Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Music for Social Change: Juliani and Ian Kamau

Chilling with Ian Kamau (Centre) and Juliani (Right) at Kwani Open MIC
Yesterday, August 7, 2012, I attended the monthly Kwani Open Mic, at Club Soundd, Nairobi, a forum for spoken words artistes to showcase their work (I am informed that the event has since shifted its base). From this forum, I want to pay tribute to two progressive young artists I met who are using the power of music in passing on powerful social justice messages targetting particularly young people. These are Julius Owino, popularly known as Juliani, formerly of the legendary Ukoo Flani Mau Mau Hiphop family, and Ian Kamau, a canadian hiphop artiste. 

 I was impressed by the depth of their understanding of some of the challenges that the current youth generation faces not just in Africa but generally across the world and how they use their birth backgrounds to shape their messages of struggle against neo-colonialism, youth exploitation by the political and corporate masters and their optimism about the potential for the African Continent to rise again to the heady heights of the Pharaonic era! Here is one of Juliani's songs:

You can check-out some of Ian Kamau's songs here:
Here is an exceprt from Ian Kamau's book "My Father, Manhood & Masculinity"
- A beautiful blog post, read the full post here. An excerpt below:
Once when I was about sixteen years old I was on the train with my father coming from somewhere, there were a group of guys about my age sitting together talking loudly and doing what most teenaged boys do when they are together; posturing and attempting to assert their manhood. My father and I were heading separate ways so he embraced me and kissed me on my forehead. I remember at sixteen feeling so embarrassed that my father showed his affection for me in this way in front of a group of my perceived peers. I look back on that moment now and I’m thankful that I had a gentle and loving father that taught me that a man does not need to live up to the stereotype of masculinity despite what society asks us to portray. My father never really taught me this in words, he taught me this in actions. I’m happy that I could be an artist who didn’t care about sports or cars and that be okay. I’m happy that my father was able to show me the complexity of what it is to be a man, so despite the difficulty of being a complex man in a fairly one dimensional society, I could still allow myself to be me. I’m grateful that my father said of my mother more than ten years after they split up that he loved and respected her and that she was still his best friend. And more than anything I’m happy that my father is just my father and we can still talk and laugh and argue and be father and son now that I too am a man.
Other artistes who performed included CheckMate Mido. The only way to describe him is to borrow this description I found online: 
CheckMate Mido reminds me a lot of Last Emperor  for some reason and is among the few ill emcees in Kenya who can actually beatbox and emcee at the same time. He is also an exceptional poet and if you’ve been to any KWANI Open Mic or poetry event where he’s at you’ll definitely agree with this. Mido’s inspirations include artists such as Mos Def, Abass Kubaff, The Fugees, The Roots, ATCQ and De La Soul. His style is more Soulful than Hype and can definitely morph it to suit any occasion. He’s been a professional artist for about 2-3 years now and seems to love what he’s doing.

I left the show with a renewed sense of optimism for this country and my dear continent: Aluta Continua!!

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