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Wu Tang 2Been wondering, how can music as an art, be equated to visual or tangible art. This is obviously something legendary hip hop group, Wu-Tang Clan, have had on their minds for a long time. News emerged last month that they are planning to sell just one copy of a new album. Their main muse is the fact that this century has seen music become way commercialized than any other piece of art. And sometimes, it doesn’t come back to the singers.

Art always seems to have an appreciating value. A few years ago, Intelligent Life announced that Andy Warhol had sold the most pop art than any other artists, dead or alive. But why is it the case, that for some music groups like SWV and TLC, one of the biggest selling girl-groups of all time, despite having reached the height of their career, at some point in their lives, their music continued to play on the radios and royalties were sent to ‘someone’ not sure who, but the singers themselves went broke, some even bankrupt.

Recently watched an Ashanti interview on Arsenio Hall, she was very serious while saying that most musicians are not making money off music anymore, and you are lucky if you receive royalties for song-writing like she does.

“The Wu – Once Upon a Time Shaolin” is a 31-track double album that the band is said to have worked on for the last six years. The album will be packaged in a hand-carved nickel box by Yahya, British-Moroccan artist. According to the album’s website, it will be “available for purchase and ownership by one individual only.”

After touring festivals, museums and galleries, for fans to catch a glimpse of the box and hear Wu’s music, the album will be ready for sale. However, the album’s website does not list an expected selling price, but the group are determined that shall they sell it to any one individual, they will be responsible shall it be exposed it to piracy and distribution.

Now that’s a tricky situation, hope they can earn several million dollars. In the mean time, closer home, I am really digging the fact that you can buy art work online in Kenya. Interested in sharing some of the awesome things you don’t want to keep and save us all from waiting eagerly for Tuesday and Saturday Maasai Market. Post ads free here What are your thoughts about selling a music album as if it were one piece of art? Leave your comments.

Why must I see your shadow everywhere I go?

I spot a man in a well-fitting suit and think of you. I wonder what kind of style you dig; and if love is a type of ocean, how deep would you sink? Would you float in emotions and let it carry you away? I see a man in headphones and think of you. I wonder if I’ll forever be alone or like the music he listens to, soothes his heart; you will be to me, you will be mine. Like fine wine, I want a love that matures into fruition. I want a love that takes me to a place of no contemplation but satisfaction and guarantee that my partner will be by my side; to tuck me in, hold me close, make me tea, share everything; from life’s teachings and challenges to achieving the highest chi.

I spot a man holding his partner lovingly and think of you. I wonder what kind of arms and hands you have. I wonder if they are strong enough to shelter me from the storm. Are they able to carry me home when I am injured, hurt, lonely, troubled or in need of our silent and peaceful place? Your hands must be made to fit in mine, for I haven’t yet met someone whose hands locked in mine, felt perfect. I haven’t yet met someone whose love fused in mine felt absolute and doubtless. I think of your lips. How will they taste in mine? Maybe as fresh as our love or tasteless, for we will be one of the same in disguise of a kiss.

I spot a smart, caring, brilliant, supportive and understanding man and think of you. Are these some of your qualities? Are these the qualities that make a man? I need you to be more than these qualities. Your presence will be a rarity, for like a gem you must be; hard to find and hard to tap. Like a game I must be, hard to pin and hard to trap. You will be man enough to say you are sorry and man enough to prepare a meal for your lady. I will be woman enough to surrender to all your needs. Your first job will be taking care of me and us, before anything else. Your drive will be my passion and together with our love we’ll mould our relationship’s strongest quality.

For a brief moment human beings brush shoulders with déjà vu. All of a sudden, people, places and things start to exist within us. Like hues, we can see what can’t be touched. We can taste and tersely grasp at what we don’t have. In the moment, the dead come alive. We create new people. Unrequited love is requited. And lost ones like moments return. Nostalgic songs and voices become brand new—the magic hardly lasts. In this moment, the skies are blue and the breeze is whispering into my ear. In this moment I stop to gaze at the world. I stop to gaze at myself though the mirror. Inspired, I realize that I write you love poems, but you never read any. That’s just because I have met nobody but your shadow.

 

IMG_5481Dust is a strong literary sign of a new breed of Kenyan writers to reckon. The sophistication with which Yvonne writes is not for English-starters. She’s got many great quotes like, “To name something is to bring it to life”; and melodic lines like, “Selene returned to Kenya in tears, just as the Nandi flame trees were in Crimson blossom.”

Well-articulated and intricate, Dust comes off as well thought out and thoroughly edited. It’s another feat for Kenyan writers, and Kwani Trust (publishers of the novel). Winner of Caine Prize for Africa Writing, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor released her debut novel in a mighty cool event hosted by Kwani Trust in December of 2013, just as Kenya was about to celebrate her 50th anniversary. Dust wouldn’t have come at a better time as the book’s storyline revolves around various sociopolitical issues that Kenya has faced in the past 50 years.

Moses Odidi Oganda, a middle-aged brilliant mind turned thug, is shot in cold-blood by police after a cat and mouse chase on the streets of Nairobi. The sudden death shocks many and leaves his family left with a great loss. The general election results are announced and a president declared despite harrowing evidence of rigging. Odidi’s family gather in Wuoth Ogik, in the outskirts of Northern Kenya to bury their son. It’s a journey that takes the characters and readers into another world, of discovering untold stories, secrets and a family’s heritage that includes Kenya’s history.

Straight from the Mau Mau uprising, to the promise of a new nation, Dust’s climax mainly revolves around Odidi’s only sibling Ajany. While the nation struggles with untangling herself from challenges of development and modern-day struggles like corruption and devolution, Ajany is searching for her brother’s lost life. “My stories sip from rich human repository, and also cater to my obsession with guessing reasons for human choices and their consequences—particularly the bad ones,” says Yvonne of her love for featuring history heavily in her literature.

The beauty of how Yvonne’s storyline is intertwined is phenomenal. Every character the reader encounters is a link to another. And through their lives, the reader is enthralled by the history of a coral-coloured house and all kinds of love, including the forbidden. Through the book, the reader is introduced to magical Kenya. From the terrains of Naivasha, all the way past the deserts of Turkana, Kenyan destinations have never been painted as marvellously.

By the time Odidi is finally laid to rest, so is the weight most characters in the book carry. I really want to expound on this but if I do, I will spoil a major one. Let me just put it this way—I really enjoyed the strength of Yvonne’s characters. They were the essence of grit and strength.

Dust is highly recommended for literature buffs and those who want to discover a new writing style. And the best past of it all is, Dust starts on a high note and ends in an even higher and dramatic one. A must read!

BONUS: Dust was first released and published by Kwani Trust in December 2013. It’s available for sale via Amazon or in any leading bookstores or Kwani offices in Kenya.

Quirkology  ImageHow can you tell that someone is lying? What do you know about the psychology of love and attraction? Is February the 13th really doomed? Is the world really as small as many people refer to it? Does it matter that he is tall? What’s the true measure of a real smile or a funny joke? And what’s the secret to cooking the perfect cup of tea? The book: The curious Science of Everyday Lives, details Professor Richard Wiseman’s social experiments and some by psychology professors and psychoanalysts. They all tackle all these questions among other fascinating aspects of everyday lives.

1. How to tell someone is lying

The more information you give away, the greater the chances of some of it coming back to haunt you. As a result, liars tend to say less and provide fewer details, than truth-tellers. On the contrary, some liars tend to talk a lot and exaggerate details. Instead of only looking at information given, check out for body language signs like how comfortable do they look while talking? Are they trembling, shaking or sweating. In the end, there is no conclusive research that has specifically discovered how to tell a liar from a truth-teller.

2. Secret to perfect tea making

The water in the teapot has to remain between 180 – 190 degrees Fahrenheit. It has to stay eight minutes in the tea leaves. This and the right proportion of Ketepa, milk and water mixture will save you from angry guests and spouses. Tea really is everything to me.

3. What’s the measure of a true smile?

Lifelong success and happiness can be predicted by the simple crinkling around the sides of the eyes. It’s that simple.

4. Is the world really smaller?

“People often develop magical believes about the world because they have experienced something seemingly weird. With the concept of coincidences, events appear to coincide in a way that both seem meaningful, and defies the odds.” It turns out that most people who tend to see the world as small know lots of people, and so are, without realizing it, making their own good fortune by constructing, an especially small world. This idea funxed with my mind a good one. I honestly think, this world is really small.

5. Does height matter?

“Although height no longer offers physical advantage, our primate brains hold onto their evolutionary past, and so still associate tall people with success. The psychological relationship between height and status works in both directions. Not only do we think that tall people are more competent, but also that competent people are tall. That’s why people are often surprised to discover that some Hollywood stars are below average height. Perceived height of a person can change with their apparent status.”

6. Ghosts and other weird feelings

Infra sound or low-frequency sound is deeply strange and can be produced from ocean waves, earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes. Animals are said to detect these sounds, they are said to be possibly the reason why animals fled the 2004 tsunami in Asia. These sounds can sometimes be produced during concerts or at church depending on a building’s acoustic. So the next time you think you saw a ghost, it might be the building’s lighting, ventilation and acoustics coupled with your wildest imaginations clouding your mental judgement. The next time you think a singer’s voice takes you to heaven or you were touched by the angel while at church—it could have just been infra sound or low-frequency sound waves. Very Freaky!

7. Psychology of compatibility

Do not meet someone on your first date on a high bridge or in an area above normal sea level. These kind of heightened environments makes the heart generally beat faster, so that fools the brain and you will tend to feel like you are more attracted to your date. Avoid overly soothing experiences like smooth music, country and wind chimes. Your best bet will actually be a horror film, a roller coaster or a rock concert. They will generically draw you closer.

If you’re a follower of Psych Today, this book is literally a longer version, complete with several chapters and sub headings. Everyone should read this book for some amazing and quirky life lessons, including why bad musicians always win at competitions and how comes incompetent politicians always get elected. This book asserts the wise words of the psychologist Arthur Conan Doyle: “Life is infinitely stranger than anything the mind of man could invent.”

BONUS: Professor Richard Wiseman is Britain’s only professor for the public understanding of psychology. There isn’t anything true about Friday the 13th being a bad omen, despite many recorded incidences in history of bad and freaky things happening on the date. That said, avoid road trips and being anywhere an accident could happen on Friday the 13th because the fact that people are conscious of the day’s said bad omen will most probably make them nervous and thus suffer cognitive dissonance, making them cause accidents or mishaps. Sharp ey?

Toni + BabyfaceThe coming as one of Toni Braxton and Babyface is such a sweet thing. Who doesn’t want to hear two legends of olden R&B in a joint fresh album? I guess there isn’t a feeling as strong as experiencing love, marriage or divorce. It must be so strong that despite Babyface and Toni having had irreconcilable label differences back in the day, they have clearly put all that behind them to collaborate in this stellar album (released Feb 2014), dedicated to the life and times of their real life personal relationships.

They both shine is solo tracks. Babyface’s “Hope That’s You’re Okay” is a smooth as a The Tony Rich Project modern-day tune. Toni’s “I Wish” is bitter-sweet. Her operatic and sensual voice comes out sweetly, cursing an ex and wishing upon him nothing but hell. Guys. Make peace with your exes. Off the album’s 11 songs, every single song is replay material. Don’t miss out on the hauntingly beautiful lovely and poignant divorce song: “D- Word” and the well-written “Reunited.” – Back to the business of love, the duo sings. This album is a must-have! If it doesn’t win a Grammy in the song writing category next season, it’s okay – it already won my heart.

1. Roller Coaster 04.24

This is such a lovely intro to the album. Such a funky R&B beat laced with some sensual piano chords, mellow drums and a nice kick! It’s amazing how the people you love most, are the ones who will, sometimes, make you most mad. “Today I got so mad at you, I couldn’t control myself. I was done with you, but I knew that I couldn’t love somebody else”- goes Babyface in the opening verse.” Indeed, love is a roller coaster. One day, you feel like you are on top of the world, another day you’re down under hurting. Guess what will matter is how well you bounce after the roll has left you all dizzy and tingly.

2. Sweat 04.28

Sometimes in relationships, you find that you get tired of fighting or talking or solving issues and the only way out is hopping into bed. “If you really wanna fight, let’s take it to the bed tonight …” goes the chorus. This one is a good makeup sex song, plus the smooth R&B beat is for keeps, all night long.

3. Hurt You 04.11

Anyone ever realised how similar heart you and hurt you sound, yet evoke very different emotions? That’s exactly how thin the line between loving and hurting someone is. Tricky thing is, most times, no one really sets out to break anyone’s heart– “God knows I never meant to hurt you…” This one is for all of us; we’ve been hurt in one way or another by a life experience. 20 years ago, this is exactly how Toni and Babyface’s sound meant to unfold in the future. Just enough.

4. Where Did We Go Wrong? 03.37

This is it, my favourite song from the album; R&B reminiscent of 90s music. We all have been through that perfect (for a moment) relationship that ends flat on our noses, leaving us wondering – what the hell went wrong? This is the message of the song. Sometimes, the love you give will never be enough for somebody else and vice versa. When you find that it’s not working for you, just move on. At some point however, find out where it all went wrong. I love that the ballad is stripped down and is acoustic for most of its running. The guitar is lovely and exactly a continuation to Babyface’s “Every time I Close My Eyes”.

7. Take it Back 04.06

“If we do not like our story, we could write it just the way we want” – Toni sets the pace in the song’s opening. How powerful is that line? If there’s something you don’t dig about your life, nobody will change it other than yourself. Something about the guitar chords sound like the hands of Sade’s guitar Juan Janes. Oh what a sweet and groovy jam! The song is about one longing for the olden good days of a relationship now gone bad. “I know we can get it back to where it was,” sings Toni in first chorus. Then Babyface comes on in the second verse talking to Toni more than singing, “There are many things that will Test—Us.” Love this one, replay material. It makes me wonder if these two can’t just fall in love already. No for real, they are both divorced.

BONUS: Babyface discovered Toni Braxton, back in the day. What a lovely story. Check their super cute interview on Arsenio Hall.

You might also dig my review of Kameron Corvet’s new EP: Darker Than Gray

 

 

 

I love the way it feels. This thing called happiness. It’s like a long-lasting taste of Apple Waffles and syrup. It’s like a non-hasty affair that leaves the inner soul able to feel free. I love the way it feels. This thing called friendship. It’s like a strong old rope, passed on land and into the seas, beat and weathered, and we are its strands intertwined. It’s like how good wine feels down the throat, and unrelated, how secure it feels just to stand by you. I love the way it feels. This thing called music. It’s like the drug I never took that leaves me high and sometimes jet-lagged, yet I never really left the ground. It feels as good as when we sway to the beat. The same way, I want to hear your heart beat, rhythmically. I love the way it sounds: Bang. Bang. Bang. I love how the business of loving life, and loving you feels. It’s like a great song without any words. Portions of love, easier felt than said.

photo (34)Where are my manners? Last week, or the last one before that, Black Roses was chosen by Travel Start Kenya as one of 25 Great Kenyan blogs to follow. Someone mentioned to me yesterday, that in the compilation, Black Roses was the only blog that specializes in arts and culture. Isn’t that dope? And I must be blind to have let that pass my eyes.

I thought it would be great to share with you the article, read it here and take this space to say, I was so elated and I am so thankful.

You know what that means, there is no stopping. Don’t want to spoil or jinx anything but just so you all know, forget about the Train Ride from hell, there might be a couple of interesting Safari  Tales to share this year.

I just want to say thanks to all the followers of this blog, you are genuinely awesome. Sometimes, I feel like I write gibberish, things only I would understand but then I find that some of you have liked such posts or just read. I am very glad that this blog is serving me well. This was supposed to be the ultimate expression of my deeper self that few really understand and I am happy that I feel understood and equally get inspirations from stuff you write me, see these powerful comments on the Natural Hair debate. Shit like this makes me alive and aware of the fact that we are not as solitary as we think we are.

THANKS for reading, keep it here.

bmj 3What’s not to love about Gabrielle Union? She’s gorgeous. She’s also the star of BET’s most successful original series to date: Being Mary Jane (BMJ). I really love black series (the likes of Martin, Soul food, Girlfriends and The Game) because I find them extra soulful. I relate to them.

The soundtracks in BMJ were excellent! They even played Lianne La Havas “Elusive” and Jessie Ware’s acoustic “Night Light”. Also loved that most of the songs were by black artists. When I tweeted that, someone called me racist on Twitter and added *Trevor Noah voice*. Now I didn’t know whether to argue with them or just move on, but just to set the record straight I am not a racist and I am not ashamed to declare that I am naturally inclined to drum beat towards black stuff, as the famous saying goes, Black Don’t Crack.

There were a couple of times, when I felt like the whole professional egotistical crazy black woman persona in BMJ was going a little far and was making me feel exhausted, but in the end I really loved how ordinary yet dramatic the love life stories in BMJ were, among other themes. Here are my five lessons from the series that I felt everyone could pluck a piece from.

1. Never Ever Fall In Love with a Married Man

The problem with love is that you don’t know, and can’t avoid who you will love. And in Mary Jane’s case, she started falling for Andre (played by the yummy Omari Hardwick) before knowing that he was married. But she continued to pursue the relationship anyway. Such scenarios will always end up badly. And every woman should consider sacrificing a man she loves for the sake of the togetherness of an entire family, including kids. Just get your own single man. Side note - why do they always give Omari Hardwick the suffering roles? BMJ. The Last Letter. For Coloured Girls. Dark Blue. Why oh why.

2. Check Your Sex Game but Don’t Steal Sperm

BMJ takes the crown for the steamiest premiere. The first 10 minutes of the first episode, with Andre and Mary J making out to Rihanna’s “Cake” creates a thrilling anticipation for more. Through Andre we get to know that men don’t like lazy head and care that women aren’t generally lazy in bed. By the time Mary Jane gets the balls to face her ex boyfriend David (played by the yummy Stephen Bishop) and talk out bottled up issues, like why she stole his sperm—she’s literally nothing but just another crazy black woman, drunk and a nuisance. When you want to talk to an ex, wait till the feelings have subsided, avoid it if you just hooked up with them, and lastly – don’t be under any influence. Finally, do not steal their sperm. As David says, “If you want a baby, just ask.”

3. Forgiveness Is Key

At first, Mary Jane is blinded by her own version of perfection and impression of how people should live their lives. It’s until Mary Jane is able to forgive her weakness and see her faults that she can apologize to those she hurt along the way. It’s another of life’s little rules. Forgive yourself, ask for forgiveness and then you will find closure, and later on – what’s you’ve been praying for. I really loved what her momma said when she found out that she was having an affair with a married man. “Cry tonight because tomorrow is a brand new day to make it right.”

4. A Job Isn’t Everything –Success Is

Mary Jane is a local celebrity and a recognized face among many Americans. This makes it very hard for her to socialize with everyone. This makes it harder for her to allow herself to fall. She is constantly under scrutiny, at work, at home and even on the streets. It’s very unfair that her extended family is lazy and she has to foot nearly everyone’s bills. She is caught up in maintaining people’s lives. Her pregnant niece asks her, “Where’s your man? Where is your baby and happy ever after” She realizes the importance of taking time for the self. A job is what pays the rent but we also need to align a lot of things that surround us. Take time to relax and enjoy yourself away from work. Make living your life and cherishing moments also part of life. Part of the reason why Mary Jane breaks up with her former boyfriend is because she was so caught up in the mindset of having to find an ideal man who makes as much or more money than her. Although money means a lot, appreciate other life’s simple pleasures like love and happiness.

5. Black is Beauty

No matter what anyone says about black skin and black girls, black girls will always be viewed and reviewed in relation to black identity. That’s because black is diverse and the skin also comes in different shades. We can’t help that other people associate black with ugly or weak and it’s unfortunate that some black girls have taken it the wrong way too. Whether you are in Kenya, America or abroad, your black skin is beautiful. Be proud. Let it not define who you but you must identify with it. Be your best person. If you don’t succeed, as Mary Jane says, “Stay at number BMJ 4two position. You are almost there but not yet.” Here, there isn’t as much pressure. Be patient and take time to learn and you will make it to the top. No matter how men or the society take professional women, or women who have everything a man has, or can do everything a man can, that doesn’t matter. Be respectful to all sexes but most importantly, don’t forget to do you.

P.S: Adored the male casting and fashion/styling in BMJ. Can’t wait for Season Two!

BONUS: It’s a little interesting that Gabrielle Union really is a Mary Jane in many aspects. It’s been widely reported that her fiancée Dwyane Wayde cheated on his ex-wife with her and still cheated on her (Gabrielle) with another woman and even got a baby. I don’t want to judge, but that’s messed up. Now watch this video of Lupita Nyong’o talking about Black Skin and Beauty.

You might fancy my article on What Hollywood and Kenya Thinks of @Lupita_Nyongo (Patsey)

photo (27)“Music is passion. It’s life. It’s medicine. It helps the mind relax and be organized. I am a better person; happy and physically stronger when I play music,” states Habib Koite.

With a rich discography boasting over six albums (solo and collaborative), successful international tours—having played at prestigious music festivals like WOMAD, a record high-profile interviews (including on David Letterman and Rolling Stones); Habib Koite is a certified African star.

About an hour to meeting the man, I start to wonder what he would be like in person. I arrive at the Sovereign Suites (where Habib is staying) about 45 minutes late for my interview and pretty agitated by how far the hotel was—way past Kiambu, Google maps lie. Habib’s dreadlocks are so thick and full. Just like in a myriad images of him on the internet. He has just about an hour to his sound check, in preparation for his debut Kenyan concert. The time factor and a little nervousness makes me speak very fast while talking. We are sitting across each other, only separated by a small round table at one of the hotel’s serene backrooms.  “Take it easy,” he cuts me short. Casually dressed in Nike shoes, a dull pinstriped t-shirt and denim trousers while reading through my anxiety, he adds lightheartedly “I also want to talk to you”. Before I know it, we are enjoying a conversation that turns out to be surreal and undisputedly my most classic interview to date.

I had too much music

Brought up in a musical family, Habib Koite can hardly recall when music wasn’t part of his upbringing/life. “My father was also a guitar player and we (together with his siblings) started by playing his guitar,” he reminisces. After elementary school, Habib joined Mali’s Institute of Art to study music—his passion. Unbeknownst to him, this would be his unprecedented stint at being a long-serving music teacher, something that he had never dreamt, even thought of becoming. In his fourth and last year at the institute, the head Classical Guitar teacher at the institution passed on. Soon after finishing his course in June of 1982, the Minister of Culture and the institution enthroned Habib, as the institute’s new replacement for the Classical Guitar teacher position. “They said that I was the Best Student, and in October I was the official teacher with a responsibility to teach. I didn’t think I could do it.”

The then budding musician would balance between his new job and pursuing his career in music. “Every night I would go home and perfect the guitar chords that I would teach the next day. I didn’t want to be ashamed in class.” He would also use his precious night time to regularly perform at various local clubs, a move that garnered him fans and followers by the day. “Some people came from the village to the club or institute, just because they liked me,” he affirms proudly—the first time, during the interview when I get to see his excitement of being, The Celebrated Habib Koite.

“No more cigarette!” The Big Break

After Habib Koite spent each day of his 18 years at the institute (four years studying and fourteen years teaching), his first notable sway to becoming his own master at music came after winning a France-organized music competition in 1991. “The prize was to spend a week in a studio with a sound engineer to record two songs (to be pressed into 1,000 copies) and a music video,” he says of the project that produced Habib’s first international hit, his debut single and video: Cigarette Abana. “It immediately made me famous beyond Mali and is to date my biggest hit.”

He would later record four versions of the same song, just for the kicks and an ode to where it all began. Two years later Habib, won at Radio France International as the Best New Artist as voted for by international journalists. “That was big,” he says of the opportunity that sponsored his first stadium show. “It was the first time I played in front of an audience of 25,000 people.” Soon, Habib’s status changed from being just a Malian singer to being sought after by the world stage and international media like CNN and Nat Geo. “I am probably the first Malian to have been on David Letterman. But if you tell a Malian that, they don’t know what you are saying. I was bigger outside than at home. But people in Mali and Africa slowly started to know me.”

On Composition & Bamada Longevity

For an early acclimatization to the grand meet-up, before the interview I start to listen to his album Afriki. Something weird happens. My favorite song N’Tesse, suddenly makes me emotional for the first time, even though I don’t comprehend its words sang in Bambara (Malians native dialect). It kind of makes me feel thankful for my life, every little or outstanding achievement ever made and the people who support me. I immediately decide that I would have to ask the singer of the message behind the song.

“That’s one of my Most Loved Songs yet I never play it,” he says musingly, pausing and smiling. And then surprisingly asks for his guitar to play me the song. But his entourage cautions him that there isn’t enough time. Nevertheless, he breaks into the song while playing imaginary chords. His voice is so smooth and evocative.

My private concert.

“So, you won’t play it tonight at your concert?” I ask.

“We hadn’t planned to play it. If we have time to rehearse it during sound check then we might play it. Now you have inspired me to write a song. When I leave here, I will write a song immediately.”

“But what does N’Tesse mean?” I finally ask.

“I am the middle child out of a family of 17 siblings. Such homesteads are common in Mali. When you have been brought up like that, you realize that you could never do everything alone. I can’t do it by myself—that’s what N’Tesse is about. It’s also about a village that must help its elder,” he says of the song written in the style of traditional griot Malian music (originally based on storytelling).

Habib also talks about his song Afriki, another one of his loved songs. “I feel like Africa has done so much for Europeans. We [Africans] have even gone to war and died. But it’s always looked at as if they (West) help Africa the most. It’s true that Africa also asks for a lot of help too but now that’s enough. Africans have to help this continent, and we can do it in solidarity.” He also expresses his confidence regarding Mali (his country’s) slow rise from the 2013 insurgence and instability. “Mali is now fine; nothing to worry about.”

You will mostly hear of Habib Koite & Bamada more than just Habib Koite. Well, Habib has been with his six-man band for 25 years now. When I ask about their secret to longevity, I get a very unusual answer—Life and Death. “There are times and things in life that we can’t help. Like if someone’s heart is not where it wants to be. But for as long as my band’s has been with me, I am with them. However, there are times when even the heart can fail, for example if someone dies. You can’t fight that kind of separation. But nobody in my band has died, so we have no reason of separation.”

A song like Fimani flaunts Habib & Bamada’s composition skills. Here, only their wealth of traditional instruments like the calabash, talking drums and violins sing. Its live performance at Habib’s Kenyan concert is perfect. I simply can’t understand how catchy it gets with no words to sing to. “It’s my rendition of a popular Malian song. When I play it, I don’t have to sing as everybody sings along.” It must have been shocking for him to see Kenyans sing not to Fimani but the rest of his songs in Bambara. I recorded the below footage of Finami at the concert using my cell phone :-)

Just as we conclude the interview, he compliments my Maasai earrings. “My daughter would love these,” he notes, adding “I wish I could stay longer in Kenya to see this place.” Meeting the personality behind the legend of Habib Koite was super awesome, only regretting one thing: I should have given him my earrings for his daughter.

BONUS: Habib Koite’s latest album Soo (Home) was released in February 2014.  Thank you very much Abdi Rashid for the chance to interview Habib.

You might also dig my Interview with Anthony Hamilton

Black-Couple-ArguingWhy women leave their things (mainly panties) behind, and what that means, is part of the intriguing conversations with male friends, I’ve had this year.

I decided to blog about it, hoping some man will make me understand why men are passionately repulsed if a woman visiting or staying over at their crib will either: leave lipstick stain on their shirt/cheek or random paraphernalia behind. Also blogging to try explain to menfolk why, some women might leave things behind.

It all started when a few of my colleagues invited me over for a heated discussion wanting to try understand why, while visiting at the opposite sex, women will always leave behind their personal effects like shower gel, tampons and little garments like lingerie and panties.

I am not afraid to say that I don’t have a problem leaving my things behind. Just because: it’s less cumbersome and easier – to carrying things around all the time like it’s always the great wildebeest migration. And as a real woman, I love to feel comfortable and self-sufficient wherever and whenever I am visiting.

There’s a thin line between the neediness and surrender that comes with any sort of relationship between two. So guys, you need to understand that it’s not only about you, but also about what the woman wants. Even though she might be visiting your space, and staying over, not leaving her things behind isn’t a sign accurate enough that she isn’t clingy. Tangible things like bras and bags are easily replaceable, and most women own lots. So, leaving things behind isn’t either the ultimate sign that she is clingy. Instead, focus on the intangibles, like – do you make her smile? Does she make you smile? Do you both share moments like cooking together? Did you enjoy each other’s company? Do you like to have her over?

Leaving things behind, as I found out, is mostly interpreted by guys as a way of women stamping their identity and declaring probable recurrence, within a male-dominated space. Most guys do not like this. Sometimes, it’s not paranoia but a reality that a new situation is building up. If she’s left nearly a suitcase worth of stuff behind, maybe it’s time to move in or be presented with Her Wardrobe. On the other hand, it’s sometimes, a woman’s way of gently communicating to  her man, saying: “I want to come back” or “I feel safe knowing my things are with you.” It’s a sort of sign that she entrusts you.

But most guys can’t and won’t see it like this. So what do guys really want?

Special HUGGuys don’t want to have to read signs, yet they are first to read into signs of a woman leaving things around. If a woman should return, men feel, it’s their obligation to decide or that they should be first consulted. Guys don’t want to be ambushed or caught off guard, especially pants down. “Whose are these?” They don’t want to keep making excuses when confronted by other women and having to use the same old excuse: “That’s my sister’s thong!”

But on the real, no serious woman will forever be carrying bags as big as Mary Poppins’ every weekend, just because you might ask her to pop in or she will have to literally carry the world with her when leaving. Quite frankly, that doesn’t reflect well on your character or hers, either. Any serious man will make prior arrangements with a woman, this allowing her enough time, to pack appropriately, shall she be headed over to visit, for some hours, weekend or days.

Turns out that guys have two main issues: letting go of their personal space and sharing it with a woman. My advice to guys: before you welcome a woman into your bed or space for that matter, you should have already been prepared to see more than just clothes. So don’t freak out when she leaves teeny-weeny things like earrings, veet, toothbrush, perfume and deo behind – think of what you will do if she leaves her feelings behind.

Guys will argue that because their space is their throne, nobody is allowed to leave their personal effects if not asked to or officially crowned the queen. But we all know that sometimes, this is used as an excuse to cheat or simply see other women. A clever man knows that women invited over will sniff around like trained bitches and detect any signs of the presence of any kind other female within that vicinity, from a mile away.

waiting_on_this_empty_room_by_petrichor_ish-d349ti1What this means, is that the annoyance men have for women leaving things behind is simply a grand scheme to being eternal bachelors. If you dig her vibe, don’t hustle to invite her over to torment her departure by asking her to pack up everything. Instead, be prepared to be a good courteous host. Prepare to be left with a lipstick stain, perfume scent or the burden of putting together her things left behind. It would be wise to have one place for such paraphernalia. And if you have more than one woman visiting you often, to avoid drama, ensure that the majority are related to you. Either way, create different cabinets for each woman, where you store things left and found. Keep it secret, this is where you magically find her stuff when she asks, “I might have left my toothbrush here last month.” Ladies don’t only want to be treated right, but want their things treated just as well.

Ladies: on the other side of the coin, to avoid being tagged as clingy and to cement the notion that you’re indeed self-sufficient, come with your things and carry them with you, when you leave. However, sometimes you find that the unwanted cycle somehow continues: he invites you over and you keep leaving your things over, thus annoying him. In the end, note: guys love women who won’t leave everything around but will additionally carry themselves with class and dignity.

Part II of this post, coming soon. In the mean time, guys – would love to hear from you, women alike.

BONUS: You might want to check out this old but fun post I co-wrote with Wanjeri Four Kinds Of Men or Is It Puppies?

KameronCorvettDarkerThanGray“Focus on your working, don’t allow yourself to be distracted theoretically with women.” Best intro to any EP, hands down! Additionally to that sexy falsetto, Kameron Corvet gets major points for pulling off Common’s swag by featuring his Dad, and mum in 3 interludes, in between the 10 songs in Darker Than Gray EP (released March 4th 2014).

Any artist’s nightmare is living up to their last work of art. If that’s anything to go by; Kameron’s new release is masterful, well written and a solid sequel to his 2012 EP: F_uck Love! Via an exclusive interview with Black Roses, Corvet says, “I like to make sure my work has a certain relevancy to who I am, what I’ve been through and my search for that understanding.”

Self-produced with the expert collaboration of producers: Pierre Medor (has worked with the likes of Usher, Mario, Mary J. Blige, Brandy and Monica) and Kennard Garrett (has worked with Cee-Lo and Sean Garrett among other artists), Darker Than Gray, stands out as a grown and mature sound.

Through Kameron’s simple yet deep lyricism, his songs tell a continuation of F_uck Love!; a relationship’s challenges, from the good, to the bad, and memorable. The EP is packaged in ballsy productions, and beautifully intertwined vocal arrangements. This one will hit R&B fans real hard, the Miguel kind of alternative and cool way.

There are four excellent must-listen R&B productions here, starting with Help Me (The other Side). Then check out: Remember How, Bad For Me and Led Me To You.

1. Complicated 03.54

The bravado with which the first lines of the EP’s first song are delivered, prepares the listener for a grown and sexy R&B experience. “Let me look at you, turn around, it’s so hard to choose how to take you down” … and we thought TGT’s Three Kings was Adult Music - definitely a favourite off the EP and replay material. It has that feel-good laid-back yet up-beat R&B instrumentals complete with a sick bass. Relationships, sometimes, become complicated. “I love how you feel when we make love … I know it feels right but it’s not real … Don’t forget am messing with you …” – Kameron sings in the chorus. At the end, Paps, advises: ‘That sex thing is tricky though.”

2. No Love Allowed 04.09

Such a soulful R&B jam. This is exactly what happens when complicated relationships are left to grow. One person finds themself deep in a race fit for a duo, but solo. “It’s a dangerous game we’re playing every time we are laying, no love allowed.” The falsetto on this one is simply – everything!

3. Take it Back 03.21

Listen to this song. It’s got that avant-garde yet traditionally edgy R&B vibe. I love it so much and can’t exactly point out why. It’s got that Usher Caught Up vibe. Brilliant!

Something awfully lovable, funky, edgy, risqué and bouncy in two songs: Round Of It and Take it Back. “I’d like to get a rapper or two on Round Of It, the right type of flow would add another element,” says Kameron, I agree. This one has no limits, at all.

5. Loosen Up 03.48

After Help Me, this is it! Probably heard this song 30 times already, it’s everything. Pierre kills it in the production. Funk. Rock. Futuristic. All in the name of R&B. I picture the video of this song having some sexy dancers, somewhere in a street party, out at night. It could also use a rap, would have loved to hear a laid back rapper like TI on this one.

Kameron11. Did It For You

This is my stand out most beautiful track of this EP. Sometimes, you look at the phone, wishing someone would call. But then sometimes, you are forced to be over that sort of roller coaster ride. You end up alone and in this instance, like many others, after losing a close relationship/person; Kameron sings, “If anybody asks me, I am gon’ tell them – I did it for you.” Sometimes, we do sacrifice our love, for those who we love to be happy. It’s a little twisted. Such a deep song – this would be usher’s favourite song.

Never had such a grand problem settling on favourite songs and reviewing any album; it feels great to know that Kameron shares my sentiments. He says, “Hoping everyone has the same difficulty deciding as well,” throwing in a hint to the inspiration behind the EP’s title: “Between love and lust is a ‘Gray’ area that I’ve lived in at several points in my life. It’s murky but, it builds character.”

Ladies, what’s better than an honest man, with a falsetto, who can craft dope songs inspired by real life? Though we are bad for him, this one’s for you. And for all, like my good friend Nruff says, “R&B is still alive.” Thanks Kameron for the exclusive interview and such a great record; a rich addiction to the genre’s collection of 2014.

BONUS: Kameron’s latest EP was released (March 4th 2014) and is available on iTunes.com, Amazon and Sportify.

You might also like my review on TGT’s debut album: Three Kings

Image (1)We all have secrets. Bravery is what makes the difference between all of us, and those who recounted their real life stories in the book by Kevin Mwachiro: Invisible – Stories From Kenya’s Queer Community. “Being gay is not a crime in Kenya. However, there is still the penal code that outlaws homosexual acts or acts against the order of nature between men,” notes Kevin in the prelude.

In just 18 chapters, the reader is welcomed into a world unimaginable, but one that we live in and is a reality. From the corners of Turkana, the shores of Mombasa to the big bad Nairobi city, this book cuts across different regions in Kenya, painting faceless figures from all tribes, professions and of varied religions; telling stories we’ve heard before, but not like we’ve heard them before.

Many people will relate to these stories. I related with the narrators as many times as I despaired with them. I guess that’s because experiencing up and downs in all sorts of relationships, and being able to share compassion and empathy is only humane. However, these stories don’t leave the reader in pity but in awe at how some gay people have dedicated their lives to the struggle of understanding and fighting for their rights, sexuality and their relations, despite societal prejudice and discrimination.

“I can only be who I am and be the best that I can be,” reads a passage in a letter titled Dad, from Your Son. I enjoyed Qat’s poems and most accounts, especially that of Jackson, a bisexual living in Nairobi, whose experience in digging both sexes has brought him scrutiny from both from the straight and gay community. “I guess I have to fight this on two fronts. It is easier being gay than being bisexual—though people believe it is easier to come out as bisexual.” The story of a Turkana boy from an ordinary family, growing up with feelings of liking boys, even without knowing that the term ‘Gay’ ever existed, among other earlier discoveries of queer feelings among the narrators from both sexes, indicate that being a homosexual isn’t really a luxury, or choice, or a western phenomena, or city thing, as some people insist it is. I randomly wrote down the following 10 things and themes I felt emanating from the book as I was reading: selfless, brave, strong, letters, freaky, naughty, information, insightful, interesting and myths.

ImageThere are many quotes that I want to share from the book, but I also want to hoard a lot so you can all read it. Nevertheless, will share some: “There are lots of Kenyans who are gay and all we want is that our rights be respected, be granted freedom of association and have easy access to basic amenities.”- Yash. The letter, “To the Father of my Sons” was charming. Here’s an except, “The things I want to do to you will make you spineless with pleasure …  I think you are the one.” It’s almost like while reading it, you want to hide, as some stories make you excited or very sad.

Kevin Mwachiro’s first book is powerful and can’t be put down until completion (I read it in hours). Whether straight or not, trust me – you will enjoy this book and reaffirm your faith in the notion: information is power. Voiced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Kenyan individuals, this book really is a queer compilation and not like anything you’ve come across, in reading.

This book couldn’t have come out of Africa at a better time; with the recent Ugandan anti-gay bill, Kenya’s Maendeleo Ya Wanaume protest among other anti-gay campaigns across Africa. I am not an activist but a firm believer in love, respect and equality for all human beings. Plus nobody but can really dictate or direct who or what you love, and want to be with.

BONUS: I am having one of those “Proud Mama” moments, looking at how my big-hearted buddy Kevin used his journalistic skills to help people, otherwise shunned by the society, tell their story and have a voice. That is selfless and part of making history.

You should also read my review on Harper Lee’s classic: To Kill a Mocking Bird

 

Train StationThe only other thing worse than having nobody wish you lovey-dovey sweet nothings on Valentine’s Day (V-Day) is taking a Makadara Train. Trust me. Despite coming across dashing red outfits, rose flowers and disgustingly in love couples, my V-Day had been awfully ordinary. For a spicy ending and to dodge traffic and rain, after work, I decided to take a train accompanied by a colleague (Debrah).

Setting out to relish every second of this short ride, I marvel at the cheap tickets (KES 30 for one passenger). The ticket sellers are swift as they pass change and tickets back and forth, to the mob of people, all hurrying in. My heart skips a beat in excitement and anticipation as I hold onto my ticket. We rush into the Railways Station and leisurely settle on the stone benches. As we wait for our train to arrive, Debrah tells me train stories; some nostalgic and some tragic. She recalls childhood train games, playing cat and mouse chase together with her brothers to avoid paying for rides from school. A sign at the station reads ‘Give Yourself Time to Catch Train’. I read it aloud and Debrah tells me of a childhood real horror story. An elderly woman missed the train’s steps and unfortunately tripped under. She didn’t make it. “Haven’t you ever taken a train?”  She asks. The last time (about three years ago) I took a train was to Molo accompanied by my sisters; and then I really wasn’t keen on the journey’s features, note to self.

Several people, including Europeans carrying humongous back packs (of Amazing Race calibre), walk helter skelter in all directions. At the far right end of the station, is an old restaurant, half-filled with tourists drinking chai, probably marvelling at how old school the Kenyan train station must look. I like it. “In all those years, this place has never changed one bit,” notes Debrah as we take the stairs down to our train’s terminal. She freaks out at the sight of an already half-full train, “Shit! When did all these people get in? We’ll have to sit near the door so you can easily alight.” My stop should be before hers.

As soon as we get into the train, I see so many eyes on me and no space to sit. After walking through several booths, we finally get separate seats, mine being closer to the door. Time is approximately 6:05 p.m. The train leaves in 25 minutes.

The Long Await

photo (17)Times seems to move so slowly, as I eagerly wait for the choo choo to go off and the rocky motion to set. Several hawkers (all women) are parading the alleys selling sim sim, tooth paste and snacks. Some are singing, others are shouting, others have a rhythmical way of peddling, as their waists and voices sway: “Haiya bas sim sim hapa! Sim sim? Haya bas, hii hapa!” I really wanted to buy sim sim, but I felt like everyone was staring at me. Maybe I was just nervous. I took my phone back into the bag because as soon as I got it out for a photo – everyone stared even harder. 6:10 p.m. and passengers are still trickling in. Some are already standing as all seats are taken. I wonder if they won’t fall at the journey’s onset.

The cabin’s seats are designed in the ‘Face me – I Face You’ style. People standing take any space available, even between groups of five or six people sitting facing each other. That annoys me so much because I am not sitting next to the window, and so I will miss to see passing scenery. Soon, I can’t even see where Debrah is sitting. Though we are in the same train, we start to text each other. It’s 6.22 p.m. I ask: “What time do we leave!? Do the lights in the train work?” She responds: “6:30 p.m. They don’t work, why?” I reply: “Because it’s getting dark. Just can’t wait to leave.”

Two train staff members get in and start ordering people standing, to move inwards to reduce the number of people crowded at the door. Those sitting, including me, are suddenly smashed like meat in between buggers. The lady standing beside me has a box-shaped hand bag that keeps bumping into my head. The woman standing among three other people in between the six of us sitting at a booth is offered a seat by the man sitting next to me. Quite the gentleman! “Kwani nyinyi ni avocado hamuezi songa? Ama mmepandwa kama mti? Msonge ndani!!” The guys who check tickets have arrived, uncourteously, with their Nokia Mulika Mwizis.  It’s starting to get dark. After several verbal exchanges with passengers and rearranging them like books in an already-full shelf, at about 6.44 p.m. they give the captain a go-ahead and we finally set off.

The Miserable Ride

By the time the train leaves, I am so tired of the commotion, I can hardly breathe; my head is constantly being hit by the box-shaped handbag; it’s dark; am clutching on my handbag, afraid that someone might pick pocket me; I can’t see outside and I can’t read my book (even if I wanted). I start to daydream about bus rides. They always allow me to read my book. I can’t wait to alight.

About six minutes later, the train breaks down for a minute or two. People start to murmur while some close to the door get off to join the crew. “Isn’t this a stop?” I ask the box-shaped bag lady, after which I offer to carry it, to relieve my head. “No stop here, there is a problem.” Suddenly, the train jerks forward. One must feel differently while in motion, when in a space full to capacity or in a spacious one. When I last took a train with my sisters, we had a private cabin and not one single push or throw wasn’t uniquely felt. Now all I feel is a wobbly left and right sway.

It’s a few minutes to 7:00 p.m. and it feels like I have been in the train all my life. In the other cabin, a preacher bursts into a sermon. “Haleeeeeluyah!! Amen!?” He shouts, after every testimony. “What have I got myself into?” I contemplate. Soon after the preaching, he starts to sing as a soloist, “Baraka za Mungu kweli … Ni za??” Nearly half the train eruptions into a thunderous reply in unison, “Ni za ajabu … kwenda juu … kwenda … chini …” I find myself and the bag lady joining in the choir. Debrah texts: “I didn’t know there was a church group in the train. Be ready, you are alighting after the Makadara Station” I respond: “I am even singing. Sawa, I will be fine thanks.”

The Real Nightmare

When we get to Makadara Station, hardly anyone alights. It is stark dark and I can’t even see the newly-opened and lighted up station. So many other passengers with heavy luggage are added into the mix. By now, some women standing are already wailing from the cramming and jamming. We will be at Mutindwa stop in about three minutes. I am afraid that I won’t find space to alight in the nine-minute break train stop. And there is no way in hell or heaven that I am finding myself in Kariobangi (the stop after the next). Sijui leo tutashuka na dirisha!?” I yell, as passengers standing near us quarrel with a man who entered the train with a sack as large as life, that he put on top of the rails, and now is a danger to life, if it falls on anyone’s head. Someone has also farted.

I try to stand to force my way towards the door but the woman sitting next to me warns, “You will suffocate! Wait till the train stops; I am also alighting at Mutindwa.” A few seconds later, we have arrived. I don’t even realize that the train has stopped. She commands, “Stand! Force your way out, now!” As I fight my way through the darkness, it becomes apparent that those standing near the door are at the same time fighting theirs, towards taking our sitting space.

Somehow, I finally get to the door but the distance from the top to the ground seems longer. I can’t see the steps or hear the woman’s voice direct me. My heart is beating terribly fast; terrified of the chance that the train might start to move any time or that I might jump and fall.

I jump!!

As I walk home, I look back only once. My legs are numb. After a few steps, I notice that I am limping and have a stitch on my right knee. It’s 7:08 p.m. As soon as I get home, I text my mother: “Today I took a Makadara Train to avoid the rain and for some change. We paid KES 30 but it was a nightmare. Cheap is expensive.” She calls laughing, and after our conversation she comments on my Facebook status: “Haha! That was how the 3rd class train system worked in the 90s, from Nairobi to Kisumu—very interesting that you will never wish to board it again.”

I mean, how can such an efficient time-saving mode of transport be as horrendous? Not again, especially on Valentine’s.

BONUS: My 7 Must-Dos of 2014 (Ride in a Train is No. 4)

Pieces

If you can read, that’s because I can write for you. If you can feel me, that’s of course why I can see through you. And if you can see through this, then we are free. Like two artists, let’s paint a picture of our world to share with the world. I will be the canvas,and you will be the brush. I will follow your lead and you won’t need any more paint or materials. Let’s use the colours of pain and the colours of love to create immaterial art that couldn’t be sold, even for a million bob. For beauty and inspiration is not like gold or silver but priceless. Like a white candle, let’s burn the rekindled flame carelessly yet gracefully.

 

I am thankful for the sun, because it’s rays inspire me to shine as bright. I am glad when it rains because, I feel like I am not the only one who cries but the clouds too have a story to tell. Wet earth smelling of chocolates reminds me of freshness. It reminds me of the careless disregard we sometimes have for life’s simple pleasures. I am thankful for the morning breeze, swift and whispering, it tells me that it’s a brand new day and that tomorrow will not be the same but a better day.

I am thankful that everything is interconnected and that our essence is the appreciation that we are all brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, or if you are right or wrong. It only matters that we are all humans, prone to fault and fall. But like Maya says, we rise. The sunset makes me aspire to rest easy and gracefully. It lasts just minutes or seconds but leaves a profound feeling that lasts till daybreak. I want to leave that kind of impression, for our lives are brief, yet filled with beauty and awe and pain and lessons, that don’t really matter at the end of the day. What matters is how our light illuminates.

I am thankful for family and friends. I am thankful for fans and black roses readers. Your little thank you’s and comments make me want to walk more on this path of life. They make me want to write you more and more sweet nothings. Your smiles and little gestures make my heart big. You make my heart beat. Because of that my soul gets inspired to dance to the beat of the music that everyday endeavours plays me. I am thankful for the music that inspires me, for the books that taught me, how little can be more and how less is more. I am grateful for the man whose interests were cemented in mine, and mine echoed his, even when is gone. I shine in his absence and therefore make him present in me.

Wall Graffiti

Dear KK,

For you birthday, I decided to do something different. Leave some graffiti on your wall in form of a poem. Today you are older. You are wiser and smarter. Yesterday you were all these things but a little less. Embrace the growth that comes with each day. As you take onto another year, cherish the abundance of life’s simplicity. Take a train, take a matatu ride, take a ballon ride, take a tuk tuk, take a chance and then take a risk. Like the rocky motion of travel is life, necessary for any journey we take. Challenging, sometimes spicy and enchanting. Be ready to be challenged. Cherish simple networks and friendships, ignited by chance sometimes they start a spark that shines brighter and longer than we expected. Thanks for being a great friend and I wish you well today and always.

Rosey.

photo (40)What do men who aren’t hair stylists really know about hair? The answer is nothing. They do have personal taste, preference and right of choice, like all human beings, but that doesn’t give them a green light to bully ladies in weaves. A real woman will have on: a short do; natural hair; braids; locks; weave; even a horse—practically whatever she sees fit and feels comfortable in. And that’s got nothing to do with you, especially if you’re not buying it.

Hair Anatomy

African hair is many things. It’s like a baby. No matter the style, it always requires thorough treatment and care. It can be best described by the Swahili proverb “akili ni nywele, kila mtu ana zake”—intelligence is like hair, everyone has their own type. Indeed, few Africans are blessed with soft and easy-to-comb hair. Most are literally hard as steel wire. This leads to countless means of treating hair, ideally to make it easier to maintain, despite the irony that going short or bald would actually be the easiest and fastest route to maintenance.

But thanks to changing trends, ladies will lock, braid or weave their hair instead of going short. Some simply go natural. Different moods or seasons will influence different hairstyles.

Ladies, You Are Your Hair

Here is why – hair is personal. Like we all have a favourite side of the bed, we have a preferred side of our hair to pat while combing. And if we pat the opposite side, only we can realize that we look different. “I am not my hair,” sang India Arie. We all sang along and still do. But ladies, if we really were not our hair, we wouldn’t care so much about what people say about it. We wouldn’t care to spend loads of time and money on fixing hair. If we were not defined by our hair, then we would all have gone bald or kept shaving like men do. If it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t care to go short after failed breakups as a symbol of a fresh start. Hair is sacred. It’s connected with our being and feelings. Because it’s very much part of every bit and strand that makes us complete, we care about it, regardless of whether it’s natural or not; short or long; kinky or straight.

A good hair massage for ladies is the equivalent of what good head is to guys. It reaches your toes. When you find that your best massager is not at the salon on the day you visit, you’d rather not do your hair. If you find a man who can give a good massage, hair or otherwise, trust me you’ll never lose him.   A woman should treat whatever is on her head as her hair because:

1. It’s yours, you bought it. And if he bought it for you, well it’s yours now.

2. Anything on your head that’s not a hat or a bucket or pot is your hair. Even a squirrel.

With the above premise, it would be very wrong to treat your hair as if it’s not part of you and your personal cleanliness. Having an ugly coloured weave or hair dye is doing no justice to your visage and image. Having smelly hair, braids or weave, just messes your personal grooming.

Parting Shot

photo (42)Any woman must be neat and clean; from head to toe. Constant visits to the salon or bathroom for a good hair wash, manicure and pedicure are advised. Invest in a good weave/hair products that smell good. No no no to Sulpher 8. Every girl must have a hair salonist and/or stylist – who understands your hair’s personality. This will save us vexing the opposite sex and still be at our best at all times.

Women, you should know the difference between synthetic and human hair weaves.  The latter are washable. So do not be found with a synthetic weave on for a month and a half without a change or wash. You are smelly and a disturbance to the peace and your scalp must really itch. Wearing a weave to avoid cleaning your head, doesn’t make you a real woman but faker than how men view weaves to be.

Ladies, we can be more than our hair. Like nails, hair is just an extension of who we are. And anytime can be cut or trimmed or altered. Hair is also a means of expression and defines personal style just like clothes and shoes. That’s why Lupita’s natural short do has struck Hollywood as a stamp of simplicity and confidence; a state a lot girls struggle to attain. But just because a black girl wants straight long hair or a weave, doesn’t mean she wants to be like a white girl. Just because a girl like Lupita rocks a short do doesn’t mean, she represents the jungle. There’s a thin line between your expression being misunderstood or understood.

Guys Quit Hating

Every girl deserves the freedom to choose whatever she deems fit. If the woman’s hair is dirty and smelly, she probably has more dirt where that came from. True love is honest. Simply tell her, “That thing stinks.” Otherwise do not hate on all women rocking weaves, just because you encountered one or two foul weaves. It’s offensive to women who invest in good weaves (which cost a fortune to buy and get done) and cleanliness.

As far as the discussion goes, if it’s on her head, it’s not a weave or whatever you want to call it but her hair. As long as she likes it, you don’t have to like it too but respect her choice. You can give constructive criticism like, “I prefer kinky to the long straight one because of the feel but I think your natural hair rocks.” She will pout her lips and act indignant but she listened and took notes. After all, you know what they say about change.

BONUS: You might like this:

Throwback post - The Weave Menace

What Hollywood & Kenya Thinks of Lupita’s Style and Shine

Lupita has baffled Kenyans and the world at large. The actress and film director has made history as the first Kenyan and pure Black African to win the coveted Oscars and garner critical acclaim and numerous awards from one film. Her role in 12 Years a Slave, a film based on the true story of Solomon Northup (an American free man who was kidnapped into slavery where he spent 12 years in captive) is celebrated. Because of that, she’s now brushing shoulders and taking selfies with the biggest of American celebrities; from Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey to Leonardo Di Caprio. She’s a darling of this season’s red carpet fashion and film critics. In the film she plays poor Patsey, a strong-willed yet broken pretty little thing born a slave. Patsey is caught in between a cruel and masochist master and his jealous wife, who makes her life even the more, a living hell.

Lupita-Nyongo-MustardHollywood isn’t only wowed by her extraordinary performance in the film but everything she represents inside and out. Her skin has got that very dark shade that clearly represents the black race, a very authentic look in the casting for a film on slavery. Her roots are particularly intriguing. Born in Mexico of Kenyan parents? And how to pronounce the name: Lupita Nyong’o? Sometimes they just call her Luppy. Few women are confident enough to cut their hair short and Lupita’s natural do flaunts her effortlessness and confidence. It’s a declaration that Black Girls Rock. She’s a role model. In fact, the hard-to-impress Joan Rivers, host of E!’s adored Fashion Police called red-hot Lupita in a Ralph Lauren gown “the first African super woman”, right before declaring her Best Dressed from Golden Globes. Her surreal beauty and bold fashion sense intrigues Hollywood. An unknown artist even made an animation of Cinderella Lupita.

A lot of Kenyans watched 12 Years of a Slave from late January 2014—quite the pity that they didn’t get to share in the conversations about the film and Lupita with the rest of the world as soon as it premiered worldwide (last quarter of 2013). However, to catch up, many (like me) have been forced to first watch pirated copies. So to those busy critiquing the film and Lupita before watching it – just shut up.

Nevertheless, the collective response on Lupita’s performance and acclaim in Kenya is varied. I’ve come across unhappy Kenyans claiming that by not mentioning Kenya and Kenyan art in most of her interviews, she doesn’t support Kenya. Soon after Golden Globes, another troupe on Kenyan social media started an anti-international designers crusade, cross-examining why Lupita hasn’t yet worn a Kenyan designer on Hollywood red carpet. Others have come out to disregard or rubbish her performance in the film, citing it overrated. Others admit that they are adamant to celebrate her; afraid that she might be a one hit wonder while speculating that all the attention from Hollywood is because she starred in a racism-themed film. They suppose that had she acted as a normal, free and better person (not a slave) in the society, then she wouldn’t have gotten all the acclaim. Others claim that she’s been identifying herself as a Mexican more than a Kenyan and they don’t like that.

The other group (a majority) is generally very proud of Lupita. From her role in the film and everything it presented to her like the awards, nominations and meeting the crème de la crème of Hollywood. They appreciate that for once E! News and American entertainment is not obsessed with the Kardashians and celebrity babies but the Kenyan girl who leaves a fashion stamp on any red carpet she graces. Many admire her acceptance speeches, charisma, eloquence and humility.

Lupita critics; give the girl a break. It’s no mean feat trumping legends like Julia Roberts in any kind of nominations. It’s any actor or actress’s dream to be as successful in a debut film. No matter what anyone says, this is Lupita’s time to shine and she deserves it. Having featured in a largely celebrated film makes it no miracle that she reached that status. The film and its cast have been leading with nominations in various awards and categories all season. It’s your prerogative to think she’s overrated but also note: she is just a supporting actress. The film is not about Patsey but Solomon Northup played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (another actor with nominations as many as Lupita’s). Having been adapted from a memoir, the film’s directors and producers made sure the story was balanced and every character supported the main protagonist – Northup. With such constrains, I agree with some critics that Lupita’s role of Patsey in the final parts of the film is minimal. However, I still find it remarkable. Together with Chiwetel, the duo’s portrayal of how Solomon and Patsey share solitude, suffering and pain is heartbreaking. From apathy, empathy to sympathy; their joint performance evokes all sorts of emotion; I really really really sobbed when they hugged goodbye.

Poor PatseyLupita is getting a lot of credit for her role in 12 Years a Slave because she’s a first-time actress in Hollywood, from Kenya yet she gets the American accent correct. She’s very learned. Yale School of Drama is no joke. She acts out a silent emotional wreck. She’s a slave. Slaves don’t speak unless spoken to. She is thrown at bottles, raped and burnt with objects but doesn’t speak. Its how she begs Solomon to take her life for her; how she begs for mercy; how she cries from whips and the pain their wounds bring. It is how one woman, without talking much, acted out the part of another suffering woman, bringing the original Patsey’s spirit alive.

To Kenyans blindly critiquing Lupita negatively, recognize and respect that she’s the first Kenyan to reach Hollywood’s highest peak. Whether or not, she is being awarded for being black or acting a suffering role, she acted it pretty damn well. About rocking Kenyan designers, have they tried to contact her? I believe there are plenty of fabulous local designers like Poisa and Blackbird that she could wear to a red carpet. Shall the hook up can happen, that’s a guaranteed great exposure for Kenyan fashion. In the meantime, Lupita can wear whatever designer she fancies plus it’s part of showbiz and a formality.

Through Lupita, Kenyans now eye Hollywood differently. Because of her, Kenyan actors and actresses like Melvin Alusa, Nick Ndeda, Sharon Mina, Dennis Amunga, Mkamze and Nini Wacera, must believe, now more than any other time that they can make it to Hollywood and reach a world audience. Through Lupita, Hollywood eyes Kenya differently. “Are there other amazing actors back in Kenya?” Jimmy Kimmel (American Talk Show Host) asked Lupita in an interview. We are not just the fastest marathon runners and the home of Africa’s largest wilder beast migration but also a wealth of talented artists, who can produce bonafide film stars. Because of Lupita, another African breaks through into Hollywood.

Lupita Brad v2Whether or not, she is cast for more films is nobody’s business but hers. And even if she decides to retire and return home, she has already done many proud. If she didn’t mention Kenya in some interview, so what? Most international press like any other will edit information to fit whatever their audiences want. They probably don’t care much about Kenya, but Lupita—the striking fascinating creature with a great sense of humour and fashion beneath a brilliant actress.

In reverse, the Kenyan audience craves to see Lupita home. They want to hear her talk about Kenya and how it’s where she started out. They want her to talk to them, maybe dedicate an award or two to them. Let’s not alienate her or act too clingy just because she is living her dream, Far Away. She’s forever our ambassador just by the virtue of being Kenyan. Let’s learn to be inspired by our very own while appreciating them. She was born in Mexico, belongs to the world but at the end – she’s OURS.

BONUS: Her Oscars Acceptance Speech was everything!! Everything.

Phone EtiquetteYour ringtone says a lot about you; so does your ring back tone. People, especially strangers, will read a lot into the kind of person you could be, just from how your phone rings. The next time your phone rings to Wale’s Clappers or Ken wa Maria’s Fundamentals or whichever tune; think about what your callers are enduring or enjoying, to get through to you and the impression left. Unfortunately, our best songs might not necessarily reflect on our personality and image the best way. They last a few seconds but can influence how accommodative the other person (especially potential employers or future partners) at the end of the line will be to us. Regardless, the phone will ring, and you will answer.

Many times we receive calls from genuine wrong numbers (forget about Kamiti prisoners text messages that read— “You have won 100,000 cash money, call this number to send 25,000 to come pick your prize”, or dubious people calling to say they wrongfully sent you credit or Mpesa). Genuine wrong number callers can be as hilarious and annoying as it gets. Once, a Somali man called me angrily demanding, “Tulituma ngamia, wapi pesa ya ngamia? (We sent the money, where are the camels?)”. Most recently, I was vexed by the food delivery man at our office for selling me some strange type of half-cooked beans instead of peas. I read out and dialed the man’s number from the food company’s brochure furiously trembling, and started ranting at hello, “Chakula chako hakiliki, I need a refund or the food I actually ordered for and won’t take any other thing!” The guy on the other line, shocked at my persistence and the wrath of a hungry and angry woman (double tragedy) shuddered, “Aki mami niko Eastleigh, walahi sijawahi uza chakula (Wrong number, I have never vended food). After an embarrassed apology, I thought that was over and done with. But the guy would keep calling and texting me insistently. One day he sent me a text – “Are you married, I am single”. I had to reply, “Yes and my husband doesn’t like me texting you” and he forever retreated.

Then there’s the nightmare of losing and acquiring phone contacts. Because of this, we all receive calls/texts from foreign numbers. What do you do or say upon answering? Usually I politely ask, “Who am I speaking to?” or state “Sorry I seem not to have this number.” A normal person should always introduce themselves on and off phone, it’s just courteous. However, there are people with the below 5 bad phone habits who obnoxiously think they are exceptions to the rules.

1. “Guess tu ni nani?”

In such times of economic hardship, if you are going to start calling someone for teasing purposes in the middle of the day, then you ought to get a job or at least spend your credit money wisely. Nobody has time for such old tricks. And when they do, it gets particularly awkward if the receiver guesses at least thrice wrong or a name that the caller recognizes and doesn’t remind them of good things. For instance ex-boyfriend Alex (random name) tries to change voice to see if you might guess it right and then you end up guessing its ex-ex-boyfriend Joe (another random name).

2. “You don’t have my no.!? Kwani you deleted my no.!?”

The only people allowed to ask such questions should be your family (parents, wife, husband or children). What makes some people outside this mix feel like they are too important that you must have their numbers? You will find that you already have most numbers that are important to you, and if there is anyone else so important that you must have their number, when in need – go get it! Recently thought I exchanged numbers with a colleague but unfortunately didn’t get to saving his. After responding to his “Bible quoted” Happy New Year text message with a “Thanks, sorry I don’t seem to have this number,” he responded – “Now you don’t have my number yet I gave it to you just the other day!?” If you’re going to be mad at me about your text message, at least custom draft mine before that.

3. You have 10 Missed Calls 

Sometimes you are taking a dump, or in a noisy as hell matatu, or in a very important meeting, or church even but on the other end of the line, the caller just won’t stop calling. The other day, I got some serious bashing from my buddy Bien for calling him five times. “Rosey – you don’t call me five times on seeing that I am busy, you wait and I will call you back!” He barked at me. But when I told him that I couldn’t have waited a minute longer to tell him that our former house help had given birth to a baby boy named after him, Bien Aime Alusa Gift – he forgave me. If it’s not about death, new life or something that’s life changing or threatening; try dropping a text when a call goes unanswered.  It’s as simple as “Hi. I am so and so and would like to talk to you regarding such and such. Kindly return my call or let me know when is best to call.”

4. “Just saw you, you look nice.”

It’s not romantic but creepy to send girls text messages wherever you see them at the bus stop, at the club or wherever. It’s actually courteous to walk up to them and say hello. That’s the essence of bumping into each other. I am just about done with the “I can see you” texts. I can also see a lot of people but if you’re not going to add, “Was in a hurry or didn’t want to disturb your peace or whatever else” to that text; keep it to yourself.

5. “Are you asleep? Where are you?”

A booty call is a booty call. No man or woman calling/texting you any time after 1 a.m. wants to just check up on you. They probably want to check in as well. The sooner we all learn to ask for what we want, the faster we’ll get it or move on to someone who will give it to us. In 2014 this business for always asking people if they are awake at 2 a.m. should stop.

Parting Shot

Phone Etiquette 2So when does phone etiquette start and end? It must be from the moment you hold your phone. Have you seen some people talking through the phone while it’s upside down? Or shouting at it as if it’s on speaker while it isn’t? It’s so sad that in 2014, the year of Digitalization in Kenya, these kinds of scenarios still occur. It’s going to be an uphill task following through etiquette if you can’t even hold your phone right.

Upon calling or being asked to reveal your identity, introduce yourself and the reason for calling, that’s perfectly alright. Return texts and missed calls in due time.

It’s very rude to be on speaker phone in a public place like a bank, work place or a matatu. Nobody wants to hear your conversations; they have theirs too, via the handset.

You have an iPod to throw all your musical picks to be heard at your convenience. So for your every-day attitude, ringtone and ring back tone; pick one that you and the world at large can stomach. There’s a very thin line between making a person’s day and ruining it, so let not your tunes play part and parcel, undesirably. If all fails, leave on your phone’s generic tones or vibrate.

Be humble and remember that in the eyes of the world’s millions of people, we are mere ants, working themselves around their colonies, trying to make ends meet. We will never all know each other but the more we do, the better we make the world. So no matter how many times you have had to introduce yourself to someone on or off phone, just keep doing it. Other people might actually be meeting more people than you do on an average, and if you don’t leave a lasting first-time impression, congratulations! You have the chance to re-work the magic at your phone’s first ring.

BONUS: You might also like to read: What if Courtesy had a price?

2013 was the year that elevated me to the status of a super woman.

When I started out in January, I had just quit as Label Manager at Penya Africa a month earlier because I found that I wasn’t happy working in that capacity in the music industry. To my relief, Sauti Sol decided to still maintain keeping me as their Publicist.

By March 2013 (exactly a year from the time I quit my job at UP Magazine as a Staff Writer to be a Label Manager in 2012), I got a call back from UP, asking me to return– but this time as an Associate Editor. I started April 2013 and so far,  it’s been very cool and informative. My education background is Broadcast Journalism; the only Print training I got was from this blog, my stint as Features Editor for Anvil (University of Nairobi newspaper during my tenure in campus), and my mother (a retired English teacher who made me help her mark Standard 8 compositions from the time I was in Class 6). Oh boy! Habits generally die hard. “But I am not an Editor,” I responded to the call. “We wouldn’t call you for the job if we wouldn’t think you had everything it takes to do it,” they said. So I took the leap. We all need to learn to take in everything people say, criticism and ovation, and master the art of separating the wheat from the chaff. Sometimes people will see in you what you’d never see in yourself, even if you stared in the mirror for 100 years.

Every year, since 2012, I collaborate with an artist to curate an art exhibition. In 2013 I joined forces with talented artist Edward Manyonge for his debut art exhibition Pieces of Fortune held at Safaricom’s Michael Joseph Centre. I had the amazing Andrew Wambua and KIU performing at the opening launch. There’s so much satisfaction in presenting such an opportunity to a deserving artist. And I knew that my job was done as soon as we first set up the exhibition successfully, guests arrived and we sold art.

Oki and IBeing chosen as one of Kenya’s Top 9 Fashion Stylists from mainstream media by Deacons Kenya Limited, to put up a Zara fashion show collection during the parallel launch of the fashion line brand in Kenya was awesome! I thank Okinawa, who was my assistant and my graceful models. Check out more photos via Fashion Notebook where all my models were featured as follows: Photo 1 model no. 1. Photo 2 model no. 2 and the last, my favourite Bohemian-style model no. 3

For the longest time, I have been doing PR for Sauti Sol. But this year I got so many requests from artists and institutions wanting to work with me but with a schedule as busy as mine, I am certainly allowed to be choosy. Working with rapper Rabbit on the weeks leading up to his new album launch, and Kwani Trust during their 10th Year Anniversary Book Party was dope! The latter project allowed me to meet and get books by two amazing African writers: Yvonne Owuor Adhiambo and Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi. “Hello you, you look very glamorous!” – I will never get over the first thing Chimamanda said to me on our first-meet up *blush* She’s a pretty tough nut and strong-willed lady. Exactly the qualities I aspire to nurture moving forward into the world.

IMG_7706 (1024x683)Interviewing and meeting former East-African music King Mr. Nice, legendary Kenyan songstress Mercy Myra and Grammy-award winning American soul/R&B artist Anthony Hamilton (see my story on Anthony Hamilton here) among many other artists was really something. Becoming buddies with one of Hamilton’s vocalists Tony Lelo was pretty cool. Check out his music here. In the coming months, I am trying to work a song collabo between Tony and Mumala through Sauti Sol’s Producer/lead guitarist Polycarp.

Other highlights of 2013 included my safari to Malindi, being a judge at the Lavish Lounge’s 8-week Search for Miss Lavish Diva (FYI there might be a Mr. & Miss CBD coming up in 2014), mceeing at Safaricom Sevens and Sawa Sawa Festival, and getting a request from an American author to have one of my poems published in her upcoming book on poems about love by men and women.

Uhuru GardensLastly, in 2013 December I marked four years of hosting Grapevine TV Show in grand measures. In Dec 12th, I got a rare request from the head of KBC TV to report live for the national broadcaster at Uhuru Gardens during Kenya’s 50th Independence Anniversary at the hoisting of the Kenyan National flag, at the same place where 50 years ago it was first hoisted. Being part of that historical moment will forever remain dear to me. It was also my first time to be on TV live and thankfully, I was a trooper.

I can’t really tell what 2014 will bring but if it’s anything close to 2013 – I am down. It’s probably going to be big because of a lot of personal/work projects that I am determined to fulfill. I am very thankful to all the people who gave me all these opportunities, family and friends and God for this beautiful life and marking five years of black roses blog.

BONUS: Another highlight of 2013 was being fooled by love and making a new Somali friend :-)

You might also like my post on My 7 Must-Dos Before 2014 Ends, inshallah.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. As I grew older, I realized how silly it is to put myself up to a list of things to do while I am just another mortal incapable of ever fully doing that, but more than just that. The faster we all realize that all human beings are powerful beyond their wildest imaginations, the faster we’ll have a world of champions. Nevertheless, it won’t hurt to still write down some things, however grand or small, I want done.  I want to view the sun rise in space from above the universe just as much as I want in on that terrifying ride at Disney World. However, this year – I am going with the most tangible must-dos that I should have already.

1. Milk a Cow

Cutting kukus heads is too main stream; I don’t have to do that (hope my future husband is not a Luhya man reading this). Originally coming from Kenya’s white highlands (read Molo) where farming literally provides bread and butter; you really are the black sheep of a family if you don’t know how to milk a cow. Plus there must be additional cool points when a girl like me (with perfectly manicured nails 365 days a year) is found entering a cattle’s stable in the village to milk a cow. I doubt if there’s any job application that will need cow-milking experience but if you come from where I’m from; this is one of those womanly skills that every woman should have. I just need to learn some defense skills; some mad cows can really throw a mean kick. That leads me to the next point.

2. Learn Taekwondo

Thankfully, didn’t experience much of Nairobbery in 2013. However, together with Wanjeri, we were forced to go all Jicho-Pevu on some Naivasha folks who had stolen my handbag during a visit to a resort, a few months ago. When everybody insisted that the thief-turned-remorseful-man caught should be slapped if not taken to the police station, I let him go scot-free because he had confessed and returned my handbag safely. But coming to think of it, now that I didn’t kick that man or let anyone kick him, he probably will try stealing from another lady. And who knows when I might need to unleash the skills while trotting down some of Nairobi’s alleys? Also with Taekwondo skills am fit to throw a fair fight shall a mad cow attack me whilst milking.

3. Do It Like Mutua Matheka

I have an eye for photography. I go deeper than my selfies and this year, it’s time to show myself and the world what I am made of. I have a clear direction and enough inspiration to revive my tumblr. My inspiration is the awesome Mutua Matheka (Founder of the #Kenya365 series) and because he’s a good fellow, I am sure he won’t mind mentoring me. A good camera and a click or two a day is a good way to start.

4. Ride in a Train

The last time I took a train, was to Molo from Nairobi with my sisters. All I remember is we took forever to get to our destination but the private cabin was cool. However, the rocky motion coupled with the choo-choo squeals and hissing sounds during constant stops was a tad tiresome, annoying and a disturbance to the peace. But I think life if like a train in many ways and we can learn a lot by relating the two. Would love to take that ride again and document it. Maybe I should take a train to Mombasa or catch the Makadara Train to or from town.

5. Take a Break

I don’t want to be too old too soon. Usually when you are younger, age catches up faster if you work too hard and don’t find time for yourself by taking a break. And then when you are older, roles reverse; age catches up with you faster if you don’t keep yourself busy and fit. It’s a thin line between balancing work, life and play. This year I am going to be asking myself ‘Why not?’ a lot more, rather than say NO to things that don’t feel right at first utterance.

1962779_10152207381012559_857647419_n (2)6. Murder a Secret Track/Hip Hop Karaoke

I keep recounting tales of my childhood rap skills (back in the day when I use to jam to Craig Mark and Tupac). I was that kid. Now everyone wants me to get into a studio and sing but the truth is, I tried once and it didn’t work. Honestly, I am only good at choirs and straight up – I am now too hip for that vibe. So here’s what I am going to do, this year – I am working on a secret track with super cool Producer Kagwe Mungai and then head on to a hip hop
karaoke and tear down the house.


7. Do It Like Queen of Zamunda, Blinky or Heisenberg

I need that hat that has personality for days. You know like Breaking Bad’s villain or JAB’s super cool Blinky Bill. I have decided that if no one will fall in love with me this year, they will love my new style. I will be rocking more hats and turbans just like the glamorous Queen of Zamunda. Check out my turban tales via my IG

BONUS: You might fancy a throwback into Why my 2013 Rocked! Read it here.

Coming to America: Prints & Turbans in Contemporary Fashion

Sentimentally Covered

nakedIt doesn’t matter that it’s raining today. Inside my heart you always reign and just your sight brings me sunshine. We can cuddle under the duvet and watch the raindrops paint our window gibberish till our names somewhat reflect there. Because the mood is liquorish, we can eat up some liquorice chocolates then sip on some whiskey. Drunk in love like Jay and Bey, we can walk to the beach and make the night count. Like it’s the last day to feel the ground, we can make a castle and then draw our names in the sand. We can be reminded that like the sun rises and must set is life; as brief as our footsteps in the sand last.

It doesn’t matter that the phone is ringing. Inside my heart only thing worth picking is you, only habit not worth kicking is you. Even without calling me, I reckon that you are thinking of me. And like telepathy, I can’t stop thinking of you. Let’s get on this love train and never stop. Let’s go sight-seeing and visit the world. Let’s enjoy the rocky motion, as we rise and fall in love. Let’s allow this emotion to be the captain till we reach our destination. Let’s cherish our relations like it’s the first day. Let’s take it to the parish on the last day of this trip and make it official that we want to be uncovered.

BONUS: You might like this post’s prelude Sentimentally Un-covered

IMG_7694 (1024x683)“Music to me is like blood, air and food. It’s that serious to me. If I wasn’t able to do music, I would be miserable; I probably wouldn’t even talk to people. I would be so upset and unhappy,” confesses American soul singer/producer Anthony Hamilton. In 2009, Anthony won a Grammy for the song “You’ve Got The Love I Need” with Al Green in the category of Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. From his 2011 album “Back To Love” the song “Best Of Me” has got two nominations for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song at the upcoming (Jan 2014) Grammy Awards. The prolific singer confirms that he’s already recording his seventh album, which will feature his past-collaborator (in the song “I’m Cool”) David Banner. He says that he might also feature some new school cats.

Anthony has got a great sense of humour. Sitting across him at Hemingways Hotel (Oct 2013 in Nairobi) for my TV show’s link up segment interview, I hush up a small crowd (hotel staff and journalists) gathered around us, just to get another glimpse of the big-voiced singer. They all go silent, and then I clear my throat signaling Anthony who asks the crowd, “Did y’all hear that? You might wanna link up with her! Aaiiight go ahead babe.” Everyone bursts into laughter and I immediately reckon that I am in the presence of a great yet humble man.

As we start to converse, I ask him to demystify the notion that soul/R&B artists are this decade experiencing a rough time, thanks to rise of dance and pop music, in comparison to the 90s music era. “It’s not hard for me as I’ve done it for so long and I have a solid fan base who are willing to go with me to the end. However, it might be hard for other R&B/soul music acts that want to get into the music industry now. It’s going to be harder now to prove to people that they have it but it’s possible.”

“Back To Love”, my iPod’s most replayed album is a must-listen. I tell him and that my favourite song there is “Life has a way”—he seems pretty impressed at that and retorts pensively, “Yeah, that’s a great song of mine but “Coming From Where I Am From” (2003 sophomore album) is just that song and album for me. It’s the first song that came out at the point of my career when I was tired and fed up. I needed to be heard – that’s my once upon a time.” That album sold platinum and its second single, “Charlene” also did remarkably well. I still adore that song.

IMG_7706 (1024x683)Anthony’s story is inspiring; especially to indie artists: “A lot of time, we [artists] have aspirations and dreams and don’t pursue them. Be creative; don’t be afraid to be different; don’t be afraid to be yourself 100 %. I have done it and stuck with it. It takes a little time, but if you stick with it and it’s something people want to connect with, do it. It takes time but it’s paying. People want something that’s real, something that will make them feel good.”

Anthony has worked with the best of new school soul singers including D’angelo, Marsha Ambrosius, Keyshia Cole, Angie Stone, Jaheim and Musiq Soulchild among others. “I love working with many artists but Jill Scott is the mummy of soul music. Jill and I are pretty cool. Not only do we work together well on stage and in the studio but from time and again, we check on each other and talk.” The self-professed huge lover of hip hop says, “Sometimes I am happy, excited, mellow or chilled out while in the studio, depending on my mood and that of my producers. I also like music without any words and it doesn’t necessarily have to be jazz.”

Visiting my country has clearly left him in awe. “[Being in Kenya] is one of the moments in my life when I feel like God is just opening a way for me; I am starting to see the world. It’s my first time in Kenya and I am excited. It’s beautiful to be part of such a country that’s growing and is strong. We look to you guys, your beauty, and the success you are having in your country. We want to bridge the gap; you guys can come and stay with me in America.” It’s great to tap into Anthony’s open mind and craft. “In terms of what’s out now on the radio, I think it is fine. Young folks are finding a way to express themselves and exploring with music creating different genres. It’s attractive, I might take a few bits and pieces, and I might do a song with Future or Chris Brown. It’s just interesting when two different styles collaborate.”

I am left satisfied and thankful for the interview (so much soul food and life lessons of humility), right after which Anthony personally scribbles his contacts on my note-book as his bouncers, manager and entourage look on curiously.

BONUS: I have to write another blog post about Anthony Hamilton’s mind-blowing band and Kenyan concert. In the mean time, check the concert story I filed here:

Photos courtesy of Japheth Kagondu. 

It Happens

flying_love_heartsDistraught, I left my emotions bottled in a container.  Caught up, you left your house to the shop to buy a new container, only to pick the one that shielded me. I was granted a new lease of life by the buyer stranded by love, eager to be released into a new existence. For a second, you owned me and I belonged to you.

Like an antique, you kept me guarded. I was your way out when you wanted to cherish something and way in, when you wanted to talk to something. I found myself inside your fears, happiness and tears. I forgot to live my own life and asked myself, ‘how could I have let this happen?’

But like an addiction, my story can’t do without you. This is not fiction but a real malfunction without you; without us. I found that I pride myself in the surrender of your touch. I found that I smile by myself in the remembrance of your hands; the way they feel in mine – perfect.

I found that my container was wide open. All my secrets were told unto you. Whether they were stored safely, I couldn’t tell.  Finally, at liberty, my emotions were left roving in the open when you left. That was theft of a part of me, just as I reside here with a part of you. It’s over. It happened. But I won’t let such love happen again.

Rose  HeartLike warm cotton, our hearts basked in the glory of sunshine. But suddenly darkness struck, and our lives were on the line. There was no time to cover our cloth, the rain caught on as fast at the storm. And to dry again, and feel as good on our skin is difficult for the cloth – now wet and tattered. Putting together the pieces and wringing out the water is a task too daunting, daring and haunting. But from a far, the horizon is promising to open up memories. We must remember how it felt to be happy. We must remember how it felt to love. We must remember what it means to find closure. We must remember the good time; that brought us here. That little light opening in the dark skies is the reason why, our once prestigious cloth, now torn – can be mended. We are hurt. We are confused. We are clueless. We are in great loss. But what’s greater is our collective strength and art. That can help remake our cloth a new.

BONUS: A tribute to everyone we lost at the Westgate Mall Terrorist Attack (Kenya) and those who were left hurt, physically and emotionally.

 

Vibin

Say that you understand me, even when I am crazy like this. That even when I am left alone waiting, you will stand by me. Like the sounds of a quiet storm guitar, promise that you will keep me warm and feeling this good. Promise that you won’t be too hood to love and need me. 

 

Rollercoaster

Carnations 2We are like an interlude to a song, not too long or too short – just enough, but not a song. We are like electricity, necessary for lighting up the fire within but therein are too many wires we couldn’t fix, even if we wanted. We boast to both be technicians but we are haunted, there isn’t anything we can mend, and all that is left is our dreams in technicolour. We have not one distinct colour but resemble a rainbow, beautiful and eclectic yet eccentric. Like the break of dawn, we are a mix between dark and light – never really one – lovelorn; together but lone, we are love clowns. But this isn’t comedy because how you make me feel is remedy to everything. Despite our nuance and our nuisance, nothing matters. We don’t care that we are wasting time. We don’t care that we are like a ship sailing way off course. We don’t care that we’ve spun over and over again. We don’t care that we lost it; we only care that we love it, and the spur it gives.

All Figured Out

“Today I woke up and realized every day gets shorter. Every minute turns to the longest second – never-ending. Age is nothing but a reminder that doesn’t tell you how old or young minded someone is. We all start at the same starting point of a woman’s legs but each have our own finish line. Understand that this never ends and the only way to be immortalized is to be remembered, hopefully for right than wrong. It’s better to be in the hall of fame than shame, whether it exists for what you do or not; we create this world so we make what exists. It isn’t about the awards, it’s about the rewards of being immortalized and remembered for all the right reasons. Mistakes are forgotten. When it’s so late that it’s early and you need to drink and the bar is closed; remember why you do what you do. Despite the coldest drinks, the fastest cars and luxury, remember the adrenaline rush of creating what you think about with who thinks about you—your family and team. The joy of looking back and saying that you did it, is winning the game: it’s the hall of fame,”— Big Sean.

I don’t know what I am thinking about. But I am entangled in a personal bout – between thinking whether I have or haven’t stopped thinking about you; believing that I have; and if what I am writing makes any sense. I might get hurt or injured by the time I am leaving the ring—less likely but highly probable. But whether I win or lose, I will still remain an honorable player of this self-inflicted sport.

Send me out

I will go into the world. And touch a child’s life. I will not hold down, when I am weary, but give my all when I can and stay caring for those who depend on me. I will not be afraid when it’s time to get married and start a new life or when it’s time to go, for I already enjoyed my time here. I will strive to leave a mark in the universe, even if it’s just by letting loose; to inspire and be inspired. I aspire to decipher right from wrong, evil from good and real from fake. God; I pray that you send me out so I can use my heart and soul.

Serene Resorts, excellent for getaways; Italian bistros, cafes and restaurants; perfectly tanned Italian settlers and tourists, young and old; modest locals who know no other foreign traits but Italian—all this make Malindi, undoubtedly Kenya’s little exclusive Italy. The beautiful coastal town is my personal favourite destination because of its sleepiness. There, life literally moves slower than in Mombasa, providing a sense of privacy. Recently, took the weekend off to Malindi, together with my girls. And I discovered just how anyone can enjoy a super vacation in Malindi in just 24 hours, or more.

photo (14)While in Malindi (one of Naomi Campbell’s top destinations), if you can’t stay at the pricy resorts, check out the brand new super classy and reasonably priced The Village, that’s just as superb. Located practically about 10 minutes to every other place you need to go, from the airport, to the beach, clubs or to town in the traffic free town. A cathedral Swahili wooden gate welcomes you into Mwembe (Swahili for mango) Resort leading into The Village (the two are merged). Mwembe’s property boasts monstrous mango trees and hundreds of comfy home-style cottages. The Village on the other hand, is quite the sight. The entry of each one of the one-bed roomed and two-bed roomed self-contained townhouses of The Village has a picturesque patio, upstairs and downstairs, the latter having a set of tables. You know, where you can have a late night snack or drinks with friends and family. This is the place for you.

There are two big swimming pools and an outdoor Jacuzzi, with floors made of Mazeras. In case you didn’t know, Mazeras hoards up warmth from the daytime so swimming at night in the pool becomes a warm-affair.

So, from my experience at The Village, here are 10 quirky steps on how to vacay in Malindi in just 24 hours:

Saturday Afternoon

  1. After lunch, take a flight to Malindi

We departed JKIA at about 1.30 p.m. and by 2.30 p.m.; we had landed and well on our way to Malindi’s The Village Resort. Remember to travel light, you don’t need a dozen suitcases like you are the Prince of Zamunda.

photo (9)2. Have a glass of Sangria,  and bitings on arrival at The Village

A cold glass of Sangria to quench your thirst and relax you from the Malindi humidity is like ‘The drink of life’ at this juncture. Ask the staff at The Village for the marinated chicken drumsticks and fish cakes. Best fish cakes I have ever eaten all my life!

3. Head out to town for an espresso and a bottle of Italian Wine/Champagne

Enjoy the shaky ride as you take a tuk tuk into town. Ask them to drop you off at Bar Bar Restaurant. While there ask for an espresso. Their espresso is simply rich and fulfilling. The outdoor setting of the restaurant also allows you to enjoy a view of the beautiful town and its weather. Pop into the shop right next door, it’s a little Italian supermarket; grab a bottle or three of your favourite Italian champagnes or wines for drinks later at the cottage. We went for three dry Proseccos.

photo (13)By 6.30 p.m.

4.  Take a shower and change clothes

Put on a sexy loose dress. It’s pretty hot at night so ladies, go for shorts, short skirts or a flowing dress. Guys, go for shorts and vests. Sit at the patio with friends and talk away life’s problems and blessings as you down the bottles. Oh me, Susan Q, Susan Lucky, Billy, Kaleche and Adelle really tried but we only managed to down two.

5. Lorenzo’s for dinner

Head over to the main restaurant at The Village, Lorenzo’s, for dinner. You have to order Italian pasta and white wine. I had Tomato Pasta with Parmesan – it was heaven on a plate.

By 11 p.m.

6. Hit Club Papa Pata

This is the best club I’ve been to in the Coast of Kenya. Outdoor and white tented décor mixed in black leather seats; a dance floor huge enough to house the whole town; a DJ Booth with caged raging fire on each side; great music; beautifully dressed people and if you walk on the outside of Pata Pata’s back side, you will be met by the white sands of the beach. This is the best way to spend a night out in Malindi. Please note, after being inspired by a couple of drinks, you can decide to have a walk by the beach with your friends or partner if not find a spot to just chill and stare into the big disco light that points out into the dark skies.

You can party till day break; revelers don’t stop checking into Pata Pata. Sometimes, renowned musicians from bongo or the coast region are playing here.

photo (12)Sunday Mid Morning

7.  Have breakfast at The Village; make sure the chef makes you frittata, an Italian omelet. From there, you could either dip into the Jacuzzi for some inspiration or take a tuk tuk to Rosada Exclusive Italian Beach Bar & Restaurant for a nice morning beach walk, which will provide you the real inspiration.  Don’t forget to draw your name on the sand. It’s always a reminder of part of a text I recently read that says, “A footprint on the sand in the seashore, here and then gone, is an inescapable symbol of our brief lives.” The beach at Rosada is as white as cocaine; don’t forget to carry your shades otherwise your eyeballs will be burning all through. Also carry a book or a notebook so you can sit and read or write the thoughts rushing off your mind. Ask the staff at Rosada to get you a Bloody Mary or some kind of cocktail.

By 1.p.m

8. Head back to town for Biriani – kindly note: It’s a crime to be in Mombasa, Voi or Malindi and not have Biriani and Chai ya tangawizi.  Ask for Simba Dishes, it’s a little hidden café in town that serves the best Biriani. They are so affordable, for KES 300; you will have a meal fit for two.

CIMG19339. Don’t miss your flight back. If you decide to stay for another day or so, do not miss Rosada’s beach party every Monday nights. Come ready to mingle and soon forget anything that might happen, because trust me, a lot will happen :-)

10. Take a minute and relax in Malindi. Trust me, such a holiday, whether brief or long, will wipe away all your life problems and magnify all your blessings afresh.

It was great to hang out with my girls, Adelle, Susan (Q & L), Kaleche, and Clara (who lives in Malindi). I hadn’t been to Malindi since 2011, when I was there filming the annual Malindi Kids Festival. I adore the place, and now with the discovery of The Village (that btw only costs KES 10,000 a day, for a self-contained house that can house up to five people and only KES 35,000 a week), I am set to return soon.

BONUS: If you don’t like the tuk tuk much, The Village offers free shuttle bus service to and from the beach clubs to town. The Village officially opened in October 2013 and is nearly fully booked for the Christmas season. S/O to @goplacesKE @TAC_Village

For more info on flight bookings, accommodation in Malindi & Kenya’s most exclusive properties, visit http://www.theafricancollection.net Regarding tours & travel in Malindi email rayatravelmld@gmail.com

Fatally Crushing

black_roseHusband. That’s what I would like to call you. But that’s not who you are; to me. Like a sailor in the stormy sea, you seem in control of the situation, but even you have lost bearing. Like a tailor at the market, I am sewing and making any possible amends on our cloth but it still isn’t looking too good. As much as I keep hearing potential customers saying that, I am deaf. I only sew and see you.

When I think, I am left alone, you are always there; calling me, saying sweet nothing. At the end of our conversations, you are the skilled con who always leaves me feeling happy to be robbed. You have instilled in me a sense that we are on, so I am happy to be tricked. I am indeed a silly girl and surprisingly, happy to be sick of this. I am happy that we are as in sync, on the streets and between sheets more than in reality.

In summary, you keep paying my heart a courtesy call, playing it like a guitar. The music that we produce is good for the ears now but worthless years from now. My Producer, my engineer and my technician – just why couldn’t you have discovered my talent earlier? It feels like my career is way lost, even before taking off. I endear this way more that I should. And you my dear lead me way faster than you should have.

Now, when I look at you and your lovely family, you seem way cooler than when I look at us. And I realize that I am the loser. I am the dreamer, unable to decipher night from day. Though leaner, my heart delivers a message everyday, that it’s cleaner without you. And like an aeroplane lost in the clouds, the truth is I am unable to land.

For the first time; I attended two funerals in one—and amazingly, it was like a sober wedding. Just that most people were dressed in black and were crying, tears of sadness and goodbye. Adieu to the couple starting another life. Farewell to the couple of Wahito and Mbugua, so inseparable, that they died in each other’s arms at the devastating Westgate Terrorist Attack. The duo had been at Westgate to buy wedding bands for their upcoming wedding just before the shooters stormed into the mall.

Wahito AnyikoThe late Rosemary Wahito was never a bridezilla, I was. At least from a 2011 photo shoot we did together for our friend Tabby’s business catalog for her line of wedding gowns. I remember I had to rush back to my former office (BBC) for some work. I literally made Tabby and the photographer hurriedly finish with my part of the shoot. But they convinced me to share the moment indoors with Wahito, as she would be having a special solo out-door shoot as soon as I left.

Wahito was down-to-earth, gracious and a very classy lady. I met her through my cousin Lau and her best friends. It’s always been a tight-knit friendship between about five girls: Wahito, Lau, Mtoni, Sarafina, Tabby and Herenia. During family events of either girls, from graduations to weddings and photo shoots, my cousin would drag me to most of them. A lot of times, I was envious of how the girls would do lunches and dinners and all those fancy things. Because they were a little older than me, I must say they inspired me to be as classy.

Wahito was very fashionable and I never saw her not wearing high heels. “Her impeccable fashion sense and jaw dropping collection of shoes will be frozen in time forever in our minds,” – never read a more befitting eulogy. I remember meeting Wahito and Mbugua at a concert recently, where they were supporting one of Mbugua’s relatives – a female singer. The two were all up on each other and clearly in love. That’s the only time I met Mbugua, Wahito introduced him as her man. I got the vibe that he was a good man and protective, the good-kind. But I could never imagine that he would soon be taking eight bullets while shielding his wife-to-be.

Wahito MbuguaAt their joint-funeral dubbed, “A celebration of Love”, it was so uplifting to hear both families of the deceased console and applaud each other, almost like it really was a funeral-cum-the-wedding-that-never-was. Mbugua’s Dad said, “After meeting her, Mbugua called me and asked, ‘Dad what do you think?’ – And like he’d taught me, I said, ‘Good Stuff!’ I had already started thinking about the future lineage of their family. Wahito’s family, so sorry for losing your beautiful daughter. I thank her for bringing my son such happiness.” And the sisters of Mbugua said, “Thank you Wahito for taking care of our brother, you were always like a sister to us.” Among other tributes, Wahito’s nephews and nieces were twice as sad. That their auntie has passed on and they won’t be matching as flower boys and girls at her wedding. That’s when I remembered that beautiful day, when we had an entire afternoon doing the wedding gowns photo shoot. She was such a natural, and beautiful, and all her gowns fitted perfectly.

But who are we kidding? What happens to wedding vows when you actually die and get laid to rest together? Death can’t and won’t separate you Wahito and Mbugua. Exactly a week, after your untimely demise, you would be both engaging your families in dowry talks, and in another, getting married. But like Monopoly, now you’ve got a free pass – do not stop – go directly and pass the finish line.

BONUS: To Wahito’s girls, stay together in her honour. My condolences to families and friends of the lovely couple; you are now one because of the power of love.

Man of my Life

I adore you. Because you are like a special revolving door, and every time I swing through, there’s something good inside of you. Though far away, you inspire me to dream. You inspire me to be loved. You inspire me to spread my wings to fly. You made me believe that my eyes are beautiful. Your love knows no boundaries. Thank you.

 

TGT WhiteTo stop fussing over what happened to the R&B music groups of the 90s, take a minute and listen to the album Three Kings by Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tyrese (TGT). You must get nostalgic while listening to songs by lost groups: Shai, Jodeci, 112, Xcape, Jagged Edge, Color Me Badd, Silk, LSG, Milestone, Blackstreet, En Vogue, Brownstone, Next, Total and many others. They are nearly all gone. Some of them are desperately trying to make a comeback, mostly through one or two members off the now-defunct groups. But it’s just not working. I don’t want to listen to a Sisqo album but Dru Hill. I don’t want to listen to an SWV album, sounding like the then SWV, but a new vibe still stamped with their signature. You can’t describe old school R&B, without those lost yet big names of the yester years, who together with myriad solo artists defined the 90s era as the decade of baby-making music. Now only Boyz II Men, New Edition, Kci & Jojo and Mint Condition have maintained keeping their spirit alive, displayed by recent releases/tours and concerts.

Mariah WhitneyMusic of the 90s simultaneously pushed hip hop and R&B genres, as opposed to this day when only pop and some kind of hip pop rules. Most music groups pressed the sex-music agenda, and we adored it and sang along. Only in the 90s were lyrics like: I wanna sex you up and I wanna freak you, were accepted, and bizarrely not considered as sexist or disrespectful. It’s the guts with which the singers sang out every single word they wrote, and the bravado in which they delivered it. It’s no wonder Brian Mcknight was scolded for singing the song “How Your Pussy Works” in 2012 while the macho-fueled new R&B kid on the block, Miguel was flagged off for singing “Pussy Is Mine”. L.A Reid, R. Kelly and Babyface were some of the exceptional masterminds of the 90s music movement (in terms of discovering artists and penning chart-topping hits). Toni Braxton, Tamia, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Kelly Price, Syleena Johnson, Sparkle, Aaliyah, Brandy, Faith Evans, Monica, are some of the queens of the time. If you’ve been keen, notice that apart from the deceased, the most of the rest have been keeping their music active and sticking to R&B, with some having released successful albums recently. The men, however, got completely lost. Apart from Musiq Soulchild, Donell Jones, Jon B, Tyrese, Justine Timberlake and Usher; where’s RL, Tevin Campbell, Case, Carl Thomas and the rest?

The brothers have been slacking behind. It’s actually coincidental that TGT’s new album came to the rescue, as it’s something the group had in the works for over five years. When Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank, all dressed in white, arrived at the 2012 BET Awards, seeing the combo left me feeling all nostalgic for their music and thinking to myself, ‘What a great album the trio could make!’ And then they announced, that indeed they would be releasing one soon. The group of best friends (Tyrese was actually the best man at Ginuwine’s wedding), all stellar vocalists and music writers formed TGT in 2007. At first it proved difficult to produce a joint album because of dissimilar label ties. Nevertheless, all through, they kept true to their friendship, solo careers and promise to their fans. Ginuwine released his latest solo album in 2011 while Tyrese and Tank released theirs in 2012. You might have missed to hear the new songs because we’re living in times when new R&B is quite unpopular. However, you can never forget some of TGT’s biggest hits from the earlier R&B songs like “Pony”; “Same Ol G” “Sweet Lady” “One” and “Please Don’t Go”. Out of their makers, Ginuwine has, to date, the most number of selling albums–a whooping 6.98 million, followed by Tyrese’s 3.69 million and Tank’s 1.76 million.

TGT-3-Kings-AlbumAt last signed to Atlantic Records, this super group is an embodiment of the so-gone artists and groups of the 90s. And with the achievement of each of its member’s solo commercial success, there’s a confidence in such a music amalgamation. There’s a promise that it will remind music entertainment that there was a time when music was all about sensual song writing, telling stories, making love and men owning up; that there was a time when, to listen to some kind of music, you had to not be in the club, but be chilling at home, most likely in your bedroom with your better half. (Side note – Errm … I was in my bedroom doing homework in the 90sJ). Released 20th Aug 2013, the album Three Kings immediately shot to number one in the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop albums. How couldn’t it? How long have we been waiting for a true R&B album from artists of the 90s era? I can’t still help but look at TGT members separately, deeming each one as a king. They have altered Lost R&B, to new. TGT means the reincarnation of the lost R&B spirit. They are a leeway, through which all the other olden, and new artists alike, can squeeze into – and if it doesn’t fit – at least be inspired to reach the status of, not just divas but, kings and queens of R&B. Real music.

BONUS:  A review of Three Kings album by TGT

TGT-3-Kings-AlbumChristmas has come early for lovers of that real old school R&B music – and well – the sight and sounds of a sexy black man (in this case three of such). The gift is two interludes and 17 tracks making the album Three kings by R&B super group TGT (Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank). Formed in 2007, this is one of the greatest R&B music groups, which never took off, till now. The trio’s show of audacity has been received with open arms and the album even topped Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart upon release (20th Aug 2013).

It’s already established that Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank are top-notch vocalists and major influences of the baby-making music era; making their debut joint-album, an ode to lost R&B music and the now-defunct music groups of the 90s. Look out for the album’s must-listens like “Tearing it Down”; the very naughty “Hurry”; the Ginuwine stamped “Weekend Love” and the slow, good for bedroom love songs: “Lessons in Love” and “FYH (Fuck You Happy)”—this is Adult music.

TGT’s musical blend is like a perfectly mixed cocktail. Not too sweet or dry, but just enough. Loved the entire album from start to finish, didn’t even need a forward button. The merger of kings of R&B makes for a gymnasium of sorts; with each member stretching their vocal limits leaving behind a trail of replayable (Yeah – I just created that word) ad-libs over the trio’s impeccable harmonies and vocal arrangement and song writing. Most songs in Three Kings, just like the 90s R&B songs, are about making babies, relationships either gone sour or to flattering extremes. The album’s only collaborators are rappers, Black Ty and Problem in song no. 1 – “Take it Wrong” and song no. 2 – “No Fun”, respectively. Perfect entrées with perfect rap verses. Both encompass that feel-good R&B sound with a kick and bounce and lyrics to drive you straight to bed frolicking or simply swaying to the beat.

3. Sex Never Felt Better 04.10

It’s this legit baby-making jam that TGT released as the first single of the album. Singing about sex, while using the word ‘sex’ is a thing of the 90s, and when you can do it in this era and make it sound so good and for lack of a better description, sexy – then you know you still got it. Ladies, you could get pregnant just by the replay of this song! Be very wary.

4. I Need 04.30

Here’s the genius of storytelling in a song, and a dedication to all the ladies and gentlemen heartbroken, after failed relationships. This ballad is probably the essence of grown Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank (representative of a grown mature man)- It takes time for a man to grow … I know it aint never worth your heart, tears and scars … The song is a man’s realization that he needs back the woman he lost. The lesson to learn here is that; if it hurts, leave; and if the ones who hurt us own up and change, let’s give them a second chance.

5. Next Time Around 03.48

- Tell me how the hell I hurt this woman again? I will just give her time, so she may reconsider – Ginuwine sets the pace in a song with the album’s most enticing hook. A man is at the verge of losing his woman. Because there seems to be nothing that can be done, he promises to be ready next time around, and prepares to buy her a ring and a house. But it’s Tank’s verse that is a killer – a real man admits when he’s wrong, admits when he loves, picks up the phone and says, ‘please come back home’- If God still manufactures these kind of men, send them over. Thank you.

11. Explode 03.51

After “No Fun”, this is my favourite off Three Kings. What a great production with a beat similar to Usher’s “Climax”. Yet another perfectly crafted sex song with lyrics and falsettos to make you want to hit replay – Look at us about to kaboom in this room like it’s Independence Day – goes Tyrese. Tank is killing it in the song’s hook. If this song was released together with “Climax”, I guarantee you; Usher would be having a hard time keeping on top of the charts.

15. Burn Out 03.40

- Who turned on the lights? You- shining through, even through this dark room – Ginuwine kicks off the temperature of the song, a serenade to a missus. Ladies, even when times seem so rough or dark, you should know that your light can never burn out. The bridge goes – what I see is brighter than a flame; no star could shine quite the same – power to the men who appreciate their women.

Coming to think about it, this is greatest R&B album I’ve heard, yet. Mainly because, back in the day, never got a chance to sample most albums because, you didn’t really have to; as nearly all songs in those albums were playing on radio. And to be this good and soulful and good-spirited at an era of rationed R&B, how couldn’t it be the best, so far? The production is beyond mind-blowing. Most of the other songs like for instance “Our House” would use a rap at the bridge, from a new school kid like Kendrick but nope – TGT was probably making a point, using pure R&B music to remind us of the days of producing soothing music loyal to exalting women; music that made it okay for men to have feelings. There was a time when we sang to this. Huge thumbs up to the reigning three kings of R&B. This one is for listening to anytime, anywhere.

BONUS: Read what TGT Three Kings means to Lost R&B

What’s the measurement of who deserves a slap? If there was one, I could have already slapped a lot of people, from makangas along my route unnecessarily overcharging matatu fare and other motorists hooting pointlessly at me. I guess there are lots of people who deserve to be slapped, but we don’t just go slapping them, at least just to respect the rule of law. That brings me to the thunderous Governor Kidero Slap, which landed on Women’s Rep Rachel Shebesh last Friday, after an altercation regarding City Council’s ‘ghost’ workers.

The slap has been widely rebuked while celebrated all the same, with most parties agreeing that it’s outright wrong for a man to hit a woman, then comes 1,000 BUTs. I will respond step by step to all the excuses and reasons why most people are trying to justify Shebesh being slapped:

  • Trying to rubbish the call (especially by women) for Kidero to step down because of events from the recent past, like Sonko hurling insults at Caroline Mutoko and the Subukia MP beating a woman cop didn’t get as much an uproar is wrong, because:
  1. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
  2. The uproar of hearing a man verbally insult a woman and that of a man slapping a woman is obviously different to large extents. What you see has more power over what you hear. And that’s why the defense that she hit Kidero below the belt shouldn’t be as sensational as it’s suddenly become. We all know that’s a highly probably lie, because if she did—he wouldn’t have first feigned forgetfulness, like he did and the law of reflex action says that he wouldn’t have reacted the way he did by slapping her, he might have had to bend over first.
  3. It’s suddenly a big deal because Kidero is a big deal. He is the Governor of Nairobi, that’s not just a lay man or any other politician so am sorry— this is a high-profile case and will be dealt with like one.
  • Trying to justify how Shebesh had it coming because of her attitude is the shit that will have men hitting women in the society.

-          No matter how bad an attitude a man or a woman carries, they don’t deserve to be hit. Kidero’s defense will most probably be self-defense (that’s laughable btw), used together with Shebesh’s past “Slap Demeanour’ (how many people are alleged to have slapped her again?) to further prove her aggressive personality and reason why he might have slapped her.

VERDICT

What Kidero did was wrong and should not be taken lightly for whatever case. For all the people calling Shebesh a busy body to have been drumming her support for the City Council workers and not have done the same for say, the teachers during their recent strike—I have only one question for you, why are you desperately trying to cover for Kidero? She’s the Women’s Rep and can drum support for whatever she deems important, when she wishes. I don’t deny that the way that she has handled herself in the past is questionable, but so have many other politicians. Big Deal.

For this to go down well for Kidero, he must settle the matter with Shebesh aside from whatever court verdict; it’s clear that the nation is divided otherwise because:

  1. We are living in a man’s society.

It’s okay for a man to slap a woman, especially if she’s been slapped before or comes screaming in your office. This is the behavior of any unruly person, and quite frankly, the usual on goings at City Council. Anyhoo, such a person should be escorted out by security or have the door slammed at them— NOT SLAPPED, and especially by a ‘respectable’ Dr. Kidero. Would we all react the same if she was hit by Kidero’s security OR if she was the Governor and was hit by a man?

  1. We don’t like her—yes, but that’s Gross Misconduct

Even I don’t like Shebesh but she is the Women’s Rep. And we must remember that we are living in a civil society, where we don’t go slapping/beating people we don’t like or disagree with, especially in work places. That will guarantee you a 99.99% chance of getting fired. Kindly note that this will also be politicized, don’t forget that Kidero is from CORD and they (Jubilee) might want to ensure he vacates that seat for one of their own.

Closing Statement

If we (Kenyan society) keep making excuses for Kidero, even using past examples of how other cases were handled and subsequently forget about this, that doesn’t show how smart we are but how prone to impunity and mediocrity we’ve become.  Any past mistakes, lawful or not, should never be repeated OR seem fit to be used as a case study.

If we don’t take the above into account, we are shouting—Slap unruly women! What are we telling our children? That there are some instances when a girl/woman can be slapped? No. That’s not right and never will be.


The world is a beautiful place that we will never fully understand or consume as a whole. We think we are the best. And that these are the best of times. But everyday, we meet new people or experience new things, all bringing new meaning to life. Everyday we experience new challenges and disappointments, all that make us stronger, and wiser. We dream of the future, but we will never know of what it holds. We pray for health, wealth and prosperity but we will never know what’s in store for us, until it is ours. We sometimes take for granted that which we have, not knowing that it’s precious, and better than if we never had anything.  We forget to realize that there’s no going back to yesterday. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald stated in the finale of The Great Gatsby, “Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms farther. So we beat on …”–there are so many more beautiful songs yet to be written, more beautiful souls yet to come into the world, so many more memories to be accumulated, so many more heart breaks, triumphs and  life lessons awaiting us. There’s so much from all of us, that could never end before the end of time.

“What’s the best age to be?” Intelligent Life’s Big Question (Sept/Oct 2013). It’s too much a coincidence that I would read this big subject on the eve of my birthday (yesterday); and it would make absolutely no sense if I didn’t blog about this. So here goes;

Growing up, my mother was very strict. My siblings and I were not allowed to play outside or attend any parties/functions that were not family related. That made it awkward every time the ‘Home Time’ school bell rang, because I was caught in between wanting to play more with friends and running home to watch Gargoyles, my favourite cartoon of all time. Mum’s rules also restricted us from inviting friends at home. The only ones allowed would never exceed two; and they would have to come from the same class as the host. In addition, she would have to have known of their class performance and parents, prior to giving a green light. This is exactly the life you live, when your mother was a teacher and a school head teacher for that matter. Because of those high principles, I would be afraid to introduce my friends to my mother, in fear that they wouldn’t be good enough or pass the test. It would be worse, if you had friends who literally failed class tests.

So I resorted to my books, friendships that existed just as far as the school gate and my siblings company, that’s why my three sisters are by far my closest friends. Because we didn’t get out much, we kept ourselves busy with movies, music and cooking. Because I am the last born, nobody would have me cooking. I would just stare at the rest of the girls and mum making magic and if given work, it would only be to make salad, prepare the dining table for meals or change the music playing in the background. Staying indoors too much made music our sole escape.

The 90s was all about “Makarena” versions, Tupac, Brandy, Monica, Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men and R. Kelly music. I remember vividly Tupac‘s “Me Against the World” album (in tape). The one we had was yellowish in colour and released around the time Tupac had jail drama. After seeing Death Row inscribed on the tape, I remember feeling sad thinking he had been jailed for life; little did I know it was a label. At the time, my family owned a video library that stocked all sorts of movies and music videos, the likes of recorded episodes of MTV Base music countdowns and classics like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Sound of Music and Boyz N Da Hood. Some of my earliest favourite music videos include “Break Up to Make Ups” by Method Man & D’Angelo, “Young Thug” by Bone Thugs N Harmony & Ice Cube and “Be Careful” by R. Kelly & Sparkle. We would listen to songs, over and over, till there was nothing left to do other than start to play/pause music videos, to write down lyrics (there wasn’t Google Lyrics then, trust me) then play to sing over. And when we were done with that, we would play the audio on the big radio (I remember it was a GoldStar make that had an LP on the top) and then try to play the video of the song on the VCR, so the both would run simultaneously—just for kicks!

My sisters, especially Emma and Jackie, probably baked a cake every fortnight and holiday. We had cakes for everything, from birthdays, Christmas to whatever we felt like. We would stay up late, mixing ingredients while chatting about everything and nothing. I can almost still smell and taste that yucky mixture of flour, blue band, sugar and eggs. We would bake the cakes in the big jiko oven, that mum bought specifically to bake cakes, which would make breakfast the following morning, so much more awesome. I still haven’t eaten a cake half as good as what my sisters made back in the day, maybe that’s why my last memory of loving cake, was then. I hate cake. My eldest sister, Pollyne, recently bought a ready-to-bake cake mix at the supermarket and it just made me sad at how dead all those lasting memories are today.

My earliest memory of our household coming alive was times when my mother was away and my sisters invited their friends over for dinner or a chat. But these times, didn’t matter much to me because I would be asked to go sleep and if I stayed up, I wouldn’t understand half the things they talked about. The only other time I recall, was around my 13th bday celebration merged with my sister Emma’s 19th bday (Our bdays fall 10 days apart- Sept 4th and 14th). That was the only time in my childhood that my mother allowed us to hold a party at home. It was fabulous! There were lots of food, drinks, music, decorations and people (lots of them) in the house. I remember inviting all my friends from school, including a boy (whose name I can’t remember) I was crushing on. But the best part of it, was sharing a bday party with someone I was very close to (at the time and now). Of all my sisters, I took after Emma’s hobbies and interests. Apart from our identical laughter, we love the same food, music and movies; she even named her first daughter after me! Shucks. Now, looking back at that day, it wasn’t so much about the party but the joint effort and having to share a special moment with someone special. I have never had another bday that left me as content as that one did. At that point in life, I didn’t know that my sister would, in a few years, leave Kenya, to permanently settle in the USA.

Later in life, we look back and appreciate memories afresh. I now appreciate my mum’s severity, as it made for a few golden moments, as opposed to too many nondescript memories. Every fortnight, mum would take us out to Highlands Hotel, formerly owned by the late Njenga Karume. An image of the grandiose white hotel with cathedral walls and larger than life sparkling windows surrounded by perfectly manicured green lawns will forever be engraved in my mind. An hour or so of horse riding and endless table tennis games at the hotel used to be my favourite sport. The only horse I rode was called Shadrack. He was coal dark, shiny and stout. The riding instructor said that Shadrack would go wild sometimes and throw riders over, but we were forever friends. Well, till one day, after schools closed, when mum took me over to ride, and they broke the news that all horses had been sold off or taken by an Association, can’t remember much. I miss that home away from home. The other day, while at Karen Country Club I got sick of déjà vu. The place is a mirror of Highlands Hotel and left me so nostalgic for my childhood days. The last time I inquired about the hotel, I found out that it had been given over to the Internally Displaced Persons following the Post Election Violence. A lot of people were left homeless in Molo. They are now planting maize on what used-to-be Highlands golf course.

Before my vagabond and full-of-life father died, I am told, things were very different at home, as he would take the family out to trips and the like, out-of-town. When you grew up in a little town like Molo, there weren’t too many places to visit or so many things to do. So when I think about my best years so far, it would have to be between around the age of eight and sixteen. Even though I lost my Dad then, nothing else mattered but cakes, good music, horse riding, playing tennis and spending time with my sisters. I am a little frustrated today when I turn on the radio and stupid pop comes blaring out; I miss that good old school hip hop and R&B music. I miss eating that fresh not-too-sweet homemade cake. I miss a lot.

Which of your successive selves do you look back on most fondly, with a sense of being most in harmony with the world? As Intelligence Life’s six wise heads pick the best age of all, this September, some went for the octogenarian and middle ages, with others touting teen years as the rock of ages “poised for a brief moment between innocence and transgression—we had it all,” Edward Carr stirs up his debate on why being 12 was the best. Just like him, when I look back, I miss the days when we didn’t have a lot, of freedom and friends, yet we made the best of it all. A lot is yet to come but those were certainly my best years, so far. Happy Birthday to me and my late Dad (Yes, we share a birthday)!

BONUS: Happy Birthday Emma, miss you and love you.

A tale of Two

Can’t help but wonder why, like a paper being blown away by the wind, you are elusive. And why, I am like a foolish child constantly chasing after you, innocently thinking I will catch you. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I will. Maybe the wind will blow you upwards towards me, and with my grasp I could clasp your hands into mine and feel why I kept running for you.  Maybe then I can start learning how to read the writings on you before the weather damages everything.  Maybe then I can write on you a thing or two and our words may one day inspire other paper chasers never to give up.

POF Exhibition Dates PosterEdward Manyonge’s debut exhibition “Pieces of Fortune” is opening at The Michael Joseph Centre, Safaricom House this Sunday afternoon 25th August starting 3.00 p.m.– 5.00 p.m.  

So excited! this is the second exhibition I am curating :-)

Nway, “Pieces of Fortune” celebrates the freedom provided by modern aspects of art and its collection is a touch of contemporary designs with some depicting architectural aspects while providing a minimalistic yet valiant feel to Edward’s paintings, most of which are acrylic on canvas.

Painter Edward’s bold and colorful works champion both figurative and abstract mediums that enthrall into an inward journey into his world. His style portrays vivid images and patterns painted “from the inside out” as he puts it, so as to allow for the present moment to inform the process of creation with an intention to feed heart and soul and instill a sense of peace and joy.

Edward started “playing with colors” while still as young as five years old. He would later emerge Second Best in Kenya in a national competition on painting sponsored by Kiwi at 12 years old. His works have previously been exhibited at joint exhibitions including at Alliance Française and at Braeburn Garden Estate. After studying Art, Design and Photography at the Buru Buru Fine Arts, Edward is now Braeburn Garden Estate High School’s Graphic Designer and enjoys painting at any given free time.

“Pieces of Fortune” exhibition has been supported by Michael Joseph Centre and opens for public viewing from Monday 25th August till 2nd September 2013. Surprise guests will grace the exhibition’s opening in an acoustic performance, after which Edward will give the guests a brief welcoming note. You are invited.

Exhibition curated by Anyiko Owoko. For reservations of seats/a chance to interview artist Edward Manyonge/purchase or have art work reserved, email anyiko.owoko@gmail.com 

 

 

Running

For as long as it rains, can’t stop loving you. Tell it not to drop and I will unchain myself from your reigns. But because you don’t have that kind of power, were stuck together like the half and half of an hour-glass– feeling on each other as we fill each side we fall or rise with the sands of our time. Your words alone bring me back to life. Mine remind you of the kind of woman to wife and even though we’re apart; we’ll never give up in that which we share.

Men and women no longer write each other love letters but Facebook (FB) and Twitter messages/chats—mankind’s gift to modern-day chivalry. Instead of actually writing ‘kisses’; ‘I love you’ or better yet, showing it; through emoticons, you can now send a man your red lips, and he can sweep you off your feet just by sending you that big swollen red love heart. Maybe that way, we are less likely to be held accountable for anything, especially words unuttered. Birthday cakes and cards now come cheaper, and in various flavours and assorted colours—via Facebook apps. If she cries foul over missing to eat cake on her birthday, the same man who should have at least got her a cup cake, simply goes, “At least I sent you one over Facebook.”

TEXTKindly DM and check FB inbox have become our new lingo—that which we can’t live or do without. Dating hasn’t only taken to the cyberspace in instances where it started on an online platform but even in real life dates. Haven’t you seen a perfectly matching couple out at a restaurant or a club, both cuddling, on their smartphones—the kind that send Facebook updates like, “OMG!? Having the time of my life at this date, he’s such a gentleman!” While on the other hand, Mr. Gentleman is simultaneously updating his Twitter status to, “Someone call #MAWE, my date is the reason why Karen Horses Association are no longer selling horse hair.” Look closer at yourself. Just how many times have you had to either release your ululations or frustrations online while you had the chance to do it out in the open (real life situation)? After all, wasn’t the message always better delivered first hand? Why is it suddenly easier to confess to thousands of followers and FB ‘friends’ that you are in love or annoyed by someone, but you won’t face them and be man or woman enough to say this to their face?

Were relationships more meaningful before FB and Twitter? People must have met (physically) more often to see the actual faces of people they were interested in while gauging them from the first date. But today, it’s almost a 50 percent chance that relationships blossom upon love at first tweet/FB update, even before the first-meet up. And an 80 percent chance, that a man or lady who hasn’t met their date prior via social media, will ask them for their FB or Twitter handle at the first date. This isn’t really to make friends or contact, but to read into someone’s life, if there is such a thing to start with. We want to know; what kind of music do they hear if any? What kind of places do they check into using Foursquare? What kind of pictures do they have up and how often do they post updates, heck! Do they write grammatically correct? While we could spend time with these people to learn these things, this has instead become the only chance for us to judge friends and lovers.

Are we becoming too obsessed with ourselves, and our image? With Instagram; selfies are the new cup of tea. It’s highly likely that, a suitor will first ask you to send them an image of yourself via WhatsApp even before wishing you a good morning, they actually never do but only write, ‘So, what’s up today?’. Why are we so quick to cut to the chase? We take images of ourselves, edit/filter to send out in record time. Is it just so we can have 45 Likes on an image, with others lauding us— “You look great!”, only to reply with an emoticon smiley? Are we spending too much time recording and reporting on our daily experiences, that we forget to live life, one moment in time.

Couple cellA few years back, it was really shaddy not to be on FB and even shadier not to send out at least 10 updates daily. Most recently, it’s become shaddy not to be on Twitter and Instagram; and even shadier not to have at least 500 followers (on each) going up. While at a dinner with some friends recently, one guy recounted to us how he’d met a local media personality who, “had more than 50,000 Twitter followers and is such a beauty.” It seemed to matter most to him, that she had so many followers.  Have we become a society that equates friendship, love and satisfaction to our social pages and the comments/numbers they attract; while the content we constantly strive to update is all erasable at one button? There is the lurking danger of accounts being hacked, crashing or the possibility of simply shutting down your account. If that happens, what relationships will you have left to savour?

When chivalry died, it seemed to have jumped into the blogosphere, where personalities bigger than individuals reign. Girls giggle about guys they have never met, “Just check out his Tweets, he’s hilarious!” not knowing, if maybe, this guy is just another dork plagiarizing already recycled tweets. Guys no longer talk about nice girls from or at church, if they aren’t tweeting about how one of the singers from the choir can gerrrit. They are now interested in hot avatars and profile pictures. After the hustle of pimping and editing our images to seem near-perfect; the reality is that none of us is perfect or ever will be. At some point, somebody needs to stop, at least even for a day and ask themselves, ‘How long do I spend with so & so offline? And while offline, how long do we actually spend time alone without the TV on and phone to tweet about how nice a time we are having’?

I don’t know about you but I am starting to get tired of just following that guy I like on Twitter. I want to follow him down the streets of Nairobi and into his favorite restaurant/cafe. While there, I don’t want to like his Instagram and twipics of foods he relishes or decor he admires but share with him. Heck I don’t want to only be sharing interesting reads with him via FB but also sacred moments like this. As much as I enjoy hanging out with him, for once, I want to hoard our sweet  memories just for our keeps and not share updates like “At such & such a place with so & so, we’re now having desert, the dinner was nearly as splendid as my man” but actually tell it to his face. I am tired of being friends with thousands of people on FB while in the real sense I only happen to own a couple of friends, who btw don’t FB much, at least not in regard to our friendship. I am suddenly tired of being just FB friends with that guy I fancy. Could he possibly poke me offline? Will he still like the unfiltered picture of me (you know the one with at least two bad hair days or a pimple big enough for a hobbit to take a hike on, every month)? We all fuss over social media and the facade it creates but at the end of the day, we are real. We shouldn’t forget that real conversations happen face to face (not just Apple’s Face Time), off cyberspace. I am curious if we could be offline without our FB, Twitter and Instagram aliases, for at least 48 hours. Wait. Could you ever dare hit delete? Food for thought.  Now back to normalcy, kindly follow me via @anyikowoko :-)

Pro Lover

Window PaneYou are like a window pane, and your nuance glimpsing at me from the outside. To you, the inside looks good but you don’t dare come in to feel the pleasure and pain that I want to share with you. You don’t care to layer the inside of my olden house with new bricks or paint but you dare to rest in my comfort. You don’t care to augment your game with new tricks but lay there waiting on me like I am pro and you are a novice. In the real sense, you are alone at your test of me; my space is always at its best though jaded. No room for doubt or failure, I will renovate my house. Like curtains we are drawn together by the warmth of the night but will forever be apart in daylight. Like a sightless butterfly, I am not free but bound by the chains of my cocoon. If I set myself free I am afraid of the uncertainties of tomorrow but if I don’t am chained by the insincerity of  today and yesterday. But I have no choice but to be me and thankful for the warmth of our drapes provide. Even though temporary.

Burmese Days- George OrwellBurmese Days is George Orwell’s debut novel (first published in 1934), set in the fictional Kyauktada in the 1920s during British Empire rule over Burma (now Myanmar). By juxtaposing relations between native Burmese and foreign Englishmen through the eyes of the book’s protagonist John Flory; Orwell exposes a society’s bigotry, hypocrisy and inequality in a captivating satirical tale.

Mr. Flory has been working as a white timber merchant while living in Burma for more than 15 years. Burma serves as his escape from his insecurities originating from childhood days of being bullied and mocked for the scar-ish birthmark across his face. Flory enjoys the company of fellow Europeans but secretly despises how they oppress the locals including his friend Dr. Veraswami, one of the senior natives.

The scorching temperatures, endless boredom and garlic-stinking natives are just but some of the things Europeans detest about Burma. The only escape from this seems to be a daily convergence at the Europeans Club for mindless chatter and propaganda, while enjoying some whisky and treasured ice cubes. But whisky, cigarettes and Flory’s beloved dog Flo is not enough to liven his otherwise lonely life. However, unlike the rest of the Europeans, Flory sees beyond Burma’s face value. He admires its beauty; from its assorted scented flowers, orange sunsets and wildlife to chaotic cultural festivals. All this makes Flory privy to life’s secret that “Beauty is meaningless until it is shared”—a revelation that convinces him that his solitude could only be cured by finding someone to love and to share with, everything and his impressions of Burma.

Elizabeth, a young English woman arrives in Kyauktada to live with her aunt and uncle (the Lackersteens) after losing her mother, a painter in Paris. She’s the life of a la mode and epitomizes the newness that Flory’s life craves. Her arrival even makes him dismiss his indignant Burmese mistress Ma Hla May. He dreams of marrying Elizabeth and sharing his life with her to counter Burma’s constant air of ennui. As the two hit it off, their point of views (mainly on preferences regarding Burmese culture/people) stay clashing.

Trouble starts building up in the British Empire following a directive allowing one native to be elected in the European’s Club. Flory’s friend Dr. Veraswami (responsible for saving the lives of many Burmese people) is the most probable choice for a nomination but no European except Flory can dare utter an okay to that. “Veraswami is a damn good fellow—a damned sight better than some white men I can think of. I am going to propose his name to the club when the general meeting comes,” says Flory at the club, surprising himself at the kind of row he is about to start. Dr. Veraswami’s enemies are determined to destroy his chances at the club at whatever cost, they accuse him of all crimes possible. And when his good character always saves the day; they decide to hit at Flory—Veraswami’s only pass into the club.

Flory’s romance with Elizabeth is on the other hand short-lasted as Verall, a new and younger British Honourable Officer arrives at Kyauktada. “Remember that though you will find men who are richer, and younger, and better in every way; it’s something to have one person in the world who loves you.” He cautions her and is suddenly torn between fighting for his life, friend and what he thought was the love of his life.

Based on Orwell’s five-year-long experience as a member of the British Indian Imperial military police in Burma, this is his use of satire in outlining societal interactions at its purity. Europeans have sexual relations with Burmese women but the natives are not allowed to marry Europeans. If by any chance a child by a Burmese woman is fathered by a European, they are considered an outcast in European circles, denied jobs and only employed by the government if they denounce their European blood—a useless leverage, still too costly to lose. The girl, who Flory tried so hard to impress, fell for the most discourteous Englishman in Kyauktada, who despises fellow Europeans almost as much as the natives. Flory risks his reputation by backing Veraswami’s election to the club in the name of friendship while the doctor is interested in the election more than anything yet if he were elected into the club, he would never attend any of the meetings but merely bask in the glory of status elevation.

photo (8)I could on and on about how brilliant a Critical Satirist George Orwell is. There’s something about all his books atypical endings; without suspense or resolution. Just like in Orwell’s most celebrated work—1984; Burmese Days tells the reader: “If you let people step on you or life take its course on you—you will cease being who you were and what you believed in to become either anybody or nobody.” George Orwell presents satirical tales that enthrall, leaving you disillusioned and in some kind of zone; fully aware of the power we posses over our destiny.

BONUS: Another impressive read borrowed to never return from my late Dad’s library. He used to be a Literature teacher :-)

donell-jones-forever-album-cover-thumb-473xauto-11539R&B must be forever. At least as represented by Donell Jone’s consistency while keeping it real for the genre. Apart from countable R&B albums from Boyz II Men, Mint Condition, Monica and Joe; I can’t point you towards a truer and more exclusive R&B album released in the past decade than Donell’s seventh studio album Forever (July 2013).  Seeing as it’s been released/produced via his label imprint CandyMan Music, anyone would say that Donell has come of age. But then, they wouldn’t know that all this independence was always part of him and the grand plan. While interviewing him in 2011, Donell talked very passionately about his home “studio sessions” and soon returning to songwriting (He’s in the past penned songs for singers like Usher and Silk).

The flow and coherence of this album (in terms of musical styles/instrumentation, mostly sweet-sounding or edgy guitar riffs) from start to finish is superb. With only one outside singer featured in the entire album; this is Donell’s playground where he choses to host an orgy of odes: to his mother, wife and his inspiration, Michael Jackson—all outstanding and well-done. “Beautiful” questions love that doesn’t run skin deep, with the soulful “Sorry I Hurt You” acting as an ideal ‘Please forgive me’ song if you’re having relationship trouble. The 12-tracked album is ultimately an ode to die-hard R&B/old-school-music-ethic lovers.

1. New Beginning 1.23

There could never be a more perfect intro for an R&B album than a sexy song (complete with lazy beats) about making love. [Remember:  “I wanna sex you up”; “Your body is calling for me”; “I wanna freak you” and “I just wanna take it nice & slow”? Rawness has always been at the core of R&B.] The short a capella into the intro is nothing short of a Jodeci/Shai harmonies reincarnated.

2. Forever 3.45

What a wonderful ballad befitting the album’s title. Here, the smooth crooner is at the peak of maturity (lyrically speaking). He’s neither the player in “This Luv”, the man begging for forgiveness on “What you want”, threatening to leave like in “Better start talking” or the heartbroken “Where I wanna be” singer; but a man thankful for the 22 years he’s spent with his wife. “They say that a man aint’ supposed to cry but I am crying out for you coz I see me with you forever,” he sings. There’s nothing sexier than a vulnerable [Read – honest] man. Definitely replay material for the lovers as well as dreamers.

3. Closer I get to you featuring Alja Kamillion 4.26

Anyone whose ever lost a relationship or a loved one would relate to this one, it brought tears to my eyes. For some reason, it brought back memories of my dad, who passed away. Nway it’s the only collaboration in the album with the honey-voiced Alika Kamillion surprisingly only singing a mere BGV “Oh la la la,” –I think sampled from Fugees. “The closer I get to you, it’s so hard to be away from you …”

5. Don’t Blame Me 5.08

Girls get tired of boys. At some point you get tired of games and idiocies making you wish you could transform your man into a real man. And the first sign to your man changing is usually by him owning up to past mistakes, after all nobody is perfect. This is an ode to real men, “There comes a time in a man’s life when we have to let go of little boy’s habits and become a man”—Donell preaches in the intro.  This Babyface-esque production and vocal arrangement is top notch, a favorite and must-listen.

6. You Know 4.52

For edginess—Donell gets a 100% on this one. This song is stamped Usher Raymond. Its production is a mix between what Polow D and Diplo would come up with for Usher. The beat has that Usher bounce and vibe—“Sex on my mind. I keep fucking around; I can’t keep choosing”. [I mean isn't that the story of Usher’s life?] This is the first thing that shows me that away from the near-old notion of bringing back R&B music, Donell is still keeping up with the new cats like Miguel as well as the classics like Usher-baby.

7.  I Miss the King 4.03

The electric guitars in this one are to die for. Amazing is an understatement. This is such a lovely dedication with Donell singing about how MJ inspired him and many to sing and be great. The vocal arrangements in this one would make MJ very proud if he were to wake up. Replay material.

Even though too unpredictable, music genres stay like fashion. One day a certain sound is in; the next it’s out. The 80s and R&B music stayed out too long. And even if for a split second; thank you Daft Punk and Donell Jones for exhuming these genres via Random photo (7)Access Memories and Forever, respectively.

BONUS: Donell is just about the most humane and humble superstar I ever got close to. I remember a few years back getting into a small conference room at a Nairobi hotel, where a dozen journalists awaited to interview him. It literally took me minutes to locate the man, wearing his trademark Kangol disguising him as just another dude. The more I tried to squeeze out of him some of that vigorous personality usually expected out of celebrities, the more it became crystal clear to me that Donell Jones is just Donell Jones—a man only in love with more than just R&B—his family and good music; the kind that’s crafted to tells true stories. Below is a video I took of him performing my fave Donell jam during his debut concert in Kenya.

quote-rudenessOne of my earliest memories of getting into big trouble with my mother was being caught peeping at what the person sitting next to me (mostly in public vehicles) was reading, which would mostly be a newspaper. She would pinch me hard and give strict orders, “Look in front!” Embarrassed; I would ask myself, “How could just stretching out my eye to read a catchy newspaper headline possibly be a bad thing and make me rude?” I was then just another curious child eager to read. Not too different from the adult I became, just that I now buy my own books, newspapers and magazines and happen to get really pissed off when a stranger sitting next to me in a public place brings their head so close to my bosom, in the name of co-reading my newspaper. I also never understand what makes guys (strangers) in the matatu keep trying to vibe me with their mumbo-jumbo talk while they can obviously see that I am engrossed in reading my book. I would actually ask you to shut the fuck up but wouldn’t that be too harsh or even rude? My point is simple—how you were raised determines a lot on how you handle and view certain situations.

We are obviously living in an unruly society just from the look of things even before interacting with a lot of people. Look around you and you won’t miss to spot a dozen people openly spitting on the streets while walking down one, grown-ass men (not street urchins but fathers and husbands to respectable ladies) peeing at undesignated public areas, with clear notices like ‘Usikojoe Hapa’ or annoying preachers in the bus in spite of caution stickers like ‘No Preaching or Hawking.’

And Nairobi isn’t wholly the kind of city where you can stick your head out marveling at moving scenery. You will most probably be hit smack in the eye by flying bananas peels and snack wrappers thrown out from moving vehicles. If none of that happens, make sure you don’t wear your favorite gleaming shoes into a matatu. People mostly push into and out of matatus (puzzlingly as hey—didn’t you already get to your destination? So why not alight in an orderly manner?), and in the process will step on your shoes. Most shoe-steppers will never apologize, if anything they will realize what they did, turn back, look at you mockingly and leave. This is the one reason why I need a license to carry a gun in my handbag. Without a reservation, only a handful of restaurants will promptly show you to a table. And after ordering and having your food, it will probably take you ages to get your check yet the waiter will later still raise an eyebrow expecting a tip. Didn’t we learn anything from the British reputation for manners? Or how did we get to such uncouth levels?

The disregard or total lack of any type of courtesy breaks down further to individuals. Those ‘xaxa’ and ‘hae’ texts messages and Facebook inboxes still keep coming. On a personal level, it’s always courteous to introduce yourself to new people especially at public events, a formality and passing pleasantry in the name of manners. By your third sip on that glass of wine, you will hardy remember any names of the people you met. However, first impressions last way longer than our fish memories. A lady will remember the guy who kissed her hand, ‘Enchanté’ to the man who blurted out his name while chewing cashew nuts off his monstrous teeth gnashing the poor nuts like it’s the eve to the Apocalypse. On the other hand, men will recall ladies who hold conversations like their glasses, carefully and sensually. They will remember tidbits like perfectly-manicured nails to ordinary names like Mary, Jane and Shiro.

Most recently while at a concert, I locked eyes with a familiar-looking man, who called out my name even though we hadn’t met before, “You are Anyiko, right?” He then asked to talk to me in private about “something”. Thinking it would be a business proposal or a favor I pulled him aside to a less noisy area where instead of first introducing himself, he blatantly muttered, “I want you to interview me in your show [Grapevine].” Awkwardly, even shyly, I said, “Errrm, why? What do you do?” Turns out he was a semi-famous comedian, who expected me and the world to recognize him. It obviously didn’t end well; you can’t approach a lady like that, be it concerning a personal or professional matter. Even after trying to salvage the discomfiture by asking for his number, he still didn’t tell me his name, so I saved his contact as Comedian Man. I would get up the next day to find a missed call from Mr. Comedian Man at 3.40 a.m yet he never texted/called later to explain why he was calling at such ungodly hours. Who does that?

Another recent instance was last Sunday while at the movies to watch Man of Steel with my buddy Chimano. After booking our H9 and H10 ticket seat numbers five hours to the 10 p.m. flick; we found a group of three ladies (or so I thought) and a man occupying our seats, just as the movie had began—great! At first, we were polite about it pointing out the misunderstanding and asking them to show us their ticket numbers. But two of the girls were beyond rude. “Tulishatupa risiti zetu” and “tafuteni place ingine” were some of the things they said to us.

I immediately foresaw a movie starting even before the main feature as I wasn’t going to sit at any other place. If I had to, I would walk out but not without a refund of our ticket money. The rest of the people sitting behind us in the cinema started jeering at us for blocking them as that pack of fools refused to be moved. So I had to call an attendant, who intimidated by the unwavering crew asked to get us other seats. Of course we declined. After the attendant threatened to throw them out, their tickets indicating G-numbered seats suddenly showed up—those people probably even can’t recite the alphabet right. They eventually had to move as civility somewhat saved day. Think about some of the most effortless words to use like ‘Sorry’, ‘Nice to meet you,’ ‘Please,’ ‘Excuse me’ and ‘Good day’. Don’t they mostly rub us the right way? Irrespective of whether whoever said them meant it or not. I think if courtesy had a price, many would wish to buy it but unfortunately, couldn’t afford it.

BONUS: “Considering your effect on others is vital to any civilized interaction,” Dr. Brooke Magnanti.

The Traders

FlowerIs this real for you? Because the more I keep running from you, the more I keep hiding from the truth. That we are professional heart breakers and menders; who swim in motion with our emotions but fail to dive deep into their oceans. We are like a freeway—express and free. But like opposing lanes, we never meet despite the proximity that we are right beside each other. That makes me wonder whether there’s a possibility that we truly never existed and if we indeed existed at all, what did we have? That makes me insist on knowing, next time, if we are real or maybe just another passage off some olden story. For the more you pull me towards you, the more its a bother as your rope loosens and makes me weak throughout the journey. For many weeks, we were like a beautiful morning; started out bright and optimistic. Then by the end of the day, we were torn, weary and lonely. And if you had let me be, you would have remembered that I was good at the trade. But you were better at breaking my creations, making me guilty for the way you had my castle crumbling.

The Ballerinas

BallerinaThe hall in which they learn is a makeshift. But as soon as the lesson begins, we shift from the slum to a place of poise and grace. Their moves in their dusty cute little pink tutus aren’t hasty but calculated. And their faces glow like the imaginary stars and flowers they are ‘picking’ in the dance. Almost immediately I know, certainly, that theirs is a bright future to be yielded, a bright torch to be carried forth to the world. Tip-toeing; the girls lead with zeal while the boys try to keep up on their heels. It’s a clear show of longing to amaze and excel and find freedom, through dance. Class only lasts a few hours: happiness for most of them and to others; the safest haven. What a burst of inspiration for my heart to handle from the most unexpected quarters.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby is a tremendously heartrending and profound tale about a man’s struggle to once again grasp the love of his life at whatever expense. The novel’s eponymous lead character—Jay Gatsby is filthy rich and every weekend throws lavish grand parties. Set in the 20s in the fictional West Egg city on Long Island, elite guests (mostly uninvited) in outfits as fancy as their vintage cars arrive at Gatsby’s famed mansion. Here, leisure varies from cocktails, menus and terrific “no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums” orchestras.

There seems to be no real occasion as to why Gatsby is holding these parties. After all, he’s hardly spotted during the festivities, making guests continue to ponder over the yet to be unraveled mystery behind the man’s profligacy. One reveler speculates among other skeptical conversations going round like arias and drinks, “Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.”

The story is told by Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and former soldier trying to make it big in the world of selling bonds. He moves to Long Island, next door to Gatsby’s and close to his second cousin’s, Daisy—Gatsby’s former lover, now married to the two-timing corky Tom Buchanan. He receives an invite to Daisy’s and Gatsby’s, disjointedly—two events that make him witness firsthand the secret lifestyles of the rich and famous.

At Daisy’s, he is the guest in a beautiful yet lonely mansion under which a troubled marriage resides. From his yard, Nick spends nights staring out at Gatsby’s wondering about his intent and the wandering souls pulling in and out his driveway … “In his blue gardens men and women came and went like moths amongst the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” Soon, he unexpectedly receives an exclusive invite from Gatsby to attend one of his bashes. Impressed Nick gleefully dresses up to the party where he ends up meeting Jordan (Daisy’s friend) for a second time.

My best moment in the novel is when Nick, lost in the mix of familiar faces and weary of searching for Gatsby, turns towards the gentleman sitting next to him at a random table and grumbles amidst cheap talk, “This is an unusual party for me. I haven’t even seen the host,” only to discover that in fact he was sitting next to Gatsby, a forgotten former acquaintance in the army. The two men become instant buddies. One thing leads to another and together with Jordan; Nick agrees to help Gatsby reunite with Daisy by inviting her to his place [Nick’s] for tea. The duo is well aware that she is almost sacred and is to be treated like a queen. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby mentions to Nick (who agrees) once. I also absolutely enjoyed the intricate preparations for the planned visit. Gatsby even has Nick’s lawn trimmed while Nick buys cups, flowers and a dozen cup cakes just to stir Daisy. After reigniting the lovers lost spark however, the lady ironically ends up being impressed more by the grandiose mansion next door.

I find Fitzgerald’s style in writing fiction brilliantly picturesque, stellar and beyond compare. His choice in description and symbolism run deeper than words or pictures could ever expound. Because the novel is narrated from Nick’s point of view, it empowers the reader to make of its complete major events like what Gatsby and Daisy spoke about during their anticipated meet-up; we are only told that Gatsby’s face lit up and his attitude changed excitedly for the better as Daisy sat weeping.

Much later—Nick, Jordan, Gatsby, Tom and Daisy end up in a town hotel on a hot afternoon. Gatsby and Tom get into an ugly confrontation forcing Gatsby to drive Daisy back [to her] home. After a following awful event, Nick spies at the married couple having an expressionless conversation while at their residence. We never know what they discussed but—it would later be the turning point of the novel.

Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda had their own share of the life of Gatsby and “became as famous for their lifestyle as for the novels he wrote.” Through his life and Gatsby’s parties; Fitz brought to life the liveliness of the Jazz Age. His novel’s hedonic theme displaying a pleasure-seeking and extravagant society acted as a premonition to the following years (the 30s) that defined the world’s first massive economic downturn. While living in Long Island, “Fitzgerald looked around him at these rich people in their vast carelessness on the brink of the Depression. He realized a perfect storm had arrived on the coast of his abilities; and a book began to emerge that couldn’t have been written by any other person in any other time,” Esquire (June 2013) in the Essay: How F. Scott Fitzgerald can change your life.

Gatsby worked his way to the very top and moneyed and threw all those parties hoping that one day Daisy would show up and be overly awed. In the end, we never get to know how long his plan had been coming or if befriending Nick was just a means to getting through to his cousin. However, it’s clear that aside from affluence, Gatsby only had one true friend. Flaunting a man’s show of how far he could stretch his limits to hope and live the American dream while clutching at the ever-so-transient essence of love, through America’s greatest novel of the 20th century; Fitzgerald warns us against the martyrdom-esque eventuality of making certain life sacrifices.

BONUS: Fuck what you heard about the first three Gatsby movies; the latest by Baz Luhrmann has definitely had F. Scott Fitzgerald rolling in his grave sighing, “Finally! Jay Gatsby lived through a motion picture.”

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