Event Review: Folk Fusion Was A Deal
Last weekend, after a long day of adulting but mainly failing, I hailed a nduthi to 910 James Gichuru. This time round I had been reminded by my friend Pia that Daniel Onyango of #NyatitiStories would be featuring at Folk Fusion-a boutique event by musician Ayrosh Collo to celebrate Kenya’s musical diversity. Almost synonymous to his mugithi-flavores of self-compositions and all time classics, Folk Fusion by Ayrosh is providing a crucial platform within the current cultural conundrum of identity and appropriation politics.
I stood in the back. Admiring the usual architectural bulk of the white-walled bungalow now transformed into a luminous backdrop by the event’s charisma. It changes colors; red…green…orange…then strobes strike below countless legs of dancing silhouettes. This is an event for people who dig unique experiences.
Daniel Onyango plays the Nyatiti- an eight stringed lyre from the Luo community. Traditionally played by a single performer who’d also sing and keep rhythm with rattles tied on the foot, the nyatiti was also believed to be so jealous of the men who played it that they never got to marry. Well, the nu version of that story is that Daniel plays his nyatiti with a 5-piece band consisting a drummer, an electric bass and a double bass! Basically speaking-that’s a lot of bass, but there’s an electric guitar too.
And speaking nu people, Suzanna Owiyo and Ati Sanaa are two ladies that have been playing the male only nyatiti for a while now. It’s therefore exciting times to have a Labdi who has got qualities like Janelle Monae but cuddles a sweet toned Orutu (another Luo classical instrument only played by the boys.)
Back to Daniel Onyango, he’s got good rhythms and an identifiable sound. Although seated, he’s got that old nyatiti technique of verbal expression; a joke here, a word of praise there for a random friend in the audience and witty anecdotes.
Drinks flow, the crowd grows. Open skies above Nairobi’s oldest trees. In the day, this place is a gallery. Tonight, a converted hippie Volkswagen minivan is serving drinks from its roof. There is a couture jeweler and a spiced coffee stand to its left and food tent to the right.
After a thunderous introduction and a tease performance by Jemedari Flow, Tha Movement took the stage with the verve of a super band. After a few grooves embellished with spacey guitar and violin solos, Ayrosh walked across the stage amidst mad screams from the ladies.
He thanks everyone for coming; a hypnosis into a live sonic journey fused with dance and stories in great energy. Tha Movement stops and almost immediately starts a new jam. No one knows it but it’s funky, so we all dance. Then it changes course like me taking L when I see cops in Westy at night. A section of the crowd break into ululation as Ayrosh leads his number one fans into a Kikuyu chorus that Robin turns with a classic guitar tune before everyone bursts singing “I wanna be doooooown…” That’s how it goes until you’ve danced and sang across time, continents and generations of music in one funky jam.
As I ponder the experience in my silence, I remember Mwalimu Tendwa’s old argument. That if you let them fuck up long enough, they might create some juice. Those are my own words of course. But the point is, East Africa, led by Nairobi is happening now. Some vibes may make us feel like we urgently need a sonic identity, so we end up using food making approaches in music production with frustrated or forced effects. My idea is that we just need more safe spaces for artistic orgies.