Monday, 14 July 2014
MWACHA MILA NI MTUMWA is a proverb that means, he that abandons his culture is a slave (TRANSLATED FOR KENYANS THAT DONT SPEAK SWAHILI)
Kenya Beat Battle is a bi monthly event where upcoming music producers and beat makers compete before a panel of judges and an audience. Last Sunday was the host of the third edition of Kenya Beat Battle and many aspiring music producers participated, including myself. The event was also attended by Kenya’s top musicians and producers including Delvin and Polycarp of Sauti Sol, Kenya’s top producer Provoke and Wangeci, the latest illest rapper in the 254 whom I personally think is going to go far if she mixes her art with good business skills. The judging panel consisted of Saint P, a top gospel music producer, Dj Krowbar, top gospel DJ and Michelle also a gospel rapper. This event is the only of its kind in Kenya and I must applaud Michael Mukama aka Othole Fruityloops, founder of NYNP and a top gospel music producer in Kenya for this great initiative. This is because breaking ground in the arts is never easy and when one is in their very early stages, they desperately need opportunities to try out their products on a live audience and to just put their names out there. I say this with authority from my work as a session drummer, band member and art enthusiast for a decade now.
Everything good has room to become better. That is why I partly write this, to give a public opinion about an idea so great. What I never understand with most competitions in Kenya is always the judging panel. My idea is that if you are holding a writing competition, let good writers be the judges. If you have a cooking competition, don’t have a dancer in the judging panel, however good cooks they are or how closely related cooking and dancing are. I wasn’t pleased by the presence of that particular rapper as a judge because she’s known for rapping not making beats. She should have attended on a different capacity, maybe as a scout for beats and producers. DJs work with beats all the time but as DJ Rick said, DJs need to learn the art of music production and related stuff. Most Kenyan and international DJs as we all know have very little or no musical knowledge and therefore, the choice for this event wasn’t right for me because he is not known for even remixing tracks. Moving on.
For the first time, the organizers saw it good to have every contestant present what they called “a unique Kenyan Beat”. That made me glad because I am constantly worried at the rate at which we are losing our musical culture as a country. I was expecting the unique Kenyan Beat to be some kind of a base to judge the contestants since I assumed that this event was also promoting the Kenyan sound. I don’t know what the organizers’ stand is about this matter and I’m afraid this convo is starting to bChakacha, Ohangla, Isukhuti and all that ancient tribal stuff, Keya has got more recent sounds like Mugithi, Benga and even more recently Kapuka, Genge, Boomba and even most recent Kapungala, Afrock, Bengenge, Gepuka and so on. The judges however didn’t consider any of that. The unique Kenyan Beat was played first in the list, as a formality and everyone that had a uniquely Kenyan sounding beat was eliminated in not more than the 2nd round. For this category I made an Isukhuti beat for the old popular gospel song from Western Kenya, “Unijaze Roho”. Maybe it didn’t sound good but there was no comment about it in relation to authenticity and Kenyan sounds. Instead I was told about arrangement and accused of sampling too much which by the way, I don’t even know how to do. All my tracks are arranged note by note, even in complex patterns like Drum ‘n’ Bass. I’m a drummer so I arrange each note to try to sound almost like I would play them live.e more complicated than I expected. Anyway, besides
So the contest went on, heat after heat, people got eliminated. Very modern trance and electronic music which borrows a lot from African drum rhythms in the climax finally was eliminated to pave way for Hip Hop and Crank. At this stage I thought it was a Hip Hop beat competition so I took a soda break. When I came back, the judges were lecturing the finalists on how to sound Kenyan *facepalm* I know. They put so much emphasis on how to be authentic and gave examples of how every big musician in Nigeria doesn’t sound like they are from another country. The contest progressed and finally the guy that sounded most like he’s the official producer for Rick Ross won.
The winner was a very good producer. His beats were very well engineered but not so musical in my opinion. Maybe that’s because I come from a musical school of thought believing that the new wave of Hip Hop has very little to do with the traditional fundamentals of music. There is only one theme and the whole process is on a constant plane of excitement. But again, that was not a music battle; it was a beat battle so I should just shut up right now.
I write from my perspective on how things should go but there is also the natural way that does things in growing industries like ours. Like my good friend Gregg Tendwa says, copying and duplicating is good and ok. He encourages anyone that is able to copy and duplicate to do so in large quantities. Because when we have copied and duplicated enough, we will have so much and I add, the fake will fall off and the remaining ones will forge their own ways and we will enter a new stage of good quality and originality.
Below i have for you my three tracks that i made specifically for this competition.
I only wish the majority would strive to at least promote African because the fact is, we are always behind of what is happening in the West. So when we copy their music, try to sound and speak like them, they are in our backyards learning out stuff.
We are busy wearing fake Louis Vuitton and they are busy taking our Maasai Shukas on the highest fashion runways. We are busy trying to sound all American when Rick Ross is trying to rap in Swahili. Our singers try to sound like Beyonce and Destinys child just released “When Jesus Says Yes, Noody Can Say No”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-4PngwwcWU
Ok, I go to feed my dogs because I need to carry one them to a high end fashion event next week.
Friday, 22 November 2013
A few months ago I downloaded some music accidentally, like I always do with many other things on the internet. I loved the music so much that I decided to dig deeper into this artist that all along I thought was a white judging from his music. I mean, he kinda sounds like BB King but he screams “Figaroooooo!!” In a song called “Cosmic Queries” and stuff like that. It turned out that Willis Earl Beal is a very black man, just like me. I say that because I’m of the school of thought that if you are less dark than I am, then down in the basement of your DNA, lives a white man. But I digress, that’s the story for another day.
So I started watching videos of Willis Earl Beal but after just one performance video, I wanted to know more this guy so I watched a series of his interviews. The African American was being interviewed in Amsterdam and coincidentally to my thoughts, he was talking about race and identity and before he could even finish, a random black man came into the shot and was hugging him for a few seconds, calling him brother and posing for a picture. Shockingly, Willis Earl Beal wasn’t amazed. He didn’t change his tone, or facial expression. Actually, he was a bit bothered and in a monotone told the guy that it was a video recording, not still photographs and a very passive “thank you” as the man walked away. The interviewer who had been quiet all this time asked him if he knew that guy and he said no. This led to another conversation that I really identify with.
When I was young, I used to see a lot of Somalis, Indians, then white people and I thought all people of the same race or ethnicity knew each other. I was wrong, but even after accepting this fact and learning why one cannot know everyone from their race, it has still stuck somewhere in my system that they should at least recognize one another when they meet. Well, in my high school, all Somalis and Indians knew one another and they hung out together but out here, it’s never like that. I actually, find it very weird when I’m showing a white friend around the country and we meet another white person and they don’t even say hi to each other. Same to when two Chinese businessmen brush shoulders on Luthuli Avenue without doing a Bruce Lee pose like they do in those Chinese movies.
Anyway, few weeks ago I was privileged to be in Germany through Amsterdam. Seeing G4S security guards there made me think I was in an environment not so different from Nairobi in terms of how people interact with one another. Shock on me. Those security guards are not like the Kenyan ones who hug and laugh with foreigners. They ask you why you are there and go on with their work, even if it’s starring at a melting piece of snow on a wooden shoe, and it was the same in Germany. When we left Kenya, we were many black people at the airport and in the plane, but we thinned out as we moved higher north. In our next plane from Amsterdam, there was only one black man dressed West African style and we saluted each other.
Once in the streets of Bayreuth Germany, I met one black man at a bank and we waved to each other. In the club I met four Kenyans, one Somali and one black Spaniard. The four Kenyans of course we talked in Swahili except one who had lied to a white woman that he is American so I had to keep the bro cod, but they made me drunk, reeaally drunk. The Somali guy has a relative in Mombasa and besides going home one time in the middle of the night to change could not stop telling me “Haraka haraka haina Baraka” in very bad Swahili accent. The Spaniard guy looked like Jonny Bravo, could not utter a word in English or Swahili but could not stop hugging me. In Nurnberg, still in Germany, there were more black people and even mixed race kids. I met two like this and as their white friends wondered why I had covered myself in black make-up, they looked at me like, “hey, look I’m half your race”. I smiled and waved and they smiled and waved back and that was beautiful.
The reason I told you about all that is because Willis Earl Beal, during his numerous tours comes across black people who identify with him but he doesn’t know how to relate to this. He has mixed feelings about it and I think I know why. He is African American and most probably grew up in a mixed community where he saw people of all races and some in between, so wherever he goes, he doesn’t really feel different. Now this is the difference, as a black African going to another continent, everything is different from food, means of transport, weather and the people you see around you. You adopt because you are aware of here you are you focus because you have to be there at that time, but deep inside, you need your people and your way of life. You therefore become so welcoming to anyone that has even little color resemblance to you. Besides, Africa is the cradle of mankind and all humans out of Africa will recognize a black person, be it negatively or positively. But I digress once more.
From the interviews, I doubt if Willis Earl Beal has ever been to Africa and my challenge to him would be that. Land in an African country and just walk around. No one will recognize he is a foreigner unless he speaks, and he will feel so good and safe among fellow black people that the moment he will be walking down Abbey Road, he will never fail to recognize a black person or have mixed feelings when one jumps on him out of nowhere.
Since Willis inspired this piece, please subscribe to his music, you won’t be disappointed. Also follow me and him on Twitter; I’ll follow back @TheRealRonjey @WillisEarlBeal
That’s all for today yo, thanks for reading. Share your thoughts below and see you soon.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
Thursday, 25 July 2013
So I was in a movie shop and when I asked for The Temptation, I was laughed and scorned at like Jesus. The guy selling actually refused to sell me the movie saying it’s not good and I should only watch it if I want to get back to an ex for some p***y. One dude told me it’s not worth watching because a lady gets beaten so badly. And when I finally went back to buy it no matter what, some typical Nairobi girls said in unison that “yeeeeaaahhhhh, it’s a girls movieJ”. Well, I got the movie last night either way, watched it just now and I think it’s a very good movie. I didn't see anything like what I was told but I think I know why it’s hated by those that do. It has a very good story, it’seducational and it’s real. Not like what Hollywood does, this is more like a Holy Wood Film. As in Cross instead of gross.
Anyhow, Nairobi girls won’t love it because it strips them naked of their gold digging, easy life loving, wise counsel ignoring veils, and it shows the shame, the guilt and the lifelong consequences of careless life most of them are living. But that’s human nature.
The Nairobi dudes don’t like it because it shows just how their good looks and money could be deceiving and concealing the filth that they really are inside. They don’t want to lose the ego. But that too, is human nature.
Otherwise, it’s a movie that any mother and unpretentious person would love…just like me:p
I must congratulate Tyler Perry (I always thought he was a woman until recently
) for the great edutaining movie. It reminded me of my short past so I decided to share it below.
The story you are about to read has no moral. It’s written simply for the relief of the writer. The story is however true, as remembered by the author.
When I was in my early teenage, I was an active kid. I belonged to a theatre group and had some sort of a relationship with a girl in the group. We used to meet in the theatre and have very short conversations without other kids noticing. At night I would borrow my dad’s Motorola C35 and send her sweet nothings, sometimes I would steal it as he caught forty winks after watching the evening news. We weren't official by the way; just in my head she liked me as I liked her.
I was the theater club secretary and with time, I introduced my friends from our estate. It was during school holidays. One of my friends happened to be the darling of the girls, in fact he got himself one of the finest girls in the club too so I never thought he would have anything to do with my girl. One day, we had a dress rehearsal at The National Theatre and it went until late. No, it was the main day and we were staging the play. As kids, having the whole theatre for us for hours was really exciting. At one moment as we gave the care takers a hard time keeping us grounded and well behaved, power went.
The juvenile excitement shot up so high it turned into naughtiness. As I stormed into every dark room looking for some action, I found my chic with my friend in one of the dressing rooms. Being me with such a nice personality since my reformation, I left the room without much talk. I was heartbroken. I was angry and regretful for introducing this guy to the club. The next day because we lived in the same hood, I decided to question my friend what they were doing in the dark with my girl. I don’t even remember what he said because what happened next was so crazy I forgot what had preceded it. My friend told my girl that I had questioned him and she called me, not to defend herself, but to warn me to keep off my friend!
It’s obvious, I was hurt even though we were never official and I never was sure that they did anything in that room, but the fact is that she preferred my friend to me. I even knew, this dude used to dress better than me back then and he once beat me in a New Years Eve dancing competition. That night, he got more money and all the girls when I took home a few five shilling notes and the humiliation of a loser.
Soon after that, I met my first love…we went out for the longest time. None of my other relationships has gone longer than that and we broke up on a cathedral balcony. I don’t like talking about that one. First loves stay forever.
A few years later when in high school, I had a girlfriend. This was official and we exchanged those letters. Holidays and midterm breaks were spent along a cathedral corridors holding hands and planning for the day we would break our virginities. I would pretend to be her cousin to visit her in school. After a while, I had met another girl that went to the same school as my girlfriend, actually classmates. How I met her, again I don’t remember because what she did at the end made me forget about how I had met her. But she seemed hotter and we had more in common. She liked music and was an amazing art student just like me. My girlfriend on the other hand was good in sciences and was very natural, didn't care much about weight and those girlie things, but that was then. Right I only wish I saw this far.
Anyway, I started ignoring my girlfriend and one day during visitation at their school, she asked me to make a choice and I chose the other girl. I was shocked when she just stood and left, no tears, no slap no goodbye. She just went.
And that moment, hell welcomed me with wide open arms. I got up and started the search for my new beau. She played hide and seek until we got flushed out of the school compound because visitation time was up.
We would exchange letters and she did everything right. She sent an envelope with a drawing of P-Square, they were a big deal then and the next time she drew Converse Chucks on the envelope. Yeah those have been my favorite for like forever, though I never owned a pair then until two years later. These letters were lovely packaged but inside was doom and hells fury. She would complain that I never told her the real me, that I wrote to her like I lived in heaven where everything was always fine. So I replied and told her about my family break up and how I missed my mum…in the reply, she said I was a dimwit and a sissy for complaining about ordinary life issues and missing my mom. I replied with a resignation. I didn't date again until after high school.
I thank God I haven’t got HIV or any real bad stories to tell out of my dating past. Thanks for reading…now share…thanks for sharing J
Monday, 25 February 2013
Slum Sanaa is a community project in Huruma area of Nairobi that supports young people through arts. They discover and narture artists from as young as 5 years old (from my last observation) and give them direction. Situated in the eastlands and just a stone throw away from Mathare, these kids dont have much for recreation and the centre provides a safe environment for them to get creative through music, painting, drawing, theatre and painting among others.
I got an invitation from a young lady spending several months of her life out of college to volunteer at the centre, to an exhibition that was being held by the kids they work with there. What i saw was simply moving and very cute. The kids are very creative, lovely and they can do much much more with the right direction. Just take a look and decide for yourself...
|As soon as i got into the room, a little girl grabbed my camera and made this shot of me|
|These masks made me imagine what they looks like in the minds of their creators|
|My FAVORITE piece. Being a drummer, i wanted to take this home to my room :)|
|Fish is what my people are best known for...|
|This made me miss Maasai Mara for a second!|
|Everyone from a hot place like Nairobi right now knows what this does to you ;)|
|Meet artist number 1|
|Just cant get enough of it!|
|Young Patriot right there|
|Looks like an old piece from the tombs of Pharaos|
|Which tree do you want?|
|tere re reeen!!!!!!|
|One of my dreams is to run a across a big stage playing a solo like Brian May|
|Give him a name...|
|Another patriot...not like the American football team,,,as in patriotism :p|
|They are amazed at just how much they can do!|
|Very proud artist!|
|Imagine the imagination...|
|Victor and ...Victoria???|
|She is one of the pillars of this exhibition|
|Wall Of Fame|
|I love dirty rubber shoes...especially Chucks!|
|Artistes comparing notes|
|Meet the lollipop, it was used by so many kids to take pictures that i though it wasnt real!|
|The lone ranger!|
|Am i the only one loving this picture?|
|I was given love|
|The cool Kids!|
|...and more love|
|Somebody say aaaaaaaaaaaawwww!|
|Yeah, say whaaaat!|
NOW THAT IS INSPIRATION
See you next time