I grew up in a fairly Christian home; this meant church on Sunday was mandatory. As was the clothes that were set out for me; twenty shilling offering and lunch afterwards. Sunday was an event; crowned with shopping and ice cream. But this also meant that there were little pleasures I was denied; like secular music. It was banned in our house and the silver National stereo only churned out the likes of Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, Women of Faith and the occasional sweet serenades of Dolly Parton. Television was strictly on Joy Bringers and sometimes cartoons. Those were the days when NTV was nation TV. They were days when content was so lacking they’d air cartoon network from 8 am to 5 pm every day. I did not even know anything about multi choice and their bouquets. Life was fun.
Back to music. So to me any other music was a sin, it was just as bad as using the twenty shilling offering to buy ball gum or worse. But there was an order to the sin; some ranked higher than others. And in our home Lingala music was demonic; it was recorded in hell and mastered by Lucifer for all I knew. So we never listened to it, I grew up knowing Kofi Olomide and Papa Wemba were agents of Satan. So I never liked it, I feared that kind of music. Whenever I went to visit any of my friends and found their fathers playing it, I would cover my ears then go home to repent. As a young kid I wore Christian dogma like skinny jeans so excuse me. I also did not understand their obsession with shiny clothes, sharp shoes and flimsily dressed women or why they danced the way they did. Misbehaving on television.
Just because I was afraid of the music; or what my mum would do to me if she found me listening did not mean I did not sneak in a view once in a while. She worked an 8-5 and there’s always traffic. So on Thursday’s during school holidays I would tune to KTN’s Kass Kass and entertain myself. Afterwards I would feel as dirty as sin. Like I cheated on God and turned stone into bread; then I would promise myself to be good. But every Thursday I went back, because I was fascinated by the dancers. Especially their moves; I was a young boy, and their dressing. The short skirts and yellow thighs. It excited me. But that’s as far as it went, never liked the music. Sounded like clanking of metal against metal at a jua kali by hungry artisans.
Years later, on a lazy afternoon, there’s an event about to happen; it’s a congruence of Nairobi’s middle class elite and middle class wannabe. They call it Koroga, a music festival where people come out in their dashikis, Ankara prints and khaki shorts to drink expensive wine, imported beer and listen to good music. Usually a rival to blankets and wine; which is just the same concept just a different promoter; Koroga makes waves by headlining international acts. Methinks it’s over compensation because it lacks the authenticity B&W has. It is like that guy that buys a Range Rover because a girl turned him down. Also B&W is the brain child of an over enthusiastic performer who built it up from scratch so it lacks the one night stand emptiness that comes from corporate done events.
Headlining this event is one Koffi Olomide, and apparently he has a new song called selfie that everyone is going crazy about. I could not care less; my stance on Lingala music hadn’t changed. It’s years later, ten years actually, I have developed a taste for beer, whisky and sometimes vodka but not that kind of music. It would not go down my throat with ice. So I really did not care when the frenzy hit social media and everyone was ablaze trying to score free tickets. I paid it no mind, like that lazily buzzing fly on the window of a bus trying to get out.
Anyway that event happened as scheduled; if the blogs, tweets, FB posts, Instagram and Snapchat were anything to go by; that event was like most high schools now, fire. People danced, drunk danced some more then drank some more. They took selfies, made them profile pictures and hash tagged them on their social Medias. This probably had one Koffi feeling sweet about himself, stroking his peppered beard and looking at the reflection of his own eyes from those shiny sun glasses he loves. He thought Kenya was his for the taking. And maybe he was right, because when Kenyans love you they love you with all they got. You just have to learn a few Swahili words and throw them into random sentences and Kenyans will laugh like you cracked the greatest joke since our education system.
I don’t know Koffi, at least not personally. So what I can do is only imagine that resigned look you get when an overzealous lover wants your company. That roll of the eyes that says you could be elsewhere. Calling up friends and telling them of this girl who’s on your case but you just don’t feel her. But you only say it because you’re a guy, when no one is looking your all over this girl. Her messages is purely you. Your bundles are depleted liking every single picture. And jealousy seeps in every time there’s a random comment saying hey beautiful. However, your status will not allow you to let her see this so you act like you don’t care. Your replies are curt and as exciting as the bark of a baobab. That might have been his reaction when he got called back for a show in Kenya again.
He did not say no, instead he hoped on to a flight, entourage behind him and he came to the beckoning love of Kenyan fans.
I wonder what it would feel like to be a celebrity, even for a day. To have men in suits whose muscles have muscles surround me and ward off unwanted attention like evil spirits. To wear dark sun glasses and an air of entitlement as I have everything done for me. To listen to the shrieks of adoring fans when they spot me and to wave away the body guards to let some through for a selfie. Then to smile like I am down to earth, share a few words here and there and even throw in a coffee at the airport café. All because I know it’s good for PR. At least that’s what Kathy says, and she knows her stuff.
To have an itinerary populated with television interviews and punctuated with club appearances. Maybe make insane demands like having my rice cooked with rain water and bread buttered always with the left hand.
“Why does this bread look off?”
“I don’t know sir. It looks fine to me.”
“Does this look fine to you? Do you know what fine looks like? The strokes are all off, someone buttered this with the right hand. Is it so hard to get my bread buttered right? What am I paying for?”
And then I’d have one of those famous people tirades that don’t make sense because they don’t make sense. I would make headlines and trend for all the wrong reasons. But it’s just bread so it would sell out my show. Then I would deal with a few weeks of tabloids writing insane headers like “See what he made his right hand man do with his left hand.” We’d laugh it off and life would go on. But here, on this desk, behind this screen and on this keyboard; there is no fame. I will times roman away into obscurity. But I like it there, it’s like the lonely corner at a bar with warm lighting and low music. Bliss.
But Koffi did not want his bread buttered different or food cooked with rain water. He probably has a girlfriend that can’t come on tour because… wife. This girlfriend probably told him to go break a leg and kissed him wondering what his eyes look like because even she’s never seen them. Then she would whisper those words into his ears in that language that’s like a lady in a red dress. Come on, it is sexy. For all I care they could tell me my face looks like baby fart, but if they said it in French dammit it would turn me on.
But here’s the thing, if you come to a country with clothes so shiny it looks like a star when you’re in Mars you tend to behave. All eyes are on you. But not Koffi, him, well he’s special. In broad daylight with the full view of cameras and presence of our law enforcement he assaulted one of his dancers. A kick. Probably with the voice of his girlfriend telling him to break a leg playing as a soundtrack.
I’m Kenyan first and hypocrite later, just like many other Kenyans, and we Kenyans we are proud. You do not come to our country and break the law in full view of everyone including our law enforcement and expect a pat on the back. Then in this age of affordable internet, government that is looking to add every feather it can into its hat and gender activism you hit a woman; that love you thought we had for you dissipates into smoke before your very eyes like your career.
We will preach bile and drink beer, because we are Kenyan. We will dig up the trenches of the internet and reveal your criminal history and we will continue to be aggravated. We will overlook our own flaws, that neighbor that constantly gets hit when the husband gets home, and we will make you the victim. We will make you trend, we will make your PR agency sweat, we will prove that there’s really indeed something like bad publicity. We will poke holes in your attempts to salvage the situation. We will threaten to boycott your shows. Then finally the government will see a PR opportunity and jump on it, they will take a hard stance, put on a show since anyway yours isn’t going to happen anyway.
That’s exactly what Koffi got, and he deserved it. But I do not want to see it end at Koffi. Why should it? Because now we are happy with ourselves for fighting a social injustice? Content in our social media cocoons that maybe our tweet was the one that broke the camel’s back? Or maybe the fact that Zambia also took up the torch means we should be happy? We are trendsetters after all?
Now we will go back to our daily routine, ignore that lady that gets beaten every night by the husband, because she’s Kenyan. Because she cannot trend. Because with her name comes no fame or celebrity status. So she will suffer in silence.
Then there’s the man that also gets beat, him we won’t ignore. Him we will laugh at and ridicule; because he is a man. Men don’t get beaten. Then just like me and my keyboard he will fade into obscurity suffering too in silence.
With Koffi we did the right thing, for once. But let it not end at Koffi. The gun is still smoking. Please, don’t let it end at Koffi.