Its Easter Monday and we are ending a 3-day festival at Kinondo Poa, some cottage place along Galu Beach. With me on this table is Ayub Ogada, a great Kenyan musician who convened this gathering, Wilfrid and Beryl, the couple that keep the space running. [In other news, find Ayub’s new album, kodhi] This is the first time they organize a cultural festival in this space and they invited me to share in building a future that looks promising.
I had been working on this article since morning but just like many other pieces that lay about in my laptop, this would turn out to be one of those never finished pieces. At dinner, I was speaking to Wilfrid and we shared our often-stagnant desire to produce Art. When we spoke, we agreed that we should be more serious. So, I got up and promised myself to complete this piece.
I am here on an invite to play music but I doubled up engineering for an upcoming recording of Ayub Ogada and friends. On the other hand, I found time to think through some characters of artists that resonate with horoscopes in the larger world. Since artists mostly mirror society, it was not so much fun developing this script. I took my computer and gave life to these characters, with names inspired from my native tongue (kamba).
Anytime you need to book or work with an artist (msanii), the first thing they become is suspicious about your intentions (whether pure or otherwise). The question they don’t often ask you is – What brings you to me? Artists behave hard-to-get, fairly complicated – and they would rather you speak to them through an interface – like a manager, who better understands them. As you explain to them your attraction to their art, you will read it in their eyes that they are asking, in not so many word – What do you want to suck out of me (now)?
Under this overarching stereotype of “an artist”, are siblings (wasanii) that, just like the spectrum of horoscopes – live together in quarrelsome peace love and harmony.
Kathina is this artist who is full of (tu)problems. Every artist could pass for being problematic but this Kathina is clearly pronounced. She is expensive to maintain, because she will always be in a crisis that needs solving every here and now. Often, Kathina is the type that desire to be used and dumped so they can tell about it.
Just like trouble, Kathina will always keep coming, asking for more and almost needing more everytime. Kathina wont call you even when they get paid, they will never fuel your car even when you are from a gig that they just got paid, they believe their problems are bigger than yours…and they never get paid enough, always.
Kamituki is the now now artist. For him, it is about “what is in it for me” – upfront. There is very little room left for the future. You cannot make a long term plan with kamituki in in mind. They are like casual laborers at a work site. They deliver stones and they want to go away quickly. They have a very rigid format of presentation. They cannot change a thing because it spoils their architecture which is cast on stone.
Kakuku is a character who is exponentially preoccupied with the here and now. His vision is like that of a chicken. It never sees far, only sees what is below its feet. When a chicken comes across maize, it tries to eat as much as it can to fill its stomach – the crop. Inside the crop, there has to be space for water, air and gravel to digest stuff but they often forget that.
Kakuku is overtly greedy and not even aware about it. Most times it seems unconscious, just like many kleptomanic tendencies. You will find them drunk at an occasion they were invited to play; or walking around with soda, cake and tea in their pocket. They need domestication. They are perfect for zero grazing for as long as you can keep them (well) fed and tethered.
Kinene is that artist who is living (not in their world but) in their head. If they are male, they go walking around with their legs parted like they have an infection. Even when tiny and wearing oversize jeans, they will go breathing – I am big, you should know by now, treat me as big, I am celebrity. They come with fellow dogs to bark and sniff around as they arrive and do their mess.
Kinene never comes to the event for the depth of the art but to show off. They arrive stylishly late and make it an inconvenience for everyone – they are they type that come with guards – they are keenly choreographed and largely stage-managed from inspirations gathered from TV. Their art quality is often wanting, and the showbizz they put around themselves is mostly to compensate for the deficient depth.
Kisuli is that cunning – never serious, lazying around, passing by, drop a word or two –often —cool artists. They are sometimes simply confusing a process that is already running, they speak to be heard, they wait until a project is almost done then they come and drop a byte that’s so hard to get rid off so that their name gets attached onto the product before release.
Kang’ei is the trickster that benefits from grey areas and loopholes in the fraternity. They complain about procedures but they never honor their part of the bargain (interestingly, they always manage to argue their way to sort of winning). They blame you for not sending contracts but dodge signing paperwork once you present it to them. Sometimes, you are not surprised to realize they cant clearly comprehend a contract. They speak big and deliver exhaust air. They love to make a quick buck. They keep threatening you with legalities and court procedures. They make away with your equipment then sent you an invoice for shit you dont understand, then if you dont pay them, they decide to keep the equipment to themselves – and play it without shame.
Kateta is always looking for a fight, they are continuously looking for beef, most times on purpose, to generate a story, and gain mileage. It could be about the water, it could be about microphone, a stage light, a coin she lost, a dark earring even a round ball. You will fear Kateta not because of their art but because of their unending quarrels/complains. Kateta never shuts up. You can never satisfy her appetite for words.
Kalakaly’a is a crop of perpetually disorganized artists – they play guitar but will often to bring the guitar to to the occasion. They forget to bring their cable or come without a plucker, or go on stage and cannot begin their show because of something – they they begin to ask everyone for something they should have brought with them, like a guitar tuner. They are very annoying.
These are some, but not all of wasanii horoscopes. A producer/creative director is often the guy that helps explore the potential of an artist, sometimes when they are blind enough. A good producer sees what the artist cannot see, knowing very well that no amount of conversations will empty their thoughts onto the artist like the way you pour beer into a glass. You can explain repeatedly and provide guidelines, but often the artist may not get it clearly. Sometimes, of course very few times, a producer will meet an artist with whom you click and fall in love immediately, and the rest will simply flow. Deep art is quite incestuous. And to make any good art, you need to work with all the characters above.
//EasterPoa @ KinondoPoa, April 2015.