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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.

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