As with music, stories too command attention; but too often, we let ourselves down with the lack of it. Let us think for a minute, shall we? When was the last time you had a pining to dig into a book or article about Kenyan history? While chances are that it has been quite some time now, I have a better answer; some time soon!

August 2019 marked what would have been Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya’s 89th birthday. To celebrate this anniversary, we will be benefiting from a stage production by Too Early for Birds; a powerful production that has a great deal to say about their art of storytelling. Perhaps the greatest they can say is that it permits us to learn about a history misrepresented or otherwise dismissed.

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So far, the success of Too Early for Birds has been a matter of daring and dedication much more than money and fame. So, why not show up in support and appreciation of all that and more? For details about this year’s show, refer to poster below.

Blick Bassy has been one of my greatest finds this year. His latest album, 1958, grounded in both melody and voice, is what happens when making music actually matters. The album, done in Bassy’s native language, Basa’a, is a eulogium for Ruben Um Nyobè. The depth in which he sings is remarkable and so are his compositional skills; a blend of African and Latin musical influences.

Ngwa is a work of memory; it starts with a cello solo before Bassy brings us up to speed with the ghost of Um Nyobè. Both the song and the visuals stimulate a sense of foreboding; something so vivid yet beyond, something perhaps after a war. Maqui and Lipem, both limpid and graceful, remember the freedom fighters (maquisards) and unsung heroes of Cameroonian independence. Certainly, all those who fought to preserve the independence and exclusivity of our nations ought to be revered.

Mpodol happens to be my favourite track on the album. Drawing from Nyobè’s nickname ‘Le mpodol’, I cannot think of a more fitting tribute. Performed with a fine supporting cast; Clément Petit on the cello, Johan Blanc on trombone and Arno de Casanove on the Trumpet and keyboard, mpodol lends a wonderful and compelling story of he who carried the voice of the people.

Alcohol, often misused as a sedative, reduces our anxieties and wills us to forget our worries and fears a while. And yet, what happens when a country is drunk with fear? In Woñi, Bassy talks about the fear and timidity that we still bear following the stark colonial years. Delivered in a style reminiscent of Cesaria Evora (whose birthday we celebrate today), Woñi highlights the volatile influence alcohol has on a community where heavy drinking has become a way of life.

Regardless of whatever virtues they may possess, there is a lot to be said about people who sabotage their countries. In Pochë, Bassy condemns political Judases like president Ahmadou Ahidjo; who protected the interests of the French during the Franco-Cameroonian struggle. In Ngui Yi and Sango Ngando, he criticizes the ignorance and indifference towards our histories. Lamentably, going by how much has culturally changed, Africa’s obsession with the West is likely not abating soon.

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Inviting us for a more critical stance, 1958 is a very noteworthy album; not only for the opportunity it affords us to hear the music and history of Cameroon but also for instigating us to look back at our own. There are many lessons to be learned here and much more so, let it be remembered that the past is never really past.

First things first, how on earth did we come so close to facing the extinction of so many species? Time can be a cruel thief; yet, through inaction, we let it steal from us time and again. I journeyed to Ol Pejeta Conservancy earlier this morning to witness a procedure that will likely save a species. Hopefully, this artificial reproduction technique will be successful in the near future.

If a picture paints a thousand words, that there are TWO Northern White Rhinos left worldwide should paint our predicament. The two are Najin, born on 11th July 1989 and her daughter Fatu, born on 29th June 2000. [Un]naturally, they are in captivity under the close surveillance of Ol Pejeta. Granted, the species had a range spanning parts of Uganda, Chad, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Kenya etc. Sad, isn’t it?

Lest I get too emotional about our precious wildlife, which I should, I’ll get into the subject of today’s Five on Friday inspired by a declaration of love; a love of life, self, others, nature, animals and greatest of all, this universe we live in.

A greatly evolving singer from Zimbabwe who, like Chiwoniso Maraire, plays the historically male-dominated mbira. Idenga features on her album, The Exorcism Of A Spinster.
Listening to Cameroon artist has been a such a joy this August. Whether there is something off or on about Moken Nunga, he has been such a vibe! Can you feel it too?
Influenced by Ethiopian musical greats such as Mahmoud Ahmed, Tilahun Gessesse, Mulatu Astatqe, Dereb gives a tasteful repast of their soulful 60s and 70s music.
I am yet to fully immerse myself into this daughter of Tunisia but the fact that she draws inspiration from Oum Khalthoum is sufficient. A breath of fresh air, innit?
Thanks to my Burkinabae 😉 I was introduced to the music of kamale n’goni player Massa Adama Dembele. If the music appeals to you in any way, buy/listen to his music here.

Last night, I was watching Fanna-Fi-Allah’s Qawwali rendition of Amir Khusro’s poem when a sentiment from the comments section struck me. What I would like to say, in-fact, is that it didn’t come as a shocker; moreso when I learnt that the woman on the tabla was a westerner. In truth, the role of women in music posits a substantial history of prejudice and hence the attitude. But I digress.

Today, I woke up with an extra-ordinary gusto and liveliness! On most occasions, I would proceed to put on a milonga, swing or bebop playlist but today has more promise for drawing me to sufi influences; notably gnaoua and hassanya from Morocco. Needless to say, Eid-al-Adha is upon us and what better way to celebrate it than with some music and chants from the Western and Southern Sahara!

I hope you enjoy today’s #FiveOnFriday and have yourselves a blessed Eid!

There are few things musical that will draw me into going for an event on a weekend, fewer still on a Sunday afternoon. I imagine that like me, some of you haven’t had enough rest this past weekend on account of FOMO. Despite having come from Jah Cure’s concert less than 3 hours ago, I had to attend the 26th edition of the Koroga Festival.

There are different sounds to afrobeat but I am not here to be prescriptive. Having been pioneered by the legendary Fela Kuti, afrobeat is a Kuti genre; one that his sons are now very cogent at. In fact, at some point during his performance, he made it clear that it is Afrobeat and not ‘afrobeats’. Femi and his Positive Force band can play the role and play it did they without any audible tiring.

The Positive Force band opened with a set of rhythm and percussion that was complemented by its horns section. Then came a highly charismatic trio of dancers-cum-percussors-cum-BGVs. Admittedly, from my position adjacent to the stage, this set precedence to an appropriately exciting atmosphere before the moment of the ship’s arrival.

The horn’s section of the Positive Force band
The highly charismatic dancing trio

With activism just as important to him, Femi channeled a little of it particularly to those of us who feel compelled to exclude others on the basis of our living standard measures. Thus, unity and the coming together of African people was a recurrent theme being that he is touring his recently released album, One People One World.

Throughout the spirited performance, the flavour of Femi’s music exuded a blend of both vigilance and relaxation. By giving us a feel of the New Afrika Shrine, there was much to admire in the singing, dancing and the band’s dynamic cuts when he performed Evil People, Corruption na Stealing, Beng Beng Beng and the titular track One People One World.

Like any great musical offering, Femi is a master in his own right holding the world record for the longest note ever sustained on the saxophone – at 51 minutes and 35 seconds. In a show of great mastery, a taste of this was something we were later treated to.

The striking moment, however, was when he staged a duet with his son Made Kuti before putting him on the spotlight. Made offered a generous and finely contrasted sax performance but that possessed many of the Kuti musical virtues. Impressive in his style and temperament, I can safely say that I am excited for his debut album to be released next year.

Made Kuti

Femi ended the show with a hilarious aside. By intimating that some parents may have conceived to his 1998 song Beng Beng Beng, he was adept and quick to highlight the sexual impropriety and irresponsibility plaguing our societies today. A fitting conclusion to a mighty fine time on stage.

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Most definitely a rewarding evening, Femi unquestionably did what he came here to do. If the event remained in any way unsatisfactory, that is in no way to be attributed to Femi whose performance rose above expected. Additionally, Them Mushrooms, Jua Cali and Samidoh came with favourable stage and vocal impressions and there could be no doubting their enthusiasm.  

Arararararararara!