The first act we caught were Makadem. I remember that they were amazing. They had a performance that included so many Kenyan languages that I was never really sure where they were from. They would begin to sing, and it was this huge band, in a language I didn’t know but could vaguely remember from all my past attempts at eavesdropping. Then they would seamlessly transition into one that seemed more familiar. There were stages where I wasn’t sure what language they were performing in but I could sing along to it. Then there was the time I knew the language and the tune and could sing along and then there was the time I could understand what they were saying and sing along to it. This was happening at the main stage, a huge place, as fisherman’s camp is. Green and outdoors so that the fact that there were so many people there did not at any time make it feel cramped.
Off to one side of the stage there was a video playing. It could probably be better described by a person who was less intoxicated than I was. to me it was an impression of images moving over and over. There seemed to be a story. A story told in red and black. There were human beings and tentacles. There were deers and brains. There was a story. There was an impression of deeply artistic work put into that moment that kept playing over and over yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
After they performed there was a musical intermission. I had been dancing and shouting for such a long time that my jumper and that of everyone I was there with was on the floor. We had surrounded our clothes and our alcohol and we were dancing in front of this little altar we had built from the fibres of animals and vegetables. Shouting incomprehensibly, moving rhythmically, tranced and a little out of the world. When the music stopped it was like a spell was broken. Fire was immediately used. Cigarettes lit and joints whiffed. This was when I paid the most attention I could to the video on the screen. It wasn’t that much attention though.
Then the mc made us excited about Wyre. I was in just the right state to see the love child come on stage. We were teased just enough and we had begun mentally rehearsing what we would sing back to the man on the stage. Then he came on stage and he and his dancer just did this amazing step that consisted of moving their arms up and down but doing it with such vigour that everyone was soon imitating them. Then Wyre would tease us. He would sing the chorus of an old song and then stop. Then do this over and over again. I remember he began to sing chuki and I was in just the right state of mind to hear that song. I had just the right relationship to remember, my soul was ready for this and then all he played was the chorus. And then I realised that what we were seeing was a shadow of what we had expected. Here was a Wyre who couldn’t remember or even worse wouldn’t be bothered to remember the songs that he had written and performed for us all through our youth. We got short snippets and a ghost of a former great jumping around on stage. Every time a new song almost started we would have a breath of expectation sure that this time, this time he would play that song that we loved. That he would sing it just like he used to and with the power of music he would take us back to a place where things were more innocent and music more alive. All we got was disappointment though the flip side of nostalgia, the tip of the tongue of the lover we had missed and nothing more. In the end he congratulated us on being such a great audience and then gave us one song to show us how much he appreciated our love. The dj went into the Bob Marley jam iron lion zion and now the crowd went wild. The non-Kenyan section of the audience was involved now and people had their lighters up they had their hopes and again they had their hopes dashed when it all came to naught but those beats over and over again.
I walked away from that stage. Walked right not sure what i was looking for until I bumped into yet another stage. This was a tent set up like a club. In the corner of the club the performers were set up to dance and entertain. Immediately you got here there was a different atmosphere. It was smaller and more intimate. I felt like they were performing directly to me as if I could reach over and touch them. Request a song and hear them play it. It was darker and edgier. Less in the open and it wasn’t the end of my adventure.
I walked on a little and came to this container that was being used as yet another dance floor. It was an import container and you could identify it by the music and the endless stream of people going in and coming out. There seemed to be no end to the revellers. Inside it was filled with smoke because this being Kenya of course it was ok to smoke inside. Here a dj held the power and the music was made to make people dance. And dance we did. When the cold would come calling this was the best refuge because in a few minutes there would be sweat dripping down your neck and a need for fresh air.
In between these dance floors there was all the space to forget where you had come from. A moment in the night arrived when I had no idea what was happening but that if i was tired of it I could quite easily take myself to somewhere else.