Of music and memories (part 2)


Today, I want to write about the power of music. Music and smell are inextricably tied together. You remember all the worst ‘worst smells’ to ever assault your nose, the worst fart from that high school miscreant, and the smell of your worst shag. And music, yes, is fundamentally tied to all the memories we cherish.

I have friends such as Nyambega Gisesa whom I have never seen express any discernible interest in music, or even buy a music album. Even my home boy Ben Moseti is so indifferent to music I wonder what makes him tick.

But to me music is the best invention of mankind after fire. All that I value and cherish in this world is tied to music. The earliest song that registered in my mind was Lady Isa’s Maisha. I remember one time arriving from the countryside with my dad, and we went to certain bar around bus station or OTC or whenever the stage of Kisii Express or Gusii Deluxe was back then. Now the old man loved his liquor in ruinous fashion. That song stuck in my head.

When we were slightly older, we used to have our own version of the chorus of that song.

Bibi na bwana wakigombana nyumbani,

Waache wenyewe mpaka wataelewana..

We used to replace that g in ‘wakigombana’ with ‘t’ and we had fun. Speaking of my childhood, between the age of six and eleven, I had my issues. I was not wholly accepted in the village, having just recently arrived in the village. Young boys can be mean in innocent fashion and ever so quick to put you in your place. I think that is the first time I discovered the injustices in these world that occupy me to date. Most of the time, I was isolated. Even in a group, I always a lonely boy. And music rescued me.

We had this National Panasonic radio that I truly cherished. It used five battery cells and back then, Eveready was the shit. There were red cells that were weak and there were yellow ones that were stronger and long lasting. Now, my mum now a widow, fended for us by engaging in small businesses. Like on Wednesday, she will team up with another lady and a man who run a hotel at a local market. Together they made and sold food on the market day. That day, she took the radio with her. And put the yellow cells there and she would play mostly Congolese and peasant Kwaito songs that were in vogue in villages back then.

Now that radio, always came to my rescue on Saturdays. When mum left for church, I will stay at home and tune in to Nick Okanga Naftali’s Saalam za Weekend that aired between 10.00 am to 12.30 pm or there about on KBC. Nick had an authoritative, charming and engaging voice that left a huge impression on me and I thought I would have loved to be a news presenter. I was about seven. And that is about the time that my knowledge about music begun to become encyclopedic. I gathered every fact about Congolese and South African musicians that used to be played in the programme.

Now, ninety percent of the weekends Nick never disappointed. As long as he played a Sokouss Stars song, Lucky Dube and Sam (probably a South African or Namibian, by then I think he was already dead but I can’t seem to find any of his music on YouTube) I was sorted.

My favourite was Madilu Sytem’s Apula. Anytime he played the song, I was over the moon. Followed by Sokouss Stars’ Rhoda (credited to Ngouma Lokito). These two songs pretty much summed up my life in that godforsaken village in Kisii. Recently, I tried to search some cheap Kwaito songs we listened to back then and I was overpowered by emotions, I had to switch and swear that I will never listen to them again. They brought what to me remains the biggest nightmare of my life to date.

Having formed that bond with music, it has been my best escape route since then. Not alcohol can beat. Not bhang (all my attempts to get high on weed have failed). Not sex. Nothing in my life gives me relief than good music. Not food. And certain songs stand out to me, not because they are my best. No. Because, they bring some memories to me, some good, some bad, and some rather trivial. And that radio, if I ever lost anything that I cherish, it has to be it. I will give anything to have it and the tapes.

So here are some of the songs that possess some of the indelible memories. In no particular chronological order.

1. Even if my heart will break Kenny G
When I was in Form 3, in one of the terms, I was sent home for school fee. Now in Kisii town, in the old matatu stage, where Keroka Matatus used to pick passengers, opposite Zonic Hotel, there used to be a music store. The guy packed modern music, mostly American and European rap and R&B. I had this Sh 150. I decided to buy a tape. And settled for one that had the best collection of Rhythm and Blues. I bought one that had, ‘I knew I love you’ by Savage Garden, ‘NSYNC’s God must have spent more time on you’ Whitney and Bobby’s ‘My love’ (a cool jam that I never hear anywhere), Jaheim’s ‘Fabulous’ (definitely one of my top 50. But it was Kenny G’s guitar that stuck in my head. I played the tape on the Sharp radio that my uncle owned. I fell in love. With no one by the way. But I will never forget that time. My grandma-now gone-always treated me like her favourite grandson and my grand dad was still there, in good stead and there was no place like home. So much has changed.

2. All Out of love-Air Supply/Invisible man-98 Degrees

When I was Form 4, I went to visit my bro, Wycliffe at Fort Tenan, somewhere in Kericho where Zinjanthropus or one of those early men was discovered. He was working there with the Ministry of Health. Best place I have ever been to. It is cool, bright and green.

Now his neighbour was a colleague with Ministry of Health. He had a sister-in-law baked straight from heaven where the heaven white forest is baked. Light-skinned and impossibly beautiful, I was infatuated. Kalenjin women can be beautiful. And of course they have the most gracious skins anywhere. She was definitely older than me and I fantasized the whole day what it must be to be inside those yellow, slightly fat thighs. I wanted to grow old.

The first time she spoke to me, my heart melted. My heart danced. I felt so whole. So rich. And then she asked me to write her the lyrics of the song playing on the CD. The song was All out of Love by Air Supply. Good Lord, I wrote the lyrics, and I started feeling that she was not old after all and she really wanted me. The following day she smiled at me, but she never bothered coming for the lyrics. I have never recovered from that, since the following Tuesday, I had to go back to school. But she stuck in my head. I kept tabs on her until I learnt she got a baby and did marry some skunk and I lost faith in womanity. Why do beautiful woman always settle for jerks.

3. We doing better than this-Beenie Man

I’m not really a ragga person. But everyone likes at least one Beenie Man or Elephant Man song. By the way, aren’t any more surnames in Jamaica, why do they insist on this Man surname so much…Yellow Man…

When the song was new and fresh I was either in second or third year in campus. I took this chick I so much wanted for a weekday dinner at one of those Highland’s joints. Then they were averagely super. We had the usual chicken and starch meal stuff before we grabbed a couple of beers. The club was deserted. We were probably the only ones. The chick, arguably the prettiest woman who has ever given me audience, gifted with a sizable bum and a body I can have breakfast with, rose and danced to the song, swung it my way briefly. But I have the stiffest body in the southern part of the equator; I can’t dance even if you hurled a grenade my way. We left shortly, but that image of her dancing to me stuck in my right part of the brain, and will till eternity.
4. Land Under-Men at Work
I was on a flight from either from Dubai to Hamburg or vice-versa on Fly Emirates. Now I could not watch the movies, I’m rather impatient. But I stumbled their music collection, mostly top 10 billboard songs from each year starting from early 1970s to the 90s. I focused on the 80s. All those soulful tunes. And then, this song by Men at Work, stuck in my head like God-knows what. The flute and the piano are a master piece.
That day, I enjoyed the sunshine above the clouds. I must conclude that seeing clouds from above is nicer than from below. Awesome. I traveled back in time and really felt what it must have felt like being in the 1980s.

4. Leau-Madilu

I always knew the song, but it had never registered in my mind. I knew it was by Madilu and it was a monster of a song. The day the song registered in my head, I was deep in Chad-thereabout. I was with my boy Plato. We were in a place without any internet connection for 6 months, no better food other than badly prepared chapatti, beans, ugali and meat. Eat that for six months and your penis becomes white.

Now in the evenings, we would go to a small market, order a can of Pepsi and sit on the wooden chairs and breathe the clean, crisp air as the sun that earlier on kept us in shades and houses, set in the West. Occasionally, we would find them playing good music. Often it was some Chadian or South Sudanese music that sounded so basic, so violent on the ear.

Now this one evening, they were playing a collection of Rhumba and Leau was booming. I listened as Madilu mentioned all the Congolese greats through the song and you can understand why I like Madilu System. Listen to the song and you can concur with me, at least if you are over 25.

5. Kigeugeu-Jaguar

I had heard the song once or twice, but listening to it on a big speaker at Belle Vista in Mombasa three years ago, was a revelation. I was down there with some campus lass and I haven’t been there ever since. That song, whether you liked or hated Jaguar in club, it was a monster.

6. Words-Antony David and India Arie

Donno, why I regard it as the best neo-soul song. May be it probably is.

7. For you I will & Monica & Rise-Gabrielle

They take me back to high school. My best friend Silas and I had similar taste in music. We used to cut those Sunday Nation’s lyrics and sing along to those songs. Too bad, Silas will lose his sight, but glad that he keeps his head up. Super boy and a great lawyer in the making.

8. Usiende Mbali-Juliana and Bushoke

Will always remind me of Club Spree along Moi Avenue. We partied there in our final years in campus and that song was fresh and will never grow old for me. Ditto, TID’s last effort ‘Sura yako’.

9. More than I wanted-Cece Winans

I remember in the early 2000s, when the song came out, it played on Kiss FM and I remember my Bro commenting that Cece Winans only sang gospel music. I didn’t know. The song registered in my mind.

Now in 2007, while doing those mandatory post high-school computer packages I lived in Kibera with my bro. EATV was the new kid in the block, relied upon for entertainment. In the morning they brought gospel songs. Mostly recorded and repeated every day. They just alternated the patterns; if they played local (East African gospel) as from 6-7, they will play American gospel as from 7 to 8 and vice-versa. Now for American gospel, Cece Winans’ above mentioned song was a constant and my day never begun until it played. Then I will go to college.
If life was fare, I should have married Cece.

10.Snitch-Obi Trice and Akon

One of the two or three songs that I care about an Akon chorus. Akon is too irritating. This song came out after those high school years and it is the last rap song that I accepted wholly. After that I stopped caring about music. At all.
11. Kubera Woli- Radio &Weasel feat Obsession

One of the songs you wonder why it never hit Kenya in big fashion. May be it is because it came out when I was perambulating between Kampala and Juba. When I used to stay in Juba, the staple music depended on the neighbourhood bars. Given that 89% of the bars are owned by Eritreans or Ethiopians, it means they played their music that sound like painful, monotonous Taarab. If you listened to it for long, your tongue turns blue.
Occasionally when they had Ugandans over, or South Sudanese fellows, they would switch. Kubera Woli to me is the best Radio and Weasel song. It is in my top, best 50 ever as well. And yes, it renewed my crush in that Obsession chick.
12. Airplanes-BoB and Hayle Williams
I first caught the song in a Bakulu bus-terrible bus company that plies, more like those Paradiso buses that ply the 600-odd kilometres to Juba. It was the raga version and Hayle Williams’s voice is probably the unknown cure for Erectile dysfunction. I loved it instantly.
13. Not ready for goodbye-All for One

One of those songs, not famous enough, yet magnificently great. We used to listen to it on those Ugandan FM stations that leaked to Western Kenya. Back then FM radio was sensible. Then stupid people ruined it. Also there was that Blue (the British pop group) song ‘You make Wanna’ that was as good as all their songs.

There is one I have forgotten. But I will remember. And I will share.


Of music and memories (Part 1)

We all have memories. Some we cherish. Some we detest. For a woman, her most cherished memory is probably the day she receives multiple orgasms, leaving her ecstatic and for the first time she understands the divine essence of sex. And life.

So good is the overnight romp that in the morning she naturally wakes up, picks up the condoms (if they used), goes ahead to clean, scrub the floor, and even dust the house. If it was good enough, she will even make you a sandwich. Or pancakes. You know a woman enjoyed it, if in the morning she volunteers to ruin her nails to scrub your jeans. I gather women don’t get as many as orgasms as possible, so the few they manage to squeeze make part of the memories they cherish forever. The reason why that one ex she talks about should always be a threat.

For men, the best memory is always that first million you made. I don’t how that feels. I have never touched, smelled or even seen what a million feels like, ever since I learnt that a million has six zeros more than 20 years ago.

I lie. The best memory for a man is that woman who made you feel like a king and an emperor at the same time. She actively participated in bed, packed a good game and totally exhausted you. She offered styles that hitherto were possible in a A-rated porn show. You lay in that post-coital position, reflecting about life. It looks cool in movies, especially, if a man lights up a cigarette, blows powerfully and gazes into space as the woman coils herself and rests her head on chest, and drifts to sleep.

Sex, good and bad, terrible and lousy, expected or unexpected defines some of the best or worst memories that carry in our minds and our hearts.

There are other better memories outside sex. That Christmas that all of you were around. Mum and dad were happy. Even the family’s black sheep looked happy and together. In most families, the black sheep is always the bro or sis who had difficulty grasping algebra, the sister who got knocked off, or the that second-born bro who has smoked his brains off- now damaging his liver irreversibly. We always judge them without really knowing what got them there in the first place-mostly some parental and sibling neglect or stupid sibling rivalry.

Now that Christmas you were all there. Sisters tagged along nephews and nieces. The male members of the family mercilessly terminated the life of a goat, took the bile away, and cleaned the innards and roasted the ribs as the female members made those soft, tender chapattis that only sister Catherine can make. You shared meal and studied each other and wondered how things changed so fast. When did Benja develop eye-sight problem? Looks cool in his new specs though. Why is Lizzie pregnant for the third time, kwani he married a Catholic? It seems. You know the dirty little secret of Sharon. You gave her money for an abortion. Now she seems oblivious.

Families. You were all fine, fantastic. And enjoyed each other company, painfully aware that it might be the last time that all of you gather under one roof. From then on, life will happen. Ronnie moves abroad on a green card. Ruth will be ‘too expectant next year’ to come by. Sharonne will marry some cretin who will ruin her. And Benja will end up with a wife who does not get along with your family and always discourages him from visiting. Of course mum or dad might die anytime as they are grappling with cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, name it. The family will never be the same again. But at least mum and dad are together to the very last day. Not many family have this privilege of parents living together to their 60s.

There are other memories. Like your first lap dance and the subsequent discovery that women are an integral part of our lives as men,without them, life will be colourless. Now, you just bought this lass one drink and she almost broke you Joe Woods wiggling like there was no tomorrow. Or that beautiful woman with an ass to kill for, who gracefully danced with you, gave you the number but sadly never picked your calls. When someone finally picked it, they told you that that was the front office of Mathare Mental Hospital. It wasn’t even funny.

I have one such memory. She didn’t dance with me. Neither did she offer me a lap dance. It was at Club Soundd. They were a bunch of women in their healthier side of 20s. One was outrageously beautiful, not even the weave she had on took even a single mark off her. She had a healthy body, urbane mannerisms and very splendid legs. But she was either stiff or shy. She danced to a couple of songs, but was mostly seated. Back then in college, we survived on bottle of beer from 10.23 pm to 4.09 am.

Her name was Margie. After a lot of pleading, begging, persuading, crying, she gave me her number. I swear women with a 0726 number have a problem. I called her on Monday, she never picked. I called her on a Tuesday she never picked, but texted me she was in class. At Strathmore. Now Strathmore girls used to behave like you must have an IQ of 300, invent a means of communication to Jupiter, be in the Forbes magazines, have the snobbishness of a Briton, the generosity of drug baron and attend to her whims at will, all the time.

Don’t know if they still think that the sun revolves around them. (Full disclosure:I finally got the best from Strath, beautiful, humble and human). Now Margie, in typical Strathmore version played hard to get. So one day I asked my boy Plato to call her, given he speaks clean, unaccented English. Mine has some Kisii tingle to it. Here is how the call went on loud speaker:

PLATO: Hey Maggie, how is your evening?

MARGIE: I’m fine, who I’m I talking to?

PLATO: MMMH..Sila, we met at Club Soundd and you gave me your num…


PLATO: Would you like to join us at the Norfolk…

MARGIE:ooh, you work there?

Plato never saw that coming and basically, I never saw Margie and will never know what happened to her. May be she has a kid now. Possibly married. Or not. I have forgotten her face. May be she moved abroad. Or in an abusive relationship. I will never know. But I will always remember her with that line “ooh, you work at the Norfolk?”

It never occurred to me that I didn’t look like someone who could not afford a cup of tea. While perpetually broke, certainly, save for Caramel, I have always been in a position to afford a woman anything she wants, as long as it is not a car, an iPhone and a laptop. I can’t afford a car. I can’t buy a phone that other men will contact her with. No, that is against Mau Mau’s mission to liberate us. And certainly not a laptop, for she might use to Skype with his ex in the UK. Women are always loyal to the other nigger, not the one they are shagging. It is their default nature. So you only buy her expendable things, food (she will poop that), beer (she will pee that) and what else? Not much.

But I digress.

To b e continued on Thursday-the useless bit about music.

Disguised blessings

Bad things come in threes. I had just finished reading my rejection email from a prospective employer. Why do they call them regret letters? Secondly, Mike, whom I owed a lot of money was already running out of patience. He had been calling me all morning. And thirdly, Susan, my girlfriend, wanted lunch.

For Mike, our friendship was already at breaking point. Whether I gave him the money or not, the debt had caused an irrevocable strain in our once strong relationship. Susan had started expressing doubt in my abilities. She had supported me enough, but lately she was becoming exasperated by my joblessness. She was doing well pocketing a six figure salary at her young and impressive age.

Poor soul, I walked down the street, my mind blank. A street child approached me, asking for money to buy a meal. I had Sh 30 while the child had several coins in a bowl. At the moment I was no better than the child, my suit and tie notwithstanding.

I was temporarily staying with Susan even though I had my small room in the rustic parts of town. I had plenty of my possessions at her place. It was convenient, given it had all the amenities from a toilet, running water, satellite TV, refrigerator, name it.

Susan had shown me every sign that she was sick and tired of my ‘laziness’. You always notice it in women when they become petulant. It is just natural, and unlike men, they cannot hide it. She would kick me out of her house, sooner or later. It happened sooner. I decided to host some of my male friends at her house, enjoying her drinks over a soccer match. She was appalled. No sooner they left than she expressed her displeasure at having ‘taken things too far’. She had to issue a new rule book if I was going to stay with her. Those conditions were just impossible, I quit that night.

With no place to go, I called a friend who had graduated earlier and asked him for any job, even if clerical. He was noncommittal.

“Nothing at the moment, quite slow over here,” he said in his lucid baritone.

As I was just hanging up,

“Ooh, try the Martins Planners, they needed some interns, may be you can hold onto to that for a while,” he concluded his call, really not encouraging me to go for the internship. If only I nailed it…

The following morning I was on a phone call to Martins Planners. Their insistent answer was that they needed university students, not overqualified individuals. I pleaded and promised to do the job even at half what they were paying, which was better than nothing. She must have heard the desperation on my voice when she told me to show up for the interview. I got the job because we had gone to the same university with the boss, and a handful of those in the interview panel.

First day at the work place it was awkward. I was overqualified for my bosses and I made it uncomfortable for them to order me around as an intern. But I did my job obediently with a facetious humility at times.

Like many good things in life, my big break came as an accident. The third Friday after my employment, officials who were to finance some of the projects the firm handled happened to be visiting, a week before the scheduled date. One of the senior colleagues had shown up at work with a pair shorts and a baggy T-Shirt. Incidentally, I was in a suit on that given day for no reason other than that all my clothes were dirty and only my interview suit was clean.

The colleague in school boy fashion asked me to aid him in the presentation. Given they were all ill prepared for the presentation; they asked me to do my best. At the presentation, no one was prepared for the tough questions being asked by the expatriates. However, I was fresh and ready. I took it upon myself to answer their questions. I impressed. They won a financing deal. Everyone was happy for me. I got a promotion. I was now employed in a space of a month since my sweetheart kicked me out of the house unceremoniously.
Next time I met Susan, was during a pre-wedding of a mutual friend three months later. I was doing well. I had arrived in the company car, dressed extremely well and with my new girlfriend in tow. This might sound selfish, but she was beautiful and clingy in the literal sense of the word. She was holding fast onto my arm as we walked into the room as the friends cheered.

As I sat down, I saw Susan malevolently eyeballing Judy as I smiled in acknowledgement of her presence. For some reason, she had inexplicable anger and jealousy written all over her face. Since I like playing mind games, when my turn came to speak, I had to break her heart even the more.

I first acknowledged everyone in the room and most individuals had never learned that our relationship was long over and I was onto something else. As I mentioned her name, smiling, her face was emotionless like a Martian rock. And then,

“I am accompanied by my very beautiful and gracious fiancée, and plans are under way for our wedding. With luck we will invite you for the same in a few months’ time. Many in the room smiled. Most were confused.

After the fundraiser, I tried walking towards Susan to say hi, but she discreetly ignored me and made fast for the door until I had to call her out loudly. When I got closer to her, she confronted me,

“What do you want from me?”

I was taken aback.

“Nothing, just wanted to say hi?”


“And I want to thank you.”

“For what?” she asked curtly and embittered.

“Remember that day you kicked me out of your house indirectly…”

“I never kicked you out, I was just upset by your friends and was opposed to them coming over to our house,” she said, almost apologetically. I mentally underlined the word ‘our’.

“Anyway, whatever, but had we not separated that day, I will not be having the current job that I am having. I made a call out of anger and desperation and see what it got me,” I told her but I noticed she was not even listening, but eyeing Judy, her successor.

“Ooh, that is my new girlfriend, want to say hi?” I chided her, but the sarcasm was lost in her anger.
“No, leave me alone.”

Alone, I left her as Judy grabbed my hand and off we went. Judy, ignorantly blissful. Susan, indignantly regretful.