Check out this video of one of my favorite new groups, Nyalenda’s “Anchoras” (Anchorers in Kisumu slang). They play deep roots reggae under a tree in the middle of a kale field every Sunday.
Video shot and edited by Angela Shoemaker
Yesterday we took an epic walking journey with Rankin T to the neighborhood of Obunga (which means “motherland”). We were looking for a place to host our last-minute party.
I haven’t been keeping you updated on some of the happenings, but I’ve been working with Rankin on hiring a mass sound system and throwing an outdoor rave. It’s a combination “going away bash” and a way to film some of the grimy dancing and clubbing we haven’t been able to capture in the month of January. (January in Kenya is a month of no live music, because everyone is totally broke from the holidays in December). The catch is, the only place we could get an open space where the cops won’t arrest us for noise violations is Obunga.
Apparently, the reason no one worries about the cops in Obunga is because the cops won’t go to Obunga. Before we set off on what seemed like a multi-hour walk to our new location, Rankin T gave his sly grin and said “where we’re going is ghetto ghetto ghetto.”
I thought I knew ghetto, but I was mistaken. I’ve never seen children shitting on piles of burning garbage. At the same time, the place had electricity and clean well water, as Rankin pointed out (an improvement over some of the nicer pseudo-slums like Kondele, where I was staying with Ozzy but without running water, a tough compromise). But I had a wonderful time on our walk. We shook more hands than Bill Clinton on an off day and came across some new scenes–a pool game under a reed awning where the matatu touts hang out, a tiny tin shack with a mass collection of live reggae VCDs, including my current favorite piece of plastic, a VCD of Burning Spear live in Kenya, Kisumu’s largest raw fish market, and many people displaying many creative new uses for machetes.
The space we found for the party looks nice as well– a large shaded dirt yard, a brick building we’re not allowed to enter, and a pretty solid looking chainlink fence surrounding the perimeter. Plus, at $14 for the afternoon, the price fits firmly within the Raw Music budget.
After checking out the space and working a deal with the groundskeeper, Rankin led us past a mob of unruly youths sitting under a corroded tin awning nearby. They suddenly surrounded us and I instinctively gripped the tripod in low baseball bat formation. But they were just there to give Rankin fist bumps and ask us for change. “These are my security forces for this area” Rankin told us, “they’ll make sure everything goes well at our party.” On Rankin’s suggestion I gave the guys 60 cents and eased up on the tripod grip. It’s amazing, but Rankin really seems to have a posse no matter where we are.
Rankin believes that the huge unemployment rate in the area will make our free party a success. “As soon as they hear me introduce myself on the sound, people will come,” Rankin assured me. “And people have nothing else to do,” he said as an aside. Rankin is working out the sound system and booze situation, and the groundskeeper is double checking to make sure we can actually use the space. Nothing is in order, but I have a Kisumu sort of faith (say “fuck it” and hope things work out), and I believe with about 60% certainty that on Saturday, Raw Music will team up with Rankin T to throw the biggest public party Obunga has seen.
With our current shooting schedule, I believe, also with about 60% certainty, that we’ll survive to see that day. We spent today at Urban Music studios, setting up shots and wrapping up loose ends with that story, and in 30 minutes we’re heading to the “Flame Leaf O’hangla Club,” a place as fun and vaguely threatening as its name, where people suggest you stitch your pockets shut before entering, to try to finish the O’hangla segment of the show. I hope Anchoras are right, and that Jah is watching over us tonight.