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

“…unakaa mbudaa…” (You look older)

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

“…damn!”

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

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

Same old me, brand new reactions.

Got me thinking.

What is it about beards…

Does a beard maketh a man?

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Nashangaa. (I wonder…)

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.


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