Sunday, 29 April 2012

UP in the air...

"Using the 'Kawangware' aesthetic to sell Absolut to a hall full of expats has a pinch of obscene" ~Raph~
Smiling white people.

This past Saturday, my friend Raph and I decided to go for the ‘UP Live’ event hosted by UP magazine at the Kenya National Theatre. The event was to celebrate the magazine’s one year anniversary.  It was raining quite hard, as it has  been this past week, and we weren’t feeling much like being out, but boredom and curiosity got the best of us. So off we went, walking from our Kijabe street studio to KNT.
JAB's super sax dude.
We got there and the numbers were good, which was surprising considering the rain. There was a tent outside the theatre, under which were two bars, one for Heineken and the other for Absolut Vodka. The two brands were the main sponsors of the event. People stood around in clusters, chatting, sipping their drinks and looking generally self-conscious as people often do at these kinds of things. Raph and I hovered around saying our hellos and trying to get a feel of what was going on. Then a guy appeared at the Wasanii (The theatre’s bar) balcony and said something that I didn’t quite get but everyone started moving into the theatre so I followed suit.
A mister Kevin Mbugua.
I found myself inside a strikingly set up KNT, with graffiti-ed mabati sheets all over the place. Awesome. The graffiti was mainly random matatu route numbers and signs like,’tunauza makaa’. I didn’t care much for that but Raph had rather strong feelings about it. It just seemed like the UP people, who largely target expats and Blankets&Winers, were using an aesthetic that they know nothing about. Felt disconnected. So Maia Von Lekow and Kevin Mbugua played together. Technically good but mostly boring. There wasn’t any artistic chemistry there and they both came off like they were playing musicians rather than being actual musicians. Then came Just A Band who were the reason most people, including us, had come to the event. These boys are so likeable with their easy, unaffected attitude. They did something off their last album, 82, with Maia which I actually enjoyed. The sound kept malfunctioning  which seemed to rattle their vibe for a bit, but their saxophonist,who was simply stellar, kept us distracted. They played a bunch of crowd favourites which got us all on our feet. Fun times. Also, Blinky, their lead singer was rocking a really nice jumper that had a leso motif, with the methali and everything, which I later found out was done by Chilli Mango.
JAB's Blinky in very nice Chilli Mango jumper.
The after party was upstairs at Wasanii  where DJ Zelalem played all sorts of strange, wonderful music. He might be Nairobi’s most versatile DJ. He talks way too much during sets though according to my friend Reumac, who took all the photos here.
All in all, UP’s first birthday, though nicely produced in some aspects, lacked truth. You get the sense that UP is trying to sell some “cool” that stems from nothing at all really, and for me, cool has to have a basis. I did however like the Heineken pictures. Nice touch J