“Let them beware, those who are thrust into danger, clutched at by trouble, yet can carry no solace in their hearts, cannot hope to be better, Hail to those who will rise to God, drop off their dead bodies and seek our father’s peace” ~ Beowulf
literature and song are my most active artistic endeavors. Yet neither of them comes easy even after so many years. Sometimes when crafting a song I only know that I have reached the heart of it when the emotion drives me to tears. When pain is felt I know I have touched the core of an audience; only then do we share in the ritual.
This burden of artistic sacrifice is not immediately apparent to an outsider. Talent seems to be the get out of jail free card. The common sentiment is that “if I could sing, I’d make a song every day.
The truth is life is a battle that will not yield victory without blood and that responsibility is a great burden to bear.
More often than not the demons of war leave behind broken minds and the pursuit of happiness is plagued by defeat at every corner.
Many times even with victory I have still felt death’s sting; I am left weary and defeated. Yet, pray tell why does the caged bird sing? How does one find shade under an unyielding sun?
That is the story even of the towers built in the pursuit of artistic prowess. It was true under the set up of Realm of Mist in our houses in Tigoni, Ndenderu and Ngecha and the same plague rears its head even as we set up in Ngong along the poisoned river, herot, the home of heart ~ Kivulini.
Some weeks past the underground rock scene held a small gathering post covid embargoes, an acoustic gig that Yvonne Ndubi christened in so many words ~
But even as we hear up to the next outing on Hallow’s Eve the elegy seems deceptive for the harsh truth it conceals.
The music was indeed divine as graced by yours truly together with a host of other alternative artists, the lord of Chovu, Dead Skin Remedy and Timephrase. In the audience were scene stalwarts, a band of misfits led by cakeman Antonio Samaranch. A successful party it was and a culmination of many weeks of trepidation and haggling. It was the crowning work behind the rock scene’s latest attempt to set up a recording studio that could house young artists and spawn creative effort. In many ways it is an improvement on previous attempts. It is run solely by artists help along by a healthy endowment from Harvy Herr’s whose equipment makes the establishment’s output possible. One would assume that this is indeed the perfect picture;a match made in heaven.
But as the gods would have it no story is complete without controversy. In God’s wild heart rumbles a yearning for tragedy in which our warriors are constantly thrown into bloody battle.
Before we decided on the name of the house we were already experiencing our fair share of trouble. Common were problems like hunger, unpaid bills and landlords that were hard to deal with. The place wasn’t in good habitable condition, there was no running water, no functioning toilet and the pit latrine was bursting at the seams. Some of the guests that came over on the fateful day ~ perhaps unaware of the struggle unsympatheticslly scoffed at how trash the place and people were and that truly broke my heart.
But even more so was seeing how broken many of us are, carrying wound that festered from previous battles, only to be salvaged with psychedelics and a copious amount of stiff drink.
I understood perhaps deeply on some nights spent trying to belt out a song or two, my heart absent of romance and my eyes empty with sorrow ~ that it is easier to find temporary amnesia than to find hope ~ itself a dangerous opiate.
Over time I have learned to revel in cynicism or to find solace in abject dark humor. I have found little or no prospect to continue in the struggle.
Yet at the heart of Kivulini is the continued striving towards the light. The likes of my brothers Preston and Wilson have worked constantly to keep the placr afloat, sometimes with their own resources, so that artists like Maggy, Ico, Zorth, Saibo and many more can keep the music coming through for audiences blind to their struggles.
I make no attempt here to paint all these shujaas as immortal beings battling in some epic celestial realm. Nay, they are mere mortals carrying their own burdens, yet feeling no fear and returning a better blow than one dealt to them, dying every day in battle seeking the Lord’s peace.
Again I am left to ask how do I find serenity in unyielding times. The poet answers,
“ So warriors earn their fame and wealth is shaped with a sword.”