As the old saying goes, show me a person’s company and I’ll tell you who they are. This much is true when it comes to my taste in rock and metal music. Like my ancestors my tastes have over the years been a product of grafting and assimilation from the people I spent most of my time with.
I stepped out of high school very eager for heavier music. Before graduating I was already quite steeped in rock music. Most households didn’t have internet connection back then. However, there were plenty of shows playing on TV and radio. Capital FM had Rick Dee’s Countdown on Saturdays as well as Fareed Khimani’s Code Red. Fuse Fusion then hosted by Italia Masiero came on every day from 10am. Rock tunes kept the blood flowing but I needed something that could chill the heart.
KTN’s Rock Wednesday’s was playing a healthy balance of alternative rock as well as its more heavier iterations. You had the odd Slipknot, Cradle of Filth as well as Mudvayne. My bones were aching for more so I decided to seek out help.
I reached out to an old schoolmate and neighbor of mine. He goes by the name of Chief. I can’t tell what he thought of me back when we were in school. I was school prefect, teacher’s pet, library assistant and Seventh Day Adventist Church chairman. I was the quintessential boy scout. I wore every single hat that would make a high school boy unpopular. It must have come to him as a surprise when I approached him with my strange request.
At the time the Kenyan post-election violence had forced us out of Nairobi and into the countryside where lingala and ohangla music were the popular tunes. It was only the problematic kids and the “born tao’s” that would request for rock to be played on entertainment night. We were only a handful a boys. Our requests normally went unanswered and we had to bring our own playlists at the time dominated by Avril Lavigne and pop punk acts.
I cannot say that I was a problematic child. All I can say is i seemed to have developed a strange edgy taste in music. I had grown up around it as part of church ritual and school extra-curricular activities. Music I would say was the most potent medium where I felt my thoughts deepest longings found meaning.
At the time my conservative religious ideas had started to fall into doubt. I started to question everything from parental authority to the existence of god. My young mind needed music that played to the tune of my now rebellious heart. I desperately had to find something that touched that cord.
Harking back to my high school days a prominent memory came to mind. It was the image of Marilyn Manson in the pages of the popular teen magazine “The Insyder”. His face was covered in bizzare makeup. His grinning teeth were all grilled up. His hair all dishevelled and his eyes were like those of an animal I had never seen. It made quite the impression. I was drawn by the tattoos and driven to the point of obsession by the piercings.
The article reported that he had threatened a holy wood star with impalement. My mind was made up that this was the baddest most brutal entertainer on the planet.
In those days Facebook was all the buzz. All my age mates that had signed up were using all manner of absurd names. Chief or Marilyn Fagslut Chyf as he then was piqued my interest. I was particularly thrilled by the fact that he championed Marilyn Manson so much. Manson was his profile picture and none of his posts missed a quote from his lyrics. Chief would also later on usher me into the local rock scene where unbeknownst to me gigs were going on with local bands.
Chief championed all of Manson’s bizzare qualities and escapades. There was a post here of manson in hills and a thong. There was later a post sharing a picture of manson tearing up pages of a bible in live concert. Manson was a divisive and contradictory character. From the stage name and the way he carried himself you couldn’t tell if Manson was a man or a woman and Chief still championed him even louder. I immediately decided to approach him and ask for pointers.
I had in my custody a Motorolla SLVR device that could at least access Facebook and a myriad of other sites. Asking him about Marilyn Manson I think caught him by surprise but not too much. I wasn’t the only high school kid who was starting to question the things they had taken as gospel truth.
Chief was more than willing to help especially since I seemed to be harbor genuine interest. He recommended (S)aint, The Beautiful People as well as and Disposable teens. I dove headlong into the material. Never mind that the motorola device i had in hand only had so much memory and there was nowhere you could get albums in bulk.
The most popular site for free downloads then was Waptrick and its variants like Wapdam. It had everything from mobile games, celebrity photos and even some pretty racy and salacious material.
I populated my phone with pictures of Marilyn Manson. I played those three songs on rotation and with a few others that appeared linked and related. My parents never voiced express disapproval. But they were aware of the sharp tongue I had developed and how passive aggressive I was when it came time for prayer or to attend church.
Later on I requested an uncle that had traveled abroad to bring with him a copy of Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals. I supplemented those early years with samplings of Paramore’s Brick By Boring Brick and Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown. Ideologically was a fully formed rebel by the time fortune brought me to the gates of University of Nairobi’s Law Campus.
Manson would continue shaping my convictions as I explored more. Contrary to what the media portrayed he was a really cunning and intelligent man. He was a philosopher of sorts and I fell in love with how he caricatured the American public. I read his foremost work the Nachtabarret. Although I was positively repusled by some of his antics and the manner of his dress, I still found him extremely charming. I yearned such a contradictory lifestyle.
My friends from campus would point out this growing character of mine. I was tolerant of people’s views but was not ashamed of my own even if they seemed revolting. Never mind that in the time they spent with me I never missed an opportunity to play favorites from Manson like The Long Road Out of Hell, Coma White & The Fight Song.
Now almost a decade later I’m not so sure if I see things the same way. Sure I am still very open minded but conservatism has creeped back slowly. In that encounter with this enigmatic character that celebrated both Jesus and Lucifer I became even more tolerant. I have learned to find humanity in everyone, no matter how bizarre or bent they seem to be.
I also learned a very valuable lesson. Manson grew up a church boy just like me albeit from a Catholic home. Looking back at those earlier years I had a mistaken outlook on how life can turn out. I never thought my values would change or recur. But if Manson taught me anything it is that we’re not that much different.
All the same I am not sure about my degree of tolerance. My interest in Manson wasn’t a passing one. But the man was were removed from my world.Having grown up in a country that is heavily conservative I still find it hard accepting people closer home that are divergent. Even with the life lessons from Manson I find that as the cloud of youth passes , old values linger still.
Happy World Goth day.