Here’s some food for thought, courtesy of the people at @TheWaziCampaign.
Thanks to Montana, with whom this topic was discussed at length, with lots of ranting, but mostly laughs in the end.
There are quite a number of entertainers in Kenya. I use the term ‘entertainers’ carefully here, because some of them do nothing more than repeating themselves over and over, thinking that the screams from the crowd are from sheer delight/pleasure rather than horror and pain.
Many people are of the opinion that it takes some class of genius to become an artist in Kenya. Indeed it does. But then it also takes a bit of scandal to help you rise above all the other pretenders to the throne.
Here’s how to achieve artist-itude in 5 easy steps.
1. Create a scandal
Everyone remembers a scandal. The best thing is to do something completely out of your character. If you’re the one with dreads and the whole Jamaican bobo shanti vibe going, have pictures ‘accidentally’ taken of you getting a manicure at some uptown salon with those pseudo-French names. Get a shocked face, try to hide if you can, and make sure the one doing your nails gets asked all the questions. Tell her to tell the curious public that you go there all the time, and that you do a lot more than get your nails done at the place.
Suddenly you have an audience. Which leads to step number 2.
2. Ignore your fans
Certainly, with your ‘art’, you will attract a fanbase. Maybe it’s your neighbour, or that guy you owe money so he’s constantly asking you for his cash back, being as you just bought a ridiculously overpriced phone you can’t use… With time, you get recognized. That’s the nature of the game, or whatever you artist types call it.
So with time, you will be afforded the luxury of a fanbase, people who listen/look out for your stuff. Ignore them when they stop you on the street or at an event. What do they know? You’re important now, a celeb even. Say it out loud how you wish there was a way to keep some people away from your events. they’ll still show up, right?
Who’s the important one with his face on a t shirt? You of course.
So your face is on a t-shirt, and people are paying good money for it. Time for step 3…
3. Buy something ridiculously expensive that you don’t even need
You know that diamond-encrusted nose-hair trimmer you’ve always wanted? No? Now you want one. Fame = money = image. Image is everything. Look like you have money, otherwise nobody will want to listen to you. It works. Have you not seen the stuff people have lying around in their houses, or that they drive around? Get a car that needs its own oil well to maintain. You deserve it.
So you’re making money… People are paying you to show up and lip synch along to your own track, right? Time to burn some bridges, or as we say it in the biz, on to the next one, number 4…
4. Diss people
The best people to diss are those you admire. that will get their attention. Other good people to diss are the ones that made you. No, not your folks. Wait… That can work. The people that put you where you are, that gave you the push that got your ‘artist’ career started. What do they know? Fine, they got you where you are, but if they didn’t do anything you would still have ended up where you are, right?
Go on, write that diss track. How else will you honour them?
Bridges have been burned, and those clowns don’t want anything to do with you… But who needs them? You made it. In fact, you made it so hard that you can quit altogether… Which is where number 5 comes in…
5. Be a one-hit wonder
The best way to be remembered is to do one smash hit and then disappear into obscurity. That way there is no way you can top yourself. Leave the country. Blame things on invisible people and the ‘haters’. Haters will always bring you down, right? Who cares if they’re real or not. They hate. That’s a bad thing.
Even better than a one-hit wonder, constantly remix your one hit. Do collabos. Make enough remixes to fill an album and sell it to those fans you ditched back at #3.
All the best. You are officially a Kenyan ‘artist’. Get ready for guest spots on all those deejay shows they have. Heck, get your own show. And build your career. Leave school. School is for sad people who wear suits and make boring speeches about the bottom line. You are the cutting edge baby, yeah…
So the National Population and Housing census is well underway, started on Monday night and we even got a public holiday out of it. We, here refers to everyone else, I had an exam to do. But it got me thinking, what is the relevance of all this? There’s controversy over the tribe question being as we’re only just starting to recover from the trauma of post-election violence. We being the folks in Nairobi… There’s places outside the city where the violence is still all too real… Every 10 years, money goes into counting people. Money that could be used in other ways, like for example, to make the said people’s lives better… Like this guy, a pensioner and retired teacher that doesn’t see the value in him getting counted.
Ok, while I se the value, being as I have done a bit of population dynamics and planning for populations (both first-year environmental planning units), it could have been planned better, even with a diary.
For one, the exercise should have been put on a Friday, so that the weekend can eb used to ensure that people are at home, rather than putting it on Monday then forcing a public holiday… And it’s been done before, that’s how they did it in ’99…
There’s the contentious question of tribe. I for one, do not want to be identified by my tribe. As a result of circumstance, I have no father. I don’t speak my mother’s language. I was born in MP Shah Hospital and have lived in Nairobi all my life. As such, for me, the idea that my tribe defines who I am is a fallacy. I have been identified alternately as Generation X, the dot com generation, the 90’s generation, the future and many other random things… But ultimately I am part of an increasingly frustrated generation, with potential denied and such. I’m the one they’re planning for. The next census expects to find me settled, employed and with my own household to do a survey on. The future is no longer as safe a haven as it once was. The way markets are collapsing and such, investments lost, it will be increasingly liquid. And jobs will be hard to come by as well… Now I want the planning minister to tell me what he’s going to do with that info.
And I still haven’t been counted…
Kenya is one of those strange oddities in history, like those stories told over and over and they still have their attraction, a creation of history and happenstance, forged in the womb of the British empire, without identity, waiting for a history to be written.
Large collection of all sorts of people, from the young and hopeful to the old and wise, men and women that wake up every day with hopes and dreams, a nation alive with possibility… The people that have tilled the land with their hoes, fished the lakes and seas with their nets, walked the plains with their animals, filled the air with their songs, pounded the earth with their dances, seeking a better tomorrow, these are but a taste of the real Kenya, the cornerstone of this great nation.
While we are still people to begin with, we need to understand that we are still human, still individuals with weakness.
And weakness leads to fear. And fear leads to hate.
That is why we have continued to fail. For as long as we hate those with whom we are still bound to have a common destiny, we will fail, and we sill suffer as we fail. For as long as we fragment ourselves, clinging to identities that are increasingly irrelevant, of class, of race, of creed, we cannot progress. Until our leaders learn that leadership is not putting some down at the expense of others, it is not eating first and leaving the left-overs for those that are under them, that we still are social beings, that differences count for nothing, that it is not a cliche that all we need is love, that hard hearts only lead to hurt, then we shall continue to pull ourselves apart, we will keep hurting ourselves, we will fall…
But that is not the end.
We are Kenyans. We are the Kenya we have, and we have the Kenya we want to see within our reach.
I may sound like just another young and idealistic, perhaps naive town kid with no culture to speak of, but I say it because I believe it…
Kenya needs you.