Now to that Coke Studio story. So this past Saturday I was invited to attend the Live Recording of an episode of Coke Studio Africa Season 2 and I duly jumped aboard. Excitedly. Normally, these are those kinds of articles you just wanna begin from the moment you woke up in the morning to the second you plunged right back into bed later that evening. You know, those “I woke up at the crack of dawn and ran to the frog’s kingdom” kynda lines. But those are details one only divulges into when in search of marks or a certain limit of words to reach for monetary gains and since neither is involved in this case, to hell! We, myself and a number of other blokes who had been invited as well, were picked up in town at around 7:50 a.m. for a 30-40 minute drive to the studios located at Jamhuri Park, off Ngong’ Road. See? All in one line. Easy pie.
Anyway, so we arrived amidst drizzles of a persistent rain which seemed hell-bent on making my already out of place dressing seem only creepier. Let me explain: I have this one brownish Khaki trouser that I adore to the bone and a few worthwhile shirts that come in handy for occasions like these but I guess I just fell on the wrong side of fate this time. See I knew the weather in Juja was bad, so I gave my clothes out to be washed for me (don’t even give me that look, it just cost 100 baab. But now that I think of it, it was actually a lot of money) on Thursday expecting they would be neat and dry come Saturday. Did I mention the weather at Juja was bad? Yeah, scratch that, it was pathetic! It kept raining from Thursday all the way through to Saturday. By D-Day, I still had nothing to wear. Not a single decent clothing. So I ransacked my other stock of clothes (the ones I haven’t worn for as long as my hair has been standing tall), grabbed this really ridiculous trouser and shirt, hopped into them, went knocking on my neighbour’s door (beware it’s 5 in the morning) borrowed his blazer and voila…Son of Were at the Coke Studios.
At the gate, I swept my probing probably bulging eyes over the environment in an attempt to find something to write home about later on but nada! Buildings? Normal, to some extent even resembling the classes in my former Primary School. The only thing that could have had me staring twice out there was the Wall of Fame. Two Walls of Fame actually: one for SuperSport stars and the other for M-Net stars, facing each other. If I hadn’t mentioned it by now, then yeah, Coke studio is located at the same place as the SuperSport and M-Net studios. Spare me that “I knew” look when the furthest you’ve gone out of your ‘chocolate estate’ is to go bully the kids at the neighbouring posh estate.
The SuperSport Wall of Fame had, engraved on it, pictures and autographs of legendary sportsmen and women like Tecla Lorupe, Joe Kadenge and Kipchoge Keino inter alia. The M-Net Wall of Fame, on the other hand, was made of film greats Raymond Ofula, Mama Kayai, Mzee Ojwang’, Elizabeth Wanjiru (Mother-in-Law) and even the teenie-meenie-minie Kamau Mbaya a.k.a Baha of Machachari. Yes, that little bozo who was fondling breasts huge enough to feed him milk at the Daylight Festival V is at the M-Net Wall of Fame too. How old is he anyway? 14? And am, what, 19? And still just seated here…blogging. Now do you understand why we say life is a bi**h…am sorry, unfair?
Till then, everything was all normal. Team Mafisi were still carefully eyeing and selecting their prey for the day from a safe distance and the ladies were parading their morose butts all over the place. The one thing I still don’t get is why y’all women love these despicable weaves so much. My natural hair is longer than most of our women’s these days. What, Vera Sidika is your role model now? Well sorry to bust your bubble sweetheart but just the weaves won’t cut it. You gotta look the part to play the part, if you know what am saying. We’ll discuss that another day.
Presently, we were given a few minutes to use our phones as they were to be taken away for unknown reasons and, boy, did the ladies go bonkers at the mention of no phones in studio. It’s not like they had a choice anyway, this was an all-expenses-paid visit. You have no say in whatever your host wants you to do. If he says jump, you don’t even ask how high, up you go. So I texted a few guys on my WhatsApp list and went on a boasting rampage over my whereabouts till my phone went AWOL then I lay back on the not-so-comfortable plastic chairs and just observed, the ladies of course, in silence. Take one thing from me, never give a lady a heads up when you’re about to take away her phone. Especially not an ‘uptown’ one. Just grab the damn gadget. You know we ‘downtown’ people tend to be more civilized than you ‘uptown’ folk in new places. We know we don’t know so we keep to ourselves. Hatupendi aibu ndogondogo. It was crazy watching the ladies and their gadgets after that announcement. You know that old saying about all hell breaking loose? Forget that. All cameras broke loose here. Literally! Coke bottle…Snap! Plastic chair…Snap! Gate…snap! Coke tent…Snap! Truck…Snap! Ground…Snap! Shoes…Snap! Do I need to talk about selfies? Even this dude seated right next to me with those lightweight Samsung Galaxy Pockets acquired by Bonga Points was busy making ridiculous faces at the camera and taking shots. A lady I can tolerate. But a grown ass man with humongous hairy balls and a 2-megapixel camera? Not a chance.
So the phones were finally whisked away and it was time for some breakfast. I had abandoned my sleep at 4 a.m. and left my place at 6 to be here. The rumbles in my tummy by this time were immeasurable, a close listener would have moved paces away in disgust thinking I’d pooped in my pants. I was hungry, to say the least. Hot tea and two huge neatly spread slices of bread just about did the trick. Not to say I was satisfied but it held on just fine. And again, free food. No questions! After the free breakfast, it was show time. The Coke studio setup is amazing. Lighting, instruments…all well-placed. A description would be a waste of my time here, go watch your T.Vs, you’ll get the picture.
The backup vocalists, one of whom also doubles up as a Tahidi High actress, were amazing. And then there were these four lovely ladies on stools playing violins whose thighs I just couldn’t keep my eyes off. There were guitarists, pianists, drummers et al. One of the drummers totally stole the show. I mean, that ninja could switch from Lingala to Kwaito with the ease of a jungle-bred monkey jumping from tree to tree using just his drumstick. He kept the set lively at all times. If he wasn’t moving slyly to the tunes from the DJ’s playlist, he was thumping his drums so hard I felt my feet moving from under me. But I held myself back from dancing. Am bad at dancing, as I recently came to learn from a friend, unless am totally wasted. During which am not just bad…I SUCK! Speaking of which, I should be applying for a dance class sometime soon. I don’t let anyone tell me what I can and cannot do. If I wanna dance, I’ll dance like a retarded penguin for all I care. Yes, I can… Aye? Back to that drummer, he’s this man here:
Now to what actually brought us here; recording time. ‘Kedike’ time. Chidinma got on stage first at the end of a 10-second countdown (in which we were required to make the loudest possible cheers and applauds from 5 all the way down to 1) sang the first verse and chorus from her ‘Kedike’ hit then was joined by Tanzania’s legendary Joh Makini spitting a witty verse while grabbing his crotch like we Hip Hoppers do for three consecutive takes then tadaa…end of the first song. The crowd was then released for a short refreshment break during which multiple Coke drinks were dished out all over the place. For free…again. Damn, I love relished the free goodies. I poured a cold bottle of Coke down my throat as fast as I could then sat back on the chair once more and just took a breather before we were ushered back in.
I love Chidinma, someone tell her that. Everything about Chidinma is African. From her dancing, dressing…even her wide glorious smile. Just perfect. She flatly got me staring in amazement for a minute there when the DJ rolled out Diamond’s ‘Number 1’ after the three takes of her second song and she jived along to the (in) famous Ngololo dance as if it was coined in her native country and the manuscript written in Pidgin dialect. Playful as a kitten, she was always jumping up and down the stage like an 18-year old virgin at the first sight of manhood on deflowering night. I almost flew up the stage one time when she went down as if to peck the cheek of a random guy at the other end of the room. Thank God she didn’t, someone would have been picking up his teeth from the floor at the slightest touch of those lips on someone else’s cheeks rather than mine. No gimmicks!
Few words to describe Mr. Joh Makini on the other hand. Calm, openly shy, but with a great stage presence. My hands were always up in the air when he got on stage. Nice guy! He totally blew me away with his ‘I See Me’ track. Catchy lyrics, and the backups did not disappoint either. Hands down, Joh Makini and Chidinma’s performance of ‘I See Me’ was the highlight of the evening. I loved it, totally!
“I see me International-eh / I see me overtaking Wale / Najiona Mimii….Najiona Mimiiii”
“Baba nikiwa club nakunywa local beer / Naomba mziki unaopigwa uwe ni local pia / Nyeusi kwenye T-Shirt ndio logo gear!”
Just a few lyrics off Joh Makini’s verse. Salute to you, Sir!
There’s something about live performances that just makes me tick. Be it acting, singing, rapping, poetry, spoken word, comedy…all of it, I enjoy just sitting down and watching talent unravel before my very eyes. Once in a while, I always make time to pass by ‘THE’ UoN to watch a skit or two from their group of fun loving helluva characters. They call themselves The Free Travelling Theatre (FTT). Believe me, these guys are louder than the trumpets that tore down the walls of Jericho but when they take the stage, they mean business. Alright guys, that’s enough marketing already. That M-Pesa text is long overdue. Meanwhile, the recording of Chidinma’s second song was a wrap in three takes as well, and then we were off to lunch. Whoop Whoop!
This guy was passing the plates of rice and nyama ya something (I couldn’t really tell as I was madly salivating by now) around and I was just dying to have mine. And it came. You know how I said we ‘downtown’ folk are calmer in stranger places? Yeah, so while my plate was being pushed towards me, I put out my hand like I had just partaken a meal of wild elephant meat and was utterly full. I am a gentleman after all, am I not? But boy did that food land on my welcoming hands?! Frankly speaking, and this may be just an assumption, but I think I returned that plate cleaner than it was manufactured. In my defense, I had only 200 bob in my pockets, and fare back to Juja was 100 bob, which left me with just 100 bob to myself for the weekend. I had to make the most of this free meal, don’t you think? It was probably going to act as my dinner too. Yes, such is the life I lead. And am not complaining, so keep your sympathy. I believe in a better tomorrow. In between my ginormous spoonfulls and my irritating swallows, I could hear some chic in front of me going ham on another next to her about how she (the listener) had uploaded a photo of them on Instagram in which she looked good while she (the speaker) was ratchet. The wickedness in you women though. SMH!
The jolly fellows dined and dined. Then it was time to do the final two songs of the day, Joh Makini’s songs this time, before calling it a day. A successful day. The last song was done in six takes, I don’t exactly know why but I was pretty much enjoying myself. In between the session, this floor manager comes to where a couple of other guys and I are and requests us to go do lip syncs and make funny faces in front of the cameras for their commercials. I don’t know whether it was meant to be an insult, given my rugged dressing, or my perfect 15 minutes of fame but I turned it down all the same. Come what may, a man knows when to say NO!
The recording of the final song eventually came to a close and despite the chilly weather, we were once again given Coke drinks, accompanied by Coke gift hampers (which I am selling by the way) as we left the gates and hopped into the tour bus for a free ride back to town. All in all, it was an amazing experience. The hospitality, the people, the sessions… the free drinks and food too! One of those experiences you’d give anything to relieve again. Speaking of which, I will be headed back there one of these fine weekends again. Just this time when it’s local artistes gracing the stage: Rabbit, Jay A, Fena Gitu or even the dolly Victoria Kimani. And the free food of course!
Long live (or does that apply to people only?) Coke Studio!
Images Courtesy: COKE STUDIO (Just so I don’t get my already broke ass sued!)