Makadem’s appearance at Choices’ Thursday Nite Live event

Makadem is killing it. Photo: Quaint Photography

Makadem is killing it. Photo: Quaint Photography

Makadem was the featured artist at the Thursday Nite Live an event that happens every Thursday at the Choices in Nairobi.

If you are ever in Nairobi and live music is your thing, Thursday Nite Live hosted every Thursday at Choices has come to define the best in our live music scene. This event run by Rashid Jibril involves a musician who knows how to play live music playing for patrons of the famous venue. Some of the best artists in the country and some from out of the region have performed at the event. The beauty about it? The punters at Choices pay nothing. This makes it probably the best free live event in town; it has also been described in some quarters as one of the best regularly running events on the continent.

On Thursday a good friend of mine had asked to join him for Thursday Nite Live at Choices and I was happy to accompany him. I hadn’t even bothered to find out who would be performing on the day as it is always hard to keep up with which act that would be performing on the day. Also all the bands on the stage were usually kick butt so it didn’t matter. So you can imagine my joy when I strolled into the place and who had just ended their set: Makadem.

Makadem is a very special fellow. He was initially a pop artist of the R&B and hip hop genre when he was in Mombasa before moving to Nairobi and changing his music genre. He fused older tradition instruments like the nyatiti the lyre of the Luo and the traditional drum with the modern guitar, keyboard and drums. This new music took a while to develop so there were many wondering why was once of the best rapper/singer changing his name and becoming Ohanglaman Makadem. It eventually worked and Makadem is one of the most sought out live acts on the European scene and on the continent where folks are looking for amazing music.

This was the act that I was to watch this evening and when I checked in he was taking a break after doing his first set. Eventually he jumped back on stage and started his second set with his anthem to Gor Mahia and the crowd started responding. As he went through his two hour set, which was increased by almost half an hour by crowd demand, the crowd would jump up and down and dance. It didn’t matter that many didn’t understand the words in his songs as they were in the Luo language as well were all getting into a frenzy as the many belted out his tunes. As he went through his set he would play a variety of instruments, the guitar, the nyatiti, the kayamba skillfully. It was his voice that most shone that Thursday evening; a powerful instrument that caressed and cajoled as well and inspired one to dance.

He was accompanied by a Uganda performer Giovanni who was also very good but this night belonged to the Ohanglaman and his band.

The beauty about Makadem is that his success has seen him at the forefront of live music in the country. He is the ultimate musician’s musician so in the audience you could see Iddi Aziz, Winyo Shipton, James Jozee of Gogosimo Band and other acts jamming to their friend’s music. It’s such a wonderful sight to see truth be told.

MakademIf you were ever lucky enough to hear that Makadem is on your neck of the woods to perform I recommend that you check him out. He is totally worth every cent.

P.S. Makadem is one of several Kenyans up for awards at the All Africa Music Awards (Afrima) this year with a nomination for Best African Contemporary. Please vote for him. You can also check him out here.

P.P.S. Check out images from the concert here.

Oliver Mtukudzi rocks the Koroga Festival

Oliver Mtukudzi

Oliver Mtukudzi

The Koroga Festival is fast becoming the event to go and watch some of the best live music in Nairobi. The event is hosted on the first Sunday of the month every two months at the Arboretum Grounds and has hosted some really cool African artists. Some of these include Baba Maal, Simphiwe Dana and Salif Keita.

This Sunday, yesterday, it was the turn of Oliver Mtukudzi to give a live to his many Nairobi fans one of who I count myself. When the Sunday broke there was a concern that there would be some of the dreaded rain that we have been experiencing in recent times that have been wrecking havoc. It had rained on Saturday night but fortunately the day was better and by the afternoon we were enjoying a sunny day in our nation’s capital.

The Arboretum was filled to the brim with folks out to meet and greet and enjoy what was on offer. I enjoyed meeting folks like Blinky Bill of Just A Band, Chris Adwar of The Villagers fame, Diana Opoti of 100 days of African Fashion fame, Rayhab Gachango of Potentash fame, Paul Munene of Quaint Photography… I can go on all day.

There were many performances there at the muddy grounds of the Arboretum that we should really refer to as Matopeni in honour of the old Vioja Mahakamani show. The most memorable of these for me was a set that was done by Octopizzo (yes, that’s really his name) alongside Just-A-Band.

A few minutes before 5pm the legend himself came on stage with his band; a fellow guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist and a drummer as well as a girl on background vocals aka BGVs.

The show started at a slow pace with the instruments somehow while being European giving a very distinctively African feel. I don’t know how that band did it but I could feel it in my bones. Here. * points to gut*

As we were dancing to the music I would look around and there was a huge number of folks singing alongside to his songs. Its times like these that made you realise how international Nairobi is as well as just how big the Zimbabwean population here is. I had a blast as I was explained to by my Zimbabwean partner as each song came; this one is about a father who promises to buy his daughter Pata pata slippers from Bata to congratulate her on her marriage, this one about this, this one is about this. Even though I didn’t understand what he was saying it was a world class performance I was enjoying in that tent in the Arboretum.

As he would sing and play the guitar and sing in his signature deep voice he would pause to dance and jump making me have to google to confirm that I was watching a 63 year old man perform. If I could dance like him at fourty five for almost two hours I would be a happy man.

At one point he strummed a few keys and every single Kenyan went wild. The song he had started singing was Todii the one song we are all familiar with. So you can be sure to hear my relatives happily sing along as soon as we here the chorus;

Hooo todini, senzeni, what shall we do
What shall we do , tingadii
Senzenjani, what shall we do, what shall we do

A funny thing. When I asked some of my colleagues what the song just before doing this blog their answer was, “its about todi, what shall we do.” Well the song is about a subject that will surprise many Kenyans; its an advocacy song for HIV/AIDS. Yep. If you go to this link you will get the English translation in this website you will realise what the song is about. Here is a section of the lyrics with the Shona on the left and the English translation on the right after the /

Zvinorwadza sei kurera rufu mumaoko/ how painful it is to look after someone u know is gonna die
Kana uinawo utachiwana/ when they have AIDS
Zvinorwadza sei kuchengeta rufu mumaoko/ this person has gotten something that will lead to their death
Kana uinawo utachiwana/ when they have AIDS
Bva zvamabata pamuviri pasina raramo / death has been made manifest
Kana uinawo utachiwana / when they have AIDS
Bva zvapatumbuka pamuviri pasina raramo / this is a condition that will not spare them
Kana uinawo utachiwana / when they have AIDS

Even though many aren’t aware of what the song is about we all sang along to the song like our lives depended on it. The only weird thing was his stage exit; he was performing when he strolled of stage and never came back.

After this I took off but having spent an amazing afternoon have have listened to some of the best music my continent has to offer. Yes, I’ll be back, Koroga.

Check out images from the gig from Quaint Photography.

>> Previous Koroga Blogs

:: Simphiwe Dana rocks Nairobi big time

What’s the value of a prize?

BAKE Chairman Kennedy Kachwanya with Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi at the signing ceremony

BAKE Chairman Kennedy Kachwanya and Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi trying to figure the right gift to appease Biko

The Short version

The value of an award is not the value of the prizes that come with it. If Bikozulu decides that the little gifts are the reason folks are attending an award ceremony then he doesn’t get the whole point. You’re better than this Biko. Seriously.

The Long version

I was one of the many folks who attended the Bake Awards that was hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel the other weekend. I went to these awards because I always attend these events; this is the third year of the awards and I am yet to miss one. This year I had an added incentive. This blog had been nominated in the Lifestyle/Entertainment category; this was the first time it was up for an award.

So let’s talk about the Bloggers Awards. It’s now in its third year; in the first year it was in a small room at the Southern Sun in Parklands before last year it made the triumphant entry to the Intercontinental. The awards are evolving before my very eyes from not existing to being a serious awards evening.

So what is the point of the awards anyway? The blog scene in Kenya has blown up in the last few years. Now there are thousands of blogs putting out Kenyan content out there; we are punching above our weight on the continent where this is concerned. With so many blogs we need a system to give a nod to the people doing a great job for our blogosphere; enter the Bake Bloggers Awards. These awards have been good for me for the last three years. It is because of them that I have discovered so many cool new blogs that I would otherwise never have heard of. For the consumers of blogs, the awards are an opportunity for you to find new content.

It’s not only the consumer like myself who benefits from these blogs. The bloggers get to know who are in their category and sometimes meet them for collaborations if needed. They also know that they are on the right track as someone has vetted and shortlisted them.

Then there are the people who in the recent past have cottoned onto the fact that there is something big happening online in recent times and they need to be a part of that narrative; corporations. They won’t necessarily want to work with the Bloggers Association but they will know what is considered to be a great blog when they are planning.

On the award ceremony day I was excited to be at the Intercont meeting folks that I only meet via their social media timelines. These are the folks who you keep planning to meet for coffee/beers/spliffs and as you merrily live your life realise that it’s been a year already since you last met them. So it was a hallos and hugs and all that and more as I met people like Steve Biko, Mr Majani, Mwirigi aka #PoleKwaMwirigi, Magunga, Dear Doris, Potentash… Actually bloggers if you use that sample have very weird names. I’m just saying.

Then there was the nomination for the awards. What was very cool as far as I was concerned was that I was up against in my category so I wasn’t too worried about winning it. Ghafla is the big bruiser in the Kenyan entertainment scene when blogging is concerned. These guys came to a scene that was owned by the legacy media and caused a revolution with pithy posts filled with innuendo and girls with big booty. The model has been so successful that it has inspired a string of copycat blogs that have enriched the Kenyan blogosphere with their “ratchetness.” I am quite happy with this state of affairs as for many years the only content that we would get from Kenya was very prim and proper politics, business and sport. We were inundated with what editors in newsrooms thought was important and not what the people might have wanted.

I wasn’t even sure why I was in the category with them but I knew that I would not be winning this it. All I hoped was that I was not beaten so bad that I wouldn’t be able to show my face in public again. won; of course. I came a respectable third behind another showbiz site.

At one point as I was drinking copious amounts of Tusker at the event bar, Bake official James Wamathai came by and said to me as I complimented him and the team on another successful event, “thanks. But sorry about the awards in your category, we’ll try and do something better next year.”

That struck me as odd. We are at an award ceremony, why would be concerned about the extras given IF I was to win the big gong when that was not part of the program announced in advance. After the awards a blog post was written by the winner in the creative category Biko Zulu (told you they have weird names) with the title I got the Shirt. In it the usually hilarious Biko gives the middle finger to the people who organized the awards for giving him the following prizes; a cheap phone, a T-shirt (wrong size), a notebook and a pen. You could read from the text that this was a man who was pissed off at being handed such worthless baubles. Many of the people who commented supported his charge that they need to give more. Predictably.

Let’s look at the prize thing. What is the value of some of the most famous prizes in the world? You win the Nobel Prize you go home with over one million US dollars. When you win an Oscar you go home with a gold plated trophy, no cash. When you win a Grammy you go home with a trophy, no cash.

Let’s come closer home. What are the prizes that you are eligible for? The richest one out there is the Mohammed Ibrahim Prize. If you are an African president and you run your country properly without stealing or burning it to the ground you get US$5 million when you retire.

For the literati, if you win the Caine Prize for African literature, a prize for a short story, you win 10,000 UK pounds. When you win the Etisalat Prize for African literature, a prize for a debut novel, you go home with US$15,000.

What is the value of the prize that was given to him and eighteen other categories? The fact that you are winning these prizes today doesn’t mean that you will keep winning them. Sharon Mundia came for a coronation as best Blogger and best fashion Blogger and was upstaged by someone very few who are not blogging had heard about. Bankelele who has won the last two years was upstaged by another newcomer. Winning previously doesn’t guarantee future winning in this game.

You rant about an award ceremony that YOU DIDN’T SEE THE VALUE OF ATTENDING. If it was not worth your time to leave your house and join other bloggers and see what prize you were winning then why would you complain at the prize on offer? Is the value of the award only the prize you get? Should the organisers tell you in future what is accompanying the prize and will they need your approval on what you might possibly get before entering your hallowed name? What if next year they decide that the winner gets vouchers for dinner for two at Nairobi West’s West Mall would you withdraw your blog if shortlisted? I think that the pork there is to die for but maybe you aren’t a fan. Would I as a nominee have to forfeit that tasty pork because you do not approve?

Here is the thing. These awards are a platform. If you feel that the prize is the goodies that you get alongside the recognition then you really don’t get the point. Your blog is happy to post a “Bloggers Award 2015 Winner” image because you know that people who aren’t in your high school gang know that there is value in it.

I am in the High School Gang for a reason; I agree with many of your opinions. I was with you on your blast at the British High Commission at denying you a visa. I was with you on those Mothers Union underthings. On this one I am squarely on the other side.

One on one with Njeri Mwangi: the woman behind the Canon Kenya Photography Awards

Njeri Mwangi

Njeri Mwangi

The Canon Kenya Photography Awards will be happening this Sunday at KICC in Nairobi and we shall be selecting the best photographers in the country. As we build to it we talk to the founder of the awards Njeri Mwangi. Mwangi is the Co-Founder PAWA254, Nairobi’s first unique social enterprise through which innovative creative professionals from diverse artistic fields exploit their creative genius to foster social change. A graduate of Daystar University with a degree in Public Relations, Njeri has experience in event planning and management, and organized the first Kenya Photography Awards in 2013.

Photography is an art that is slowly picking up in Kenya, tell me more about that?

With the wave of mobile phones with cameras, Kenyans have taken on to photography in a big way and have also come to appreciate it some more because with it they are capturing memorable moments. We are having more of exhibitions and Kenyans are also going to see these exposures. Others have even taken to it as a tool of communication/ information/empowerment. Better still it is a source of livelihood for many that are making it be for them.

What potential do you see in the art?

There is really no limit to photography as an art. Like I said we have taken to art as a tool of communication and you can use it to evoke all kinds of emotions and well done, it can arouse all the common senses.

Compared to other countries, how well are we doing in photography as a full time career?

Truly we are lagging behind in that area. Few of our photographers are making a decent living from photography (and I mean as freelancers without having to supplement their incomes). We have come along way as most of our photographers are self-taught and graduates of YouTube.

You started the Kenya Photography Awards in November 2013, how did that come about?

We did. Photographers are seen to deliver a service, something that people seem not to understand and as such they do not see why they need to pay well for this since it seems quite not quantifiable. Photography is also a medium that opens the world by way of taking us closer beyond the borders, sort of like books do. So we thought that we needed to acknowledge how much time, and trouble, and risk that photographer’s take to show us the things that we can only imagine. They give us a taste of reality in a dose that moves us to action on so many levels. We also really wanted to celebrate our own piece of work since it rarely happens. Other countries celebrate and acknowledge their creative and we want to encourage this culture here in Kenya.

It’s now over one year since you started the initiative, what changes or achievements have you seen over time?

We have seen photographers’ come together to realize what they can do and they have become even more aware of their trade. They have taken into sharpening their skills and have invested in getting better and learning from each other. They also have also learnt to package themselves and do business in a way that they do not need side hustles to make ends meet- and this is work in progress. They are getting better pay and are starting to put themselves out there to be acknowledged for what they are doing.

Njeri Mwangi with guest as they launch the 2015 edition of the Canon Kenya Photography Awards

Njeri Mwangi (R) with guests as they launch the 2015 edition of the Canon Kenya Photography Awards

You will be recognizing top photographers in the country on Saturday, tell me more about that?

So, we recently completed the 2015 competition. We got a total of 1166 entries, 34 short of the first competition. This time we had fewer ladies participating and even worse is that we got only one lady making it to the shortlist. I hope that the lady photographers can come forth boldly and take their place in this space. We will be recognizing top photographers in the country on May 10th, 2015 at the Kenyatta International Conference and through this we hope to inspire young photographers to take the space.

What categories are there under the rewards model?
This year we had 9 categories namely News, Daily Life, Sports, Nature, Portraiture, Creative, Most Promising Young Photographer, People’s Choice and The special category courtesy of Alliance Françoise, of a theme chosen to converge with the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December 2015.
We are seeing more and more young people in the country venturing into full time photography? What do you think has led to this?

I like to believe is because people have become more aware of Photography being a skilled art. Even though there are so many cameras around us, people are still looking for professionals to get some jobs done and this is where these young people have found relevance. It is also an adventure and a risk to find something that you love to do and go for it. They say do something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life.

What is your advice to young photographers as you prepare to crown top photographers in the country?

We have just scratched the surface with photography. We know Kenyans who are making a decent living out of Photography. If this is something you want to do, then take time and learn all there is to learn. Invest your time in shooting and working closely with those that do what you would like to do. Take classes. Invest in good equipment. A website, or a blog and go all out. You are young, you have time on your side so take your chances and go for it! You can change your world with that camera in your hand.

What is the future of photography in the country?

At the rate we are going, I hope to see Kenyan corporates supporting Kenyan photographers’ by giving them work and paying them well. It takes two to tango and there is great and amazing talent here at home. I hope we can also support and participate in local competitions and make room for local exhibitions so that we can empower both the aspiring photographer and the public on the power of a single camera. A single shot.

Are you working with any partners for the upcoming awards night?
We are very fortunate to have Canon (a leading brand of cameras) as the main sponsor this year round. This is a show of how serious they take photography and are keen on putting even Kenyans on the international scene of photography. We also have the Swiss embassy as supporting sponsors and the support of the Kenya International Conference Centre. Besides that we have Lightbox Production’s, Let’s Talk Kenya and Pinkfoot Consult.

The Attitude Club aka F3 experience #MemoriesOfAPubReviewer

Nowadays the offering is the Afrique dancers

Nowadays the offering is the Afrique dancers

One of my good friends was getting married in town and it was time for the bachelor party. I joined the party in town where people were carpooling; there was around seven of us in three cars. The best man organized that we check out this joint somewhere in Lavington. If you tell me to take you there I wouldn’t have a clue as I was in the back of one of the cars and I was clueless as to where we were going.

Eventually we made it to this house in plush Lavington and we drove through the doors and we walked into front door. As we were in the house the best man goes in the back somewhere to negotiate and we were left at the living room. When we were here young women in nighties either from China, Korea or Japan (or another oriental country) passed by going from one door to another door. I won’t lie I was intrigued at what was clearly going to be an epic evening. When the best man came through he didn’t have good news; the owner of the house wanted us to spend something in the tens of thousands to enjoy its delights. If you imagine that this was in 2008 you know that was a huge amount of money for a handful of guys to spend on a few hours of ogling at nubile young Asian girls, something I had never had ever seen.

We piled back into the cars and went to a nearby BP petrol station and started discussions on what would be the next course of action. It was unanimous; it was the last night of freedom for our boy so he had to see naked women. Suggestions started being made. I quickly suggested Apple Bees seeing as it was a “semi-decent” strip club in town but I was shut down. I got them. The thing is that Apple Bees is in a really shady part of town so it doesn’t behoove you to be seen going there by your peers. It was decided that folks would go to F3 instead.

The Florida Franchise has a long history in Kenya. It all started with the Florida in Mombasa which was founded by South African Tam Winkie before the Nairobi version started with in the 1970s first with Florida 2000 on Moi Avenue then New Florida Night Club aka Madhouse. Some of you will recall that Mad house, with the maddest reggae night of them and its unique dome look was shut down recently and relocated to a place I can’t find to this day.

I had heard about this Attitude place aka F3 but had never been there but this crowd gave me the chance to go there for the first time.

It was at the same venue as F2 on Moi Avenue. One went through the same entrance from Moi Avenue as the F2 but used a different door when in the building at that lead to the back. Here we went to this little cosy place with a few couches and ordered drinks. Eventually the action started. There were some young athletic women stripped to their underwear. They were dancing to the latest music in town and moving around tables. Having already scared mentally by Apple Bees and Liddos Discotheque, I found this to be quite tame although my friends were quite excited by what was on offer. All I could think of was that these guys ain’t seen nothing; if they went downtown they would have to rue the day they were born.

Eventually the soon to be husband got his lap dance to his embarrassment as we were all sitting around chugging beers and he was the only one getting the goods in his mug.

The weekend after this we all saw our boy going down the aisle but I remembered the evening I shared with them. It was very cool and hip; not pervy as it could have been.

CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2015 Awards open

CNNJournos2015CNN International and MultiChoice this week officially launched the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2015 Awards, welcoming entries from all African nationals based in Africa and creating content for an African audience.

“It’s with immense pride that we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards. Twenty years of encouraging excellence in journalism across the continent has made these the very best awards honouring the journalistic profession in Africa. I’ve witnessed first-hand the tremendous growth in stature and prestige of the competition, and 2015 promises to deliver another year of outstanding work,” said CNN international executive vice president and managing director Tony Maddox.

MultiChoice Africa chief executive officer Tim Jacobs added that they continue to be amazed by the extraordinary talent of the continent’s journalists and remain committed to contributing to the development of media in Africa.

“These awards have reached the remarkable milestone and are recognised as the most prestigious media awards on the continent; this celebration parallels our own celebration of 20 years of MultiChoice operations in many countries. We look forward to another year of great stories which showcase journalistic excellence,” Jacobs said.

The competition, which has grown in size since its inception in 2005, saw Kenyan journalist Joseph Methenge walk away with the top prize for 2014 for work ‘Images of Terror’, which appeared in Kenyan daily The Standard, selected from entries from 38 nations across the African continent.
‘Images of Terror’ documented the moments of terror experienced by Westgate Mall shoppers in Kenya, when the mall was attacked by unidentified gunmen in September 2013.

This year’s competition, open to all journalists working in any medium, will recognise excellence in a list of categories. An independent judging panel will then choose an overall CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2015 winner.

The categories are:
Culture Award, Dow Technology & Innovation Reporting Award, Economics & Business Award, Features Award, Francophone General News Award, GE Energy & Infrastructure Award, Mohamed Amin Photographic Award, MSD Health & Medical Award, Portuguese Language General News Award, Press, Freedom Award, Sport Reporting Award, The African Development Bank Environment Award, The Coca-Cola Company News Impact Award.

Finalists in the 2015 competition will participate in a finalists’ programme that will include a media forum and networking opportunities with senior journalists, editors, business leaders and media owners from across the continent, culminating in a gala awards ceremony later in the year.

The overall winner of the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2015 award will have the opportunity to participate in the CNN Journalism Fellowship at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta.

Submissions for this year can be done via the entry form on the website

Going through Liddos Pub on Keekorok road #MemoriesOfAPubReviewer

Extreme hour is almost here

Extreme hour is almost here

So I reviewed Apple Bees on Munyu Road and thought that I had seen the most risqué experience that one could see in Nairobi. Wasn’t I the one who had been in Apple Bees VIP and seen things? I would find a place where this thoughts would quickly be cast aside; Liddos Discotheque.

Liddos is a pub also in the back streets of Nairobi with biggest famous bar nearby being Roast House at the roundabout of Tom Mboya Street by the Fire Station. Apologies for this description which might seem a bit haphazard; this is how some of us describe things where I come from. For those who want a more straightforward description, the venue is on Keekorok road.

It was when having a drink with some friends that we declared that we should see the red lights of the city at night. As you have probably figured out, we were already quite toasted having been drinking at the Panafric Hotel on Valley Road after a function there so our courage was at its highest. We all know Liddos. They were the guys with these posters around town that promised the hottest babes in the business so we all agreed to go; a drunken unanimous decision.

We went into this place where we paid Kshs200; this was starting to become a pattern in these Nairobi adult entertainment spots that I did not appreciate. Nairobi is a place where we refuse to pay entry fees and leave Kshs5,000 with the bar when leaving; entrance fees mess up the drinking budget.

The place was nominally better décor wise than Apple Bees but that really wasn’t a very big compliment as Apple Bees was no Sankara Hotel at the time. And then there was that thing that does my head in with the pubs in my town; one entrance, one exit and no emergency exit. What would happen would there be an emergency here? I would have hated to imagine.

What Liddos did have were dancing girls’. They weren’t as well coordinated as those ones at the previous place I had been but they had something special going for them; youth. The ladies at Apple Bees were slightly more fully bodied while these ones could pass for college students. They were also more fearless here. And more unruly. I know this as one offered me a lap dance (which I agreed to for research heh) and when she left and I was without my passport.

It was a school night but the more we stayed out the more we wanted to see what they had to offer. At four AM (yes ladies and gentlemen, that’s 4am), an emcee grabbed a microphone and yelled into it; “Its extreme hour hear at Liddos! Ladies, get onto the tables.”

Liddos 3The patrons who I assumed were regulars started yelling excitedly, in an alcoholic stupor I assumed. Nothing of the sort. The emcee yelled, “Who is going first?! Nani wa kwanza?!” When one fellow was chosen and he yelled in joy, it became evident that there was something different afoot. He was told to sit on one of the tables and one of the ladies straddled him. She unzipped him and started giving him a lap dance. As she did so, the emcee in the background was yelling, “that man must come, but no penetration!”

As I saw this in my drunk haze, I sobered up pretty quickly. Around me there were many men, I actually don’t remember seeing any single woman at the place, looking as this man’s senses and nether regions were assaulted. He didn’t last long; it must have been all the excitement and the eyes and he was quickly replaced by another gentleman. The second man on the other table seemed to be able to resist the lady giving him a lap dance until she mounted him and there I was watching live sex with my own now very sober eyes. That stuff can completely mess you up and I remember that for a week or two after that, the sight stuck in my head.

I never went back. There were too many pubs to review and not enough time to keep visiting them. I will however never forget the sight of that first guy’s eyes joy as he was the first selected for extreme action. Or them bugging as he found his happy ending. Its sights like these that made me realise that this town I spent my childhood had grown up; It was not a decently sized town but I major metropolitan hub.

The beginning: Apple Bees, Munyu Road #MemoriesOfAPubReviewer

Hot action

Hot action

I’d first heard of this new pub experience of a place that offered adult entertainment in late 2006 from a gang that called itself the “mararaja” which translated to a “sleeps outside” in a Kenyan language. This is language that led for decades in numbers but is slowly losing its crown to fast growing communities in other parts of the country. The bar was called Apple Bees which was confusing to me as I have always known this to be an establishment that Americans, of the US variety, took their kids to have fast food. Kind of like Wimpy was for some of us when we were growing up.

It turned out to be the first pub review I was to do for what was then called “Nairobi Star” before a 2008 rebrand to “The Star” that some refuse to acknowledge. I stumbled upon this pub by chance; I lived in Doonholm at the time and I went to town to look for a bar to review, I was running late on deadline as usual, when the matatu from that part of the city used the back streets. Whilst here I saw the sign for Apple Bees and there were posters promising red hot babes dancing action. I immediately jumped off the matatu and went up the stairs and asked about what they were offering to with the posters. The lady at the front told me to come back later around 8pm when the official action started.

How AppleBees welcomed Obama

How AppleBees welcomed Obama

I went and hang out at the Java on Mama Ngina Street and waited for the hour. I was to reappear at the bar at 8pm on the dot and I was forced to pay Kshs50 as entry. I wasn’t happy but I paid and sat down at this seedy little place and I was already regretting that I had gone in and when I asked for a cold Tusker the price was a princely Kshs150. That was a lot of money to pay for a beer in Nairobi then with most places selling beers at between Kshs80-120.

As I was think about what the heck I was doing in a seedy bar in River Road with very high beer prices and considering going home the magic begun. About eight girls in what looks to be those shiny night dress things fanned around the place in strategically where all punters could see them. There was also a little stage with some chairs around it strip club style and some of the ladies went on there. The DJ then started playing some preplanned music and this young women danced.

Eventually clothes started going off. It got so intense that they even started stripping to their undies and then eventually we even go to see their naughty bits. It was a very energetic show that I was watching on that June evening in Nairobi. Seeing as June is winter in our city it was even more surprising as those girls were really earning their supper. Naked girls dancing on tables and a stage in Nairobi. You don’t see that too often.

The show was a most shocking thing for my eyes and the conservative side of me which at the time was quite a big part of my identity as a human being. I mean I have been to strip clubs in other countries; I have watched pornography (for research if my loved ones are reading this). But there is something very mind frying about watching people you are likely to lust after shaking their naughty bits before your very own eyes. I didn’t have a lot of money, a big part of my life then, but I cleared my wallet on booze until I was left with only fare back to my Doonholm. I had to hustle something the next day to get to town to hand in my column.

When I got to a computer in town the next day I did my best to describe what I had seen. In my mind, I couldn’t tell the world that I was at a strip club for two reasons. One is the personal ego; I didn’t want folks to know that I went to such seedy places (every Nairobian thinks that they are very classy like that). The other is that I did nor for the life of me imagine a Kenyan newspaper publishing an experience at a strip club in nothing less than a scandalous, “we need to shut this place down for its debauchery” kind of a manner. Therefore in my review I talked about everything else apart from the dancing girls. The décor (dodgy), the washrooms (not clean), service (decent), price of beer (high). The strippers I shelved under, “there were some girls who were dancing so much that their clothes fell off which is something if you consider that we were in freezing June.”

Guess what? The readers got my drift. In the next few weeks the place became an urban legend Nairobi as everyone also wanted to see these girls. I got used to getting calls from friends on Friday and Saturday night that went something like this;

Friend: Jamo izhow?

Me: I’m sawa [redacted]

Friend: Skiza bana, where is this Apple Bees of yours? I’m here at Luthuli and I can’t see it.

Me: “Gives directions.”

Friend: Are you there?

Me: Uh Yeah. You’ll find me in VIP.

P.s. The pub is now closed for renovations that will open at a yet to be announced date. Don’t call me on Friday night. Even you [redacted].

P.P.S. I was once crossing Kenyatta Avenue headed to 680 hotel when the crazy stripper with the sausages and the Tusker insertions waved at me from her Toyota Rav 4. Those girls might have been making some mad cash. She has since passed on.

P.P.P.S Since then I have submitted over 400 hundred bar reviews to the same publication. But this was my first and I will always remember it fondly.

How Airtel’s Unliminet has changed my browsing habits

airtel unliminet grandaLast month our good friends from Airtel Kenya announced with glee that they had a new revolutionary service called “Unliminet.” They described it as “The next best thing to the invention of electricity, mobile phones and the Internet is here with us.”

Subscribers would now be able to get SMS, calls and data of a certain amount for a one off rate. Even if the data bought for the period run out, one could still access popular Internet services like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and Gmail. The charges would be between Kshs50 for daily use and up to Kshs1,000 for a month.

The announcement followed a marketing blitz that we rarely seen from the number two mobile firm in town with an unlikely person the face of the brand; a grandma. Its not the first time someone has used senior citizens to sell their product with Safaricom famously employing the services of an acrobatic older lady doing a back flip to sell one of their products. That was funny.

Seeing as my primary phone number is with Airtel, I opted to try this new service and signed up for the service using their *544# service. Paying for the Kshs1,000 option which is cheaper in the long run I got the following message;

UnlimiNet 1000 has been succesfully purchased. Enjoy 2GB+400MIN (ANY network)+2000SMS+unlimited whatsapp+facebook. Valid 02-04-15 15:55. Check balance *544*3#”

The downsides of the service first. The Internet offering is not the best product from Airtel; in my house the service vanishes completely and I miss Whatsapp conversations and other Internet goodness until I leave the house. It also has a habit for vanishing at times when I am on the road.

In spite of the downsides, I like the idea of using the product because of the price which even before Unliminet intruded into our lives.

Since I signed up for this service a few things have happened to me.

1) No more office Wi-Fi

Whenever I checked into the office, I would turn off the data on my phone and use the office data. This especially applied when I had videos and the like backed up on my WhatsApp. When I check into the office I never bother changing my phone settings.

2) No more asking for Wi-Fi passwords

I rarely ask for passwords when I am waiting in a building because I am too embarrassed to show its resident that I do not how cheap I am. When I do my pub reviews however, I have no shame asking for the password where I see the “Free Wi-Fi” sign. Since Unliminet however I have not been looking out for that sign since I am covered.

3) Having to buy a power bank

For many moons I have been saying I will buy a power bank. For the uninformed, a power bank is a contraption one carries around that charges your phone as you move around. You can read more about it here. Before Unliminet, my phone would die before 3-5pm (Techno!) and I would be off line for a while. I opted to buy the powerbank, a Oraimo power bank for Kshs5,000 from Gill House, which allows me never to be cut off again.

So when the day that my Unliminet expired guess what happened; Yep…

Your Unliminet Monthly1000 has expired. Dial *544*1000# to buy Monthly1000 bundle & enjoy 2GB+400MIN (ANY network)+2000SMS+unlimited whatsapp+facebook+gmail

Sell to Bless Campaign ditches Uchumi for Tuskys

Size 8 shows how Uchumi was kicked to the curb.

Size 8 shows how Uchumi was kicked to the curb.

In December, I noted for a while that they had these celebrity types starting as the adverts on my YouTube when I was getting my fix of Honest Reviews and Ron Charles your hip book reviewer online. These are those adverts that are at the bottom right hand of your YouTube screen that were counting down as they said, “Skip advert in 5, 4, 3, 3, 1….”

It was an innovative campaign which involved entertainers in the gospel industry like Dj Mo, Size 8, Dk Kwenye Beat and others I couldn’t quite recognise as I don’t follow that scene as keenly as I should. I will probably die in hell with that attitude. I know. I know. So the campaign asked you to sell your unused items like furniture, clothes, shoes & electronics on OLX. Then from the cash you make you are asked to visit any Uchumi supermarket countrywide and shop for dry foodstuffs or buy a shopping voucher. It was a very good campaign as it allowed for one to help those who are in actual need as opposed to spending money where you are unsure where it will end up.

An interchangeable Kenyan celebrity support Sell to Bless.

An interchangeable Kenyan celebrity support Sell to Bless.

The Bless to Sell campaign seems to be back for Easter. And just like during Christmas they have gotten celebs to support the campaign like Willis Raburu, Abel Mutua of Hapa Kule, Njugush of real househelps of kawangware, Dk Kwenye Beat, Size 8, Willy Paul, Bahati, Djs Mo, Johnie Celeb, Sanch, Krowbar, Touch, Gee gee, Njugush, Kambua. Jackson Kamau aka DJ Soxxy who heads the celeb campaign says, “It is more rewarding to bless a child with what they need than what they don’t need. In the past, people have donated a lot of unnecessary stuff to needy homes just because they want to clear the clutter in their homes. That is why we came up with the idea to sell the stuff to someone who needs it more through OLX and use the money to buy dry food stuff to needy children’s homes”.

tuskys-gift-voucher-500x500This time the campaign has ditched Uchumi and decided to work with Tuskys Supermarkets. It was not immediately clear why the change of the partners although there have been quiet grumblings about Uchumi and how it has been operating in the last year or so. Apart from the change of supermarket partner, the procedure is the same; sell your unused items like furniture, clothes, shoes & electronics on OLX. Then from the cash you make you are asked to visit any a Tuskys supermarket countrywide and shop for dry foodstuffs or buy a shopping voucher. So there you have it. Another way to give back this Easter. Nifty.

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