DJ Joe from Alabama warmed up the crowd with a mix of various genres of music; he is then succeeded by DJ Stevo, the local mastermind of Kenyan music. Although the music is good, it is apparent that the crowd is eager to see a performance. Local musician Baraka comes on stage and hypes up the crowd for Jero, an Atlanta-based Kenyan hip-hop artist.
Next on stage is Kenyan-based musician Attitude (Malimo Andega), a surprise addition to the genge tour, who is launching an album on the 8th of October. Having been raised in the U.S until 2001, he raps in English but to an African beat, a style he calls ‘hip-hop in Africa’. He is engaged to Kenyan songstress Mercy Myra and comments, “There may be wedding bells a lot sooner than you think.” He tries to work the crowd, but his music is not familiar to them.
It is way past 12:30 pm and the restless audience starts to call for Nonini. Steve Mwele, who is standing next to me, says the concert started late and Nonini should come on soon because he is beginning to feel like the twenty dollar charge is a rip-off.
Finally Nonini runs on stage as DJ Xpektt of Mezesha Entertainment hits the tune of ‘Manzi wa Nairobi’, a song on the beauty of girls from Nairobi. The crowd is ecstatic especially the females who sing all the lyrics to the song. Next Nonini slows the mood as he sings ‘Walietuacha’ (those who have left us), which is dedicated to his late brother, and musicians E-Sir, Wikimosh and Krupt.
With DJ Xpektt working hard on the turntables, Nonini deftly works through the hits of his album ‘The Hanyaring Game’. From ‘Moyoni’ and ‘Hunipati’ to ‘We Kamu’ Nonini keeps everyone jumping, but judging from the response from the females it is evident that this album is primarily for the ladies.
The obvious favorites of the night were the controversial ‘We Kamu’ (loosely translated as come over), and ‘Keroro’ (Swahili slang for drunk). 2:00 am slowly creeps up amid shouts from the audience for repeats of their favorite songs and the crowd reluctantly leaves The Blue Nile.
Nonini whose real name is Hubert Nakitare, was born and raised in Nairobi’s Eastlands area in an estate called California commonly known as Calif. He has been seriously performing music for six years and released his 14-track album, ‘The Hanyaring Game’, last year. Though he has been to London thrice, this is his first time in the U.S and he is pleasantly surprised that so many people here know and like his music. This is the first leg of his three month tour and Nonini is already enjoying himself. Nonini along with Jua Cali and Clemo have been hailed as the pioneers of the blend of Kenyan contemporary music known as ‘genge’ music. ‘Genge’ is a Swahili slang word for many and thus ‘genge’ music, which is a mix of Swahili poetry and slang, is music for the masses or music for the people.
As Nonini’s music soared, so did the controversy about his lyrics. His hit song ‘We Kamu’ infuriated the conservatives for its sexually explicit lyrics as did his song ‘Keroro’ which was alleged to encourage over-indulgence in alcohol. In his defense Nonini tells me that his music does not influence, but rather reflects what has been going on in the Kenyan society. Aside from making music, Nonini works for Nairobi-based radio station YFM96 on the breakfast show. He also owns a clothing line called ‘Nonini Wear’ and a video shooting agency called Pro Habo.
The national Genge tour ’05 has been organized by Atlanta based Kenyanese LLC while Minneapolis based Kilimanjaro Entertainment was the local host in the Minnesota leg of the tour. Tim Waindi, CEO of Kenyanese has previously told Mshale his company’s mission is to ensure legal distribution of East African music.
Minneapolis was the first stop in a ten city US tour. Other stops the tour will make include Baltimore, Washington, DC, Boston, New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Seattle and Los Angeles. For updated tour information, visit Kenyanese.
For more information on the company and it’s affiliated artists log onto www.kenyanese.com .
Meanwhile, Hip-Hop Colony, a new film by Kenyan Director, Michael Wanguhu, that looks at the Kenyan hip hop scene including genge will screen in Minneapolis on Saturday, October 22 during Kenyatta day celebrations. The California based Mr. Wanguhu will be in Minneapolis for the screening. He was in London last week and was interviewed by DJ Edu on BBC’s 1Xtra show.
Visit Kilimanjaro for details on Hip-Hop Colony’s screening in Minneapolis.