Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Bands of 2010

My music collection continued to grow by leaps and bounds through 2010... OK not really but here are some of my favourite albums thus far:


The South African band with a big sound reminiscent of Hendrix. Their performances are equally electrical live and their brassy Jozi style has garnered them many followers.

2.) 340ml

The Mozambican quartet that has now become a staple on the Southern African circuit. Their jazzy elcleticism makes for easy listening with some danceable numbers thrown in for good measure - like the early UB40. And no I am not obsessed with Mozambique!

3.) The Black Keys

And from the US we have the blues duo The Black Keys. This is a nice albums for sunday afternoon chilling,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Favourite Things: Old Maputo

Time Tunnel, Maputo, Mozambique

Late Christmas Present.

Here's some Old Hollywood glamour (read hotness) to brighten up your day - Paul Newman, the original Don Draper!

You can catch his smoldering stare as on 'Cat On a Hot Tin Roof' that airs often on TCM.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Christmas for me has always been a standard affair. A trip to Cucu's and Neil Diamond wafting through my parent's house -it's been the same tape since I was a little tyke-

Despite coming from a relatively secular family, this season is a reflection and perhaps a thanksgiving for all the blessings of the year 2010 especially when everything could have easily gone horribly wrong. 

To all my (very few) readers, merry Christmas and a happy new year.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Favourite Things: Tom Ford

Tom Ford is many things; fashion designer, style icon, sex icon (some might say) and now a successful movie director who brought us this years most critically acclaimed film (based on a novel).

A Single Man: For those with high brow inclinations and also for those who want to gape at Tom Ford's neurotic obsession with perfection, in a phrase - visually mind-numbing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Favourite Things: Dada Masilo

Outside Kenya or rather in the more developed world dance is seen as an art form as complex and intricate as opera, classical music and even drama. South Africa is no exception. During this years National Arts Festival I was glad (giddy is more apt) to see that Dada Masilo, South Africa's most daring and controversial choreographer was bringing her latest work to the festival - Peter Iiyich Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. I had previously seen her sultry interpretation of Carmen the previous year and was exited to see what she would bring this year and boy did she bring it!

Of note was the fact that all the dancer, even the males wore tutus. One of the principal female roles was played by a man (in a tutu), a humorous crash coure in ballet (that shall haunt me forever) and the unabashed Africa aesthetic that is now iconic to her work. One scene was even titled Lobola which is widely translated in Southern Africa as bride price. Masilo's work is undoubtedly cheeky even coquettish but as Swan Lake came to its catastrophic climax (in a scene titled Swanicide) the whole dance took on a grave and ethereal feel that transcended space and feeling. No doubt many people came out with strong opinions of the piece like all good art should.

Despite the strong homosexual undertones (I liked it even more because of it) I liked Masilo's addictive perfectionism and the fluidity of the movements. The R30 I payed for a students ticket almost seemed criminal - I would gladly have payed more...

Favourite Things: Photography

Two of my favourite Blogers today are avid photographers. The frist a renown South African photographer (and dare I say artist) Andrew Brauteseche who authors the blog Guy With Camera and the second is Mutua Matheka of Mutua Matheka. I fell in love with Andrews quaint and nostalgic prints early this ear but Mutua's more experimental works frequently feature among my ever-changing desktop backgrounds. In fact many of my friends are converts and Mutua faithfully releases new backgrounds every Monday. Below are a few of my favourite shots taken throughout my travels this year. Unlike the professionals I use a pedestrian Sony Cybershot.

The Masonic, Grahamstown, South Africa

Of High Street, Grahamstown, South Africa

Eye over the Free State, Free State, South Africa

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Favourite Things: Mad Men

The Fourth Season of Mad Men aired this year and once again we the audience were plunged headlong into the stifling world of 1960s advertising. This year among other things, we saw Don cry which flet like seeing my own father cry, absolutely gut-wrenching and touching at the same time. Don also started his own agency to mixed results and the 1960s swept us buy in cloud of smoke. Of intrest was the role of the show's women in the Cock Fest that was advertising back then. Peggy and Joan put up with a lot of bs this season.

As we gear up for the 5th Season, it has been announced that Season 6 will be the final season of the show. Much like other critically acclaimed shows (Lost and The Sopranos come to mind) seems a good place to stop. Meanwhile The Simpson ploughs on through its 23rd Season telling us it is possible to ruin a pretty solid formular for success.

Favourite Things: Skins

Skins is one of those shows like the Sopranos that you know are bad for you but you can't help yourself. The British drama now famous for its unabashed portrayal of Youth in Excess is now gearing up for it's 5th season. The show is also famous for changing up its cast every two seasons keeping the story lines fresh and perhaps a tad realistic,something their saccarine American counterparts (ahem One Tree Hill) can learn from. The show is also renown for the its large ensemble of young amateur writers which reinforces its relevance and Pop culture credentials.

Since I first watched skins I've seen the kids, for they are real kids, battle drugs, depression, homosexuality. drugs, sex, death and abortion with real human passion and feeling. Problems are not quickly solved with a text to Gossip Girl nor are petty rumours and that new dress integral to the show's plot. All in all, a good effort though the constant profanity and delinquency raise the PG rating of skins way above the PG-13 of most teenage dramedies. Plus the show has a cool indie Brit soundtrack.

Generation 1: The pioneer cast from Season 1 & 2.

Generation 2: The Cast from Season 3 & 4

On a sad note, an American remake of the show is in the offing. Needless to say it will be bland and tastelessly adapted for American television.

Favourite Things: Lost, The Final Season.

It's been 6 years, dozens of episodes and scores of arguments on philosophy and the Dharma Initiative but this year we said goodbye to one of the most enigmatica and iconic shows on television. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kwani? LitFest 2010

In case you didn't know the Kwani? Literary Festival is on this week. The festivities kicked of yesterday at the secluded Kifaru Gardens, Lavington. I dragged a friend of mine there and what a lovely afternoon it was. Speakers included Micere Mugo, Marjorie Oludhe as well as performances by a suprisingly dashing Mukoma wa Ngugi and Binyavanga Wainaina. The event was not complete without Atemi's husky sweetness wafting deletable carols across a cool Nairobi evening. The full programme, which ends on Saturday can be accessed here. Also on show yesterday was a slightly embarrassing and barely heated exchange between an inebriated Tony Mochama and Wambui Mwangi which got a bit to personal and for me, quite funny. All in all a day well spent in intellectual immersion. 

In an aside, I spotted the great and benevolent Ngugi wa Thiong'o in the audience and nearly passed out!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Favourite Things: Buena Vista Social Club

Undoubtedly one of the greatest albums ever made, and one of those Cuban gems that are so nostalgic and sentimental you can't help not liking it. The handful of songs in achingly poetic spanish and the afro-spanish guitar riffs that speak of a melodeous fusion of culture and history. I say buy it now, it's brilliant!

Favourite Things: The Road

The Road was the first McCarthy novel I read a couple of years ago when it first came out. I was amazed and astounded by the books themes and McCarthy's voice, the simple narrative that had a god-like, almost biblical conviction. More recently I decided to write an academic paper trying to uncover the underlying themes that made this book of loss, post-apocalyptic societal decay and the strengths of the human will. In ten full readings and numerous other references, I examined closely and critically the images of darkness and light, the Christian myths and allusions, the parallels between the books protagonists and the story of Christ were almost uncanny but not in a way that seemed contrived or convoluted. By the end I should have hated the book, deconstructing the words and squeezing out the meaning, like watching the Special Features of a movie and finding out that the special effects were not that special and the actors merely human. Instead I loved the book even more and had a quite respect for McCarthy as this is a work of a genius, timeless and ever so relevant Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
for an increasingly misanthropic world. A Classic worthy of any Canon.

Here is one of my favourite lines in the book:

Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
Copyright: McCarthy, C. 2006. The Road. London: Picador.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Favourite Things: The STINGO

I featured some of STINGO's work earlier this year over here. The magazine has grown since then, churning new, exiting and original photo spreads for a hungry public. They have also showcased some of Kenya's emerging design talent such as Sheila Amolo, Kardi Kepha and Cyrus Kabiru not to mention their beautiful models. A uniquely Kenyan concept by a young and talented bunch.

You can check them out here:

Favourite Things: Sauti Sol

Other than the unfortunate album cover, the group brought back the Kenyan Ballad, and on top of that made it cool again to serenade women with cool vibes and fancy guitar work. Their universal appeal is further heightened by the number of Tusker Project Fame wannabes that did their songs (and failed) and the fact that it is the only CD that my whole family can listen to on road trips and all. My mum even did a little whoop when they performed on TPF last Sunday.

Favourite Things: BONK

Discover BONK for their serious trendy slim fit tees as well as their solidly coloured fitted polos. The brand, wholly Kenyan and all, has built a small cult like following and they don't skimp on the quality plus everything is made in Kenya so it's good for the economy.

Browse through their exiting catalogue at or visit their sole outlet in Mpaka Road, Westlands (below Red Tape).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Favourite Things: Singin' in the Rain

For the first time in year my family and I sat down to watch a movie. Conflicting schedules as well as international boundaries meant that we were never together throughout the year. Anyway there was nothing to watch on TV and anything after 9 o'clock does not pander to my father's conservative sensibilities. I finally found 'Singin' in the Rain' playing on TCM - a musical with a good ol PG rating-. The plot of the movie was straight forward, the acting and dialogue whimsical and a tad over thee top. It's true what they said they don't make them like they used to. At the end, there was a happy ending, the guy got the gal and everything was as it should have been. Here's to Gene Kelly with his ludicrous choreography and kitschy singing, he really made my day and reinstated family Movie Night.

Favourite Things: The Molskine

While browsing in a bookshop I stumbled on a rack labeled Moleskine. The neatly ordered books sat in their racks unassuming but there was something about their bland exterior and unassuming looks that screamed sophistication. My first Molskine I bought was the Pocket Ruled Notebook in hard cover. On the from it read "The legendary notebook of Chatwin , Picasso and Hemingway" and almost immediately my writers curiosity was aroused fueled by my vanity. My second Moleskine was a large red diary for 2011. It seats unopened on my desk but I can't help but admire the clean design, the vivid colour or the over the top price tag. But I like the books maybe because I'm vain or perhaps because writing everything down the old-fashioned way has a genuine charm to it, as if my writings will be eternal like Hemingway.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Favourite Things: The Perfect Pair of Jeans

I don't buy clothes often but when I do I try to buy clothes with timeless style or something I'm going to wear for at least a year. My father, a well-dressed man, always emphasises the importance of quality and style. For instance he still wears the same pair of wingtips he bought 15 years ago. Sure it costs a bundle (and could probably employ a couple of Grade A government employees very happy) but a good pair of jeans like a good shoe should last for many years, weathering all sorts of seasonal or even cyclical fashion fads.

After months of searching I finally found the pair by Gap for their 1969 Premium Jeans collection. The jeans were moderately priced, for some, for me they blew right through my clothing budget for the year but they were worth it. I like the simplicity of the construction, the jeans are not unnecessarily faded, distressed or torn making them a truly versatile component of ones wardrobe. So there you have it. This seasons must have item - the perfect pair of jeans. Pair these with a good blazer or slim leather jacket and formal boots. A pair Converse would also be fine.

Favourite Things: That Kid From the Vampire Flicks

I stubled upon this picture on the website of American GQ and lingered for afew seconds or hours. 18, year old Taylor Lautner is certainly a fine specimen of a human being. Shame he can't act, but that does not stop my sister from obsessing over his films or me drooling like newborn.

Credit: © 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Favourite Things

Now that we've come to the end of the year, I like Oprah, would like to do a series of my favourite things this year. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to write but I'm going to do it anyway.

Respect Yourself: The Easy Guide to the Staple Singers

Nothing says Gospel/ Funky Soul like the Staple Sisters. Respect Yourself was a feet thumping hit in the pre disco days. Their father, Roebuck 'Pops' Staples (the kast S was dropped due to the particular difficulty in pronouncing Staples Singers.) Pops benevolence could be heard throughout many of their songs like 'Respect Yourself', every note they sang rang true as they were ebbed on by their father and his guitar.

Unfortunately for them, disco hit towards the end of the 70s and Stax, they're label, folded leaving them without a niche to hold on to. The legacy of the Staples Family leaves on through their music - easy to listen to, egalitarian, all encompassing and comforting. ''I'll take you there' was an undeniable hit but there are more mellow tracks like "I See", "It's a Long Walk to DC", "Slow Train" and "Got to be Some Changes". Some are mellow, melancholic and wreaked with unspeakable sorrow, others are uplifting, a funky island in the turbulence of the American 60s and 70s. For me what I like most about the Staples was the way they mixed good old fashion church gospel with subtle yet hard-hitting political confrontation. They remain as relevant today as they always did - angels whispering it's going to be OK.

Also worth a listen is Mavis Staples' -the groups husky-voiced lead singer's- brand new studio album "We'll Never Turn Back".

He Was A Friend of Mine

It's been two years since my guka died. It was sudden, for me a least but then again his medical history had not been good. The man, a quiet enigma, was the sort of person I pictured everyones granddad to be; benovelant and quitely proud of his grandchildren. He was one of the people who fostered my love for reading. The first book he ever gave me was an old African Writer's Series, Peter Abrahams 'Mine Boy'. I was about 13. The book was simple enough that it could be read and enjoyed in my youth and innocence. Subsequent readings brought about deeper shades of meaning. The main plot never changing, the characters growing more complex. The second book he gave me was A Long Walk to Freedom, a collection of political letters and essays by the then imprisoned Nelson Mandela.

He was a teacher and a pacifist, a man who watched the country he had helped build crumble into mediocrity and utter despair yet he never had a bad thing to say about anyone. His wisdom was sought by all but most of all his children. Despiter their shortcomings he loved his children unconditionally and mostly did not interfere in their lives. The third and final book he gave me made me question the man he was, the man that was. The book is now misplaced, my mother, no doubt found it and destroyed it, I have since forgotten its title. Briefly, the book was a coming of age tale about a handsome but akward young man in 1950s America. The protagonists name, with an obvious sense of irony, was Gaylord and yes he was very gay. Well, the story was touching and it helped me through some stuff I was going through at the time. It gave me a sense of hope, and that perhaps my grandfather was a liberal.

So Guka here's to you, a son of a clergy man, father, grandfather and friend. But most of all you were a friend of mine.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Langston Hughes On Democracy


Democracy will not come

Today, this year

Nor ever

Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right

As the other fellow has

To stand

On my two feet

And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,

Let things take their course.

Tomorrow is another day.

I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.

I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.


Is a strong seed


In a great need.

I live here, too.

I want freedom

Just as you.

Langston Hughes

Friday, October 29, 2010

Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye on those Relas…

A Freedom Song

Atieno washes dishes,

Atieno plucks the chicken,

Atieno gets up early,

Beds her sacks down in the kitchen,

Atieno eight years old,

Atieno yo.

Since she is my sister's child

Atieno needs no pay.

While she works my wife can sit

Sewing every sunny day:

With he earnings I support

Atieno yo.

Atieno' sly and jealous,

Bad example to the kids

Since she minds them, like a schoolgirl

Wants their dresses, shoes and beads,

Atieno ten years old,

Atieno yo.

Now my wife has gone to study

Atieno is less free.

Don't I keep her, school my own ones,

Pay the party, union fee,

All for progress! Aren’t you grateful

Atieno yo?

Visitors need much attention,

All the more when I work night.

That girl spends too long at market.

Who will teach her what is right?

Atieno rising fourteen,

Atieno yo.

Atieno's had a baby

So we know that she is bad.

Fifty fifty it may live

And repeat the life she had

Ending in post-partum bleeding,

Atieno yo.

Atieno's soon replaced;

Meat and sugar more than all

She ate in such a narrow life

Were lavished at her funeral.

Atieno's gone to glory,

Atineo yo.

Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye

This poem is a throw back to way back when. It reminds me of those hideous English lessons in scorching January afternoons. A Freedom Song has always been a favourite of mine, childhood memories notwithstanding and this does not detract from the important issue at hand. Thematically it is a common story told with a bizarre detachment of one who has seen this happen all to many times. Atieno didn’t meet her prince charming in real life, societal and familial obligations took care of that, robbed her of innocence and shrouded her in shame, malice and disillusion. Like all parables, Atieno is a cautionary tale but Macgoye cleverly (and ironically) turns her wagging finger not at the poor orphan girl but at us, we who did not save the girl from her perverse prison. We who killed her in her childbed whilst she fought to give birth to Vain Hope. Atieno the hapless victim/ Atieno yo!

Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye went on to tank the high school careers of many a Kenyan Youth when she published Coming to Birth. She lives in Nairobi.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dennis Brutus on Freedom Fighters

For a Dead African

We have no heroes and no wars

only victims of a sickly state

succumbing to the variegated sores

that flower under lashings of hate.

We have no battles and no fights

for history to record with trite remark

only captives killed in eyeless nights

and accidental dyings in the dark.

Yet when the roll of those who died

to free out land is called without surprise

those nameless unarmed ones will stand beside

the warriors who secure the final prize.

Dennis Brutus

Mashujaa day is all about remembrance. Not much has been done to honour the lives of those who died for or freedom. Countless others who actively took part in the Struggle remain banished to obscurity. Dennis Brutus, a South African, wrote this poem at the height of apartheid when no end was in site. Nonetheless he had hope, a hope that was not in vain, the false naivety of the rhyme scheme does nothing to shroud the horrors of an oppressive regime. This was political writing at its most ironic.

So on the 20th of October let us salute the lives that were lost to build this country and the countless sacrifices not forgetting the barbarous aftermath of the 2007 General Election, “the nameless unarmed ones”.

Dennis Brutus, poet, political activist and instigator of change died on December 26th 2009. He was 85.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Solomon Burke, Entertainer, Preacher and Soul Man, died on October 10th, aged 70.

Solomon Burke’s career was as colourful as his stage performances. His songs were steeped in the gospel tradition, which suited him just fine. Both his mother and grandmother were honest to God churchwomen and by 9 he was widely known as the Wonder Boy Preacher.

Mr. Burke never reached the ethereal heights of his contemporaries like James Brown or even Isaac Hayes. He didn’t need to for embedded in his songs was that unmistakable voice, the voice of a man whose soul was touched by God himself. In concert he often wore flowing robes, a crown and even sat on a throne as if to say all hail The King of Soul.

His eccentricities extended beyond the stage. Mr. Burke leaves behind 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. This patriarch of soul left behind a legacy of biblical proportions; his music a gift to all mankind. I first came to know Burke, much older then, from his album Don’t Give Up on Me (2002). The album was mellow and without the brassy pulse of Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. This was Mr. Burke at maturity. His voice was soothing but his music was like that, easy listening with a hint of melancholy, it was soul for beginners but veterans also went back to Mr. Burke like Prodigal Children so that he could wipe away the pain and tell us everything was going to be all right, and it worked, like therapy on the cheap. Fast train is one if my all time favourite songs, an analogy of life and all it’s misery but Mr. Burke argued as to move on not despite of this but in spite of it. Always a group of wailing women served as back up vocals making his songs so catchy and endearing as he decried moral decay or the fact that (always and everywhere) Everybody Wants to Fall In Love.

Mr. Burke died in Amsterdam, at Schipol Airport. His website reported that “He was on his way to spread his message of love”. He may not have reached where he was going but his message reverberates around the world in the hearts of many. He sometimes sang about going home, indeed We’re Almost Home (1972) was all about that wholesome place, almost metaphysical in definition. Mr. Burke is now finally home. At peace after giving so much of himself. He gained neither obsessive fame nor excessive fortune and I think he was okay with that.

To King Solomon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Words and Meaning

Half Caste

Excuse me

standing on one leg
I'm half-caste

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas/
explain yuself
wha u mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather/
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass
ah rass/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony/

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
Ah listening to yu wid de keen
half of mih ear
Ah looking at u wid de keen
half of mih eye
and when I'm introduced to yu
I'm sure you'll understand
why I offer yu half-a-hand
an when I sleep at night
I close half-a-eye
consequently when I dream
I dream half-a-dream
an when moon begin to glow
I half-caste human being
cast half-a-shadow
but yu come back tomorrow
wid de whole of yu eye
an de whole of yu ear
and de whole of yu mind

an I will tell yu
de other half
of my story

John Agard

Sometime ago while talking to a friend from the Caribbean the subject of race came up. He was shocked that the word 'half-caste' was in regular usage here in Kenya et it was nearly taboo where it came from. Agard, a man from his part of the world, puts his sentiments into a whimsical yet poignant poem.

On Stars

On Starts

Stars are the nipples
of angels
pressed against the face
of heaven.

Grace Nicols

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Why? For the sentimentality
When? December to March
How much? Cheaper than you’d think

There are very few cities I’ve been to as charming or as bewitching as Maputo. For me the cities allure comes from the fact that it’s so foreign and so chic. For instance nobody understands a word of English, instead Portuguese punctuates the air every so often as if to reinforce that you are indeed abroad and cosmopolitan. Afternoons are spent on Maputos expansive sidewalks lunching decadently for hours on end. And then comes people-watching, the people of Maputo are indeed pretty to look at, much prettier than the people of Nairobi. Much.

Sometime in Mid-February when the Summer was particularly brutal, a group of friends and I decided to skip across the border for a weekend in Maputo – one long boozy road trip. So we swapped the oppressively dry heat of South Africa for the sweaty stickiness of Maputo. And what a trip it was.

As the Parental Figure I the group I was left to make the arrangements, they simply turned up and asked “How much?” We decided to rough it out a backpackers, Maputo’s most famous, Fatima’s Place. Now, anyone who has been to the Iberian Peninsula or any of their subsequent colonies will know that they had a love of grids. Maputo is no exception. The town proper has no official CBD instead they have long, wide avenues intersected by numerous streets that run perpendicular to them resulting in a grid layout. And in a serendipitous twist in Urban Planning most services are located on these streets – within comfortable walking distance.. Rather than being chaotic, this all works out well and the Kenyan in me gaped at how properties (even single houses) had no fences and that people parked their cars on the street without consequence. Fatima’s is located on such a street, the revolutionarily named Ave Mao Tse Tung.

Due to years of civil war and a flirtation with communism, Maputo looks like what you’d think Cuba looks like. Yes, the Latin American vibe is pretty strong down there. The Portuguese abandoned their colony overnight and almost immediately it fell into chaos. In fact a writer in the Mail & Guardian compared the city to an aging Hollywood actress. A fair maiden who was once at her prime, now slowly fading into obscurity but every now and then a glimmer of her glamour is apparent. A trip to Maputo is not without nostalgia and one can only help but wonder what it looked like way back when.

In terms of costs, the place is relatively cheap, I mean we’re still in Africa. The local currency is the Metical however SA Rand, US Dollars, the Pound Sterling and the Euro are widely accepted. Word of caution however, the exchange rate used by most of these fine establishments is inflated at best and barbarous at worst. What we did was travel with a limited amount of Rand and the rest we withdrew from ATMs -which by the way are right in the street!- the beauty of the ATM system is that you get the attractive inter-bank exchange rate that the Forex people could never dream of giving you, that is if you don’t mind paying Visa’s ludicrous fees at Kshs. 250 a pop.

Anyway we made it to Maputo alive and rolled in (by bus of course) in the late evening. We quickly found cabs and were swiftly whisked of to Fatima’s. the accommodations were adequate and we quickly concluded that it was value for money. The bathrooms are clean and the showers hot, always wear shoes though. Due to Maputo’s tropical heat, no beddings are provided, they do however, provide a mosquito net and a couple of fans to blow hot air in your face. Sleeping with the windows open is suicidal (if your European) but okay if you’re Kenyan since we all walk around with the damned parasites in our blood anyway. Like most backpackers, Fatima’s has a communal kitchen with an assortment of dubious flatware and crockery, and a leaky fridge. If you don’t have the money consider the self-catered option and remember to label your goods like a 5 year old child in kindergarten.

We however walked to all our meals. Up Mao Tse Tung (and the street is very long) was a bakery/ café/ supermarket that happened to serve mediocre pizza at near throw away prices (250 Mets) + they had a Terrific Tuesday offer going on. The waitress (or is it waitron) didn’t speak a word of English so we spoke in broken Spanish. Later on settling the bill turned into a sonofabitch! The thing I like most about Maputo is its walkabilty and the fact that cabs don’t cost an arm, a leg and testicle. We went out to Maputo’s premier club, Coconuts on Ujamaa Road (Av Julius Nyerere) that sits right on the beach. Swimming in the ocean –in Maputo- might cause one to turn a violent shade of green so don’t. Much like in Latin America, the Mozambicans were celebrating Carnaval that night, one last hurrah before Lent. All the beautiful bodies in town turned up and were in costume (think Halloween). Later on stage was a fashion show, headlined by drag queens wearing sequined bikinis. It was definitely weird in a cool kinda way.

If instead you just want to chill out head to the ultra-cool Dolce Vita on the other end of Av Julius Nyerere. The lounge spills out onto the pavement and is a good place to catch overpriced, luminous aperitifs or a late supper. Across the road is Mundos, another famous eatery that server decent but similarly over priced food. But our all time favourite restaurant was Mimo’s on Av Olol Palme. It’s one of those Italian style family restaurants that serve reasonable portions of food and attractive prices and much better than the bakery we ate at earlier. Never leave Maputo without over-indulging in their terrific sea food, Mozambican prawns are world renown and cheap. KFC is also a viable option.

But by far the most enjoyable aspect for me was soaking in the architecture. As I said earlier the Portuguese adopted a rather mixed-sue approach to urban zoning. Most people in the city proper live in towering blocks of flats with entrances directly on the pavement. The address system appears to be quite logical and people get their mail delivered to their doors rather than the post office. All these things add to Maputo’s unique cosmopolitan vibe. A place where wine is served at a Kenchic type joint(we eventually fell into poverty you see) and olive oil comes with your chips. A place where families walk in the evenings to the park and supper is at 10. A city where people greet others (even strangers) with kisses on the cheek. A particular favourite building is the CFM, Maputo’s main railway station designed by Alexandre Eiffel. Also check out the Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum.

Many buildings in the city were left unfinished after the Portugese left – they burned the plans in vexation but there is definitely a promising construction boom. Already, Maputo has an impressive toll road into town. Tower blocks and cranes now dot the landscape. Though it is not nearly on the same scale as its steroid weaned, petro-dollars fuelled cousin on the Atlantic, Luanda, Maputo has tried equally hard to shake of its civil war image, and its working. Today the streets are littered with designer shops, trendy ice cream bars and a bewildering choice of restaurants, some of them even good and like an aging diva, Maputo won’t go out without a fight, like Madonna. Yes, exactly like Madonna.

We Stayed at Fatima’s Place.
Ave Mao Tse Tung 1317-1321
Accommodation at Fatima’s is a numbers game. The more the people in your party the cheaper it gets. Prices thus vary from R100 – R150 per night (subject to change). It’s imperative that you book before travelling because the place fills up fast. Accommodation ranges from single rooms to 12 person dorms. None are en suite.

All nationalities require visa to visit Mozambique. These can be applied for in advance from the High Commission in Nairobi or at the port of entry for a nominal fee.

Note: Many fine establishments exclude VAT and service charge from the prices on display. Be wary of this and always ask, it can lead to severe embarrassment, that of the Chonga Viazi variety.

Caution must always be taken when walking at night. Stick to the main Avenues, walk in groups and always consul the locals. It is especially forbidden to attempt walking to Coconuts unless you are very drunk and very broke. If in doubt hail a cab.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Night TKO

After two dull and absolutely unbearable weeks comes Friday, and here's how the boys and I are going to celebrate.

And yes, that is a suitecase and yes those are two ka-quaters of our barely legal pre-changaa spirits, Kenya Cane. I was in such a hurry before I left home I completely forgot to buy a couple of mzingas so the airport trip included an early morning stop at Nakumatt. God bless their 24 hour Capitalist Philosophy, to bad they didn't have the One liter bottles.

In other news, notice the comparative size of the Castle Largers.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


• Zombie – Fela Kuti
• Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
• Viva Nigeria – Fela Ransome Kuti
• I’ve Seen it All – Kesivan and The Lights
• Lonely Woman/ India – Kesivan and The Lights
• The Hurricane Of Silence Was The Author Of My Tears - Carlo Mombelli And The Prisoners Of Strange
• Monday Morning in Lagos – Fela Kuti
• Requiem - Carlo Mombelli And The Prisoners Of Strange
• Shake Daddy Shake – Eula Cooper
• Potter’s Field – Alice Swoboda
• Do What You Gotta Do – Nina Simone
• Almost Persuaded – Etta James
• Maria Elena – Los Indios Trabajos
• Rien Ne Va Plus – Funk Factory
• Mandela – Abdullah Ibrahim

Obviously Fela ‘Formerly Ransome’ Anikulapo Kuti needs no introduction to anyone born before 1990. His music was as controversial as his politics and his innumerable wives. His music –christened afrobeat- was like the man, gutsy, loud and definitely had a giant set of balls. Viva Nigeria is from the 69’ LA Session – perhaps a testament to his more conservative, left of centre political inklings before Nigeria melted into a series of turbulent coups and before he changed his name. Later, as grief and disillusion gripped him the songs took on an angrier more threatening tone but one idea remained pure and unadulterated - Viva Nigeria, Viva Africa!

Potter’s Field is a fairly recent obsession. It was recorded in the early 70s by Alice Swoboda. It was neither successful nor critically acclaimed, and Swoboda quickly fell into the musical underground. For one thing it was difficult to class the sound, it was part folk song, part country western and some soul thrown in for good measure. The song is morbid, depressing and a tad self-deprecating but every note echoes with truth and a sincerity that can not be feigned nor denied. Her voice rings clear and deep above the whimsical and nostalgic guitar riff that mask homelessness, despair and damnation to a paupers grave. Nothing else matters “Coz the city is going to bury me in Potter’s Field”.

I coupled this with Eric Clapton’s equally haunting and melancholic Tears in Heaven written after the death of his infant son. It tells of a father’s loss and the fact that he never got to really know his son which causes him to ask rather tragically and with immeasurable grief of a parent “Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?”

On a lighter note. Recently I’ve become quite the jazz aficionado. Again is Kesivan and The Lights, the experimental but cool Carlo Mombelli And The Prisoners Of Strange and the legendary Abdullah Ibrahim all of whom are from my backyard, The Cape.

On CDFs...

Launching Our Community Development Fund

It was announced in the Daily Times, the New Nigerian,

the television, the radio and other acclaimed megaphones.

Today we launch our Community Development Fund

to complete the project the Government abandoned from start

for lack of funds; the Treasury looted overnight

by those elected to generate national wealth.

Dancers are back again from their holes, gyrating

in front of the Chairman and the Chief Launcher, millionaires.

The booths are painted bright in national colours.

In those days as dancer twisted themselves out of breath

to the applause of the Governor and his vast entourage,

we laid foundation stones with party blocks that dissolved

with return of Honourable Guests to the capital –

the budget allocation went with the civic reception.

There was no attempt to build what would outlive the builders,

and this disregard for afterlife was unfortunate for us

Christians and Muslims; heaven could not be gained here.

Today, as before, there are dancers to excite the chiefs

to pledge millions of naira to build their egos.

Always before new lords that rise with the fall of old patrons,

the dancers live eternally digging the ground that swallows

the Very Impotent Personalities. And after this launching,

the proceedings, the names of donors, will be announced

in the Daily Times, the New Nigerian and other acclaimed


Tanure Ojaide

This was one of those poems I studied in school years ago, you know the one that came from one of those ubiquitous potry anthologies with an obvious title like Modern Poetry for the African Child or Wole Soyinka's Clever Use of Satire -The Simplified Commonwealth Edition.

Anyway, now that Promulgation Fever is over maybe we can settle in to the task of Nation Building and finally put an end to any parallels between Nigeria's Organised Chaos and Kenya's Fuck-it-all philosophy. Ojaide's wry observations are none the less witty and broadly applicable.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Rasin In The Sun

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

A leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes' celebrated poem gave title to the 20th Century's most famous and poignant portrayal of the black American experience, Lorraine Hansberry's critically acclaimed A Rasin In The Sun.

In light of the last Friday's Promulgation, I to dedicate Hughes' words to those who fought bravely and valiantly for our right to self-determine our destiny and to the 1,500 that died at the hands of our collective rapaciousness and ignorance.

May we never forget those who came before us, may their sacrifice be forever etched in our minds, may we never cease to dream.

Papa Was On Rolling Stone

Following their two Emmy nods on Sunday -including Outstanding Drama Series-, Mad Men takes on Rolling Stone in it's October issue under the title MAD MEN: Inside The Best Show on TV. All photographs are by the talented James Minchin II.

The show's protagonist, Don Draper played by Jon Hamm is flanked (from left) by the lovely Elisabeth Moss, January Jones and Christina Hendricks

An elegant juxtaposition of fiction and reality, the casual present and the elegant but not so distant past.

In character: The perennially dapper Don Draper

And we're rolling...

Ice Queen: The beautiful yet austere Betty (Draper) Francis

The delightfully voluptuous and irresistible Joan Harris neé Holloway

Credit: © 2010 Rolling Stone

The first Season of Mad Men airs on KTN on Tuesday nights at 10.05

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mannenberg Is Where It's Happening

Mannenberg is perhaps one of the most politically charged songs in the history of the South African Struggle. The song came to Abdullah Ibrahim then known as Dollar Brand almost serendipitously one day after Cape Town's District Six had been razed to the ground. What I like about this song is that it first and foremost defined the Cape Jazz sound and secondly it was political and subversive in a way very few songs at the time were. It's melody is pleasant and nostalgic - almost easy listening but it's the title that got South African's of all shades really riled up. From the townships of Meadow lands and Mannenberg to the Umkhoto we Sizwe training camps in Tanzania and Zimbabwe Mannenberg's tune rang clear and true reminding them of what they had lost, asserting a future that was pendant on their actions - a future that was now in their hands, Mannenberg was where it all begun.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ad Men

I've been gearing up to write a huge piece on Mad Men for a while now. Words (at least mine) cannot do the show justice. Mad Men is the greatest show currently on TV bar none. The show was conceived by Matthew Wiener whilst still a writer on the most critically acclaimed and most commercially successful show ever, The Sopranos - until now.

Mad Men has done for men what Sex and the City did for women. For one thing men all over the world are dressing better -and smoking is cool again-. Men in the 60s or at least the men of Mad Men are always impeccably dressed, ties to the office with pocket squares, tie bars and hats are their staple. The women wear pencil skirts to work and -for the women of leisure- dresses influenced by Christian Dior's New Look. Nobody looked as stylish as they did during that era. It is easy to get lost in the show's near perfect facade but underneath lurks politics, personal struggles and triumphs and stereotypes that ultimately makes Mad Men a human story - the chronicle of a decade!

Wiener and his crew have worked hard to create the most stylish show on television. The props and sets are as immaculate, the clothes sophisticated and chic and the script tight and carefully measured , everything is hinted, nothing is stated implicitly which is lovely. Finally television for grownups who like to dress up!

Mad Men is undoubtedly a television show about men, for men but the women can hold their ground even in the lascivious and chauvinistic confines of a New York ad agency (and the American 60s). So here's my salute to Ms. January Jones and Christina Hendricks, the Power Women behind their Mad Men.

January and Christina for GQ. The world's most stylish magazine meets the sexiest women on television.

Credit: © 2009

Credit: © 2010

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