Tag Archives: Kenya

Blown away at Safaricom Jazz at 5 dinner

Blown away. That was my feeling after four hours of a phenomenal Safaricom Jazz gala dinner experience that was headlined by BWB, Joja Wendt and The Limericks.

JAZZ DINNER

 

The do began with speeches as is the norm for suits events. Normally I zone out or people watch but the speech by Ghetto Classics founder Elizabeth Njoroge caught my attention.

She spoke of a student who had to drop out from the Ghetto Classics classes in spite of his brilliance due to challenges at home. This got me thinking about how the Ghetto classic story can be improved.

For five years focus has been on music but there is more to life. What mentoring, financing and real-life opportunities can be availed to improve the ecosystem for the kids?

The money that caused the student to drop out is basically lunch/drink money for your average middle class Kenyan. What if I purposed to give up lunch five times a month and donated? What if I mentored a child away from the music? What if the kids would gig for pay for established musicians? What if their parents got a bit of money to start a business? The kids do not operate in a vacuum and while it is novel and great to have jazz, classical music in Korogocho it is even more necessary to try uplift entire community.

LIMERICKS

Unto the music and first on stage was Kenyan band, The Limericks. First time experiencing them and I loved the bass, the keys and the sax. The person playing with the background lighting and screens was clearly having a ball with the savanah-centric backdrops. There was a song in Luganda and also one in Malagasy which were lovely. Only drawback was the lady vocalist trying to compete with the instruments. Sounded so off. There was also a feeling of the band not have worked together on their sets. They are a work in progress I guess.

Next up was extraordinary pianist Joja Wendt who was backed by Stephie on the drums and Thomas on the bass. Wendt is also a hilarious comedian who knows how to engage and work a crowd. Loved the boogie woggie piano set derived from the spiritual to jazz which is basically three pianists in one with a dancy feel to it. His piano playing was fast and perfect with awesome skills on display to go with the dope personality.  Little wonder he got a standing ovation.

JOJA

The night’s main act was BWB a jazz band comprising guitarist Norman Brown, saxophonist Kirk Whalum and trumpeter Rick Braun.

Given how Joja had done his business they had to step up their game and they certainly did. Starting off with a Billie Jean rendition that was so energy-full. The three are individually gifted musicians whose machine-like precision in performing together was a marvel to behold. Guitar, sax and trumpet flowing in conversation blew my mind away. Their stage work and crowd mood management spoke of years of professionalism and experience.

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Brown then did a guitar set that showcased his range before capping it with brilliant vocals which the crowd showed love for by giving a standing ovation.

Whalum who is a magician on the sax and who toured with Whitney Houston for close to a decade performed a heartfelt ‘I will always love you.’ He walked into the crowd and made folk so happy and moved with the personal touch. Cue a standing ovation.

Braun did a song that he wrote for his wife of 21 years and as a Hollywood resident he joked that was akin to four marriages. Song had a dancy bluesy feel to it and it got the crowd dancing.

The trio motivated by what they termed as the ‘most fun’ VIP crowd they had ever performed for then upped a gear with a Memphis Tennessee themed set and a Detroit one too. Aside from their ability on the instruments, the three also boast of amazing vocals. ‘Just call my name’ rendition took folk to church and brought curtains down on four hours of a magical experience.

MUSIC AD

Safaricom Jazz is themed as ‘music that moves you’ and I certainly was totally wholly moved.

Earlier in the week had attended British Council’s night at the Alchemist and loved the Femme Fusion celebrating women in jazz. Hat tip to the amazing Atemi, Kasiva, and new-discovery Kendi.

ALCHEMIST

Before the main Safaricom Jazz event, there are usually theme nights for every nationality that is represented. So Italian, Israeli, British, Belgian etc. It is great that Safaricom imports a lot of jazz music but it would be great if Kenyan music was also exported. Imagine if Kenyan acts got to perform abroad and get exposed to international level performing as well as market Kenya. Food for thought.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

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Music that moves you

When a retired high school head teacher stood on the stage in the middle of a performance by five time Grammy Award winner Victor Wooten and declared “I am the reason why this is happening” my curiosity was piqued.

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The retired head teacher was a high school teacher in Western Kenya in 1978 when an American showed up at the school and asked for a teaching job. The American had made a trip to Africa to find himself and the teacher helped get him a chance to teach Math and Physics.

After a stint teaching in rural Kenya, the American went back home to do his Masters and 40 years later is now the third president of the world famous Berklee College of Music.

Francis Lutomia was the teacher 40 years ago while Roger Brown was the American looking to find himself.

Four decades later this unlikely relationship has birthed an even more unlikely relationship between Kenya and the Berklee College of Music through Francis Lutomia’s son, Sam.

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According to Francis, Roger gave his son a job at Berklee and Sam in 2011 went on to found the Global Youth Groove (GYG) whose mission is to transform the lives of youth in Kenya through music primarily by a cultural exchange program involving Berklee students and alumni and Kenyans.

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For six years Global Youth Groove has been doing the exchange programs and after three years of planning Sam had finally managed to get the hugely in-demand Wooten and Berklee Bass Department chair, Steve Bailey to come to Kenya together with several of Berklee students and alumni.

At first glance, Wooten dressed in a bright African print shirt – that he was gifted by Kenyan jazz artiste Ricky of Ricky na Marafiki – and spotting dreadlocks covered by a black woolen cap can easily pass for a Jamaican roots reggae musician.

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That is until he strums his bass guitar and magic happens. His hand motion is at times fast, at times slow and at times barely noticeable but what is constant is the brilliance of a man at the peak of his skill.

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For 50 of his 52 years Wooten has been playing the bass guitar and seated at the front side row of the Michael Joseph Centre I was blown away by the melodies he coaxes out of his bass guitar. It was easy to see why Wooten who also teaches at Berklee has been named at number 10 in the Top 10 Bassists of All Time by the influential Rolling Stones magazine.

On his part, Bailey a blonde haired, wiry man who would not be out of place in a country music band run to the stage high fiving all the VIPs sat in the front row and cracked jokes with ease. He then went on to strum a six string guitar that is the hugest guitar I have ever seen.

BAILEY

Bailey who is 57 started playing the guitar when he was 12 and the unwieldy instrument was like jelly in his hands.  Watching him manipulate it to produce delightful sound was like watching a painter produce a masterpiece from scratch.

Wooten and Bailey mastery on the guitars resulted in a sensory experience that was amazing. Imagine two guitars having different animated standpoints on a conversation that covered a variety of issues and you begin to picture the amazing chemistry.

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Backing up the two musical geniuses was Martin, a second year Berklee student on the drums who played with the confidence of a professional and the abandon of a teenager.

WOOTEN BAILEY

The intimate invite-only evening of jazz was hosted under the auspices of the Safaricom Jazz Festival with several Berklee associated musicians taking to the stage.

A gentleman named Ricky who was dressed like a Southern pastor engaged the crowd in singing a catchy song which had an American south churchy-feel to it. “People make the world go round” was the audience refrain as Ricky crooned and Wooten, Bailey and Marten jammed.

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Then come Leonna dressed to kill and looking so young and sweet until she began singing and her sensationally beautiful voice made a lady sat near me shudder in bliss and almost get into a trance.

And finally from the Berklee crowd was Sky Bridge band with Japanese vocalist and composer Utako Toyama backed by two other ladies of colour. Their song ‘We declare peace’ was about global unity and they also got the audience quite engaged.

SKY BRIDGE

Singled out for possible Sainthood by an enthralled Bailey was Elizabeth Njoroge, the brains and heart behind Ghetto Classics. The visiting Berklee musicians had visited Korogocho a day earlier and were wowed by the taking of classical and jazz music to the youth of a highly disadvantaged neighborhood.

Quest for sainthood aside, heartfelt pledges of support were made by Bailey on behalf of Berklee for the betterment of Ghetto Classics to which all the proceeds of the Safaricom Jazz Festival go to.

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A special mention goes to The Don Ouko, a brilliant Kenyan saxophonist who was backed by a vocalist, drummer and a guy on keys and who was the curtain-raiser to Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey and the other Berklee musicians.

The Don

I was also quite wowed by Jacob Asiyo who was a guest at the concert and who totally delivered when he was ambushed with a request to play the keys for Wooten and Bailey.

JACOB ASIYO

The Master of ceremony was the delightful Kavutha-Mwanzia Asiyo who incidentally is also an alumni of Berklee.

KAVUTHA

At the end of the two-hour jam session all the artistes who had graced the stage through the night went back on stage to jam in a lovely improvisation.

JAM SESSION AT THE END

Quite a lovely evening spent with music that moved me.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

PS: Images via @SafaricomLtd, Google.


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!


Sinking Jahazi

It is 1.21am on a Thursday night, you are at a gents at an uptown local and life is coming at you at a frightening speed.

1am

You have just barely managed to pay the bill and you have no extra money in your wallet.

You had previously okoa-d jahazi and not paid it back.

You have zero credit on your phone, zero on MPESA, and your bundles have run out.

So getting an uber never mind the mechanics of paying for it becomes a matter of rocket science.

This is when you stare at your phone and wonder who you can call to help.

As you realize that it is true a friend is someone who you can call at 1am and they pick up and help. And that despite the overflowing phone book you have very few friends.

Getting here may seem far-fetched and I can hear you wonder how a grown man can be so irresponsible.

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Let’s back track.

Man has not seen his friend who happens to be a woman for awhile. So man asks woman friend for a meet and chat. Woman is hanging out with her friend who is a mutual acquaintance and she asks if she can come with the acquaintance and man innocently says yes.

Drinks are enjoyed. Meat is ordered.

Then the acquaintance invites over a cousin who partakes of his drink and the meat and leaves.

Then the acquaintance has a phone chat with her best friend who happens to be in the vicinity and she comes over and also enjoys her drinks.

Shortly, the best friend of the acquaintance calls over her boyfriend who orders for drinks.

Then the woman friend, remember her, leaves.

All this time, the bills were piling up and the man is left with a hefty bar bill that no-one  is interested in paying.

Fast-forward.

Man who has just about paid the bill asks one of the wait staff to sambaza credit and man is able to hail an uber which gets him to an ATM thus enabling him to pay for ride home.

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Questions:

How often are men in such situations and they are left crying in the toilet?

Do women have a responsibility to also pick their share of the bill in joint company?

In polite company, should all those who have partaken of drinks and meal on a table share the bill?

If invited to a meet-up, as a lady, is it really polite to tag along your entire crew?

Learnings:

To get loaned credit – Okoa Jahazi – *131#

To get loaned bundles – Okoa Bundles – *544#

It is important to have emergency money in M-Shwari for a rainy day.

Consolation:

Man-up. You are not alone. A huge number of men have found themselves in a similar situation. Chalk it up as a scar of war. Pick the lesson and be cleverer next time.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Tech for Governance

These are notes taken at the Code for Africa event in November 2016.

The panel was made up of @roomthinker and @gathara with Catherine Gicheru moderating.

**It happens under the hashtag – #hhnbo

The conversation largely unfolded as follows:

Mzalendo – Started as a database for parliament. Evolved over time
Most active constituencies were rural
Tech is Nairobi centric, how do you give voice to Wanjiku
Info is everywhere. We are just desensitized.
Tell the story in a way that engages the person
Are we digital warriors. Just talking and talking?
Digital conversations are valid. You don’t have to go to the streets. Kitambo we went to bars, whispered in the different spaces. Now we talk online
MPs are getting on Twitter
What of the people who ain’t on social media?
How do we give a majority of Kenyans a voice through tech?
We have come from far where there were gatekeepers. But social media has made more gatekeepers.
Danger is democratisation of truth where everyone has their on truth and facts
Another danger is folk talk to folk they agree with so create an echo chamber
So how do we link the groups?
Objective of mzalendo is to give public a voice
Knowledge is a genie which once it is out it can’t be put box in a box
Mzalendo gives you a diverse info – minister for health in 1970, Hansard for a long time, etc
How do you change narrative to be for more people?
How do you tell a story away from from the hard facts and into digestible bits?
Egovt has grown in a big way.
Info is there for folk to read
My car was hit, went to a cop station, the cops chucked an exercise book to write, shock on me.
So how do we use tech to help this? Because egovt is there but the basics aren’t there.
Tech is there but it is not helping
How do we complete tech process?
Illusion of information, illusion of participation
We need to craft systems to fix this
How did NTSA arrive at 50kph. Zero engagement
Do you think govt uses any of its social media to communicate
Empower – a way to show that there is a problem. An app that enables you to take pics, description, then upload. Through tech I can be able to share the pic with people in power. Then it can be used to fix.
So response happens but then the fix is superficial.
Impact – as a journalist you are looking at impact. How do you measure impact. Kanjo kingdom aired. We talked and talked then nothing happened.
Democratisation of free speech. It gives an insight into spaces.
Click-bait  is king
How do we devolve information, civic duty?
Why should I care?
So what?
Tax clock – shows what how much of my tax is used for x.
It is sobering that most money goes to debt payment
taxclock.codeforkenya.org
What is tax on a beer
Pay for nhif but still pay aar
Pay for cops but pay for g4s
How do you formulate policy
Public participation can be vague
But how can we tell people about when the interactions are there
Can we get an app for when things happen
Can we break down the information numbers
Uraia is doing stuff
How do you make people govt literate through tech
Representation being bettered through tech.

Code for Africa has come up with:
biscuitindex.codeforkenya.org
pesacheck.org

Questions that members of the audience had but were not addressed:
How do you hold folk into account?
Is it to get good people or to make the system good?
Can we tell both the bad and good stories?
How do I keep them on the straight and narrow?
****

***After here I kinda zoned out.***

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*****My thoughts after the entire event.*****

1. As a content creator I loved the digital tools on offer to enable me to tell stories.

2. I have written about Talking Shop before.

3. It is a feel good opportunity to come together, talk amongst ourselves as folk interested in governance but it is an exercise in futility if we are just preaching to the converted. How do we get the information out to the mwananchi wa kawaida? How do you get the masses involved in the civic conversation?

4. It is great to talk about tech for governance/accountability but less than an year to an election the plan, focus has to be geared towards a) enabling folk to make good decisions at the ballot b) having credible folk on the ballot. c) ensuring the polls are free and fair.

5. Kenya’s problem is a crisis of values. Folk see leadership, being in government as an opportunity to enrich themselves not to serve. How do we fix that?

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If you have read all the way until here them you are a serious person who deserves a treat :-).

Someone more serious than me, wrote about the event in a more fancy way. Enjoy!

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Hijab Tales

Eid Mubarak!

For all who fasted may your prayers, sacrifices and fasts be accepted.

I spent a bit of my teenager years in Mombasa and I really love the coastal culture.

From the food – mapochopocho, pilau mbuzi, mabuyu etc.

The music – taarab, bango.

And the dressing – hijab, buibui, kanzu, kofia.

So this conversation about Hijabs is not entirely random.

Basically I  wondered how it is to be a hijabi, young and trendy and so I engaged two of my Muslim friends in their early 20s on their hijab stories.

They both opted for anonymity so they shall be S.G and S.A :-).

hijab 1

Courtesy – Google

 

ModerateKenyan – Why do you wear the hijab?

S.G – *hmmmm* Because it is mandatory from a  religious perspective. Also from my culture women wear the headscarf. Hijab is about decency.

S.A – *smiles, crosses legs, adjusts buibui* To conceal. Hijab means to cover. Necessary to cover one’s beauty. Personal choice. Save men from impure thoughts. Feel at peace when covered up. There is more respect when you are covered.

ModerateKenyan – When did you start wearing the headscarf?

S.G – When I was very young. My mum trained me how to wear it.

S.A – At 10. But since I went to a Catholic school and had to follow their rules I would wear hijab only on the way from home to school.

ModerateKenyan – Do you ever feel uncomfortable or get into trouble for wearing hijab?

S.G – When I was in high school. Went to a PCEA school. The rules said no hijab so if I wore a hijab I would get into trouble.

S.A – We are not in France. *laughs* But after an attack – Westgate, Garissa all eyes are on you, you are searched more and basically profiled because of the hijab.

ModerateKenyan – Ever considered not wearing the hijab?

S.G – *laughs and laugh* Yes I did! When I was in university. At USIU. I have really long beautiful hair and there were times I would want to show it off and the great make-up. So for a month did not wear hijab. Got so many compliments on my hair and looks. But Muslim friends would ask me what was going on. Also felt individually guilty. So resumed wearing hijab.

S.A – *shock* Doing away with my hijab is like doing away with my religion. Doing away with a part of me. No!

ModerateKenyan – Is hijab a choice or a must?

S.G It is a must. In the Quran there is a whole Sura on hijab.

S.A It is both. It is a personal choice that makes me confident, happier. It is also a religious obligation to cover up. Protects me from so much. If I remove then I am living a double life.

ModerateKenyan – Does it save on hair cost?

S.G – *lights up and really laughs* You have no idea what happens underneath. A married woman has to fix her hair to look good for her husband but me? I can have rastas, matutas, anything. And it is okay and no one knows.

S.A – Oh my! It so does. You have no idea. What is a bad hair day? And what are these things people put on their hair ati sijui weaves? No thanks. Lemme be covered with my hijab.

ModerateKenyan – Fashionable hijabs. Do you wear them? Why? Is it not a contradiction?

S.G – It is wrong. Hijabs should be decent, simple and plain. But I am young! As long as I am covered up then I feel it is okay to go for a fancy, colourful and trendy hijab. It is a tough balancing act. *shrugs*

S.A – Purpose of a hijab is to cover. One is not meant to stand out. One is meant to blend in. But then hijab does not mean you do not look good or you do not look trendy or fashionable. I am a woman. I want to look good. So balance is to ensure you are fashionable but decent. Not easy but I am trying.

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My curiosity was sated and I also got an insight on hijabs.

We are more alike than we are different but ignorance is a huge hindrance to our cohesion.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

ALLAH 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!


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