Tuesday, August 1, 2006
By: Auma Meja
The 2006 Redykyulass show delivered as advertised in Minneapolis during their annual US tour. The material was new, and dare I say better. The growth of the cast as comedians, artists, and indeed citizens was very evident. The audience was laughing so hard, I thought a few people would fall off their seats. Redykyulass is a trio of former Kenyatta University friends turned comedians whose trademark is the parodying of Kenyan political figures and general social commentary.
The venue was a disappointment however. Given that the promoter (Minneapolis’ Kilimanjaro Entertainment) has been able to get theatrically suitable venues in the past, the choice of a ballroom at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Brooklyn Center was not suitable for the four hundred plus mostly Kenyan crowd that turned out. Kilimanjaro was in charge of the eleven cities US tour. The conference room of a hotel was just not the best choice to fit some four hundred plus Kenyans. Even with the characteristic late start, some folks still showed up late!
Once the show got underway, it was, shall we say, “all good”. This year’s performance had very well developed stand-up sets. All three artists, KJ, Walter a.k.a. Nyambane, and Tony had hilarious stand up sets. KJ started with a set discussing how amazing (watu wa ajabu), some of the people of Kenya are. Walter’s set was like an intimate conversation he was having with all 400 of us, about studying in America, which in his observation, translated as being ‘fruitful and multiplying’. And then of course, he very elaborately proved that the disciples drove a Honda. Yes, the disciples drove a Honda, and if you want to know why, ask someone who attended the show. Tony was the consummate Kiambu cowboy. If you thought you had left memories (or nightmares) of your Kenya Certificate (of) Secondary Education (KCSE) Swahili exams, he brought them rushing back. It was a tense exam moment shared by all.
Then of course were the staple skits. KJ as First Lady, Lucy Kibaki, is side splittingly funny. Lucy’s staging portrays a poorly dressed, lady in pink, with a bad attitude to match. The characterization of the first lady, though humorous, also evoked some sadness in me. She is of course, the better half of the man with the highest authority in the land. I suppose some may find her character unfair and maybe even a tad disrespectful. Unfortunately, this is a case of art imitating life, and the original image leaves us with a lot of disturbing questions. In fact, after the show, I asked KJ why he chose to play the character, and he told me it was not an easy decision. They had long deliberations before they eventually decided to introduce the character to their show.
Lucy is not the only politically spoofed character who made me think about the state of Kenyan politics. We were all laughing so hard at the sets involving Kibaki, Ole Ntimama, Arap Moi, and Uhuru Kenyatta. Underneath it all I wondered if the state of affairs in parliament and parliamentarians is so laughable. So it was refreshing when the group shared the vision of their “Vijana Tugutuke” campaign, a campaign that is broadcast in print, and on air on both radio and TV to encourage youth civic involvement. Their goal is to register as many young voters as possible. It was very encouraging to see that Redykyulass is using their influence and celebrity to be a force in bringing the future of the country, the youth, to the decision making table. Their success has been acknowledged by the electoral commission’s chair.
At the end of the show was the customary ndombolo outro, with a twist. Audience members were invited to compete for free DVD’s of the Redykyulass show. The DVD’s are very well produced, and you have to get them to watch ‘Caught Unawares’ and ‘24’. The ‘kompe’ was a throw back to “Showtime at the Apollo”, with a very vocal and opinionated audience. The winners danced their hearts out (very well might I add) in order to win.
A.Meja gives the show an A, for Ajabu!