Saturday, 22 April 2017

Blankets and Wine: AKA, Fena, Nneka

I am just gonna creep right back like nothing ever happened. The elephant in the room is I've been gone for months on end, hopefully this post is among the first of many, maybe even a peace offering to myself and avid readers of this little space. You know just to make up for lost time.

Another quarter of the year, another edition of Blankets & Wine. Yet again I was riding solo and yet again I am glad to report, there is no regret in sight.

Let's come back down to the ground level and work our way up. Advertising of this edition of Blankets started in February and the cheapskate in me jumped on the opportunity to bag an early bird ticket. Life hack for you fellow frugal friend or broke collegiate, do not sleep on these early bird tickets.

I roll up to the venue, Ngong Racecourse Waterfront, after being searched twice within, I kid you not,  25 metres. I understand security measures, in fact, I respect them. But what can change within 25 m? Huh? Enlighten me. To give them the benefit of the doubt, it wasn't the usual KK Security and the newbies were may have just been trying to be eager beavers.

Usually, when you walk in there is this picnicky summer vibe. This time though, before y'all come at me, I know the weather was less than stellar but it was just tent after tent after tent and of course the Mama Rocks food truck which I think I speak for all of us when I say adds more life to any event. If my memory serves me right, food vendors and retailers are always around the perimeter,leaving room for you and me to roam the grounds distraction free and of course Homeboyz to do their thing stark in the middle of it all, conveniently on a raised platform. A little room is also left to appreciate the waterfront where instead there were... you guessed it, more tents.

On the aesthetic appeal level, it's going to be a no from me.

Anyway on to the reason why we all flock to Blankets; the live music. I think this was their most packed line up yet. Everybody and I mean everybody brought it, from the Supa Mega to the fresh faced Nu Nairobi lieutenants Kiwango and Muroe Music.

The opening act was Janice Iche looking like a 60's flower child complete with a flower crown and a flowy white dress., all systems were ready and set to go for festival season. When the band took it a few notches down meshing perfectly with her whispery voice that was the cherry on top of  it all.

To the guys who reminded me of youth as it should be, Kiwango and Muroe Music. They used every inch of that stage to define stage presence, foot-on-the-stage-speaker, rocker style, Muroe head banging, locs and all. Kiwango with this huge beaming smile on his face. These guys were born for that moment not to mention their interaction with the crowd which carried such a casual vibe with it I thought me and them, we go way back.

What was surreal was the actual ages of some of the live performers, I mean to be so young and perform so well; singing over a live band proved to be quite the challenge for some of the artistes, experienced or nah! However, Kahvinya and Ciano hands down,  they were the break out stars balancing out the live band with the perfect mix of just pure instrumentals and vocals. Somebody call Teen Vogue because I just found a couple of people who deserve to be on the 2017 annual fresh faces spread.

Then came a couple of familiar faces; Tetu Shani who in my most humble of opinions enjoyed most of the crowds love. His new single, Samalina, had people twirling and  parents dancing with their kids. It was such a less is more type of deal with a bit of humour and some throwback tunes. Here is a guy who needs to do a Tetu Live by the end of this year, Tetu, make this happen, take it as a shove in the right direction.

To round up the Kenyan line up were Prisca Ojwang followed by Trina Mungai who had us moving and grooving to Pale Pale a personal favourite.

Two weeks down the line and I am still giddy over the fact that I got to see Nneka live. Everything about her performance was thought through. She performed during golden hour and what is better than golden hour? Golden hour at the waterfront. She had us singing along to everything on her set list; Soul is Heavy, Restless, Shining Star but the one that topped it all of, My Love.

Wrapped in a blanket, acoustic guitar in hand it all felt so intimate despite the reported 2000 guests. From how she worked with the band, it was a no-brainer that she is a seasoned artiste; knowing how to jam her acoustic guitar to the electrics and her little hand signals to the band to either go all the way out or come all the way down. Precision to the very core.

Yup, you and me both were waiting for Hearbeat, it didn't happen but no hard feelings here...well kinda.

Y'all know I am all about the deejay's set during the breaks. This time one the 1's and 2's was Taio Tripper. The homie doesn't play. He had everything in there from late 60's early 70's Kenyan Rhumba to some trap soul, keeping everybody happy. He did have this annoying cock's crow sound bit playing between tracks, I get trying to be different from the sirens, the horns or the bountiful cliche self promos but imma pass on that one. The deejay from last time still has my heart or should I say my feet.

When Kenyan artistes are on an international platform, they step up to the plate. Fena was no exception; face beat, hair did, wardrobe changes, merch, surprise guest artistes. No doubt about it she came to represent.

First half was Kenyan throwback tunes Boomba Train, E-Sir, Necessary Noize the works. Second half was her chat toppers, Sema ng'we and of course the Skwaaaa with Kama Kawaida and Party Nation so naturally saucy Mayonde, boss lady MDQ, super producer Kagwe and the guy who takes no Ls, Blinky Bill were ready to put the LIT in lituation.

With a name like SUPA MEGA you really can't afford to be mediocre. Forget working with the built in band or DJ, it was all Rainbow Nation up there.

 His was an experience. He sprayed the audience with water, champagne and some more water, you've got to give the brutha credit for having insane aim, gave us a little of Poison by BBD, sang the chorus to Congratulate a dozen of times, All eyez on me, Baddest and even without his crew, Burna Boy and Da LES he still held it down. The crowd was feeling him on a whole other level and sprayed him in turn with vodka and he just stood there, arms wide open and took it. Let the spirit of champagne showers spread all around. And did I mention that the dude's got moves? Moves that I will forever compare to any other rapper who so much attempts to even do a two step, moves that went beyond pacing from one end of stage to the other, Big Sean's moves? Bigger. I went home a happy lass that day.

If you stayed for the mix by Suraj and Ukweli, drop your review down in the comment section below because a sistah had a long commute home.

Have a good one!  

Just a little rant though, press seriously need a little bit of decorum and so do security. I mean, I was at the very front and I had people blocking my view. One of the press guys even had the nerve to set up his equipment right in front of my field of view; I'm talking tripod and those huge bulky camcorders another guy stood on top of the barricade all in the name of getting the best angle. And where was security? I'm asking the same question.