Tuesday, April 5, 2011
By Buddha Blaze
When it comes to hip hop in Nairobi, no other place is known to embrace this art form more than the inner city slum neighbouhood of Dandora. The home of hip hop pioneers Kalamashaka, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji and Ukoo Flani Mau Mau. Dandora is a nurturing ground for many stories and many MCs as a matter of fact it has the biggest concentration of MCs in Kenya every other young male is a rapper, a retired one or an aspiring one. It is the home of one MC Kah who is the younger brother to Kamah; one part of Kalamashaka. MC Kah is from a school of hip hop that is all about lyrics, its all about making sense and seeing how hip hop today is never about lyrics he may be one of those MCs that inwardly frustrated by his counterparts who are all about stunting.
Kah has been rapping since his teens and all he has ever known is positive lyrics. So being chosen to participate in this Translating Hip Hop project was not far fetched. He knows first hand the power of lyrics because he grew up around Kenyan hip hop pioneers Kalamashaka and later on as his own artist, he was involved in major projects such as he was part of the song ‘DANDORA L.O.V.E’ that was a hit in East Africa, he also participated in the human rights album Kilio cha Haki – Cry for Justice. Kah knew that going to Colombia to translate hip hop would be a challenge due to language but having performed in Europe for crowds that didn’t understand Swahili he knew well that hip hop doesn’t have a language barrier and that wouldn’t stop the fun.
The long journey to Colombia from Nairobi did not stop his enthusiasm after all he was probably the first Kenyan MC to ever visit Colombia a place that is known more for its medicinal export than its hip hop. On his way to Colombia he had been warned about his security but when he got to Bogota everything seemed fine, after all his home neighbourhood of Dandora is not a walk in the park. He loved the city of Bogota and he notes that there’s a lot of hip hop, reggae, salsa. Bogota had a similar hip hop vibe as in Kenya and he noticed how Colombian music had a lot of historical influence to African music probably through slave trade. He noticed that Colombians were quite interested in Africa and world affairs in general.
In Colombia hip hop artists seemed to enjoy a certain level of freedom to say whatever they need to say and censorship didn’t seem to be a thing they worried about that much. Like in many developing countries Colombia is plagued by youth unemployment, lack of resources for proper education, proper health facilities and an internally displaced population that is highly reliant on drugs for their daily survival. The rich drug barons seem to control the local economy with politicians being the vehicles for corruption and moral decays. Yeah we’ve heard that story way too many times. Most Colombian hip hop artists addressed these vices in their music. Their unique blend of hip hop laced with reggae and salsa is cool sound that is unique to Colombia.
Colombians have a big love for art and its encouraged throughout the society unlike Kenya. He enjoyed the Seventh Street – Septima a street in Bogota that’s dedicated to the arts every Friday. MC Kah enjoyed doing the translation with Colombia’s hip hop big wigs DJ Benny, Dianna Avella, Falco Flow and Melanina. His whole experience in Colombia makes him understand that many countries have more to offer than they are known for. He noted that he had heard about the kidnappings, drugs in Colombia but nobody ever told him about the great food, music and determination of Colombians to fight these vices.
On 25th of March to over 15 MCs including Nazizi, Malikah and Rayess Beks will converge in Nairobi to network and perform at TRANSLATING HIP HOP a workshop and concert featuring Big Mic, Octopizzo, Sharama, Wanjiku Mwaurah, Deejay Zaq, Deejay Steel just to name a few. Be there come witness. To find out more go to: http://www.facebook.com/buddha.blaze