1. Share some of your mistari and talk about where they came from, what they talk about, and what inspired you to write them.
CHOMA CHOMA FIRE MI NASPIT DRAGON FIRE
MOTO UNAOCHOMOKS MDOMONI KUWACHOMOA CHATU PANGONI
FIRE BURN BIG FISH PAPA BAHARINI HADI SMALL FISH OMESH KISIMANI FIRE!!
INACHOMA HADI BOMU ZA ALQAIDA ALSHABAAB BOKO HARAM WAACHE ZA OVYO
NIKO FERE NIKO READY KU SET IT OFF KI KDF WESTGATE NA TERRORIST KUMPLUCK OUT KIHIGHER SHOTTAA!!
Between November 2013 last year and April 2014 this year I had the blessed priviledge of participating in the SPOKEN WORLDS NAIROBI BERLIN PROJECT which is an international literature exchange project between Nairobi artists and Berlin artists. It focuses on contemporary aesthetics of Poetry, Spoken Word and Hip Hop. It is a project by Literaturewerkstatt Berlin, Maono Cultural Group Dandora, Kwani Trust Nairobi and Goethe Institute Nairobi, in co-operation with other stake holders in Berlin like Gangway and Heinrich-Boll-Stiftung.
During the Nairobi workshop OgutuMuraya, LMNZ, CheckMate Mido, Mc Josh and I composed a song which we titled FIRE. We were inspired by the cross-cultural and cross-racial Unity that we shared and exchanged, which ignited a fire in each and every one of us to present our best works and ideas. At the same time bado nilikuwa nakula moto juu ya rysto ya Westgate na vile gava inaburry heads in the sand ikikam to issues za security in the country. You know, I am a Hip Hop Mc, I don’t just rap, I am Hip Hop and according to the Hip Hop, one is supposed to address legitimate concerns and issues that affect people in society before telling guyz to go have fun. So in my particular verse I talk about the impact of our unity and lyrical fire upon the listeners.
This next mistari are inspired by the Constitution implementation process where by initially there was a lot of debate and hulla baloo about what it was to constitute of, yet I thought it is so simple, what the general population needs is balanced distribution of resources and justice in society accompanied by good leadership, with not just zero, but negative 10 tolerance on corruption. The inspiration is also from female leadership that I admire and any women who have had a great impact in initiating positive change in society, in Africa and the globe. Women have always been innovators from ancient times. In fact this verse had the honour of being translated into a German Poem by Birgit Kreipe, a renowned poet in Germany.
TIBA NI KUGAWA VISAWA, DAWA NI KATIBA INA USAWA,
YAWACHUNJUNA YAWAKUNAKUNA KA KICHWANI WANA CHAWA,
MASWALA YA ARTHI, KANISA NA KOTI ZA KHADHI,
WEPESI NDO UZITO WA MIMBA UAAVYAJI, USAWA WA MALI UGAVI,
UMETAJWA UKEKETAJI, MAJI USHURU KWA ARDHI?
MJUMBE? LINANI FULANI HALIFIKI SHINANI KUTILIA MAANANI
MATAKAWA YA MWANAMKE MIJINI NA MASHAMBANI,
THAT’S WHY BADO TUNA HAJA YA HAKI NA USAWA HALI,
SEE WE’VE GROWN FROM LITTLE ACORNS,
NOW WE ARE MIGHTY OAK TREES,
HEKIMA TWASIMAMISHA KIMBUYU WA MIAKA ALFU LELA U LELA
AMA MLIMA KIRIMAARA, HADI MWENYE SHIBE AMTAMBUE ALIYE NA NJAA,
BONGE LA GAP, VIDONGE NA CRAP,
MEZA ZAKO TEMA ZAO, WAKAUKE NDIMI TUKIJA SISI KWA SISI KICECCILE MBARIRE,
VITENZI VYAJA KIGRACE OGOT, MAPAMBANO NAENDELEZA VILE WINNIE MANDELA,
ULIZA WAKAMBA WAWILI NIMESURVIVE KILA VITA, IRON FISTED KIKARUA,
MOTHERLY LIKE CHARITY, MACHUNGWA YALITOIVA KIJULIA OJIAMBO, NIPO
HALISI KIWANGARE MAATHAI KUPIGANIA MITI,
MWANGAZA NASAMBAZA KIESTER PASSARIS, YO MI SITOKI SICHOKI, NIITE MANDUNG‘U NJOKI,
UONGOZI MIKONONI KISARAH GODANA, AGNES NDETEI, SAA HII SI NDIO RAIS WA WATU,
NI RAHISI KUKUKWACHU, VICHAA KA SISI, TUMEKITA MIZIZI VILE VICHAKA SISI.
2. Where are you from?
My origin is Western Kenya and I grew up in various parts of our country coz we moved a lot due to my parents’ occupation. As a matter of fact I speak most of the tribal languages in Kenya because of being brought up in all these areas. When I got to early teenage my parents settled in Nairobi.
What was it like growing up?
I was exposed to all kinds of musical instruments, both traditional and classical, I settled for the Piano and Keyboard but I can figure out the basics of any instrument without difficulty. That exposure has shaped the kind of Femcee and Musician that I am today and it also influences the kind of beats that my ears and emotions get attracted to. As a teenager I was very moody and liked spending a lot of time by myself. There was and is always music playing in my parents’ house but it was usually their flavor, which was good coz it was all kinds of music from Harry Belafonte, Miriam Makeba, Kanda Bongoman, Letta Mbulu, ABBA, The Beetles, Michael Jackson, Lucky Dube, Yvone Chakachaka, Handel, Mortzart, Brahams and this one whose music was crazy but I loved it everytime it was played…Peter Ilichy Ivanovichi Tchaichovsky.
When my parents were out of the house we would change the flavor a bit. One day I was having one of my mood swings and some music was playing but I wasn’t feeling it, then my brothers played a DJs mix from one of our cousins who was a DJ and suddenly I was up in spirits and I was all over the place asking who the artists were and from then on that was the only music I listened to all the time everytime, I even started writing their lyrics so I could rap along, they were akina Nastradamus, KRS One, Dead Prez, JayZee, DMX, EVE, Mobb Deep, Tupac, Rah Digga, MC Lyte, Queen Latifa, Sole, Queen Pen, Protoje, the whole of Wu Tang Clan, Bahamadia, Snoop Doggy Dog, Doc DRE, Lil kim, Craig Mark, Notorious BIG, Laurin Hill, Fugees, Obie Trice, Xibit, Bone Thugs n Harmony, Twister, Mystical, the list is very very long and I listened and studied all of them, their music changed my life, Hip Hop renewed my life psychologically!!!
When kenyan hip hop emerged, it just drove me crazy to the extent that during holidays I would spend all my time following my brothers to studios and events, when I knew my way around these places I started going alone because I was researching sort of. I wouild get to the venue of the event early enough to gain access to the back of the stage where all the artists would be and I would just sit at the coner and look at them and how everything was working.
Then when the show began I would either be at the front with the crowd but when I was really interested I would stand somewhere strategic at the coner of the stage where I got a good look of the performance from behind to see how the artist co-ordinates with the DJ, backup singers, dancers and so on and the crowds’ reaction, oh, it was very exciting for me, and the suspense of having to explain why I was standing there was also good coz susprisingly I was never shoved off by the security or anything, they always used to say ‘’ah leave her, she is a Msanii’’, and I wasn’t even one yet.
Eventually I started writing my own lyrics and my style came out more hardcore. My first day to record in a studio was in a Hip Hop song called “Mafala Na” in an album called Jawabu Dance and it was a collaboration of ABBAs, JAWABU and myself. When BAMBOO heard my verse he said I was the Lady of Rage. Later on I asked around why he had said that and I was laughed at coz at the time, I didn’t know that the ‘Lady of Rage’ was a huge Femcee. So I looked up her profile and music and SHE BLEW ME AWAY with her style, and I thought, ‘’is that the person am being compared to’? WOW. That inspired me to study more Femcees and it has shaped the kind of Top Femcee that I am today.
3. What kinds of hustles were people involved in?
Musically, all kinds of income generating activities from Event organizations, Sale of mercherndise in events, Concert organization and performances, Rap Battles, Street Bashes e.t.c.
4. What does Hip Hop mean to you? What made you get involved in Hip Hop?
To me Hip Hop is an international culture of consciousness that provides for all races tribes, religions and styles of people, uniting us as one multi-skilled, multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-racial people commited to the development of peace. Hip Hop encourages us to have the ability to define, defend and educate ourselves towards the protection and the development of our self-worth through knowledge and purpose. This in turn makes us present our best works and ideas always due to the development of our natural and learned skills.
Corporates, Companies, NGOs, Politicians, groups and individuals are all benefiting from the use of Hip Hop though interpretation and exploitation of the terminology so all who are deep into it are encouraged by Hip Hop to answer sensitive questions regarding Hip Hop principles and proper presentation of its elements. It has invested in us the power to promote, teach, interpret and defend its principles and elements. Corporates’ use of the language of sheng to promote and advertise their products, when its developers are not yet getting renumerated for it because Sheng has become a spectrum that cannot also be accessed to be owned by any other person or group other than Hip Hop since it is our Seventh Element of Hip Hop known as Street Language..
BANKIKA NA KCB– Kenya Commercial Bank
BAMBA MBAO– Safaricom
SHINDA MILLI– Standard Group
SONKO– Nairobi Senator’s nic name that appeals to the youth and played a huge part in his winning the senators seat because most youths voted for him just because of that.
I am involved in Hip Hop because I have seen it and still see it positively changing me and other people. I know of guyz who were street thugs with no option in life but once they discovered that they had a talent in rap, then they changed and became Wasanii. It is Hip Hop that rescued me economically when I went broke, through MCing and street
enterprenrealism coz I performed in concert showz n got paid n I sold my CDz and other mercherndise n made money out of it. These are hustles I had never imagine, yet the spheres of Hip Hop taught me that side and way of life to survive as a young mother. During our Spoken worlds tour to Berlin, we happened to visit a male detention facility, MC KAH, OCTOPIZZO, OLAD, ISABEL and myself, in an educational project and poetry workshop.
During the workshop, we separated into groups and each one of us artists had a group of around seven each, to teach about Hip Hop and Poetry. My class was very surprising and inspiring, mark you, some of them have been convicted for murder n deep shit like that. So I talked to them about Hip Hop and explained to them about its elements,then I showed them 10 minutes of the Hip Hop Resurrection DVD and told them that they do not have to necessarily rap, but one could come up with anything they can think of according to their understanding of what Hip Hop is from the whole session. One extremely shy guy came up with a brilliant graffitti of HIP HOP on a sheet of paper he had, I was amazed, he was too shy to stand up, which was a requirement when presenting your work, but he got away with it coz everyone agreed, the grafitti was beautiful, brilliant and he did it in FIVE MINUTES!!
Another surprising duo was called Saddam, with Ishmail, his counterpart, the two are always together and they are very tight MCz who have done a video together about the life in detention, a crazy crazy video, but , you will never see it till they come out so…anyway, Ishmail came up with a very tight spoken word verse about Hip Hop as a culture. Saddam came up with a very tight verse with a very crazy flow, and he drew a very crazy graffitti of huge speakers, a huge crowd of fans and a femcee rocking them on the mic, guess who she is?.
..there was another one called Musa who came to present his work in front of us but was very shy and he walked ahead not very sure of himself with slouched shoulders. His friends encouraged him and when he rapped his verse,it was so tight with a good flow so much so that we had to make him repeat it and we clapped for him happily as he walked back to his chair, shoulder high and full of purpose. They had their spirits uplifted by Hip Hop and had their talents elevated by Hip Hop because with these discoveries, the institution has the capacity to develop on these talents and follow them up even after doing their time. Their teachers agreed that they are a talented group. It was an amazing experience and yet we don’t speak the same language, ISA and OLAD translated for us, but you can see our common likeness and relation to Hip Hop and its elements across our races.
5. What do the words ‘Kazi’,’ Vijana’ and ‘Mshamba’ mean to you?
Kazi is any kind of work especially one that involves either great use of physical and intellectual energy and it actually gets one sweating. For instance, writing and recording songs especially rap songs, is a lot of work. That’s is why most people sweat when they are writing and recording songs because it is work. I always used to think that it was the humidity that usually occurs in the booth coz of the way booths are always constructed, (no ventilation and thinkly cushioned walls) so when we were at the studio with the Spoken Worlds artists, I came out of the booth and wondered why I was sweating and it was only one verse, it is Diamondog (a serious MC and DJ from Angola, based in Berlin) who told me that I am sweating because I am working and my kind of punchlines require a lot of energy for them to sound the way they are supposed to sound.
Vijana in pure Swahili is both male and female youths. The singular for it is Kijana. In Sheng, Kijanaa is a young boy. A very young girl in Sheng has many other words.
Mshamba literally means a person who is ‘not enlightened’ yani muthii hajachanuka due to the fact that he or she lives in the countryside. It sometimes means ‘backward’ especially in terms of civilization and technology. In Kiswahili it means ‘mtu wa mashambani’ yani a rural area/countryside person.
6. What is ‘’Politicking’’?
It is leaders giving empty promises during political party campaigns only to fail in the fulfillment of these promises. It is when leaders run to the press and media to battle each other instead of tackling issues that affect the people.
It is when leaders in parliament focus their discussions on trivial matters like making Miraa chewing a hot topic when mothers and children are suffering, instead of taking that opportunity to discuss critical issues that affect the citizenry like Health and Food Security and the general security of the country. And even when they make a tiny effort to talk about serious issues, they politic around it instead of giving it the seriousness it deserves.
7. What is ‘’mental’’ slavery?
You know, any System is about the art of social control whereby both the hero and the villain are taken and put in one place thereby neutralizing their effect in society. We do not have a problem with the neutralization of villains in society but there is every problem with neutralizing the positive effect of a hero in society today. Thus mental slavery is when a peoples’ mind is set to follow a certain path oblivious of the fact that there is always a choice and an option in many situations.
For instance, kenyan politics is mental slavery coz the leaders we elect keep politicking from january to january, each with his and her opinion on what ‘’serikali’’ should do as if ‘’government is a separate entity from them yet we elect them to be the government and put things into place and ensure institutions actually work. Each election finds the country politicking and in return fuels the rest of this politicking until the next election, within no time, decades are gone with no serious change and this leads to more politicking, what with freedom of speech and all. Politics has also created the mentality that one’s own tribesman must be president for there to be more opportunities on the table, but I think anybody qualified can lead, its just that even in my own tribe we have very brilliant minds that can lead my country the same way as there are also qualified persons in other tribes so where do we draw the line? The solution could be that one does their ten year term and exit peacefully thus giving other tribesmen and women a chance to lead too. The problem is also leaders hanging on to their seats for too long with or without delivery and the mental slavery here is that people keep voting these non performing leaders back in to power.
The education system is also a huge form of mental slavery coz students go to school to get employed in future and whatever they are taught does not make them any nobler citizens but a mass of people looking for jobs in urban centers. Very few go to school in order to innovate, create employment and change the world in one way or the other. The world is full of mental slavery, women bleaching their dark skin color in order to be fairer skinned and others tanning their light skin color in order to be darker skinned, women wearing weaves on top of their natural hair in order to look more beautiful coz of media pressure and propaganda, pastors who extort money from their followers have mentally enslaved them into believing that they are ‘planting seeds of blessings and God’s favor’. Suicide bombing is also one huge form of mental slavery where one is intellectually and spiritually enslaved into the misinterprations of Holy Verses.
8. Do you have a ‘’philosophy of education’’ you would like to share with us?
Education is the key but who said we all have to pass throught that very same door? Sky is the limit and Practice makes perfect for you got talent. My Grandfather bought my father , Peter Akwabi, a small guitar when he was in primary school and my father figured it out without formal training. When he eventually got an acoustic guitar, he became and still is one of the best guitarists who ever lived, playing alongside George Mukabi, Daudi Kabaka, Fadhili Williams. He even played guitar alongside Harry Belafonte and Harry Belafonte was surprised by the intricacy of my father’s ‘’Mutibo” style of guitar playing, a style that originates from Western Kenya. So even before education, everyone has an inborn talent and a God given gift in one area or another and these need to be nurtured, if possible early. I was once told of a mature man who never went to school but was on the transport business of lorries. He was very rich and he used to keep his own records….he wrote his numbers as sticks so he could count them.
9. What was it like performing on ‘’Kilio Cha Haki’’?
At the time I had not matured lyrically nor mentally yet everybody told me I was a serious MC and not just a rapper, this inspired me to perfect my style and has contributed and shaped the kind of MC that I am today. Imagine being in the same album with Johnny Vigeti of Kalamashaka, Kitu Suwer and (RIP) Gwiji of Mashifta, Juliani, Kantai, General Murage, Shaban Robert of Kalamashaka, Agano Mkamba wa pili, Abby, Kama of kalamashaka, Rah godess, CheezNbrain, Mc Kah, Chima, Candy, the list of the hardest and the best MCs that ever walked the earth is endless. Those who had the priviledge of sampling the album recognize these real cats am talking about and big up to all you who were part of the Kilio Cha Haki Family.
10. Can you say anything about the youth drug problem in kenya?
YES! The first culprit to be eliminated is the person who owns the tonnes of drugs before they get to the end user. Arrest the boss, the producer, the transporter, the storer, the wholesaler, the retailer and the pusher, then we can have a discussion on what to do with the consumer/addict.
On the other side of the coin, drugs are also used and abused by people in the professional sphere and the corporate world due to the loads of mental activity and physiacal activity one is engaged in and the amount of performance that one intends to put in because stimulants make the brain work at double speed efficiently but the problem is when all the work is done and one is on their low they still feel like they need a fix and also workloads never decrease so the more you take the more you work and the more you work the more you take and when the work is done you still need to have a relaxer, it’s a psychological vicious circle that one is better left out of.
Last week there was a police raid on some of the broccolii bases in the hood and I was almost applauding the police for a job well done until later on I found out that the raid was on a specific lowly pusher and his network because he had gotten drunk the previous night at a night club and bragged about his plot to ice a certain police office so the whole force was up in arms the next morning burning malboro green bases down and arresting anybody around the base, questioning all and sundry. The raid had nothing to do with tackling the drug issue in the hood, so my thumbs up quickly became a thumbs upside down.lol! 0% on ‘em.
11. Who/ What is promoting violence? Who/ What has lessened violence?
Religion. The hugest rift in my country currently is between muslims and christians and this is because some religious leaders are preaching misinterpreted messages from the Holy Books and causing religious intolerance among countrymen especially the youth who need direction and leadership.
Politics. Political fat cats promote violence by mobilising the youth into destructive demonstrations.
Unequal distribution of resources which creates a visibly huge gap between the rich and the poor. This makes people grab land that is not theirs and put a group of youths to guard it and when the owners of the piece of land show up, it is war and the people fighting do not know who or what they are fighting for because all they were told is ‘take this money, take this panga/pistol and guard this piece of land with your life. This week in a place called Kitengela there was discovered a mass grave of people who have died from these land wars that have always been there but never made it to the limelight until this week.
Poor justice systems promote violence by pushing people into taking the law into their own hand thus creating mob justice because people are tired of gangsters walking scot free even after being arrested.
Our leaders also promote violence because they preach war indirectly and directly everytime they get a chance to talk to the public. Some talk of peace but their actions say the complete opposite, like Uhunye saying unpaid teachers, nurses, doctors and lecturers must be peaceful, patient and give the government time to come up with their money, but he goes ahead and pays money for the Anglo-leasing scandal without blinking an eye, how are these unpaid civil service workers supposed to feel? that there is no money for them but there is money for paying corruption ghosts? This is what is making most of them go to the streets to demonstrate.
Negative tribalism promotes voilence to a great extent because now more that ever , people associate with their own and identify with their own and so if unity and nationalism is not preached constantly, we often immediately forget that we are a country and fall back into our tribal cocoons and work on our tyrany of numbers.
Hip hop culture has lessened voilence because there is no room for violence and crime in the culture of Hip Hop and its elements. This culture engages one in positive intellectual and physical activities that lead to social progress as opposed to other activities that are monetary but lead to social decadence.
Positive tribalism has lessened violence because it makes us all appreciate and actually enjoy our individual, tribal and cultural differences. For example TV programmes whose content employs huge tribal influences from all the tribes of Kenya brings out our originality and makes the open tribalism positive and constructive.e.g. Vitimbi, Vioja Mahakamani, Papa Shirandula, Desperate housewives of Kawangware, Churchill Live, Hapa Kule News and Sirkal ya Bibi.
Music has lessened violence because it has a way of touching the listeners’ emotions. Hip Hop content focuses on positive messages of peace and by giving the idle youth an alternative to crime, they can write poems, record them and sell that music to make a living, what with social media and all.
12. How are Hip Hop artists making money out of their music right now?
Though royalties from copyright companies, though royalties from Ring-tone companies, selling music as downloads online, selling CDs and DVDs in shops and one-on-one , renumerations from public and private concert performances, album launches, renumerations from adverticements and jingles, selling song as backup tones, facilitating workshops, organizing concerts.
13. How do politics and your own personal values impact your work?
As a Hip Hop Cultural Specialist, the politics of the day affect the content of my lyrics because Hip Hop Culture expects of me to speak out against injustice, eliminate poverty and share a more caring society by highlighting legitimate issues that affect the common mwananchi. The politics of the day play a huge part in these issues because even in Berlin, professors thought our poetry was too political, yet this is our reality and we rhyme about it until the day we will have the kind of leadership that is required in our country.
14. Besides rappers, who else do you see also doing Hip Hop?
Breakdancers/acrobats, MCs engaged in community projects, Beat Boxers, DJs, BBoys, street fashion designers, politicians who use sheng in their slogans, corporates who use the sheng language in their adverts, and everybody engaging in any enterpreneural street income generating activity and everyone working with a Hip Hop artists from producers to presenters.
15. Name your favourite musical artist, who are you listening to sasa?
Its hard to pin-point one coz there are very many good rappers and MCs out there and , with technology, all music available is accessible so this is my take….i give the music I listen to different meditations coz I either listen to music strictly for inspiration, knowledge and skills which involves concentration, rhyme book, pen and mzuka, or I just listen to music for entertainment which means dancing to it, breaking my neck to it or something.
Most new school cats are really good but they lack originality because they sound exactly like the very good oldschool Mcs that are known. Most new school music sounds exactly like what back then when we are in school, used to be called ‘’Dirty Dirty South rap’’ because of the same flow no flow style and it was akina Lil Wheezy and akina BirdMan who were known for it but they were not recognized lyrically or skillswise because their music sounded odd, off beat and was mostly for entertainment and yet at the time most Mcs who were releasing songs were focusing on flows,skills, knowledge and East Coast/West Coast Hip Hop. Nobody sounded like the other, DMX was the only one with that unique voice, Tupac and Biggie sounded themselves and no one else sounded like them, Erica Badu was the only one sounding the way she does and so does Jill Scoll, MC Lyte sounded herself and no other female mc sounded like her. I love and will listen to Papoose and Eve for inspiration but I will bounce to Nikki Minaj for entertainment because she has studied and commercialized Eve’s hardcore style. I love Kendrick Lamar but listening to him I hear a lot of Nastradamus, an Mc I listened to A LOT growing up, so, Thanx, but I will continue listening to my Oldschool Nastradamus for inspiration in the crib yet I will bounce to Lamar anytime in the club even with that Papoose diss track on him lol!!! those were STRAIGHT BARZ, I hope he answers back if he hasn’t alredy. I enjoy dancing to Camp Mulla but I will continue listening to Talib Kweli and K-South Flava, timeless music, for inspiration.
16. What are some obstacles you have encountered during your involvement in Hip Hop scenes?
I have been in the music industry for over five years and have seen a great transition because technology has changed the way we do business. The challenges and obstacles that were there like three to four years ago have been overcome by technology.
Understanding the business of music was a problem because there was a time when there was no structured music organization and piracy got the better cut from the cake but now there are structured organizatons like MCSK, KAMP, and PRISK which monitor an artists’ music and how it is played then they pay the artist royalties. MCSK actually has got Scientific monitoring of music and it has helped many artists who were not getting royalties before especially those in rural areas since there are regional offices where the artist can register their music without necessarily travelling all the way to nairobi. And the royalties are sent directly to their accounts so there are no hustles of travelling all the way to the city to get renumerated for their music. Some actually pay through MPESA directly to their mobile phones so one does not have to go lining up in the banks to get paid royalties.
A short while ago there was no access to credit facilities for the artist but now with government and corporate support, one can access funds for promoting themselves as artists. E.g though the UWEZO funds, Youth Enterprise Development Fund.
There was poor access to information but with social media and general technology, one can google and wikipedia anything and get answers, even if it is about music and entertainment.
There was lack of proper skills and knowledge but these are accessible in many ways like the way organizations involved in music hold quaterly and Annual general meetings to sensetize artists on any developments.
The market at some point was saturated with cheap low quality entertainment but with technology, now it is equally saturated with good quality entertainment, it just depends with what you want and where you access it from.
17. Why do you think there aren’t as many femcees?
There are many femcees but everyone has been mentally enslaved to think otherwise. First, there are rappers and MCS/Femcees, there are many rappers but a good number of MCs/Femcees, when you compare the number of Femcees to Mcs, we are almost equal. But when you compare the number of Femcees to a combination of both male rappers and MCs, that’s when you come up with the ridiculous conclusion that there are few femcees. There are very many rappers but a good number of Femcees and MCs. Do we want to know the difference between a rapper and an MC/Femcee? Here it is- for starters, rap is not an element of Hip Hop, it is the poetry and all that pertains to how you sweeten that poetry with rhymes, metaphors, forms and styles that make it appealing to the listener, but MCing/Femceeing is one of the elements of Hip Hop whereby one is expected by the culture of Hip Hop to present their best works and ideas while tackling legitimate social and political concerns in the effort to speak out against injustice and share a more caring nation.
18. How have women contributed to Hip Hop in East Africa?
Most women in Hip Hop are part of projects that fulfill other elements aside from MCing, like fashion, language, knowledge and business. Organizing concerts and album launches for various artists. Facilitating workshops in different centers and schools to sensetize the students and the public about Hip Hop and the proper interpretation of its elements. Radio and TV presentation of Hip Hop programmes to promote the artists and play their music for them to get renumerated eventually. Working in community projects as trainers in the arts and crafts.
19. Do you feel it is more difficult for women to succeed in Hip Hop than in other music genres? If so explain why?
NO, infact as a woman, I have had my share of successes in the industry, for instance I have three albums and have collaborated in more than four albums which means I have been a huge part of over seven albums and the lyrics keep coming. I have also had the priviledge of facilitating workshops in secondary schools to discuss about Hip Hop, I have had the priviledge of having three of my songs translated into German poems and I have also translated German poems into rap verses, I have the energy to kick a show alone for one hour non-stop, my music is available online at mdundo and can be downloaded also as a SKIZA tune, I have had the priviledge of teaching about HipHop in panel discussions with international proffessors , male and female prisons and detention facilities in Berlin,….success is equated relatively different because people consider different achievements as successes so it depends with the direction your music is taking and how you are shaping and branding and re-branding youself as an artist. To some artists, just getting their song recorded in the studio, mixed and mastered on Cd is a huge success so it is relative.
20. How do you feel about women being sexualixed in Hip Hop? Do you feel sexualization is always a negative thing?
The time has come for women to be viewed in terms of their intellectual capacity on top of gaeneological features so to answer the latter question, no, sexualization isn’t always a negative thing. If utilized in the right context that is gainful to the woman, then no , it is not always a negative thing, for instance, if a model in bikinis will boost the marketing and sales of an artist’s video, then that’s a good thing for both the artist and that model.
But if sexualization is used in a manner that is demeaning to the woman, then it is a negative thing so it depends on the context in which it is used. For example, am a full tomboy, baggy pants, a bounce and all and that’s how I rolls, but if my advisers told me to dress more sexy for an event or for a video shoot that requires that look because it is appealing to all the fans and not just my die hard fans, and is likely to boost the sales of my music, then that aspect of sexualization is positive. But if my adviser told me to dress sexy to appeal to a certain “boss” for a certain ‘’deal’’, then that kind of sexualizartion is negative because the boss is most likely to take advantage of me thinking that sex is the message am sending across. For women, it takes wisdom to know how to deal with these things..
To answer the former, I feel it is a matter of personal choice and wisdom because some chicks put themselves in a situation of being directly sexualized since they think they can just suck cock to get to the top but the game is not that easy, people do work hard to get to where they aspire to be.
I mean, we have a music channel back here and they have a Booty compe thingi going whereby every week they present the chick with the biggest booty, from the pics these chicks put on facebook and other social media networks, that kind of sexualization is positive because it builds the name of the artist, differently ofcause but that is what the fans want, sort of like the customer is always right even when they are wrong. The industry is so commercialised right now so much such that skillz do not really matter anymore than hype so u need wisdom to know how you brand youself as an artist especially a female one coz you also don’t want to come off as trashy or bitchy or loose.
21. I’ve heard male emcees and Hip Hop fans in Kenya say that discouragement of women in Hip Hop has something to do with churches. They talk about churches promoting a double standard in which women are expected to uphold a certain “morality” where as men are free to do as they please. Do you feel there is a perception that femcees in Hip Hop are acting immoral? Any comments on how religious traditions impact the ability of femcees to succeed in Hip Hop?
So it is heresay? Lol! See, when it comes to the Kenyan Hip Hop scene, there is the Gospel industry and Secular which is further divided into Mainstream and Underground and none of the femcees from both genres are affected by immorality coz for you to get to the level of a femcee which means an Mc, most often than not , you are conscious.
Kawaida rappers who have not reached the skill level that warrants them to be called Mc or Femcee for that matter, are the ones mostly affected by immorality if they are the kind of people who would do ANYTHING for money and fame. And its not like the men are free to do as they please. It boils down to personal principles, ethics and moral codes that one has placed upon themselves. There is a huge battallion of Hip Hop Souldiers of the Mad Love Family who uphold and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Hip Hop in music and also as a culture.e.g . JayFro, Sam L, Mc Mhubiri, Kamlesh and Number 8 just to mention but a few.
22. Do you think perceptions of women in Kenya and womens’ roles in society are responsible for some of the difficulties femcees encounter?
For one, femcees face the same difficulties Mcs encounter coz we are in the same game each making their own presence felt in one way or another so maybe the former has nothing to do with the latter. If it has , then it is on the contrary, perceptions of women aid one as a femcee because once you step on stage, whether you are wack or not, everyone immediately wants to hear what you have to say, and if you are wack, the crowd will clap for you encouragingly because you are a woman anyway, and if you are good, they will totally applaud you because you will have blown them away so you are viewed with that extra respect and recognition….speaking from experience in both Kenya and Berlin concerts of the recent Spoken Worlds Translations Project and other concerts where I performed at the Goethe Institute Nairobi and WAPI concerts that were being moderated by Budha Blaze, and also in the Hip Hop Rhapsody concert that I rocked last year in the month of November.
23. Do you see the unequal number of women Mcs in Kenya reflecting the larger inequality in society? Do you see the objectification of women in Hip Hop being used as a scapegoat of inequality of women in society (economics, social plus healthcare inequality, etc.)
When we talk about an MC you know we are talking about someone who has mad skills lyrically representing for hip hop, not just a normal rapper. So I think you have your facts sideways because there are more Femcees than female rappers and there are more male rappers than male MCs. That’s why there is this nortion that there are few femcees, this is coz they are being rated against a combination of male rappers and male MCs. If we were compared to male MCs only then you will realize that we are almost equal in number. I know of many many serious femcees in this region in particular.
Economically, currently women are being empowered through various organizations like Faulu Kenya and Kenya Women Finance Trust , that offer credit facilities for small and medium enterprise businesses so even the poor woman can access empowerement. We have organizations like FIDA which tackle violence against women issues and when you visit their offices you find them busy at work solving these womens problems and you see these battered women live live, black eyes, dents and facial scars and that’s when you are struck by the horrific reality of the situation.
Socially, because of the changing eras and how they affect us, women have developed psychological, physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual liberalization because of the demographic revolution that has made the woman more aware of her power and the world’s need for it plus her ability to shape her destiny and that of her children.
When it comes to healthcare, employment opportunities favour women because the work involves health, nutrition and sanitation. We have instances where companies encourage women candidates to apply for job interviews. Access to healthcare facilities is open to both gender but it is mostly women who will take the initiative and responsibility of going for consultation the moment they notice any symptom on themselves or on any member of the family especially babies and children. Men on the contrary will not visit the hospital unless or until it is an emergency. That’s why when you visit most hospitals, whether in an urban center on a rural setting, you find a greater population of women and children as compared to men.
24. Do you see institutions in Kenya , education, workplace and healthcare promoting negative or oversimple perceptions of the role of women?
NO! on the contrary, they promote positive perceptions of the role of women that is why organizations like UNICEF encourage female applicants whenever they advertise for a job. On the other hand , with civilization, westernization, education, liberalization and many other factors, the roles of men and women have been re-organized so most often than not, apart from biological roles, all other economic, social, religious, intellectual, political roles actually cut across both gender and can be fulfilled satisfactorily by any gender.
25. Do you see institutions (such as Women for Hip Hop) challenging these negative or over-simple perceptions of women?
Yes because the world has reached a point where there is dire need for both men and women power. It has also come to the realization that Social progress is directly connected to economic freedom and empowerment for women and the lack of this freedom and empowerment is directly associated with social decadence. Institutions are many like FAULU KENYA,SAFARICOM, LITERATUREWEKSTAT BERLIN, KWANI TRUST, MAONO CULTURAL GROUP and KENYA WOMEN FINANCE TRUST.
26. I have heard about femcees in Kenya being exploited in various ways in order for them to be able to produce their music, (not being given fair deals to record, being asked for sex e.t.c). what would promote more respectful and equal deals with women in Hip Hop?
I think every artist gets exploited in one way or another because everyone who deals with you and your music is in the business and is in business and the problem is that artists fail to realize that this music is our title deeds, a time has come when you can use your music as security for loans, hustle for deals and stuff like that. Artists get a lot of respect out there but back at home they are not as highlighted so one needs to maintain their self-respect inspite of all that.
For femcees, it all boils down to the individual and the direction /vision that they have for their music….if one or a few isolated cases give into sexual advances due to lack of wisdom and lust, it does not mean that it happens to all women in hip hop, infact most women in Hip Hop are conscious and if one studio does not give you the kind of service and sound that you want to work with , then network more until you fine the right studio and the right producers for your music. With technology today you do not need to hook up with a producer one-on-one, you can communicate online and exchange music and lyrics online and you can even do a background check on that particular producer online, I mean, with technology really, nobody needs to be mis-used to get their music produced. There is need to carry on the self-respect no matter what because you know who you are and what you represent. For example, at the airport there is a checkpoint where they check your ticket and visa and ask you a few questions, I noticed that they only asked me one and all I had to say was ‘’am an artist, a Hip Hop Mc and am performing in Berlin this weekend at Club Lidos’’ and they let me through happily and loved the fact that am a Femcee. Yet the other people in squeeky clean suits and even of a different skin color we being asked more than five questions and were being scrutinized more than I was, I felt the respect for an artist right then and walked on with purpose, it felt great.
27. What kind of work do you see women doing “behind the scenes” in Hip Hop?
Arts, Crafts and street enterprenurealism, Artist management, Event organization, Music and video production, radio and TV presentation, Music distribution online, Video coverage e.t.c.
28. Do you feel it would make it easier for femcees to produce their music if there were more studios operated by women?
Not really, I feel it depends with the musicianship you are looking for in a producer whether male or female. Infact many studios even way back were already being operated by women but that did not make it easier for femcees because we are artists as well and we go though the very same challenges and conditions in the industry like our male counterparts. In any case , a female voice in any rap song make it sound sweeter so in any studio that a femcee visits, one discoveres that there will always be a song that the producer will want them to feature in to bring that variation and female representation in the song.
29. What policies would promote economic advancement of women in Kenya?
Legal property, land inhetitance and ownership policies because despite the universal declaration of human rights and constitutional recognition, the reality on the ground is that men and women have unequal rights economically in many parts of Kenya.
Resource balance policies because access to social, material and non-material resources is contingent on gender roles. For instance, career mothers and working women often have to look after children and do household chores so they have less free time, less money, less mobility and their access to education is hampered or denied in some regions.
Security and gender balance policies because in everyday lives of men and women differ because of differences in socialization, living conditions and domains of activity, thus leading to divergent positions in society. E.g. it is predominantly women who experience sexual violence and care/look after family members so they must be empowered economically.
Social representation policies because you find that there are far fewer women than men in key military, economic, religious and political positions, whereas men are under-represented in service and caregiving professions. This affects the decision making process which will it will be patriachial with no female representaton and input in key positions.
Food security policies because it is predominantly women who care for family members and they are home managers so if they are not food secure then the whole family is in danger of malnutrition.
30. In terms of mistari, what issues do women talk about that men tend to avoid and why?
Make-ups and female fashion, Women empowerment, Girl-child education, Unwanted pregnancies and Abortion, female genital mutilation, baby issues, anti-violence against women, mens’ responsibilities in life, homosexuality, child labour, prostitution, health and sanitation, police brutality on women especially prostitutes, women representation in parliament and top offices.
They avoid them because they can not relate to them, or are in that predicament, they think it is not important to them, they are ignorant, they find it too painful to talk about, they feel it is affecting women so women should be the ones to highlight it, they feel it will reduce their ego, they are afraid of being ridiculed as sissys, lack of knowledge on how to relay the issues, lack of confidence about how the audience will react to that kind of message if it came from a man, they are men and these sensitive issues tend to affect women positively and negatively more than they affect men, so it is the wearer of the shoe who knows where it pinches the most.
31. What can you say about any community Hip Hop Projects helping young people today that you know of or are involved with?
They are a great initiative because they give the youth an alternative to crime and other social vices which they would otherwise engage in while idle. They must be boosted more ecomonically because they are already giving back to the society.
They give mentorship to the youth who lack direction because some of them are not even born in Nairobi, they just came to town to hustle but when they find themselves in the ghetto where life is the way it is, such projects become their way of earning from their talent. Such youth, if not captured by community projects early,they easily get involved in crime because it is also a way of getting quick money.
They give the youth opportunities that were not available before. E.g. access to studios for rappers, mcs and femcees, access to net work with stakeholders in the industry during concerts, access to musical instruments and trainers of the same, things which are extremely expensive elsewhere.
Free space for practicing any type of talent from acrobatics, to singing, to Mcing to DJing, to breakdancing, to hand crafts, t-shirt printing e.t.c
32. 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 e.t.c.
They have linked to organize concerts especially for peace since the country is still politicking , campaigning and electioneering after the 2013 elections.This is also a time when most artists came up with music whose content is about peace and this contributed to attitude of the nation during and after elections. Most people ended up ventilating their issues through other channels like listening and dancing to music that they identify with.
They have facilitated workshops to sensetize many artists on the developments of the music industry especially In the Hip Hop scene.
They have collaborated to come up with albums with different themes, each tackling a legitimate concern in society.
They have empowered women, the youth and children though arts, crafts and
They have organized album launches for various artists thus elevating them in the industry.
33. What hustles sre you working on now? Is there such a thing as Hip Hop jobs ama only hustling?
As a matter of fact, Hip Hop is the hugest employer in the world. Most people focus on only the first five elements of Hip Hop but when you look at all nine, then you will see how it employs.
We have the sixth element which is Street Fashion so everyone selling clothes, jewellery and the like anywhere in the world has been employed by Hip Hop, the seventh which is Street Language so anyone involved in language translations in the world has been employed by Hip Hop, the eighth is Street Knowledge so anyone hustling in the streets to make a living, including mama mbogas and hawkers, has been employed by Hip Hop, the nineth is Street Enterprenurealism so all those people fullfilling all the elements of Hip Hop and use them to make a living, like DJs, BeatBoxers, BBoys, Mcs/Femcees, Graffitti artists and Breakdancers, all over the world, have been employed by Hip Hop. And all the people who have to work with you as you fulfill whatever element of Hip hop, has been employed by Hip Hop, so we are talking all artist managers, all event organizers, all producers, all presenters both Tv and radio, all make-up artists e.t.c
34. What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today?
Lack of mentorship leading to poor choices in life.
Politics which uses the youth for violence especially during land wars, religious intolerance and elections.
Unemployment for the highly learned one so they end up in professions that they didn’t study for thus having disatisfaction on the job.
Unwanted pregnancies and abortions due to the fact that currently there is a lot of media glorification of indecency which affects the youth negatively as they try to ape what they see in the media because they think that it is civilization.
Lack of a voice politically, economically, religiously and socially because they are never consulted when decisions are made. This is why whenever they have a problem, they resort to mob psychology and demonstrations because their strength now lies in their tyranny of numbers and that is where they have an impact. The problem is whoever they are trying to address remains in his/her office as the demonstrators deal with the riot police who are not trained to negotiate. Thus frustrating them into violence.
35. How are you interracting with artists across the globe and particularly in East Africa?
Physically whenever I travel
On mobile phones
By exchanging with or selling them my CDs physically
Online when we have to collaborate on a song in a project, we share the beat to be worked on online and we also share the recorded lyrics online.
Through social media i.e. on facebook am Lydia ‘L-ness’ Akwabi, on twitter am @MADADADIGITAL, my facebook page is L-NESS GAL POWER!!!
In radio and tv stations when I have interviews.
36. What sort of positive things do you see hapenning with young people in Kenya?
Now more than ever, young people are engaged in income generating activities, small and medium enterprises and they are coming out of the culture of employment and jobseeking to a culture of self-employment.
They are also more involved in community service because not everybode wants to get out of the ghetto, some people want to improve on the conditions of their ghettos whereby there is need for proper sanitation and deconjestion among other social needs. There are activities that improve their ecomony in the ghettos because one can purchase goods in the smallest cheapest quantity, like in some places I know of where in the morning you go to a certain shop with you toothbrush and the shopkeeper squeezes toothpaste worth 2 shillings onto you toothbrush, you pay up and go on to brush.
Young people now more than ever understand their rights and know the law so they make the right choices because they are aware of the consequences of wrong choices.
Young people are more into music as artists because there is exposure from most churches and also in the secular settings, and, there is money in music.
37. What direction do you see Hip Hop in East Africa going?
Hip Hop in East Africa has actually gone corporate because we now have rappers and Mcs working in cooperation with a number of corporate companies and institutions like L-NESS with Literaturewerkstatt berlin and OCTO with Safaricom.
Hip Hop in East Africa has gone business where most MCs are involved in advertisements with heavy use of most of the elements of Hip Hop e.g. use of Sheng language, use of breakdancing e.t.c
Hip Hop in East Africa has gone political since most politicians have applied some elements of Hip Hop in order to appeal to most of the population because Hip Hop is global and all accommodating, it is not only for the youth because if we come to the poetry part of it , you will find that mature people really enjoy poetry when it is well performed.
Hip Hop in East Africa has gone educationally institutional because during panel discussions in Berlin, I experienced a South African Professor in Literature requiring me to describe how one can learn how to Flow in rap music and also wanted to learn about Hip Hop and the difference between it as a culture and rap music. Actually she is the lady author who compiled the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Report of South Africa after Apartheid and she is very interesting and famous internationally, yeah, her, I sat right next to her, it felt great.
Hip Hop in East Africa has gone global because we have Kenyan MCs and poets going to Berlin to have their poetry translated and also to translate other poets’ works in exchange projects. Here you find that a German poem becomes a rap verse/song and a kenyan rap verse becomes a german poem. My translations can be found in the following link-,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,[link needed]
38. How can people learn more about your work, music, performances and projects you are involved in?
The latest performance will be this Saturday 31st in Nairobi Nyayo Stadium Basketball Court so all who read this interview before then, I personally invite you to come see how to dribble-check the microphone lay-ups and how they be dunkin’ em.
The next will be on Sunday 1st June 2014 at the Blankets n’ Wine Concert. I will be performing together with the Spoken Worlds Crew so you really do not want to miss this one.
It is followed by the next performance at the Sarakasi Dome on the 14th of June 2014 so all who wanna see me on stage, u know how I does , I invite you personally, if you are in Berlin or any other part of the world and can make it to these shows, I invite you personally coz you don’t want to miss one of the hugest cyphers from the Spoken Worlds group of MCz, Beat Boxer and Spoken Word Poets, lets keep the Worlds Spoken.
By liking my facebook page which is L-NESS GAL POWER!!!
Through connecting with me on facebook as Lydia ‘L-ness’ Akwabi to know where I will be performing. For instance, in the Berlin Nairobi Spoken Worlds Translation project, a good number of Germans connected with me via facebook and they actually attended the event and some of them told me that we had never met but they had seen me at the Goethe Institute show like two years ago. It was one of the greatest feelings.
Through buying my music as ringtones from ONfon Media.
By buying my music through downloads from the following link where you will find all my three albums – www.mdundo.com/a/71
By tuning in to radio stations whenever I have interviews like Citizen 106.5fm Mambo Mseto with Mzazi William Tuva and DJ Flash, Ghetto Radio 89.5fm Hip Hop Republic, Radio Pamoja with Mikkey and Homeboyz 103.5fm Hip Hop Culture with Frankie and DJ Finalkut, and many more.
By going through blogs such as Hip Hop Kambi to read my interviews and get any update information.
39. Any advice for young Hip Hop artists?
Especially for MCs and rappers, lyrical skillz are very important yet stratergy and network are NECESSARY.
Your music is your intellectual property so it is your Title Deed in life and it must be treated and guarded as such because it is protected by the constitution and is recognized as such.
40. Please give a brief bio of yourself.
L-NESS alias Lydia Owano Akwabi aka Gal Power Lioness alias Madadadigital is a Hip Hop Cultural Specialist and a Certified Nutritionist. She is a proud young mother of two brilliant geniuses called Papoose (8) and Subira (5) who are her greatest motivation.
She is the most talented and the most consistent Femcee and performing artist in this region and beyond due to her vocal power, delivery on stage and lyrical prowess, which have qualified her as one of the top Femcees.
Her first album is Titled SIMANGWE and the theme is ‘’Don’t Stop The Music’. One of the songs in this album is being used by Music Copyright Society of Kenya as their campaign theme song against pyracy and musician expliotation
Her second album is titled GAL POWER and it is about women empowerment. Its launch was at the Goethe Institute Nairobi on the 21st of July 2012. It is the album that introduced most of the femcees you hear of right now because in this album L-ness featured other femcees exclusively and the album later grew into a Radio Show called 16 BARZ on Voturadioonline , which is also about women empowerment.
Her third album is titled PUNCH since it is a mixture of sounds and producers, thereby being versatile enough to accommodate all kinds of fans, both hardcore, oldschool, no school and new school.
She facilitates workshops in schools to discuss about Hip Hop and the proper use of its elements and principles.
She is featured greatly in two major documentaries, one with Hip Hop artist , TUMI from South Africa about the development of Hip Hop in Africa and the other is The Spoken Worlds Documentary, a literary exchange project between Kenya and Germany.
She has been part of the following album projects outside of her personal albums:
Jawabu Dance by SHAKY and KALAWAY
Kilio Cha Haki by UKOO FLANI MAUMAU
Kumekucha by BLACK DUO and CHIEF CHEF
Hip Hop Resurrection 1 documentary
Afreekah by MC KAH
Vinacolabo by J.U.D.G.E.
Spoken Worlds by LITERATURWERKSTATT Berlin.
She has had the priviledge of working with top MCs in the world including TUMI of South Africa, OCTOPIZZO of Kenya, KEVLEXICON of New Jersey, beat boxers DIAMONDOG of Angola/Berlin and CHECKMATE MIDO of Kenya, ERCO of Berlin/Turkey, LMNZ of Berlin, MC JOSH of Berlin and JOE MADOG of Berlin.
She has had the honor of working with poets from all parts of the world like SITAWA NAMWALIE, JOSEPHINE BERKHOLZ, CHRISTIAN PHILIPS, BRIGIT KREIPE, OGUTU MURAYA, NAMATSI, WANJIKU MWAURA and POETIC BEE.
She has worked with the following DJs in various radio shows and concerts:
DJ FINALKUT, DJ SAYANS, DJ PRIM, DJ FLASH, DJ G MONEY, ALL STARS DJS, DJ ACE, DJ DIAMONDOG, DJ DINERO, DJ TWISTER.
She is a Radio presenter in Voturadioonline so keep watching and listening to that space because 16BARZ season two is coming very soon featuring both Kenyan and German femcees from Berlin like PYRANJA and MC JOSH.
Her music has been produced by the following producers:
MANDUGU DIGITAL PRODUCERS i.e ‘Ambrose Dunga’ in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and ‘Shaky’ in Nairobi, Kenya.
ZUKA RECORDS i.e ‘Kingpheezle’ in Nairobi
MADTING MUSIC i.e DJ Liaz in Nairobi
K-DAWG in Nairobi
ONFON MEDIA in Nairobi
BEEZWAX in Berlin
BOGA in Berlin
AKIRA in Berlin