Technology is a bitch. Signal to indicate that you should never place your life’s work in the hands of an electric device that’s set to malfunction. But I suppose that’s the sort of thing a Christian would say about not placing your trust in Human beings. For the success of this interview I’ve had to strain my ears and place heavy reliance on my not so good memory after my recording device faithfully captured a combination of squawks from crows in the yard, the howl of the wind, a hawk’s mating call and the movement of chairs and a few scraps from the interview. And as such I’ll play narrator for what was initially intended to be largely an interview. Shame I know but I believe there is a bright side to everything. The journey of the beast this time takes us to the leafy palisades of Karen. I can’t help but feel strange walking almost 2km from my school to Bogani road in the sweltering heat and the dust in a full suit. That’s what they have us wear down at the Kenya School of law. Got to look the part if we are going to be advocates in future. We reach our destination and Im stocked to meet the great Colbert Akunga, guitar hero in many respects. Only seen the fella on stage. Im in awe. Unfortunately we can’t meet with everyone but there’ll be time for that in the future. We break ground with a bit of banter. He shares a few thoughts on his own personal journey with Void of Belonging, details of which will follow in a separate post. Christian Sangwa who plays rhythm for hope joins us later on. My only encounter has been with his masked alter ego on stage. I must say it felt enchanting meeting the guy behind the mask. I haven’t heard of Hope in Transit though and I can’t wait to get started. These guys are a five piece band with two vocalists ( Purity and Gloria), Colbert on Lead, Christian playing rhythm and George Atsula on Drums. They are alternative rock band formed in Nairobi. Having most of their members in a metal band, they thought it’d be a great idea to form a band that gave the message of hope. They wanted to tell their story but packaged in a way that is easy on the ear.
The band has been around for a few years now but they have never really gotten down to recording. Speaking to Colbert it becomes evident that they go through the same challenges that most every band has to tackle. Procrastination is among those sins if we may call it that. Recording space and sound equipment is a hassle. Things like amplifiers don’t come cheap. But that is all about to change. About everything that there is to be excited about this year is that Hope intend to be the one of, if not the top alternative rock band in the country. They hope to exploit the vast opportunities that exist and to compensate for all the years that they have stayed fallow without recording any material. Two songs have already been recorded and are in the process of mixing. We can’t talk about the details of that material here but the band is optimistic that what lays ahead will be the stuff of legend.
Christian – We are going to shock people bring something that people haven’t seen in a long while. We want to be that bridge between rock and metal. Hope is mainly rock but we also embrace and can be about every other genre of music loosely incorporating jazz, afro, and soul and r n b. We are looking to exploit those small gaps in the industry.
Most often when a philosophical question is posed you would expect that the end result is a convoluted treatise with loud and indiscernible concepts like Metaphysics and Grundnorm! This one time though a philosophical question led to the formation of a band.
Christian – The story has to be told conceptually. These guys are part of Void of Belonging a metal band. Colbert doesn’t listen to metal and that was also the case for the pianist Daisy. At one of the events a former member had invited her friends. The gig was so great and the feedback from the crowd was amazing but her friends never identified with the music. She kept reflecting on this and although she appreciated the talent, skill and style of VOB she became disillusioned and left the band. So for us the question was if one of our own so the deficiency in the message we were trying to send and even left the band what about the rest of the audience. So we went ahead and formed Hope and we are trying to send our message but in a less aggressive way compared to the way VOB does it. Like with VOB we are very aggressive but there is a softer side to life that appeals to a different kind of audience. I’d say that our sound is in fact deliberately radio friendly because we are trying to reach out to a wider audience with our music.
On the road to crystallizing the core sound and image of the band a process had to be followed. One that had a set agenda grounded on the qualities that the band itself was about.
Christian – When forming the band getting the vocalists was the hardest thing. We were already pretty close knit having George as the drummer, myself and Colbert. We actually called out auditions for the vocalist. There were lots of people that turned out the men had really busy schedules but the ladies were found it easier to come join the band. When it came down to it, it was all about having someone that could perform and not just sing someone who could be the face of Hope while we could stand in the back and handle the sound.
Another familiar character that you may not see in the photos or on stage is their manager Mariam Ahmed. They call her Maz. Away from the marauding eye she’s the shrill voice behind the phone keeping them on their toes, setting deadlines and making enemies in the name of management. You may not always like her but she’s an unlikely godsend.
Christian – was looking for a band that she could manage. And when I was asked I told her that void of belonging and Hope in Transit were available. And she was quick to take up Hope because of the diversity in sound that we are about.
Colbert – Before Maz came on as part of our management we didn’t realize that we needed her. Its only when we joined that we realized what we lacked. As artists we’ve been around for a while just jamming, practicing you know just being creative. We procrastinated a lot and never thought about the band as a business. But Maz she thinks about that and pushes us. Im like you keep doing what you are doing because its bringing in results and pushing us out of our comfort zones so yeah it is a plus having her on board. We need someone to handle all the extra baggage and the rest of us can just continue making the music. The recording process is a makeshift one. There’s an amp here, a microphone nestled almost like in a familiar neighborhood amongst Philosophy and Psychology books. Yamaha guitar or was it a Fender, enthroned in a case in the middle of the room perhaps saying I’m my father’s favorite son. Once everything is recorded it’s sent to Canada for mixing and mastering. Recording independently with whatever equipment you can find has its perks however.
Colbert – The best thing about recording indie is that there is that element of trust. We can ensure that our music isn’t leaked. Like we have previous experience of some shit like that happening. There is a song out there that some parts sound exactly like material we were working on. So keeping it within a tighter circle of trust is definitely a plus when it comes to recording independently. The downside of it is obviously the equipment is a crazy hassle to get. It isn’t cheap. We are really just trying out you never know what to expect that’s the downside of recording. The situation isn’t ideal and the sound isn’t going to be perfect but we work with what is available
Seeing these guys on stage I imagined them infallible who put out work as easy as we find breathing. But meeting them I realize how alike we are. They are real people with probably the same failings and the same desires and interests. The best thing about them is they don’t give up always looking for that glimmer of hope over the horizon. That hope among other things keeps them going.
Christian – When we get feedback from fans about our performance nothing can replace that. There are no words to describe it. Even just the one fan that comes to you and says I loved that piece you did. That makes up for the hours we grind away practicing. Colbert – Our greatest inspiration is that we have each other. All the obstacles that we face and mind you they are many; we take that and turn it into our motivation. Basically as Hope there isn’t much coming in through sponsorship or cash or anything but in the end we are able to build so much from that and produce a lot.