Gas Fyatu is a writer, entrepreneur and emcee from Nairobi. He is a member of the rap groups Ukoo Flani Mau Mau and Moshikali. You can find his music on reverbnation, youtube and soundcloud. His writing can be found in Kwani? published by Kwani Trust. Peep his poems. He is also on twitter.
[Kevlexicon made typographical edits]
Where are you from, What was it like growing up?
Dandora I grew up in Nairobi eastland inner city dandora, growing was
normal life for ghetto childrens with parents working in industrial
What kind of hustles were people involved in?
In dandora there were all sort of small business, small kiosks, selling
scrap metals, matatu touts, vegetable vendors, mandazi and chapatti or
roadside. basically hawkers everywhere
What was the Mau Mau camp like? (Is it still in operation?)
Mau mau camp was born on the alleys of dandora by youth with a love
for hip hop music and yearning for a change. There was so much police
harassment and unemployment rate was very high. We found solace in
music and formed a street family, unlike the freedom fighters with guns
and spears, we decided to use microphones and pencils as missiles to
fight for change and to decolonize minds. Mau mau became a hub for
art, football acrobatics and rehabilitation, and it spread all over.
Maumau still exist as know east African movement called
ukooflanimaumau with members all over east Africa cities and towns.
What does hip hop mean to you, What motivated you to become involved
in Hip Hop?
I loved music and drama from a tender age. In high
school, I was composing poems in Swahili and competed up to the
national levels. Meanwhile, while I was still in school, kalamashaka
were taking Kenya with their single “tafsiri hii” so when I cleared high
school I joined mau mau camp which was a street hang out for people
with a love for conscious music. Edutainment- precisely. So to me hip
hop is a way of life, a positive way of life; preaching peace, love, and
I use the hip hop platform to pass positive messages to the community
and spread love and preach peace. Through hip hop, I got independence
to highlight [the] social, political and economic environment in my hood and
country. Hip hop is the voice of the African youth, it is the ray of
light for an Africa youth facing struggle out of poverty and freedom.
Hip-Hop’s impact origins date back as far as late 80’s, the fire was
burning in Tanzania. Groups like Kwanza Unit, Hard Blasters, The
Diplomatz, Mr 2. In the 90’s Kenya rap scene flourished. Pioneering
groups like Kalamashaka, K-South, Fundi Frank and Cash D set the scene
using their vernacular language to win the hearts of many. Similar
growth was happening in Kampala, with groups like, Kado based in
Sweden and Klear kut. DJ’s took their stand like Dj Pinye, Dj Adrian,
Skratchaholics, the homeboyz, setting their wheels of steel blazing
with creativity. B-boys grabbed the stage too. Kenyans took graffiti
to another level by using public service vehicles as their canvas, known as the
matatu culture. [Note: Matatu’s are the cheapest form of public transportation. Matatus are minibuses that are often colorfully decorated with the likenesses of hip hop artists and celebrities. Inside, you can hear the video mixtapes put together by college students.]
Hip hop made such a proud stand that the political scene used the music to prosper the presidential campaign. African youth can, in one voice (through hip hop), air [the] social, political climate in their societies. Hip hop is culture, a way of life and is represented by: [rap] Emceeing, Dj-ing, graffiti arts, Break dance and street
entrepreneurship. The above elements have effectively taken shape in
Kenya, the underground art has no space in the mainstream media; when
many youth are busy involving themselves crime and the drugs, we have
these creative artists who spend days, months and even years either
painting, designing, composing, and putting their creativity at work
and when they are done, they hit the street hawking their art and most
of the time they fall in the hands of people who do not appreciate
art and are just interested in the monetary gains.
Hip-hop, I feel is being marketed by multi-nationals to work to the
benefit of their pockets. Although they have financial advantage over
us, we on the other hand have people power globally and with
networking ability to change the power of the status quo
hip-hop is a culture and way of life!
When you live hip-hop, you become hip-hop. Below we display 5 main
elements of Hip-hop:
This is awareness of self, about who you are, being independent
minded, individualism, acceptance of self. Being ‘real’ and ‘true’ to
This was a street level form of communication (although recently it
has now become a major [form]) of relaying a message with clever use of
flowing words, poetry and rhyming.
An innovative form of creating music from sampling and cutting and
scratching records to form a style of music initially unique only to
4. Break dancing
This is an art of dancing composed of movements, which makes the dancer
look like he is literally breaking. It comprises of many
[movements] such as bopping, waves, body spins and is also incorporated with
Capoeira another form of dance expression who’s origins came from
slaves who spent their time with their hand and feet chained and used
it as a way to exercise/dance/fight (while chained) without being
discovered; for neither of the above were allowed and a death penalty
would follow if one was discovered practicing any of them.
5. Graffiti art
This was the underground visual way of relaying messages by spraypainting public spaces, like street walls, in a colorful artistic form and style with illustrations and special scriptures that [were] only understood by hip hop’s people.
What type of community organizations, informal or formal are helping
vijana in Nairobi leo?
Young people have formed groups and are taking loans from banks to do
small business as for community organisations. i know mathare
youthsports association and ukooflanimaumau.