I went solely for the poetry. I didn’t know they’d be music too. That Ukoo Flani and Sarabi band would be there. But the most surprising thing I learnt was that none of them was getting paid to perform that night.
On that cool Thursday evening, I did a brisk walk all the way from University Way to All Saints Cathedral in N. Crossing streets and busy roads filled with sane and mad Nairobi drivers. By half past six I had settled down on a comfy chair next to my pal (who is always on time). There were no wooden church pews in the hall, to my disappointment.
This was my chance to watch poets I had never watched before, like Ngartia and G-cho Pevu. And listen to musicians like Gathoni Mutua and beatboxer Flow Flani. They were all fantastic. Ngartia was first; he set a sombre mood for the concert with his sad Swahili piece. Gathoni the only female artist performed two song covers and one quirky original song, using her sweet voice and acoustic guitar.
G-cho Pevu and Flow Flani however hyped things up by combining their poetry and music skills in an entertaining duet. And Dorphanage, oh my. His witty poetic lines blew my mind away. It’s impossible not to be a fan.
At around 8pm, the conscious Sarabi band were finally called on stage. As they walked up they were escorted by loud cheers from the otherwise chill crowd. Even before they performed, you knew they’d be incredible. Their soundcheck sounded like a rehearsed piece on its own, their voices harmonizing so beautifully you’d think it was a choir. But this was just the warm up.
They kicked off with an uplifting song that sounded gospel with lyrics like “We will lift your name so high”. How appropriate, I thought. Led their charismatic lead singer Mandela, the nine member band danced and swayed to the rhythm of their different instruments. It was evident they deeply enjoyed the music they made.
The energy within them was so powerful it spread like fire to the crowd. You could see a number of people bobbing their heads and tapping their feet, resisting the urge to stand up and dance. I unashamedly, was one of them.
By the second song the audience couldn’t hold it in any longer. They went crazy, dancing along with the band. I joined the crowd as this was my chance for my moves to shine. I was a part of the energy.
As we were having the time of our lives, something unexpected happened. A male security guard, one I had asked directions from earlier, walked straight onto the stage. He seemed to wave his hands in protest. The performance had to end abruptly. Fun truly never lasts forever. I went back to my seat laughing, imagining it was Sarabi’s fault. The church probably couldn’t handle their holy ghost fire.
Once we had settled down Gufy the ever funny MC broke some grave news. It wasn’t just the performance that was over, but the show too. The time was 8.30pm, closing time. The shocking announcement was received with boos from all over the room, but there was nothing we could do.
At that moment all I could think about was that Teardrops and Mufasa had not performed. And they wouldn’t (unless we went to Central Park for an after-concert. No one took on my smart idea). So we trudged out of the church hall with our heads low. You could smell a mixture of disappointment and frustration in the cold night air.
They say all clouds have a silver lining. Even though we didn’t get to watch the main acts of the night, we helped a fellow man out. His name, Omondi Ochuka. A Kenyan poet. Our 500 bob ticket and 100 bob cupcake purchases did not reach the 4.37 million he needs for surgery in India, but they counted as something.
We were there that night to support him, but the artists did even more. They put on free performances so that we could be entertained, and help Ochuka at the same time. I wonder what kind of selflessness you call that.
Would you go through the whole trouble of chemotherapy treatment and endless medical expenses? Well five years on, Ochuka won’t give in to the enemy within. He is willing to fight on for his young life. And together, we will win.