I wrote this post on a Friday. On a week that has carried with it a sense of dark forebodings and on this particular day carried with it a touch of tragedy for me. This piece in part pays tribute to someone dear to me. a sweet soul that gave me refuge. Someone whose hands were as tender as her heart and health which finally caved in when the reaper came calling. And in that moment of tragedy I have found the drive to write about an experience that I have shelved and cowered away from; making excuses every day of the week but I finally got around to doing it. This is a review to a gig that featured bands like Seismic, Koinange Street Avengers, Last Year’s Tragedy and solo artist RISH.
This comes a bit late of the tracks approximately 4 weeks after this gig was done. Most times it takes me a while to write about something because maybe I’m searching for a creative angle. At times there’s so much loathing going on in my belly that I cant stand writing and I don’t want to be pushing negative thoughts out into the rest of the rock scene. Don’t get me wrong there was much that was worth writing about. But the whole tone of the gig was sombre. Like someone had died or we’d lost something as a collective cultural scene. I was really optimistic trust you me about the whole prospect of being at another live event. Getting to watch Last Year’s Tragedy once more and there was this wave of euphoria going around the fact that Rish had released this new spanking song that got everyone bemused. Some of the old cats were popping their heads out again. Guys like seismic were performing again after a long time. But everything just wasn’t right. The sound was perfect, George Atsula was immaculate on drums, Amos Kiptoon was hitting the right notes on the guitar and the vibe of electricity was as great as you would expect. But all that wasn’t enough. The venue was an Ethiopian eatery called Daas restaurant. It is a place that carries lots of history and culture with it.
Everyone seemed glum especially from the entrance area. Paying for anything has never been pleasant but this time it felt like being stripped bare to the bones and being thrown into the cauldron with no dignity left to cover your back. Sam Kiranga who was first on stage played his usual thought provoking and heart tugging tunes but even he could tell the shared anxiety, almost like everyone was asking the same mid-life crisis questions when you have spent half your existence doing exams and paying taxes. Questions like why are we here. And why the hell did Dimebag Darell have to die. No one seemed happy. Its like the burden that we usually carried from our usual routines hung on and sat on the chairs next to us while the bands played. The indignation and disapproval of mainstream culture, the defeatist mentality of the rock fan base and our own sense of disappointment hung over everyone’s heads. Like everyone huddled together around the fire to remember the good old days. Bands like Seismic and KSA who had heralded the blossoming years of the rock scene in its heyday paying homage to those grand haunts while drinking to and watching the dying embers of a culture that we have worked so much to build on. Last Year’s Tragedy were the only ones that seemed to defiantly refuse to accept that state of affairs rolling on with ballads that have called on people to hold on to hope and not to let go. Mahia Mutua their bassist was missing and that was enough to re-emphasise the gloom that I felt on that day. At the end of the day you find yourself asking whether a handful of familiar faces at a gig is what the rock scene for all its efforts deserves.
We came in quite early and met up with David Mburu. He looked pumped about the show but other than those expressions as to the excitement of the impending spectacle I couldn’t make out anything else he said. He is always on another level of consciousness that fella. Our editor struck off an item from his bucket list by getting a selfie with RISH. Couldn’t get him to calm down after that.
On this particular occasion however the few things that helped me sleep well that night was Seismic’s performance that featured Rish. She was spectacular, I imagined she would be taller but that is neither here nor there. She pauses mid-performance for short inter-connected narratives that weave together the different songs into one script. The first song she performed with Seismic was a hallowed piece of glorified sentiment. The moment she struck that pitch and reined it in at that high bar, she does something amazing that I’ve never felt from any vocalist out there. She draws out your essence almost summoning it like would a snake charmer. Then from a distance you’d feel your astral projected essence ushered into some place of ethereal rest. That performance made you more self-aware of your dual existence and would convert even the most staunch realists. Seismic performed a range of other songs but sadly the only one available is ‘Your Grace’. This particular piece features some harsh growl and chanced a pleasant surprise for everyone there when Lawrence Muchemi from ‘Irony Destroyed’ pulled off a throttling ensemble of snarls and growls when Rish handed him the mic. I hope as the year progresses we’ll be able to hear more of this material.
Another spectacle on the night was a brief cameo by former Parking Lot Grass vocalist Rafael ‘Ruff’ Sipala. Just seeing him on stage can bring a grown ass man to tears. His versatility and strength of character is something to be marvelled at. He came in and did some freestyle rap thing that carried the colour and angst of nu-metal. He is like a thespian that always stays in character. The stage mask is the face and the face is the mask.
Last Year’s Tragedy take the stage last performing a slew of songs from their EP with George Atsula still on drums. We sing along or scream for those that can muster it. Their performances are more akin to a gym class and you always save your energy for them. But today the space isn’t as accommodating and neither is the ambience, what with Haile Selassie’s cold hard stare. And the mild scent of rosemary and myrrh that lingers in his court restrains you from gawking around too much and fouling the place with the smell of your perspiration.
We close with that and head for the exit door. And looking back it reminds me of those days paying a visit to an old friend who had over a period become more than family to me. She was a caregiver, a place of refuge where I’d go lick my wounds. As I leave the establishment my fears of losing this scene, like losing a friend to the oblivion that death is, continues to haunt me. I say a silent prayer that time doesn’t play its cruel hand and withdraw another comfort from me. At least not in my lifetime. And as I bid bye to a friend whose flame of life has been extinguished I hope that the events of this day aren’t a dagger to the heart of the Kenyan Rock scene.