Monthly Archives: December 2012

On Camp Mulla

I have been watching a lot of music videos, thanks to fast internet , my own laptop and a lot more time – especially since I shut down my Facebook account (finally).

So in my youtubing, I happened upon Camp Mulla  ( I already knew them though). Camp Mulla’s music makes me  happy, it makes me feel like clubbing in Nairobi, it sounds like holidays to me- lazy, laid back and fun at night. It’s a bit disturbing though, that the girls in the videos are probably 16 so I feel creepy like Andrew Onyango and his camera.

I have also happened upon videos like Jackiewa’s, whom I was surprised a lot of Kenyans don’t know. How can you not know the superstar from Matasia.

For those of you who know her, you might be as shocked as I was to find out that Jackiwa Matasiastar is not a joke. She is a real star claiming real talent. The only thing that seems quite unreal is her story, mad loopholes- geographic and otherwise.

Anyway, back to Camp Mulla videos –  a lot of people have faulted them for their style.

They say it’s fake, that it’s wannabe.  They make snide comments about them being rich or going to ‘mzungu’ schools. They talk about how they are imitating Lil Wayne etc, that they should do genge. And then there’s the all time favourite ‘enlightened African’ internet philosopher that dramatically points at Camp Mulla’s style of music and clothes and makes a super-dramatic appeal that  ‘Kenyans/ Africans need to stop imitating the West and be more like PSquare and Nigerian artists blablabla.

I think  there is some truth in these comments. It’s true that these kids went to uptown schools. Probably a significant part of their success can be apportioned to having supportive, financially capable parents and privileged access to systems  that have allowed them to succeed.  Support and systems here is not all about money, a supportive system could simply be parents that allow kids to dream of being a musician, parents who will allow you to express whatever you are expressing by growing dreadlocks, parents who will allow you to spend hours at the studio when they don’t see anything coming out of it – that kind of support. So it’s not a surprise that Marcus (the producer aka K’Cous )has musical folks. But giving credit where it’s due, Camp Mulla has talent.

Back to the dodgy philosophy, that hurriedly says this is another case of the ‘black man’ aping ‘the West’. The only response I can think of to this is simple, and already much talked about already, that ‘the world is flat’.

I currently live with 2 Germans, a Spanish guy and a Frenchie. It’s interesting that the 5 of us all know who Harry Potter is, we all know who Barney is (How I Met Your Mother). We all know or at least have heard of Breaking Bad and we all know/ know of the Beatles and the Bee Gees.  We even expect each other to have seen the same movies.

On a deeper level, we all understand sarcastic humor and we all make racist jokes. We all appreciate similar forms of art- which is why we all enjoyed the musical we went to see and we often watch movies together. To me, that we share these commonalities is really fascinating- because we are so different. We come from such different societies and have such different expectations of people and different ways of relating with each other, yet we have these similarities. Why?

The world is flat. It’s flat because we all consume the same media. We all watch the same movies, we are all on social networks, we all find memes funny. We all consume a lot of US of A media (only because it’s what is most exported) thanks to Hollywood. (Shout out to my brothers behind UTorrent, movie2k, piracy etc.) So we consume this media, and the values portrayed over and over again.  Whether we like it or not, this media influence us to some extent. It shapes our worldview, what we consider funny, what we consider fashionable, what we consider appropriate.

This is not a new phenomenon though. My folks wore hipsters, afros and microminis in the 70’s- a global trend – so even before the Internet the world was getting flat. My German housemate’s parents also wore the global 70’s look for white people.  So no mr.philosopher, this wasn’t another case of the ‘black man’ aping ‘the west’, it was and still is simply global convergence based on media consumption.

Ever heard of Bee Gees? They were American right? Nope, English/Australian

Ever heard of Abba? They were American right? Nope, Swedish

Ever heard of Modern Talking? They were American right? Nope German

Maybe Beegee’s American sound can be due to the fact that they worked with US of A’s Atlantic Records in the 70’s and producers often influence the musician’s sound-so arguably their sound might have been ‘Americanized’.

Abba and Modern Talking sang in English, why? I assume it’s because they were influenced a lot by American music, and probably because singing in English made more commercial sense.  But whatever the reason, they were influenced by the global trend, they were not neccessarily trying to be un-swedish or un-german.  Bringing it home, Camp Mulla are not being wannabes, they are simply being influenced by global trends in their chosen genre of music.

However,  this doesn’t mean wannabes don’t exist, because they do. Seriously, wtf was this video? Tony Montana? Guns? Silk gowns? That’s not influence, that’s just forcing issues.

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Working a Crowd

There are a lot of thoughts going through my head right now. I’ve noticed that’s how most of my thought processes are. It starts with a random undefined idea triggered by anything from something that happened or a conversation I had or something I remember.  The thought slowly becomes a preoccupation and I obsess about it trying to understand it. Sometimes writing helps. I often wonder if this is the same thought process that other people go through, is it? Whether or not you write? Today for example, I was studying, and suddenly I couldn’t concentrate at all and kept thinking about my time here in Cardiff and how I interact with people.

So my recent preoccupations have been with my behavior in crowds. I don’t think I was aware of it before, but since coming here I realized that I don’t like crowds. I find it very hard to interact in a crowd.Even with people I know, I rarely if ever meet more than 2 friends at the same time. It’s also because I often know most of my friends from scattered places/ interests. Because of this, the few parties that I have ever tried to throw end up in a tiring effort of trying to split time between the different groups who usually seem to have nothing in common.

Going back to my group behavior, I think – and I say this from a purely scientific standpoint-  that I have a ‘charm’ switch, that can only be switched on when I am in a small group.

My most recent  example of my charm-switch theory (cool name ya? :)):

I crashed on someone’s couch my first night in Cardiff, and the next morning, went house or rather room hunting. I had already set-up a couple of interviews online so I started with those. But on the way back to my host’s place, I come across this letting agency on some corner and decide to do a walk-in.

The bell at the top of the door jingles. It’s stifling in here,  the lady inside has set the heating to Hell. In this hot room, still she wears a white polo-neck. I notice that on top of that there is a fur coat on the hanger behind her chair, she must be super-afraid of the cold I think. She regards me suspiciously, like it’s the kind of office you only visit on appointment, and maybe it is. But I’m already inside anyway, so I tell her I am looking for a room. She continues to look at me suspiciously, ‘mmm’ing and ‘aaa’ing as she looks for words in English, she sounds East European. She says that they don’t have free rooms, and asks me how I heard about her agency. A few minutes into the interrogation, it’s clear that this agency is very selective and only rent out rooms to people they think are trustworthy. At this point I consciously flick on my charm switch. In a space of under 10  minutes (ok, maybe  a modest 15),  I go from being looked at like a dangerous druggie to being told that I seem like a ‘nice guy’. She asks me to come back in an hour. When I do, she drives me to 2 different houses…so much for not having room.

We spend the next half hour together, all the time my charm switch is on full mode. I take my cues from her. She reaches to wear her seat-belt, clearly a safe driver and so I follow suit. I let her talk about herself. Walking from the car, she drops her purse and I quickly pick it up. She drops it again and I pick it again. I can tell she’s comfortable because she even forgets to take it from me and now I am holding a pink purse…the things you do for charm. She likes to talk, so I actively listen.  I think charm is a pretty scientific and obvious process, it’s a lot about reading cues and responding correctly.  I learn about her and her son. I learn about his hobbies and what he studied. She talks a lot about him, so I drop in lines like ‘ Wow, that’s great’ ‘What talent’ (truly though, her son sounds like boy extraordinaire, apparently he’s a super ballroom dancer, super athlete and a PhD). Now that she has taken the time to outline the guys resume, I unleash the obvious line ‘you must be very proud of him’. She also tells me where she is from and what she studied at university and even her opinion on English tenants.  I decide on one of the houses, and she volunteers to wait for me to go back to my hosts, get my luggage and meet her so that she can drop me. (Please don’t confuse charm for sucking up, charm needs one to have their own opinion and genuine interest. But anyway, moving on.)

After drinking the coffee and eating the chips she offers now that we are back in her office, I am a ‘diamond’ she says green eyes all sparkling. Before you scream ‘cougar!’ she wants me to meet her son so that we can go wall climbing and where she says I can meet some girls as she winks. LOL.

So yes, I have no doubt about I can be at least reasonably charming and even interesting on a one-on-one scene. (Let’s just be real, you find me interesting and that’s why you are reading this.) I have been trying to understand why I can’t find my way in a crowd. It’s 8 weeks into my masters class, and nobody calls me ‘diamond’. hehe.  Well, I am not the spaced out guy in the corner with his mouth open all the time (there’s such a guy, hihi), but I am nowhere at the same time, and it’s not by design.

After much thought, I suspect these are the causes of my woes:

1. I largely dislike the social construct (is that correct phrase use Mumbi?) that is cliques. I flee from any signs of being cloaked in uniformity.

The idea that cliques go beyond high school might seem silly to some of you, but think about it. Cliques exist even at work, with the guys who work in supply or accounts often being the uncool kids. hehe. Cliques always form within large crowds, and that’s natural. We all need somewhere to belong. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was not just some theory, it is quite apparent on a daily.

2. I hate small talk.

It makes me feel awkward and desperate.  You are at a party, and there’s someone telling a good story when suddenly they leave the group standing there.  This is usually the universal reaction:

– Someone will fiddle with their super-bright touchscreen smartphone pretending to read a text or conveniently choose the moment to make a call

– Another person/people will ‘calmly’ look around and walk away to another more happening circle

– If there are still a few brave souls, they will engage in an exaggerated chat about soccer, the weather (in the UK) with the most popular topic being the turnout at whatever party you are in. Popular topics to look out for in the parties you have lined up this December are ‘ will Peter Kenneth win the election’ ‘does Martha Karua stand a chance’ ‘ is Jeff Koinange’s voice real’ ‘Are you going for Blankets and Wine’

Small talk is synonymous with big crowds. You cut through the shit when you interact with people individually. I mean, this woman even showed me a picture of her naked self on day 1. But I suppose she was a bit nutts and maybe you shouldn’t try that at home.

3. I judge, swiftly and permanently.

In a crowd,  after 5 minutes of listening to a stranger, I usually decide if they are worth speaking to. If I think they are genuine, I will speak to them. If I think they are pretentious, I dismiss them. If I think they’re an asshole, out.  If I am curious, I will try to isolate them. These aren’t as conscious decisions as I make them sound, but generally that seems to be what happens.

Judging is a really bad habit, I know. I have tried to stop it, but the problem is that I am usually right. HAHAHA! I decided to count it as a natural talent.

always right

But life will be full of crowds. Even as my thoughts continue to settle, I figure that it might be important for me to move away from one-on-one interactions and learn how to work a crowd? Learn how to put my individual preferences aside in order to belong? Belonging also has its benefits, that’s for sure.

But the thought process continues, everyone and especially those who know me, what think you? Comment/email me.

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