Turning Lemon into Lemonade

DSC_0788Amsterdam will always be my home away from home. Earlier in our career, Sauti sol toured there every summer without fail. This was before we decided to concentrate exclusively on touring Africa. Of course I’m familiar with all the vices that feature in that beautiful city. The Red Light District, live sex shows, gay bars, sex shops, sex museums, coffeeshops and more. In case you’re planning to go there for business and or pleasure, I suggest you pay a visit to all these places; except of course the gay bars if you’re straight or the Red Light District if you’re weak willed. I have never understood the concept of paying for sex, simply because I feel there are other civil ways to get it. However, I have more than once contemplated taking a hooker home with me; not to indulge in the forbidden fruit, but for a quiet candle light dinner accompanied by thorough questioning.

This time round we travelled to Netherlands for a different reason. We went to witness our former Manager Nynke Nauta getting hitched to her long time love, Steve Biko. Of course I was very excited to see these two deciding to take the epic step of managing each other’s morning breath and underneath the sheets farts forever. Their ceremony took place in an epic 350-year old cathedral in a small town 45 minutes east of Amsterdam. Let’s discuss the awkward moment when the priest asked if anyone disapproves of their union to speak now of forever hold their peace. And I stood up and said, “I know Steve and Nynke, they’re my friends.” I could sense the tension in the chapel and later relief when I pulled that stunt. The rest of the ceremony was beautiful. For more info on that read the wedding blog post via Black Roses.

Those of you who have read my previous posts can affirm how much of a Pan Africanist I am. However, I have to confess I seriously contemplated tearing my passport to pieces while in the Netherlands and just staying there indefinitely. Why did I feel like this? I honestly thought after all my years of travel I was over all things westernized. Well, after coming back home I realize I was being haunted by the evil spirit that has haunted many African artists – the demon that is the desire to belong in a system that functions. Imagine a place where all structures are set to support anyone with the will to succeed. A place where your tribe, race, special or sexual connections are superseded by talent; an environment where if you put in work and sharpen your skills in whatever field, the probability that you would thrive is very high. ORDER!!!!

From a music perspective I’m talking record labels, media, venues, stage sound and lights, event organizers, promoters, copyright societies and so on; all synchronized by professionalism to create a conducive working environment. Or wait. Is this a case of the grass being greener on the other side? Or am I being naïve? I don’t think I am because their numbers and structures don’t lie. I totally understand why many of my Kenyan compatriots have tried to venture into the unknown by going abroad when they had what we thought were flourishing music careers locally. But if we leave this mess, to join the organized westerners then who is going to fix ours? It’s up to Sauti Sol and other industry players to restore order in the new Africa. The order that our colonial masters had projected would stay.

Kenya has a long way to go. All sectors of our industry must be professionalized for this to make commercial sense. More people in the corporate sector need to invest their skills to make this industry run like a business. This will even attract investors to look at music as a viable revenue-generating venture. That said I would like to take this opportunity to thank anyone who has taken their time to contribute positively to what is my bread and butter. Things are looking up. Ten years ago it was impossible to live entirely on music; and look how much we’ve done in this short period. This to us (Sauti Sol) is the most exciting moment of our careers. With our third album in its final stages, I am confident we will be a positive influence and a success story that will be told when coming generations reap what we have sowed.