UPDATE: 23, May 2014. Smallz Lethal’s album now available on itunes; Common Mwananchi
Washamba Wenza is a hip hop movement with roots in Dandora. “This is the Life” is a collaborative track between the studios/hiphop families of G’Ganji, Audio Kusini and A-World, featuring an instrumental by Ken Ring. Check out more music from Washamba Wenza, G’Ganji and Audio Kusini/Kusini Recordz. You can download this classic hapa.
UPDATE (28 July 2013): Check out the new track from G’Ganji, Washamba Wenza and Ananda A-World, WASTE NO TIME (free download).
1. What inspired you to write your verses for “This is the Life”?
Smallz Lethal (Mshamba Mwenza):
yeah man..we cn neva b too busy bro..first, 4 my verse..that is almst the deepest verse av ever written, the kind of meditation we had was maad man. basicaly,i was reffering to hiphop as a person, leting her knw how much impact she has on me n how am gonna b loyal to her..
2 my side n as i know hiphop is life, n i simply referred to life as a teacher where i said that thru him, wen i woz a kid, i knew how to tighten my shoe lases when i run not 2 fall…lyfstyles also differ in that we gat hoods livin ths way so in our hood its diffrent and…’this is the life innawi yard!’
Flamez (Mshamba Mwenza):
Flamez Mshamba Mwenza
For the verses my part was actually time am basically writing how i see and feel about stuff.
2. How did G’Ganji, Audio Kusini and A-World come together on this track?
Flamez: ON THIS TRACK it was mainly A World and Audio Kusini on Ken rings beat
3. You guys have been putting out high quality music for some time now. What directions do you see the future of hip hop in East Afrika headed in?
Flamez: Its growing and for me there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel
4. How can fans check out your music and support your movement?
Cyrus Kabiru is an artist from Nairobi. Peep more of his art on his tumblr, daportfolio, African Colors, edcrossfineart, and extraimaginary. You can also see his features in articles on NYTimes and the cultureist. Check out his facebook page. Read more about him on his TED profile and Kuona Trust.
Watch him talk about his work on vimeo.
Basically, google “Cyrus Kabiru.”
UPDATE: 9 April 2013. Check out Cyrus’ new TED interview.
Cyrus Nganga Kabiru
sorry for sending this late i have answered some ….
1. Where are you from, What was it like growing up?
i grown up in nairobi. the place i grown was hard life survival for the [fittest].
2. What kind of hustles were people involved in?
-i grown up near market so the best way was for you to start your own business and to be clever than the marketers. also there was many businesses like selling water,junk metal, plastics and many [others].
3. How did you start doing art?
-i grown up as the best toy maker this means i started in my early age.
[Excerpt from his Artist Statement at African Colours: “Artist Statement:
I call them the C-STUNNERS©. The original idea was inspired by memories of my father’s childhood where he dropped his glasses by accident and a lorry which by chance happened to be fatefully passing by ran over them, shattering them completely. It goes without saying that he received a very thorough beating from my grandfather. From that day on my father hated glasses.
I admired sun-glasses though, but wearing them was an impossibility because of my father’s attitude towards them and I thus decided that when I grew up I would pick up from where the lorry left off.
Many of my friends despised me as I continued nurturing that dream, along with the additional name calling while being told that it was all nonsense. The argument was that it was a strange way of art.What they never knew was that this was my dream and I had made it my hobby as well.
Now all grown up this dream has come to pass and now I have my own eyewear line which I call THE C-STUNNERS. I have realized the dream and as my grandfather once said “When you truly dream a dream of your lifetime, never go back to sleep” and I, well, I am neither relenting nor dozing back to sleep.
C-Stunners have rocked the regional media and more so the tastes and imagination of art lovers with local television stations having interviews and discussions about them. The press have had columns and pages dedicated to them. My dream is to make them the classic choice of even aliens, who are beyond the international levels. I have been arrested once for almost 8 hours because of wearing them. For now, the sky is the limit.”]
4. What does hip hop mean to you, What made you get involved in Hip Hop?
-i like hip hop….the neighborhood i grown up on was the hip hop ghetto (dandora) it means many things for me. its a life changer…hiphop change many.
5. What do the words ‘kazi’, ‘vijana’ and ‘mshamba’ mean to you?
What is ‘politicking’?
-kazi means job, vijana young, mshamba is some one from rural [area] visiting town.
6. What is ‘mental slavery’?
-mental slavery to me is to think inside the box instead of thinking outside of it.
7. How are hiphop artists making money from their music today?
hip hop artist their not making any money…but people are making money through them, many they are using them and dump them (as a step stone)
8. How do politics impact your work?
-my work dont inter fear with politics at all…i have many things that impact my work.
9. Besides rappers, who else do you see ‘doing’ hip hop, other artists, dancers, graffiti/matatu artists, activists, hustlas, etc. ?
-the graffiti/matatu artist there doing hip hop.
10. Name your favorite artists (also visual artists, anyone), who are you listening to sasa?
-all are my favourites ..mau mau of course, octopus
11. Why do you think there aren’t as many femcees?
How have women contributed to hip hop in Kenya?
-there a bit down you know hiphop need hardcore kenyan lady there much beautiful, and you know this two dont go together.
12. What can you say about the Mau Mau kambi?
-maumau [they’re] my men [they’re] all good and they know what [they’re] doing.
13. What type of community organizations, informal or formal are helping vijana in Kenya leo?
-no any organisation help the vijanaa instead they use them as a stepping stone.
14. What hustles are you working on sasa? is there such a thing as hip hop jobs? Ama only hustling?
(Talk about any of your projects, mixtape, drawing, sculpture, etc.)
(Talk about your travels?)
-for now am sculpting and preparing to attend a TED talk in February this year …also hard to [live] as a hip hop, you need to do something else.
[Excerpt from Cyrus’ TED Profile:
An idea worth spreading
Saving nature through art: – living and working in Kenya, and especially in Nairobi, a city struggling with the implications of rapid urbanization and population growth through rural to urban migration – growing up one of Nairobi’s numerous slums, I have seen a need for the residents of Nairobi to find ways to better use and re-use the resources we have. Many areas of Nairobi have for a long time been drowning in rubbish and communal waste due to a failure by the public service to create infrastructures for collection and recycling. My goal, my idea worth spreading, is to encourage more and more people to create art and functional materials from rubbish and recyclable materials. I have done outreach workshops around Kenya, in areas like Kitui and Kisumu where there was already a vibrant visual arts culture but limited resources were stifling productivity (e.g. sculpture is difficult to do because of deforestation). ]
15. What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today (zote, Lodwar to Dando to Westi?)
-they have all types of problems in this world especially lack of job..
16. How are you interacting with artists across the globe and also particularly in East Afrika?
-am doing some workshops and this bring them together and we just discuss things affecting our communities.
17. What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?
-we have both negative and positive things….first we are lazy. we are not thinking outside the box, we just sit down waiting for the government to give as good job.
-i do art with recycling materials and this shows that you can do everything with anything.
Qama is a hip hop artist working in Nairobi. You can watch his music videos on his youtube channel, stream and download his music on soundcloud and reverbnation, and connect with him on his facebook page or on twitter.
UPDATE: 10 October 2013. New music from Qama, Ace Tha Don & Voodooseller – Safari.
1. Share some of your mistari and talk about where they came from, what they talk about, what inspired u to write them.
Huu mziki talanta kuikuza kama ile maisha safari
Panda shuka mingi kwa hii fani kibaharia kwa bahari
Mi ni nabii kama yule mtume japo sikuzaliwa kwa jori
Records everyday noble ari kiWangari na nobel
Kwa ajili yako tu tunacheza kwetu bila kutuzwa,bila label!
Am so able kama kingo mafungu mingi shinda kitabu ufunuo
Mafunzo vast knowledge bahari on a soul searching mission
So leo kama jana nimefungua kibanda ndo nipate my portion
ya tis money
na scarse ni hizi senti hard kupata kama kubusu nyuki upate asali
Maskio leteni kwangu ni wape elimu mi ndo kaisari
Kuniskiza mkiwa low kunicheza mkiwa na chore kuwaliwaza panapo majonzi
Kuwapunguzia mawazo na kuwapa matumaini baada ya dhiki faraja
Baada ya dhoruba jua lita waka kuwapa raha
Ningekua kigoli kwenu ningekua namba moja
Kila uchao kwa uso zenu naacha tabasamu lililofana
mtanicheza kanisani mtanicheza kwenye mazishi,kwenye densi
Hospitalini kisa na maana mi ndo dawa
This are my lines of a song called ”Music.” in the lines am relating myself to a prophet yet I was born in no manger, [talking about] the many challenges that come with nurturing this talent. We (artists) try so hard to educate people in vain just like the prophets but we still give hope to people in times of joy, sorrow… that after the rain the sun will shine and that’s (my music) will be played when people are doing chores, in funerals, in church…its just music.
2. Where are you from, What was it like growing up?
I got roots in Kenya and Uganda..In Nairobi I rep 87 and South C. I dint grow up in the city, life wasn’t that easy being brought up by a single mother but in way we always pulled through I guess its by the grace of God.
3. What kind of hustles were people involved in?
There were many hustles it depended with an individual. Others used to play football and get [paid], others sell drugs like opium, sell phones(second hand), buy and sell clothes, even sell pirated music.
4. What does hip hop mean to you, What made you get involved in Hip Hop?
Hip Hop is a genre of music that involves the rhythmical creation of beauty through rapping. According to me though it is a culture of how we live and relate to one another eventually expressing it through poetry, pictures, art, and dance.
5. What do the words ‘kazi’, ‘vijana’ and ‘mshamba’ mean to you?
Kazi means work, vijana-youth, mshamba is this person from the village who comes to the city, also some will refer to mshamba as one who has no idea of certain norms or routines.
6. What is ‘politicking’?
It may refer to the drumming of political support especially if one is a politician.
7. What is ‘mental slavery’?
I think it is when people hold on to false beliefs, which in many cases they are made to.
8. Can you say anything about the youth drug problems in Kenya?
Drug problems among the youth in Kenya [are] greatly influenced by peer pressure or idleness, or trying to be ‘cool,’ some do it out of life’s frustrations.
9. Who/What is promoting violence, who/what has lessened violence?
Many, at times violence is triggered by politicians especially when they divide people along tribal lines 😦 The people themselves have quit fighting because they noticed it just brings self-destruction. NGOs too have tried to sensitize the communities against violence.
10. How are hiphop artists making money from their music today?
Artists are making money by selling their mixtapes, lps, merchandise like t-shirts, going for shows….
11. How do politics and your own personal values impact your work?
Politics affect my music in one way or the other, in turn am forced to speak against the social ills in the society which come with bad politics.
12. Besides rappers, who else do you see ‘doing’ hip hop, other artists, deejays, dancers, graffiti artists, activists, hustlas, etc. ?
Graffiti artists, dancers and some deejays.
13. Name your favorite musical artists, who are you listening to sasa ?
aint stuck on one artist or particular artists but people who make good and timeless music which anyone can relate to. Let me name but a few; kendrick lamar, Lupe fiasco, Immortal technique, Jay Z, Snow goons, Washamba wenza, Xcalibur Shahidi, Ace the god Apollo, Nemesis aka man njoro, Kimya Miyaki….I cant name them all.
14. What are some obstacles you have encountered during your involvement in the hip hop scene(s)?
Mostly its financial challenges like money not be available all the time for a quality production both audio and visual. Also some media personalities who dont relate to Hip hop intentionally dont play the songs you give em.
15. Why do you think there aren’t as many femcees?
Maybe because the hip hop scene has been dominated by male artists some femcees shy off to stand for what they believe in.
16. How have women contributed to hip hop in East Africa?
😀 giving birth to this amazing artists around.
17. What can you say about any community hip hop projects helping young people today, that you know of or are involved with?
I know of Hip Hop for peace which is usually organised by G’Ganji records and The Bus Radio, Sarakasi Trust also organize a couple of events at the Sarakasi Dome [in] Nairobi.
18. Could you describe some positive things you have seen hip hop communities doing? Whether it is artists sharing resources, a place to stay, getting linked with work
The greatest of all is that mental support artists give each other and the hope they give to the society through music..I’ve seen people relate to music with a positive message or situations similar to theirs.
19. What hustles are you working on now? is there such a thing as hip hop jobs? ama only hustling? (Talk about any of your projects, musical or otherwise)
Am finalizing my debut album called Mwanzo Mpya (Genesis). Also planning for more videos starting next month and marketing my music. Hip hop as genre of music can be taken as a job which pays if only the house is in order.
20. What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today (zote, Lodwar to Dando to Westi?)
Mainly its peer pressure, drug abuse and for the less fortunate I think its is the poor living conditions at home.
21. How are you interacting with artists across the globe and also particularly in East Afrika?
I have done some collaborations with two; Madish from South Africa and EMC from Tanzania. In Kenya I have featured a couple; Smallz Lethal(Washamba Wenza), Kev Mamba(Washamba Wenza), Latisha aka Laty, Mo, Xcalibur Shahidi, Kuru GB, Chacha…
22. What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?
Young people nowadays have learnt to appreciate whatever talent they have and the society has [embraced] that.
23. How can people learn more about your work, music, performances and projects you are involved in?
people can also like my fanpage:www.facebook.com/QamaKE or follow my twitter handle for updates @Qama_KE
my facebook account is http://www.facebook.com/mahlon.quintine.1
People can also search my videos on youtube ‘Mwanzo Mpya‘and ‘Shilingi‘ or subscribe to my channel ‘qamamusic‘
24. please give a brief bio of uaself.
Born in the late 80’s,been doing music for nine years but my peak was this year  where I had to take music seriously and express maturity in content. I basically do hip hop and spoken word in Swahili, English or a mixture of the two but you’ll notice most of my tracks are in Swahili. I find it to be a beautiful language. My inspiration is derived from the life we live, the people I interact with, issues in our social setting and the dreams I have. Music is the soul’s therapy that’s how I see it.
Update – 24 January 2013 Check out Qama’s new track “Something you need to know” feat. Kev Mamba and Smallz Lethal of Washamba Wenza.
[Note: Kevlexicon made typographical edits in some places]
Please give a brief bio of yourself
kitu sewer straight from the land where the sewer spilt from its channels till he met the pioneers n became the poet one of a force to reckon all thanks to God. Went mute for a while, now back again like never left the saga continues.
Where are u from, what was it like growing up?
I’m from the sprawling east lands estates namely dandora in Nairobi. Born and raised there for the better part of my life. Growin up was tough, just as u expected, hard but i have no regrets having the street education the hard way aaah!
What kind of hustles were people involved in?
Everyone was caught up in anything that could bring something on the table, though most lived hand-to-mouth. Some died while trying to live beyond their means.
What does Hip Hop mean to you, What made you get involved in Hip Hop?
It’s a means of expression of the pressures of the modern time that the youth of today go through and of course it’s my life. I have been an artist since mama’s push. I just found myself in it. I can’t recall a specific start point. It came naturally.
What do the words kazi, vijana and mshamba mean to you?
—-kazi means work like –makin a livin
vijana is the youth, though it mostly sounds junior in the sense that u still struggling
mshamba means native lands –or u could say farm lands dependin on how u wan to express it, the ‘m’ is possessive
What is politicking?
What is mental slavery?
Dependency on something that u have been indoctrinated to due to systems put in place by a selfish elite. It then translates to being a staunch follower of things that u think that you must be aware of yet they really don’t make your life any better. Ni kama vile hakuna mtu anataka kuitwa mshamba ju hujui ways za west.
Can you say anything about the youth drug problems in Kenya?
–it’s funded by people from higher places involved in politics with business interests
Who/ What is promoting violence, who/ what has lessened violence?
–mental slavery n ignorance–of rights -lack of education –the list endless–of lessening i could say arts cos violence is a result of idleness and art is creative thus if u are busy, though at most times we are just preoccupied, you cant find yourself being used as a foot-soldier in the battle of thrones.
How are hiphop artists making money from their music today?
sales though its hard to get a large ready market
sponsorship from well wishers –not enuff –mixtapes are like dinosaurs maaaan!
shows, clothing lines
endorsements –sellouts –all depends on ones own perseverance n smart thinkin. It’s a jungle down here
How do politics and your own personal values impact in you work?
–I’m blind to what doesn’t concern me n concerned with what people turn a blind eye on
Besides rappers, who else do you see doing hiphop, other artists, dancers, graffiti artists, activists, hustlas etc?
you just named em all except djs, and of course the people around me all that positivity and negativity brings around purpose
Name your favourite musical artists, who you are listening to sasa?
Biggy, Nas, Bushman, Dezaree, boot camp clique –a lot of mighty culture n bushman oooooh! Bob u know who! n Dennis brown man the list is endless
What are some of the obstacles encountered during your involvement in the hiphop scene?
The fact that u can hit n still find it hard to sell, especially in Kenya. finding distributional channels is scarce
how have women contributed to hiphop in East Africa?
–or rather where would it be without them as much as there are mishaps lets not forget it’s one of the biggest business enterprises in the world so u can imagine how many salespeople, managers, customers, CEOs, directors… and the fact that women outnumber men in population statistics
What can you say about the Mau Mau kambi, are there any similar community hiphop projects helping young people today?
— Mau Mau still remains one of the best that mentored many a talent that still rock the scene.
It was a platform that inspired n still continues to do so.
There are other projects, for example, I’m right now workin with a group of youth from kitengela who happen to be talented mcs and still are multi talented in other lines of art
What type of community organisations, informal or formal are helping vijana in East Africa leo?
The music n actin industries have proved quite well as way of makin a livin
Could u describe some positive things you have seen hiphop communities do? Whether its artists sharing resources, a place to stay, getting linked with work etc.
I’ve seen hiphop societies makin an example n influencin hopeless young pple from idle minds to creativity. As u know an idle mind is a devil’s workshop and this is the biggest rehab so far cos it need no distinction
What hustlers are you working on now? Is there such a thing as hiphop jobs? ama only hustling? (talk about any of your projects, musical or otherwise)
—–I’d rather u see them, keep n touch, actions speak louder. of course got ma addresses— books, spoken word shows comin
What are some of the obstacles/problems facing in Kenya today (zote Lodwar to Dando to Westi)
Like i said most of it lack of education n self realization thus being easily led to violences by greedy selfish gain motivated politicians.
How are you interacting with artists across the globe and also particularly East Afrika?
Through the internet n I’m lookin forward to spread this sheng / swahili rap further
What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?
Shunning of tribalism and the homeguard mentality [Note: Homegaurd were people armed by the colonizers to fight Mau Mau during the struggle for Kenyan independence]. Youth are givin way to new ideas and joining the civilised world
How can people learn more about your work, music, performances and projects you are involved in?
If its the music it’s all over the internet. Am in the final stages of working on a website whereby the general public will be able to download music, share ideas on socio-economic, environmental issues etc. u will be among the first people to get this info.
Lecture Notes by Kevlexicon, edited by Monaja.
Watch the lecture on youtube.
Kevin Teryek Kusini/Kevlexicon
28 November, 2012
Kazi Kwa Washamba
Hip Hop and Hustling in East Africa
First of all, I’d like to dedicate this lecture to all the East African hip hop heads I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. With this project particularly I’d like to thank Mwongela Kamencu, aka Monaja for editing and for his translation and analysis of “Angalia Saa.”
Brief outline of Kenyan History
I’d like to provide a context for understanding East African hip hop. To this end, I’d like to give a brief outline of Kenyan history.
• The two official languages in Kenya are KiSwahili and English. There are over 42 other local languages, referred to as “mother tongues.” Swahili is a mixture of coastal Bantu and Arabic. Studies have established that Swahili was actually a Bantu language with heavy Arabic influences. The Swahili people existed before the coming of the Arabs. The Swahili language spread inland with the Arab slave trade. English spread with missionary activity, then colonialism, since the 1880s and 1890s.
• In 1920, Kenya became an official colony of the British. White settlers profited from African forced labor on coffee and tea plantations for over 50 years. Local labor struggles seeking higher wages, and benefits were met with police violence. The religious anticolonial resistance movement, Dini ya Msambwa , (composed of Pokot ethnic group) was put down in the Kolloa Affray. This paved the way for long term struggle. A militant group called Mau Mau began large scale resistance. One of the Mau Mau leaders was Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi. On October 20th 1952 the colonial government declared a State of Emergency.
• Europeans’ legalize ethnic group status thru the “Kipande” system. Kipandes allowed Europeans to assign ethnic identities to Africans, dividing the multi-ethnic region. This laid the foundation for future internal conflicts. People were given Kipandes, or passes, limiting them to their areas of habitation, which prevented cohesion between ethnic groups. If an African wanted to leave his region, he needed the signature of a white settler on his kipande.
• During the Emergency, European settlers armed African vigilantes loyal to the colonizers, named the “Home Guards.” The “Home Guards’” role was to protect villlages and assist military and police in the fight against the MauMau rebels. Most of the fighting took place in the Highlands region in Central Kenya also known as the “White Highlands”, where the Kikuyu ethnic group were located. The fighting involved many Kikuyu on both sides, and resembled a civil war.
• Mau Mau fighters included men and women. Various ethnicities and language-speakers were involved with resistance to colonialism. The colonial authorities however tried to depict the movement as an ethnic outfit that mainly involved the Kikuyu.
Hip Hop in East Africa
• During the 1990s, hip hop in Kenya began a shift in emphasis from the imitation of United States artists towards hip hop drawn from local content and in local languages. (In Kenya, Sheng slang is an example of a local language used in hip hop). Mtaani life, or “life in the ghetto” became the focus. Emcees talked about issues ghetto youth could sympathize with, including unemployment, crime, [drugs, ]police harassment and poor living conditions.
• Arguably the most influential sheng rap pioneers in Kenya was the group Kalamashaka, whose members included Rawbar, Joni Vigeti, and Kama. Their single “Tafsiri Hii” (Translate This) gained explosive popularity. K-shaka’s fanbase grew from the students who had gone to university on government scholarships. Other influential sheng rappers included Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, Fundi Frank, K-South, and Ma-shifta. Tanzania in the 1980s there was Kwanza Unit, Hard Blasters, The Diplomatz, Mr 2., …and later, the conscious Swahili rapper Professor Jay, who was enormously influential.
• Following their economic success and wide acclaim, Kalamashaka went on to form Mau Mau kambi in Nairobi. Kambi means “camp” or “base.” Other emcees and hip hop activists helped form a similar base in Mombasa called Ukoo Flani (meaning “a certain clan”). The bases were places for young people from mitaa (ghettos) to avoid getting involved in crime. Young people could rap, breakdance, and build their graffiti skills. Eventually the two kambis merged to form UKOO FLANI MAU MAU (UFMM). [In the present day, hip hop communities continue to support ghetto youth. Communities such as free-to-join MAONO Trust and Kalahari Kambi in Kenya, End of the Weak in Uganda (also EODUB working with Ugandan emcees in NYC)] are helping develop talents from singing to football. In addition many groups provide social and educational services. [Flamez:] Many mtaa artists support upcoming youth, offering places to stay when moving from town to town during hustles, sharing links with promoters, producers, etc.]
U.K.O.O. F.L.A.N.I. M.A.U. M.A.U.
Upendo Kote Olewenu Ombeni Funzo La Aliyetuumba Njia Iwepo
“Love everywhere all who seek teachings of the creator; there is a way”
• From UFMM website: (Note: I edited some of the spelling) [Website opens with a quote from the Mau Mau Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi:
• “It’s better to die on our feet than live on your knees.”
• ….They prefer to be just known
as “ukooflani maumau” whose loose translation from kiswahili
translates to “a certain clan of maumau.” Mau Mau were a guerilla movement
for freedom during [Kenya’s] struggle for independence in the 1950’s. This
group of artists relate to the struggle of their forefathers who
fought for equal opportunities for all….
…The objectives of the group are quality enhancement to enable hiphop
to be the language to pass the real/true message to society. Through
enlightening people on the economic prospects of hiphop they’d like to
prove its viability as a business and a way to sustain an income for
fellow youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. UFMM believe hiphop is a
tested and proven way out of the ghetto, because it has been their
rehabilitation. Each member has a story to tell about how hiphop changed their lives into artistic superiority. Coming from an environment where its an achievement to see the age of 25, and where an average person earns less than $1 a day; UFMM happily prove that with wit, clever poetry, leadership, wisdom and love, one can control their destiny.
Gas Fyatu Interview (emcee, writer, entrepreneur, Ukoo Flani Mau Mau / Moshikali) (Kenya)
• Where are you from, What was it like growing up?
… 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 sorts of small businesses, small kiosks, selling
scrap metals, matatu touts, vegetable vendors, mandazi and chapatti or
roadside. Basically hawkers everywhere.
• What was the Mau Mau camp like?
Mau mau camp was born on the alleys of dandora, by youth with a love
for hip hop music and yearning for 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 acrobats and rehabilitation. It spread all over. Maumau still exists now as an East African movement called ukooflanimaumau with members all over east African cities and towns.
What does hip hop mean to you, What motivated you to become involved?
“…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. Mau Mau camp was a street hang out for people with a love for conscious music. Edutainment- precisely…
….Hip-Hop’s  origins date back as far as late 80’s, the fire was
burning in Tanzania… In the 90’s. the Kenyan rap scene flourished. Pioneering groups like Kalamashaka  set the scene using their vernacular language to win the hearts of many. Similar growth was happening in Kampala…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. [ [Breakdancing] is an art of dancing composed of movements which makes the dancer look like he is literally breaking. It also comprises of many [movements] such as bopping, waves, body spins and also incorporates Capoeira, another form of dance expression who’s origins came from slaves, who spent their time with their hand and feet chained. Slaves 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…] [[Graffiti] was the underground visual way of relaying messages by spray painting public spaces, like street walls in a colorful artistic form and style with illustrations and special scriptures that was only understood by hip hop’s people.] Kenyans took graffiti to another level by using public service vehicles as their canvas. [Aside: Known as “Matatus.” Matatus are privately-owned minibuses that took over as the most affordable means of transportation, after the government bus system collapsed. Often college students create music video mixtapes that play inside matatus. Matatus are flamboyantly decorated with motivational phrases, the likenesses of international and local hip hop artists and celebrities. More recently the government has applied pressure to tone them down, citing noise complaints, etc. ] Hip hop made such a proud stand that [politicians] used the music to [promote] their campaigns.
Economic Policies’ Impact on East Africa
• After Kenyan independence (12, December 1963), international financial institutions began to create a system of debt and aid, demanding East African governments cut spending (“austerity”) and implement Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). These international financial institutions
• include the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
• SAPs were inspired by an economic philosophy known as Economic Neoliberalism. Economic Neoliberalism paved the way for the privatization of social services, such as healthcare, public transportation and education, which were formerly funded by the government thru tax revenue. Nigerian Writer Chinua Achebe claims many of the austerity measures implemented by complicit governments in Africa would not be applied in the Western countries that promote such economic policy.
• East African governments’ debt, resulting from SAPs, makes it difficult for East African leaders to provide adequate services to their citizens, many of whom are young and impoverished.
• In Kenya, the investment in youth and implementation of free primary school education in 2003, perhaps has lead to the country being an economic success story for the East Africa region. However the gap between the rich and the poor has increased steadily.
• Economic Neoliberalism cuts local investment in infrastructure, instead favoring imports and fostering African dependence on foreign aid. In Kenya, there is a proliferation of Mitumba (literally “bundles,” from clothing wrapped in plastic). Second-hand markets sell goods donated by wealthy countries at subsidized prices. Many NGOs acquire clothing meant as donations and sell them. Mitumba are blamed for decline of local textile production. This is an example of decreased economic self-sufficiency in Kenya under Neoliberal Economic policy.
East African Youth
• 43 million people in Kenya. 73% of Kenya’s population is under 30yrs old. The Kenyan Government’s statistics show, 14.6% of the populations is unemployed (as of 2003). Of the 14.6% unemployed, youth constitute 45%. Although 73% of the Kenya’s population is under 30, a majority of Kenyan (and East African) politicians are over the age of 50 [Ntarangwi 68]. Youth are often left out of meaningful political participation, yet exploited when election times come, votes are bought and youth are used to intimidate rival parties.
• International aid organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are left as gap-fillers, to provide services an impoverished government cannot. [The example of Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya, illustrates the failure of both the government and international aid organizations to provide refugee aid and assist local host-communities such as the Turkana ethnic group. Money is mismanaged, and used to benefit NGOs and the Government of Kenya. [Ekuru Aukot] ]
• 83% of Kenya’s population is Christian. Due to the legacy of European missionaries during colonialism, religious institutions are often providers of healthcare and education. Religious ideology is a major factor in the healthcare choices available to Kenyans. HIV/AIDS prevention is limited by the abstinence-only policies promoted by the Catholic Church. The neocon ideology found in George W. Bush’s program, the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) also advocates abstinence-only sex education over condom use. This policy is failing to decrease HIV/AIDS transmission in East Africa.
• The culture of silence regarding sex has also contributed to increased transmission. There’s also a double-standard in which it is considered acceptable for young men to have knowledge about sex, while young women are stigmatized as “promiscuous” or “loose” for seeking information that would safeguard their own sexual health. Also, the use of male condoms is often a decision the male partner makes.
• Fortunately, many hip hop artists speak out and promote safe sex and condom use. Artists, such as Circute and Jo-el, distribute condoms at their shows. [Technically Circute and Joel are considered by other Hip Hop artistes as part of the genge outfit but for all practical purposes they are rappers.] Many artists feel the disproportionate number of femcees in hip hop reflects the larger gender inequality in East African society. Many artists also admit many women make invaluable contributions, doing behind-the-scenes work, promoting hip hop, acting as event organizers etc.
Hip Hop, Local Languages, and “Piracy”
• Hip Hop has been a medium for East African youth, particularly males, to uniquely position themselves in a context that is simultaneously international and local. The choice of Nairobi rappers to perform in slang, known as “Sheng,” showcases this reality. Sheng is a mixture of the two official languages of Kenya, KiSwahili and English, utilizing KiSwahili grammar structure, in addition to words borrowed from several of the more popular, local, vernacular spoken in Nairobi (such as Dholuo and Kikuyu languages). Though sheng rap was initially unpopular, it found its audience among young university students that graduated on government scholarships. [It has also gained popularity to a younger audience – high school kids like it too.]
• The form of hip hop and deejaying originated in the Bronx. Artist mixed pre-recorded materials in a process of positive “piracy,” that later allowed emcees to express and critique the ills they saw in their communities. Unfortunately, hip hop has also been appropriated by people whose interests are disconnected or even hostile to poor black communities.
MC Kah discusses drugs in East Africa:
MC Kah: “Of course many people blame the victims for example if they find you doing drugs (madre) they blame you as an individual. In the real sense however, it is the responsibility of you as an individual plus the society as a whole. Therefore, the assessment should not be one-sided when you look at that. There are people who will benefit from those drugs so they will sell them. There are other people who get into those drugs because of escapism, while there are people who get into it because of peer pressure. There are many circumstances that influence people to get into drugs but I think the biggest influence is the availability of the drugs… there is clearly someone behind that. This person has a distribution network; there is a system that he operates under – he is not just your ordinary guy. So if it was up to the ordinary person,– we wouldn’t have a big drug problem. I basically blame the people who make the drugs. They shouldn’t get to the people in the first place. When they do reach the people however, people should have an open mindset to understand the drugs problem because they affect people who are poor or people in depression. Blaming the individuals it not the way to go, that would only bring about temporary solutions and the individuals involved would relapse. It is the responsibility of the individual and society; society should look at a drug addict as one of their own, and as a human being. The individual concerned should also look at himself as a human being and accept his mistakes. It is not easy to get out of drugs once you get into them.” Flamez Mshamba Mwenza agrees, “the people responsible for stopping [drugs] are the ones dealing behind the scenes.” ”It’s the life in Dandora,. The hood itself, you know, it has a lot of problems,” he says. “And [for the] guys, it was either, you do music, or you do something else or become a thug, because a lot of guys in Dandora are thugs…Dandora now is so much infected with cocaine and heroin and gangsters.” Flamez feels “mitaa kwa mitaa kampaini” [Hood to hood campaign”] is a positive force in combating drug problems. Many hip hop kambi [including bases, such as Mau Mau kambi, Kalamashaka started in Nairobi], not only provided activities and fostered the development of hip hop artists, but also served as drug rehabilitation centers.
• I’d like to return to the idea of “Negative” Piracy.
• This “negative” piracy of hip hop is nothing new in East Africa. Tanzanian artist Professor Jay wrote a song “Ndio Mzee,” which criticized politicians who make impossible promises in order to get elected, and extract public money through corruption. Through fear of the song being hijacked (by both the incumbent and opposition parties), he delayed its release until after the general elections in Tanzania. However, Professor Jay was proud to be honored (alongside a former prime minister and an ambassador) by the Tanzanian government for “sensitizing people on good governance.” His songs are famous for containing “mada nzito” (serious themes), talking about equality for women, HIV/AIDS and political accountability.
• Piracy affects hip hop artists in East Africa in negative and positive ways. At any kiosk in Nairobi, any artist’s music can be burned onto a customized mixtape for 200bob or less (about 3USD). This creates a larger audience, but also reduces profits. However, East African artists have also been able to extend the market for their music by selling online. Many successful hip hop artists make money from doing performances rather than from record sales.
Burney Mc Interview (Uganda/Luga Flow Army)
Uganda has its own movement localizing hip hop, similar to sheng rap in Kenya. The movement is called Luga Flow. I talked with Burney MC of Luga Flow Army to get his perspective.
Talk about the ‘Luga Flow Revolution’ in 2005.
…in 2005 MCS so much started celebrating rapping in Local languages. Before that it was mostly rap in English. Of course rappers started rapping in Local Languages way back from the 90’s but it wasn’t until 2005 when it was termed LUGA FLOW  by Bataka Squad member Babaluku. So 2005 was a big year for HipHop in Uganda. They…used to just rap about rap  like Saba Saba’s track Tujjababya meaning we will blow up/ have a break through. A lot of HipHop nights were started and the Annual Uganda HipHop Summit [began.] Since then this was like the birth of rap in local languauges termed as LUGA FLOW.
…. [the] first time I heard rap in Luganda [language] I was just surprised on how those words were twisted to an extent of making sense. [I] got my hands on a bataka squad mixtape, which had tracks talking about mostly  villages where they came from…rapping about Kampala and stuff like that. But it was just so interesting that it was in a language I understood best.
You know usually its always hard when rapping in your Language and you
don’t keep it real, its very hard to be rapping in Luganda and you talk about the Bling Bling. Because that’s not our Life. I believe this was the biggest change the LUGA FLOW MOVEMENT brought to UG hipHop. Now, MCs started being real rather rapping in English and imitating the American rappers. We were talking about the Hardships the people go through, so LugaFlow just allows you to be true to who you are hence allowing people relate to what you trying to pass to them.
Talk more about End of the Weak, what it’s mission is and how it works
End of the weak being a global movement ..each chapter has it goals
..what brings us together is the MC CHALLENGE. With End of the weak
UGANDA we run a project called
Hip Hop Artists for Empowerment
The Hip Hop Artists for Empowerment Project is
dedicated to providing youth education, HIV/AIDS
awareness, female empowerment, cultural develop-
ment and artistic growth, through Hip-Hop culture, in
So how have we been doing this from Day to Day, through hip Hop Artist
for Empowerment project, as End of the Weak, we donate free performances
to different organizations that [share] the same goals we [have].
So here I call up for those MCS that came from the MC challenge, and
still wanna support, to come through and help whoever invites us to be
part of a positive initiative!
1. Angalia Saa