Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts

On The First Ongala Music Festival Heaven Shed Tears Of Joy.

Dr. Remmy Ongala was undeniably a Tanzanian music icon. He was a well-known musician in East Africa since the 80s and was deeply mourned when he passed on in 2010. It is said that when he passed on, his bongo beat music was played on Tanzanian radio stations nonstop. He was so popular that an area of his home district in Dar es Salaam was named after him.

It, therefore, came naturally for his daughter Aziza Ongala to want to do something for her Dad. In an interview, she had at an online radio show called Underground pride , Aziza said organizing the festival is something she felt she had to do.

Early this year she decided this would be the year to commemorate her father. So she set everything else aside to focus on curating the festival. And I think I speak for most when I say she did an awesome job.

The Main Stage

Ongala Music Festival was a 3-day music affair. It was held in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam at Malaika Beach Club from the 23rd to the 25th of August. Twenty of us traveled from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam in Dar Lux, a bus company which also happened to be a sponsor of the festival. They had such impeccable customer service, super comfortable seats and an awesome movie collection to keep us entertained during the 16 hour trip.

It was a surreal experience to travel with some of the Kenyan artists that were scheduled to perform at the first Ongala Music Festival. Other than the good vibes they emitted during the conversations, we also got serenaded by some smooth guitar tunes and improvised songs.

Staying at Malaika beach club meant we had access to the beach anytime we wanted. So while the rest of us enjoyed the warmth of the morning sun while in the tents and lengthened our sleep, some of our friends went out jogging on the beach.

On the first night preceding the main event, we had DJs and a few Afro-Fusion artists play music on a mini 'Nyumbani' stage next to a bonfire. One of the DJs only played old school reggae music on vinyl and we were so thrilled that we started dancing under the stars. People took turns to rekindle the fire everytime it tried to die down. We threw dried palm tree leaves into the fire in turns like we had a schedule or something.

The Mini 'Nyumbani' Stage

Our tents were pitched a stone throw away so circumstances forced us in on the fun. But who is complaining? Unless you were a log, I don't see how you could sleep with all that feel-good music playing in the background. No wonder we stayed up till around 4 a.m most nights. It mostly depended on when the DJ would say enough is enough.

On the second night of the festival, it rained. This was something no one had expected so it threw many off balance. My theory is this: Remmy must have been moved to tears by what Aziza, his family, and friends had organized in his memory. Therefore, the Tanzanian skies joined Remmy in solidarity.

Due to those showers of blessing, the show ended early. The next day, the East African artists performed with an extra oomph. No one was taking anything for granted, neither the artists nor the audience. We were more than grateful for the clear skies and for the opportunity to be part of the first-ever Ongala Music Festival.

Papillon on stage

Goosebumps would run up and down my body when different artists went on stage. From Fadhilee to Mandela and then from Papillon to Swahili Ally just to mention a few. It was electric performance after electric performance. Occasionally, some of the audience members would get touched and jump on stage to cheer the artists on by dancing on stage. One even went up to help Fadhilee wave a flag in solidarity with Bobi Wine, a Ugandan musician, and politician who was arrested in his country.

I got to attend a couple of workshops at the festival too. The first workshop I attended was on music management facilitated by Liberian born Raphael Benza. It was eye opening and shed light on how artist management works and how people like me who are interested in helping artists boost their online platform can join the team of the many people behind artists' success.

As my first time in Dar es Salaam, Ongala Music Festival was a wholesome experience. Other than it being a chance to enjoy rich East African music, you also got a chance to be on vacation, learn about music and new cultures, make new friends, have fun and be happy. Just like Remmy Ongala would have wanted.

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Art and Poetry : The Irony of He vs SHe

Flashback: I am 12 and as my girlfriends buy sanitary towels and slowly adjust their wardrobes to the changes happening to their bodies, a different kind of change is happening to my own.

I am not comfortable talking to you about it but my voice is changing. Now I definitely have to say something. It's either that or I remain mute for the rest of my life and even so, it will be a short lived solution.

So here goes, but before I say anything let me make one thing clear, I was born a girl.

I'm a Guevodoce which translates to the growth of the male genitalia at 12. They also refer to me as a Machihembra meaning first a woman then a man.

This is the story of many young children in the Dominican Republic.
Young girls who grow up to become boys.

The Art and Poetry event on Masculinity vs Femininity reminded me of this. Hosted by Ink Overflow, it took place at the Micheal Joseph Center Nairobi on the 18th of June. 

If you got a chance to read what I wrote on the one they did on beauty you'd understand why I was excited  and had to make it for the next one.

Masculinity and femininity is more dual than we realize. A single person can be both masculine and feminine. 

Actually biologically we all have a bit of both in us. The sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are found in everyone; the only difference is that they are found in different proportions.

That is the main issue the Ink Overflow team sort to address this time round. Many other issues that arise when we start categorizing people according to their genders were addressed by the performances we were graced with too. Having arrived a little late I will sample the few I got to watch.

Shikkiey on Feminism

The lights went off when she came on the stage. Then she did a couple of intense dance moves that totally caught my attention. She was joined by another lady who I later found out is called Seise. They recited some of the pieces in sync almost instinctively which was very impressive.

Shikkiey brought to light the fact that there is a difference between feminism and toxic feminism. She took us back to the 1980's during the onset of feminism. It became as a result of the fact that men assumed all power and were reluctant to give women a chance to air their grievances.

It was and should continue being a space for women to come and speak about issues. Issues such as voting  and participating in sports which not too long ago women were not allowed to participate in.

Thus feminism is meant to give hope for a better tomorrow to women rather than spread hate for men.She made it evident that we don't gain by fighting wrong with wrong or hate with hate. In fact we lose. The agenda is what matters than the title womanist, activist or feminist.

She finished her performance by saying, " What a man can do. a woman can do differently not necessarily better. In a world where only women exist the human race would be extinct and if men are trash then women are ashtrays"

Tetu Shani on Father's Day 

He was the surprise artist and boy was the crowd ecstatic. He lived up to and even exceeded expectations if all the applause he got after his performance was anything to go by.

 He started by wishing all the father's in the room a happy father's day. He went on to point out the fact that there are very few songs about fathers.

The few he knew had a not so perfect image of dads. Such as Queen Ifrica's Daddy Don't Touch Me There and Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father.

He told us that maybe the reason he had not written a song about his Dad was because he was not perfect. Then he posed a question to the crowd. Do we just celebrate perfect? Immediately after that he sang a song about his Dad titled An Ode to Pa

He owned the stage and engaged the audience with ease. I still remember joining the crowd chanting ladidadida  mbamba  to one of his songs. It was truly an experience and a half, not forgetting his epic whistling and beatboxing skills.

FUN FACT: Tetu Shani got a scholarship to Berklee College of Music to study performance, but he turned it down. A really bold decision. Echoing his words he explained " Why go where the sun is setting when the Kenyan sun is rising. There are many opportunities here right now and Berklee will always be there but when a window is open it's not open forever"

Abu Sense on 
 Woman is To Man What Man Isn't

He was the headlining act. His first performance was out of this world. He impersonated a Jamaican boy occasionally behaving like a Jamaican woman in this case his mother. His patwa sounded like the real deal. I even got lost a couple of times but I did not care much. His gestures and body movements were hilarious enough to keep me attentive.

His next piece was about gender and gender roles. He spoke of the way we have worked tirelessly to come up with a measure of manliness or womanliness. It's main component has been comparison to one another, meaning individuality is totally exterminated.

He told us about his experience living in multiple households and having learnt the most from the mothers and the daughters. As opposed to fathers and sons who are reclusive and had to play the role to appear wise.

The ladies embraced life to the fullest and if there happened to be tomboy, he would be accepted and plugged in both worlds. Notice the use of the pronoun he, I believe that it was used deliberately. I believe there is power in embracing both your feminine and masculine sides, because she is he and he is she for they contain each other.

As the performances came to an end. Kaatoony was at the back doing his thing.With his  permission I got to take a short video of the whole process. That along with the picture of a happy client. Watch out for his interview and the video.

Thanks to Ivan Irakoze and the Ink Overflow team for yet another successful event. To all that performed we loved you. To those I missed out on I look forward to watching you next time. Until next time.

AA (Auspicious Art)
Wendi Mutisya

Photo credits:


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Collateral Beauty Via Art and Poetry

MiCE- the band

Collateral beauty refers to inner beauty, the kind that never fades and that goes hand in hand with an individuals personality. 

By the way have you watched the movie

Well I finally did after wanting to do so for so long. It caused a battle between me and my tears. "Nope I'm not going to cry" I told myself. We all know that what we resist persists. So tears won. 

On the 8th of April ,the Ink Overflow team graced us with an artistic event themed around beauty at the Micheal Joseph Center, Nairobi, Kenya. They gave visual artists, poets and musicians a chance to do what they do best together.



If you wanted to have a caricature of yourself drawn while the poets and musicians did their thing. James a.k.a Kaatoony was there with his art materials waiting for you to ask. 

When my friend and I walked into the Micheal Joseph Center we found Kerosh  (the graffiti artist I introduced you to last month) drawing Kaatoony his former classmate in Art School. Kaatony had already drawn Kerosh and Kerosh was simply returning the favor.

Then there was Ivan the guy who made the whole event possible. He told us that the event was inspired by the movie Collateral beauty. We went to the same campus and I had seen him in poetry events a couple of times. I just had no idea he was a poet himself until early this year. He was the first one on stage and it was really nice watching how his face lit up while he got in the zone.

MiCE the band
They just made me happy from their unique name to their passionate and energetic performance. They are four friends who teamed up to create and learn how to express themselves through different modes of art. I  later find out that MiCE stood for My Inter-missive Creative Escape. 

She repped the poets like a boss. She has a way of capturing your attention and maintaining it.She caught mine when she projected the results of a Google search she had done on beautiful skin and lips.

 After which she went on to dispute those results with a touching piece on the beauty of chocolate skin and that it is a color that is needed in this world too. She touched on major issues many women and girls go through about beauty.

Then she maintained my attention when she took us back to African history and slowly unraveled the achievements of African Queens such as Queen Amina of Nigeria, Queen Nzinga of Angola and Ethiopia's Queen of Sheba.

These women added her story to history. Shingai made us see the beauty these women exuded that went beyond their looks. After her pieces it was evident that history is not just his story but her story too and I thank her for schooling us.

Glady kept the crowd silent and attentive with her unique performance. The two guys playing the guitar and violin set the mood for her pieces. At some point the guy with the guitar sang and I got goosebumps all over. I was not the only one that got touched by his voice cause people cheered him on.

She is a visual  artist who paints because there are stories she wants to tell and sometimes cannot find the words. She did a couple of pieces but the one that stood out for me was the one she did about natural african hair. Having cut her hair a couple of times and grown it back she told me African hair is many things but above all it is pretty.

Thus the reason created the piece of a lady with puffy african hair. Although it should not be, hair is a definition of beauty to many. That's why many women with afro textured hair go to great lengths to "look good". Go on, look lovely ladies but before anything else love what you have, love your beautiful kinky hair.

Ben Soul
He was the last one to perform along with a friend on the piano. He sang and played the guitar soulfully. At some point he even sounded like two people singing together. I found that so cool.

Jonathan told me he is a Fine Arts student at Kenyatta University, he draws inspiration for his work from people. objects and events. He is currently studying interactions contained in body language.He is drawn to communication between individuals, attempting to capture what goes unsaid in people's interactions 

Obfuscate I

The art piece from him that stood out for me was one piece he did that had another piece hidden within. I later found out it was titled obfuscate I.  

He also had a piece of someone holding their belly fat. He told me society's definition of beauty is often slim well toned bodies. He wanted to challenge that with that piece. 

We should love our bodies regardless. That does not mean we leave out healthy living, it simply means truly embracing  our bodies as we journey towards healthier ones.

Walt Whitman's poem Leaves of Grass sums  up the message the Ink Overflow team wanted to pass across. It goes:
"I exist as I am that is enough.
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
and if each and all be aware I sit content.
One World is aware and by far the largest to me and that is myself 
and whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years.
I can cheerfully take it now or in equal cheerfulness I can wait."

We should work on our relationships with our inner selves. That is the only way we can nurture that unwithering inner beauty . So when self defeating thoughts come our way.  Whitman's message I exist as I am and that is enough should  be our mantra. Until next time.

AA(Auspicious Art)
Wendi Mutisya

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Meet Kerosh (Part I)

Kerosh is a Kenyan Street Artist currently based at the Nairobi Railways Museum. I met him so that I could have a look at his pieces and also have  a conversation with him about his craft and this is what he had to say. I found this conversation so interesting and inspiring so because a lot was said. I decided to post it in two parts.

WAI: How did you start?

Kerosh: I started sketching cars when I was around 3 years old. Nursery school drawing classes were my favorite. Once in pre unit we were asked to draw a ball and my friend drew a ball the way he saw a ball ( he pauses to  sketch what his friend drew) not the way we were taught to draw a ball ( he pauses to sketch how they were taught to draw it) and he got a tick.  (a tick was a big thing for a child that age).

It was an Aha! moment for me. I realized I did not have to strictly follow what we were taught but I could actually draw things the way I saw them.

The next time we were told to draw our family, I decided to draw my Dad. Essentially we were meant to draw the whole family. I did a detailed  drawing of my Dad instead making sure his shirt's pocket was fat to show the presence of lots of sweets for me. My teacher showed my piece to the whole class and boy was I happy.

At that tender age I started becoming very observant. When I saw anything interesting I would go home and draw it. I got a baby brother and all of a sudden I was not the center of attention anymore. To cope with the situation I continued drawing even more. My friends were fascinated with my work so they joined me.

We started challenging each other and one day a friend of mine drew a car with wheels all over. I told him a car cannot look like that but in his defense he told me his car cannot fall because in whatever position it would continue moving.It is from them that I learnt there were many ways of looking at things.

WAI : So what inspired you to become a Street Artist?

Kerosh: The street art done on the Nairobi Matatus fascinated me a lot when I was commuting to school. I was keen and I watched the art form evolve from simple stickers to grafitti oriented pieces. 

Back then the grafitti pieces were themed and very well thought out. They were proper design projects.The pieces were so surreal that people started spreading gossip that those Matatu owners were  "devil worshipers". 

I on the other hand was in awe and I wanted to use pictures to communicate a lot the way those pieces did. So while still in Primary school I started making Matatu stickers. People would ask me to give them the stickers but they would never return them.

Fun Fact: We all have a mischievous high school past . For Kerosh all his mischief revolved around art.

When in high school my only indiscipline was drawing. I would use morning and evening prep to draw and of course that reflected in my first year grades and I had to change schools. I remember my friends bringing left over chalk to me once the teacher left class so that I would use them to draw on the blackboard. Fridays were the best because once I drew a piece it would stay there for the whole weekend.

WAI: Speaking of school life. First I'd like to let you know how great it felt  reading in the United States International University- Africa (USIU-A) library after you guys painted the murals. It was an amazing feeling. Thank you for that. So as part of the team that did the murals. How was the whole experience for you?

Kerosh: Wow, I am happy to hear that.So this is how it started. A friend of mine called Wise 2 that I met at an event called Word and Pictures (WAPI) decided he wanted to give back to his Campus before he cleared school.

He figured a mural would be a good idea, so he approached the admin and they granted him permission to do the murals. He then came to me and told me about the idea and asked if I'd be interested in joining him and I said yes.

So we went to get the stuff needed and started painting. We were there for 3 days, Friday Saturday Sunday for the first piece.The first one being that of Martin Luther King on second floor.

I remember mid way I was like Weh! you mean it's us guys doing that? I remember there's a time I went across and sat next to the stair way and spent like 30 minutes just looking at it and it was not done yet. It felt so good.After that we did Wangari Maathai ground floor and Nelson Mandela on the first floor.

WAI: When did you start monetizing your work and how do you go about it?

Kerosh: So I have sold art work and done commissioned work. However, I tend to be very intimate with my pieces. When I sell my piece to me it is like, now this is my baby I am giving away. 

Therefore, it is very important to me that the person buying my piece understands as well as resonates with the story behind the piece. For instance there's a piece I did once of  a Television set with the words, watch what you feed your mind on it. For a long time I have been careful of what I feed my mind so the piece had hang on the wall for a while as a reminder.

One day a lady  came to the studio and when she saw the piece she asked me what the story was. I asked her why she was so interested. She told me that she bought a Television and it had been in a box for a long time because she knew when she hooked it up it would just be full of crap that she didn't want. She asked me how much it was and I told her you can have it, it's yours. At that point it had the same meaning for her, like it had for me. There's no price for that consciousness and for that connection. Putting a price on my art work comes with a feeling of loss.

WAI: So this is the end of part I of our conversation be on the lookout for part II.

AA(Auspicious Art)
Wendi Mutisya

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Phenomenal Woman

I heard a song a couple of days ago and right there and then I pressed the replay button . I think I drove my sister crazy though 😜 . It was a classic case of music obsession. 

 Having recently enrolled for  animation classes I had no idea I would be learning how to create music too. Well mostly melodies and sound tracks but music all the same.

So now I am more keen when I listen to music just incase I spot a tune that inspires me for my class project.

A portrait of Fena Gitu

Although I feel like she ought to get more airplay she

is Fena-menal indeed.

She got me  humming, singing and listening to this chorus over and over again .
"Nampenda mpenda, nani? nampenda mpenda, nani? kijana mmoja, nani?
kijana mmoja, nani? a sikuli, nani? a siogi, nani? Nampenda mpenda,nampenda mpenda."

The words are in swahili and they simply repeat the fact that she loves someone and when asked who it is she says that it's this guy that makes her not eat and not shower 😂.

It is  a lovely song and although it has been out for a while now,  I had no idea until a couple of days ago. Has that happened to you before? It was a pleasant discovery. 

Her songs and music videos bring back great childhood memories as she incorporates clips of games we played and lyrics to songs we used to sing as kids.

A good example being what you just listened to. Have you listened to it though? Please do, and another example being her music video Brikicho where you see children playing hide and seek. Maybe that's why I could not stop listening to her song. It brought so many good vibes.

So join me today in celebrating this phenomenal woman Fena Gitu. I will make a point to keep myself updated on her songs, both new and old. I hope you do so too.

AA(Auspicious Art)
Wendi Mutisya
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Uniting Africans Through Music

If you were given a chance to insure a body part what part would that be for you? I think for Yemi Alade her lips would be it. 

Why do I think that you may ask. Well I heard that lip roll exercises help people sing better and reduce strain on the vocal cords.

Truth is I'm a bit biased as a visual artist. If only I could draw her vocals :).

These are steps towards the final piece of Yemi Alade's portrait. You may maximize for a better view.

Her songs have a profound effect on me. I remember how her song Africa featuring Sauti Sol  kept me company  during the wee hours of one morning after some nerve wrecking events that interrupted my sleep. The full story can be found here.

See Yemi Alade is a darling, she knows how to win peoples hearts. For me and many other  Kenyans it was as simple as translating her song Na Gode to Swahili. While for french speaking Africans it was the  translation of her song Kissing to french,

Language has an integral part in our societies because it gives us a chance to understand one another. Yemi Alade understands this and embodies other cultures outside her Nigerian roots through language and dress . These simple acts go a long way. They make what she does with her songs  a uniting force for Africans. Which is nothing short of amazing.

I hope that one day just like Yemi Alade  I will find a way to use my art to unite Africans.

AA(Auspicious Art)
Wendi Mutisya

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