Make it or make it?

You don’t log into YouTube on a meagre safaricom bundle balance precariously dangling at the 4G edge to watch an ad. You don’t think that aah this ad looks good let me watch it. In fact let me share it with my friends. No you hate them. Because they are taking away your right to choose. It is the arranged marriage of the internet. But it is also how the internet makes its money. So when Kevin introduces himself and says he is a skateboarder you wait five seconds to skip ad. Sorry Kevin, you’re boring. And I’m not particularly interested in your story when I’m itching to watch a cat that can twerk something rather nonsensical.

Two days ago I log into YouTube.  There’s been a buzz. It’s been in and around my ear for a minute. A Kenyan artiste has done a song; called it Yesu ndiye sponsor. By my friend Jimmy, who is not really my friend. But I remember Jimmy from my high school days. When I was trying to be a rogue student with a sweater torn at the elbow,  black faded shoes with no socks and a slur to my speech that dragged words unwillingly to their completion. Jimmy came to minister to us. On a lazy Sunday when we’d prefer to sleep on the long grass and dream about perfect grades because studying was too mainstream.

Now Jimmy wasn’t like these other guys.  He didn’t have a green coat. Oversize. And plaited trousers. White striped shirt with a tie so tight it strained the speakers voice as it came out. He didn’t sound like a bleating goat calling people to the alter. Old Jimmy was in jeans. A bit tight. Maybe how he hits the high notes. Brown oxfords and pink playful shirt. This Jimmy had energy. A one man show. Had maybe also one song to his name. Something that went like “wakati wa kubariki umefika…” He also had one mic and one old wooden speaker. He basically had nothing to his name. The only thing he had a lot of was zeal. A love for christ. And it was infectious. The zeal. In high school we loved two things; bread and sleep – until exam time then Jesus made a debut.

Then he was too brown for our liking. Boys don’t like brown boys. It’s a bit feminine. A light boy has to work twice as hard to prove their masculinity. And with tight jeans and words doused in an American accent Jimmy had a hard time. He was the center of jokes and raucous laughter that reverberated through our skeletal hall. But old Jimmy regardless made a point to join in on the laughter as he snuck in a point here and a verse there. His spirit unrelenting forcing us young men to listen. To ignore the accent, look past the tight jeans and listen. So we did. And cheered old Jimmy when he was done. For starters he was a blessing but most importantly kept time and did not delay us for Sunday lunch. Which was stewed cabbage leaves,  chunks of meat and rice that stuck together like twin sisters.

That was the last time I met or saw Jimmy.

But something happened to Jimmy between that last time I saw him and now. I wished it was the pants. But no, it’s Jimmy. Jimmy changed. And so did his music. Some were good. Like two. The rest were just pathetic. The rest were bland like a meal you’d eat after suffering food poisoning. And I don’t mean to be hard on dear old Jimmy but does he know? That every time his song comes on I cringe. Ask the world what I did wrong.  That I have to listen to such music. Or maybe it’s the point. Right Jimmy? Make us feel so bad that we start questioning ourselves and hopefully repent to be saved from atrocious auto tune?  I don’t know anything about talent. Just that it’s given. It’s in born.

Dear Jimmy,

I know you don’t know me but I have heard a lot about you. I have heard the rumors that have been flying around. I’ve ignored those rumors because I know people can be malicious. They often hate what they do not understand or what they don’t want to understand. Also you’re human and have the right to dress however you want. I won’t be the judge, juror and executioner. We already have enough of those. I just have have one bone to pick with you, your music.

You see Jimmy even while I’ve heard a lot about you I’ve also heard you. Through music. You call it gospel. You’ve labelled it. Perhaps to stand out from the crop of secular artistes flooding the industry? I don’t label music. I let it speak for itself because trust me music can do that. It can inspire. Motivate. Change emotion. Resonate with a particular moment in life. It can bring back memories. Some good some bad and some you’ve never had. Like what Sam Smith does to me. And recently Adele and Beyoncé. Locally Prisca, Ythera, Muthoni DQ and Abbas. And also Amileena. Shine did it for me. Still does; also her voice is heaven.

I don’t identify with your music. It is very confusing. After that one song I heard in high school with the dancing animals we lost you. You went somewhere and changed. You changed your music. It stopped being about giving your all and letting your talent shine. You became hungry for success. And fame. This new found hunger to be popular diluted the gift you had. You made it a point to go with the flow. And I do understand that art should be current. Reflective of the society but art should also be art. When did we start talking about offices and appointments? And what is this obsession with auto tune? It’s like make up for the voice and you’re over doing it.

Remember how Adele made us feel like we all got dumped?  Apologising to exes we don’t have? Making us want to all be better people in relationships? That was powerful. Her song did what a song is supposed to do. Evoke emotion. Churn the cold souls and start a fire deep in them awakening feelings that might have been once forgotten. And she did that. And the world went crazy.  Cuckoo. Bananas. Almost everyone jumped into the hype and did a cover. Most were beautiful.  Even our very own Dela did a Swahili cover that was impressive. It made the world stop and listen. I’m sure Adele heard it, didn’t understand a thing but shed a tear.

Then you came along. With your cover. It was horrible. What you did was like taking a Van Gogh and adding a filter. Do angels cringe? Because I think they did. If there was anything that song did was make us, me, disappointed. And embarrassed on your behalf. And the fact that you called it gospel didn’t make it any better. Gospel is not a magic word. It does not make something automatically good. Otherwise we’d have gospel politics. How much thought did you put into it Jimmy? If any at all? Who was your support system?  Fire them. Get new friends. Someone should’ve stopped you from uploading that. At least until you made it into something worthwhile. Something that did not bleed our ears.

But we survived it, barely. I hear a petition was signed to keep old Jimmy away from the internet. I didn’t get to see it but I’d have signed it. You clearly need some supervision. You’re doing what I do when I grab a pint. Aimless drunk texts. The only difference is mine don’t go viral. It can be controlled. I can blame the brown bottle and the golden froth. But you man, what or who do you blame? But it was all good we lived.

But we didn’t know peace for long. You did it again. You guy, there’s something about you that’s admirable. That tenacity. The tough skin. The amount of hate you can bear, enyewe maybe you have Jesus.But you did a song and called it Yesu ndiye sponsor. Honestly even before I went to look for it the internet almost broke. Then I knew you’ve gone ahead and been yourself. Another bad song. You really do take the “make it or make it” slogan too seriously. So I braved myself and went to listen to it. Because maybe just maybe there’s that bleak ray of hope you did something good. I am those people that always look for the good. Because I am hard to like. I am an acquired taste. It takes a special kind of human to appreciate me and so I always return the favor. But you did not disappoint. 

The truth is I skipped a lifebuoy advert to listen to you. Despite Janet Mbugua’s melodious plea to watch it. That it might save a life. I ignored her. And Janet, I’m sorry. But I skipped an ad and didn’t even listen through the first fifteen seconds of the song. Bad is an understatement. You’re really out to prove a point. I don’t even know what it is. But you’re killing your career. Kenyans don’t celebrate mediocre for long. The media will hype you for a minute and dump you soon enough after they’ve rode on your popularity. Then what will be left?  A string of bad songs that know one wants to listen to? You can do better. If you can’t, find something else to do. Don’t be drunk on the idea of being popular. Concentrate on a legacy.

As I go to now watch the lifebuoy ad, Jimmy listen, you don’t have to make it or make it.

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