Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tugutuke Artistes Picking up the Pieces

In the run up to last year’s polls, I opined that the head-on plunge into active politics by a number of our artistes was misguided. As it turned out, the whole lot was walloped, sometimes literally. They are now dusting up as they pick up the pieces from a battle badly executed and are seeking to establish their relevance on the national arena once again.

The Vijana Tugutuke movement, under which they mobilized massive youth activity, seems to have scattered to the four winds or else taken a muted low profile. Or perhaps they have, as kindred political spirits would say, just made a tactical retreat to fight another day.

And the operative word is ‘fight’. That is the language of the degenerate local politics that they so desired to join. Fight with fists, stones, chairs. Mongolo, the last man standing, can attest that they will need to abandon their professional civility and instead cultivate a barbaric mien to survive in the man-eat-man jungle.

John ‘KJ’ Kiarie suffered physical harassment from hired gangs during the electioneering period and had a few of his bones broken. He had to be ferried by an ambulance to present his nomination papers to the electoral commission. The sad irony in his case is that the hoodlums who thumped him were the very target audience that Vijana Tugutuke sought to engage in bringing about change. And despite the project taking credit for increasing voter registration of the youth by upwards of 1million, their icons all lost in the ensuing contests. KJ in Dagoretti, Kajairo in Kasarani, Mdomo Baggy in Kamkunji, KingKong in Embakasi. Nyambane was initially expected to run for the Westlands seat but I suppose he wizened up just in time.

King Kong struggled without success to raise funds for paying party nomination fees. He died after the polls though the two events may not be necessarily linked.

Kajairo is putting out little fires lit up everywhere by the media who keep running stories that he’s broke after raiding his ‘piggy bank’ to finance his campaign. He has now, together with Nyambane, joined the Nation Media Group as hosts on the newly launched QFM radio station.

KJ is in court challenging the election of Beth Mugo with one of his petition grounds stating that she referred to him as “a joker who should be cracking jokes in the street”. In an exchange with Mugo’s lawyer, KJ insisted that he is an artiste and that any reference to him as a comedian is in bad faith.

Clearly, the brief incursion into politics has taken its toll on the artistes. And as they work to overcome the setbacks they suffered, one hopes that some valuable lessons were learnt from the experiment. One of which, I hope, will be that the murky and highly fluid arena that is Kenyan politics is not appropriate for advancing social change. In joining the fray, Kajairo was quoted saying that “We have a responsibility as entertainers. We cannot sit and watch things go wrong. Everything is determined by leadership”. Really?

I still insist that Comedian KJ is many times more likely to inspire change from his Redykyulass stage than “Mheshimiwa” Kiarie ever will. They will quickly lose their force and credibility as change agents as soon as they get hooked on the “Honorable” trappings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Soul Men

There seems to be no escaping from the jinx that casts its dark shadows over the month of August. It has already ticked off two great performing artistes of our time in the space of one weekend, Bernie Mac on Saturday followed by Isaac Hayes on Sunday.

Bernie Mac, who was a member of the Original Kings of Comedy quartet, died of sarcoidosis, a lung complication due to pnuemonia.

Isaac ‘Black Moses’ Hayes who has been composing and performing Hot Buttered Soul music since 1967 died of stroke.

The two great men have recently been working alongside Samuel L. Jackson in a movie set to be released later this year.

Two Tough Guys have Walked on By. Soul Men.

(Pictures courtesy of Isaac Hayes' official website.)