Recent Articles

6
Jul

NEED A POSTER ASAP? TRY CANVA.COM

By Kuchio Asonga

I came across canva.com when I was asked to make a poster for my Toastmasters club. Unfortunately, my PC had crashed and even if I had my PC I would have to go about figuring out the proper dimensions and coming out with spec designs. I turned to the internet.

I took a design class that focused on Adobe suite years ago. I learnt the basics of design (and earned a decent grade in the course). However, I can’t claim I am a designer, but I can put together simple posters.

In Canva.com I found a design website that anyone with average computer skills and an eye for aesthetics can use to put together nifty designs. You don’t need to seek out a designer, you can do it yourself.

With this website an amateur can produce good-looking designs with little effort. Though it lacks the ins and outs of a ‘real’ design software some of what you put together can rival some professional work. The one pitfall I find is that if you aren’t clever while using canva.com you could find your end products looking generic (nonetheless they will still look polished). There are numerous templates both free and for sale at a dollar each. The scope of the designs you can craft range from posters, invitations, cards, website graphics, or even multiple-page presentations.

Of all the options I came across for online design Canva.com seemed to be the most promising. There is a brief tutorial on the site that guides you how to go about using it in 23 seconds. Despite the brevity of the tutorial, the site is intuitive to use and anyone that is comfortable on a computer will get the hang of it quickly.

I was on the Canva.com for less than an hour and by then I came up with a variety of posters which I submitted for approval. Here is an image of the poster that was eventually used.

Speakerthon 2

I went back to the site once again to design images I wanted to use for a social media campaign for the Best of Toastmasters East Africa Event. This is a sample of what I cobbled together.

“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”

 

Whether it is a poster, a page banner or simply an image for a social media campaign I believe Canva.com is up to the task. It is especially useful if you are a one-person communication team or if you are in a communication role with little to no budget.

I believe canva.com can help you build your ‘design muscles’. If you know anyone that has a creative streak and has been flirting with ideas of becoming a designer, you could suggest canva.com to them. I have found it satisfactory and continue to champion it to my associates.

If you have a design challenge but lack the finances to hire a professional you can try canva.com. You will surprise yourself at what you can put together by using the site.

 

23
May

NYASHINKI’S “NOW YOU KNOW”: KLEPTOMANIAX’ STALWART IS BACK!

By Kuchio Asonga

After years away from the limelight, Nyashinki (arguably Kleptomaniax best lyricist) is back on the scene with a vengeance. With his song “Now you know” he reasserts his lyrical mastery and states a case for why he was away from the scene.

Nyahsinki addresses our propensity to discard the old in favor of the new and the manner in which his predecessors and peers have been cast aside over time. Look no further than  Johnny Vigeti (of Kalamashaka) and Kitu Sewer (of Mashifta) who although still active and potent lyricists receive little to no media attention.

All in all, he provides a case for how fleeting fame is regardless of how proficient an artist is but in the same breath states that he can still keep up with today’s most heralded artists. With masterful lyrics and soulful crooning reminiscent of America Negro spirituals, he puts forth a case for how he has never lost his edge through the years.

You can click on the link to sample his new single.

Prior to this single Nyashinski released a collaboration with, Nameless called “Letigo” which played more to Nameless’ strength than to his own. To most of his fans, this didn’t register as a comeback, but more as a veteran testing the waters for a comeback. On “now you know” Nyashinki’s talents are showcased at their glistening best.

For those in need of a reminder, in 2002, a trio of young Kenyan rappers took Nairobi by storm with their single “Freak It”. The group was the Kleptomaniax, then students at Nairobi School. They were signed to the then emerging recording stable Ogopa DeeJays, along with a slew of artist that were prominent back then such as Deux Vultures, Esir, Nameless and the Logombas.

They were popular although often maligned by their predecessors for their poppy sounds and subject matter. They heralded a new wave of feel good music that was in stark contrast to the sound of pioneering Kenyan rap groups such as Kalamashaka, K- south, Warogi Wawili and Mashifta.

The trio consisted of rappers Collo, Roba, and Nyashinki. As a group, they released two albums before they disbanded, the first in 2005 called M4E (Maniax Forever) and the second NITT (Now Is The Time) in 2009. They then disbanded to pursue solo projects with Collo proving to be the most prominent of disbanded trio and Roba experiencing moderate success while Nyashinki was conspicuously missing from the entertainment scene.

Since their heydays in the early 2000 dozens of rap acts have emerged with platforms such as the now defunct WAPI (Words and pictures) and Hip Hop Hook up nurturing new talents hungry for the limelight.

2
Mar

THE 3RD SAFARICOM INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL-REVIEW

By Kuchio Asonga

The Safaricom International Jazz Festival held on 21st February 2016 was a treat for the young and old as well. I went to the event to experience musical tastes beyond my usual fare. Sonically, my comfort zone lies in hip-hop and soul. However, I was pleased with the experience at the event last Sunday and will look out for more Jazz events in the future.

At the end of the event all the acts got on stage to jam together.  This photo is courtesy of  www.jazzsymphonic.com credited to Rich studios/ Ricjh Allela Photography

At the end of the event, all the acts got on stage to jam together. This photo is courtesy of www.jazzsymphonic.com credited to Rich studios/ Rich Allela Photography

You can view more of the event’s pictures at Jazzsymphonic.com.

In fact, I may just cede the bass of the kick and snare for the strumming of the string of the double bass, the blast of the trombone, the trill of the piano and all the other instruments jazz musicians play.

I arrived at the venue, the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani, after the event had started, and was there late into the night nursing the warm fuzzy feeling you get after you have had a life-affirming experience.

What I enjoyed about all the performance was how the artists sought to keep the audience engaged by playing songs outside the usual Jazz standard which would have alienated first timers to a jazz experience. There was a conscious effort by the event organizers to create a balance that entertained the jazz purists while not alienating newbies to the genre.

In addition to the songs that they would usually include in their sets, Kenya’s own Edward Parseen & the Different Faces Band, had the audience on their feet with renditions of songs most have heard on the radio and this was ingenious as it drew in the audience from the known to the unknown. If you see Edward Parseen & the Different Faces Band listed as performers on a flier you should plan to attend.

Afrosync took the stage soon after and kept the energy going with their blend of jazz that they describe as a mixture of Afro Jazz and Latin. I have one word for their set; enjoyable.

Similarly to Edward Parseen & the Different Faces Band, Kunle Ayo included jazz renditions of popular songs to his set that were easily recognizable to the audience and got them dancing.

Sons of Kemet took to the stage with a sound that I can best describe as, “thumping” I felt it resonate through me. Their music is full and heavy with the elements are taken from Caribbean folk grooves and traditional African music easily noticeable.

New Orleans, Louisiana is to jazz what New York,  is to hip-hop. Branford Marsalis hails from the cradle of jazz music. Anybody that has been exposed to popular culture will not miss the connection between jazz and New Orleans whether it is in the themes of scenes set in the city or the sports teams from the city that include jazz in their names. To jazz aficionados, I am stating the obvious.

Branford Marsalis Quartet, who were the main act, took to the stage with jazz standards that purists would enjoy. I found I most enjoyed the music when I shut my eyes and just let the music sink in which may have been awkward if I was not so hell bent on soaking in the experience. The Branford Marsalis Quartet even played a rendition of the Wyre and JB Maina song, “Mwanake” which I overheard that they had listened to the song earlier in the week and thought it would make a worthy addition to their set.

The audience begged for an encore as the event came to a close and were gifted a jam session featuring many of the day’s performers that were still at the venue. The energy and excitement of this impromptu session were a true testament to mastery of the acts and beauty of the Jazz.

I would definitely plan to attend the event next year. If not for the music then for the ambience of the event thanks to the quality of the setup, the joviality of the audience and how the whole gig came together overall.

The Safaricom international Jazz festival started in 2014 and prides itself as a musical celebration that brings together talents from all around the country and the globe. It is pitched as an event not to miss and is said to be spearheading the growth of the Jazz music audience in Kenya.I fully agree with this judging by the mix of the audience at the event. If nothing else, at least, you get to appreciate the beauty of live instrumentation when a skilled musician is on stage.

Apart from the festival, Safaricom hosts intimate jazz events targeted at small audiences. These smaller events allow jazz aficionados to take in jazz music in its purest form. If you are curious about how you can be part of their events check out #Safaricomjazz on twitter.

#Safaricomjazz is more than an opportunity to get serenaded, it is also an opportunity to impact society. All the proceeds from the concerts go towards Ghetto classics a musical initiative to impact the youth of Korogocho.

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This piece first appeared on www.jazzsymphonic.com.

 

16
Feb

INDIGO A HIP HOP ALBUM BY ELOM 20CE, THE CONTEMPORARY TOGOLESE GRIOT

By Kuchio Asonga

Elom 20CE, the Contemporary Togolese Griot

Elom 20CE, the Contemporary Togolese Griot

Once in a while, you come across music that although outside your usual fare is nonetheless truly enthralling. That was my impression when I came across Elom 20ce’s, hip hop album, Indigo. While I am a self-professed hip-hop head I have a poor grasp of French, the language used through the project.  Nevertheless, I found the album immensely entertaining.

 

 

 

Indigo was launched on December 11th, 2015 and is available on BandcampItunes, and Amazon. You can stream it on Bandcamp to get a feel of it.

The cover the album Indigo. It features Elom 20ce's mother.

The cover of the album Indigo. It features Elom 20ce’s mother.

Elom 20ce is a Togolese hip-hop emcee, a contemporary griot that is not shy to speak on political topics that most would rather ignore. This is his second album (his first is Analgezik) and he has already released videos for four songs on the project; Voodoo SakpataDead Man Walking (This has English subtitles), Castration Mental and Théorie du Chaos.

Artists featured on Indigo include Blitz the Ambassador, Oxmo Puccino, Le Bavar (La Rumeur), and Pépé Oleka. These are artists you should explore if you want to expand the range of music that you listen to.

Elom 20Ce’s Indigo is definitely worth a spin, whether Anglophone or Francophone or any other shade in between, if not for the message that permeates through the project then simply for the aesthetic value it brings forth. Pan-Africanism is a major theme both of the rapper and on the project.  If you speaker French you are in for a treat as you get to grasp the nuances of the messages he is putting forth and mastery of the lyricism throughout the project.

The Togolese contemporary griot is an avowed Pan-Africanist and has a hard hitting flow that is bound to have you nodding your head as his deft delivery weaves through a myriad of quality beats.

The album boasts live sound and features renowned musicians such as Ribouem Aimé and Nathalie Ahadji (Saxophone) and Elias Damawou (Trompette). Also featured on the project is Charles Duwor (jazz pianist), who collaborated with many great musicians such as Hugh Masekela. The project includes a beautiful fusion with Hip-hop beats by bassist and drummer Alexis, Hountondji, Engone Endong and scratching  by Crown (Grim Reaperz).

The album title, Indigo, pays homage to a jazz classic “Mood Indigo” written by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard. Elom 20ce describes Indigo as the acutest level of pain. He dedicates the project to the underdogs; the unknown individuals that remain ignored and unsung. These are the little people that though ignored are the reason the rhythm of life thumps on. The lady on the cover of the album is actually Elom 20ce’s mother.

Through Indigo, Elom 20ce laments the unfulfilled potential of Africa which although blessed with numerous resources, remains home to the poorest populations in the world. Elom 20ce showcases awareness of the struggles of the African at the bottom of the pyramid, the guy who is out in the field or in the city streets striving to make ends meet. These are the constituents he represents through Indigo.

The language may be a barrier for some but that shouldn’t be an excuse to miss put on a rich experience that transcends linguistics. If I were to make a case for the voice as an instrument I cite Elom 20ce for his cadence and vocal presence.

If wishes were horses then I would hope to hear Elom 20ce side by side with Kenya’s own Johnny Vigeti or any of the stalwarts that represent Ukoo Flani/Mau Mau Camp known for their equally conscious lyricism. Now that would be a special treat!

 

 

 

 

4
Feb

GIVE FREE ONLINE COURSES A TRY

 

This image is taken from an article by Randy Fisher at  http://edutechdebate.org. You can view his article by clicking on it.

This image is taken from an article by Randy Fisher at
http://edutechdebate.org. You can view his article by clicking on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Kuchio Asonga

In 1995 Nairobi Primary School officially launched its library. My favorite shelves were in the reference book section because of the specialist books and encyclopedias in it. I picked up ideas from an array of fields as far apart as aviation to zoology.

That was a decade before I would have easy access to the internet and indulge my curiosity through internet searches. Fast forward to the present and access to the internet is far easier. Though there are areas in Kenya that still have inadequate internet access, urban and semi-urban areas have good to average internet connectivity. Access to information is far easier than it was when I was growing up, although more can be done in this regard.

One of the developments online that has most excited me is the rise of massive open online courses (MOOC). I am a proponent for autodidacticism, I embrace reading and learning for the fun of it. In the past, I have used books, websites, and YouTube videos as my learning resources. However, massive online course present a new opportunity to learn and get access from information put together by experts in specialist fields, you can even access some courses from some top universities in the world. One of my objectives this year is to study at least one course up to a diploma level from an MOOC.
I think MOOCs are a valuable  tool towards continuous personal development although many MOOC courses are not accredited in most countries. However, they can augment credentials you already have and give insights into fields you are interested in pursuing before you have the resources to fully engage in them. I have had a long-running interest in psychology more specifically social psychology and with my background in communication and marketing, I am always open to bolstering my skills in these areas too.

We live in a country where education is valued because it leads to gainful employment. This is a narrative that is repeated over and over. However, beyond employment, self-education can present opportunities for personal growth and development. It has also been noted that continuously engaging with new ideas can keep the brain healthier for longer. More importantly, you can pick out what you specifically want to learn at your own time and pace.

The internet is a major part of our lives today and technology are disrupting industries all over the world. The reality for Africa is that some changes are coming up faster than adaptable. However, if we prioritize self-learning and seek information we can come up with solutions to the challenges we face as a society and as people.

For all the arguments against increased access and use of the internet, the gains made in access to information negate most of them. We have a choice every time we go online, we can easily while away time entertaining ourselves or we can pursue self-development. It is not a case of either-or, with a little self-restraint, we can have our cake and eat it too.

31
Dec

INTERVIEW- FOKN BOIS IN NAIROBI: THE METHOD TO THE MADNESS (PART 2)

By Kuchio Asonga

On December 5th, 2015 Ghanaian hip hop group FOKN BOIS, took to the stage at the book party of the 5th Edition of Kwani? Litefest. The duo of Wanlov the Kubolor and M3nsa gave a captivating performance of their blend of thought provoking and tastefully shocking lyricism that left the audience begging for an encore, to which the duo generously obliged.

Thanks to the good folks at Kwani? We got an opportunity to meet the Fokn Bois and engage in a candid conversation that touched on their music and the ideas that drive it.

In the second part of our interview with them, we touch on the naming of their genre of music, Gospel Porn, their views on African governance and a few their individual perspectives. Below extract from our conversation that highlight who Fokn Bois are and what they are about.

FOKN BOIS ON GOSPEL PORN

Myndz Community: On Bandcamp you call your music genre Gospel Porn, why?

Wanlov the Kubolor: Gospel is good news and porn is many things. Porn is not just what has been taught to us, which is sexually explicit content. Pornography is an overloading of the senses. It is an overload of information. For us, porn spreads out to pollution, wars, corruption, and greed. Porn is just things that we see in society that is pornographic to us. We don’t even view sex as pornography. Porn for us is the original use of the word, it is this overdoing of things in society. That is Gospel Porn. The naming of our genre as Gospel Porn makes people curious. Our music has a lot of shock factor in it. It is only right our genre has a shock factor title.

(As we delved further into the discussion on Gospel Porn we touch on sexuality, religion and how the two seem almost always intertwined.  It was mostly tongue in cheek but it also broached on shock factor and honesty that is found in the Fokn Bois music.)

M3nsa: The thing is Gospel is mostly associated with religion. There is nothing more sexual than the two dominant religions in the world, Christianity, and Islam. Jihadist are promised lots of sex in the afterlife (72 virgins). When it comes to Christianity there are a lot of mentions of sex in the Bible.

Wanlov the Kubolor: When you read the Bible they are stories of people having sex with their daughters (Basically there is a lot of incest). Different kinds of sex and adultery. The guy at the top started it all.

M3NSA ON FREETHOUGHT

(The first song  that I heard by the Fokn Bois was BRKN LNGWJZ (Broken Languages). In it M3nsa and Wanlov trade verse that consists of nonsequiturs.  The song is partly braggadocio but mostly created a vivid and humorous picture for me. You can listen to it here. My next question was based on a lyric by M3nsa on verse 5 of the song.)

Myndz Community:  On the song BRKN LNGWJZ (Broken Languages), you call yourself, “The free thinker”. Freethought is mostly associated with agnosticism, what is your stance on freethought?

M3nsa: The curse of being a human being is curiosity.  You are cursed to keep asking questions and to keep wondering. The minute you stop doing that you are no longer a human being you are a sheep. It is our drive to be as human as possible to see things and question them. The repercussion is that life continues. To a certain extent you have to be as considerate as possible but not to your own detriment. Freedom of speech is crucial for every human being.

WANLOV ON BEING THE AFRICAN GYPSY

Google the images of the Wanlov the Kubolor and you will notice he is almost always in a wrap, rarely is he ever in pants, what is more,, he doesn’t wear shoes. He has branded himself the African gypsy. I sought to find out why he calls himself the African Gypsy

Myndz Community: How was is that you became known as the African gypsy?

Wanlov the Kubolor: I decided to make an album blending African music and Eastern European music. Most of the Eastern European Music that has touched me is gypsy music. Initially, it was just the title for the album but it became a nickname for me. People have negative connotations about Gypsies, but for me having  grown up in Romania I knew a lot of Gypsies and what I learned from them was  magic, happiness, music, freedom, and their nomadic lifestyle. Gypsy to me is a magical word. Some people have pointed out that I am not a real Gypsy, and asked, “ How are you a gypsy? Why do you call yourself one?”

However, some time ago I was walking down the street in Germany, and I walked by some Gypsy people and as I passed by they said (in Romani), “Hey, look at that gypsy?” Gypsies are calling me a Gypsy. I guess it is a state of mind, a lifestyle, moving around the world and enjoying it.

Myndz Community: Tell us more about your sense of style.

Wanlov the Kubolor: I stop wearing shoes when I was living L.A. by the beach for two years. I just got used to it. Now when I wear shoes I feel like I have blindfolded my feet. When I am traveling the world I also take away textures of the places I go to. These give my mind topographical visions of the place I go to. I am addicted to being barefoot.

I was wearing wraps too, in Los Angeles.   When I took all my clothes to the Landro-mart I would wear a wrap. People complimented me on it saying, “That is a nice style of dressing,” and such.  I was comfortable as well so I stuck to it.

FOKN BOIS VIEWS OF AFRICAN GOVERNANCE

Having listened to their music I thought it would be interesting to hear the Fokn Bois perspectives on Tanzania’s President Magufuli, who since coming to power has been known for his cost-cutting measures. In Nigeria, President Buhari has rolled out measures to reduce government spending as well. I was curious about their perspective on this new trend in African governance that seeks to curb wanton waste of state resources and deliver more services to the people.

Myndz Community: What are your thoughts on the emergence of leaders like President Magufuli of Tanzania and President Buhari of Nigeria who have in recently been in the press for their efforts to rein in government spending?

Wanlov the Kubolor: I heard about that, guys are cutting down the cost of state celebration and events. Buhari cutting down on the fleets of Mercedes Benzes. I like it.

M3nsa: There is a resurgence of sensible African leaders. Guys like Kagame (the president of Rwanda) are spearheading this.

Wanlov the Kubolor:  I would like to do that in Ghana. I might not run for president but that would be good to see in Ghana. (Ghana has been experiencing a power shortage that has been a headache to the country)Recently the Minister of Energy in Ghana bought a barge with generators on it for hundreds of millions. Instead of buying solar panels they bought a boat with generators on it! He (the minister) wanted to be awarded a medal for this barge arriving in Ghana.

M3nsa: This may be an oversimplification of my thinking on what happened. After our grandfathers fought for independence from the colonial masters there was an emergence of people who just wanted to come into power because they saw there was an opportunity to make money. After about 40 or 50 years people have had enough of this countries are suffering and we just need to fix it or else we are screwed.

Wanlov the Kubolor:  It is happening small, small but it is happening.

M3nsa:  I am a big fan of President Kagame. While Rwandans may be divided about him outside of Rwanda we are in awe of him. If there was a way I would gladly exchange Mahama for Kagame.

Wanlov the Kubolor:  I would gladly give Mahama and his whole family. Look at Kigali they have the cleanest city in Africa (amid other developments) Kagame and leaders of his ilk are making decisions and standing by them.

(The comments were made in regards to his governance and not his run for a third term).

M3nsa: As much as we may want to have liberal leaders we need some discipline in governance to get results.

Wanlov the Kubolor: African states are acting like handicapped infants.

You can check out the first part of our Fokn Bois interview here and also check out their music on Bandcamp and YouTube.

Like the Fokn Bois page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter as well.

 

 

21
Dec

INTERVIEW- FOKN BOIS IN NAIROBI: THE METHOD TO THE MADNESS (PART 1)

By Kuchio Asonga

On December 5th, 2015 Ghanaian hip hop group Fokn Bois, took to the stage at the book party of the 5th edition of Kwani? Litfest, a biennial gathering of writers, artists, and thinkers from across Africa. The duo of Wanlov the Kubolor and M3nsa gave an enthralling rendition of their blend of thought provoking and tastefully shocking lyricism that left the audience begging for an encore, to which the duo obliged.

The Kwani? litfest book party also doubled as a drive to raise funds for Binyavanga Wainaina, the founder of Kwani? and one of East Africa’s contemporary literary luminaries. Binyavanga suffered a stroke in November 2015 has been receiving treatment in India. Our best wishes and prayers go out him #love4binya.

Thanks to the good folks at Kwani? We got an opportunity to meet the Fokn Bois and engage in a candid conversation that touched on their music and the ideals that drive it. We spoke on a broad scope of subjects and all through our interaction the signature humor they exhibit on track was evident through their sometimes blue sometimes dark wit making for a pleasant interaction.

If you  have not sampled their music kindly click here to sample Fokn Bois – BRKN LNGWJZ (Broken Languages).

Beyond the overt humor and shock factor there is a depth of thought and creativity, hence there is a method to the madness.

Below is the first part of extracts from our conversation that highlight who Fokn Bois are and what they are about.

Myndz Community: Why the name Fokn Bois?

(After clarifying that their name was not tied solely to sexual innuendo the duo broke down their name and explained it in a Ghanaian context)

Wanlov the Kubolor: Fokn boy in Ghana has two different meanings. When the older generation call you a fokn boy it means you are useless, nothing can be expected of you. You have let your family down. But when the youth call you a fokn boy or fokn girl, they are in awe of you. You’ve done something cool or amazing. The older generation most don’t like us because they feel we are polluting their children. Their children like us because their parents do not want them to like us.

M3nsa: The acronym also kind of changes. F.O.K.N. can mean Foes of Kwame Nkurumah. Where foes can mean we are enemies of Kwame Nkurumah as Ghanaians (today), we are going against everything Kwame Nkurumah fought for and built for us. It can also be “Fos” a term for second hand clothes and things imported from Europe or America. Ranging from brassieres to underwear to toys. These are hand-me-downs, so we are wearing the hand-me-downs of Kwame Nkurumah. We are trying keep up what he started. The acronym we use depends on how we are feeling at any given time.

Wanlov the Kubolor: So right now we could have it as, “Friends of Kenyans Now”.

Myndz Community: Every emcee has a story behind their stage name, what are yours?

M3nsa: When you are counting in Akan (a tribe Ghana) you have baako, mienu, and miensa for one, two and three. Miensa means three. Mensa is the third son. Also there is a proverb in Ghana which say “Effie bia Mensah wo mu”, which translates to, “In every house there is a Mensa”. It means that in every house there is a black sheep. I am the black sheep in my family. A more important meaning for Mensa in Budapest, where I currently live is cafeteria

Wanlov the Kubolor: Wanlov was kind of a mistake. When I was young the family would buy two loaves of bread and I would eat one loaf of bread by myself. So it should be Wanloaf, but when I grew the dreads. People began to call me Wanlov, but I am really Wanloaf. Kubolor means vagabond. I am the vagabond who runs away with one loaf of bread.

How did your musical, “Coz of Moni” come about? (Here is a link to the musical)

Wanlov the Kubolor: (Kidding around) It was cultural appropriation (from the West) we watched a lot of Sounds of Music, Mary Poppins and asked ourselves where all music comes from. (“From Europe”, interjects M3nsa) We wanted to copy them and be a musical people. We are sorry to apologies. We apologies now but we were not apologetic when we started.

Mensa: I am sorry for apologizing.

M3nsa: It was very accidental. The Idea was for us to do an album. We had been working on an album for a very long time since we were teenagers. We went to high school together. We used to run away from class. Wanlov would come to my class, he was a senior. He would tell my class teacher that another master was looking for me as though I was in trouble or something.  The teacher would excuse me and we would just run off hide in a place and rap. We would make beats and write some lyrics.

Wanlov the Kubolor: Some years later, ten years, we meet in New York and decided to do an album we started recording some songs. Just a few songs.  We met a few months letter in Los Angeles to consider the album and decided to do a concept album not just song after song. We decided to do an album telling a story of two guys in Ghana from morning to night all in one day. This was kind of influenced by Ice cube’s Friday. As we started writing the songs in the way that the story would progress we began to see pictures in our minds and thought this (the album) could easily be a musical. By the time we finished the album we were ready to shot we a production company in Ghana called Pidgen Music that was ready to sponsor it.

Myndz Community: How would define your style of lyricism as you do not fit into the traditional archetypes of rap music? You have punchline emcees chest-thumping and party scene emcees, you guys don’t really fit either category.

M3nsa: We grew up listening to a lot of that kind of rap and conscious albums too. After a couple of conscious albums, you are like Jesus Christ! (Out of exasperation). We wanted to do something different. We did not want to be preachy, we wanted to say what was on our mind. Just to back track, though, the chest-thumping is very African. When kings and chief were introduced their accolades were stated and we don’t shy away from that. When it is required we do it.

There already the Talib Kwelis’, The Roots and the Mos Defs’. We really wanted to be our polemic selves. Ourselves that were suppressed in high school, where couldn’t say what we felt because of Jesus (religious factors), headmasters or class teachers. It is like we step into our alter egos and express ourselves. It is more fun that way.

Wanlov the Kubolor: It just conversation rap, what we talk about when we are hanging out. We are not setting off to impress or depress someone. We are just trying (writing) to express ourselves.

M3nsa: That is probably what makes it stand out if it does because it is very organic. The way we communicate between ourselves is what we write. It really just the two of us amusing each other and transforming it into music.

Here are some links to some of their music for you to get to better understand what the duo is about.

Fokn Bois – Cyanide Sperms Google Rosia Montana to understand the context of this song.

Fokn Bois- Jesus is Coming ft Wusuwaah, for this, I will leave you to your own devices.

 

9
Dec

SHISHANI: HER LIFE, HER MUSIC, AND HER PERSPECTIVES. (PART 2)

By Kuchio Asonga

On 24th of October 2015, the Namibia songstress Shishani was a headline act at the Tamasha Festival an event that celebrates Africa and African media makers in film, photography, music and literature.

Shishani shared the stage with Muthoni the Drummer Queen, Eric Wainiana and Blackblingers. Following her well received performance at the festival we caught up with her on the 25th of October at Moniko’s Kitchen at Valley Arcade and got into a candid conversation about her music, her worldview and life.

In our interview with Shishani, we got to speak on a broad scope of subjects leading to two articles for Myndz Community.  In the first entry, we covered her formative years and return to Nambia.

This  second entry will focus more on her music. We touch on her songs Minority and Clean Country 

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The Message in the Music

While prepping for my meeting with Shishani I listened to some of her songs but two stood out for the message they sought to drive home. These are “minority” and “clean country”. We discussed both songs at length and talked about the process of writing the songs and inspiration behind them.

Shishani on her song “Minority”

This song was nominated for a prize at the Namibian Music Awards in 2013. The general theme of it is on how easy it is to point the finger and outcast people based on what we perceive to be the norm. However, the song questions who give us the right to judge. We outcast and ostracize others, but who is to tell whether or not in our self-righteousness we are as perfect as we pretend to be?

The inspiration for the Song Minority

I was curious to emotional spark behind the song Minority. You can check out Minority here.  I put the question to Shishani and this what she had to say.

“The realization of social pressure and judgement especially towards the LGBTI community in so many places and cultures. We are oppressed judged outcast. I attended a meeting in Windhoek and it was organized by ladies in Namibia and it was for lesbian women in Namibia. It was a sharing session and I heard all these stories of what girls went through. My experience was very different I was fortunate to be raised in the Netherlands where the general perception is very different. It doesn’t mean that there is neither judgement nor discrimination but it is completely different. It is a completely different setting. I was so hard hit by the stories that when I went home there was fury. I was so hurt and I was angry. That was the spark.”

The broader scope on the song Minority

“Generally, it is about any type of judgement from whatever angle. We have racism, we have sexism, and we have ageism (among other biases). There are all these categories through which we judge people for who they are or what they like. I grew up in setting where thing didn’t really make sense. My mom from Namibia my dad is from Belgium but I grew up in the Netherlands with school as a kid I was the only colored person in the surrounding.”

“I was always trying to find my position as there wasn’t a given answer. Half my family was white, the other half was black and I was brown. There was always the question of where I belonged, what I felt more like. People wanted me to choose and define myself along this lines while others people defined me. As a kid, or for anybody trying to find their way there is a need to belong.”

“It wasn’t all negative though there were good experiences too. People had a positive curiosity about where I was from and they liked my hair, there was that sought of thing. It was different for me it was not like I went through a lot of struggle but it is just a personal struggle and knowing that after all this the categories we put each other into really don’t matter. In the depth of my being it bothers me when we are judging each other on the basis of this things.”

2 shishaniShishani on finding herself

“I learnt to see people for who they really.  I didn’t belong that easily and I had to do a lot of thinking, reflection and introspection to find my truth and my own belonging. I think that is also where minority came from because you just feel like, “why are we doing this? Why are we judging each other?  Also figuring out that I am attracted to women that are another thing. I had to readjust my worldview and how I see myself in the world as the idea of having a husband and children did not apply to me.”

“Eventually, at some point, you get comfortable with yourself. I have met great people who have shown me that life is so much more than how we perceive it. It is great to have a cultural background to know what traditions are but it doesn’t have to define you or what you do with your life. Your life is yours to live you are a unique individual, everybody is we as well. We all have our potentials and that is why we have to go for it. Sometimes people box you in. If dad was a fisherman, for example, they expect you to be a fisherman. I am not judging it but maybe you aren’t a fisherman you could be great at something else. You can apply this to anything whether it is your profession or your lifestyle. You look for your place in the world and you find it. That is message behind minority.”

Clean Country

Clean country is the title of the other Shishani song that really caught my attention. She wrote the song on a request from a journalist who uncovered a story about a nuclear waste plant that was to be built off the coast of Namibia. The song was to raise awareness on the dangers of radioactive waste and the negative effect it would have on the environment.  You can check out clean country here.

This how Shishani defines her music and the message in it, “I am living my life I am just a human being and I am a musician in my music I talk about things that matter to me so whether it is politics, environment or social reality, I talk about it.”

9
Dec

SHISHANI: HER LIFE, HER MUSIC, AND HER PERSPECTIVES. (PART 1 )

By Kuchio Asonga

On 24th of October 2015, the Namibia songstress Shishani was a headline act at the Tamasha Festival an event that celebrates Africa and African media makers in film, photography, music and literature.

Shishani shared the stage with Muthoni the Drummer Queen, Eric Wainiana and Blackblingers. Following her well-received performance at the festival we caught up with her on the 25th of October at Moniko’s Kitchen at Valley Arcade and got into a candid conversation about her music, her worldview and life.

In our interview with Shishani, we got to speak on a broad scope of subjects leading to two articles.  In this first entry, we cover her formative years and her return to Nambia.

The second entry will focus more on her music.

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The Formative years

Shishani’s mother is Namibian and hails from the Ovambo community, and her father is Belgian. At age five her family moved to the Netherlands where she was brought up. She is a graduate of the University of Amsterdam. Her brother is a jazz piano player and her father is strongly inclined towards music. During her childhood, she took music classes starting with the violin, drums and eventually singing.

Shishani’s singing career started by chance at age sixteen while at summer camp. She was asked to do some scat-singing by her band mates as the vocalist was too shy to do it. They were so impressed by her performance that they advised her to take on singing. At the end of summer camp, she did two performances one as a drummer and another as a singer.

Her performance on the drums was well received. However her song rendition was celebrated and it was during her singing performance that she had an epiphany that she described this way,

”I felt something so powerful, something else happened in the room, there was some other kind of energy and something spoke to me and I knew this is what I have to do”.

Following the realization that singing was her calling, she began taking singing lessons to hone her natural talent. For five years she was in a band with a guitarist called Koron.  They played together for five years. Through this time, she polished her craft and learnt her way around different genres from Rnb with a group called brown sugar, rock, reggae and ska. Through this time, she worked with different deejays and groups too.

After garnering all this experience she chose to return to Namibia and focus on writing her own music. Shishani  explains her need to go  her own way by saying,” Though there was sadness breaking away from past associates, there was a voice in me that wanted to speak“.

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The return to Namibia

On returning to Namibia in 2011 Shishani taught herself how to play the guitar as she wanted to perform but had no contacts in Windhoek that would introduce her to musicians to play with. Since then she has done two albums the EP “Windhoek” and the album “Session in Poland” which was partly crowd-funded.

More recently Shishani has come together with a handful of other talent artists based in Amsterdam but from all over the world to form the collective, Shishani and The Afro Namibian tales. You can check out their latest release “Ndapandula” here.

2
Oct

FEMIONE AND MTU REAL:  SHOWCASE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL HIP HOP LYRICISM

By Kuchio Asonga

Hip hop storytelling is a craft that is seemingly on the decline. However, on the Kenyan Hip hop scene two emcees, Femione, and Mtu-Real, have in the recent past shown considerable promise each with an autobiographical hip-hop song that showcases poignant and clever lyricism.

Braggadocio raps are a dime a dozen, it is easy to brag about your skill, your money or your sexual prowess. Well done autobiographical hip-hop songs are rare especially when they reveal aspects of the writers beyond the personas they choose to create.

Khaligraph Jones, Octopizzo and Rabbit aka King Kaka, the three main contenders for the crown of the king of Kenyan hip hop, have all proven themselves, adept storytellers. In fact, Rabbit has excelled at storytelling to the point that he is branded “Kaka Sungura”, after the cunning hare in the Kiswahili trickster narratives we read as children.

FEMIONE’S WANJIKU KIMANI

Wanjiku Kimani

With a show stealing verse in 2013’s Ligi Soo remix Femione made her ascension onto the shortlist of contenders for the best upcoming female emcee in Kenya.  A lyrical prodigy since her primary school years, the former member of the hip-hop collective Eastlando has shown outstanding lyricism in cyphers and on features.

Femione’s previous singles Alejandro and Maumbile were further proof that the Ligi Soo feature wasn’t a fluke but rather her standard as an emcee. She is currently affiliated to the Rabbit helmed Kaka Empire along with Wangechi amid other talented creatives and artists.

In the Song Wanjiku Kimani, Femione delves into her journey as an emcee from the mentorship she received from Zakah, of the Wenyeji and Ukoo Flani fame, to the breakup of the Eastlando rap group, to her long-running friendship with her partner in rhyme Samatha M-ill, who was also in the Eastlando group but is on hiatus.

She touches on her association with Chuo Records and how the Ligi Soo remix brought her new opportunities through partnering with Kaka Empire. Furthermore, she delves into her relationship with her mother, her father and a guy called Rooney (he should be wary of Femione groupies). In this song, she steps out of her Femione persona to show us some of her triumphs and fails.

Both the song and the video are deftly executed and the beat by Jake-on-the-beat can only be described as anthem-like with elements that aid the sentiments of the song. The effect on the vocals and delivery are an easy listen.

You can watch the video here and share your thoughts on it.

MTU REAL’S MY STORY

Mtu Real

I first encountered Mtu Reals music on Facebook. He had been heralded as an emcee to watch but I was a skeptic. He had two songs on his ReverbNation page, one of which I gave a lukewarm review. That was back in 2013.

Fast forward to 2015 and Mtu Real is back on my radar. Mtu Real’s songs have featured frequently on Capital FM’s The Cypher. The Chuo Records affiliated emcee has a search engine friendly name that will yield all the online  platforms that host his music. His songs are hosted on Soundcloud, ReverbNation and Audiomack too.

This time, around I am duly impressed not simply by the fact that he narrated his personal experiences but the way he did so with such clear detail and cleverly worded lyrics. A well-done song is measured by how well the sum of its parts come together. The lyrics and the beat are buoyed by the emotion channeled through Mtu Real’s voice on the verses and Shaquay’s voice on the hook. Chuo Records are establishing one of the most reputable stables for hip hop music. With this project Samora GKV once again proves why he is the go-to producer for upcoming hip hop lyricists.

Verse one delves into Mtu Real’s coming into the world and coming to terms with the reality that nothing comes easy. Verse two discusses how he grew up and as well his father demise. Verse three is about his mother and in it he reveals how his life changed after his father death. This song resonates with anyone who has been through challenges and still managed to keep going. The narrative of this song is not told from a perspective of woe and despair rather as a call to us to rise above our struggles and keep striving.

The instant quotable lines on this song are;

“Dunia dancefloor masaa yana katika” which translates to “life’s a dance floor and time is running out”. “Katika” in this line has double meaning as it also means to dance.

“Soja bila rifle na kuishi ndio hoja na die for” loosely translates to “I’m a soldier without a rifle (and) to live is the reason I’m dying.” This is a compound rhyme in two parts.

The song is Mtu Real’s story but it is also a call to keep on striving on regardless of the twists life throws at us. Download Mtu Real’s My Story here and share your feedback as well.

Astute story telling abilities has always been an attribute of deft emcees and these two have shown that they are up to the  task. I hope more emcees can dig deep within and bring us their stories and their unique perspectives as Femione and Mtu Real have done.