African Anthem

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Music.

That wonderful medium that has existed since time immemorial, music is beautiful. Enchanting and alive, music has entertained, music has been used in religion and music has divided and united both friend and foe in a manner no other thing can.  As times change and the world evolves even further, music; like fashion, tags along and we can never stop moving to the beat, humming to the sound nor playing it on our stereos, phones and other instruments.

Enter Africa.

Long heralded as the cradle of mankind, I would bet every penny I own and assert that this wonderful continent is the cradle of music too. And it does not stop there. From the tambourines of North Africa, to the famed Timbuktu drums of the ancient Western Africa civilizations to the flutes of the picturesque Eastern African Coast and the harmonized voices of the Zulu, used in both warfare and celebrations… Music in Africa is part of life. From birth, to all ceremonies and even unto death, music plays a key role in spicing up all occasions.

music-fusion-southafricanmusicAfrica has long been known not only of its vast resources, a rich culture and eventful history but also for the never ending wrangles, conflicts and wars. It is a sad state of affairs that is perpetual and one suspects that Africans-and the world at large have almost but given up on this land of a billion brilliant and beautiful people.

Throughout history, many leaders have risen up in various parts of Africa and their influence has had a transverse effect but only for a while. Various movements have risen up to do the same with massive success but like an old tyre with many weak points, stopping one conflict brings to rise another new one. It’s a cycle that is littered with mirages in a desert landscape with the scorching heat sapping all hope built rapidly.

Coming back to music, I close my eyes and see Kenyans dancing to the now hugely popular South African Kwaito beats, Egyptians shaking a leg as they are mesmerized by the Tsyngory music and dance of magical Madagascar and even young lads in Addis Ababa being mesmerized by the artistic drumming of Cameroon’s Bamikele troupe . For a second, the angelic voice of Miriam Makeba comes back to life, harmonized by that of Angelique Kidjo. No sooner, Yossou N’Dour hums in as the famous “chaaa chooo” of Koffi Olomide rings in the air. Fela Kuti grabs his guitar and Lucky Dube asks for some Reggae percussion as Yvonnne Chaka Chaka mellows things down. This is before Ugandan’s Chameleone in tendon with Kenya’s David Mathenge a.k.a. Nameless steal the show with an energetic performance as Diamond Platinumz ensures Tanzania isn’t left behind in a tight’ collabo with Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, flanked by Tunisian’s rap sensation El General.african_music_by_rounindx-d66asrk

Africa dances and Africa forgets its sorrows for a while. We become one, even unto all the sons and daughters of the soil now long gone, and others far strewn across the globe. We sing in one voice. And the melody is the most amazing ever known to man. Somalia’s K’naan agrees, even as he is on a podium in New York accepting a United Nations award.

Music is simple and music is complex. This is not a poem but if deemed so, let it be. For I know deep in my heart that music can be a tool to restore peace to a people in war and unify brothers who barely see eye to eye. Like heat on wax,  man-made boundaries can be flattened in this great land of ours. But how, you may ask.

Well, music is powerful. It etches itself in a man’s mind without any filter or discrimination. Psychology tells us that there’s no medium that works as powerful for subliminal messaging as music does. And to this I agree.

I look at my fellow youngsters in my village. A section of people who have never been outside Kenya but due to the influence of Reggae music, act like the youth in downtown Kingston in almost every aspect; accent included! I realize how much I get lost in thought listening to the current Kenyan hit ‘Nerea’ by Sauti Sol featuring Amos and Josh and accept that music might be our under-thought hope. A hope for us as a people and a hope for a continent as vast as ours.

What if we had a way to interact…not just through sports, our food, dressing and other cultural pillars that make us Africans awesome and colourful. But what if we allowed music to be the centre stage? How would it be? What if we elevated it from the BGV of our narrative to the lead singer?

The possibilities are endless!masai_praise

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This Day Valentine’s

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On Valentine’s Day, last year, my colleagues and I had an errand to run that involved meeting some people who had travelled from outside the country. We decided on that particular morning to purchase some goodies to celebrate the ‘day of Love’. So we got some chocolates and flowers and waited. By the time we were handing the goodies to the guests, it was past midnight of 14-2-14 but how jolly they were even after a 9 hour flight! It helped that in their origins’ time zone, it was still Valentine’s Day but my oh my, they were utterly delighted by the small yet significant thought of celebrating with them. Those were people we’d not met before, actually, they were clients who had paid for an unrelated service but we celebrated with them.

CaptureTomorrow is yet another Valentine’s Day. Thankfully, I am not single unlike a year ago😜 thus it might be a day of more significance for me and my lady, but that is beside the point. You might have heard time and time again that why should something amazing as love be celebrated in a day. 1 out of 365 is pretty damning though. I hold the same opinion to some extent but well, why not?

There’s much controversy concerning this day. Its origin, seemingly innocent has some members of the human community frowning upon while marketers the world over utilize the day to advance their agenda. Reminds me of this morning when I hopped into a few supermarkets in the Most Intelligent African City looking for pillows to buy. By the way, who’d have thought that such fluffy stuff can hand a person such a headache before finding ‘the one’. Anyway, from well stocked-Nakumatt, survivor-Uchumi to hip-Naivas and omnipresent-Tuskys, all had something screaming for the attention of shoppers to CELEBRATE love by BUYING🙉 your loved one this or that.

It was really interesting since most of these zones in red mostly had ladies mulling around. Maybe all the men were waiting for the ladies to move since *cough cough* …African men still aren’t all that open about the Western style of showing affection and other related matters. I probably would have been in limbo right now but I’ve learnt since the days of “kununua nguo ya Christmas in October kabla bei ipande”, that the earlier stuff like holidays are dealt with, the better.

My two cents though, buy yourself some flowers if you don’t have that self lovespecial someone, though chocolates are better since they’re edible, can be used as a substitute for coffee or tea, maybe even cocoa just by melting it in hot water and also because 78% of Nairobi residents won’t go all wide-eyed on you in the mathree as you tightly clutch on a rose stalk, as the petals wane by the minute. Love is meant to be enjoyed and since it’s made up of moments that metamorphosis to memories, make truly magical ones. Better still, Tembea Kenya!

Most importantly, celebrate everyone. Your family, friends even, maybe colleagues or that mean lecturer that awarded you 2% in that last exam hehe, that’s hard I guess… and also, don’t have sex till marriage. And it doesn’t have to be overly elaborate or expensive. Sometimes, it’s just the thought that counts and in all times, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13) 🙏  .

Happy Valentine’s!
love

Solidarity Forever

It was in the year 2001. dpsThen, hunger pangs were a constant feature in my life. So as I waited eagerly for the lunch bell to ring and dash home, something astonishing happened. I was in class 6 East of Dandora Primary School, which is quite far from the main road. But there seemed to be an incessant noise made by people outside that began faintly but steadily grew. The teacher went quiet on sensing something amiss. We all intently listened as it grew louder and closer.

Silence.

All hell broke loose when we heard the sound of stones pelting the administration block. By that time, the chant ‘NO BUMPS, NO SCHOOL!’ was audible enough and everyone was now rushing outside. Desks creaked, doors flew ajar and running feet thumped the concrete corridors. Perplexed and not really sure of which direction to dash to, we advanced towards the source of the noise only to be met by a rainbow of mostly primary school going pupils. A rainbow since it was a collection of various schools, all in their school uniforms of various colours. There was James Gichuru in grey, Ronald Ngala in navy blue, Wangu in brown, Tom Mboya in maroon among others. We were to be the green army among the lot.

Langata-Rd-Primary-Demo-746x430The Maasai watchman who was usually a tough foot soldier dealing with any menace mercilessly stood aside with terror on his face. I was still thinking about lunch, fantasizing about the ugali-sukuma-avocado combo I would find home but all thoughts vanished as soon as pupils from my school flooded outside.

Things were happening fast and it was only later that I understood what all the chaos was about. As I joined into the now swelled crowd of kids, a friend shared that earlier that morning, a pupil from James Gichuru Primary School (Jaymuh) had lost his life after being hit by a matatu as he crossed the road to school. This had made the other pupils so furious that they burned the 25-passenger matatu there and then. Immediately after that, they had joined up in arms and began the march that I was now a part of to demand that the newly constructed road in the estate be fitted with bumps.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the family of the child whose demise came about as he went to school. So a spirit of solidarity came over all of us in our thousands as we marched on. It was all spontaneous and exhilarating. Amidst all this, chaos seemed to erupt. We had been joined by ordinary wananchi including scores of street urchins who now seized the opportunity to loot businesses and terrify residents who barely understood what the melee was about.

And that is when the cops came. As we marched confidently towards Kariobangi South, without a leader per se, we came face to face with mean looking cops in riot gear, some on horses and the rest holding batons and shields. That is when I decided to become a spectator. There was a lorry delivering beer at a bar near Civil Servants estate. Some of the protestors saw an opportunity to quench their thirst for free, and to make it more exciting, as the cops watched. But hii ni Kenya…what followed, wueh!

Iboni saw the horses rushing towards us…everyone fled for dear life…gun shots rang the air and in a few minutes, everyone had scattered. It was the end of the mass demo. Only later did we realize that rubber bullets had actually been used. I saw one and thought it was candy. Basically, things turned ugly as in most demonstrations. Even those meant for good. SInce actually, bumps..and very huge ones at that were developed that live to this very day.

It reminds me of the protests at Langata Road Primary School. There are so many elements to it that it is difficult to lay blame squarely on one person. Shall we blame the shame that came about the tear-gassing of children on the private developer? The activists? Teachers? The pupils? The police? I am not the one to determine that but there should be sanity in how we express our disgust and anger against social ills. The freedom of expression is in our constitution but let’s be responsible as we utilize it.

We wouldn’t want a situation like Niger, where as the protests against the Charlie Hebdo magazine continue, innocent lives of scores of Christians have been lost as well as the torching down of many worship buildings. Since as Mahatma Gandhi wisely observed, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Martin Luther

Have a reasonable day!

We are One are We?

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I love house music. Especially its sub-genre of progressive trance.

The songs are known as such since from the start, they build in rhythm, driving towards a crescendo and once they hit the climax, one feels as if lost in a state of trance. The sheer excitement as a result of the beats rising elicit images of a whirlwind. If it was a wave, it would be deadly. Like a typhoon. But that is just music, more often than not, without any singing.

But you know what resembles progressive trance and is deadly? It’s our society.

Yesterday after church, as I walked back home with a couple of friends, one of them  broke the news that the son of Raila Odinga, Kenya’s political enigma had passed on. I felt sad for the family since losing a loved one is of greater loss than any other. Quick forward to this morning as I commuted to work for the first day this year. Checking on my social media feed, I was appalled at just how much the death of Fidel has sparked vileness among the masses. Truth be said, kenya_divisionswe are generally very polarized as per tribe, social status and other defining aspects of society and all it takes is a slight spark and the ticker for a massive explosion goes off.

What is wrong with us? We are highly nationalistic. Proud of our Black, White, Red and Green but it all seems a façade. We don T-shirts with the national symbol-a shiled printed across but yet we are the biggest agents of harm to ourselves. Oh the irony. When will the hatred end? When will the concealed hostilities be shed away? When will a Kikuyu see a Luo as a Kenyan first and vice-versa?

Questions that have been asked before a million times and seemingly not drawing an answer. And what is with the madness of politicizing each and every occurrence? I don’t get it. But do you know what I don’t get the most? It’s how low we have stooped that we no longer respect the dead as well as their mourning people. It makes me sick in the stomach that the suspicion and hatred seems to be growing by the day.

So I choose to not be an agent of hate, and neither will I spectate. For this nation is ours and we are commanded by God and nature to preserve the good of the land even for future generations. Be the change you wish to see. And only then will we avoid that ‘climax’ we once hit in December 2007.

iOut.

Raila-Uhuru

Folly in Jolly

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I have never been as much of a movie person.

Even much so, I am quite choosy with the flicks that I feast my eyes on. The genre does not matter as much. Whenever anyone proposes a movie, I often ask “Is the storyline deep?” Quite literally expressing a desire for logical and believable stuff on the screen.

So you can imagine animated movies have never been my cup of coffee. That is until when I met the merriest person on Earth and a junky for ‘animations’ as we normally call them. A sanguine, this   lady has made me love animations and realize just how much I have been missing!

The characters often come in various sizes, shapes and beings. The fact that the movies are based on 99.74 fiction creates a gateway to stretch imagination. This in turn ensures that in a good anime, one gets to laugh through it, be thoroughly entertained and surprisingly learn a lot.

Recently, we watched the Disney animation movie ‘Frozen’, the story of….

Olaf-CHristmas-stockingHalfway through the movie, a character by the name Olaf is introduced. I am no movie director but consistently, I noticed most of them always have that one character whose main aim is to provide comic relief. This line of seemingly psycho characters has in its lineage the likes of King Julien in Madagascar, Donkey in Shrek, Dory in Finding Nemo and he is the subject of this blog post.

Olaf is a Snowman who always has a silly and infectious smile on his snow-made face. Three thin twigs act as hair on his oblong face exceeding his body’s height. He really is a funny one, and not due to his carrot nose that keeps falling off. But also, he is a bit silly in a naïve manner.

In the movie, he expresses his desire to enjoy the summer heat, bask in the sun and warm his palms at the fireplace in the deep of the night. Pretty much a logical desire which turns into absurdly illogical when you consider he is a snow man. Ice and heat just don’t mix. And I think he speaks to us in a manner.

You see, we know some stuff, some places, some people; even some desires are like fire. Dangerous and able to burn us down. Destroy our reputation, ruin our lives or even bring death and destruction…but still, still we are drawn by them.you-were-warned_1 It’s psychologically proven that what we can’t get is what we desire most. And if we ever get it, we seek another. The cycle keeps going like that till the end.

This isn’t a morality outburst. We are in the Christmas season. The period most babies are conceived, most people have their first taste of alcohol and many more lose their lives through road accidents.

Be cheerful, smile and smirk like Olaf. But be wise. For fire burns. And leaves destruction on its path.

Merry Christmas and a blessed 2015 ahead!

#TH14

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On 3rd August 1999, just a day to my tenth birthday, Thierry Henry signed for Arsenal. Then, as a 23 year old winger acquired from Juventus, no one would have fathomed the thought that ‘Titi’, as he is affectionately known especially by his French teammates, would be such a force to reckon in World football.

Arsene Wenger, the greatest Manager currently in practise, acquired Henry with great belief in theth14 Paris-born player. They had interacted in similar positions years earlier at Monaco CF. So here was the lad in a trademark ‘box’ haircut, looking like a kind kinda rapper. It did not work out like magic for Henry. A couple of games after his arrival and still he ‘had not broken his Arsenal duck’ i.e. scored his debut goal. That was until club legend, Tony Adams passed the ball to the young Frenchman during a game against Wanyama’s Southampton, which he converted with great aplomb. That would be the first of 228 for the Mighty Arsenal for the next eight years he was at the club. He went on to Barcelona and never ran out of his great form and class in front of goal.

After Barcelona, came a stint until recently as Captain and talisman for the New York Red Bulls. For this, the Americans will forever be indebted to Thierry for being part of the revolution to turn Uncle Sam into a footballing nation. Soccer, sorry.

Yesterday at around 0900 Hours Kenyan time, Thierry Henry finally hang his gigantic boots. The Master himself has finally retired from playing the beautiful game. That means no more of Henry on the pitch, either for club or thcountry France.

It is said there are strikers who are makers of great goals, others have many goals. Henry is a combination of this and more. His passion, dynamism, style and exquisite goals as he strode his stuff on the pitch will remain as memories for fans of football the World over. He was admired all across. Cheeky at times and his celebration with a hint of arrogance, you couldn’t afford to hate but simply appreciate.

The Living Legend, voted Arsenal Player of all Time has a bronze statue outside the Emirates Stadium and in his collection, any medal worth winning in World Football. I would need a few more blogs to just state the accomplishments of the great man.

915 Games.KH

411 Goals.

2 Premier League titles.

2 La Liga Title.

1 Ligue 1 Title.

1 World Cup (1998)

1 Euros Title.

1 UEFA Champions League Title.

And finally, 1 Invincible Medal…for helping Arsenal win the 2003-4 Premier League season unbeaten for the 38+11 games right before and after.

His initials have even been my laptop’s password for as long as I can remember.

#TH14, thank you for making me and millions others fall in love with football. And I will sign off this post with a term Henry coined for his pacy brilliance. A phrase now added to the Oxford Official Dictionary.

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VA-VA-VOOM!

Heart to Heart (Men Edition)

My dress my choiceLike an avalanche that has slowly but steadily grown to a humongous size, the Kenyan society seems to be at an almost breaking point. I might be a bit pessimistic but recent events point at a disaster waiting to happen. Social injustice has been the order of the day since time immemorial but recent occurrences especially violence against women should serve as a wake-up call.

I will not dwell on the specific cases that have truly and well been documented but rather a diagnosis of what is ailing us. This is just an opinion and I might be wrong but I’ll let my voice be heard.

 “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. So said Mahatma Gandhi. What is the one thing that you and I can change to stop the rot in our lives, our society and our nation? As a Christian, I’m reminded by Jesus that I need not point out the speck in the eye of another before removing the log in mine. I see the issue at hand as being three-faceted; spiritual, social and economic.

Icover menn the Bible book of Isaiah 6:5, it states “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” In the previous chapter of the book, Prophet Isaiah had been pronouncing words of woe to the corrupt society in which he lived. The King now had died and when the Prophet went into the temple, he saw a vision. It was that of God’s throne in a very vivid manner until Isaiah no longer pronounced woes on others but did so on himself. In the holiness of the Most High, he saw his sin and Isaiah declared ruin upon himself. It reminds me of the evil times we live in and the general rebellion we have communally established against God and his ways. Ways that are just and pure. What have we become?

How many ladies marvel at being referred to as ‘bi***es’ by men and only complain after being treated like female dogs? What sin are we hiding in ourselves that is now getting manifest through the sickening occurrences? You might argue that women are dressing provocatively and thus ‘asking for it’. I beg to differ. I once spent three weeks in Lokichoggio where women walk voice heardtopless and no one throws snide remarks their way nor strips them off the covering of the nether regions. We seem to suffer from a collective problem engraved in our mind that is now being manifest in deeds.

Of course the moral decay around us has a socio-economic aspect to it. Listening to Judge Ian Mbugua on Sunday as he was being hosted on the Churchill Show, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement that real men are dwindling in numbers at an alarming rate. Instead, we have an ever-increasing number of inward weaklings masquerading as men. It’s a sad state, one that no one in particular is to blame but that needs urgent addressing. Kudos to this platform that is speaking out for men to arise. The elevation and massive attention given to the ‘girl child’, as many have pointed out led to years of neglect to their male counterparts. And like a receding wave, we now face a tsunami.

Something has to change. I choose to change. I choose to play my part as a man. Every woman out there has a father, a son, a brother, a spouse, a male friend or colleague. We have to stand for them. Not that they are weak but because it is our mandate. The government won’t do that for us since there’s even a cop who was arrested for stripping a lady. But fair enough that even the President just addressed this issue by launching the 16 Days of Activism. Religious institutions would be a safe haven but we know that’s not always the case.

Some men (and women) are of the opinion that indecency is the cause of all the tribulation we find ourselves facing. The same men who glorify scantily dressed women as ‘socialites’, feast eyes on raunchy music videos and ears on the same and have accelerated the porn penetration of Kenya to among the highest in the world. We could argue all day concerning moral standards and it is valid but action matters more. Statistics over a long time remind us of the grim reality we face. A woman in Kenya is abused sexually every thirty minutes. womanThe chilling statistics, however, do not tell the full story of the emotional devastation of individual rape victims. From toddlers to grannies, in their homes, open places and now even matatus. Something has got to give. I won’t stay silent. Social media campaigns won’t do much either. It’s gonna be a long journey of restoration. A restoration of sanity in society. A journey I am willing to take. Will you join me?