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10834003_10152827237672559_2137975466_nI totally understand why an American woman, Erika Eiffel, ‘married’ the Eiffel Tower back in 2007. The thing is a keeper. Only problem I’d have with it being my husband is the fact that its erection must be shared with the whole world.

I expect to see the Eiffel Tower as soon as I step out of Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport. Like many people who dream of seeing the iconic structure, I think it’s the first thing you automatically see when you get to Paris. I discover that Paris is even more grand and swankier than I had imagined it would be. The streets are as beautiful as you could ever dream but wider than you’d suppose. They’ve got so many mini bistros, and bakeries with Baguettes hanging out like flowers in a flower shop. Just like in the movies.

It’s tough love that the first person I encounter soon after my arrival, Denys, the taxi man, doesn’t speak any English. As we make our way out of the wavy tunnels of CDG, I am too fascinated that I just can’t keep my mouth shut. So I grapple and fumble all I can with my French. “OMG! Paris c’est trés belle!” I marvel. Denys smiles and drives a little slowly every time we pass somewhere I could take a photo. “C’est la premier fois pour toi?” He asks and I explain to him that this is the one place I always wanted to visit. I have made his morning because his eyes twinkle. “Nous avons voir la tour Eiffel quand nous arrivons?” I want to know which side the tower will be so I don’t miss to see it but Denys tells me that it’s way off our route, and that the other taxi man, Faker (yes – quite the name) will drive past it a little later.

The weather isn’t as harsh as how everyone here had described it to me before my arrival. It feels exactly like the temperatures in Molo, my hometown—I associate with this kind of cold. The air smells as crisp as Mountain Dew and the shy sunshine’s rays make me want more.

N**as in Paris

First group photo in Paris! From left, Tito (Sauti Sol Bass guitarist), Denys, Izzo (Sauti Sol electric guitarist), Amani (Sauti Sol Drummer), Cedo (Sauti Sol Keyboardist), Faker and yours truly.

This surrounding makes me ecstatic and can’t wait till am surrounded by all my friends later today. We had the best time in Netherlands (NL) this summer during World Cup 2014, not knowing we’d soon be uniting in the city of love. It’s a bummer that part of my badass European crew: my cousin Judy from London, Danny and Joel from Hague and Helsinki, respectively, couldn’t make it here. However, the adorable couple: Nynke and Steve are soon arriving from Amsterdam. My lovely Sylvia (the best person I’ve met this year) is arriving from Stockholm. I am also excited to finally meet my long-time journalist friend Brenna who lives and works in Paris at France 24. Since her request to interview Sauti Sol years back, we’ve kept in touch, thanks to work-related features from around the globe. She Whatsapps me, “Welcome to Paris, Chérie! How are you, fatiguée? Now you have to end your messages with bisous like the French.”

I am planning on taking a power nap when I arrive at the hotel. For a split second I forget that there is no room for napping when you are on tour with Sauti Sol. They are like vampires, who won’t only last longer than Energizer batteries, but never need to recharge. They are just about to leave the hotel when I arrive and give me an ultimatum, “Stay here and sleep or we’re giving you 15 minutes to get ready if you want to come with us into town.” Of course I am ready to leave in 30 minutes :-)

The Eiffel Tower

A drive into Paris makes me feel like a kid in a candy factory. I want it all! I want to know how everything was made! I am staring at anything and everything. After shopping and driving around, at about 2:30 p.m. on our way to lunch, we drive by Paris water canals and glimpse at a replica of the Statue of Liberty – you know, the gift the people of France gave to America. If I didn’t know better I’d think I am in New York because this statue standing tall overlooking the Pont de Grenelle bridge looks like the real Statue of Liberty of New York.

We are about to drive by the Eiffel Tower—finally! This is probably the most touristy of famous places to visit while in Paris. As tall as an 81-storey building, this tower is strong and beautiful. The streets around the tower are so crowded as thousands of tourists are taking selfies and pictures of it. I am in such awe of the structure – definitely the most commercialised and sold out yet most wanted memento from Paris.

Parisians must be the luckiest people on earth. To live close and drive past this massive allure everyday. The queue of people wanting to go up the tower’s lift or stairs is horrific. It’s like a long python snake spilling into the streets. You probably have to be here quite early to avoid the long wait. ‘It’s never that serious.’ I think to myself. Plus I know of another spot from where I can view the tower and the city’s panoramic view.

The next day past midnight, we decide to pay the Eiffel Tower a late visit. The tower’s iron has transformed into a chic and classic golden-lit affair. In 1985, 336 projectors were set up to light up this Tower by lighting engineer Pierre Bideau who, since, has sparked an inspiration for nocturnal monuments around the world. We want to catch the tower’s wonderful lights that flicker every five minutes every hour till 1:00 a.m. (I think). We want to stand straight under it but Faker says, “I’ve got a better view for you”. He takes us to Champ de Mars where we get to face the tower’s front view. It looks and feels different at night. It’s like Night at the Museum.

"I call it magic!" *Coldplay voice* #EiffelTower by night

A video posted by black roses (@anyikowoko) on

The Eiffel Tower’s golden lights start to sparkle and dance in blue and white lights while its beacon shines over Paris. I don’t marry the tower after all. Neither do I go up or down on it. I don’t dine above it either—that would cost me a fortune! Plus I have to book six months in advance. It’s one of the coldest of autumn days and the official first day of start of winter in Paris but this moment right here is priceless. Best things in life are free. I am standing right in front of one of the world’s most famed structures—the 125-year-old Eiffel Tower. Shhhhh …. No noise or disturbance, just static yet transient magic.

Check out the complete To and Fro Paris with Love series:

To Paris with Love (Part I)

To Paris with Love (Part II)

From Paris with Love: The Eiffel Tower (Part I)

From Paris with Love: Amitié (Part II)

From Paris with Love: French Cuisine (Part III)

From Paris with Love: French Cuisine (Part IV)

BONUS: I took all those photos of the Eiffel Tower. I call it channeling my Mutua Matheka :-)

DSC_1639I don’t know about other languages or other people but I find French – sexy. It’s seducing and seduces. Not saying it right or nailing the accent and intonations takes away a huge chunk off its gist. It was the one language I always had to learn but of late I haven’t been confident expressing myself in French. It’s been about four months since I conversed with a real French speaker, and years since I held a good conversation in French. A few days before leaving Kenya for France, I tell my good Kenyan friend Robert (who speaks French as good as the French, if not better) that I can’t pronounce the name of the hotel we are staying to him because I don’t want it to sound wrong. “Rosey! C’mon!” He cajoles.

A welcome sign just as I am walking into Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) immediately makes me feel at home. I haven’t shared numerous live updates of my travel tales via social media and it’s itching me because I am finally in France, but first—the boarder police. I am here for work and all my documents are legit but you never know with countries you’ve never been to. As I am about to get on the queue for passport check, I realise that I haven’t even checked the name of the hotel where we are staying so I start to freak out. But two extremely hot policemen flash me a smile as they take my passport, “Bon matin mademoiselle!”

*Stamp*

“Merci! Bonne journeé!” I respond. My system is automatically going French.

After baggage claim, I make my way to the arrivals lobby waiting to see all my people in France here to pick me. Turns out ni**as in Paris went ham last night and no one can make it to the airport to receive me this morning. Only thing I receive is a text with the taxi man’s number. No way I am roaming with exorbitant Safaricom. And for some strange reason, my cell won’t connect to CDG Wi-Fi so I also can’t Viber. I am standing in the middle of CDG, feeling like I am the lone contestant in Amazing Race stuck at the airport even before the race begins. I need to find myself a cell phone or French line so I can call the taxi man. As I calculate my next move, I notice that most taxi men at the airport are black dudes and there are several super cute couples hugging, kissing and rubbing each other’s butts at every corner of the airport.

DSC_1640The long-braided African girl, firmly holding her travel bag and several magazines—I must look a tad stranded. A black dude walks up to me: “Taxi? Tu parles Français?” I now know that I have to unleash all the French I’ve learnt in the past, S/O to Kenya’s Alliance Française. “Oui, mais pas trés bien juste un peu,” I respond. Even though I state clearly that I won’t need his service, the man offers to give me his cell phone to call my taxi man.

The beauty of life is in its experience and its even better if you can share it with someone. I say this because in the recent past I’ve heard more nasty stories than good ones from France. About how French people are rude and are snobs. But since arrival, I am getting nothing but love from every person I’ve brushed shoulders with. No taxi man at Nairobi JKIA airport will give you a phone to use for free to call another taxi man. This gesture is only as noble as letting the person you love go and be happy to see them with someone else—now that I am in the city of love I will be using a lot of such comparisons.

When the taxi man assisting moves position (leaving me with his phone), I see him eyeing me from the corner of his eyes, like he’s worried about me. Every time new passengers flood the Arrivals terminal, I see his eyes darting looking out for business. I feel like he’s been far too kind and I need to let him go. I ask him about where I can buy a French line but he offers to run to his car to bring me one – for free! Only problem is it doesn’t have credit that I still have to buy so I ask him to please let me go buy one.

This is France. The dudes at the phone shop don’t speak English. This moment here puts me in a position of no vulnerability – kind of like the place you are when you tell yourself, “I am ready for love’. So with all I have to recall, I am able to get myself a new line and talk to the lady and gentleman at Café Lavazza close by to help me register and put in the credit. They are so nice to me. It’s been nearly two hours of calling my taxi man whose name is so interesting it has made me forgive him for not being here and not picking his phone. He’s called Faker. Miraculously, Faker picks up at the first call using my new line. He apologizes for mix up as a different taxi man, Denys, should have picked me up.

On calling Denys, he tells me that he speaks no English at all. I explain to him in French, slowly, where I am located. Turns out he’d also been at the airport all this while. It takes him about 30 minutes to get to my terminal from where he was. Another black dude, cool! “Denys can hardly speak English.” I text Faker, who replies “Sorry, but I don’t speak English well too.” (Guys don’t even dream about going to France without basic French). As I unite with Denys, the taxi man who helped me earlier looks over and salutes me goodbye. I wonder whether I should have tipped him for his kindness and later regret not asking his name.

DSC_1652We find Izzo, Sauti Sol’s guitarist (also here for the concert tonight) who landed on a different terminal. Denys is kind enough to buy me a Chicken Baguette at Paul Bakery. It’s the best sandwich I’ve had all my life! And this just came from a bakery not even a restaurant. I am about to discover that in this city French food is the closest thing that will get you pregnant, if love won’t. I am also about to take my first ride into Paris! So exciting …

Check out the complete To and Fro Paris with Love series:

To Paris with Love (Part I)

To Paris with Love (Part II)

From Paris with Love: The Eiffel Tower (Part I)

From Paris with Love: Amitié (Part II)

From Paris with Love: French Cuisine (Part III)

From Paris with Love: French Cuisine (Part IV)

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The Journey is the start of the Adventure

Paris has always been my dream destination. Just the idea of arriving and leaving after a peak at The Eiffel Tower and a walk down its love parks, still drives me nuts! I also want to have some nice French cuisine and walk down the lovely streets of the city of love hoping to bump into all the famous people who live in Paris like Kim Kardashian and Daft Punk.

When a work trip to France surfaces, I grab it with open arms. Goodness! Perks of working as Publicist of Sauti Sol. The last few months have possibly been the craziest we’ve had in Sauti Sol’s schedule this year and it’s about to get crazier as we are planning their premiere concert performance in Paris. After recently winning the Best African Act award at 2014 MTV EMA, this is also time to make the best of Sauti Sol’s France media contacts. I am also looking forward to making actual contact with my long-term journalist friend Brenna, who lives in Paris and works at France 24. For about four years, we have stayed in touch, sharing current affairs stories across the globe after first making contact regarding a Sauti Sol interview, back when she used to work for a UK publication. She will be helping me co-ordinate a couple of Sauti Sol interviews in France this weekend.

It’s Friday morning about 9:00 a.m. I haven’t really slept well because I was up almost all night packing and planning work in advance because I will be away for a whole week. I am bummed that I have a separate flight from the rest, who already left. I am scheduled to arrive in Paris on Saturday morning of the concert day. I’ve never had to travel far alone; I wonder if all will go well. Especially because I just came up with a last-minute plan for a European tour. I will be flying from Nairobi to Paris via Abu Dhabi. After France, I plan to head over to Netherlands via Belgium. That’s three continents and a trip around four cities. My ambition is priceless.

10836388_10152816152947559_421943054_nAfter a hospital run to see my sister’s new baby (such a cutie!), I am off to JKIA airport anticipating the Etihad experience. No shots being fired but last time I flew Turkish Airlines was the last time. Airlines are like the open house you have to camp in when you are homeless. So general service and new acquaintances aboard will be part of an experience forever etched in your mind. I normally care most about food and drinks (upcoming food blogs will attest to this) so Etihad better stuff me up.

It’s a four-hour flight crossing over to Middle East with around three hours time difference (Departure: 1:30 p.m. Arrival: 8:40 p.m.). I am wowed by Abu Dhabi’s beauty atop United Arab Emirates (UAE) skies. Bright lights bring skyscrapers and bridges to life, clearly displaying the intricately designed cityscape. It’s nothing far from Utopia. This is the capital city of UAE. I really wish I could leave the airport and go walk into the city – plus my head is playing J. Cole’s rap in the Beyoncé Party record, “We out in Abu Dhabi, we like to party, we don’t cause trouble we just ride Bugati.”

It’s a busy weekend in Abu Dhabi. Prince Harry is here for The Sentebale Polo Cup, a charity polo event he founded in 2010. Abu Dhabi is also hosting Grand Prix F1 World Championship, sponsored by our airline Etihad. (Notice how I am fast clutching at ownership? :-) Etihad’s flight magazine directs me towards Abu Dhabi’s top sights. They include the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, “a stunning piece of architecture” built in 11 years, and the Yas Marina Circuit, home of Formula 1 where you can race cars. How cool are these people? If this circuit is what I saw from above the skies, it’s lovely!

If only something would happen to our connecting flight so we’d have more hours in Abu Dhabi, to allow me to sneak into F1 and meet Lewis Hamilton …

I have to come back for an experience. Just as I am daydreaming about a day in Abu Dhabi while heading over to a different terminal, I spot Russell Brand—yes, the hilarious British actor, also Katy Perry’s ex-husband. Dude! He’s right in front of me! He’s quite tall about 6′ 1″ and has ragged long hair. He’s wearing a kilt, black boots and a tight black tee, with quite minimal hand luggage and security. We are on the same escalator going down. I know this is Russell Brand because he looks back at me and we lock eyes, his saying something like, “Don’t start screaming my name please”. I am calm and start to film him from behind using my phone’s camera. I am planning to accost him with that cliché “Hey, you really look like a famous movie star” line. But just as I am about to get to him, he takes a turn into the Gents. I’ve lost him. I could only camp outside the Gents for my hubby Usher Raymond.

Some of my friends are not convinced that I bumped into the real Russell Brand just because I didn’t take a selfie with him but the guy already has business with Abu Dhabi. In August, Russell is said to have hinted a possible reschedule of his 2013 Messiah Complex tour that was due to open in Abu Dhabi last year but got cancelled. Plus who else apart from Russell Brand would be rocking a kilt in Abu Dhabi? He’s probably here this weekend to do something like smoke hookah with Prince Harry or party with Lewis Hamilton after the F1.

10847138_10152816154217559_992330598_nIt’s been four hours of enjoying Abu Dhabi International airport’s coffee, sandwiches, magazines, Wi-Fi and the sight of handsome Arab men dressed in crystal white thobes. It’s about 1:30 a.m. when my flight to Paris finally departs. Around 7:20 a.m. still a little dark outside, I hear the flight attendant announce our arrival at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Yaaaawn! Yaaaaay! But wait, did she speak in French? Damn! I forgot to practice my French before leaving Kenya. But what the heck! I am here already – ready to receive love and découvert …

Read the complete To and Fro Paris with Love series:

To Paris with Love (Part II)

From Paris with Love: The Eiffel Tower (Part I)

From Paris with Love: Amitié (Part II)

From Paris with Love: French Cuisine (Part III)

From Paris with Love: French Cuisine (Part IV)

BONUS: Super awesome blog with stories from Abu Dhabi, check out LISA REINISCH | CLIPPINGS AND BLOG

DSC_2304

My mac loves it too!

For a self-proclaimed music lover like me, discovering new music is like the shopping of shopaholics. I am addict. So when in 2011 a friend introduced me to one of the world’s leading music websites (22tracks.com), I’ve been getting hooked to new, cool and funky stuff since. I’ve found my own modern-day jukebox. Only its a free service and  intangible. This is my all-time favourite music site but I missed to visit their head office in Amsterdam last time I was in Netherlands (NL), a few months ago. So when I found myself back in Amsterdam last week, this was definitely a must-do this time.

Accompanied by my friend, Iyobel (an artist who also works as a Manager in music entertainment in NL), we are on a mission to find the head office of the music discovery service. I don’t really know what I will do when I get there – I just want to pick the genius brains behind the platform. After identifying their location online, we start to track them. We are somewhere along Radarweg street, near the city centre police station. It’s an extremely cold autumn afternoon around 4:50 p.m. Darkness is slowly starting to creep in. I am afraid that they might be closed for the day when we get there so instead of a 20-minute walk, we take the metro. On arrival at Nieuwe Prinsengracht, I recognise the street from the last time I took a boat ride around Amsterdam. “This is the rich people street!” I tell Iyobel, who wonders how the hell I have such information. In the 17th century, most of the rich Dutch merchants resided here. This former residential area now houses a couple of banks and a few serious offices. I am guessing 22tracks aren’t too bad off.

10841721_10152813428347559_1406075166_nWhen we bump into the building we think is the one, it’s another eureka moment! When I see a sign with 22TRACKS on the left side of the door, I can’t believe we finally made it! I press the little round black doorbell twice and after a few seconds, the door automatically pushes itself open. On the second floor, there’s a plain door with the sign Sound of Amsterdam. After doing my Happy Dance, I start to freak out and pant. Iyobel encourages me, “Just open the door, say hello then introduce yourself as a journalist and a fan.”

I do it!

Two guys are sitting behind their desks. One has the kind of hair you want to ruffle and the other one’s head is clean-shaven. They seem cool. The office space is all white (exactly how I’d pictured it would be). There are loads of iMacs with the one at the reception area with 22tracks on the big screen. Some cool original 22track-inspired artwork pieces are hanging on the white walls. “I’ve got twenty two tracks but the bitch aint’ one”—I like this one. I see a couple of trophies on a shelf. In the mini-boardroom at the end of the office, there is another huge black and white picture of a dope-looking party on one side of the wall from the Paris launch of 22tracks. Interesting sign because I just came from Paris yesterday.

I arrive unannounced but Gilles de Smit, co-founder of 22tracks tells me, “Right now is a good time! We love when genuinely interested people walk in. I wish everyone were here to meet you.” Their warm reception makes me chill. I introduce myself just like Iyobel asked me to and within no time we are having a great informal interview. They offer us drinks and Chupa Chups (super cool office).

Tracking the Genesis

In need of morphing an ordinary music site into a unique platform for discovering new and expertly selected music, Vincent Reinders (Venz) founded 22tracks in April of 2009. Venz also owns a clothing line and hosts a national hip hop show and writes for several magazines. “It quickly started to roll, and six months later I joined forces with him to officially launch in Amsterdam,” says Gilles. On the first year, the platform was run by DJs from Amsterdam and Brussels. Now, five years later, 22tracks has expanded in three other European cities: Paris, London and Brussels.

So how does 22tracks work?

10841312_10152813448657559_1071371046_n22 local top DJs from the cities of Amsterdam, Brussels, London and Paris share their 22 hottest tracks of the moment in order of genres. These make 22 tracks in each playlist for your selection. 22tracks management has nothing to do with any of the music selection across the cities, if it’s not sponsored or a partnership. “Only the DJs and city curators have the power and freedom to choose this,” says Gilles. As much as 22tracks DJs won’t miss out on popular or hot artists like J. Cole and Usher; you won’t believe the number of amazing artists (most indie or underrated) that get featured. Via 22tracks I’ve discovered countless artists and DJs most of who aren’t well known outside their regions/fan base. Roses Gabor, Rochelle Jordan, Szjerdene, Lianne Le Havas, Fullcrate, Kaytranada, Blonde, Years & Years, Mars, August Alsina, Mack Wilds, Rudimental, Jessie Ware, Submotion Orchestra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jhene Aiko, Ephemerals and Tanya Lacey. The list is endless.

Tracking Technology

In an increasingly crowded cyberspace and controlled mainstream media, finding fresh music curated to suit your taste is a task. But never too daunting for the real music lovers. And now with 22tracks, we’ve got this era’s own jukebox. Just like the olden jukeboxes, 22tracks has the latest songs and a way of playing music on demand without commercials. A Top22 playlist from top trending tracks being played across the platform in different cities is updated on the site every day. Gilles says, “The only way artists can get themselves on Top22 is by promoting their music via our site. That will possibly make their fans keep sharing and listening more.” Like jukeboxes, 22tracks has also offered listeners a means of controlling what they want to listen by the option of creating your own playlist, MY22. Sometimes they also have exclusive tracks that you won’t find anywhere else. A new playlist, Tip22, features hidden gems collected from newly released tracks or those that you might have missed.

10799310_10152813448352559_1105949860_nJurian van der Hoeven is responsible for all content and city management at 22tracks talks about keeping up with the tracks. “I find special DJs who can fit in our platform. We are currently working on our London and Paris contacts, we already have new people in London, some who have big names in reggae.” However, the work never stops at finding curators and the music. He says, “We are down to every detail, even concerning who is sharing 22tracks on Facebook.”

It must be some crazy tech sophistication to manage a business that permanently and fully depends on the net – a playground for malicious rivals and hackers. Gilles recalls, “One time, our site was messed up someone could basically download all the tracks.” The website has also experienced downtime in the past because of power outages and working with hosting companies that couldn’t manage the kind of tech advancement required from the start. “We have now moved to a bigger company hosting five of our servers. There are huge costs of running 22tracks but we had to change into more reliable servers to enhance security after being hacked a couple of times,” says Gilles.

Tracking the Trajectory

I don’t think you could dig up this kind of music selection and not have some sort of clairvoyance for future sounds. Gilles says, “The point of it all isn’t just discovering new sounds but supporting those that can potentially be the next big thing. For instance, Drum & Bass Amsterdam playlist isn’t that popular with everyone but we choose to keep it because it’s a genre that might come up and pick up especially in the clubs.”

The sprouting growth of the platform and emerging financial ventures like advertisements and collaborations with software companies, has empowered 22tracks to provide music while running business in different cities – what Gilles calls “taking a different approach.” Through a recent Microsoft deal, 22tracks has partnered with Internet Explorer to create a sound spectrogram that responds best via touch screens. The app is situated on the far right upper side of the website. Gilles says, “We never knew we’d get to such technology. Now we have a testing team in charge of that. This gives us the freedom to solely concentrate on music curation and strengthening the sound of this city outside the platform. We are big in Dutch clubs!” 22tracks is now “exchanging value” with various media partners, music labels and festivals. All either pay for selected playlists or barter trade, confirms Jurian. They have also collaborated with NL hotel CtizenM to play guests 22tracks during stay.

My favourite DJs on 22tracks are Amsterdam duo: Fullcrate and Mar (who are musicians too) can’t wait to see them one day in concert. I also love Paris R&B/Soul curator JP Mano. I tweet him saying I forgot to send him a shout while in Paris recently. He replies, “What a pity! Don’t forget next time, it will be a pleasure.”

10846586_10152813473067559_1646672204_nAbout having more of African music spilling into the European-based platform for the delight of music lovers worldwide, 22tracks occasionally have an African playlist curated by Fiona Okumu from Afripop. Gilles confirms that 22tracks is already planning on launching into the cities of Berlin, New York and Cape Town—first African city. Gilles says, “We are definitely interested in more sounds. We are watching Nairobi too as it’s one of the emerging markets in Africa.”

Double Yaay for my city!

We both like the idea that maybe through me 22tracks finally got their Nairobian contact. I tell them about some edgy sounds from Africa I suppose they would dig, and that I work as a Publicist for Kenyan band – Sauti Sol (Winners Best African Act 2014 MTV EMA). Shock on me, they know Sauti Sol too well. In fact, Gilles sings to me their Swahili song Mama Papa. “How did you know them?” I marvel, soon realising that I asked the wrong person the right question … This is home of discovery.

BONUS: S/O to Iyobel. I am so happy I was at 22tracks outside my comp! Plus they gave me some cool merchandise. Thanks for errrrthing 22TRACKS!

If you like this, you might also dig my Love, Sex & Drugs tales from Amsterdam.

 

10833773_10152808467332559_2079984471_nLiving in a remote Turkana village is as sticky as being the nut in a peanut butter bottle—you must feel constricted by the heat, aridity of the area, lack of food/water and high illiteracy levels. “Villagers here are like a child dishonoured by their parents, brought to live in a dry land far from River Turkwel,” says a Turkana elder. This tremendously sad simile describes the hopeless situation most Turkana people have found themselves in while staring at hunger at the brink of disillusionment.

It’s damn hot this afternoon. I am finally at Nakukulas village in Turkana, about 12 minutes drive from Tullow Oil’s main operating hub at Lokichar. Accompanied by my colleagues and guests hosted by FoLT (Friends of Lake Turkana), we are here to meet and greet the villagers of Nakukulas. Tullow Oil just took us through a presentation in which they cited their relations with the local community as amicable. Whether they admit it or not, after getting exploration licences and discovering oil, Tullow Oil’s success in running their business pretty much depends on their relations with the locals. Curious to hear from them.

Most Turkana villagers don’t have cell phones or any form of communication other than word of mouth that spreads as fast as fire. When the Land Rovers, Pickups and Jeeps we arrive in at a clear gathering among a few trees, it doesn’t take long before about a 100 Turkana men arrive to greet and welcome us to sit near them under one big tree—the village’s main meeting point.

Most of the villagers are dressed in loose sarongs either tied on their lower body area or hanging loose around their torso. Some men are carrying a little wooden stool “ekicholong”, that they use to sit on or place their heads while lying down. Others are wearing a wrist knife that can pass for a fancy bangle. This can be used for fighting or to cut stuff. I am told by one of the guests of Turkana descent that “ekicholong” or wrist knives, just like every other Turkana cultural regalia, aren’t for anyone, “you have to earn its respect more than attain a certain age or age group.” A younger man wearing silver loops and another rocking some dangling beaded earrings tell me that Turkana men got style.

10818748_10152808481447559_1607944622_nThe children and women walk into the meeting about 30 minutes after all the men have already settled. It is the custom that women come after the men and don’t speak. If they do – it has to be after the men. We sit facing the men and the women and children all sit behind us, making it look like they are not part of the meeting. But this is how sitting arrangements work around here.

This afternoon I’ve learnt that there are three main stages in the business of oil discovery—the licensing, exploration and development; the latter can take up to five years. This means that only until the fourth quarter of 2017 will Tullow actually be able to have the final product from their current investment. But most of the local villagers don’t really have information broken down to them like this. It’s clear as soon as they start to air their sentiments. But they have more pressing problems. The first one says that people from the Pokot tribe have taken all their village’s livestock and killed people too. “We have no food; we are finished! We are mad at Tullow Oil because they are okay and going about their business!”

All the elders speak in Ng’iturkana (there’s a translator).

Another elder says, “We saw Tullow Oil coming to set up without consulting us. What is oil? They say it’s for fuel but we didn’t know how it’s extracted and manufactured till it gets to that form. They say that the government has granted them the permit to run business here and that our returns are sent to the county government of Turkana but we’ve never received anything,” posing, “If the place of finding food is ours, then why are we dying of hunger?” This man is so furious he’s trembling and spitting like hungry Nairobi bus preachers at every utterance. At this juncture I just wish we came with some representatives of Tullow Oil. If they felt this volatile mood among villagers of Nakukulas, they would know better how to handle these locals. Or maybe they do.

Our session with the villagers of Nakukulas leaves me feeling like they tend to blame all their problems on anyone close to them (Tullow Oil, included). Tullow provides some locals with employment and the communities with water tanks. Is that enough? And when is the government of Kenya called to action?

The only woman who stands to talk on behalf of womenfolk seems quite old, maybe in her 70s. She’s got loads of beaded necklaces on her neck, that commanding granny presence and a posture worthy of a woman only half her age. Her speech is precise. “There is no life here; we are only talking about death because everyone has been killed by rival tribes. They even behead children [that’s why] most people here are newcomers,” she says, adding, “Anytime we see cars approaching, we think its assistance. We really need help curbing insecurity in Turkana. Now our lifestyle is nothing but taking chances.”

IRG_0827BONUS: While at Nakukulas, I get to show a group of Turkana kids how to use a smart phone – read take selfies :-) We have such a ball! Never met kids with as much personality and swag. They also request to have my bottled water, after which I watch them running up and down the village with it, carrying it up like a trophy and ululating in laughter while thumping fists. Like what? Won’t they even drink it? I conclude that I have no life problems.

Read the complete To Turkana and Back series below:

To Turkana and Back: The Heat and Women (Part I)

To Turkana and Back: Visiting Tullow Oil (Part II)

To Turkana and Back: Returning (Part IV), coming soon.

 

Sheila Bett of FoLT and AnyikoOn my first visit to Turkana, I am lucky to be visiting Tullow Oil—leading independent oil and gas exploration and production group that has pitched tent in Kenya’s remote Lokichar area since around 2012 (soon after the first announcement of oil discovery in Kenya).

There has been intense interest in the country’s oil and extractive sector and even more mystery surrounding exploration groups like Tullow Oil. Not much about their operations and the kind of deal they have with Kenya’s government, especially relating to incentives for the locals of Turkana when and if the business makes returns, is public information.

The journey to Lokichar, Tullow’s base in Turkana starts from Lodwar as early as 5 a.m. We arrive at around 10.00 a.m. This is part of FoLT (Friends of Lake Turkana) plan of activities for us during their first Natural Resource Conference this week, where I am working as one of the communication consultants. It’s the roughest road trip I’ve ever had. Pedo, our driver from Lodwar, seems to be thrilled by the bumping and grinding; because the worse it gets, the faster he drives and blasts some crazy hip hop that you wouldn’t expect to be blaring off a Turkana Land Rover. Like older 50 Cent and the likes. DSC_0304DSC_0305

It’s so hot, I envy a Turkana woman I see walking bare-chested as our entourage of big cars blow off desert dust blocking anyone from seeing her from the back. After passing a few villages and being shown some water tanks set up by Tullow Oil by our guide, we have arrived at the exact place where Tullow rocks Turkana oil.

It’s a large space – about 12 acres (the size of any one of of Tullow Oil’s camps). I can see are a few large tanks, machines and tents. The security check at Tullow Oil is as strict if not stricter than that of any serious establishment in Nairobi. Cars have to drive at 40 km/h or less – there are security guards all over. As soon as we get into their premise, we are asked not to take any photos (of course I rebel) as we all register our names/companies to be issued with guests tags that we have to wear at all times. As we get prepared for the special orientation at a nearby tent, we are read to ground rules. “Shall you hear a siren, please lie down as there might be a security threat, either from the extraction or tribal wars between locals of the area,” we are also warned.

Today Tullow Oil will demystify itself to us. Turns out that Tullow’s facilitator Huma is an acquaintance of mine; we’ve shared the dance floor a few times during Electrafrique parties at the Carnivore. It’s an awkward coincidence. You don’t really expect to meet the guy you danced with once in Carni all the way in Turkana, for whatever reason. There are professors, filmmakers, journalists and mostly researchers from organisations interested in investing or helping communities from areas with natural resource finding like Turkana, among FoLT guests. DSC_0302

The Tullow presentation starts off on a good foot with Huma doing a lot of PR for Tullow while at the same time opening our eyes and minds with priceless information. For instance, I get to learn that the government grants tenders to explore natural resources all over Kenya to various other similar companies, after which the highest bidder takes it all. Tullow has placed itself strategically as the leader in Kenya’s oil exploration. During their excursions, they have bumped into a couple of other natural resources like water and gas and subsequently handed them over to other companies interested because their main focus is oil.

There are a lot of questions from the audience, concerning the transparency of the tender issuance, what’s in for the locals of Turkana and much more. Do locals know who Tullow Oil is and what kind of permission they have been granted to access local land? At some point, the session becomes so heated that Huma has to stop taking any questions. It’s a very healthy discussion we are having because we are just a cross section of educated Kenyans and professionals who don’t get this new oil business in Kenya; what of Turkana people? Most of who have low literacy levels due to factors such as inadequate infrastructure for education, mobility due to nomadism, economic marginalisation and cultural practices.

By the end of the presentation, we’ve already spent more than five hours at it yet there is still so much to discuss and to expound on. Huma calms my main worries and curiosity by stating that Tullow Oil has hired a number of locals to help communicate Tullow’s mission to Turkana locals on a daily basis. This, and any other means of integration between companies in the extraction of natural resources business, locals of the areas and government policy makers is paramount for so many reasons – the main one being to avoid conflict, now or in the future. DSC_0313

When the session ends, Tullow are kind enough to share with us their presentation and serve us with some luxurious lunch, for Turkana. It’s a four-course meal, complete with ice cream and cookies. Serving ice cream in Turkana really is something like discovering oil in the region—eureka moment!

It’s perfect that Tullow had time to host us and aren’t as hostile or oblivious to circumstances around their Kenyan business as they seem to the outside world. Tullow Oil seems to be working towards compensating the locals of Turkana for their exploits by providing them with water sources and jobs. But is that enough? Is it just a hoodwink mission? And is Tullow just being nice because this is actually the work of Kenya’s government and not theirs? After lunch, we are heading to the local village to meet and discuss with the villagers these same issues…

In the continuation of my tales from Turkana read To Turkana and Back: Villagers of Nakukulas (Part III)

BONUS: For more info on the first Natural Resource Conference Hosted by Friends of Lake Turkana (Oct 22nd – 23rd 2014), kindly visit FoLT’s site

Kenyan women are not kids or students to be reprimanded by men, like teachers and pastors do to boys sagging pants. We are adults with rights and the freedom to express ourselves without having to be subjected to judgments or punishments. We deserve and demand to be dealt with as human beings and not the weaker sex or sex objects. If I decide to wear baggy jeans or mini skirts, no one has a right to attack my dressing or strip me. And yes – despite it being a reality that this society will judge you for what you wear, like many other societies will – with that knowledge, what I wear is still my choice.

Even though orchestrated by a women body, My Dress My Choice campaign supersedes the current women stripping shame issue. Dressing doesn’t only mean to wear a dress but general clothing. This campaign has been mistaken to be another feminist rant or a women vs men face off but to me; this campaign champions gender equality, human rights and freedom of expression for all. So all your reasons for why women stripped could have been stripped or why in some scenarios, you could be stripped because of how you are dressed – are null and void. There is no justification for violence against any human being, for whatever reason. To those who call the stripping shame a lesson to women – you are not teaching us anything but stripping us of our dignity and leaving us forever traumatised.

This stripping shame reflects on our society’s culture and how lenient we have become—to allow gangs and criminals, purporting to be teaching women lessons, destroy our freedom and demean women. If it was the case that women scantily dress, is it a crime stipulated by Kenyan law? If so then people found in the wrong should be arrested and not taught lessons by mobs. Instead of trying to make womenfolk change their ways of dressing, deal with those terrorising women. No civil society becomes a people who teach people lessons.

To those who feel like Kenyan women in non-traditional dressing are un-African or disregard our culture; carefully go back to our history. The African culture primarily has less clothing. I just came from Turkana recently and women in their society still walk bare-chested or only tie a loose cloth around their torso. Why don’t their men view them as objects ready to be pounced at? Theirs is a culture that respects women and doesn’t judge them by their anatomy, physical dressing but character. Oh by the way – fashion is suddenly dangling out of an open window! While women dressing will outright and scientifically be more attractive to the male fancy, women too fancy male dressing – so men do not make women dressing a unitary taste affair only suited for you, because women also dress for women, and when we fancy or find your dressing provoking, like you say of ours at times – we don’t go stripping men.

Strip. Stripper. Stripping—all these mean different things but only you know who you are and how you want to strip or be stripped, if that’s the case. But for someone, for a rowdy mob to attack and strip you the way Kenyan women are being cornered is wrong. It’s shameful. It’s hurtful. It’s haunting. It’s demeaning. It’s frightening. It gives me chills.

To all the Kenyan women out there, it’s a reality – now we have to watch how we dress according to where we are. We shouldn’t have to feel this way and it shouldn’t be like that. Any society should protect its people but ours has failed in protecting women. We have to be our sisters’ keepers. When men feel like we are to blame for what befalls us, it means that they most probably won’t protect us, even if they were in a position to. To the real Kenyan men, you can’t play nice sitting by the fence—protect Kenyan women.

Because I was brought up knowing a respectable brother, and a dad who always treated my mother and his four daughters with utmost respect, I believe that not all men are wild or perverted as some claim. Not all men are turned on by the mere look at women’s bodies, exposed or not. No normal man will strip a woman walking down the streets of Nairobi. The school of thought that indecency deserves a punishment or stripping is uncouth and barbaric. To those who support it—what’s the morality/decency weighing machine? What length of a skirt is too short or too long? What pants are too tight or too loose? And so forth …

Clothing is a mere form of expression. Dignity is in essence all we have, and it’s plain sad for someone to take that from you. The indecency card leaves us at the risk of condoning a society thriving off ambiguity and hypocrisy. We are in danger of moulding a societal groupthink that suppresses freedom, creativity and liberty; a society that silences any form of expression. I crave for the liberty to always express myself and have others do the same, in whatever way. I am not my clothes and neither is she. And if I were, it’s my choice.

BONUS: A group of protesters against the recent ‪#Stripping Shame‬ incidence of Nairobi men stripping women apparently “indecently dressed” match in the city in support of ‪#‎MyDressMyChoice‬ campaign.

Turkana WomanI discover that in Turkana, breasts are like Ricky Rozay’s moobs. It’s okay to show them off, no one really cares. I see a woman walking bare-chested once and many others with lose clothing or wraps that leave their breasts sagging or peeping. Traditionally, Turkana people wear wraps made of rectangular woven leather materials made from animal hide. Women wear two pieces of cloth—one wrapped around the waist while the other covers the top. Some actually don’t wear anything on top.

It’s an interesting trip. The flight to Turkana from Nairobi is almost as long as a flight to Dar es Salaam—yes, it’s that far! It will take you two days travelling by road. I am headed to Kenya’s most north-western county—the farthest I’ve been to in Kenya, so far. I am so excited that I miss Wiz Kid’s Nairobi concert just so I don’t miss my flight check in at 4:00 a.m. on the same night/morning. I actually pass on sleep.

Magical Kenya As we arrive at Lodwar airstrip, I am amazed at Turkana’s beautiful landscape. I see lovely clear skies and hills above the horizon – just like in the storybook endings. I am lucky this Mashujaa Day morning isn’t as sweltering as usual, my company tells me. I am here for a whole week, during which I will be working as a publicist and communication assistant at a 3-day conference hosted by Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT). I am using this trip to also discover and learn more about the people of Turkana.

The first thing I notice about Lodwar is that everyone and everything (including tea cups at restaurants) is colourful. I am constantly oooh-ing and aaah-ing at the sight of colourful Turkana women, walking down the dusty brown roads. Because I am new here, somehow I find it hard, at first, to ask our drivers to stop so I can take a picture of River Turkwel or the women. I am also afraid the women might take offence and I wouldn’t find a way of explaining to them, that to me – they are the most beautiful Kenyan creatures I’ve ever seen.

Granny from another LifeA typical Turkana woman is dark. Her skin as smooth as moulded black clay ready to dry into a pot built to last. Her hair is shaved or very short with different Mohawk styles and sometimes, different hair colour. Some attach beads to the loose ends of hair just near the forehead. She never wears a bra. As her breasts hang loose; her neck stands tall, surrounded by a tower made of multi-coloured beads and necklaces. I later discover that distinct neckpieces on women reflect on different identity and age group. And the more a woman’s neckpiece; the more desirable she is. Side Note – In line with my general love for beads and beaded things, I think I would be a very hot thing if I were from Turkana.

The venue of the conference is at the newly constructed FoLT Lodwar conference centre, with an excellent view of the origin of Turkana County capital’s name—Mount Lodwar, just a few meters away. Locals tell us that Lodwar means “something extremely bitter”. I am astounded by how surreal and close the mountain seems, “Wow! We should go hiking!” My colleagues warn me that we wouldn’t even get to half of the mountain because of the heat and security concerns.

Rocking LodwarAfter much observation over a few days, I realize that even more than Turkana people’s culture for disregarding the torso’s covering, it works all ways for them because the heat there is ridiculous. I’ve been to hot cities like Dar es Salaam and Kisumu, recently, but there isn’t a place as hot as Turkana – trust me! The weather goes up from about 35 to more than 40 degrees. The heat and humidity even makes your senses operate slower. By the third day, I find myself tying a shuka across my body back in the hotel contemplating if I should walk bare-chested the next day. I really suffer the heat because I didn’t pack light in fear of looking indecent, little did I research on this culture. But now I know ;-)

On my second day, I already feel like I’ve been here long or that days are so long and basic. I can’t figure out what day of the week it is. It hits me that I never felt or saw any sort of commemoration for Kenya’s Heroes’ Day, yesterday. This place doesn’t feel like shagz, it just feels neglected and far from the rest of the Kenyan think tank … But for some like FoLT, this is home.

In continuation of the series: To Turkana and Back read:

To Turkana and Back: Visiting Tullow Oil (Part II)

To Turkana and Back: Villagers of Nakukulas (Part III)

BONUS: You might dig my 2010 blog post on my Samburu Safari, where my folks used to live about 34 years ago.

DSC_1939My paternal grandmother, Dani Emma Awuor Owoko, was a simple woman. It gave me so much gratification that her funeral was as simple as the life she led. She had a big boma and many acres of land, but spent the last thirty years living in the small three-roomed house her son (my father) built her. Dani Emma had all the characteristics of Big Momma. When I was younger, I would get lost in her close embraces and suffocate in her scent of Dettol or Rob. I would be amazed by her whitish grey short hair (every time she took off the white or blue kitambaa on her head) and smooth light skin.

Dani’s flair for storytelling and unique voice stood out. Most of her stories were of journeys she had undertaken in the past, extraordinary people she had met, or made like my Dad, and dreams (some of which were premonitions or sort of apparitions). Her voice was alluring yet commanding. At certain intervals, it would be deep yet high-pitched. The sound of her speech was almost as if the kind that would be produced if a person with a stereo for a stomach swallowed a microphone. “Choke!” was one of her favourite exclamations. “Yao rangach!” was one of her favourite things to shout. Opening the gate for her visitor’s cars was dirty work she never liked. So she would shout at anyone on sight to open her own gate.

Fun Fact: I was named after Dana’s mother, Anyiko.

In her final months, Dani lost her speech. Quite the epitome of life’s ironic twists for any storyteller. But through eye contact, touch and smiles, for months, we managed to communicate. During this time, I only saw her a couple of times and only heard her speak once calling me, ‘Mama na’ (my mother) when I introduced myself as Anyiko.

I remember when I was younger (below 10); Dad and granny were still alive. We would always leave home (Molo) so early in the morning for dala (Ugenya) to arrive at dusk after a Kericho tea-stop and Kisumu fish-stop. It was such a long and tiresome journey but I always felt like the destination was a special place. I loved the plants around Dani’s homestead and the smell of herbal trees around it. At night, there was the roaring sound of Dad’s hearty laughter around the boma. In the pitch darkness of Ugenya skies, I recall savouring every moment of the magic that was shooting stars and dancing fireflies.

Another Fun Fact: I once left my beloved cat at Dani’s during one of our trips and later got word from her that the cat had fell into her pit latrine. That shit broke my heart. Why I hate cats.

Old Family Portrait

Grandfather Owoko Miyayi, far left. Granny Emma Awuor, next to him carrying the babe – posing like she invented that pose.

In her heyday, Dani and her husband, Miyayi Owoko, made such a stylish couple. I heard somewhere that before finding salvation, Dani was a badass traditional beer brewer. But all my life, I knew her to be a unwavering Catholic (Katolik – she called it) and servant of Christ, as she would have loved to be introduced.

Arrivals and departures at her home were strictly officiated by rosary prayer and the sprinkling of Pii Hawi (holy water). Her casual prayers were nearly as long as the length of a full Catholic mass. In fact, when younger falling asleep in the middle wasn’t such a strange thing.

Returning to dala a week ago for granny’s funeral was an emotional roller coaster. More than the sadness that comes with having to say goodbye, it was a reminder of the few but special moments I shared with my late Dad during earlier dala trips and the long-gone simple childhood days. Like a child’s umbilical cord is cut off their mother, is granny’s departure. It’s left me feeling detached from whatever little I was grasping at in the already hollow cleft left by Dad’s demise.

As we lay Dani to rest next to my Dad’s resting place – one glance at my mum and like looking into a mirror, I see her pained more by the reminder of the day she had to bury her beloved husband, right here.

All her life, even in dementia, Dani talked endlessly about my Dad, the beloved son she lost. I was only eight years old at my Dad’s funeral but I remember clearly that I couldn’t figure out why it was my grandmother who cried and cried and cried, as if she was the one who had lost her husband, and not my mother. If this departure by any chance brings Dani closer to Dad—those two are going to have a serious reunion party.

While en route to dala for the funeral, I am chatting with my sister in the States. She is named after granny, Emma Awuor Owoko. “I am so sad because after this, there won’t be anything left in dala,” I confess. Emma says, “I am so sorry, but you are wrong, the great memories we shared will always be there. Dad is there and Dana is still there, just not in body but in spirit.”

True to her word, Dana is felt yet missed all through the trip. Plus I only spot fireflies once, on the night after her burial :-)

BONUS: Wrote the below poem for Dani Emma on her farewell day.

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Today, for the first time, we are in dala, without you.

But instead of tripping, we see you at every glimpse of your homestead.

With every memory we recall, we see you grandmother – smiling and narrating your enchanting stories (some of which you repeated without knowing).

With every corner we turn, we feel your warmth.

With every prayer we mutter, we hear your strong voice, silently whispering among us.

                  With every soil and flower we rest at your place of sleep, we feel at home.

Now, you’re back home where you longed and next to your beloved son, on your right.

Must be nice.

10628306_10152674425038713_3171467631350492403_nIn the 48 hours I spend in Tanzania (TZ), I never hear TZ radio playing a single Nigerian song or American hit single. My ears don’t suffer like they do in Kenya. In fact, I never even hear them play songs from East Africa but only their own, even though a lot of TZ people tell us that Sauti Sol songs: Soma Kijana and Shukuru are fan favourites. Once, I hear Sura Yako off a radio Saturday Mix.

The Kenyan music industry is still tied to the constant debate, about whether artists are producing shit songs or it’s the DJs who are not playing local content but instead forcing into our ears too much of foreign content. Because I am journalist and a strong believer in local content and creativity, I always put myself and my peers in the first position to take blame. Kenyan media hasn’t yet achieved what other successful and self-sustaining music industries have done for their own artists. In this instance what TZ media has done for Bongo artists.

On a fine Saturday afternoon, it’s so hot in Tanzania (TZ) and the traffic is maybe worse than Nairobi’s. But the venue where Sauti Sol is performing tonight, Escape 1 Mikocheni, just by the beach is so fly; we can’t wait for the show. After visiting TZ radio stations, we’re here for sound check. Before show time, at about midnight, I present the organisers with Sauti Sol’s hospitality rider. The organisers actually ask me if there is anything else the band needs. This is unlike many Nairobian promoters or event organisers who after paying artist performance fees, they care less about artist’s entertainment prior and after the show.

When we arrive at the event’s venue, the gentle nature of TZ people really shines. Nearly all mainstream photographers are generally obnoxious. They will click into messing the sound of your recorded interview and even get into your shot or trample you over at a press conference just to get a perfect shot. Well, that’s really like the softer version of real paparazzi but when Sauti Sol arrive at the backstage, several photographers and event promoters come up to them; stand at the side to ask me and the event’s organiser, Amarido, for permission to take photos with them or greet them. Like, what?

Outside I see a lot of people sitting patiently waiting for the band. And when they finally get on stage, the audience maintains it’s cool, while still not so up tight not to dance. It’s a really mature and cool TZ crowd and Sauti Sol really enjoy this. After the show, instead of being crowded by groupies, we meet a couple of radio producers and presenters backstage. It is a general Kenyan attitude that if you are not one of the biggest acts in the entertainment industry, every single person will act like they don’t know you, even when they do. Did the 8-4-4 system subconsciously teach Kenyans that art is shit? I am not that kind of journalist or person who will act like I don’t know you, when and if I do. I take pleasure in introducing myself to people and using the power I have through my journalistic voice to expose talent. But most Kenyans seem not to want to acknowledge talent or even some established artists. That’s why it’s very simple for many to shamelessly parade that fallacy that a majority of Kenyan musicians produce shit music, instead of taking time to give an ear to underrated artists with great albums like Jemedari, Chizi and Atemi.

Maybe, it’s true that a prophet is honoured everywhere except in his own hometown. According to my quick survey about TZ’s music industry, I discover popular opinion has it that Ali Kiba still is the biggest act in TZ and not Diamond (though still beloved) as it seems from outside TZ. Few TZ artists have crossed over to Kenya’s music industry. Even fewer Kenyan acts have done the same in Bongo. However, what Bongo has done for their artists is what should be emulated in Kenya. It doesn’t matter that you’re not Diamond or Ali Kiba, you get airplay and to perform at Serengeti Fiesta (TZ’s biggest show bringing together different artists, big or small, from around the country), that recently ended in such grandeur by having T.I as the main act.

Bongo music rocks because they have found a way of supporting their local acts and even when most of them don’t cross over to other regions, they are accepted and get airplay at home. This has in turn, made artists localise their stuff to appeal most to local consumers. Authenticity in this industry is key. TZ promoters and organisers are trustworthy and know how to treat artists. Kenyan artists shouldn’t have to beg Kenyan media and DJs to play their songs; it should be the media’s duty to support local. Support will be directly proportional to better quality of productions; and the same way, other factors in the industry will only get better.

On landing back to Kenya, I quickly think about my observations and recall the constant arguments and battles I keep having online with Kenyans, trying to explain to them why they should support Kenyan music and why it should be their responsibility. “Why the hell wasn’t I just born in TZ and found myself working in the TZ music industry?” I wonder, but because I wasn’t, it’s my duty to make this better. A luta continua!

During my short trip in TZ, I am so tempted to jump into a ferry for Zanzibar, I have even prepared the fare and all but I save it for another time. I will have to do it when I have ample time.

Read the first part of this blog post here: To Tanzania and Back: Bongo Love (Part I)

BONUS: Read one of my articles on music entertainment published by Daily Nation on Why Kenyan music misses the cut.

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