Parking lot grass (PLG) is a rock band from Nairobi and they have a decent album out. So what do I know about rock and rock in Kenya specifically? I’m a child of the rhythm and blues (R&B) and hip hop generation. Rock music is a genre I always associated with white people for the longest time. Kenyans were introduced to it in a big way in 1996 when Capital FM came in and built their namewith the hitherto unknown music. Since then a new generation of Kenyans have grown up listening to the globally loved genre.
In 2008 and 2009, I saw the results of this Capital FM influence when I started attending a few live rock events at Rezorous, Choices, the odd Battle of the Bands at the Godown and several others. I can’t remember the names of many of the bands for that was, for all intents and purposes, THE alcohol fuelled part of my career as a human being. The only names I remember from that period were Murphy’s Flaw, Rock of Ages and Narcissistic Tendencies with Delusions of grandeur. The last band was an attitude filled band I saw at The Godown and who on seeing live I pegged for true rock greatness if they were ever given a chance by The Man. I have never seen or heard of this band since.
PLS’s offering Shimo Mfukoni is lovely if anyone can describe a decent rock album that way. Maybe I should call it totally rad or something. I’ll stick with what I know which is lovely. Seven tracks in Swahili and English all filled with virtuoso guitar performances around some decent lyrics. The title track Shimo mfukoni is Swahili for a hole in the pocket so you can expect that song is about being broke. It’s a lament on having to pay bills and with little income while others eat. “Bei ya mathree inaua” (matatu fares are killing) sticks in my mind for some reason and the guitar riffs are very good. It’s a bit unnerving to hear those righteous guitars with Swahili in the background but this song is excellent. The track Sweet pain – the acoustic and rock version – are about errr… sweet pain. I have listened to this song several times and I am not really sure what it is about. Chorus goes “Sweet pain rushing through my veins/ sweet pain of breaking out of these chains/ sweet pain driving me insane.” Seriously what is this song about? It’s a great song is all I can tell.
There are songs in here that are a “lesson to society” that you will be seeing the band being asked about when CNN and BBC will be highlighting when they decide to do a story on the band. Speed Chaser talks about those who chase waterfalls when they should be sticking to the rivers and lakes that their used to (apologies to TLC for the blatant plagiarism). If you are a corrupt cop, drug dealer or tribal hate monger this song doesn’t like you very much and promises your arrest. Coward rails against the lying thieving politico, a requirement in all Kenyan albums as per Chapter 5 section 5 in the promulgated Eric Wainaina School of album compilation.
Etched on my heart is the song has been etched on my heart since I got that album. The song that could be considered a rock classic if I made any of these decisions telling a loved one that they are very near and dear to each the singer and if they left they wouldn’t know what to do. We have all been there or want to be there or are there. Currently I am there so it strikes a particular chord.