Category: Events + Concerts


The history of Amsterdam’s coffeeshops, where marijuana dealing is legal, dates back to the early 70s. And since, for most tourists, it’s not a complete taste of Amsterdam’s diverse culture without a good spliff. I am finally seated inside a coffeeshop with an Amsterdam native to oversee my experiment-cum-experience. We haven’t started smoking yet but I already feel like I don’t want to leave, more than I want to smoke. The freedom of it being legal here is grippingly unfathomable. But I keep calm and act like a trooper.

DSC_0577The self-service at Café 420 is simple: order your weed or coffee, or both – pay and sit down for a roll and sip. Dealers assume that smokers know how to roll weed. If you don’t, you can instead buy spliffs already done, for a few more cents or euros, depending on type. But my company, who I will refer to here as my Amsterdaman, is an expert at rolling. Tonight it doesn’t matter that I’ve never liked weed or that it stinks; I am about to have some. And if it works the same way a cigarette does after a satisfying meal, then after the kind of massive dinner we just had, I should be okay.

There is a very big black cat, lingering around like it owns this place. Sometimes, it’s sitting on one of the big stools by the bar, prying into private conversations. When it gets bored, it gracefully walks on top of the counter and impressively jumps across the bar into the shelf where it cuddles the old school stereo, smoothly emitting sounds of Kings of Leon, 30 Seconds to Mars and A Tribe Called Quest.

10536493_10152557457412559_1434802227_nThe harsh smoke smoothly grazes down my throat. “Take it easy,” Amsterdaman urges me as I cough. But with every sip of cappuccino, the next puff feels better. In fact, I feel irie. My head is slowly spinning in light of the moment and every micro situation emerging from it. We start to catch up; it’s been about four years since the last time we saw each other. Then we become silly. We jest about what could possibly be the black cat’s soliloquy. It’s funny. But it’s even funnier knowing that we are being silly but we can’t help it. We laugh out loud. I notice that everyone in the not so big café is calm and collected. The roar of our laughter and the riot we make out of the sheer pleasure of reuniting – is my only surrounding. I feel the need to take away something for myself, or someone, so I head over to the counter and buy a Café 420 Lighter and a fancy slice of lemon weed cake, for a friend at home.

DSC_0593We happily walk out of Café 420 and into the city for a walk, where we admire the beautiful illuminated canal rings (shining by night), and slanting buildings. I wonder if the buildings are really slanted or the weed’s high is rearranging architecture. It’s about 11 p.m. and finally pitch-dark. We end up at the only club I fall in love with while in Amsterdam—Bitterzoet, where we meet other friends. This is the place where I discover the world’s classiest and sweetest Rosé beer – the only thing I would end up drinking, almost entirely, throughout my trip in Netherlands. Soon, I’ve lost my people. Looking for them, I head upstairs into the smoking room. It’s crowded here worse than at mini coffeeshops. It’s like a smog storm going down; I can’t see a thing and the air inside is humid and dense—a mixture of all sorts of smokable things. I locate them after a few seconds and dash out immediately. I have finally embraced my two-faced vagabond spirit, I don’t care that the smoke probably has my hair smelling like shit. It’s never that serious.

DSC_1345DSC_1364DSC_1257DSC_1277As my stay in Netherlands elongates, I attend festivals, concerts and walk around town, hawk-eyed, checking out coffeeshops from a distance. Smokers are all over. There’s yet another weed crowd and cloud at Gyptian’s concert at Keti Koti Festival. However, there aren’t as many peeps smoking weed here as there would be in Nairobi, if Gyptian performed at Uhuru Park or KICC. On a different night, before heading out to Wiz Khalifa’s concert, I eat a yummy weed chocolate muffin in respect of Khalifa’s status as rap’s weed prince (Snoop is the King or Lion). At the concert, Wiz Khalifa’s full band is performing while smoking kush; half the crowd is smoking up too. I am hypnotized more by the fact that I am at Paradiso (one of Amsterdam’s legendary concert venues transformed from an olden church building) attending Wiz Khalifa’s concert. At some point, his Taylor Gang Crew stop the concert to make him smoke up the biggest spliff I have ever seen—it looks like a barrel-sized Cuban cigar. Amsterdam people cheer on! “Arrr rrr he heee heee hee hihihi” – there goes Khalifa’s sheepish signature high-on-weed laugh. My night is made. I’ve already had a couple of Vodka cocktails, and the weed muffin I took is finally starting to manifest. Wait. Wiz is singing: So what we get drunkSo what we smoke weed … We’re just having fun … We don’t care who sees … So what we go out … That’s how it’s supposed to be … Living young and wild and free …

The muffin doesn’t get me really high till about six hours later. After which I am hungry every 30 minutes. By the end of the night, I’ve disgusted myself, having eaten like four starved men would. I vow never to eat weed muffins again. Interestingly, with time, my perception of weed slowly transforms, from the stinky stick to just another thing equivalent to a cigarette or cigar. I think I am also getting high just off the ever-present weed clouds above the city’s social scene horizon. This must be why I am constantly laughing out loud while in Amsterdam.

DSC_1317On my last day in Netherlands, I am up to no good. I am also pressed for time but I have to meet a new friend in Amsterdam. I ask him to take me to so many places including a “a not so full” coffeeshop. He says,  “You’ve got so much to do in such little time,” so we end up at the 1984-founded Siberië (Siberia). This place, older than I am is perfect and private – there are only about 10 people in here. I like its café-style light mahogany furniture. But I don’t like the dealer behind the counter. He barks at me for answering my cell inside the coffeeshop (apparently cell phones are not allowed in here), so I step out. On returning, he asks to see only my ID – this is a requirement for anyone, if called upon. Rules into coffeeshops only allow 18 and over and if too strict – you have to be over 21. But don’t I look older than that? Grrrrrr!! Free at last, we end up checking out Siberië’s detailed menu, before embarking on discovering each other’s world over some coffee and hash (spliff made from concentrated THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): cannabis most active ingredient—“positive weed,” my friend calls it.

Lighter down the throat; hash hits the head faster. I am now a trooper. We have a great conversation revolving around South Africa, Kenya, Netherlands, westernization and African cultures. It’s a dope coincidence that we both work in music entertainment. There’s so much more to share and talk about but tonight my friends from Europe have organised my last-supper farewell dinner by the sandy beach at Scheveningen (district in Hague), so I have to make it there. Lost in the creation of a new bond, I end up missing my train to Hague, and almost missing the train after that. When I finally make it in, my Kenyan friend from Finland, accompanying me to Hague, won’t stop laughing at my newly acquired lisp thanks to hash highness. I also can’t stop laughing, and talking while simultaneously thinking about how an 85-minute long date left such a grand and lasting effect ;-)

Within no time, we have arrived at Den Haag. The slightly over 50-minute train ride from Amsterdam today felt like it lasted a mere five minutes.

Read the complete Love, Sex and Drugs series below:

Love, Sex and Drugs: Amsterdam (Part I)

Love, Sex and Drugs: Amsterdam Red Light District (Part II)

Love, Sex and Drugs: Amsterdam (Part III)

BONUS: The above series only account a section of my adventures and experience and should not be confused or mistaken for condoning salaciousness or the use of marijuana or any other substance.

 

 

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

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. 

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 

 

 

(37 of 40)Erykah Badu loves her personal space. While at her exclusive press conference at Sankara hotel in Kenya, she first requests to move back the dozen microphones on the table staring closely at her. “Hi Nairobi, hello, how’s everyone doing?” The presence of the queen of neo soul in the room is overwhelming, so much that nobody greets her back, at first. It’s 3pm, about 14 hours since her arrival in the country and four hours since the cancellation of her first press conference. But despite jet lag and sleepiness that she confesses to fighting, Ms Badu looks pretty well rested. When the moderator opens the floor for questions, it’s not a fist-fight as you would expect, everyone seems to be intimidated—I am. But as soon as the soft-spoken singer starts to chat, the air around the room becomes more conducive.

She immediately states that music and performance is therapy to her. “Music is almost like the fifth element, it brings about emotion and change in many ways. Its frequency is specific; each note has its own vibration that can be measured. I write lyrics according to what the music makes me feel.”

Erykah is also a songwriter, actor, director, producer and activist—a personification of artistry. From her 90s turban, long dresses and Afros to now—long flowing and kinky hair easy-going with vintage hats; her image has evolved over the years. Erykah’s brass African-map-shaped ring stands out in her fashionable ensemble of cobalt pajama-esque pants, a navy blue top, and numerous humongous wooden bangles. “My taste in humor, fashion, music and film are all in the same category. I like to hear what I like to feel and see, I just gravitate towards things that I get attracted to aesthetically, it’s the art of creating an experience for people to share”, she says. Her music is however unmoved, she’s remained consistent, versatile and unparalleled— almost like she’s has always been in her own world.

The next day at exactly 9.15 pm at Carnivore gardens, Erykah gets on stage. From hard stepping hip hop to mellow sounds, Erykah is a fierce and fearless vocalist/performer. She’s also playing an electronic drum kit in a crazy dance-set with her band. Constantly sipping from her little thermos flask what could be water or vodka or whatever, that nevertheless fires her up at every sip. “At the back! What the fuck you looking at!?” She engages the audience who roar back at her. She sings out loud mixing cussing words with banter, unrelated. Here, she’s self-assured and at home.

I finally get the balls to shoot a question at Ms Badu on her connection to the motherland.

“My first connection to Africa is because about three generations back my family was brought to America from Africa. As Africans living in America, it’s hard to trace our roots so we have to sometimes create our own history, communities and tribes to identify with. Because our birth right is not in place we want to belong to Africa in some kind of way.” Erykah is also involved with the Kemetic community (the study of Egyptian writings) which influenced her stage name. Originally named Erica after a famous soap opera star of the 70s, soon after becoming a recording artist, she changed her name’s suffix to Kah (The inner self that cannot be contaminated). “I wanted to have a name that would have some kind of vibrational frequency that could connect me to my past and future. Badu means 10th born in Ghana, I don’t know why I am [one] but we’ll find out, I am still evolving and creating every day.”

Erykah is also a doula (an assistant to a birthing mother). And she equates birth of life to music. “As a doula I have to be like water, always out-of-the-way to help. But when am on stage am a different kind of servant, I am the mother and the audience is helping me give birth.” On stage, she feeds off the audience’s energy and seems taken a back at Nairobians serenading most of her songs word-for-word. This is where she gives her all. Her typical raspy voice suddenly sounds like three soul singers in one and still manages to outshine her two powerful vocalists paired with her tight six-man band—in a good way. When the ‘Badu, Badu, Badu!’ rhythmic chant overwhelms Erykah, she asks each member of the audience to yell out their own names instead. “What? Are you afraid to scream out your name?” She prods.

It’s a two-hour long concert (non-stop) that sees Erykah, after every couple of minutes shed something. From her shawl, socks to heels—period. When she performs Window Seat, nobody is certain she won’t drop more clothes. She doesn’t.

“Window seat video was performance art and nudity always played a big part in it because [it] demonstrates the bareness of the subject. My issue was group think, which affects all spheres of life from politics to media. I shot the video is Dallas as at the site where JFK was assassinated. As I took each step I eliminated a piece of clothing that represented a thought or something I had learnt forcefully or not here on the planet and as I was totally nude—I was assassinated. In America nudity is grossly misunderstood when it’s not packaged for the consumption of men, I hope a lot of people got the point but if they didn’t, they don’t have to, you cannot censor art.”

My best moment at the concert is her performance of Gone baby gone and Bag Lady. The drum and electric guitar provide a sultry bouncy beat—that deep neo soul. When performing Love of my life (An ode to Hip Hop), her  collaboration with former boyfriend Common, she glows like a woman in love. Should have asked her to pass over Common’s number or Andre’s. WTF.

IMG_9559The four-time Grammy award-winning singer has five albums. Her first album (Baduizim) came out in February 1997. Her second album Live came out the same year  in November. The same day her son was born. “I spent the whole of my first pregnancy working at the beginning of my career; I had to breast feed and create a home on the tour bus. I know no music business without my children,” says the mother of three.

Her last song Call Tyrone leaves an absolute sense of satisfaction. She’s incessantly chanting ‘peace’ and bids a gratified crowd goodbye displaying with her hands heliograph signs for love and peace. The undisputed queen of neo soul doubles up as queen of the night. She exits. It’s just a few minutes to midnight: 12.12.12, Kenya’s 49th Independence Day.

For more info: www.erykah-badu.com

There is a building at the well-groomed Kifaru gardens disguised as a house. Inside lies a recording studio, a music cum book library and even picturesque collections of Eric Wainaina’s musical journey. This was the venue for the listening party of his third album titled ‘Love and Protest.’ On that cold night, bonfires lit up the garden’s surrounding. Inside the ‘house’ was a different kind of fire fuelled by three special rooms separated by distinct sounds and tags on each door labeled, ‘Love’, ’Protest’ and ’Groovy’.

Up and about the partitions, guests sampled songs from ‘Love and Protest.’ Notable were groovy tracks like ‘Orutu special,’ a song bordering between the benga genre-fused with the orutu (a traditional Luo one stringed fiddle), this one made us (Wanjeri and I) dance at the first listen. The song ‘Mariana’ was harmonious and sweet sounding akin to the echo of saying that name. Ok, say ‘Mariana’… shhhhhh, hear the echo? Certainly a certified feel-good jam! (alliteration naaaayo! #ReasonsWhyIownThisBlog :-)

Do you remember when the Wainaina-Factor shun corruption using the simple yet brilliant hit song ‘Nchi ya kitu kidogo’? Well the muse behind all that seems to be intact as if frozen by time and now ready to melt again. At the center of his compositions are messages gunning for reform. That Wainaina- Factor has now given birth to the song ‘Revolution’ which was written to give a voice to the disempowered. “There is a Che Guevara saying that goes, ‘All rebellion comes from a place of Love’. Like the rest of Kenyans, I was saddened by the post-election violence. In trying to make sense of the sad occurrence I realized that people protest where there is no love, and that said; protest is just part of patriotism. At the end of the day, after voting we are still one despite the different tribes,” said Eric.

‘The road’ is a song collaboration between friends. Eric and Senegalese world star Baaba Maal who enriched ‘Love and Protest’ by adding distinct sounds of mbalaax, a stamp of a Senegalese music style. “From the look of things Eric isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he seems to be all over the place of late,” that would be Africa’s testimony is she would talk. Eric most recently graced the Umoja festival in Maputo. Just weeks before that he was among a lineup of African musicians performing at the Arts Alive festival in Johannesburg, S.A. In a fateful twist that came to be Eric’s opportune moment to meet Nigerian born songbird Asa, who was also present at the festival. “Love and Protest was actually ready in 2008 but when I heard Asa, her sounds gave me  a whole new inspiration, enough to have stalled the album till now. Meeting her this year was amazing and I hope to work with her on a song in the near future,” asserted the multi award-winning singer, actor and playwright.

So, why don’t I usually get loads of such exclusive invites to listening parties? Kenyan musicians, iko nini? I warmed up to the whole idea and loved the execution, I enjoyed it! Eric backed by Aaron Rimbui on the keyboard and The Mapinduzi Band even gave us a live performance at the ‘house,’ Shukran to y’all! S/O to Nanjira.

BONUS: Love and Protest is Eric’s first self-produced album. It covers elements of reggae, benga and R & B. Eric & The Best Band in Africa launched the 14-track album in DEC 2011. I got my copy, get yours! For more information please visit ericwainaina.com

Bez has an air of coolness around him. About 5’10” tall, he’s rocking a grey fedora, wayfarer glasses, a white tee, an African beaded chain and slightly cropped up denim trousers leaving his argyle brown and turquoise socks peeping from the shoes. While in action during his first stage-performance and visit to Kenya, he transcends into a sweet-voiced guitar playing musician. This is exactly what I will settle for if I don’t get married to a tall, dark & handsome man :-)

I first stumbled on Bez music via a fellow music junkie (some drugs are actually good). I thought that Bez was just another one of those cool American kids, for real. Well, after I heard ‘Zuciya Daya’ a little research led me to discovering that Bez is actually from Nigeria. One of those impressive eureka moments! I was lured into knowing him better when I got to understand the message in the song ‘Zuciya Daya.’

Most recently, I was hit by great news that Bez would be visiting the country for a jam-session (a series of random-acoustic gigs displaying budding and talented artists organized by Blackman and Sara) I couldn’t wait to buy myself a copy of ‘Super Sun’, Bez debut album released on July 24th 2011. Experiencing a taste of acoustic-Bez was really great! Not to mention, when his drummist played, even the statues at the MJ center did the Kemboi dance .. Walalala! Nway I am glad to share this review of ‘Super Sun.’ with you all;

1. Super sun 4.15

Contemporary R&B fused in a little jazz. Life is definitely about ‘ups and downs.’ This song is an assertion that despite the struggles one day you will be at your brightest. It basically tells you not to be afraid of stretching into your ultimate limit. Quite the inspirational entry into the album!

2. Over you 3.49

This one has a modern ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ feel fused in a John Legend ‘Green light’ feel. Here Bez obviously flaunts his musical versatility. He sings to his jilted lover, asking for his keys to the car and the house, because he is now over her.

3. Zuciya Daya 5.07

Love this joint. It’s one of those feel-good tracks. Mellow and soulful. At the concert he (Bez) explained that in Hausa, his native language, the closest translation to ‘zuciya daya’ is doing something whole heartedly. It’s a serenade to a beloved saying, “Irrespective of all the problems that our relationship may encounter we should both be happy. But only if we do it whole heartedly. Someone teach me Hausa and see how I will start to pick bros, I KID :-) Or maybe not.

5. Say 4.24

Ready is an important word. It means; to prepare mentally and physically for something. If you are in sync with your life, then you know that you have to be ready for a lot of things that life throws your way. Challenges, love, new appointments, sex, growth, relationships, heartbreak, sudden loss, windfall, the list is endless. Bez sings to a beloved asking her to SAY that she’ll be ready and waiting for him. Happily, she sings back saying, “I will be ready for you!” Definitely replay material- Neosoul redefined! The kind of song that makes you ask yourself, “I am ready?”

10. Stop pretending 4.09

Love love love this one! This is an acoustic song about a guy who was dating three different girls. He sings to them all, asking each one of them why they keep feigning that they don’t want him. Lost in their games, and their images on his mirror while shaving he leaves them all … Left me wondering, why was he dating THREE different women?

11. More you 4.27

If I had a list of my ‘Top 65 Best Songs ‘in the world, this one would still make it into Top 40. Love it too much I would freaking do a different post just to review it solo :-)  If songs had distant relatives this one would be related to Maxwell’s ‘Playing possum’ and Sade’s ‘The safest place.’ It’s such a beautiful acoustic song. I really loved the violins. Like ‘Lazizi’ it’s guitar work makes the song. The message in this song is jumbled. At the concert Bez described the state of wanting more from the person you love because of the pleasure that never depletes. Love this song because it describes the state of humanity. We never get satisfied. We always strive for more which p.s isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

‘Super sun’ is made up of 12 tracks, 2 live covers and one remix. You NEED this album for those chilled-out days. It’s cool to hear such a contemporary-sort-of-John-Legend mellow sound coming from Africa. Bez, the world is yours! Special S/O to cool-peeps Blackman & Sara.

BONUS: While speaking to Black Roses Bez revealed his ultimate definition of Music. “It’s an expression of my feelings. I am very spiritual, in that whatever I sing about is inspired by God. He uses me to speak to my listeners via the music. It’s my tool,” said Bez.

For more info visit www.bezidakula.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.japho1.blogspot.com/

Fashion High Tea

No sooner had i stepped into the city from The Lukenya safari last Friday than i got the call from Mr. Producer,  “Young girl  you are going to cover the fashion event tomorrow, so you better have prepared! ” That was cool, I thought to myself. I love fashion + my girl Wanjeri, was going to working there too, she is a writer with Urban Perspective (UP) pull-out formerly a magazine, which was part of the sponsors for the Fashion event.

That Friday night, sleep didn’t come easily. Couldn’t find a nice dress, even worse I didn’t have any HAT! I mean who has a HAT anyway? Unless if you are the duchess of something?  Contacted all my fellow fashionistas, MissJJT, Alicia and Louise, they all didn’t have HATS!

It was Saturday morning and still didn’t have a HAT! My big sister happened to have gone to town early that morning and on her way back made a stop at Maasai Market. At the verge of  a breakdown, I got a call from her, “What colour of  a HAT would you prefer?” and the rest was history :-)

Made it to the office by 1.00pm to pick my cameraman and the driver did his usual magic! Around 2.30pm we were checking into the exquisite Zen Garden and immediately I thanked God for my HAT! All the ladies looked amazing and HOT in various HATS.

As soon as I got in, it was like a reunion with my baby Wanjeri. Trust me, this is the kind of place where you want to at least have a partner to marvel with. No reaching into your hand bag un necessarily to remove the dirty bills that you have accumulated in your purse from the matatu change to buy a drink, NO. All the drinks were in the house, so was the food and loads of goodies.

Does this sound like heaven? Wait, the real deal was the Fashion Avant Garde.  I loved the print coloured little dresses, goodbye LBD (Little Black Dress) and welcoming bold and assorted colours! The HATS that came in all sizes and shapes. 89% of the gentlemen were graciously groomed and had the looks to complement it, quite the sight-seeing for me and Wanje :-)

If you watched O.C and Gossip Girl, this sure was a scene out of those socialite parties, kisses in the air, pleasantries everywhere, poses for the cameras (the photographers sure had a field day that was officially the first big photography event of 2011, they must have pixx to last them till September!) champagne and wine in plenty, savoury delicacies as air high as the waiters trays, from smoked salmon & cream cheese bruchetta, calamari rings, gloss pinacolada, assorted sushi platters to dosaja Danish pastries, just to mention. YES! All that is ACTUAL food, haha don’t worry I must have eaten half those things and didn’t even realize what they were. Let’s just say, I tried as much as possible to serve what looked edible :-)

The whole time, I was up and about trying to guide my cameraman as to what to capture and not while the same time trying to find me something at the Fashion exhibition where there were loads of regalia, from silver & African ornaments to shoes and dresses that were a tad costly! I particularly feel for a silver funky/chunky necklace that was retailing at 3,200/= I really tried to bargain but the elderly white woman who was selling them insisted, “My price is FIXED!” She was actually really nice to me, I got her card so am just gonna rob a bank in the course of this month so I go to her house and get all those damn necklaces :-) Wait, she should have just sold that necklace to me for 2,000/= now am gonna commit a felony! P.s do white people ever accept bargain?

Inside I came across one designer who makes clothes from recycled parachutes. I thought I saw something like that at the FAFA last year so I asked her, “Were you also showcasing some of your designs at FAFA, I might have seen something of the sort” She shot at me, “If you stayed for the whole show then you probably saw me and my designs!” WOW. Of course I looked like I wasn’t going to buy the exorbitant parachute dresses but Mrs. designer, you didn’t have to be that rude. Honestly I wouldn’t even buy those things. I am more of an afro-centric enthusiast when it comes to Fashion. So I moved on to these gems, earrings made out of bird feathers. The gist of them is you can wear one by itself or both but wait a minute one earring was going for 2,750/= what the fuck is that? For a feather? I specifically took the picture of them so I can start making my own feather earrings! Geez! I am also currently looking to buy beautiful birds with parallel featured feathers. Anyone tip me!

Before the fashion show I finally caught up with the multi tasking  diva @Makosewe for  a short interview right before we sneak for  a picture! Oh did i mention, loved her deep blue YSL dress which had matching velvet shoes, should have taken a photo of them damn! A staggering 97 % of all the event attendees lived up to the High Fashion dress code stipulated.

BONUS: All the event tickets sales will go towards supporting women in need of freedom. As of 91/1/2011 more than 40 women and babies have been detained in Pumwani hospital because of inability to clear their hospital bills! In the words of True Love Fashion Editor and also the event Co-coordinator, “People have been giving out in so many ways and it’s the same every time, we tried to bring in a different kind of twist to it, Fashion! I am glad that the event was totally sold out for a good cause”

Well, I am glad that I love my job and that I now own a bigass blue HAT  :-) In anticipation for the next Fashion event to outdo Fashion High Tea, in all the semantically possible ways!

Special shout out to Densu, Laftone, Wanjeri, Grace Makosewe, Pollyne and all the HOT men in attendance!

%d bloggers like this: