Last weekend Johnny Gill came to Nairobi and rocked the city as part of the Tusker Lite experience series of concert. It was awesome.
Much has already been written about the concert of Johnny Gill on line and in the papers. The Rhyme and Blues (R&B) crooner has been away from the limelight for a while now. His last incarnation came with the R&B super group that is LSG (Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill). The group sung a few hits with My body being probably the most memorable when I am concerned and when Levert died it become really hard to continue as a group.
The singer isn’t a stranger to starting on his own as he was part of what is probably R&B’s biggest boy band of all time New Edition. Bobby Brown started his solo career and they recruited Gill to take his place 1988 and then they all went to do their own projects in 1990.
Gill went on to record several songs but for me My My My was his big song although “Rub You the Right Way”, “Fairweather Friend”, and “Wrap My Body Tight” all got some pretty good press. In 2011 he released his album Still Winning his first in over a decade and a half.
Now that we are up to date with his career lets see what his concert recently did to some of us. I arrived at the Carnivore which weirdly enough is where Gill and his contemporaries from the 1990’s would have their hits blaring on Friday night when people went for “Groove.” The Carnivore was never a place to be visited on Saturday as they were doing Bhangra hits (Apache Indian – Chok there!) but Friday and Sunday were on.
The best for those of us who were young and foolish was Friday. Folks would drink in various drinking places and then head to the Carnivore when the action begun. I oddly recall drinking at the Princess Hotel and people stating that they will meet “huko mbele” (up ahead) as we looked at the Wimpy Stage on Tom Mboya Street for the special matatus headed to The Carnivore.
Apart from the Carnivore itself that evening reminded me of high school days. Going for drama festivals, music festivals, rugby black rock and floodlites and several other high school activities. It was the era when we were introduced to Kenya’s first boy band Five Alive and their hits Oh Ndio Ndio and more. Eric Wainaina went on to become the biggest star of the group with several hits under his belt including the mega hit Kenya Only (now the swahili Mdaima Kenya) that was close to our hearts during the bomb blast in 1998 and the post election crisis of 2008. Ten years apart those events. I’m hoping nothing traumatising comes in 2018.
Continuing with that Five Alive narrative, Victor Seii become a producer of note and Bob Kioko went into broadcasting before leaving to get into real estate. I’m still not sure what happened to Joe Kiragu. He just went under the radar. (Wiki tells me there was a David Mageria in the band too. Never remember him for some reason) Chris Kamau married the group’s producer Amina Noordin and headed to the US.
Chris leaving the country also reminds me that this was the thing that everyone on finishing high school always wanted to do was to head to the US. Everyone of note or who wanted to show intent of being so would always state when they were asked the plan would state that they were “flying out.” That was a legitimate career choice then believe it or not. No one stated what they were going to do out there. Going was enough. That was where all the cool people were. The New Editions. The En Vogues. The Salt N Pepas. The Fresh Prince of Bell Airs. The Hangin’ Out with Mr Coopers. The Murphy Browns. The LL Cool Js. They were the coolest ever these folks and were the reason why so many left the country to what many never could explain.
The people of this age were the ones who converged at the Carnivore on that night. It was a truly magical night that one. Except the part when Chris Kirubi aka DJ CK started wiping the brow and chest of a profusely sweating Gill as he belted out one of his hits. They were all singing along as Johnny Gill gave an energetic one hour show that tugged at the memories. I was there along with them who now had mortgages and extra weight as they recalled the days when they could all party till morning and walk up the next day like they had a simple work out. Today most would go out and by 11pm would be heading to the exits. Daring to stay longer would leave three days messed up as one recovers from the “punishment” they had given to their bodies.
These folks are the ones that Tusker Lite are targeting with their “”Tusker Lite Experience.” I salute them as they have a market which is hard to convince to change as they have long made decisions on the brands they will consume. Perhaps when people get to their late thirties and fourties they get to rethink their life a bit and say that perhaps they want to try some new experiences. I am one of these folks. I love the Tusker Lite experience. Tusker Lite however, they need to rethink. The quality of that brew leaves a lot to be desired. If they want to evoke something from that period I suggest the bring back my favourite brand of the 1990s. Pilsner Ice. Followed by Tusker Export.