Worranight, Worraperformance, Worraway to raise the bar for concerts in Kenya by Kenyan artists.
There was a dash of Salt-N-Pepa, some love making, heart breaking, soul shaking En Vogue, a touch of TD Jakes, a bit of bad manners and that Kikuyu mom who doesn’t buy your modern stories of waiting for love and Mr Right when he’s only actually a decision, a move and a “wink” away.
June killed it. She’s good, just because.
She has 4 voices in one.
I heard that voice of a sister and daughter who scares and humbles you when you see how much she gives of herself to the task at hand, the voice of a soldier, a lover and a friend.
She performed and had a conversation with us and whether you know her or not, you could hear her speaking with you in one of those voices.
The music swung from left to right, the boys and the girls, blonde and bow-tied, beating the drums, playing the keys, plucking the strings, blowing the horns and leaving us all wanting more please.
Think of all the people June has played with and played for.
Listen to the stories that were shared on the screen by her friends from way back when and look at what was happening on that stage.
There went a group of boys and the girls, two bands marching in her groove, lock step, quick time jamming through the spaces that she’s carving out for them to play.
It’s easy to make a performance all about you, but who makes a journey all on their own?
Wedding by wedding, soul night by soul night, verse by verse, year on year she arrived @20, put it all out for us and let her bands play and lose themselves in battle.
To the boys one man guitar, the ladies brought their answer, delicate and brutal, turning tight strings and beats into the rhythms of the night. Back and forth shots were fired from Pop to Rock, Lagos to Lingala, the beats and the riffs, the jibes and the vibes, wanting to be starting something, which actually, finally, they did, together.
And thank you, for the lights.
You see, the site and hardware of our National Theatre is precious in both its historical and cultural context.
The tensions and the truths of our times and society have always played out here.
From the days of the first recorded shootings of demonstrators in Kenya, when crowds gathered to demand the release of Harry Thuku in 1922 before being dispersed by gunfire. That being a time when it was still fair game for settlers to take aim and shoot natives for sport as they sat across the road on the Norfolk Balcony. To 1952 when the Theatre was built and a national state of emergency declared.
Through the nineteen seventies and eighties when it was easier to watch ballets and West End Specials than it was to find the works of Micere Mugo or Ngugi wa Thiongo.
From the acrobats and artists, the layabouts and revolutionaries who’d come to talk, smoke pot and plot, to the thespians, stage-hands and craftsmen who came to work.
The space keeps bringing together a potent mix of culture and resistance, high and low, herb and taco’s, old school, fresh and more, the past, present and future.
The theatre is a stage for our darkness and our light.
And on that night, June.
Tuning her voice, turning her tempo, 20 years on the go, towards a future in full flow.
Bright and spectacular as they all were, no light shone brighter than she did.
The leather was tight, the heels were high and she just grew into the show.
Pulling those moves you know you did when you were seven with a comb in front of a mirror, she also reminded us that love isn’t always patient and kind, sometimes you do fall for the wrong person, sometimes you can be late, it can be messy and wrong.
Sometimes you need a lover and sometimes you need a friend.
At some point though, the only thing left to say is thank you.
Thank you for the work, your team and all the time, nyummy music and love you made with us @20.
Almost all photos courtesy of Amos Ndumos. https://www.facebook.com/NdumosPhotography