I have been seeing audition calls for Twaweza Live Kisumu Tour on Facebook, that event that musical Safaricom is touring across the country. And I am still jealous. Because a few years back, if I had not been heartbroken by the girl of my dreams, I would probably be singing on that stage.

And if there is one Safaricom Twaweza Live tour I would have loved to be in, it is the one that is going to happen in Kisumu. Because I have never, ever, attended a concert in Kisumu. And from history, Safaricom knows what they are doing when it comes to putting up quality events. And it would have been really cool to perform in front of my grandmother, the real OG. OG here standing for Olivia Gondia.

It would have been more fireworks than all the past live events I have attended In fact, two are most memorable. The first was 2013, when Octopizzo put up such a solid performance, the crowd literally cried. Tears. For real. I am not even lying. He even went ahead, and gave random kids in the crowd shoes he had placed in a funky bag, and they came with 7 multi-colored shoelaces, for everyday of the week.

My absolute best, however, was the last Niko Na Safaricom Live I attended. It was the one they held in partnership with the government, in Kasarani Stadium. It was in collaboration with the Kenya at 50 celebrations – the biggest, and probably most important, if you ask me. I was part of the production team, so please, you can ask me. It also rained properly, and I was on TV for like 10 seconds.

It had everyone who had ever been on the Niko Na Safaricom Live Tour; Daddy Owen, Octopizzo, P-Unit, Pengle, Size 8, Sauti Sol, MOG, Kidum, Jua Cali, Eric Omondi, Esther Wahome, Wahu among many. But the special guest for the celebration was the indefatigable Tarrus Riley. It was also a good Christmas gift for his fans, because it was just after some promoters and organizers had botched a performance initially intended for 2013.

Wacha I tell you what happened.

When I was sixteen years old, OOOOOH MMMMMAA GASH…I had a crush. Mad crush. Woi. That crush was the one. If people still had crushes like those, there would be world peace. OK. It wasn’t like a crush crush ile noma. More like just a polite crush that everyone sees and knows, because your pimples are now red, yet you are black. A very respectable crush. Like it’s a crush yes, but internal. Silent. Chini ya maji. Incognito. Like someone built on your riparian land, and you did not know how it happened. Like your first true-love-crush who is not an award winning African American RNB artist. Someone local, hivi hivi tu. Si you now get me?

Aaaaaanywho.

So there was this fine chick. A halla dyem. Yaani Mhala, or if you like MULUYIA!!! A very good friend to one of my sisters, Caro. Very very beautiful. Kizungu iko chonjo. Ngeli na msamiati imesoma. Tabia haina ile. Zgwembs ziko fine-thank-you. Opposition Research was truly showing I could lead in the polls if I declared interest in running for office as the governor of her gubernatorial heart.

She was also meeting the educational standards I expected of her, somehow. I was very sharp in class. And I needed someone to match my abilities. Her grades were ok. People spoke very highly of her. She could even make salad by cutting cabbages, tomatoes, and onions. A true cook. Because apparently my greatest food concern was chips za msoro pale California Estate and bhajia from the Swahili lady at Jino Moja. Madhafu tu ndio kidogo ilikuwa absent kwa kila mtu kwao but I was willing and ready to live with that. I was also struggling in maths then, but I got better. But before, woi, my grades were so bad, the teacher once refused to give me an exam. It’s not even a joke. She said she did not want to waste resources. I was like, if I can count from one to ten, I can take on the world.

The goddess’ name, Lilian. Wueh wueh wueh.

When you said Lilian, it had to roll off your tongue, like you were from Buru but you went to visit someone on the other side of Uhuru Highway, and came back with an American accent. Not LILIYAN. It was, Lil’yen. It was written, LILLYANNE.

Grab a cup and sit down.

My friend, Lillian was not a gifted musician. She was The Gifted Musician. She had a really nice voice. And the way she just handled her small mouth as she sang, it was angelic, man.She could sing better than I could pass exams. She had a set of pipes that knew how to seduce fame. The one that you’d say, ‘Sauti tamu iliingiza boychild pangoni.’ 

Problem though, she sang with the worship team in the local church. Mimi niko kwa War Sheep team mtaani. Yaani vita ovyo ovyo na Kondoo binadamu pale mtaani zenye hazileti shangwe. A girl bebi is in Banda School, me I am in the equivalent of Kibanda School. Hao wanaishi kwa estate, sisi kwa gorofa, or flats. While us we wore sweaters them they called theirs cardigans. Hapo Eastleigh tu.

But I am so excited now, so, I self motivate, as I hold on to hope, najiambia kama wazee wasaba walitoka Kapenguria and still ended up being the founders of this great nation Kenya, even me too myself personally, I can win this war for her heart.

Forward Ever. Backward Never. Twende Kazi.

Haya. So my strategy is to get really close to her. And the only way to get really close is to join the worship team. But niko na shida kidogo. Au kubwa. Depends on how you look at it.  Thing is, adolescence has kicked in major, and my voice is not still sure where it wants to lie. Thin soprano, or the deep base. Tuko in between all of it at the same time together at once mara hiyo hiyo. Like I would cue a whole choir with all their parts at once by just saying, ‘Good afternoon.’

So I have arranged my game. First ni kutest waters. See where she lies. One day I tell her, ‘I like your school. If I was a girl aki I would have joined your school.’

Her: Aki the way I chukia that shule of ours.

Me: (eyes having grown wide like what’s happening, I am confused) Even me I don’t penda that your shule of yours. Now what shule is hiyo of yenu. I was just jaribuing to make you feel vizuri.

Her: (Inaudible) Did he just say that?

Half time. Bado tuko nil-nil.

Another time, she comes to our house.

Me: Can I escort you?

Her: No. (She thinks a bit) Ok. But mpaka until we fika the gate. My zecks d’aent like wavulanas in our digz ongearing with wasichanas.

Me: (can’t believe it for a minute, she talks like this all the time??) Sawaz.

My dad would have gone mad if he had ever heard any one of his children speak such incoherent nonsense boldly and unashamedly.  But I don’t care right now. I am only happy that I am found worthy to walk side by side with Lillyanne. Hivyo ndio ulikuwa unataja jina yake. But soon she would be Lillyanne wa Pau. 

So game imeingiana. Opposition research iko sawa. By such a good luck, worship team auditions pale DC Eastleigh zimeitwa.

Haijaijaijaijaija.

You should have seen me practice; it was Boys II Men, N-Sync, 98 Degrees… all the best RnB musicians. Because gospel music to me then sounded more like slow jams that were a hit at that time. Kidogo kidogo, I go full African Spirituals ‘Sisi wanawako tumekusanyika, angalia Baba.’ Kidogo tena, ‘Bwana Yesu anameremeta.’ Kidogo tena, ‘Tutabadilishwa tufanane naye.’

A day to the audition nywele kwenye relaxer. Kwapa wembe ni ule ule. Armpits soaked in Brut body spray. Red satin shirt with a blue backup. If all fails, I have the number 23 vest that Michael Jordan wore for Chicago Bulls. We are waiting to take off, like crazy. That evening she comes to our house to see my siz. I tell her I have been thinking, and I have decided, I am joining the worship team. She is so excited about it. I can see it in her eyes. She is so proud of me. I almost say, ‘Yes. I will marry you.’ She tells me she is the one auditioning guys and asks me to sing.

First song, and she is like so shocked, her eyes are almost falling to the ground. She says, ‘Aiiii. Do you have another one?’

Repertoire iko juu so I give her my list. We sing all songs and I am sure she is impressed because I am giving it my all. And then she tells me, ati auditions have been postponed. To the next week. And that I should practice just one more week and we will be fine.

My naive self is like, ‘more time to practice.’ I want to show Judge Ian he knows nothing.

So practice I will. I do two 2 hours before sleeping, and purpose to do 2 hours everyday. I mean, grit, plus I need the good Lord’s help here. Iko nini.

Sunday, next day, mimi huyo church. Seated at the very front in the congregation, when the other Sundays I would sit so far back, I would need a matatu to bring my offerings to the front. Worship team wamepiga huduma. Wamenibless. Tugange yajayo. Ata napanga kuokoka saa hiyo hiyo.

Youth pastor with his infrontness infrontness, ‘Yesterday we had auditions for the new worship team. And I would like to invite them over to the stage so that we pray for them. Let me also say this is probably going to be the Dream Team of Worship Teams. I see greatness, I see dedication and I see destinies. There will never be another like this. And it will be led by Lillyanne.’

I almost fell. I was waiting to audition but she just made sure I wasn’t there. The pastor prayed for them. I think he even prayed for their future baes. Sema kucheswo. And the fine-ghel-no-pimpo is not batting an eyelid.

Of course machozi pale balancing on the front but flooding on the inside.

Pastor then said, ‘Stretch your hands towards this team.’

Me I am not stretching.

Pastor: In fact everyone in the front row just come and lay your hands on them. Bless them.  Speak blessing… rrrrababosh…

I was like, what was that??? I couldn’t believe it. Hiyo zone ata sijui ni gani ama inaitwa aje.

Anyway, the crush ended after that service. Ok, maybe one year later. But I kept my peace. If I can’t sing with you in the same team, please remove the jam.

If I had not shied away from the microphone because of her, I would probably have formed my own band, of people like me, who really love shoes. And we would have called ourselves, Kamp Ndula. And this year, I would probably be on stage for Safaricom Twaweza Live, not as an audition, but as a judge. Or better yet, an artist for the live tour performing along with Nameless pale Kisumu Show on 28th August, from 6pm mpaka che. 

Sigh.

Anyway, I can’t wait to go see that show. And I wish I was in Kisumu.

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Noise maker. Storyteller. Photographer.

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