Locations have a strange habit. They excite the memory. Fond sensations stowed away, locked in the forgotten corridors of infant years, suddenly emerge with an astounding clarity. While I attending This Is Africa Fest II, I suffered an injury to my left foot. Swollen as it was, I couldn’t bear even the blood that pumped in it. It was excruciating. A fortnight later, along Aga Khan Walk, I miscalculate a step on a slightly heaving panel of cobblestone and that left foot is unnaturally bent for a swift second. The pain that follows surges like lightning across daunting cloud covered sky. The thundering pain obscures all reason, all sight and even sensation.
The thing with pain, like location is it reminds us of these memories long locked away. Briefly I remember those childhood days when along Aga Khan Walk, the distinctly red hue of Uchumi Supermarket emblazoned the landscape. Standing at no more than 3 feet tall, my line of sight was in direct contact with the toy display on its windows. It served to beguile my fledgling mind for a while as my mother did her shopping and my brother, then rose cheeked, counted every man that walked by with a briefcase in hand. Life stood still while time flew by, onward to infinity. It stands still as the pain seems to burn the borders of a picture of myself, frozen in time, until the Polaroid on which its impermanence is briefly poised, is completely transformed in a smoldering smoking mass. It is at once a feathery pleasant feeling to be reunited with something familiar. Yet there is a crushing heaviness about it too, to be made aware of the wispy character of life’s experience, which like Macbeth’s weird sisters, wither away like smoke into the air. That sadness reminds me immediately of Mordecai Ogayo’s work with “Imber Luminis” a Doom Project that is based purely off of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “La Nausee”. (This same morning while thrust into a cauldron of memories, I stumbled upon a copy Sartree’s ‘La Nausee on the street going for which I procured at a price of 100/-)
In this same vein, I have dabbled with the idea of how these bands, Mortal Soul, Culture Horizon, Irony Destroyed and my own ‘The Seeds of Datura’ are cultured by the different locations of which the artists would call, their frequent haunts.
For instance the collectivity of Peter Kinyanjui, Young Mwanzia, Celeste Masiga and Leon Malu can be said to be influenced with the indifferent air of a leafy surbarb. What one would call society is almost aloof yet watchful. There are long winding boulevards occasionally sprinkled with the dew of the morning, the trees that hug the borders of the tarmac edifice almost seem to exist in perpetuity and command the neighborhood to silence while up above, in dramatic fashion, the setting sun with a murderous hue, stains red the evening sky. It is here where you will find yourself listening to the indignant pulse of a song like ‘Bankai’ and your memory is drawn to the all familiar and much loved Solace playthrough.
Another, a setting presents 1970s furniture, the fibery material of its covering is stripped different shades of red. The room is filled with sounds from a sturdy Panasonic radio, not at all imposing, but when switched on it is the whole atmosphere and color of a house where, millet porridge is served in a calabash, as beads and ivy vines cradle the edges of white plastered walls, punctuated neatly by a variety of black and white family photos. Franco echoes out in the hallway. It is classically African melting into a modern landscape. This is where the mind plays out Culture Horizon’s “Baba Joshua”, rock music infused with a guitar tradition influenced distinctively by Lingala.
There are also places where the unending throngs of humanity, like black acrid smoke chokes what was once cool and refreshing. What was once green and splendid is now a concrete jungle, blaring with a distortion so familiar to industrialization, are the cogs of the machine that bear witness to the sound of Irony Destroyed, deafening drum patterns, terrifying growls from the abyss and a melodic charm of the chug chug chug.
Heading out of this city teeming with people from all walks of life, and head towards the tea farming areas of Kiambu, there is a stretch from Thindigua to Kiambu and then the bypass to Muthaiga. There is an old trees vibe that is very refreshing. The energy feels like home and reminds one Bernice of the Realm of Mist and good times with ‘The Seeds of Datura’.