The 16th edition of the Koroga Festival started on a high note with Maqbuli and Wangui Kabala starting it off with a recap of the previous Koroga Festivals. They made me wish I never missed Awilo, Koffi and Mafikizolo. From what I hear Yvonne Chakachaka set the roof on fire as well. I have to confess this was my first Koroga Festival and I barely knew where to go when I got in. The place was packed with vendors who sought to run your pockets dry. There was a St. James Street where I assumed people went to taste all sorts of whiskey. Eddah’s hope was on a warpath against cancer right on the opposite side of the smoking zone. Well played Koroga *slow claps. They were not only selling a wing and a prayer but good merchandise in support of the battle against cancer and the hope that cancer is not a death sentence.
Lady Jay Dee
Mercy Masika on stage
The Arboretum Gardens was packed by 1. I thought for a second that everyone had carried their chairs from home only to realise that it was actually packed. My consolation was that there wouldn’t be much use for chairs once the music comes on. Everyone ended up on their feet dancing and singing along to Nyota Ndogo, Mercy Masika and Lady Jaydee. The deejay kept the crowd on their feet in between the performances. Meanwhile, this was another excuse for family men to get turnt with their families in the same vicinity having a good time too. Good thing there was a kids section with bouncy castles installed and 1824 was the adult section with the Sunday School filled with spirits that were not particularly holy.
For most, the entire show was spent on the feet. Dancing and chanting to the favourite choruses from the various artists on the stage. Lira unmasked the face of the voice behind the theme song on the famous animation movie, Moana. With that voice, I could see why she has made it thus far with 6 album records and platinum hits. For most, however, Lira was a new face until they could associate her with her accomplishments. The crowd was quick to adopt her style and soon enough the tempo was upbeat. Just when we thought we had come to an amazing climax, it was revealed that it was Lira’s birthday. A cake was cut as the audience joined in to sing her a birthday song!
The fast dash of the plane on the runway can be unsettling if you are not used to it. The lift-off of the small commuter jet that transports passengers between Nairobi and Lamu might make you a bit dizzy, not to mention the dips of air pockets just after take-off and before landing. But there is a silver lining to it all once you hit the right altitude: up there, you are high enough to see the snowy peaks of the Kilimanjaro in its glory, the clouds obscuring the network of paths below, and the rivers as they snake on their course.
I was only accustomed to seeing trees rush by on the road, so for me, this was a sight to behold. Things move slower up there, but I could feel just how fast we were moving when we hit the ground and jerked to a break at the end. Landing at Manda Airport in Lamu makes you wish for a few more minutes on the plane because the heat wave rushes through the opened door with no warning.
Still, my trip to Lamu has been amazing and I will tell you why. I came for the Lamu Yoga Festival and while some found healing and relaxation from the yoga classes, I found my bliss in the island’s ambience. From how the trees sway in the afternoon breeze and how nothing ever moves too fast. You won’t fail to notice how clean the air is from zero automobile emissions and noise. Life is taken easy, no matter where you are on the totem pole. And you can easily walk a long way before realising you never took your shoes with you.
Picturesque Shela village is so small that every place is literally a 5-minute walk. The streets are barely wide enough for you and a laden donkey to share. It’s easy to go in circles on the first few days, but once you know your turns and shortcuts it’s easy to figure out. Amu town, the UNESCO Heritage Site just a boat ride away, is where life moves faster, but still not fast enough if you are used to city life. People are all chilled during the day, hiding from the sweltering heat and scorching sun – but everything comes to life after 3 pm, when they pick up where they left off around 10 am.
What most visitors hardly know is that Lamu island, where Shela village and Amu town are situated, is just one part of Lamu County. Like some foreigner might refer to Africa as if it’s a village, instead of pointing our the exact country and place, it’s a confusion watu wa bara or foreigners will only have resolved after the brief schooling. The island would not survive without its donkeys. I was somehow concerned about their general health when I first came in but on learning that there was a free donkey hospital in the town I was at ease. How they know whose donkey is whose and where to find them still beats me.
At the festival, there were Swahili meals and yoga sessions, but I got lost in the sunset meditation on the dhow, a traditional sailboat. The full moon waxing from the east as the sun set in the west can be so beautiful that the meditation comes easy, while the boat rocks on the ebbing tide. The dusk and dawn here give you a sense of yellow-mellow connection to nature on a whole new level.
My first yoga class included aromatherapy, and I kept looking forward to the breathing sessions because the stretching for me was taking it a bit too far. I am told it’s what all first timers experience. I managed to catch the Zumba class with Alexandra as it was ending and got to join the Freedom Dance class with Joanne, where I felt more free with most of the shoki and other routines being familiar.
I knew nothing about yoga when I came here, and now I can freely say my favourite stance is the warrior and downward facing dog, for all the good and pure reasons. I may have even channelled my chakras (inner energy) through some of these asanas (stances). And maybe I’ve learned enough Sanskrit, the ancient language, to ask for water and say namaste after every sentence.
My fear of drowning would not let me try Stand Up Paddle yoga, as the tide was high by noon. What was the beach just minutes before was suddenly a harbour, and the paddle boards and yogis bobbed in the water? I had the chance to catch it on camera and the poses contrasting with the blue skyline are life itself.
Lamu’s governor, Hon. Issa Timamy dropped by and expressed his support for such festivities on the island. The travel advisories have hurt the tourism sector greatly and seeing people come in from over 20 countries for the Lamu Yoga Festival really made him glad. Lamu is called the island of festivals for a reason – it now hosts the Arts, Culture and Food festivals at various time of the year, and Maulid, a religious celebration that draws people from all over the coast.
The one thing that I regret not trying in Lamu is speed boating. I am a speed freak. I thrive on torque and adrenaline. It was probably for a good reason – otherwise, I’d have relocated.
The universe has blessed us with new songs this year but a video to Marry Me is all we needed. Yemi Alade and Nyashinski were the perfect combo on the fourth season of Coke Studio Africa judging from the views and the airplay the songs they did got. Marry Me was one of Yemi’s songs that Nyashinski covered and came out perfectly. A harmonious blend of perfectly orchestrated instruments and Nyashinski’s voice that crowned it all. Seeing the video two hours right after Yemi launched it made me anticipate Nyashinski at any point from when it started.
The song and the video are both good but I secretly wished that they had done it with Nyashinski because the Swahili cover resonated so well with the Kenyan audience. It’s not too late to do a remix though and release a video right after this one! My money would be on Yemi featuring Nyash any day! The video quality is perfect and the choreography well executed. Selebobo did it again and we can now see how why his beats inspire getting down on some serious shoki. Yemi is definitely the queen of African Pop that is relatable internationally. Keep it going Yemi. If she came onto me with that Marry Me vibe on that video it would be hard for me to say no.
Nakuru is a town named by the Maasai just like Nairobi. The name means dust and that is what a drive around the Lake Nakuru National Park will get you. The view from the Baboon Cliff gives you the clear picture of what happens when the water levels go down and a clear picture of the wide are that get’s affected during the floods. This can be so intense that the gate had to be moved to higher ground to avoid any future altercations with Nature.
Kilifi is a small town along the coastline of Kenya and it has a variety of beaches and creeks that add to its beauty. For visitors, there are tour guides that may take you around on their motorbikes for a fee. Sometimes they don’t do it for the money. The sites are so beautiful that they do it for the therapeutic effect. The good thing with Kilifi is that at the creek, the shore is cleaner with less weeds and whiter sand. The water gets warmer at night during some seasons and skinny dipping is not a rare happening in these parts.
The water glows when you paddle at night and you’d live for the trail of glow the boat leaves behind as you go back to the mainland. The view at the precipice of the cliffs is breathtaking and the sound of water crashing on the rocks as some of the saline water splashes on your face reminds you the meaning of life. There is a certain peace that comes with the crashing waves shutting out all the noise in your head. When the tide ebbs, some creeks are left with no water apart from where the mangrove swamp meets the ocean. AT the Takawungu beach, the afternoon waves rock from a distance as you watch from a shallow part of the ocean cooling off the midday sun. This pictures are but a mere representation. Visit the places yourself. Thank me later.
Road trips are things I barely turn down but this one had a few strings attached to it that I didn’t like. My cousin didn’t know this but I have an unending standoff with funerals and death in general. The general aura around the dead somehow makes me get into my head so much I’d shudder in fear at what I saw in there.
No parent ever wants to bury their offspring at an age so full of potential and promise beyond what any of us mortals around here could fathom.
It has been an hour or so straight I haven’t said anything amidst all the hustle and bustle of getting to the ancenstral home of the deceased. My cousin insisted on taking the wheel only he didn’t know why I really wanted to stay on it. I needed to feel like I was in control of my wandering thoughts around this time of the year. My imaginations tend to run amok every time under the trigger of death.
I stared blankly at a woman fall at the funeral procession that seems to be a part of the culture here at Kinango, Kwale County in the coastal area of Kenya. It was nothing to me since my thoughts were heavier than what really took her to the ground. I didn’t even murmur a sorry because I wasn’t. There are greater pains than just seeing an adult stumble and fall embarrasingly.
I stayed in the car during the body viewing because I had had enough. I didn’t want to see any other parent weep over their child’s lifeless body after my grandmother over my mother’s casket.
From what I gathered, it was not even remotely painful as I had pictured it in my head.
What had everyone teary was not that he was dead but he was such a pure soul to have had such a brief episode that was described by many as an angel’s touch. People lie at funerals about the character of the dead out of respect but this one was different. The whole village took a 30 minute silent walk around the village to honor his passing. To witness to the life that he lived and boldly say that his was not a passing in vain.
To everyone who knew Erick, he was a humble soul who cared very little about his self interests above anybody else’s. At least that much I gathered from when I was a member of a chama he was in too and offered to be the last one to get the contributions on the merry go round which is often a point of dispute.
I thought about coming to Kwale through for two weeks ever since I got the news that we had lost him after a tough battle against Leukemia. I heard he was darker than he usually is. I didn’t have the courage to view him for one last time. Maybe because I will always want to remember him as full of life as he was. Or I just suck at good byes. I can’t tell but I choke on the thought every time. I have lied to myself for a while that I am immune to death. That loss of life simply just meant their work was done and if we were to learn anything from it is not to spend the time sad and moppy.
I’d say I am glad to have come but I will be lying… burying a friend so dear to many and with so much left to offer does not make me glad. I’d rather have stayed in my denial and imagine him as if he were around. I look at my eyes on the side mirror as we go through the procession across Kinango and they are beads full of life like a witch’s looking glass. All I fear is that it get’s snuffed before it’s time. Begs the question, if it comes to that, what will I be remembered for?
Upon lighting candles for for Eric in a circle of friends on the eve of his wake, I couldn’t help but think that our lives, that his life, was like a candle that never loses it’s shine by passsing on the light. A candle that most people feel its imapct either by the sting of its hot wax or by the light it brings. Either way, when our lights finally get blown out, we are one hot ball of wax no one knows how to handle when lifeless. All we remember is the light or the sting.
I hadn’t pictured myself spend my birthday burying someone but here we were. Lowering a lifeless body in an over priced casket down an earthen six by six by 4 home for the rest of his resting days.
The things death lets you appreciate however, are the chuckle behind every smile, the outcome behind every good thought and the endless sensation we spark in those that care about us. May you suffer no more and rest in eternal peace Eric. May you live forever in the thoughts of everyone who knew you.