Journey to Mali Part 2: ‘Stop being a chicken!!’

The quote in the tittle is censored.

Although I had completely sworn off performance poetry, I have always and hope to always write. Amongst friends and family, I would share my poetry and people often preferred being read to, than reading it for themselves.

Reading my poems out loud, with an audience also helped me grow as a writer. I became more conscious of punctuation and repetition as a result.

During these somewhat private readings, I would often be encouraged to do audio albums of my poetry, seldom would the suggestion of writing a book come up.

Then, a friend, caught wind of a competition. The Carnivore Star Search was a competition for four categories, Djing, rapping, comedy and poetry. I was adamant, that I was not taking part, but he insisted more adamantly. My friend Dru, is the one who authored the tittle that I have to censor, he said those words over and over again, until I agreed to enter. He even went as far as to escort me to Carnivore repeatedly for auditions, just to make sure that I actually went.

The piece I chose is called Mkokoteni, she is still a favorite of mine today. Her inspiration is an actual mkokoteni fruit display, outside Uzima Church and Uzima Centre in Embakasi.  My description of the fruit was from observation and memory, because the sight mesmerized me. That cart, embodied everything I love about Nairobi, and it’s position shared ironies with Nairobi as well. Hard working, beautiful people who are working much harder than their infrastructure suggests. In recent performances, I have extended the personification, so that it, is a she. I did that, because it allows me to express Nairobis attributes in a way that connects more with my audience.

During the preparation, I deployed a rather unorthodox method of trying to conquer stage fright. I would go to karaoke and request to do a poem after my song.  I had deployed a system of memorization that involves breaking the poems into sections, memorizing a line at a time, then memorizing their order.

A drunk crowd is usually an unforgiving one, but a drunk crowd that is trying to have a karaoke, is predisposed to not listening, except when someone from their table goes to sing. If I could hold the attention of one person in that room, then I had achieved greatness. It was also around that time that I memorized I Carry, a heart break poem. Which you will not find in my blog, it’s in my manuscript though,and I have performed it severally.

As as it turned out, The Carnivore Star Search was the kind of event where most of the attendees are fans of the competitors. The rappers all rapped in sheng, and there was only one other poet competing.  Since there were only two of us, we both got into the finals. In the finals, SMS votes would decide the winners. The winner would have their own audio album recorded for them for free.

At this point, I had nothing close to a following, and I noticed a weakness. I was the only one doing everything in English. I had to have some Kiswahili somewhere. I decided to add the Kiswahili verse to I Carry and include it in my performance.

The verse I wrote goes:

‘Nakubeba moyoni,

nikikuona, nazubaa,

Ni kaabado wanitamani.

Venyetuliachana, Kwangu ni kajana,

Kwako, nizamani.’

Arguably not the best Kiswahili in the world, but it works in the context of the poem.

The finals were apon me. I had gone to Toy with my Cucu, who had bought me a fairy white, glitter embroidered dress, and had it adjusted for me. I had hardened myself against fear of rejection and resolved to put on a show. I knew, the number of people on my table alone would not win me first place so I hoped I’d be able to make an impression on the fans who had come to watch the other genres.

Unfortunately, the other poet competing (whose name i forget today 😦 ) changed his act, and decided to do a comedy piece. He was in the first round of competitors, and we would now both be competing with rappers. His act was hilarious! We were all in stitches and my vote went to him. Though I knew, I was really supposed to have voted for myself.

The mood in the room after I performed was very blank. I remember it with a cartoon thought bubble  above the crowds heads that reads “What just happened!?” My body still shook from top to bottom, but I had found a way to retain the strength of my performance regardless. There was a live feed for smses rolling on a projected screen, giving live feedback from the audience. I remember the phrase ‘huyo mzungu’ in reference to me. There were one or two complements, but none were directed at content, so I don’t remember them.

We lined up to be told how the votes had tallied. I was third in my group of five. To be honest, my ranking had lost meaning to me, because I wasn’t competing with any poets. There were good rappers in that competition and the energy of rap and the energy of spoken word poetry, are very different.

I was the first person to have their prize announced. There was a dramatic suspense before the MC announced that I would be receiving an Ideos smart phone! I couldn’t believe it! Along with two thousand shillings of credit!

As it turns out, Safaricom was gifting all finalists with an Ideos and airtime. For me, it was an unbelievable blessing. It was to be my first smart phone ever. I would like to thank Safaricom with all my heart, for that phone, and for the countless other poetry and music events that they have supported consistently through my growth as an artist. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am without the opportunities they have afforded myself and many, many other artists and event organizers.

This is time, I stuck my neck out, and was wonderfully rewarded.

Poetry DTR

She.
She is a tease,
She turns on her heels,
When I’m down on my knees.
She doesn’t aim to please.
She just is.

She, is the ornament,
My infernal tournament
An aching torment.

She…

Is a breeze, through the trees,
Coconut and Neem painted leaves,
Jacaranda,
Buganvillia,
Cheeky dreams.

She. Is a dream that
I call into being.
She is a greed I will
Agree to beyond the need
For meaning.

She makes me leave the house
Forces me to get dressed up.
She makes me wear my soul on my sleeve.
Makes me cover the tab.

She beats me down.
Till I swallow my pride.
She strips me, of my pretense,
Lays me bare on my bed,
heart throbbing and legs spread.

She heals me…

I, will walk to the ends of the earth for her.
I will kneel on the floor,
Covered in battle scars.
I will water the lawn with my blood.
For her, I will fight.
Tip my pockets inside out.
I will brave my demons,
For her.

Sacrifice for her.
I will beg and borrow to provide for her.
I will leave home,
Not knowing how I’ll get back,
Take her to the many places she lives,
And make her know:
She is at home with me.
But, she stays when I have to go.
Later, without having to open the door,
I’ll find her spread
across my desk.
A creative mess.
Waiting for me, to address her.
Undress her,
Confess to her, that it is me
That can not ever leave her.

She likes the camera,
Loves the pen, the paper.
She knows that she is a star
and I am nothing without her.
I faulter.
She doesn’t seem to want to have my daughter.
She would rather she, were my only child.
My only smile.
Or else, she would want to split the bill sometimes.

I, will not commit to her.
I’m not sure she commits to me.
I just, cant help conceding to her
predetermined victory.

We will be, for as long
As we can be.
I can’t remember much before we, were we.
I love her,
Maybe more than she loves me.
Perhaps.
I adore her.
I lay all at her feet.
She is sweet, not like a baby, like sugar.

Last night, she blew my world off it’s feet.
She flew in, and magic carpet, carried me.
To a place where I could speak from my truth,
To a multitude, who told me that they heard me,
In their different languages.

And my goddess resumes her throne,
Amongst the living
As a Queen.

I love you,
               Poetry.

I hope one day,
   I can ask you…

‘Will you, marry me?’

Define And Conquer

To be Kenyan, is to smell the scent of the dust that’s jumping up,

to meet the rain, that’s coming.

To be Kenyan, is to celebrate the clouds,

knowing behind them, the sun is rising,

and, with their marriage comes the promise of milk, of honey.

Because, to be Kenyan, is not to survive.

To be Kenyan, is to surprise.

 

I’ll be honest, Art Cafe is not exactly, my cup of tea,

And I could never figure out, how so many cars wore red and white stickers…

Why market for free?

I guess I kind of scoffed at the security checks…

until militants attacked a playground.

 

Yes, we were shot.

Yes. We are wounded.

NO. We are not falling.

We can’t let on radical group, force a xenophobic  dawning.

We built the bullet glass barricades which held their for for several days!

If we start hating all outsiders, then they win, that regressive change.

 

Do not think that blind hate is not blind.

We must seek to define, what they try to divide.

 

To be Kenyan, is to see beauty in curves, which frame the colours around,

msemo za leso.

To be Kenyan, is to mourn out loud, to cry in ululations

as exclamation that the ones we lay to rest, have found the afterlife.

Because, to be Kenyan is not to survive,

To be Kenyan, is not to hide!

To be Kenyan is to be Pride.

 

Time makes its’ changes to faces, through phases, past places

within which all wounds try to be healed.

we used to know death is coming, when an owl is heard.

Now we read abuses in three languages, from Muhamed Kamau’s twitter bird.

 

We scream, hushed insults, at a government, that should have known,

an attack was pending!

But what we’re forgetting, is that it always was.

These cowards’ scare tactic is to keep on threatening.

What we can’t let them threaten, is our Unity,

Our Worth!

 

Trust me, I get it.

It’s difficult to define identity when your mixed

Up.

But that’s just it, our diversity is who We are!

And I know, we’re not quite arm in arm.

Nobody wants to be surprised by harm.

Racial and ethnic profiling is in our blood.

But we can’t let them take our hospitality!

Period!

 

In some places, our people were met with One Book, One God and spices.

In some place, our people were met with One Book, One God and riffles

All with slavery up their sleeves, perceived a human of a different breed,

with currencies of cowers beads, which used to glitter, like litter

Our beaches!

We, are rich, beyond riches!

To be Kenyan is to smile with every part of your being,

Forgetting the fact that your back is aching.

When your Kenyan, every tree has meaning.

Terere, Mchicha, fall like manna dropped by Gods winged messengers.

The coconut, the mango trees model our generosity.

The kasava, the guava, our children’s dreams,

tell tales of plenty, and harmony.

Because to be Kenyan, is not to survive!

To be Kenyan, is not just to live and abide!

To be Kenyan,

is to give something small, not to bribe.

To be Kenyan, is not to swallow lies!

To be Kenyan is to see the honey, through the hive!

To love, and give thanks for life!

To see fish, and DIVE!

 

To be Kenyan, is to Thrive!