Friday, September 17, 2004
Sinpare, Do Klan Revolution, Poxi, Kimathi Movement & the Spoken Word Youth Explosion in Kenya
Essay is Dedicated to Amanya Wafula, Dorcas Atieno, Gitahi Githuku, Sinpare, Do Klan Revolution and All Militant, Democratic and Patriotic Kenyan Youth
By Onyango Oloo
1.0. Kenyan Students Have Struck A Blow Against Neo-Liberalism!
You know, when I set out to write this piece, it was going to be all about MUSIC and SPOKEN WORD artists based in Kenya, believe it or not.
Until that is, I took a glance at Friday's papers and scanned some of the predictable and inane comments posted sneakily, as usual, by overseas based Kenyan academics, technocrats and professionals who are too scared to use their real names to broadcast their right wing stupidity.
I mean, who can blame them?
Who in their right mind could even justify, let alone defend, a quarter of the junk they post online every single day?
Hundreds of Kenyan university students participated in a very commendable democratic action yesterday by not only standing up against the increasingly corrupt, repressive, parochial, dishonest, selfish and discredited regime of Mwai Kibaki, but more importantly striking yet another blow against the GLOBAL neo-liberal forces that are hell-bent on commodifying education, privatizing education and rolling back all the historic gains Kenyan students and their lecturers have won in the long battles for the democratization of education.
But you would never SUSPECT that this is, in fact, what happened yesterday, if you relied on the derisive denunciations on some of the Kenyan online forums, as your sole source of edification-I am referring to one notorious hub in cyberspace where some of the most selfish and mean spirited Kenyans nest and brood, in cowardly anonymity spitting gobs of makohozi at anything that is remotely connected to democratic struggle.
Here are the images that Kenyans all over the country are waking up to this morning:
To hear the Uncle Tom House Niggers tell their tale, Kenyan students are out of the minds to oppose a FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT increase in their student levies at a time when the Kenyan economy has not improved, very few of the 500,000 jobs have been created and some students graduate from university to become makangas( matatu touts- there is at least one who contributes in the Mashada forum) or they stick in school for a little longer, earn their Masters degrees and then they can land cushy jobs as SECURITY GUARDS-if they are lucky that is.
The Kibaki regime thinks there is nothing wrong with expecting students who subsist in far worse conditions than those that we protested against twenty years ago to grin and bear this obscene hike, this coming less than a week after Mwai Kibaki pledged to some three delirious and happy widows at the Coast Province that Kenyan taxpayers would shell out three million shillings to help pay off the cost of the late Karisa Maitha's house because the late suspected war lord had a fatal accident in Germany(allegedly because the Viagra he was using to boost his sexual stamina interfered with his chronic heart condition when he was trying to copulate with his third wife). Not too long ago, Yvonne Wamalwa also won the Death Sweepstakes- the windfall which comes to a grateful, well-connected upper middle class Kenyan family from the NARC regime every time one of its members die. Given the possibility that at least SIX MORE of these bankrupt(in more senses than one) politicians, not excluding the Big Cheese may be fuataring the Nyayos of the Maithas and Parpais in the next couple of years, how many BILLIONS will the wananchi shell out to these politicians for the privilege of dropping dead while in office?
There is a reason why we call these guys DEAD wood- they are literally the walking dead. I believe in protecting the environment so I will NOT suggest that they be used as firewood...
Kenyan youth enrolled in higher education are expected to shell out all this muthendi- and it was not that long ago when parliamentarians voted to award themselves at least HALF A MILLION SHILLINGS every MONTH for the privilege of DOING PRECIOUS LITTLE in that bunge. The corrupt among them never go back to their constituencies- preferring to spend the weekend whoring around and drinking themselves senseless or playing ATROCIOUS golf with their fellow political gangsters.
What Kenyan students are going through is far from being localized. It is a worldwide phenomenon. Nor did it begin over the weekend- on the contrary the global fightback against the capitalist attack on higher education has been going on for a number of years now.
Go to this independent media site in Portland, Oregon, to find what has been happening in Germany
And over here you will find coverage on the South African experience
British Columbia, a province in western Canada is not to be left out
And the issue is a very big on in Australia, judging by the coverage
And even in Israel it was a major topic
And it is far from being a joking matter in London
and other parts of the British Isles like Cambridge, for instance and other parts as well. Here is a very good look at the evolution of the neo-liberal attack on higher education in the UK
In Quebec has gone beyond being merely pondered
Another Montreal based organization, Alternatives came up with this Intervention on neo-liberalism and higher education in South Africa
A major union in Canada CUPE devoted a full length article to this very topic
While in the Netherlands it helped spark an all out protest against the European Union.
We should not be surprised to see that the World Bank has weighed in on the discussion or particularly shocked that some egg head at that Ivy League bastion,Yale was making some pretty scary proposals. What is less known is even the existence of yet another evil Bretton Woods, offspring the International Finance Corporation and their kooky ideas about higher education
As many of you know, I could write THREE DIGITALS TODAY on this ONE SUBJECT, but I am going to pass on that for today. I have to go back to my chosen topic.
2.0. Sinpare, Do Klan Revolution, Poxi, Kimathi Movement and the Youth Led Spoken Word Explosion in Kenya.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to four young Kenyans- Amanya Wafula, Dorcas Atieno, Gitahi Githuku and Blackskin, one of the main members of the Do Klan Revolution underground hip hop crew.
When I was in Kenya last October these young progressive compatriots educated me a great deal on what Kenyan youth were doing to confront neo-colonialism in Kenya.
I found out for instance, that the younger generation of militant Kenyan activists had DISMISSED NARC LONG BEFORE IT CAME TO POWER recognizing the same recycled thieves and liars(sprinkled with a few killers and rapists here and there) who were now dressing themselves up as "reformers" and "activists".
They had also SEEN THROUGH the OPPORTUNISM of many of the leading lights of the mainstream Kenyan civil society sector having been alienated by these middle class elites who were uncomfortable with their ghetto credentials and allegiances.
And they DID NOT SPARE older activists of MY GENERATION(boy, time does fly,not too long ago, I was among the Kenyan youth denouncing the OLDER GENERATION!Today I am one of the greying geezers! Oh, the vengeance of TIME!) who to the present Kenyan youth seemed to be bogged down with overly theoretical and academic discourses that were completely out of touch with the ferment brewing in places like Dandora, Githurai, Jerusalem, Kawangware and Kangemi.
Where our generation had placed a lot of emphasis on writing leaflets and pamphlets, the present generation has turned to music, spoken word and sports to get their message out.
Yes, you read me right:
Instead of calling for an evening to study the life and work of Antonio Gramsci, Kenyan youth organizers will put together an informal program around a soccer tournament in the estates or a dance on the weekend.
And the young up and coming conscious and political Kenyan word smiths have found the mic to be far mightier than the pen or the keyboard.
We have also to recognize the tenacity and potency of
hip hop as a defining component of the global youth culture.
There is the Notorious BIG and Jay-Z flossing about punani,Cristal and the Beemers. And then you have Sarah Jones, dead prez, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Coup and the Roots.
A similar divide is apparent in Kenya today.
You have the(relatively speaking)"mainstream" success of artists like the late E-Sir, his close buddy Nameless, folks like Redsan and emergent voices like Nazizi and Mercy Myra. I consider them all to be ENTERTAINERS, who, if they have any social messages to pass on, do so as a by the way-their primary focus and immediate goal being in filling up that dance floor with frenzied writhing and sweating young gyrating bodies...
And then you hear the voices of those you barely ever see-the militant underground hip hop artists to be found in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and other Kenyan urban centres.
To be sure, someone like Poxi Presha straddles that fence- he is still one of the most well-known Kenyan musicians of the younger generation- yet he is still very political.
Gitahi Githuku (and I am not forgetting you,Njuguna Mutahi for putting me in touch with the Kimathi Movement in the first place),Amanya,Atieno(Kimathi Movement) and Blackskin from Do Klan Revolution gave me a thorough workshop on the subject of the voices of the New Kenya- the voices of the progressive Kenyan working class and lumpen proletariat youth- the voices that are being ignored by the arrogant powers that be. When these urban strident voices, plus their equally pissed rural school leaver counterparts in the Kenyan countryside; when these livid ghetto voices unite with those angry university and college students and reconnect with those forty something socialists who were once militant student activists from a previous era like the Adongos, the Njugunas, the Bukes, the Kangethes, Mwandawiros, the Oloos plus those pissed off young Morans, those frustrated Kipsigis and Nandi youth, the Muslim youth, the young feminists agitating against rape, violence against women and for reproductive rights, the youthful survivors of the Kisumu Katiba brutality, the grand kids of General Muthoni and General Bamuinge and the sons and daughters of the victims of Wagalla Massacre- then Kenya will become a very interesting place...
3.0. This Digital is NOT about E-Sir, Nameless, Wicky Mosh or Redsan
All of the above are known for their contributions to a new genre of Kenyan music and we must start by giving them props.
But my focus tonight(yes it is 1:45 in the am as I type out these lines) is not to talk about the late
E-Sir and his hits like Nimefika Jo, Boomba Train, Leo in Leo Saree or its remix version
Nor am I going to say much about
Nameless and his numerous hits including Holiday and Ninanoki
And I am passing over in silence the very talented, modest and charismatic
Redsan who has made many hits like "Nipe Raha " and Mamamia with Ugandan wundekind Chameleon. If I am not mistaken, this is the second year in a row that Redsan has toured the United States- on the heels of Nameless' reportedly very successful Atlanta appearance over the Labour Day Weekend.
I do not look down on their talent- on the contrary, I have practically memorized most of their songs.
And I actually did pay a TRIBUTE in December 2003 to the late E-Sir, K-rupt and Wicky Mosh in a composition titled Warogi Watatu(Sheng slang for MCs is "warogi").
4.0. The Punctured UNBWOGABLE Hopes and Shattered RKK Dreams
Giddi Giddi Maji Maji of course had the BIGGEST hit of ANY Kenyan song-their MONSTER UNBWOGABLE became an alternative national anthem and was Remixedand updated with the participation of a multi-ethnic pool of gifted artists. A song unleashed during the same period calledRudisha Kila Kitu( Yote Yawezekana Bila Moi) has now been renamed, "Yote Yawezekana Bila Mwai" to reflect the deep sense of betrayal that the national Unbwogable choir feel at the hands of the National Rainbow Coalition.
5.0. From the Despair of Pili Pili...
Pili Pili is the Kiswahili word for pepper. It is also the name of a Kenyan hip hop crew. They composed a song called Dhiki which tries to reflect and document the angst of Kenyan ghetto youth.It is very similar to a song called "In Heaven" by a group called Undakava about a youth who drowns his despair in heavy drinking. There is a line in the Undakava song which says that since there is no beer in heaven, the real paradise must be right here on planet earth.
6.0. To the Defiant Patriotic Optimism of Do Klan Revolution.
Like I said I met Blackskin, one of the members of this underground hip hop crew based in the working class sections of the Kenyan capital. Do Klan Revolution have put out an album called "Toka Gizani"(meaning "Emerge from the Darkness") that covers issues like the tragedy in the schools when some students set their own colleagues on fire; the history of unsolved political assassinations; the role of Kenyan youth as the custodians of the New Kenya and love songs with a conscious tip.
We provide a sample and URGE EACH AND EVERYONE to seek out this group and SUPPORT THEM by BUYING their CD- instead of emailing Oloo to ask if I can please dub all those songs and email it across the world...
Here is Do Klan Revolution doing
Moja Mbili Tatu
before they ask you about
Roho Juu. Personally, I think their STRONGEST offering is the youth anthem,
Vijana Kwa Vijana
7.0. The Humour and Anger of Poxi Presha
Poxi Presha is one of Kenya's most controversial artists. When I was in Kenya last year I literally bumped into him at Chester House when he was finishing one press conference and I was preparing for the next. He had called the press conference to denounce the brazen pirates and their cohorts WITHIN the music industry. Poxi sings in English, Sheng, Kiswahili and his native Dholuo and he is equally adept at all four tongues. He often uses humour, interspersed with real life situations to tell tales of corruption, repression and redemption- he once recorded a hip hop flavoured gospel song praising Jesus- starting with the unforgetable voice of a child wondering innocently about Satan. His most famous composition however is Otonglo Time"where he sends up the popular stereotypes of the Luo community as peopled with men who like to floss about their material position- real or imaginary... Here he is, in the song
Vita Kwaliti threatening to do something not so kind to the people who have been jerking him around before reverting to his trademark ethnic based humour- this time donning the persona of a Luhyia from Western Kenya with his artistic partner in crime "Newton" doing the song, Picha Yanje. But Poxi is at his most political with his harshly satirical 2003 composition
7 Wandaz of Kenya- delivering direct salvos at the then brand new government of President Mwai Kibaki.
8.0. The Marxist Orientation of Sinpare
Sinpare, like Do Klan Revolution, make no bones or apologies about their radical politics. Readers of the KDP blog know by now that every few weeks or so, I will invent an excuse to replay their powerful song
Jivunie Ukenya which speaks of their patriotic pride even as they denounce tribalism. But to my ears, their very best song so far is the one called Mabepari(the capitalists) for very OBVIOUS ideological reasons. Running third(you know what my #2 Sinpare song is) in my estimation is their Mpaka Lini?(the title track from their 2003 CD) which asks plaintively for how long will Kenyans continue taking the bullshit from their misrulers. But the good folks at Sinpare like everyone else fall in and out of love. In their song
Kipenzi they end up with a very cogent anti-AIDS cautionary tale...
In case you want to hear with your very own ears Amanya Wafula, Dorcas Atieno (members of the Kimathi Movement) and Blackskin(of Do Klan Revolution) speak, click here for this Interview that I uploaded on November 1, 2003 at the Sydney Indymedia site in Australia.
That's pretty much it for today.
As an after thought I am adding this spoken word piece I composed on the 47th anniversary of Ghana's independence- with a more romantic offering tucked in at the end...