Only in Kenya

Monday, January 22, 2007

Eric Wainaina Does it Again

Unless you’ve spent the past few weeks in a mabati cocoon, you should be aware that Eric Wainaina is out of the studio with a shining new album in hand. After scribbling various titles on paper, he picked ‘Twende Twende’ as it’s title. His first album was ‘Sawa Sawa’.

On Friday 19th January 2007, dry leaves were cleared off the Alliance Francaise Garden to make way for hundreds of Eric’s mafans who were to later tread over the well manicured lawns to get as close as possible to the stage for the Twende Twende Album Launch Concert.

After sound and lights check, Eric got onto stage needing almost no introduction from the multilingual Larry Asego - the event’s MC. The wild cheers of the crowd drowned the crescendo of the drum roll and the guitar tuning as Eric, his band and back-up singers grabbed their mics, and the hearts of all who had come.

From the first note to the end of the performance, Eric showed what a true musician is made of. He took the crowd on a journey through some of the fourteen tracks latest album, with a few detours down memory lane featuring songs from Sawa Sawa. Most notable was Daima Kenya, to which the German Ambassador to Kenya (can’t remember his name) provided a seamless piano accompaniment.

Start of digress: The German Ambassador to Kenya (Germany holds the EU Presidency so you can say he’s representing the entire EU) on stage, playing piano to Kenya’s second national anthem. I don’t think this scene can be easily duplicated in other parts of the world - especially where a Kenyan government official is in the mix. One, because I don’t think any of them can play an instrument apart from clapping hands and shuffling feet in parliament when a bill to increase allowances is tabled; and two, it would not be right for Mheshimiwa to mix with the ordinary crowd that voted him to high office, would it? End of digress.

Listening to Eric’s CD after the concert, I confess that he sounds much better live than in a studio. This may be because when up on stage, there’s a bunch of loyal subjects motivating you to keep singing coz the sight of about three hundred people dancing in the rain, shoes muddy, clothes wet, hair needs to go to the salon Saturday morning is one that a lens and camera can’t do justice to. Even when you get to the end of your performance list and command people to go home, they go on their knees, tear their clothes apart and cry out for one more song, which you gladly belt out for them.

Don’t get me wrong. Go get yourself the CD. You won’t regret it. He sings in Kikuyu, Luo and even some Asian language, apart from the Swahili and English he’s made us accustomed to. Your ears will enjoy the way each instrument has been used to convey emotions that speak to your heart as Eric’s unmistakable voice delivers the message home. From the moment you press ‘Play’, you can sense entire Twende Twende production crew giving their finest; from the instrumentalists and Christian Kaufmann the sound engineer, to Tim and Sheba on the production team. It’s a CD that will day go for several hundred dollars on eBay, not that you’ll want to sell it. I got mine for 5 sok at the concert.

Eric Wainaina, as his CD testifies, still ranks as one of Kenya’s most skilled musicians. And as his CD launch concert proves, he is one of Kenya’s greatest performers too.