I recently spent an evening dining and conversing with Radcliffe, my sister Leslie’s partner, and some friends, in Brooklyn. I was in the U.S. for a few weeks visiting family and renewing my Kenyan visa. Radcliffe, a painter, sculptor, and installation artist, was working on a series of paintings on sheet music, which he transported in an old Count Basie record cover. Brilliant. He told me that these pieces would be part of an upcoming exhibit in Europe. The work centered around a series of photographs of West and Central African sculptures. The sculptures were placed within surreal worlds, rich in color and texture. After a dinner of grilled fava beans, salmon, and ramps, I sat and watched Radcliffe work on the paintings. Later that evening, we went for drinks at a local lounge in Bed-Stuy, and then to the Eye Spy party in Williamsburg, whose theme was music influenced by the Native Tongues movement. It had been several years since I lived in Brooklyn and the changes throughout the borough were apparent – from the Barclay’s Center to the new residents who’ve moved into my old neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. Folks who have lived in Brooklyn for years will be the first to tell you – it’s not what it used to be. And I think that’s true…but somehow in my evening with Radcliffe, my sister, and our friends, I was reminded that home is where the heart is, and a piece of my heart still lives in Brooklyn.
Blitz the Ambassador. I’d heard the name but didn’t really know his music. Mind you I’ve been on the periphery of Hip Hop music for several years. There are a handful of current artists that I listen to but Hip Hop has lost some steam from the days of my youth … at least for me. I met Buddha Blaze, the event organizer, back in ’08 during my first trip to Nairobi and I’ve since respected his work as an events and community organizer. If there’s hope for Hip Hop I think it’s folks like Blaze who hold the torch. I got a FB invite from Blaze to Blitz’ album release party and headed out to Ebony Lounge on a wednesday night. I did know that Blitz is a Ghanaian/American emcee who’s work is known for its social-political content. Over the course of a couple of hours a comfortable size crowd gathered at the venue. Blitz came through in classical African time and proceeded to rock the mic. I was thoroughly impressed with his stage presence (mind you he was standing on a bar) and his likeable personality. And of course I appreciated experiencing the full circle diaspora of Hip Hop as embodied by an emcee from the continent. For me the show was a beautiful reminder that Hip Hop is alive and well …. and in fact never died.
Check out Blitz’ new album DIASPORADICAL available on itunes soon.
Ebony Lounge Westlands Road, Nairobi www.ebonyloungenairobi.co.ke
What happens when a Hawaiian born Chinese/African-American photographer, a Somali/Norwegian stylist and a French raised Sudanese/Somali producer meet at Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar? The definition of an Afropolitan experience was put into action; Stone Town inspired the creative globetrotting trio with its Swahili culture of the Indian ocean, African/World music and the idea of a visionary global African diaspora. All these elements create a memorable fashion story that planted Swahili roots in the hearts of the collaborators.
Two weeks ago, my good friend and stylist Liban visited me in Nairobi and scooped me up to Zanzibar to Sauti Za Busara. I arrived into the mayhem and beauty of the magical festival on the Swahili coast. Keeping up with the festival schedule, which had performances from 4pm – 2am from Thursday to Sunday was a bit of a challenge but we did our best. We were joined by the photographer Nicky Woo, who helped document our adventure. In addition to an amazing lineup of musicians, such as Culture Musical Club (Zanzibar), Tcheka (Cape Verde), The Brother Moves on (South Africa), Sarabi (Kenya) and many more, the three of us bonded and had a spontaneous artistic collaboration after an afternoon at Darajani Market, culminating in a photo shoot for a fashion story. I think the pictures tell the narrative best so I’ll let them speak for themselves. Enjoy!
Address: Sauti Za Busara, PO Box 3635, Zanzibar, Tanzania firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +255 24 223 2423 or +255 773 822 294. Website: http://www.busaramusic.org/
I’m officially a fan of The Koroga Festival which is sponsored by Capital FM and takes place every other month in the Arboretum Gardens. Admittedly I’m an outdoorsy person who appreciates intergenerational gatherings … mommas and babas have to get our groove on too! The festival this past weekend did not disappoint. Sauti Sol, one of the biggest names on the East African music scene, gave a rousing performance. The highlight for me happened towards the end of their set when they invited all the youth in the audience onto the stage. The kids had a ball. There were also performances by emerging artists Mayonde and Juliani as well as jumpy castles, a food court, multiple bars and numerous fashion and design vendors. Check out The Koroga Festival facebook page for upcoming events and more pics.
Last week my good friend and Art Curator, Azza Satti took me to the One Off Gallery in Rosslyn. We drove through a well manicured compound and turned onto a thickly forested road covered by a beautiful canopy of trees that led to the front gate. The askari opened the gate, we parked the car and walked down a stone pathway, passing horses and geese until we arrived at the gallery where we were greeted by the owner Carol Lees and her friendly pack of dogs. Carol, a delightful lady with a deep appreciation for and knowledge of Kenyan art, treated us to tea and illuminated the history of the Kenyan art scene over the last 20 years. Most of the work below is currently on exhibit at the gallery which is open to the public Tues. – Sun: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. I’m told that it’s great to visit on saturday when Carol treats guests to tea and snacks. Visit the site for details.
I met this brother at a fundraiser event – A Note for a Smile: Art & Music for Gaza. We connected immediately. I bought his CD and was captivated by his stirring voice and the way he embodied a connection between traditional Maasai culture and contemporary urban aesthetics. Let’s support this emerging independent artist: