BLANKETS & WINE

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

The first ever edition of Blankets & Wine went down almost seven years ago. The event, a brainchild of Muthoni Ndonga – famously known as Muthoni The Drummer Queen – had a simple but creative concept, the first of its kind this side of the Equator. It wasn’t one of these ordinary events where chaps in Versace sweatpants and mamis in booty shots went to get stupidly inebriated and listen to loud music from Konshens and grind and twerk their butts off. It was more of a family event that, unlike most Kenyan events, happened during the day. It was an event you could take your whole family, including your kids, to. It was an event you could bring with you that sacred bottle of wine or that aged Whiskey you had been saving for a special occasion, and enjoy slow sips from. It was an event that had the concept of a picnic; folks would come with their shukas and lessos and blankets, spread them on the soft grass, unwrap their packed lunch, pop their bottles of wine, and dine and wine with loved ones, all the while listening to mature music; music you didn’t need to shake your ass to, to enjoy; music you just had to move slowly to, groove with it’s rhythm, and if you were a poor dancer like myself, all you had to do was shake your head from your seat. Nice and easy.

 

 

But last year, Blankets & Wine sort of took a sabbatical from the Kenyan events scene. We waited but it never came. We waited some more – until it almost felt like what Raila goes through before election results are announced – but still, we got nothing. Instead, they took it down to Museveni’s home turf. Sources claim the sabbatical was caused by slight disagreements between Muthoni The Drummer Queen and one of her silent partners, a well-known billionaire businessman in the region. The businessman is said to have later come up with his own event to rival Blankets & Wine. When asked for comment – early this year – by some local daily on the validity of these rumors, Muthoni is reported to have said, “Blankets & Wine is unstoppable. We’re coming back this year, bigger and better.” Well, come back they did. Bigger and better they are. I mean, while some guys are bringing in Ali Kiba and sijui Koffi Olomide, Blankets & Wine is bringing in kina Aloe Blacc. You can’t argue with that.

 

 

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

I’m strolling into Ngong Racecourse circa 11 a.m. this past Sunday with my usual Photographer; Sammie Andre. I’m in light blue Khaki trousers and some checked long-sleeved shirt [not the best outfit for a Sunday event but what the hell], Sam is in a white Good Vibes T-shirt, a trench coat and jeans [with a bag carrying his camera hunched to his back] I have been to Racecourse exactly twice my whole life; during Jameson Live and for some photo shoot I was invited to. Sammie says he’s been here twice as well, both times on duty. So this would make the third time for both of us. Look at that, what are the odds? We are here today for the 59th edition of Blankets & Wine. Before today, we had only heard – and read – about it. We don’t know what to expect, we’re just hoping it’ll have been worth getting off bed on a Sunday – and abandoning ‘Lucifer’ series – for.

 

 

Numbers are slowly streaming in. A few Land Cruisers and Range Rovers and Subarus can be spotted in the parking lot. An ambulance and a firetruck are parked on either side of the entrance, in case shit hits the pan, and you can even hear some chap in a blue suit howling on his iPhone, “Come straight ahead after passing the cemetery, you will see some ka-billboard inscribed Ngong Racecourse up ahead. Find a nice spot to park that Mercedes and find me inside bwana.” In all honesty, I’m beginning to feel a little out of place. Chaps here are sharply dressed and holding onto gorgeous lasses with accents; it’s kind of like being the only person who wants Chapo-Madondo in a table-full of Pizza enthusiasts. You feel like you’re not wanted; like you’re a plague. Son of Were is a very simple man, my wardrobe is pathetic, and so is my hair cut. I board matatus and drop whiskey in my coffee and watch ‘The Blacklist’. The one thing I do not do is dress sharply. Okay, and listen to Adelle. That woman nearly destroyed my life after my last break up.

 

 

And, like I’ve said a gazillion times before, I do not bring ladies to events like these, and not just because the entrance fee is 3000 baab, but because of all the other things I would have to buy after paying that entrance fee. I mean, soft drinks, whine, Pizza, chicken, popcorn, hell, even, clothes. And attitude. So I roll up alone – or with my Photographer – and I enjoy the music, then when it’s time to go back home, I hurl my ass home. No fuss.

 

 

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

I had heard that this was going to be Just A Band’s last show as a group. That they would be taking a two-year break after this, to focus on individual projects. So when Sam and I ran into one-third of the group – Daniel Muli – I asked him what the cause of the break up was and he just beat about the bush. He said, “It’s not really a break up, it’s more of a time out, you know, to focus on our own things.” Which is, basically, what every group that’s breaking up says, ask Camp Mulla and P-Unit. “But for two years? Isn’t that a little too long?” I push. He gives me the most vague answer anyone could ever say. Ati, “It is, but then again, it’s really not.” Is it just me or is that just the shittiest response ever? Si that is one of those break up lines you tell to a nagging woman? A woman that wants to come over all the damn time but just won’t let you smash, sindio?

 

 

Scores of people have arrived by now. There are white guys – with their families – and, you know, regular black folk, smoking Shisha and holding glasses of booze. There are groups of light skinned ladies drinking Chardonnay and eating burgers at the V.I.P section. They look like the type of ladies who buy their own drinks in a club. Those types of ladies that don’t need a man to take care of them. The kind that say a whole bunch of nothings about being Independent and call themselves Feminists even though they haven’t the slightest idea in the devils balls what that means. The kind you walk up to and say, ‘Hey, you look nice’ and they roll their eyes and say, ‘I know.’ The kind you really want to punch on the chest but you remember FIDA will come for your broke ass.

 

 

There are tents all over the place. There is a PWC tent somewhere, there is a HelloFood tent somewhere, there is a Afri-Na-Ladi tent somewhere, there is a WhatsGood Live tent somewhere, but the sexiest of all is the Ciroc tent. They have these neat white seats in their tent, plus half a dozen or so beautiful lasses in tiny shorts walking around, that just make you weak on the knee and invite you in. But you don’t go in because maybe they might bring you a double of their vodka and Lord knows that bill would send your whole family towards bankruptcy. So you walk onward. Towards the backstage. Guys, let me tell you this first hand, like Sam puts it, there’s no greater joy than trying to get through to the backstage at a high-profile event but the bouncer holds you off and tells you you’re not allowed back there, so you just whip out your ‘All Access’ wrist band to his face and watch as he crumbles and apologizes and tries to kiss your ass. You feel like pinching his nose and telling him, “Know people,” but the last person that did that to a security personnel is now out of a job, so you just smile and pat him one the back and say, “It’s Okay Boss. It’s Okay.

 

 

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

When Mayonde gets on stage, the first thing you notice is not her curves, or her figure hugging dress, or her boot [pun unintended]; it’s her smile. You can tell a lot about somebody by their smile. You can tell if someone is happy, sad, broke, or just undergoing a dry spell by how they smile. Mayonde has an amazing smile. If I were married to Mayonde, we wouldn’t even have to talk when I was sad. I’d just ask her to smile and everything would be Okay. And I’m not one to put my hands in the air for a performing act but for Mayonde I did. You just can’t resist it, her voice has such kind of power over you. It soothes your soul, and makes you feel like giving yourself up to her, so she can do as she pleases with you [hopefully something dirty, hehe]

 

 

Whatever happens to Just A Band, these guys are still the Shit. I don’t care if Sauti Sol perfoms for Obama or the Queen, they will never be as good – or even half as creative – as Just A Band. That’s all I will say about that.

 

 

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

Khaligraph Jones and Kagwe Mungai were supposed to join Muthoni on stage during her set. Before their time came, Sam and I are talking to Khaligraph backstage about music. I ask him why they excluded U.B from the ‘Iz Vipi’ video and he goes;

 

 

The only thing that sets you apart in this industry is discipline, my man. The guy never showed up for the shoot. On the day of the video shoot, I was in Bondo for a show myself. And I caught the first flight back immediately the show ended and I went on set. But U.B stays hapa Nairobi West and he can’t show up for a bloody video shoot? C’mon. I don’t have a problem with drinking, as long as you do it responsibly and have your priorities correct man.

 

So you’re saying you don’t drink?

 

I don’t. And it really pisses me off to see artists mess themselves up on stage, because then whole world believes all artistes are like that. And that gets to me because there are those of us that don’t roll like that. Mimi ntaanza tu kupiga wasanii hapa Kenya waache ujinga.

 

 

When Khaligraph says something like that, you don’t know whether he’s just joking or he’s really serious. Because he says it with a straight face, and he’s tall, burly, and dark as night. Khaligraph is the kind of guy that can diss you in the studio and still come whop your ass in your house. So you don’t really laugh, you just chuckle and move on.

 

 

About this beef you and Octopizzo have, is that personal or it’s just business?”

 

At some point it was personal, but right now it’s purely just business. He’s not on my level, I’m not even looking at the Kenyan market anymore. But, the bottom-line always is, Octopizzo and I can never be friends. Never.

 

 

 

Then the mood of the conversation changes and he starts asking Sam and I the questions. He stares at us for a second and asks “So, what gossip blog do you guys work for?” and we say, “Just personal blogs, basically.” Then he asks, “How’s that going for you? These guys paying you well?” I smile and say, “Well, we get by.” And then he notices my phone charging from a power bank and he jokes, “Well, my nigga, if you can afford a power bank in Nairobi then you must be doing quite well.

 

 

 

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

 

Muthoni Drummer Queen does not take her performances lightly. She shows up and she shows out. She sings and she raps and she dances, all in one set. She even had Khaligraph and Kagwe singing and dancing along to ‘Nai Ni Ya Who’ backstage for a while there. And she came with a full band, dancers, and a choir bana. No kidding, she has this choir that calls themselves ‘The Individuals’. It consists of about three ladies and two men, and those guys sing so wonderfully they make you want to repent all your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. They sang this song titled, ‘No Man, No Cry’ that ironically, only made me feel like shedding a tear. It was beautiful.

 

 

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

And then came the man everyone paid an arm and a leg for; Aloe Blacc. And, I swear this is not a diss, but Aloe looks like your ordinary Luo friend who comes from somewhere on the shores of Seme, except he has an accent. Like myself [ahem] he doesn’t dress sharply. He had on an official black shirt and trouser, and shoes you can fetch at Ksh. 1000 in Gikomba. And I know I’m not supposed to say this about a another man, but I love Aloe Blacc. He’s simple and cool and, shit, brother can dance. And when I say dance I don’t mean Dab, I mean really move his feet. At one point he was talking about Nairobi traffic and he was saying how L.A is cool and there’s no traffic. Then he said, “One of these days I should invite some of you guys in L.A to experience how smooth traffic goes. But we gon’ need one or two white people in the car, just in case the cops pull us over.” I thought that shit was hilarious. I even laughed just typing that statement, seriously.

 

 

Blankets&Wine Kenya
Blankets&Wine Kenya

 

 

Aloe Blacc is easily one of my favorite artists at the moment. Because at a time when guys are trapping and shit, he still writes and sings from the soul. Aloe Blacc is The Man, and not just because he sings it, but because he says things like, “A Hit Song is not a song that tops the charts, but a song that Hits you every time you hear it.”

 

 

PHOTOS: SAMMIE ANDRE PHOTOGRAPHY

 

 

 

 

 

THE SPORTPESA FESTIVAL

Meeting Muthoni

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“Hello. I’m Muthoni.”

 

“Hi. Ian Duncan. I don’t know if you were informed but…”

 

“Ooohh. You’re the Blogger? Yeah. Sorry I couldn’t see you earlier, I’ve just been so cramped up putting together this show and getting everybody on the right track, you know how it is.”

 

“Yeah, I noticed. You seemed so busy and stressed up I didn’t want to come bore you with small talk for fear of being punched in the nose.”

 

“Heheh. C’moooon.”

 

 

 

 

That was the first time I ever met and spoke to Muthoni The Drummer Queen. She was nice, chatty, welcoming, pleasant to engage, and with a smile that could swing open Hell’s Gate without even trying. That night as they’re dropping me off in town – on their way to an interview on The Trend – they [MDQ and her manager, Hillary Ng’ash ] are talking about something I can’t quite wrap my head around, mostly because I’m still trying to get over the fact that I’m in the same car as Muthoni freaking Drummer Queen! I’m only jilted back to reality when I hear her say, “Don’t write about that!” and I’m like, “Write about what? Your Manager’s driving? I mean, you guys auditioning for Fast and Furious 8 or something?” Heheh. Of course I didn’t say that out loud.

 

 

 

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People ask me why I like Muthoni and I say, “She’s nice.” Then they go, “C’mon, All celebrities are nice,” and I say, “Have you met DNG?”

 

 

 

 

Let me explain;

 

 

 

 

I have a friend, goes by Dennis Wyre, runs a kick-ass clothing line known as Good Vibes [because who’s got time for bad vibes anyway?] So a couple of weeks ago Wyre calls me and says, “Yo, I just received a D.M from DNG on Instagram. He wants me to dress him. Going to see him at his office tomorrow, wanna come along?” and I say, “Sure.” Next morning we’re at DNG’s premises by 11 a.m. Wyre calls him to say we’re at the gate and he tells him to just ring the bell and someone will open it for us. We’re ushered in by DNG’s lap-dog; a slightly brownish, medium-height fella dressed in official wear with shoes sharper than Ciru Muriuki’s tong’ue. He leads us to some seats under a shade just outside of the building and tells us to get comfortable, that DNG will be with us shortly. Thirty minutes later he comes back, says, “I’m sorry guys, DNG says he’s too busy he can’t see you now. But he says you should just leave the apparels with me and he’ll get back to you.” And, just like that, he grabs the package from the table and walks his groupie ass back to the office. Take note, DNG is the one who contacted Wyre; Wyre didn’t kiss his ass to dress him, he came to Wyre. The least he could have done is spare 30 seconds – even if he was meeting the bloody Pope – to see the guy, No?

 

 

 

 

So now, do you guys get why I like Muthoni? Because, unlike some celebrities we know, she understands that the world doesn’t revolve around her nose. That, at the end of the day, we all go back home and, while some of us may eat Chapo-Madondo as others take sirloin steak, we all go to the loo before bed and drop the same smelly stinky shit.

 

 

 

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She knows that only way you earn some else’s respect, is if you give it to them as well.

 

 

 

***

 

 

Main Event

 

 

 

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Anyway, Sportpesa came into our lives and stuck; like a bad habit. It refused to leave our minds and, instead, took a spot at the finest corners of our brains, made a nice comfy bed, and lay in it; still, unfazed. It corrupted our minds, gave us an easy way to quick cash, and we jumped at the opportunity with arms wide open. Right now, everybody I know is either already on Sportpesa or planning to the join. Some lose – and miserably at that – others win; all in a day’s work. From where I’m standing, Sportpesa may just be one of the biggest corporates around here in the next two years. When that time comes, remember I said it first, come back to this blog, read this post again, tell me how awesome I am, and – like Nairobi blondes – wait for me to reply, “I know.”

 

 

 

 

30th January 2016.

Time-Check: 12.00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Sammie Andre [Photographer] and I are strolling into Nyayo Stadium for the Sportpesa Festival. After almost an hour of waiting and making endless calls, Nick Mutuma finally sends some nice chap at the gate to hand us our Media Passes. Instead of ‘Photographer’, Sammie Andre’s Pass is labeled ‘Blogger.’ They have written my name as ‘Alan Dancan’ instead of ‘Ian Duncan’ on mine. I don’t know how one would even confuse the two, and we’re feeling like shoving knives in someone’s ass by now, but there are cops with guns here. So we keep our cool, and we stroll into the venue with our heads held high and our Passes dangling proudly from our necks, like we’re from the New York freaking Times or some shit, here to shut the party down.

 

 

 

 

We take a quick tour around the stadium before the festival begins. A multitude of games are lined up at the other end of the stadium, we shoot some Paintball while at it and I hit Bull’s Eye twice out of three shots. Makes me think about switching careers, what do you guys think of me as an Assassin for Hire? Picture me strolling around town in the middle of the day, dressed in all black, a long trench-coat, gloves, and cool black shades, carrying my sniper gun in a long case; never smiling, never saying jack. Si I can fetch a killing? But, in service to my country, there are some people I would be willing to put a bullet between their eyes for free; people like Politicians. 100% Discount. On the house.

 

 

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The setting is exquisite, done to perfection. The stage is huge and magnificently set; the DJ is playing some Young Thug song where he’s just shouting ‘Lifestyle’ and then the rest of the words become gibberish. The VVIP arena looks like some place where characters from the Bible meet in heaven to take stir-fried chicken with Chapos and trade gossip about their Master. “He’s such a darling, did you hear he parted the Red Sea for Moses the other day,” I imagine Angel Gabriel saying to the gathering. “Yeah. And he dropped some manna for his starving people also,” another Angel would quip. “Lakini you people don’t know him well, he tried to make my Father chop off my head. And the old bugger was going to do it, had it not been for that poor sheep stuck in the thickets,” that would be Isaac. Then I imagine them taking selfies and posting on Instagram with one million hash tags.

 

 

 

 

Time-Check: 5 p.m.

 

 

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H_art the Band takes to the stage, clad in their everyday old school vintage attire [which, for the life of me, I will just never get] and, boy, are these guys energetic. Whatever they smoke, they need to share it with Nonini because this brother’s performance is just downright boring. No stage presence, no crowd interaction whatsoever. If he hadn’t called Chege when he did, he would have been booed off that stage. He was this close. Wangechi is still way too young for the big stage. She kept running out of breath and rapping inaudible things. I have always said Wangechi was over-rated, she has a long way to go. Shikow FemiOne, on the other hand, is a screamer, needs to go slow on the mic lest we start calling her the Female Meek Mill. And King Kaka, the next time you get off stage without performing Promised Land, I’m scrubbing your name off my Top 3 list. And, guys, just in case you’re wondering, No, Octopizzo is not on that list. Neither is Juliani.

 

 

 

 

[Also, before you guys get your knickers in a twist, I feel I need to say at this point that this is a general review of the performances as I remember them, in no specific order. Sawa?]

 

 

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There’s a song by Fena Gitu that gets me every damn time. I danced to it at Jameson Live and again at the Sportpesa Festival. She’s praising her ideal African Man in it, and the bridge of the track is an afro-fuse rendition of that song we used to sing when we were kids, “Nampenda mpenda [Nani?], Nampenda mpenda [Nani?], Kijana Mmoja [Nani?], Kijana Mmoja [Nani?]” And it’s just the most beautiful song I have heard in a long time, besides Mercy Masika’s ‘Mwema’.

 

 

 

 

Abbas Kubaff can still wreck the mic, any day! Ninja never lost it. What I don’t understand is why he performed in that tuxedo suit he wore when he came in while others changed. Oh, and who the hell was that white mami who sang the Toklezea chorus? One time she shook her ass with so much vigor I thought we were going to be treated to an episode of ‘White Girls Gone Crazy’. Khaligraph Jones can actually rap ‘I Am King’ that fast on stage. Also, now I understand why Juliani said, “Apart from gym, rap tu ndio weh hudo” Khaligraph looks like he could break your arm just by looking at it and thinking about it.

 

 

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Because I couldn’t be around to see Sauti Sol and Redsan perform, my highlights of the evening were Kagwe Mungai and MDQ performances. They have this new song which they performed like some sort of a back and forth role play; like Kagwe would say something while Muthoni was just standing there, looking at him. Then when he was done, she would rap something and it would be Kagwe’s turn to just stand there, like a statue. That was among the only performances that ended with cheers and applause from the audience.

 

 

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Then Kagwe ended his set and left Muthoni on stage for hers. Now, personally, I can’t dance for shit. I couldn’t dance if my life depended on it. You could put a gun to my head and tell me the dougie was the only way to set myself free and I still wouldn’t dance. It’s one of those gifts I always blame The Good Ole’ Man Above for not bestowing upon my feeble self. I mean, do you ever watch a move on Sakata and just ask yourself, “How’d they do that?” Dancers are cool folk; A Dancer doesn’t even have to fight you for a girl. He just has to break into ‘Now watch me Whip’ and I guarantee you, that girl will be his. So I have utmost admiration for people who can dance. Especially if the people in question are wearing 3-inch boots and a dress that looks like what Rihanna would wear to some award show.

 

 

 

 

I told you guys how much Muthoni can dance, and I told you guys about her drums. Now, they say a picture speaks a thousand words. Sasa if I leave a couple of pictures here, si that will be two-thousand words? And I can just stop talking already, donge?

 

 

 

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What maybe I haven’t told you guys yet, is that Muthoni also Produced the Sportpesa Festival. She was in-charge of who performed after whom and at what time. She organized the festival in a flowing manner. Such that; let’s say Wyre has a collabo with Nonini, then Wyre would come to the stage, perform two or three of his solo tracks, then his collabo with Nonini would be the last song on his set and Nonini would come on during his verse. At the end of the song, Wyre would get off stage and Nonini would do his set. And it would continue like that. I don’t know if you guys get what I’m trying to say here? The production was marvelous, to say the least. Muthoni made sure every Artist was available before their time so the festival ran smoothly without any hitches.

 

 

Also, and picture this guys, artists were picked up from their residences by taxis hired by the production team [Muthoni’s production team] and dropped off at the nearby Kenol Petrol Station from where they would be driven to the stadium in…wait for it…Limos. I mean, I have never wanted to be a Celebrity but for a ride in a Limo, I’d kill anybody for that. Once at the stadium, the Artists would then be paraded at the blue carpet for a barrage of photos – with tall gorgeous models holding onto their arms – from Sammie Andre and crew, after which they would then be directed to the Media Lounge for short interviews with the various available media outfits – including Clouds T.V from Tanzania – then taken to the VVIP Arena where they were treated like gods visiting our humble land. If you will take anything from this piece, let it be this; Muthoni is a top of the range Events Organizer. I have never been to her Blankets N’ Wine gigs [where’d they go by the way] but if she can do all this at a festival she’s only Producing, imagine what she can do at her own event. Ma’, bring back Blankets N’ Wine, and we want Limos for the media too. Hehe.

 

 

After her performance, I tried chasing her backstage for a couple of questions to no avail; stupid questions, really. Like, What goes into your mind before a performance? Have you ever been booed off the stage before? Did you cry in the shower or under the pillow? How do you manage to do all this and still keep your cool during a performance? Do knickers get thrown at female artists too? Have you ever had a crazy stalker who liked your Instagram pictures from 369 weeks ago? Does the old man approve of this hairstyle? Heheh. Okay, I just thought of that last one now.

 

 

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***

 

 

A.O.B

 

 

Two last things; One, that thing Muthoni said in the car – Don’t write about that – why do people do that? Why do people think Writers are snitches? That we put on our blogs everything we hear? Free Advice, Writers are like Teenagers; you tell them not to do something, and that’s exactly what we’ll do. So when you start bantering about something and then tell us not to write about it, that’s what we’ll write about. At least I will.

 

 

Two, I’m a Writer. Not a Blogger. There’s a clear difference between the two that I really don’t want to get into now because I’m past my Word Count. I just let it go because, well, it was Muthoni The Drama, er, Drummer Queen. Hehe.

 

 

Photo Credits: Sammie Andre Photography