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WE HAVE MOVED

So I decided enough of wordpress and created my blog. It’s one of those things a web developer deserves. I wouldn’t have done justice to myself in the sense that I have skills to create a blog and still stuck to wordpress. Long story short, http://theareba.herokuapp.com is the new home. I won’t shut this site though, for archives sake. ONE LOVE.

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New breed of Kenyan Artists

Volume set, neither too loud nor susurrus. A new jam plays. The song is totally insane. I have no idea the face behind the male voice though I can tell the female’s. Seconds later, Shazam has the answer. The song is dubbed Dumbala and proves me right, the female voice is actually Sage Chemtai’s. The rapper happens to be Jay-A, at this moment I’ve no clue who he is. Same puzzle happens to have struck a colleague, a pointer to a shift in the musical see-saw. Welcome to the crop of Kenya’s new artists that are gracing the scene.

I first got to know Sage early this year courtesy of the show Nairobi Sessions run by super producer Blackman and curating via YouTube. She had just debuted with a hit song So Alive featuring lyrical master Octoppizo and was receiving massive airplay. But it was not until this moment that I got to admire her vocal prowess. A sweet guitar backdrop set the stage for the urbane Sage in the 3 minute acoustic session. Sage is just one of the many artists that have popped up in the recent past and have proved quite a competition to the already established counterparts. 

Fene Gitu

Fene Gitu

Afro-fusion Fena Gitu otherwise known as FenaMenal woman came to the limelight back in 2011 with the track Fenomanal Woman, having done her first titled Done. She went ahead to drop African Massive that became her ultimate breakthrough and captured who exactly she is as an artist: fun, crossover-ready, and in tune with that perfect mix of self and mainstream pull. The USIU alumni voice can be described as fresh and crisp.

Then there’s melodious Adeline Maranga better known by her stage name Dela. There’s more than meets the eye, her beauty is complemented by a voice that always mellows me into my zone. According to her bio, her love for music blossomed at the tender age of seven when her gift was stirred in church. She would later meet Dan Chidi Aceda while pursuing Architecture at University of Nairobi taking the role of background vocalist, the proverbial baptism of fire for her. Many have described her voice as sultry and versatile ending up with the nickname ‘The Voice’. Her maiden musical foray venture was a collaboration with boy band Sauti Sol on their hit single Mama Papa. Her critically acclaimed album Paukwa features amazing tracks among them Weche Tek, a personal favorite. 

Dela Maranga

Dela Maranga

When it comes to music that breaks boundaries between old and new generation’s taste, Nina Ogot cannot go unmentioned. A gifted vocalist, pianist and guitarist, Nina fuses her cultural background and new ones creating an authentic tune reinforced by the fact that she sings in French, Swahili, English, Lingala and Luo. She released her debut album Ninairobi back in 2008, a testimony of her deep soulful vocal ability. Though she‘s been in the industry for a while now and hasn’t managed to hit the top spot, she has already established a mark. Her song Chokora inspired me to write a poem(Chokora by The Door)

Kagwa Mungai

Kagwa Mungai

Kagwa Mungai is a musical voyaging pigeon of sorts. He’s a jack of all trades having the titles singer, rapper, saxophonist, drummer, DJ, pianist, producer and song-writer under his belt. While Aaron Rimbui’s star might still be at it’s peak, Kagwe has cut a niche proving to be a perfect match for the legendary instrumentalist. The 21 year old released his debut EP, It Only Gets Better, in 2012. He began pursuing music at the age 13. By 16, he had already been introduced to production. His notable collaboration came between Fena Gitu and himself in the song Dutch. He produces his own music and has done it for a number of big acts including miss Karun and Eric Wainaina. 

 

Another musical force is one Sara Mitaru. Her Song You Said featuring Sauti Sol’s Bien Aime won hearts of many. In her shoes follows Mumala Maloba. She rolled out her track Where did the love go proving she’s in for a run.

Other notable figures includes Ameleena, Kato Change, Kevin Mbugua and Ninanjira. I just feel the likes of Mai Lekwo and Harry Kimani are yet to pop out of their shadows but their voices are up to par. These artists replace the likes of Nyota Ndogo, Amani, Didge, Nameless the list is endless.

PS.

The timeless Mercy Myra’s and Nyashinski’s comeback is a welcome. Have you heard of his latest track Wanahepa? If not, listen to it here. And where did the talented Osmane go? The one of Little Star fame, reggae being his genre. Just wondering… Props to Blanket and Wine’s Muthoni Drummer Queen and Nairobi Sessions’ Blackman Muthama for creating a platform that showcases musical talents.

Second Letter to Mama and Papa

Greetings,

Sorry for being too quiet. Things have been pretty busy this side. I’m not to take the whole blame though. I was wondering why you guys didn’t respond to my first letter. I thought maybe the angels set a bar but then brushed it off as illogical. Anyways, I’m fine. This is awkward to ask but how is the going over there? Grandpa says it’s all merry so I can only imagine how much fun you guys are into. It makes me kind of jealous. I heard one time this preacher say that when we go to heaven, we turn to our youthful lives. You guys must have fallen in love again because dad would become irresistibly handsome and mum, a beauty.

Mama, I’m an uncle of two now. Big Sis has two children, Harriet and Hamlet. Hamlet is this 13-year old energetic young boy whom I’m made to believe acts like I used to. Playful and aggressive, he’s dubbed kichwa ngumu. It might be a phase in his life but I can’t resist sympathizing with his mum. If he’s a replica of what I used to be, then mama, I’m deeply sorry. Trailing behind him is Harriet. She’s two classes behind her elder brother. Harriet is an angel. She’s laid back and would make a perfect grandchild for you. I love the way she twitches her eyes, takes a deep breath and informally shouts my name, “ankooo”.

As for dad, Kenyan politics is all different now. We never grew up together that much but I’m certain you were a fan. Do you remember young Uhuru Kenyatta who used to walk most of the time with fierce mzee? He’s the president now. Kenyatta’s legacy still thrives. Sadly, they still haven’t established those behind the deaths of Robert Ouko and J.M Kariuki. Though you can now shout “Hatutaki Moi” without fear, intimidation is far from over. That aside, I’m growing to be as handsome as you used to be dad. The boys are good so is big sis.

Sad news; your business empire is no more. I can’t point an accusing finger but that’s exactly it. Dad, you were the greatest businessman I knew and mum the greatest manager. Things went sour immediately mum left. It’s no big deal though. That’s what earthly treasures do. They come and go, right? Half way with my university education, it’s been quite a journey. Haha…Mama I know what you’re thinking now but let me just put it straight. I haven’t found the right woman for myself yet. A whole life still ahead of me, I’m in no rush. I have an eye for one though.

Looking forward to your response this time round. I miss you guys so much but till we meet Inshallah.

PS

The distance is nothing compared to our bond. Although same breath we might not share, we live side by side each and every day. Someday in glory, we shall celebrate to the applause of the heavens. So stay put, wipe the tears and cling to the hope.

 

I want to be like you.

I want to smile at a girl and see her blush.

Drink with the boys all weekend long and keep my wife at bay.

Be muscular so I can hide my cowardice.

Kill spiders without a lending hand, no screams

Wake up no make-up, no weave.

Take Physics and Chemistry.

Watch horror movies all alone.

And talk little.

I want to take my rightful posture, pee while standing.

Be a man in grief and cry deep in the night if need be.

Be an heir too, father!

No heels no more.

Fight to prove a point.

Have a deep voice and shift place in the choir.

For once not to care how I look, to just be.

So look me in the eye and say yes!

Because I want to be like you.

The Only One Like You.

A jovial mood sets in. It happens, probably because the exams are finally over and you can’t wait to restore Breaking Bad from your ‘recycle bin’. For ladies, it’s time to go home – meet family. The last paper was done hastily, trying as much as possible to balance excitement and focus. A tactical sweep of the exam room showed total calm, even for the ones alien to tranquility. A good example would be Jose, the crazy schmuck in your the class, who earned the title speeder because of the time he takes to finish his papers. Well, he calls himself a choppy – word used to describe those in love with books – but everyone knows too well what Google can bring out of a ‘genius’. You take a deep breath and slowly retreat to match the rhythm.

It’s a different mantra for the boys; ‘East West, free Wi-Fi is best’. This is the time to make those huge downloads before going home. You figured anything that’s free deserves total attention. Most students have already left by now and this is good news. Not only will internet speeds hit an all-time high, but you’ll also avoid the preying eyes of those quick to judge; women. In a sudden twist, two of your great buddies inform you of a change of plans. Something has come up and scheduled day for going home has been edged closer; matter of hours. Worst still, the school’s bandwidth has just gone down. Communication to your Indian employer cut short. You resort to buy your own internet bundles to chat the way forward with Rajesh. Rajesh is your first employer. Despite poor pay from the article writing job, you always find yourself after him to renew your online contract. Rajesh is offline, last seen: a month ago. Tick tock, you’re on the move.

The journey home is no different. You’ve done it uncountable times, never been a fan. Nauseating feeling marred with constant headaches worsen the five hours trail. This at times leaves you wondering why it features in the list of hobbies of most girls. You arrive home to cheerful hugs of your younger siblings – experience has shown you this is a mere way of saying umetuletea nini this time?. Mama is still at work so you settle in, take a nap then wake up to your younger brother’s nagging character. Keeping his tone in check, he narrates to you the story of how baba Jonny – a local celebrated farmer – slashed his chickens to death. Apparently, the father of two came in one evening from a drinking spree, sharpened his grass cutter and tore the birds to pieces. Credible source had it that this move was in protest of the daily sukuma wiki meal mama Jonny prepared. You laugh not thinking too much of their fate.

It’s only after supper that you get a quiet nice time with your mum. She asks how you’ve been fairing on, quick to notice you’ve lost quite an incredible amount of weight. Deep inside you’re like “you’re to blame, the hustle was tough”, but you suppress it. She informs you that Sarah came home a week earlier. Sarah is a childhood competitor who lives few blocks away. Back in the days, your mama used to vehemently insist Sarah wasn’t supposed to defeat you in end-term exams. You didn’t understand why but then thought that boys were just supposed to lead. Probably that’s the very reason why you’ve always been intrigued by the fact that it’s always ladies first in many queues you’ve been in. You kept the gap and never disappointed. Now both of you grown-ups, you’re among the few in university at your local. The comparison is still on. Sometimes Sarah’s mum comes to your home to scale if her daughter is on the right path by your books. This has brought Sarah and you close. You laugh at the fact that your parents expect you guys to chip in to the family budget from what they regard as ‘hefty’ HELB loan.

The third day home and boredom is being well felt. You log onto your Facebook account to see what the world is up to. All your friends seem to be doing something fun. A normal human you are. You put on your Sunday best, think of a ‘swaggerifiic’ pose then ask Toto to shoot you a photo all smiles, making sure the home theater, plasma screen and Xbox are well seen on the background. Next, you post the photo on your account. Hash tag, ‘just chilling in my hood, nice moments’. Now the short holiday seems long. You take your phone then put it down wondering why it’s always you who should start all the conversations. Finally you swallow your pride and ask those in your circle when they’d be returning back to school. The answers are a shocker. It is only then that you realize you’re the only one like you.

This is a story of what started as crazy idea turning into a realistic work. A group of passionate hackers, developers, I.T enthusiast and fans of hackathons meet at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology with a main goal of solving various problems affecting communities. Now for those not familiar with the word ‘hackathon’, it is actually a meeting of the said groups that team up to try to solve a particular problem within 48 hours. The main task therefore is identifying a problem.
I had attended such an event before so this wasn’t a new deal for me. I took my time in trying to settle on a perfect proposal to work on then immediately noticed a lady had been flanked by a couple of guys. Curiosity got the best of me and couldn’t resist joining the group keenly listening as the lady explained what she had in store. Turned out to be some kind of a solution to the problem farmers do encounter in trying to settle on market prices for their produce. Honestly at this point the whole idea didn’t seem that catchy to me so I resorted to finding another serious problem on the internet. I failed. Nothing came up. Guys who had seen loopholes made specs of what they came up with and it was up to the rest of the crew to make a decision on who to join in accomplishing the task at hand.
Still undecided, we went for lunch then and it was at this time I got to meet Jane. She made it clear to me how the situation was on the ground for farmers. Jane had been in the country for well over a year now and had volunteered to be posted in rural Ukambani to pitch base there and feed her organization on the happenings. What interested me was the fact that she had let go an otherwise well-off life in upcountry west of New York to months of hardships at a rural village in Kenya. The question was in the period her stay there, had she learned something? Apparently, yes. It dawned on her how local farmers had it difficult in trying to settle of the right market prices for their farm produce.
The turning point; I was now more than sure that this is something I would love to see solved. Together with a friend, we pledged to help her quest and soon a couple of guys joined us to form a team of nine. 30 or so hours later, Lipwa Poa was born. We settled on the name Lipwa Poa because our main aim here was trying to see farmers get a fair share of their handwork and evade being exploited by middlemen. It wasn’t that easy though. First, the option of Internet was ruled out since a larger share of local farmers doesn’t have access to Internet. Consequently, a web-based or mobile application was out of topic. We needed to come up with a text-based service since most farmers do have phones with minimum features as compared to the smartphones. We also settled on a framework to work on and brought our heads together on how the structure of our database would be like. I’m not going to go deeper into the system but at the end, our system was up and running. We set up a gateway, did a test, saw it passing and got to marvel at what we had accomplished.

The Lipwa Poa team

The Lipwa Poa team

Now the system would see farmers register with us, post prices of their commodities in various locations and be able to retrieve prices of various commodities in their market regions. All this done via short message service (sms) with a specific format. Sending messages for registration at normal charge rate and posting prices at a fee of ksh. 5 bob per sms, our business model was all inclusive. The service would also offer a platform for firms in the sector to advertise various products to the registered farmers.
The journey could be long but we’ve achieved half or greater part of it. Our wish is to see the system operational so that farmers ‘walipwe poa’. You better watch out, Lipwa Poa could be out anytime soon!

The Nairobi Sessions Sails On.

Super producer Blackman still in his quest to unearth musical talents has featured a second batch of artists in his show The Nairobi Sessions. The show, which is all about showcasing Nairobi’s Vibrant urban music culture ( read about it here ) has gotten even better.

Shot at the Sierra Lounge, Yaya Center, a new taste is evident. Gadget freak and Just A Band front-man Blinky Bill makes a come back teaming up with Afro-Soul Dela to perform Ulivyo. Ulivyo is swahili for How You Are. The song is off Dela’s Album Paukwa. Blackman as always plays the guitar skillfully in the four-minutes session.

Kanji Mbugua, a household name in the gospel music scenes makes an appearance. He does a love song titled Above You that happens to have been written by Blackman and his wife. Now the two have a history together that dates way back before the producer came to the limelight. Signed to Kijiji records, Kanji has done a number of big hits including Push On that received massive airplay.

A guest show also did perform, this time round a female and from west Africa. Meet one, Temi Dollface from Nigeria. Performing Exception to the Rule, Temi gives a brief introduction about herself before setting her beautiful voice on. The little known Nigerian singer does it all by herself, doing the piano. She has a breathtakingly broad musical palette. At the tender age of 7, she wrote and composed her first song with a keyboard given to her as a gift by the pastor of the church she attended; her self-education in playing the keys began. For the years that followed, and up until her teens, she sang at church and performed at every given opportunity. Blackman is just doing it right.

Heres Dela and Blinky Bill doing Ulivyo

Chokora by the door.

Hey people. It’s been a while. Blame it on running out of essential stuff. Say toothpaste tube that I found the other day had been all squeezed out to the last remnant. Being a learned fellow, I settled on Google. The result said I need not to worry, a mixture of salt and bicarbonate of soda – God knows what that is – could be a perfect replacement. On the other hand, I had an option of PK [I had my doubts here]. Long story short, I’ve always had a thing for afro-soul that led me to listen to Nina Ogot’s Chokora (street child). Eventually I was inspired by this song to write a poem and here’s the piece.

*knock* *knock* who’s in there?

It’s getting cold out here I can’t take no more

Open up it’s not a Jehovah Witness like before

Sorry I might be breaking your law

But the winter chill deep inside my bones sore

A hogwash? That’s crazy, NO!

The weathermen get it wrong at times you know

For Christ sake can’t you hear the waters roar?

My son with me wondering is this also a foe?

We’ll pitch a sojourn don’t you worry

About us staying immortally

I am somebody I may be poor

But I am somebody I maybe on the streets

 

*knock* *know* who’s in there?

I can see the lights are on sign of life

Speak low to me, Saviour low and sweet

I am unarmed not even a knife

Truth be told you are behaving like a dwarf

See past the sheer belief of race, make an equal half

Brother, sister, child, uncle, husband or wife

We are all one, does that not sound rife?

Yet I can feel it in your tone

The hatred

You are human and so I’m I

Life can really throw some pretty low blows

On a wet face tears never show

 

*knock* *know* who’s in there?

Open up please save my soul

They call me street child. It means ‘anonymous’. That’s not my name.

Just call me Victor, I can be a winner too

I may not have the charm

To make you open this door

But please listen to your heart

I can hear it telling you what to do, the right

So don’t shut me out

Lest the heavens be offended

And souls be broken

 

*knock* *knock* who’s in there?

Can you hear me?

I’ve stood at your door step for long now

And I can tell you’re getting scared

It’s good to be scared, to be scared means you have something to lose

But I haven’t given up on you

Not just yet

I can see your shadow, you are by the door

Torn between doing the right thing or wrong

Open up to a poor soul

Or head back to your sleeping hole

Every rose has thorns I get it

To prick fingers unaware…

Oh no! Not you again.

Stormcloud

Storm Cloud Marriage is a love story revolving around Sandra Harris [daughter of a wealthy Chemist Edward Harris] who is determined to find her true love in totally unpredictable world. Set in her [Sandra’s] home town Norwich, Robert Leigh manages to shell the next move [that Sandra takes] leaving a reader glued to the book and yearning to break the suspense. Through the first pages of the book, the reader is introduced to all the main characters –Edward Harris, a frail father and widower who runs Harris Pharmaceutics. Randall Pearson, a well-bred, well-educated chemist who rose to be the Managing Director of Edward’s company and Barry Chadwick, an accountant with an Advertising agency who was to be caught up later in a love triangle with the former.

Sandra grew up viewing Randall as her dad’s handpicked choice for her. This didn’t go down well with miss Harris resulting into a strong hatred for him to a point of mental attack of hives at the mention of his name. Sandra had snubbed joining an excellent local art school for another in London –away from home. Determined to make it on her own, she declined her father’s offer of being bought a studio and gallery for a job at Causten Advertising. “I want to get a job on my own merit, Daddy, not yours.” she had told her father. The new workplace was soon to see her start dating Barry. Their relationship grew up so fast to a point where she threw her pride to the wind and admitted loving him. But in a sudden twist, things went sour –pushing the door shut, he hungrily reached for her. Never the gentlest of lovers, tonight he was rougher, his mouth fierce on hers, his tongue insistent as it harshly probed the soft inner moistness—her old fear took over.

‘No, Barry! I can’t!’

‘Why not?’

‘It’s no game. Sex is special’, Sandra found herself saying.

Deep inside she knew she had strong love for him but couldn’t bring herself to the intimacy. Years back, Mario [a young Italian] had been an ideal escort then one night –refusing to take her vehement ‘NO!’ for an answer – had roughly begun molesting her. The household had heed to her cries and now that ugly scene was threatening to spilt her from what seemed her future. News that her father had been taken ill sealed the darkest hour of her life. Recuperating from the severe heart attack, Edward Harris made it clear his dying wish would be to see his daughter tie the knot with Randall [his hero]. “It disturbs me more not seeing him! He’s good company Sandra. I wish you two were friends.’ The old chap had told her daughter who was at his bedside. What followed was a series of vitriol exchange that pitted Sandra against Randall. Slowly Barry faded from her mind. Pearson the Paragon [as Sandra had privately dubbed Randall] found himself trying to prove his love for her while she tried her level best to prove their mismatch. They were too desperate: he cold where she was warm, analytic where she was intuitive, reserved where she was impulsive.

Barry regarded her as a sex object and Randall as means of securing his position. Sandra found herself taking a niche at her artistic work –being a graphics designer – after moving in with her now husband Randall from a honeymoon in New York. She had said Yes to a man she didn’t love a bit. Edward was happy. The two were getting airtime from the media and she had to feign her love for Randall on the limelight. Days of living together didn’t wither her hatred. One evening Randall grabs her and Sandra loses the will to fight back. What was to be a rape ordeal ends up an intimate session leaving Sandra a virgin no more. Writhing with shame, questions clamoring to be answered popped up in days to come. Why did she loosely give in to Randall? Edward Harris’ death set Sandra free from the Paragon. She moved out. Then did it dawn on her she had slowly fallen in love with the man she hated. How had the hatred waned?

The hunter became the hunted. Edward Leigh gives the story a gist; it takes two to tango. Packing her memories away, Sandra embarks on a journey to win the heart of a man who had lost hope in ever winning her heart. Was Randall ready for this? Had he moved on? Will she let go her pride and do the proposing? This is an example of a classical happy ending.

The Nairobi Sessions is a web series that features big and growing musical talents. Award winning super producer David ‘Blackman’ Muthami is the man behind this creative idea. The weekly series is aimed at celebrating Nairobi’s vibrant music and urban culture.

The show has already kicked off big hosting a couple of artists that get to do unplugged versions of their songs. Here’s the crazy part, the performance is totally unrehearsed thereby showcasing a raw deal of the talents. The 2009’s Groove Awards Producer of the Year Blackman sticks himself on the guitar in the 4 minutes session curating via YouTube.

blackman

Blackman Muthami

Songbirds Sara Mitaru and Nanjira were the first two artists to be featured on Nairobi Sessions both of whom are signed to Blackman Entertainment label. Sara Mitaru performed a live acoustic version of You Said while Nanjira settled for her latest single Walking. Coincidentally, both tracks have were written by Blackman.

Others who have done their thing include Sage(real name Barabara) who performed So Alive that is a massive hit now. She has previously worked with Muthoni Drummer Queen before launching her solo career. Naomi Wachira who started singing from a tender age of five also made an appearance singing her track I’m Alive. Mumala did her single Where did the love go and later teamed up with rapper Rabbit performing hit song Adisia. Blinky Bill of Just A Band performed “Twende Kazi/Get Down” while Sara Miratu’s younger sister Wambura Mitaru who is a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston wrapped the list(as at the moment) of the appearances with her song “Radi na Umeme/Thunder and Lightning”.

The show also involves International singers visiting from Africa and Abroad. One of such is Uganda’s RnB sensation Maurice Kirya who made a stop-over and performed his track Worth The Wait. The show is promising. Blackman clearly got this right as he has managed to showcase us the new breed of Kenyan artists that seem unstoppable in their bid to take over. The show will run throughout the year. Check out the videos on YouTube.

Here’s younger Mitaru doing Radi na Umeme, I loved it!

Janet's Planet

Please note this is not an official Peace Corps site. The views expressed are not those of the government or the Peace Corps but are Jane's own, unofficial musings about her life and travels. All material is intended for friends and family, not the paparazzi.

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