It has been about two months since I was at the gym. Not because of anything else other than the fact that I was slapped with a bill of KES. 95,000 at the hospital and so I have to save money for the eye surgery. I will tell you guys all about it later, but today let’s pay attention to the gym for a second. I miss the gym. It was that place I could go to to decompress and watch people struggle to carry 2 grams of weight. A relaxing respite from all the mental work. I liked to go to the gym at around 11am because at there is practically nobody working out at that time. Usually it would be just me, two or three other guys, and the gym instructors. And that is wonderful for me because there is not much distraction. Until one day I walked into the gym and who do I see? Big Pin. Who, I was stupified to learn, is not actually Luo, despite the Jatelo monicker and fluent Dholuo rhymes.
At first it was just him. Then the next time I saw him, he was working out with Nyash. Halafu kidogo kidogo, Nameless joined them. So now they were like a trinity of sorts. And then gyming went to shit because I would spend too much time watching these guys. I never imagined I would lose my mind being close to celebrities until I was actually close to them and my strength shifted from the dumbbells to suppressing an irresistible urge to go and just say hi.
Listen. Let me tell you something.
Big Pin, Nameless and Nyash are my OGs. Back in the days that we now look back at with sepia-tinted glasses, they were the people whose songs I wrote in a song book, crammed, and then went about pulling myself in the chest of the village, thinking I was the shit. During every birthday party ever thrown North of Kapenesa and South of Kenya Re Estate, there HAD to be a dance competition. No chunowa ka sianda matindo. And that was long before jumping around, spinning on heads and breaking bones were considered dancing in Migosi. Those were attempted suicides. Dancing was either ndombolo, slide, or helicopter. And slide had two styles. One where you glue your thigh together and push them to the side while throwing your chest and folded hands back. Then another was where you swept the ground with one leg while sending your entire body to the opposite direction.
And at that time, my friend, the moment the DJ put Ninanoki, you knew for sure that carpets would be torn. Nobody ever threw a bash with a dance competition and then pedhod those plastic carpets. You just heard
DUN DUN…Mimi na wewe…
DUN DUN …
Mimi NA Wewe..
DUN DUN …
Mimi NA Wewe..
DUN DUN …
Nameless na wewe!!
Mimi NA Wewe.. X 3
Walalalalalala. Piny nekethore!!!
I can never forget Big Pin’s collabo with Sanaipei Tande. You. The one with a video in which everything was the colour of egg yolk. Halafu we all know how Nyash came back with a bang so resounding you would think evolution was about to begin all over again.
So of course, you can imagine my excitement to finally go to the gym with these chaps. I had never been in such close proximity to them, and now they were here and everything in my system was practically going to hell. I would sit at the thingamabob, pumping reverse curls, and secretly trying to lie to myself that I did not care about their presence, when in fact, in my heart, I was singing Naaaaaa Mwogopa MUNGU PEKEE at the top of my internal voice.
But I could not just walk up to them and start confessing my adoration because I am pretty sure the last thing someone needs when struggling under the oppression of deadlifts, is a jamaa to come up to them with declarations of love and admiration. As in, they did not come to the gym for banter, they came to work out, bana. Disrespecting that and intruding is not just insensitive, it is just plain rude.
These past few days I have been in a bit of turmoil. I am trying to dissect the kind of entitlement that the public has towards celebrities. Patricia Kihoro once said in an interview that in Kenya we do not have celebrities, just popular people…or something in that neighbourhood. You can comb through YouTube for the exact quote. But her point is, in places like majuu akina Rihanna have people camping outside their houses, waiting to see whoever is going to give them a hug so that they can go spin out an EXCLUSIVE about who she is now shagging. The Kardashians’ existences – from make up to the drinks they take- are businesses. In Kenya we do not have that. Not really. The closest we can get to that level is when Patricia Kihoro decides to smile with a string of sukuma stuck in her teeth and all of a sudden there is a typo infested article in a gossip rag titled 7 things you did not know about a certain celebrity’s dental hygiene and number 10 will shock you.
Also, people generally like to watch and be a part of celebrity lives. That is why there are all those reality shows about the daily lives of who and who. Shows that I have never understood why they are called reality because they most likely have several takes. I imagine Toni Braxton being told something along the lines of “OK, now we are going to drink water in 3…2…1…action!…CUT! CUT! CUT! What is that on Toni’s face? Is that lip balm? Jesus Christ…MAAAAKE UUUPPP!!!!” Where is the reality in that? And really, nobody is ever going to tell you the truth with a camera pointing at their faces. Those shows are as real as the number of chicks campus boys brag to have slept with.
But I digress.
Let’s go back a step. We were talking about entitlement. Simply because you a fan of somebody’s work, does not mean they belong to you. Even when you have never bought a single album, a single portrait or a single book they have put out. Just because you follow somebody on Instagram does not mean they are enslaved to you. The only people we should ever lay claim to like that are politicians…not artists.
I guess this kind of intrusion of privacy is the reason bikozulu refuses to take photos. You will take a photo with him and he will ask you, politely, to keep it off social media. Owaahh used to take photos, then he quit. These days, the best you can ever find of him is the one he has as a WhatsApp profile picture – a silhouette that traces the outside of his head against a sunset as ominous as the stories he tells. The other day Ngartia and Abu staged a two-hour show based on his blogposts, and at the end when the entire KNT auditorium rose to its feet in applause, asking Owaahh to show his face, dude was nowhere to be seen. Homeboy snaked his way out of the hall and only resurfaced at the bar when the crowd had thinned and alcohol was taking the place coherence used to hold. Sia refuses to put her face to a handsome achievement of a multi-million-dollar music career. Instead she shrouds it all up with a black and white mbalas. To hide away from the awfulness such as this one: ‘Once, as my friend was telling me they had cancer, someone came up and asked, in the middle of the conversation, if they could take a photograph with me.’
All these people want is a modicum of privacy. They want to be able to silly without anyone dragging them on social media about it. They want to get drunk and piss on the walls written Usikojoe Hapa without a DSLR being pointed at their face. They want to be allowed days when they do not want to deal with anyone. And these are privileges you can only enjoy when you are faceless.
—Damian Marley landed here the other day, and yes, his supposed altercation with that Lawi dude is the reason I am writing this. To be honest, I did not know Damian was coming to Kenya. I knew about it from the video that Chiko Lawi posted online – yelling chuodho at a group of Rasta men behind him. Anyone who listens to reggae knows who Damian is, and anyone who watches local football knows who Lawi is – the bald dude from DSTV with a Vin Diesel mwitu voice and accent so fake even China has refused to take credit for it.
As it turns out Damian declined to take photos with a certain kid because he was tired. You know, the way human beings sometimes tend to be. Feeling like the superhero without a cape, he swooped in and got into it with Damian and his crew. Words that cannot be taken back were supposedly said by one of Damian’s people about Lawi’s mother and in fit of unfettered rage, he went on social media with a live recording of him spitting undigested vocabularies at the rasta men, all the while laughing and hearing himself Mumias Sugar.
First of all, me I clearly come from a completely different place. If someone was to insult Mother Karua to my face, s/he would probably not end up with any. But because we were created unique individuals, Lawi is not as uncouth as me. He took the higher road of going to take a live video of him insulting the one man who said he was tired, over an insult delivered by another man, to uninvitedly defend the honour of another man’s child.
The story would later on change so conveniently to be that Damian also mentioned Lawi’s mother.
To be fair to Lawi, his version could be true. That indeed his mother was called. But now his narrative changes like traffic lights. His plot is more inconsistent than Ababu Namwamba’s ideologies and Arsenal’s form combined. Even with the cataracts in my eyes, I can still see right through his lies. It also does not help his case that this lady was there and had this to say about his demeanor pre-altercation.
Lawi’s childishness (no offence to all the babies out there) aside. Do you see just how toxic our entitlement to famous people are? Yaani, people like this hairless turd who are used to getting everything they want, cannot fathom the idea that NO is a complete sentence. These are the very same people to whom girls all of a sudden became ugly because they (the girls) weren’t feeling their advances. “Unaringa na hata huna any. Hata ukininyima bado utadinywa tu na mwingine.” These are the same people to whom, once you are get into the spotlight, there is never an exit. It is a cageless prison in which everything, including your personal freedom, is fair game. You lose your agency as a human being because you are a celebrity.
I was talking about this shitfest with a friend of mine and we got into an argument about what really makes artists. You know how someone will say, “We are your fans, we made you. Without us you would be nothing”? I think that is nonsense. If I was Damian and someone said that to me, I would pull them aside and tell them, respectfully, “You know what, you did not make me. God made me. My music made me. My father, even in his absence, made me. All you do is appreciate me, so be careful not to overstate your importance in my life. Your appreciation of my work is what has made me popular and now I can pay my bills, but it is not as if this is charity work you are doing. I give you music, you give me fame. At the basic sense of it, this thing we have, this is a transaction. An exchange of products. An engagement that I get into with a level of respect that I demand from you. But make no mistakes, man. Being a public figure does not make me public property. If that is too much for you handle, then please, Mr. Chiko Lawi, bounce along and go play with your little balls because those are the only things you really know how to use your head around.”
I guess this is the reason God refused to make me a celeb.
However, as I look at how much I stand to give up, I thank Him for not even bothering.
Because I look at Michelle Obama saying that with all the power that comes from being the First Lady of the United States of America for eight years, she could not sit in the car with a window rolled down…always peering into the world through a blackened hue. I watch I Am Bolt and my heart breaks when the world champion says there are times when he would visit a city yet never really see it, always would be marooned in his hotel room, unable to even step out for a walk because there is never a shortage of android wielding ong’ongruoks prancing around feeling owed.
I can’t live like that. Nobody should be made to.
Welcome to Kenya, Jr. Gong. Personal liberty is not a tax you must pay for being known. I wish I could attend your concert, but like I said in the beginning, my eyes betray me.