Category: Arts + Culture

12071680_10153519387597559_69402108_nI always have a dream—for all artists irrespective of their calibre, status or nationality – to be treated equally, and to be granted same opportunities to enhance collaboration and dialogue. In September, I birthed an idea – to produce an Artist Talk Back Event featuring South African rapper K.O and Kenya’s very own Octopizzo, on the topic: music’s role in shaping the African narrative.

K.O has come to East Africa for his first media and tour showcase and being the manager of his Kenyan phase I take it upon myself to make this happen.

Read my article on why ‘collabos’ are the future of African music, published by Saturday Nation.

On a chill Friday, we make our way to the lush Nairobi Arboretum grounds – home of 2015 Storymoja Festival. The good people here are hosting the Artist Talk Back event powered by WhatsGoodLive. I choose Octopizzo because just like K.O he comes from a small background, for the kind of personalities they’ve both become. The two are inspiring pillars in African hip hop and have both remained true to their wit, swag, attitude, local slang and originality. I wanted them to share their story with a youthful audience and inspire them with their stories of starting empires of sorts; from nothing to something.

From Grass to Grace

By the time K.O arrives at Arboretum, he’s already heard a lot about Octopizzo. My hommie on the other hand didn’t wait a second to confirm that he’d do the session with K.O when I asked him. At the talk he confesses,” I feel K.O’s music even though he might think I don’t. People like him doing it big in their native language are the people who make me proud to rap in Sheng’.”

12071658_10153519387422559_287495735_nA table elevated by a platform, two seats, two mics, a moderator (me) and a crowd of about fifty guests – the setting for two rappers in an intimate setting. They are like two peas in a pod. The way they first greet each other before entering the dome feels like they are friends reuniting.

When I remember the shit hole where Octo came from in relation to his success, it puts me back to an extent that words can’t describe my pride for the hommie. Back in the day, he took me to his shanty, right by bursting sewers and broken pipes, deep in the heart of Kibera slum, where he was born and raised, “a place where I still go to write real shit, that’s where I can be inspired,” Octo says.

K.O recently made history with his music video: Caracara becoming South Africa’s first hip hop video to reach a Million Youtube Views. The official celebration of the video’s 2 Million Views was held in Kenya at Mseto’s Afrobeat Wednesdays at K1. He says, “It hasn’t been easy coming from a South African small town miles away from Johannesburg. If you were to see my environment, my hometown, you won’t even believe that I am this guy sitting here with all this swag. It’s all about self-belief, putting God first and chasing your dreams.” K.O recalls how he started out, “I moved out to the big city and made a few friends. We were all interested in music so after we graduated we decided to do music professionally despite not having enough money to start our career. To cut the long story short that’s how Teargas was started.”

Both rappers, like most of us, experience challenges, criticism or negativity. K.O says, “A lot of people meet hurdles and change their minds and want to give up. When I had challenges they were not deterring enough for me to decide on a different career path – the dream was always there. Even when Teargas wasn’t happening and sometimes I found myself with no income, zero in my account—it made me work harder and smarter. That’s why I am here and pray that God will bless me with the brains to do better and be smarter to reach my fullest potential. If you have a vision, despite your line of career, believe in yourself and want to change the world. Follow your path.”

Octo says, “If you’re an artist know that this is a marathon, you can start today and have a hit song but what will be next?” adding, ”I’ve been a lucky guy. I started back in 2008 and kept going despite people loving me then hating me. I was told change that ghetto stuff. People will always talk about you. It’s a circle. But I never changed. I stay focused.”

 Nairobi to Jozi: Building Empires

12077270_10153519387467559_1588056011_nK.O is also a record producer. He was the first artist to be signed to Cashtime Life, which he also co-owns. His debut album Skhanda Republic has surpassed gold sales and counting into platinum. Among other awards and accolades the album has won three awards: Record Of The Year – Best Rap Album and Best Collaboration at the South Africa Music Awards (SAMAs XXI). He says, “I was blessed with a vision of setting up my own company and being able to give back to the industry and create opportunities for other people – how the idea of the label Cashtime Life (co-owned with my manager Thabiso) – came about.”

Octo is currently in Europe for a tour. Most of his songs are produced by producers from other countries, “to avoid the monotony of Kenyan beats and stay fresh”, he says, advising all artists, “You have to be business minded”. Around 2009, Octo started his company Chocolate City with a group of friends who acted as bouncers and security for tourists who wanted to tour Kibera. “We were idle and I saw an opportunity for us to make money while showing local and international tourists all sides of Kibera. It’s not just about drugs and theft or bad things but there is talent and I am show for it,” says Octo. His company now specialises in making merchandise, well-organised Kibera tours and funding youth projects in the slum.

Music’s role in shaping the African Narrative

“As of last year Teargas members decided to explore our solo careers and that’s how you guys got to know of Caracara. I was lucky enough to see what Caracara did beyond South Africa. My music is in Zulu. It’s not a coincidence that you know Caracara—music is a universal language that’s why people jam to it,” says K.O.

The song Caracara is K.O’s ode to the legendary vehicle and how it featured in the South African township lifestyle of the 90s.

K.O’s successful hit single Caracara has changed the landscape of South African urban youth music, ushering a new era. It become the first song to ever top all 5 EMA charts – SA Local Music Top 40 Playlist, SA Local Music Top 40 RAMS, SA Television Top 40 Playlist, SA Top 100 Playlist and SA Top 100 RAMS at the same time. He says, “I am glad that I am still relevant enough to come here and interact with you guys and have real relations with fellow artists and get my name popping. Africans need to remain content and proud of our culture as the world wants to see fresh and new culture.”

12053185_10153519387372559_586764573_nOcto’s music style has remained true to Sheng’ and his hood, to an extent his a.k.a is his hood’s route number 8. He says, “My Africa is Sheng’ as there is no Sheng’ elsewhere. The Kanyes are now putting Swahili in their rap because it’s cool. If they knew where they came from they’d be rapping to it, even Luo. We have an advantage because we know our roots but we don’t embrace it. We try to be western nowadays – we have to stand out as Africans. When I first rapped in English in Berlin, the crowd didn’t get me till I started rapping in Sheng’. I respect that about K.O he kept it Zulu – that’s gangsta. K.O’s response, “Take your sheng’ to the world for they understand the mentality and attitude and they wanna buy into that.”

Octo is celebrated for his debut breakout hit: On Top. In the song Octo cleverly strings the connotation of buying fly shoes when you get stash with the theory of faking it till you make it. Octo is the success story of a hustler using street cred to camouflage his way into getting full status in the entertainment world. He says that following up the hit song was a nightmare. “When I did Hivo Hivo people didn’t think I’d have another hit song out.”

12048694_10153519387697559_659744886_nK.O has been to TZ too during his first East Africa tour. He says, “We decided on this trip as a business decision so next up is the West. That’s our main strategy. If you have music inspirations, make sure that you have a broad enough world view for you to do the things you want to do in the country,” concluding, “As Anyiko said – it is very important for African artists to not necessarily get into the music with an [alienated approach]. Don’t focus on serving your country only, as Africa is a big continent. [As artists] we need to make sure that we engage beyond our own nationalities; we need to export our talent, culture and heritage.”

BONUS: Thank you Alan Mola for the photography and 2015 Storymoja Festival for hosting us. Thank you WhatsGoodLive for co-producing and powering the K.O x Octo Artist Talk Back Event. Thanks Nairobi Rapsody for being partners. Thanks Thabiso, Tsholo, K.O and Octo for being the trillest :-) 


IMG_20150920_141923The last time I was in Rwanda I only spent 24 hours there yet it felt like a good three days so when I actually returned to Kigali this September for a good three days it felt like a great week – I will try explain why.

After a busy week coordinating and managing three events as part of South African rapper K.O’s first media tour in Kenya, I have attended the wedding of the year on Saturday and two parties on the same night before catching my flight to Kigali on Sunday morning.

I arrive in Kigali and head straight to the Amahoro Stadium to meet my colleagues at Coke Studio Africa (CSA) in a press conference. We are in Rwanda in preparation for the launch of the song ONE – a peace anthem. As the Publicist of CSA, my work here is to assist in managing media interviews and all PR opportunities. My other duty is to enjoy myself, and this place to the fullest! It’s awesome to be reuniting with all the artistes and their entourage. Had really missed them all since the end of filming the third season of CSA in Nairobi.

Hotel Rwanda

We are staying at the historic Hotel des Milles Collines Kempinski – the film Hotel Rwanda was based on the actual events that happened in this very hotel in 1994. At this serene and neat hotel 1,268 people took refuge during the genocide as the manager at the time, Paul Rusesabagina, acted to save lives by granting them shelter. I discover later that the film Hotel Rwanda starring Don Cheadle wasn’t actually filmed here but the fact that I am staying at the hotel where thousands found refuge is such a special thing for me. The rooms are pretty simple and classy. I love that the hotel has paintings all over – it provides a sense of homeliness. Their outdoor patio – where we always have breakfast – is like heaven.


A video posted by black roses (@anyikowoko) on

As soon as I arrive at hotel I am met by Ishimwe (a young Rwandan visual artist) who I had prior met at Kigali UP Festival during my first trip here. He’s brought me a painting of myself. He says he made it because he likes my pictures and writing. Despite the fact that it does look like me in the next 20 years, I am in such awe. It’s so touching when someone who doesn’t know you to do this kind of thing. We talk about his career, constantly switching between English and French. His English is as terrible as my French and vice versa, so we find a middle ground. Ishimwe will be finishing art school in a few months and would like to embark on his first solo exhibition, take up photography and find a resident program at an art centre. We vow to join forces to make all these happen.

Finally Watching Mafikizolo Live in Concert

After finally settling in, I call over my Rwandese friend – Bruce. He’s the most legit person in the entertainment scene here, his latest project being the first-ever Mafikizolo concert in Kigali, happening tonight. From about 4:00 p.m. we start to hang out. He even takes me to the airport to pick up ice Prince and Alikiba after which he scoops me for a 25 minute-ride out of town to the venue where Mafikizolo are playing in Rwanda for the first time ever tonight. I have never seen Mafikizolo in concert so I am more than excited.

When we arrive it’s cool to see the festival packed. Bruce leads me straight to the backstage VIP area where I meet Mafikizolo. I remind them that we met in Nairobi last year and I was the last to interview them. They seem to remember me but I am not too sure. Nevertheless, we have a great conversation with Nhlanhla. I am quick to tell her that she’s one of my biggest role models and style icons, and that her ways truly inspire many young African women. Her smile is worth a thousand words. Being backstage with Mafikizolo observing them prepare for their show is like watching a movie. Theo doesn’t speak much. He keeps throwing dance moves and fixing his lovely Maasai regalia, which he says he purchased in Tanzania. Nhlanhla wants her lady dancers to shorten their half coats. She literally pulls out a thread and a needle and starts stitching up.

When it’s finally show time, they are playing half live—it’s a cocktail of colour, dance, classic songs and synchrony between the dynamic duo. I enjoy the show so much I can’t even describe how awesome it was. Anyone who hasn’t seen Mafikizolo in concert must make a point. Through their performance, you can see maturity and experience – and years and years of investment. None of their band members sounds greater than another; it’s a balanced mix. The performances of Khona and Happiness make me so happy.

After the concert, I sit in the backstage watching Bruce coordinating Mafikizolo interviews and selfies with fans – it takes Forever. By this time, I have hardly slept two hours straight in the past 48 hours. I just want to go home. But I have to wait for Bruce to finish the job. It becomes so crazy that I am so tempted to put on my Publicist boots and yell, “Everybody Order! Now leave!” I don’t.

Kigali nights out are like nights out in Europe. Concerts don’t go over 1:00 a.m. and people leave for home soon after events, unlike in Kenya where there’s always an after party. Bruce drives me to the hotel alongside Makeda, the loveliest lady I’ve met in Kigali. She’s also a radio presenter and DJ. We enjoy conversation about the music industry in East Africa and the fact that Stromae is half Rwandese, and almost played in Kigali. Bruce was bringing him in until he fell sick… He hopes to bring him in before year ends, can’t wait!

_20150929_143500On the next day, we enjoy an awesome celebration of the Peace One Day at the Petit Stade at the launch of our Coke Studio Africa produced peace anthem – ONE, written by Zwai Bala and performed by Coke Studio Africa artists: Maurice Kirya, Ice Prince, Dama Do Bling, Alikiba and Wangechi.

At night we’ve got a low key after party at the hotel. Bruce and some new friends from Rwanda come over to our hotel. Most of them are industry players and recognise me from the Mafikizolo concert. “You looked so serious though,” they note. Lol. It’s so great to talk challenges in our music industries and many are similar. Makes me realise why Africans need to unite more.

By Tuesday morning, I am sad and disturbed beyond what words could describe. First of all, I don’t understand what has been happening to me in Rwanda. The time just seemed to not move (in a good way). It seemed and felt as if I was able to use only about 10 hours in achieving productivity I could generally achieve in two days. When I napped or slept, I would always woke up feeling like I was late to work or something, only to realise it was always around 5:00 a.m.

I don’t need to blog again about the cleanliness in Rwanda. It’s impeccable. Read my previous blog post on Rwanda here. The only stray thing I see is a bottle of water left at the airport counter by one of my colleagues. Wonder who that was, either way I dispose it for them. I miss to see my other Rwandese buddies: Nelson and Bonheur who are away on business. However, I really enjoy my time in Rwanda this time.

As I am heading to the airport, this time there are no hard feelings. I have slept enough, seen enough, been gifted with a painting of myself and just about done everything I wanted to do over the trip.

Thank you to each and every person who made my trip in Rwanda amazing. I feel so blessed.

BONUS: Check out the song ONE below:

Behind the R&B/Pop sensation: NE-YO on Coke Studio Africa, Empire & Songwriting

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 10.36.53 PM“Let your passion be your focal point –that’s my secret to success,” NE-YO tells me. I am the last to interview him in Kenya and thankful that I didn’t run out of time. If I did, I’d still probably interview him. As the Entertainment/Music Publicist of his hosts Coke Studio Africa (CSA), I am working in collaboration with his Publicist Afrika and so far we’ve had a successful day managing NE-YO’s first press conference and interview spree in Nairobi.

Meeting and closely interacting with NE-YO has been a dream come true for me. Earlier on in the day, right after my first meeting with him, I tell him how much of a fan I go way back. “When In My Own Words came out in 2006, it was around my gap year before starting university and that was everything I was jamming to,” I tell him. He seems genuinely impressed. We talk more about work. I introduce myself to him better and explain the concept of Coke Studio Africa and what’s expected of him at the press conference.

While sitting across him at CSA’s cozy Behind the Music studio space for the interview, I can’t help but feel like he’s jumped right out of YouTube. From So Sick, Hate that I Love You, When You’re Mad, Sexy Love, She Knows, Coming with You and Lazy Love – I am such a die-hard NE-YO fan. I hope I don’t fuck up. Thankfully I end up with a sweet interview.

Home Away from Home

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 10.39.22 PMNE-YO’s first time in Nairobi, Kenya is memorable. He says, “Everybody I’ve come in contact with has been head over heels with the friendliness, love and niceness. I feel loved.” The American superstar is Coke Studio Africa season three’s main guest star. “I’ve been put in the presence of five [Maurice Kirya, Wangechi, Ice Prince, Dama Do Bling and Alikiba] amazing artists representing five countries [Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique and Tanzania, respectively] to create an amazing song. We’ve done just that. I honestly feel like I’ve known them all my life because we share the same passion. I look forward to the performance of this song later on in the season,” he says, adding “This is my first time in this part of the continent but I definitely plan to come back. I want to see what Kenya really has to offer and get acquainted with more artists from here.”

The third season of Coke Studio Africa premieres October 21st

Music + Art + TV = Art at its Best

“Don’t do visual arts or sing for money. Those things need to be done with a passion. In anything that you love and do – you need to enjoy doing it. If you do it well someone will enjoy it too and pay you for it. Do what you do from your heart,” says NE-YO. The accomplished musician has to date produced six studio albums and featured in several blockbuster films. NE-YO has won three Grammies including Best Contemporary R&B Album for his 2008 album: Because of You. He’s since founded his imprint company: Compound Entertainment, which he speaks highly of at the press conference. As my moderation comes to a close, he crashes my vote of thanks message adding, “And shout out to Compound – without them I wouldn’t be here.”

He’s got fans in anticipation of his new role as music producer of the second season of Empire. “I can’t give away too much but I’ve definitely been a fan of the show from the very beginning,” he says, revealing, “Really excited to be working with just about everybody that does music on the show this season. I am working mostly with Jamal and Hakeem. I love to be part of the machine and what the show is doing for music.”

The second season of Empire premieres September 23rd

NE-YO seems to be living the celebrity life – what many artists are chasing at if not the money. But sitting with him and connecting makes me realise the more that even superstars can be such ordinary people. He says, “When people meet me they are like you’re so down to earth but for real the celebrity thing is just a title. Don’t do anything for money. Making ends meet shouldn’t be the motivating factor of why you’re doing what you’re doing. There are a multitude of things that you can do in this planet but art should never be in that category.”

Songwriting – Let me Love You

 Every song that I’ve written in the realm of love be it the good or the bad side have all come from specific people and relationships that I screwed up or that other people screwed up. The unfortunate thing is songwriters will always explore the negative side of relationships. I keep it in that realm because everybody goes through it. It doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person in the world or have a ballad to your name, there is that special person to you and it’s gonna go good or bad – that’s just the reality of life.”

Even before NE-YO’s 2006 debut album – In My Own Words – birthed an R&B game changer, he had already built a name for himself as a masterful songwriter of the new R&B era – post 90s writers like R. Kelly and Babyface. NE-YO has written mega R&B hit records like Marquez Houston’s That Girl (2003), Mario’s Let me Love You (2004), Beyonce’s Irreplaceable (2006) and Rihanna’s Russian Roulette (2009). He’s written several songs for other artistes too, even for Michael Jackson before his passing. And now he’s held onto the songs so as not to be disrespectful to the memory of the King of Pop.

NE-YO says, “Let me love you is one of the very few co-writes I’ve ever done. Shout out to [the Australian singer/songwriter] Sia – the incredible artist and songwriter. The initial premise of the song came from her personal experience and things she was going through, in regards to self – love. She was going through a period where ‘let me love you until you learn to love yourself’ tagline dealt with some of her dealings with the people who helped her get to a better place.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 10.41.23 PMI am amazed by the chance and opportunity to meet NE-YO. It’s really so inspiring. I grew up in a small town, watching MTV videos and listening to good music but never did I ever even imagine meeting NE-YO, let alone having to work closely with him and his team. He tells me, “I am a person who gives people the respect that I expect to get back and just live my life.” Thank you Coke Studio Africa for the chance.

As I wrap up the interview, I want to know what kind of things NE-YO likes to do when he’s not around the world working and touring. “When I am not all over the place, my typical day is with my kids Madeline (4) and Mason (3). I spend a lot of my free time with them. They are not old enough to move around with me yet but as soon as they are, I will take them with me. If I am not with them, I go to the studio, movies or restaurants—I am a person first.”

NE-YO says that he has plans to work with Coke Studio Africa’s 5 artists past the song recording. He’s now eyeing the Coke Studio Africa season premiere, his stint on Empire and his seventh album – “coming very soon.” As for die-hard NE-YO fans, he left you a message: “From the bottom of my heart I just wanna thank y’all for being real and regular people. The celebrity thing is cool but I just thank you all for appreciating the music and letting me be who I am and letting me live my dream. Thanks for the support. I will keep delivering quality entertainment to the world.”

BONUS: Watch my interview with NE-YO for KBC’s Grapevine :-)





11912977_10153422834902559_300575038_nJust one visit to the memorial will be the best history class you’ve had in a long time. During the Rwandan Genocide, “Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines was used to incite hatred, to give instructions and justify the killings” – writes the memorial. In this post, I dissect the roles played by media and church in the propagation of the genocide, and a peaceful way forward.

Role of the Media

Media propaganda played a big role in shaping the events that led to the genocide. While at the memorial we see archives of sample newspaper cuttings over a span of a decade. They are all spreading malicious lies, hatred and implicating one tribe against the other. This is what served as a backbone of fuelling genocide.

We also see the 10 Commandments of Hutus drafted by a certain bishop. Everybody was expected to act on the 10 commandments just like they did to the ones in the bible. So ridiculous. Bonheur narrates of how the propaganda conditioned people’s minds. “If you take life from someone even before you kill him [it means] the killer is not a human being but a killing machine. A young man could attack a whole group [of people] without resistance because they had already killed in their minds. They were successful in killing and wiping out families – why women and children were largely attacked.”

11894832_10153426890767559_604674739_oThe international media also played a big role in the wrong definition of the genocide. They largely reported that genocide was an outbreak of African war against different African tribes. Very few accurately reported the real cause of the genocide. However, many were accurate in reporting on the kind of preparation and training for the genocide. The international community was warned about the impending massacre but they never ran to Rwanda’s rescue or responded positively. Bonheur says, “1,700 militias had already been trained and 300 more were supposed to be trained each week, with a capacity of killing around 1000 people in 20 minutes, revealed Jean Pierre (coded name for his security)  one of the trainers from the ruling party.”

By the time we are done with this part of the history lessons, one thing is clear. The genocide’s wrath left many scathed. Those who set out to kill others were highly effective as successful. Many families had Tutsi and Hutu members in one household. The segregation between a people ran down into families, ending up separating siblings – making them arch enemies. Bonheur remembers his father’s survival tale. Militias had confused him for another man and missed to kill him. – “even though he was killed later.”

We also visit a space designed like a darkroom. There are hundreds of pictures of those killed, hanging on walls and on strings across walls. They were retrieved and protected here as memorabilia. There are also some personal effects like ID cards, shoes, bracelets and dresses put here.

Role of the church

More than 80% of Rwandans were Christians. 35% of all the people who were killed during the genocide died in or around church.I am very disappointed by the Catholic Church when I learn that they did not fight to save lives during Rwandan Genocide. Instead some priests ordered killings, and at times the church was in collaboration with a biased government. “The churches were no longer sacred,” says, Nelson – our other host. A lot of people ran to church for refuge – the safest place anyone can think of when in danger. Because they had a majority, the church’s role to “fight the genocide would have been more effective than any other institution,” notes Bonheur.

This part of the memorial has blue cathedral windows. It feels likes I am in church.

The Road Travelled Vs a Peaceful Future

80 % of Rwandan children experienced death in their families. 75% witnessed it and 90% believed that they would die. They are today the majority of Rwandan grownups. The memorial writes, “The international Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Arusha, Tanzania, was established by the UN Security Council in its resolution 955 of November 8, 1994 to prosecute high-level organisers of the genocide. After nineteen years the Tribunal had completed 75 cases with 12 acquittals and 16 cases pending appeal.”

Not all Hutus were killing others. Some worked tirelessly to save lives. After the war, many refuges fled to Congo and other parts of the world. Survivors were left devastated and traumatised. They had to start a new life. They had to find their people’s remains or identify where they were killed so as to start the mourning process. Today the government gives 5% of its budget to survivors’ care – this includes psychological healing.

Despite all these efforts, Bonheur says that the genocide is still being denied. “We (Rwandans) are still fighting against the denial,” he says. However, “We are trying to build a peace that can never be broken,” he asserts, adding that it’s all in line with rebuilding the country’s socio-economical cloth. The memorial also runs several peace programs that have since started similar projects in Kenya and South Sudan.

I am very proud of Rwanda’s heritage and their motivation to remember the genocide. I wish international media as well as Africa media would sensitive people on the genocide more to avoid its recurrence or a replica. Visiting the memorial reminds me of Kenya’s post election violence. I don’t think Kenyans would even dare fight if they really understood the loss, and depths at which the genocide has taken Rwanda, to date.

11914235_10153422835517559_1673735365_oAs we leave the memorial, Bonheur bids us farewell and everyone immediately walks into the car. I remain behind to chat with Bonheur, thanking him for his time and taking us though their history. I ask him about his experience during the genocide. He lost his mother and five siblings in the terror. His voice trembles, making me start to balance tears. “I can’t talk about it now. I am so glad to have survived,” adding, “I owe my life to the woman who saved me.” I want to hug him so tight and reassure him that I feel him. But I am afraid because we just met today and I don’t know him like that. I don’t know what to say, other than, “I am sorry about your family, glad you are here today, and thank you.” There is power in this man, standing here in total belief in redemption. I am inspired.

As we drive out of the genocide memorial towards town for dinner – my heart is heavy. I watch my surrounding. I see happy people, children playing, beautiful streetlights and just normalcy. It’s unbelievable to imagine the massacre that was on these cool streets some decades ago. I wouldn’t have been here then. But I am here now, wondering whether the Rwandan obsession with cleanliness is to sanitize themselves from the deep scar.

Whatever the case. It shall be well.

Read the first part of my tales about Visiting Kigali Memorial here.

BONUS: My condolences and love to all the lost souls and survivors. Thanks Bonheur, Bruce and Nelson for the trip.  Guys check out the memorial’s website

11873171_10153422857597559_847123258_oNo matter which part of the world you come from, this is the one place you must visit in your lifetime – to be reminded and re-educated of life’s fragility and the danger of the human vulnerability.

In 100 days, an estimated 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed in the genocide. Imagine what the world would be if we actually spent 100 days making love, and not war. I was just a kid during the Rwanda Genocide but I was conscious of what was going on, and since vowed to visit the memorial at my first chance in Kigali.

I am in Kigali for only 24 hours. As soon as I arrive in Rwanda, I ask our hosts right at the airport about how far the Genocide Memorial is and if it opens on Sundays. Thankfully, they open on Sundays too.

Read about my 24 hours in Kigali

Accompanied by Sauti Sol and some of their band members, we head over to the memorial on Sunday afternoon. I am so touched that the management stayed open past working hours, for us. We are met and welcomed by the best historian and guide I’ve met in my history of visiting museums and places – Bonheur Pacifique. Quite the name!

11894729_10153422863502559_843035090_o (2)The remains of over 250,000 have been buried here at the Genocide Memorial, set up to prevent mass atrocity and genocide through education. I am impressed by the structural prowess behind it and the neatness and cleanliness of the memorial. Nestled above one of Rwanda’s many hills, overlooking the beautiful picturesque view of Kigali city, this has become Rwandans place of reuniting with the ones they lost in the genocide. I am embraced by a feeling of serenity, peace and purity soon after walking in. I am suddenly empowered to be strong-minded and brave. I am ready to learn about the genocide atrocity. Something tells me that I won’t sob here, today.

Honouring Rwanda’s Lost Souls

We start the visit by watching a short film at a small and intimate film room with wooden benches. The film is about survivors of the genocide, recalling the events that lead to losing their families, and how they have since found closure at the memorial. I am very touched by the story of a middle-aged man recounting how his whole family was slaughtered in a stadium, where they had been seeking refuge. “I looked over and saw my mother bleeding. She raised her dress to show me my small brother lying beneath her – dead. When I started to cry, she told me to shut up. And if I were to die, then I’d rather do it with grace. I ran off and never looked back. That was the last time I saw my family alive.” I am crying writing this because it pains me. At the memorial, however, I only shed one tear because there was a big voice of reason that asked me to remain strong for these poor people. Another woman recounts how her family’s beloved neighbours turned against them during the genocide, ending up murdering her siblings and parents, retorting that she will never trust a friend. At the end of the film, all the survivors praise the memorial as the place where they unite with the loved ones they lost.

11909735_10153422837432559_398114512_nWe then head over to the mass grave, situated in the garden area, to lay a wreath of flowers – the first thing done for anyone who comes here, states Bonheur. I haven’t even gone into the memorial yet I am so overwhelmed by the spirits here. I deeply empathise with their families and hope that they have found rest. The black and white colours on top of the wooden coffins represent “mourning and commemoration designed to reflect where the country has been and the brighter future that we are working towards,” says Bonheur. We all hold hands as Bien leads us in prayer.

Rwandan Genocide history | Role of Colonialists

We then head inside the building into the memorial’s archive where Bonheur takes us through Rwanda’s history before the wahala. It is eye-opening to peak into pre-colonial Rwanda when Rwandese people had no tribe and spoke only one language: sharing peace, love, unity, collaboration and one culture. Trouble began when the white man came to divide to rule. German and Belgian colonialists wearing anthropology masks in disguise were on a mission to split Rwandans. “Colonialists used social and economic stratification as their strong points of dividing Rwandans.” By 1932, the first Rwandese ID cards were introduced. Identification was based on physical features including height, length of nose, colours of the eyes, and wealth. “If you had more than 10 cows, then you were a Tutsi and it meant that you were rich. Hutus had less cows. Long noses indicated that you were a Tutsi and the short ones made one a Hutu.”

What this means is that you could be in a family with siblings who were half Tutsi or Hutu.

Over the next couple of decades, Rwandans go through a series of fascist governments and propaganda filled media to an extent that social revolution becomes a basic need. By the time the French colonisers take over Rwanda from the Belgians, there was already distinct animosity between the two tribes. From the 50s, Tutsis were singled out from the country’s system – it was total segregation. By the early 90s many Tutsis had fled the country and were ready to start a civil war against the country. Anything and everything that went wrong in the country would be blamed on Tutsis. “You are a Tutsi, you are a cockroach and you are a snake ” –Tutsis had to be reminded. “If you were Rwandan and you didn’t attack the Tutsi, then you were going against nationalism. This is the process that led to the institutionalism of the Genocide of Rwanda,” says Bonheur, adding, “This was taught in schools and every level of the country.”

The Genocide

“The country smelled of death, dogs were [mauling human remains]. Everything was dead, physical or otherwise.” – Bonheur sets the scene. “Families were completely wiped out without anything to document them. The country smelled like death, it was total turmoil and chaos. For 100 days, that’s what we woke up to – killing people. People looked for hiding places.” We are taken through the tools and weapons that were used to kill people. They included machetes, clubs, chains, bricks, stones and classic guns. Rwanda’s ministry of agriculture then imported clubs from China to facilitate the war. In schools, children were given assignments to make tools to facilitate the genocide, unbeknownst to them.

Mass raping of women was prevalent during the genocide. The chosen men to rape had been prior identified as HIV+ This was to ensure that women were left permanently scared had they survived the genocide, and the ordeal. “The genocidaires had been more successful in their evil aims than anyone would have dared to believe. Rwanda was dead”– writes the memorial.

Pictures in this part of the memorial are very graphic.

BONUS: My condolences and love to all the lost souls and survivors. A huge thanks to my Kigali connect: Bruce, Bonheur and Nelson. For more, read the Genocide Memorial’s site

Read last part of my tales on Visiting Kigali Memorial Centre here.

If its true that cleanliness is next to godliness, Kigali is heaven! Oh la la! This city is as clean as European streets. I don’t spot a single paper or heaps of garbage anywhere like is the case in certain parts of Nairobi. I am super bummed that I only have 24 hours in Rwanda, but super psyched that I am finally going to Kigali Up Festival, where Sauti Sol are headlining in the fest’s 2015 edition. My initial 72 hours in Kigali turn into 24 thanks to an impromptu call from State House, for Sauti Sol to perform on Saturday night in honour of President Obama (blog post for another day). Nevertheless, on arrival in Kigali, I am ready to not sleep and discover and experience as much as I can.



8:20 a.m. – Arrival Kigali International Airport

I am once again accompanying Sauti Sol, as their publicist and tour manager, to a festival I always wanted to attend and a country I always wanted to visit. Rwandese men are handsome and the women are beautiful. Kigali’s scenery is picturesque. The roads, built on steep mini hills, are winding and sliding – just like in Kampala.

You might enjoy my Ugandan tales about butts, matoke & music

The Wi-Fi is on point right from the airport – very impressive! The weather is nice and warm, unlike Nairobi’s current gloomy situation. Our hotel Gold Crest Hotel is pretty decent and very close to where we are performing – the Amahoro Stadium.



11:00 a.m – Brunch/Soundcheck


With my colleague at SS Entertainment – Kelvin. Off to check out Kigali City. No makeup.

After making sure Sauti Sol and their full band are all checked into the hotel, I have a quick brunch and then head to Amahoro Stadium to check out the venue and oversee soundcheck. The drive down to the stadium makes me have a closer look at Kigali. I am astounded by the cleanliness of this city. There are no flying banana peals off moving vehicles on Kigali roads like is the case in Kenya. There is not one person littering Kigali like there are several foolish Kenyans throwing things around our cities. Our host Bruce Twagira tells me that every last Saturday of the month is a cleanliness day – where everyone, including President Kagame, comes out to clean. Standing on the massive Kigali Up stage, I can’t believe I am in Rwanda, I remember Mos Def asking me a few months ago about Kigali Up and why I hadn’t been there – but now I am right here. It’s such a gratifying feeling for me to be right at the place I always wanted to be and at the right time. Rwanda has been on my mind.


1:00 p.m. – Return to hotel


I had you just for a moment 😂😤😥😭 This calls for a return even before departure.

A video posted by black roses (@anyikowoko) on

I only have a few hours in this hotel room, made for a queen. It reminds me of the fact that I need a king. Nway I clean up nicely, do a couple of emails and press releases before mobilising my team to head to the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

Read my blog post on Visiting Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre


8:00 p.m. – Dinner/Discussing African Music


11840174_10153392459782559_1069900193_oI have been starving the whole day, mainly because for the past few months I’ve been on a strict diet due to health complications. However, I can’t wait to eat up some local treats. But our host takes us to a restaurant serving none. I am so bummed. My starter – an avocado salad at Select Hotel & Restaurant is to die for! How brilliant that I gobbled it faster than I could take a pic. We all sit on a table of about 12. They get us the best spot right at the patio. The restaurant is located somewhere above a hill. We are overlooking city lights atop hills and mountains – it looks like the sky’s shiny stars are inverted.

We have great conversation about music in Africa. Our hosts Bruce and Nelson tell us about how much more Rwandese musicians need to pull their socks but Bien tells them, “Your artists are at the best place. Sauti Sol – we are well-known in Kenya but so are other artists. An artist based in Rwanda has a bigger space to fill and fans to satisfy, we’d like to come here more often and even volunteer our songwriting services at Kigali Up’s workshops.” I agree. I am also willing to volunteer my PR services in Rwanda. Bruce and Nelson tell me that a lot of Rwandese artistes don’t see the value of PR and networking, or so it seems. They tell us that about a decade ago Kenyan music used to rock Kigali. Somewhere along the way everything changed and now they only rock to Tanzanian and Ugandan music from East Africa. “We now like a few Kenyan artistes like Jaguar. But we only listen to Sauti Sol – you are breaking boundaries,” says Nelson. A few steps from where we are sitting, a merry table breaks into a bday song. One of the ladies sitting on the table is celebrating their birthday – she’s lucky she’s got Sauti Sol singing her Happy Birthday :-)


10:00 p.m. – Showtime


Sauti Sol are the headliners, literally shutting down the 2-day festival. I really love the outfits the guys have on – all white everything. For the first time, I didn’t know what they were going to wear. The vibe is awesome, the crowd is singing to Sauti Sol songs word for word. Apparently all public shows must shut down by 11:00 p.m. in Kigali – we didn’t know. When they are just half way through their full set, the boss of the fest tells me that this show must end in 15 minutes, as the police are already at the concert to shut down. It’s a little past 11. “Tell them to only sing Nerea and Sura Yako.”

This messes with the guys concentration and dejects them a little.

When they get to the part where the lyrics go, “ … huenda akawa Kagame … Atawale …” – I see the cops talking to the fest’s boss. He comes up to me and says, “Tell Sauti Sol we’ve added them enough time, they can continue however they want.” Wow! Power of uttering the name of Kagame in Kigali!

Sauti_Sol-Kigali-23The best part of the show however is meeting Ishimwe Daddy at the backstage. The organisers bring me this young artist who made a portrait of Sauti Sol and wants to present it to them. This is really touching. He is young and so shy, I literally force and push him onto the stage just when the concert is ending, to hand it over to them himself.

By the time we leave the concert venue, I have had the toughest time at any backstage in our touring career. There were so many girls in the backstage screaming, shouting, begging and crying to take pictures with Sauti Sol. At some point the organisers bar them from Sauti Sol but it breaks my heart. I insist that Sauti Sol must do all interviews and take pictures with all the fans. I somehow manage to handle the madness!


1:30 a.m – Hotel/Packing


You must wonder what’s there to pack when you’re in a city for 24 hours with no sleep – I am chief diva. As the rest of Sauti Sol clean up and head out to the club, I spend a couple of hours with Bruce and Chimano at the hotel, bonding and eating while reminiscing on stuff. We have had a great show so everything we talk about evokes laughter.


3:45 a.m. – Kigali International Airport/Boarding


I am so sad to leave Kigali but I have to. Work has to be done on the other side. I am so fatigued, when I get to the airport I don’t want to talk to anyone or any hostess in the plane. I just want to sleep. I will cover my head with my shawl until I hear the captain saying that we are descending into Nairobi.

5:30 a.m. – Arrival Kenya


Jomo Kenyatta Airport is damn cold, and my taxi driver overslept. 30 calls couldn’t wake him up. I am forced to grab a random taxi, to go through atrocious post – Obama Nairobi traffic, and finally to a crazy work-filled day ahead of me.

While departing Rwanda, I finished drinking a bottle of water just as I was passing Kigali airport customs. A policeman walked up to me and said, “Hey – I will throw the bottle away for you.” If I don’t get married to a King, I don’t think this will ever happen to me in any other place in the world. Kigali – je t’aime.

BONUS: Thank you Bruce and your awesome Kigali UP Team, we must return soon!




I always wanted to visit Uganda so as to see the famed big butts, eat nice Matoke and experience the party zone. In recent months, however, I was craving Uganda to witness my No. 1 band Sauti Sol’s premiere show there, and dine at The Sound Cup – one of the most loved restaurants in Kampala owned by one of the artistes I also rep in PR – Ugandan soul musician Maurice Kirya.



If the beauty of Kampala and Nairobi cities were to go head to head, Uganda wins hands down. While Nairobi is a concrete jungle, Kampala has that Kitisuru green all over town, and a perfect view with winding hills and valleys smack in the centre of everything.

I finally find myself heading to Uganda this July with Sauti Sol as their tour manager and publicist. We are excited to be in Uganda for our first Ugandan media tour and debut concert. Sitting in the plane trying to read my new Hermann Hesse book is a waste of time because I can’t stop thinking about what I will discover in Kampala. I am appalled at my ignorance. I didn’t even know that Kampala is only 50 minutes away from Nairobi. Before I know it, the captain is beckoning us to check out the hills of Uganda and Lake Victoria.



Uganda’s first tease starts at landing. The idyllic Entebbe landing strip is located smack in the middle of Kampala’s competing beauties: the seven hills and Lake Victoria. Landing is like a dip in the ocean that never was – such beauty! I have been told that the trip to Kampala from Entebbe can be atrocious. The Mith tells me to be careful not to miss our flight back while returning. We are however lucky the drive to Kampala tonight only takes about 25 minutes. I wonder why Uganda’s international airport is that far from the city. Entebbe was once the seat of government for the protectorate of Uganda and historically remembered for the dramatic rescue of the 100 hostages kidnapped by the resistance group of the PFLP-EO and Revolutionary Cells (RZ).

It’s interesting that our hotel: Arcadia Suites is a former university space, and very impressive that the space has been transformed into a super homely and chic spot.

11774834_10153369119092559_2058944245_nOn Friday night, I dine with Maurice Kirya at The Sound Cup. It’s an experience I want to re-do over and over. While sitting across this gentleman, I can’t help but appreciate life’s little pleasures. For many years, I have admired Kirya, loved his music and thought him to be the classiest of all from Uganda. Earlier on this year, a surprise call from Uganda was Kirya asking for my services as a Publicist. It didn’t work out at first, and during our second meeting but like they say third time’s a charm, it is our meeting at Coke Studio Africa (where I work as Music/Entertainment Publicist) that officiates everything. Meeting and working with Kirya is such a pleasure because we are both workaholics :-) Our evening is everything to write home about. And Sound Cup’s ambience is to die for!

Saturday afternoon after sound check, our chaperone takes us to Shaka Zulu restaurant to have some authentic Ugandan dishes. Fish in peanut sauce is served in banana leaves. I am absolutely blown away by the detail. The Peanut Fish and Matoke is what call meal of Life. Just writing about it makes me so hungry. My cousin Kevin meets me here, and later at the concert with his Ugandan wife to be. See – there are many reasons why I have to be back in Uganda.


As all the men I am with are dying for Ugandan women – I am dying for the food. Just look 😋😋😋

A video posted by black roses (@anyikowoko) on


Our Ugandan media tour starts on Friday till Saturday. We visit Urban TV, X FM, Hot 100, Radiocity 97, Capital FM and NTV Uganda. It’s been such a great and rewarding experience. Discovering that I have been in contact with 98% of all the media contacts I meet in Uganda makes me so happy. “Ooooh you’re Anyiko! We get your emails,” they all say. They finally put a face to the emails and Anyiko PR. Radio and TV play some really dope local raggae songs, most of which haven’t crossed over into Kenya. I love Radio & Weasel’s new “Juicy” song.

Since our arrival, I’ve been talking to Ugandan musician Eddy Kenzo – the 2015 BET winner for Best New International Act Viewers’ Choice Awards. On Saturday just before our show, Washington – one of Uganda’s top producers, and Kenzo come to pay us a visit at the hotel. Kenzo has got an entourage of almost a dozen people with him. On reaching the hotel lobby, I wonder where today’s crowd came from. Kenzo says, “Greet everyone, they are my people.” Don’t even ask how all those men fit in Sauti Sol producer Savara’s suite – I leave them setting up a studio.

11749815_10153369157892559_1541836352_nThe Sauti Sol Live in Uganda show at Kampala Serena Ballroom is totally sold out and absolutely beautiful. 99% of all the ladies (even super publicist) at the concert are wearing dresses. Straight from the airport, in town and now at the concert – all female booties I see are well curved. All the TV presenters I meet are as adorable as dolls.

Ugandans paid a shitload to see Sauti Sol, without complaints unlike how it would be if it were in Kenya. Every time I’ve been to Tanzania and now Uganda, I ask myself why I had to be born in a country where a majority of concert goers don’t see the point of buying premium tickets to see our own musicians. This problem pierces my heart deeply. However, many Ugandans tell me that the kind of show Sauti Sol put up isn’t ordinary and Ugandans expected nothing short. “We are a particularly choosy audience. We either like you or criticise you,” my main Ugandan contact – Just Jose, tells me after the concert. We later head to Sky Lounge for the after party.

If my first Ugandan virgin experience is anything to go by – I want to relocate to Uganda. We leave behind glowing reviews but carry with us fun times, warm hospitality and a reminder of why we do what we do. Uganda – Weebale!

BONUS: To Aly of Talent Africa and your team, Kirya, the awesome Sound Cup team, Uganda’s Definition Africa Store, my cousin Kevin and every single person I met – Thank you for making my time in Uganda awesome!









From left: Digital Diva – Waithera, me, Cobby and Queen Ipaye

Before meeting Nigerian musician, producer and songwriter Cobhams Asuquo – I hear a lot of awesome things about him and his work. I am particularly curious to understand how he works around his equipment and production – being blind – yet – hands down one of the best producers hailing from Africa.

When we finally meet in Nairobi during his time as producer at Coke Studio Africa season III, I start to understand that things actually aren’t as complicated for him as I feared they’d be. Like most professionals, he’s got a manager and an engineer – Sola (who also doubles up as his right hand man) – I discover that things work for him, pretty much the same way they work for most of us with the gift of sight, if not more seamless.

Cobhams is a jolly good fellow. There’s almost always an air of laughter around him while on and off duty. For the first two days, I am keen to introduce myself to Cobhams every time I meet him. But on the third day, he says, “I know its you.” Of course he does. It’s rather silly how the human ability to see deceives us to think that everything must be – because we see in a certain way.

By the second week working around the same production – we’ve become buddies and constantly enjoy exchanging opinions on cultural topics. Cobhams’ mind is beautiful. If you are shallow, he’s the type of person you could never have a conversation with. No offense. I am taken aback by his sentiment that he hasn’t experienced Nairobi’s pulse properly as he had “expected more and heard amazing things about this city.” I know Nairobi is all that and more, and I am also curious to know what ticks Cobhams. “I like great food, fine restaurants, events where things are happening just like acoustic sets and great company,” he says.

I immediately set up an upcoming evening for dinner for his crew to meet mine. I have invited a few of my close friends, most of whom are musicians, writers and colleagues at Coke Studio Africa. We dine at Karen’s Que Pasa. It’s the best thing to dine with Cobhams – trust me. Small conversation turns into important life lessons. Some of the topics we discuss change the ways I have been thinking and end up inspiring me big time.

Cobhams has got so many genuine qualities that I wish every human being possessed. For instance, he’s open speaking about his blindness and greatness (unbeknownst to him), all in modesty. “I don’t wish I could see or feel that things would have turned out differently if I did because things might have actually been different for me. I think that seeing can also sometimes be a distraction. At this point in my life I am passionate about empowering people to realize that they can be,” he tells me and my assistant Tracy.

Cobhams is the writer and producer of the phenomenal song “Jailer” by Nigerian French singer, songwriter and recording artists Aṣa. “Jailer” finding a life of its own in this big saturated world of music, has left Cobhams more than content. “Wow!” He marvels when we explain to him how big that song was/and still is, to us and in Kenya. He explains how he wrote the song out of frustration. He supposed it was an irony that those who deny us opportunities and chances are just as much denying themselves as much, just like a prisoner and jailer are both inmates – “depending on how you look and them and where you are looking at them from.”

Somehow we end up talking about the debate on who needs to be empowered more. The boy child or the girl child? Cobhams says, “Men need to be taught to be leaders and take responsibility. A man needs to be taught to take bullets for his family,” directly telling me, “It is important for your cause as a supporter of the girl child to support the boy child. For in order to give the girl child the attention and the positioning that she deserves, their needs to be real men … It’s in the place of empowering the boy child and to make him understand the power of a woman’s intuition.”

This guy is deep. I’ve sared.

We also talk about books and I discover that we share some things in common. We both love to read and we both recently made a conscious decision to read an African author after every book by a random author. I tell him about my love for George Orwell, Hermann Hesse and Zukiswa Wanner.


The Epic Union, Honourable Raila meets top producer Cobhams and his engineer Sola.

In the last hour of dinner, former Prime Minister of Kenya Raila Odinga happens to sit on a table close to ours. These things only happen when you are dining with Cobhams. Cobby insists that  he has to meet Raila so I work my Publicist magic. We end up being the only peeps at the restaurant who take pictures with Raila. They end up discussing music and African politics. It was really cool.


Two of my Fave People in the world. True story

In the last 40 minutes of dinner, another one of my great friends – Blinky Bill makes it! He just came in after a studio session. They talk studio time and musical notes with Cobby. “Do you love Franco?” Asks Blinky. “Like who in Nigeria doesn’t listen to Congolese music?” They start to sing out Lingala tunes as we head out of Que Pasa, way past 11:00 p.m… “Kekekekeke Gala Mingeli …”

“I have to stop or people will think I am crazy,” Cobby says as we get to the parking lot. But in the real sense I am the one looking crazy dancing to no music :-)

BONUS: Coke Studio Africa TV Show represents a great wealth of music from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mozambique and Uganda. For the first time 29 artistes from these countries will in the new season collaborate in a unique format of mash-ups. The show will feature performances and collaborations from popular artists who have made a mark on their local music scene.

Notice I haven’t really talked about his music production? Look out for the continuation of this post: Talking Music with Cobhams Asuquo

DSC00132DSC00138When in Stockholm, make sure you visit Old Town (Gamla Stan) – Stockholm’s original city centre nestled in the islands of Stadsholmen and islets of Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen and Strömsborg. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve been to since I can remember. On our way to the Old Town, we meet a super cute Just Married couple taking a stroll. I think I want to do it this way when I get married.



From the cobbled streets, tiny alleyways, old big doors like Zanzibar’s – I loved Old Town! Most of the walls are partitioned in two colours – mustard and coal. Most of the stairs to the tiny apartments and houses here are made of wood. The town’s picturesque setting overlooking the waterfront reminds me of a scene from Dirty Dancing. Wasn’t Patrick Swayze’s house by the beach? There is a piece of graffiti in Old Town – a paradox of sorts – rebellion smack in the middle of reserved history.



DSC00135 DSC00134Visiting Europe’s smallest theatre Dur & Moll located in Old Town is too cool. I understand that its space only accommodates about an audience of 17 and only one or two actors. Their website says, “Dur & Moll recently celebrated a very proud 15th anniversary. The theatre has been chosen to weave fantasy and fact in the historical environment to move the visitor in time through stage design, mask and attributes, and using ingenious solutions for sound, lighting and scene changes.”


DSC_1144The best part of Old Town is checking out Stockholm’s narrowest street: Mårten Trotzigs Gränd. The street was named after the famous German merchant who immigrated to Stockholm in 1581 and bought properties in the alley in 1500s. The 36-stepped alley is Stockholm’s most famous tourist attraction. I am with my host in Sweden – my dear friend Sylvia. She’s been going on and on about how I will love Old Town. Just as we are about to leave Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, a towering man approaches us, “Excuse me –do you know that this is the narrowest street in Stockholm?” We know.

BONUS: The Old Town dates from the 13th century but most of the buildings standing there today are from the 1700s an 1800s. The best part about it all is the fact that the government of Sweden restricts citizens from pimping the old town houses and buildings here.


yasiin bey 2-2Note to June – May was so uplifting, inspiring and awesome. I never thought that I’d one day meet the hip hop artist Yasiin Bey, let alone work with him and closely relate to him. Working as new PR Manager at Nairobi Rapsody (which in May hosted Yasiin Bey’s first showcase in East Africa) put me in direct contact with Yassiin as his Publicist while in Kenya.

First how wonderful would it be to see him in my country? I can’t wait. In official communication like press releases and emails, the rapper formerly known as Mos Def wants to be referred as Yasiin Bey – and I keep to that. About 36 hours before Yasiin’s first East African showcase, I have organised a press briefing for him and all the Kenyan hip hop acts set to showcase to engage with the media. However, he hasn’t made it in Kenya in time. Thankfully for his right hand woman and DJ – Samira Bin Sharifu (renowned writer, filmmaker, festival curator and DJ between Amsterdam and London) is present to represent his management.

Sharifa, whose got roots in Zanzibar, is enthusiastic to be back in East Africa. She is looking forward to her stay in Nairobi and tells Kenyan media that what is to expect of Yasiin “will all depend with how he feels when he gets here.” However, she explains to us that Yasiin gets a little crazy on stage and most times, “it’s not what you expect. He loves to dance, something not typical of most rappers.” This makes me even more curious to see him on stage now.

“Yasiin is an artist of feelings,” co – founder of Nairobi Rapsody says at the briefing. He’s told me this a couple of times as I prepare Yasiin’s media schedule in advance. I already know that I will roll with his flow when he arrives as I have planned a couple of interviews and appearances for him.

He’s happy to receive the Maasai shukas and Kenyan flag my friend Wanjeri and I have brought him. As soon as we get him to his hotel – Tribe, I request to take photos of him to post on Nairobi Rapsody Facebook Page to update anticipating fans. Yasiin is graceful enough to pose, after which he candidly tells me, “I don’t like taking pictures. Tell everyone that I am willing to do anything but not take pictures.” I immediately reckon that like anyone would have their unique preferences, Yasiin likes his space, and image protected. But there’s no way I am not in his first Kenyan selfie with him. “So can we at least take a selfie?” I have already held my phone up high. He doesn’t know much about me, still, but he kind of gets my twisted humour and gently holds my phone. “Aiiight … I’ma do it myself. What’s up with all these photos though?” he hands my phone back and wanders off into his executive suite, marvelling at the beautiful ambience.

Just that gesture of not wanting to take a selfie and wanting to be in control of the one he takes – tells me that Yasiin likes to control his portrayed. I am not surprised because we are living in a world of news made from Instagram posts; a world of people obsessing over numbers. It has always been wondrous to me what the world would be like if the internet suddenly disappeared. “Please tell everyone that I don’t like to take any pictures, it makes me very uncomfortable. I’ll do any other thing you’ve organized for me,” he tells me.

You might like my story for DStv Mos Def comes to Nairobi

Cyber Space Obsession: when is time to hit delete?

In the continuation of the Yasiin series, look out for The Other Side of Yasiin Bey

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