Settling in to this 11 minute gem off South African jazz band Batsumi’s 1974 debut album is quite the experience. The groove approaches innocently enough, but you will soon be unable to trace where and when it infected your motor functions. Banjuka tu.
Once certain planets are aligned, I am lucky enough to encounter a fellow Kenyan with similar size 47 wide feet to discuss the current state of retail ostracism (aka big foot apartheid) and other such heartening small talk. On the flipside, it is equally possible to stumble upon an unintended beef with an online seller off Facebook who, without shame, delivers a completely different item from what they advertised. When your city is one hellova dice roller, the thrill is in not knowing who’s around the next corner.
After 4 years of a relatively simplistic life at the edge of a three street town and returning to the city’s facades which conceal unforgiving steel and concrete underneath, some urgent character re-development is becoming necessary. Here goes nothing.
The most likley setting for contextalising and showcasing young singing talent around here (apart from school) is religious spaces. What would church be without the occasional youth praise and worship sessions or the awww-cute Sunday School performances? What naturally flows from this phenomenon is that audiences tend to be very perceptive and accomodating to very young artists that crop up in the gospel music scene. What this also means is that these kids often have to operate within certain restrictive limits in terms of content, style, genre and presentation. You know what I mean, right?
That being said, Shanah Manjeru, rising gospel singer and host of KBC’s kids show Big Minds, certainly brings her own surprising twist to the predicatbile content expected from our child gospel stars. She follows up her chewy bubblegum debut single with Winner, an uplifiting rock song defined by bolder lyrics and an unexpectedly sharper edge. The music video also banishes the incredibly dull formats employed in most local gospel music videos in favour of an action packed storyline.
If the right stars aligned, there would have be no reason this song wouldn’t have been part of the Super Modo soundtrack. This track is the jolt the gospel industry needs. No wonder it has stayed at the top of XFM charts for weeks.
BABYMETAL – Road of Resistance
To me, Shanah’s single immediately brought to mind BABYMETAL, the group that has so successfully combined the kawaii features of Japanese pop/idol culture with heavy metal. For the first timer, experiencing BABYMETAL in their full audio-visual glory can feel like a bit of a trip. It might take a while to process what exactly is going on but once you let go mentally, it all makes sense. Definitely one band to see live, should you get the chance.
I think, by now, everyone and their hip grandmother knows what gqom is, especially after Babes Wodumo’s Wololograced the soundtrack to Black Panther. I have been digging that sound for quite a while now and have been half-praying that it sweeps into the Kenyan scene with something localized. Sure, I have sampled one half-hearted attempt at Swahili gqom on my Soundcloud stream recently ( I forget by whom), but it seems we have already been beaten to it by the owners down south. Gathering momentum from her feature in Omalumkoolkat’s Gqi and Dumi Hi Phone, Sho Madjozi has blessed us with Huku. I can’t even complain.
Now, I’m not big on reality shows, the (scripted to death) American ones at least. I think I die a little inside when I have to look at a screen showing something from E! or Bravo. This SNL sketch summarizes them so well. That being said, the one reality show I’m REALLY into lately is Netflix/Fuji TV’s Terrace House.
The format is simple enough – six strangers move into a house and start living together. It can seem mundane at first but you’ll hardly notice how and when it becomes addictive. Watch this show, seriously!!
I was stoked to get wind of this orchestral version of the most popular opening theme song from the series by the talented folks at JHMJams. The original version is below.
My advice on the best order of consuming the 4 separate series so far:
I think gospel/gospel-leaning music is at its best when it is grounded in reality. It becomes much more relatable when it does not divorce itself from the flaws of its creator (ie. a human being, for the time being). In these conditions, there is less need to pegionhole such music as either secular or gospel. In this grey zone, some hella great love songs can be made.
Zambia’s Pompi checks into this zone with Kapena, about letting go of one’s fears and allowing themselves to experience the vulnerability that comes with falling in love. Malawi’s Suffix also comes through with Mkazi wa Kumwamba, about defying society’s expectations about marriage and tribe for a relationship that’s worth it.
These two songs are kindred spirits of sorts, each taking on the subject of transitioning from childhood to adulthood in their own way. Phum Viphruit’s Long Gone centers on the uncertainity and confusion of the process. Poor Dettol mums and dads. Before you know it, those cute and adorable toddlers are hit by adolescence like a two ton truck. Slowly but surely, they slip away from your grasp and become their own person. Viphruit’s verses cater for both the letting go and the holding on, with an adorable pubescent music video to boot.
Canadian indie band Men I Trust prefer the nostalgic route on Tailwhip. The carefree fumbling and even the cringeworthy moments of childhood is finally adding up to something.“We’ll be alright / This country dog won’t die in the city.”
For my niece, on her very first day of boarding school.