The year is 2013 and God has not yet started dishing out His blessing depending on the number of guilt-tripping messages you spam WhatsApp groups with. We are in Parklands Campus, sitting in Room 21, talking about how the Arts Club gig went. I am sitting on Winnie’s bed, watching her spin ugali with one hand, holding the hot sufuria with the other. Beside her are sliced tomatoes, onions, sukuma wiki and a packet of Jogoo that is almost over. The packet has been torn off at the top and the torn portion is what Winnie uses to hold the steaming sufuria. On the other bed sits Kafoi Ndegwa (an Arts Club official), playing songs from her computer, going on and on about their gig. She is talking about music and how the best musicians in Kenya are not well known.
“What do you mean the best musicians are not known?”
“Kwani wewe Jakom, who do you think is the best female singer in Kenya?”
“Psssssh. Easy. Avril and Amani hands down!”
Her face recoils in disbelief. Winnie stops spinning her ugali and turns around, forehead furrowed, one hand on her waist and the one holding the mwiko pointing at me.
“Ati WHAT!” they chorus. I feel like they are just about to slice me up and cook me up like I am the special of the day.
Then Kafoi starts saying names of musicians I have never heard of. She mentions them so fast you would imagine her adrenaline is fuelled by V-Power.
“You have never even heard of Dela?” Winnie interrupts her roomie’s rant.
“Yes, I have. But si that one is American?” I say.
“No. Not Adele. Dela.”
“Oh my God, Jakom” Kafoi steps back in, “even that Adele you are talking about is not American. She is British.”
“American. British. Whatever. Point is, she is white.”
“Fine. But Dela and Adele are different people. And if you think Avril can sing, then you do not have one musical bone in you.”
Aki that statement scratches right into the bone marrow of my ego. How dare she say that to the Chairperson of the Kenya Law Students Society. An entire Jakom like me? Without a single musical bone in me? Shit. The nerve of some people. But even before I can say KLSS, Kafoi’s computer jumps into song.
“Listen to this. It’s called Weche Tek by Dela.”
I do not even pay attention. My bruised ego can’t let me concentrate. It burns with the combined fury of seven hells. Me? George Magunga Oduor, woud William Oduor Okango gi Patricia Adhiambo? Me? Jalego Komenya Rabar, mand kwach, tond meli, ng’ama pielo e bungu to ng’iso oboke ni ‘In katieko to ang’wedi’? Me? Whose father was a member of Simba wa Nyika, playing the bass guitar for all of one month? Me, whose brother is an upcoming musician – one of those reggae artists who talk funny English? Me, owadgi Deogratias gi Regina Mariposa? Nyakwar Okango Komollo? Me I do not have a musical bone in me? Ayayayayayayaya. I am too hurt to even be angry. I do not listen to that song she is even saying. Dela girl gi tang’o? But then when you are the Chairman of a student body, there are certain things you are not supposed to do; like show hurt to students fwaaaaa. They elected you, so you just stash your feelings in your pocket and walk away.
Three years later, I find myself at Nairobi Arboretum for Koroga Festival. I am no longer the chairperson of Kenya Law Students Society. In fact, I am not even a law anything. Things have changed. These days I contribute an extra view of Mafeelings, Third Party Lover, Hello (Swahili version) and Mama Papa to YouTube daily. I am a Delagate – she is currently the shit, in my books, and everyone else is, well, shit. I have met Dela once, at the launch of Sauti Sol’s album Live and Die in Afrika and on that day after she shook my hands, I was proud to have lived (and was ready to die) in Africa.
Today I am a struggling artist, meaning, I am not even the one who bought the tickets to this festival. It is this woman next to me. The moment she heard that Dela, her former schoolmate at Kenya High, and Mafikizolo were going to be performing at the July edition of Koroga Festival, she went online and bought tickets for two. We arrive late, long after Dela has performed, and so we walk around meeting people. She knows everyone, this woman of mine. She is like a politician. The celebrities hug her at first sight. Me I am just trailing behind her like a shadow.
“Hey, this is El Poet,” she introduces me.
“Hey man. Magunga.” I say, trying to be as cool as possible, pretending that I have not been following him on Twitter since his days as a poet at Wamathai poetry.
“G, this is Amina. She is the MC.”
“George.” I shake her hand as she walks away.
“Have you met Maqbul?” Jaber says.
“Hey chief.” I ensure the handshake grip is tight enough. I have to show confidence, after all.
“No, we haven’t met,” Maqbul says.
“Well, technically we have,” I begin, “at the screening for Suicide Squad the other day…”
“Oh yeah,” he acts like he now remembers. I do not expect him to. So I let it slide, when deep inside I want to tell him that I did not even know him from the movie screening, rather, I have been watching him as an actor in KBC, alongside Terryanne Chebet. That show called Reflections, I think.
I keep my words to myself. I become a prisoner of words unsaid, because inasmuch as I am mesmerised, like a little child, when I meet celebrities, I still feel the need for self preservation. So we walk ahead, enjoying the sight of middle class consumerism feeding its hunger of buying a quarter chicken at 600 bob. The place is packed with men holding six packs of Carlsberg and women (thanks to the weather) dressed in clothes as long as Trump’s fingers.
The walk ends up inside the tent where Mafikizolo are supposed to perform. On the each side of the stage is a huge screen. We find a spot near the stage, next to a lady who has brought kids with her to the concert. She lets us share her space, but despite her kindness, I cannot for the life of me, understand why she brought kids into this tent, given how rowdy Kenyan concert goers get at the sight of performing musicians. And as sure as death and taxes, the moment the white curtain drops and Mafikizolo comes on stage, everyone crams to the front.
And you know how we Kenyans do not know how to enjoy concerts. Everyone wants to be at the front. It is not like if we were three steps back we would not see what is going on on stage. And it is not as if the two screens are broken. They do. It is just that need to be as close as possible to the stage so that our Snapchats can be clearer. And then when they get to the front, they raise their phones in the air to block the rest of us, as if we paid 2k to come look at their bony hands. So in as much as Theo (the bald chap from Mafikizolo) makes the crowd roar with his quirky dance, and Nhlanhla (the chick) melts our hearts with a voice I will not be forgetting soon, as she belts their oldie Ndihamba Nawe, these things irritate the shit out of me. But the highlight of the performance does not even happen on stage. It happens right in front of me.
So there is this mama in an orange dress, who, let’s just say, is full of life. Yaani, she is big. And since I am standing behind her, all I can see is her ass. It is not as if I can ignore it, given just how much space it takes. Na si ati there is much space anyway. Between us is this painted tyre that the organisers thought people were going to sit on like ducks while watching Mafikizolo. I do not know what happens, but just as Mafikizolo launches into Khona, she stumbles backwards. I do not see her coming until it is too late. All I see is a sudden orange apocalypse descending, and so I step sideways to avoid the avalanche. She falls the way convectional rains fall. Unexpectedly, but with madness that leaves you confused for a moment, not knowing what the hell just happened. She is like her own Mexican wave. And you know how, when a person falls, there is that brief silence that comes immediately after when you are not sure how to react. You do not know whether or not to laugh, because, to be honest, falls are hilarious, but at the same time you don’t want to be an asshole. And then after you help the person up, and they are OK, you look around and see people trying hard to stifle laughter.
It takes three of us to get her back on her feet, and as soon as she does, she goes back to her enjoyment. Not even a thank you. Or even that nod of appreciation, you know. She just goes back to her dancing like nothing happened. Tsk. I wonder what kind of personality some people have. Perhaps she had a nice personality once. Until she ate it.
It is not long before the show ends, and Uhuru (the musician, not the president) is set to take the stage. However, Jaber and I are too tired of standing, and we are parched. Mafikizolo have sucked the daylights from our knees. One more minute inside that congested tent and my anaemic Jaber will fall too. We have to buy that 600 bob quarter chicken after all. And it’s after buying the chicken that the highlight of my day happens. I see Dela walking in the crowd with blue hair and a dress so white, the Oscars would feel jealous. Next to her is this tall menacing man dressed in black. I want to rush over and even just touch the hem of her dress and be healed of this excitement, lakini as a general rule, I do not mess around with girls who are walking with men dressed in black.
I tell Jaber, “Look, it’s your friend. Wanna say hi?” What that statement really means is, “LOOOK! IT IS DELA! LET US GO YOU INTRODUCE ME CHAP CHAP BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARS!”
So Jaber shouts, “Ade!” and Dela stops and turns. Her lips are also painted blue. The lady in white and blue. She looks like the sky on a good day. They hug and then when Dela turns to me, I extend my hand for a greeting. Do you know what this ball of beauty does? She opens her hands wide and invites me for a hug.
I do not know if you guys are even listening after 1,730 words.
Dela. Hugs. Me.
I am not lying, guys. I cross my heart and hope to die. I swear, it happens. Del hugs me for two seconds that feel like a century. Aki. If I cheat I hate God. But that is not all. Something even more spectacular happens. Just as I am about to say my name, she taps my shoulder, ever so lightly and while looking into my eyes, however briefly, she says, “I am a fan.”
I refuse to believe it. I must be hearing my own things. I think there was something in that chicken that makes people hallucinate, and that is probably why it is 600 bob. I want to ask her to repeat those words, but then some girls have already swarmed around her. So I turn to my Jaber and ask, “What did she say?” She can see how flushed I am. My breathing is short and fast and my stupid eyes are so wide in wonder.
“She said she is a fan,” Jaber says.
“Naaaaah. You lie. These games you people play!”
“For real, let me ask her then,” she insists and then turns to Dela, “What did you say to him?”
Dela looks me again and with the bluest smile never seen before or since, she repeats, “I said I am a fan.”
I do not know what Dela is a fan of, exactly; whether it is this blog, or my broken tooth, or yellow hair, or even the shirt I am wearing. I mean, it is a Van Heusen, after all. Whatever it is, I do not care, I just know that whatever it may be that Dela could possibly be a fan of, it has something to do with me. My head swells so much that if I am to order an Uber, I would only get surge pricing. Dela is a fan. Dela Maranga is a fan. Adeline Nyaboke Maranga is a fan of something that I, Magunga George Williams Oduor, is associated with.
Nyasaye wuora! Me? Me I am just a simple servant of the Lord. I do not know what I did to deserve this. You know, there are people who came to this festival, and the sweetest thing they’ve been told all days is, “Hi, I am from Carlsberg and we have an amazing offer. If you buy a six-pack for 1500, you get a chance to win a key holder or a T-shirt.” There are men who have been told even more impossibly delicious things tonight by other impossibly talented women. Things such as, “Njoro mimi nitakuwacha uingie fry ukiongeza hamsini?” Unfortunately, others have not even been told anything, just imagine. These are useless men who forgot anniversaries or birthdays and now have to deal with the kind of noise that silence can bring. But me, me who was told circa three years ago, that I have no musical bone in me, I have just been told by the woman with the most gorgeous musical bones, that she is a fan. I want to call Kafoi and shout, “In your face, Kafoi, in your face!” but she probably won’t even know what I am talking about, or who she is talking to.
At this very instant, all over the world men are being told things. Either with silence or words. Yet out of all these men, I am the only one who God saw fit to be swept away by Dela Maranga. My Lord does not sleep. For true, He has fought my battles for me. I have been vindicated!
It is exactly 2250hrs when I finish writing this post. I am sitting shirtless on my couch. Jaber is wearing a sweater, the July cold must be stinging her. But not me. Dela said things to me that left me feeling like Elsa from Frozen; the cold never bothered me anyway.
“I am a fan,” Dela told me and then walked away, leaving me burning in the fire she’d lit.