Recently, I visited my home town Khayega in Kakamega County to bury my uncle Solomon. Just as his name suggests, he was extremely wise and a very instrumental figure in my upbringing. I hadn’t been home in eight years. Something I’m especially not proud of. But my parents haven’t been around for a while so I had absolutely no incentive to partake the seven-hour bus ride or flight worth KES 17000 (this was before Jumbo Jet). Also, Kakamega forest is only famous for indigenous trees and snakes—two things that don’t necessarily turn me on.
Not much had changed. The only change this time round was that I came back a star! Let me be honest, it was shocking! First of all to my wallet! (To whom much is given…) But a lot of people from all walks of the village came to catch a glimpse of me. I could hear them talk amongst themselves about how much money and achievements Sauti Sol had (from their mouths to God’s ears); and it dawned on me. I am celebrated by my people – people who I never considered my target audience as a songwriter. I heard Sauti Sol on local radio, mixtapes, bars, public transport, you name it. Clearly, I had underestimated the reach of my gift.
Much as Sauti Sol was played, so was Jaguar, Diamond, P Square, Lucky Dube, Davido, Brenda Fassie… and it dawned on me that Africans are so alike. We are creatures of groove and slaves of rhythm. My people are defined by sounds and songs. Just a little intro and you automatically know where the song is from. Our easy three-chord tunes complete our simplistic lifestyles and numb our pain. I developed a new found respect for all African artists who managed to transcend borders and create continental hits to the grassroot level. The raw messages of love, heartbreak and dance carry the epic spirit and emotions of this continent.
To date we’ve toured seven African countries (best shows of my life). Made me realise for Sauti Sol to achieve greatness and global appeal, we must first be the darling of every village in this continent. Isn’t it sad that after several successful European and American tours (as we searched for a ‘big break’), we have not yet played a show in Kakamega! I’m sure they would be more than thrilled to see us live. All this time we went to search for what has been within us all along. Maybe it’s time we the prophets took the gospel to the very people who inspired its creation. Though we all know the logistical nightmare sound systems can be, especially in rural Kenya.
Being African is so in season right now. In the name of music art and sport, we have too much to celebrate. Lupita (my long time love and wife since the Oscar) has taught me that. I pity those of us still caught up chasing trends in western music and ideologies of art. In whatever you do my friends be the African solution to African problems. I believe Artists shall be the ones to unite, liberate and lead the rest of us to the promise land (KAKAMEGA). Let us be remembered as the renaissance generation of this continent, a generation truly unruly and aware of our calling and its power.
Standing next to my uncle’s grave, I see our women carry water on their heads and babies on their backs. Men drinking busaa (Sigh… I know, I know). I see the infrastructure of mud and grass-top houses; kiosks and markets with one main-road cutting through like a wild western film. Clouds gather. The smell of rain. Its déjà vu. Wait! I felt this in Mali, Malawi, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa. Right now there’s no place I’d rather be.
I WILL LIVE AND DIE IN AFRICA.