Ever since Just A Band released Hey! 7 years ago, I’ve felt a strong kinship with these guys. I loved them (and Hey!) so much I once designed for Boflo (the puppet in Hey!) a cousin called Shokolokobangoshe, a foul-mouthed diva.
I’ve written about them a few times in my journalism career with the latest and most exciting being for Just A Book, their newly launched art book that focuses on the visual art the band does i.e. the graphic designs, artworks and videos. The book also includes a lot of behind-the-scenes material from video shoots and that 5,000-word profile on JAB that I was commissioned to write.
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I’ve always enjoyed solving problems and festivals flare up with so many little editorial and production fires that for some reason I really like putting out. I’ve been worked in and around literary festivals for the last eight years. With Storymoja alone I’ve happily bobbed around as a volunteer handing out programmes, worked as a media partner while at UP Magazine as well as taught a session at the festival.
Festival work is often maddening and exhilarating but quickly over in a few days. The memories though, those can last a lifetime.
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I’ve admired the political blog, Brainstorm ever since it was launched in 2013 by Kenyan writers and feminists Brenda Wambui and Michael Onsando. With the tagline, “Intelligent. Kenyan.” the site was launched to address the need for critical thought on the Kenyan experience. The goal was to “look at Kenya from the inside” and they promised to do so through a new post every Tuesday.
Well, today they put up my essay on the history and nature of public discourse on sex.
I haven’t put up the essay’s title in full because some of this blog’s subscribers are my family members and many of them are sensitive about what they consider “coarse language”. I want to assure them—and any others who may feel the same—that this is something you want to read, or rather keep reading beyond the title and first paragraph…
Dear Dr. Nyairo,
Thank you for expressing your honest thoughts here about the state of Kenyan fiction but I take issue with several points in your article. The biggest one being that you would publish a piece titled, “An elegy on the death of Kenyan fiction” when Yvonne Adhiambo Owour’s searing debut novel, Dust was published in 2013 and her Caine Prize winning story “Weight of Whispers” in 2003.
Dust is the great Kenyan novel. The accolades that span the globe and the sheer, undeniable brilliance of Yvonne’s writing rightly crowns it so. But that is my opinion, so I know you (and others) may feel differently. However if you asked me if “that great Kenyan novel will eventually come” I’d say that it is here. It has been here for the last two years.
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It was close to midnight when burly bodyguards finally led a TMT-capped figure to the club’s backstage area. He was a sort of tall fellow whose long-sleeved shirt hung off his wiry frame. Bodies hungrily pressed forward, necks craned, drinks were held aloft as a chant sprung from the people’s lips: “Ya-siin Bey! Ya-siin Bey! Ya-siin Bey!”
In the weeks leading up to this special edition of monthly Hip Hop event, Nairobi Rapsody, Kenya’s social media was awash with fan excitement and apprehension. Black Dante in Nairobi? No way. Sure, event organizer Buddha Blaze had successfully brought fellow Blackstar member Talib Kweli before but mention of a missed flight at a press conference held a day before the gig had caused a lot of hand wringing. Buddha Blaze had to post a picture of Yasiin with a Maasai shuka draped across his shoulders hours to the show to still the chatter.
Several local hip hop artists had been selected to curtain raise the event. First act, femcee Wangechi made way for rapper, Xtatic who tagged in Bamboo then Rabbit. They each had 15-minute sets. By 1am, the crowd had gotten pumped up, nodding and singing along to their familiar jams. Those on the front row had been tracking Yasiin’s movements through a glass window into the backstage. Cheers rose to ear-splitting roars when he finally leapt on stage with Ruby, his trusty red vintage carbon microphone. With younger brother and tour DJ Abdul on the decks, he began…to dance. This wasn’t the jig before the jam. He wasn’t even grooving to tracks from his vast catalogue. It was the beginning of the Yasiin Bey experience.
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