THE DAY THEY ALMOST STOPPED REGGAE: (PART 1)


BY: JUMA HEMEDI
11/03/2020

Nothing shaped our lives while growing up in the hoods and ghettos of Majengo, Starehe and Biafra in Thika like Reggae. And no crew made you feel like you are a prince and that your father was King of some Zion kingdom like Reggae crew.

Listening to reggae was almost like a religious practice. So, when George and another guy whose name I can't remember moved into the vacant house in the 'plot' we lived in, Bob Marley and Joseph Hill music became the order of the day. For those who are lost, Joseph Hill led a reggae band called 'Mighty Culture'.

George used to make hats and caps using leather, the kind of hats Rastafarians would wear big enough to cover their dreads. George was a close friend of my distant cousin called Hassan and that tiny house was both their hats production industry and their sleeping place.

George used an old singer sewing machine and was very fast with his feet in rolling it, as a primary school kid I was always amazed watching him. George owned the only second sewing machine in Majengo because the first one belonged to Munyao.

No one knew where Munyao came from but every weekend Munyao would be travelling to go "nyumbani" and he would be back on Sunday evening so if you had any work for him, it had to wait. Munyao was the guy we would take our school uniforms to, to have them repaired and put "kirakas". 

He had the most weird sense of fashion and design. He was the only guy who would put a black "kiraka" on a baige short or a pink shirt. But that didn't matter to us since the most important thing was making sure our behinds were not seen as a result of our torn shorts and clothes.

So it was a common sight to see one truly walking to school with a combination of both primary and secondary colours, all over what would otherwise be referred to as "school uniform".

I was in class seven or six while helping George cut some leather, when I overheard that a reggae sound would be coming that Saturday at community hall (commune). Community hall in Starehe was the place where my brother and other wanna be boxers used to practice boxing under a coach called "vicko' and another police man who had made it his business to reclaim ghetto youths from  violence back to the path of righteousness through boxing.

King lions came that Saturday and I remember going to community hall to see them ‘connect’ their machines and running some sound tests. The sound that came from the speakers was the loudest I ever heard, well apart from the 'watoto kaa chini' movies and the "group Africa” marketing team.

They were playing the Alpha Blondy song 'wild world' when we realised it was almost dark and they wanted everyone out for them to start charging entrance fee. Since kids were not allowed in, we decided to enjoy the sounds out in the field. The hall was now almost half-full.

There was a scuffle at the entrance and we ran to see what was happening. Only for us to find Oyundi insisting that he wanted to go in without paying and the bouncers who seemed like they ate stones for breakfast and lunch would hear none of it.

If you dont know who Oyundi is, then you don’t know who Oyundi is. The family owned a fish place at Starehe. Oooh those fish were delicious. He had several brothers and sisters whose names I can’t recall, the worst mistake anyone would do was to interfere with their fights as a family, (they would have family fights, imagine that) they would stop fighting to first beat you up and then continue fighting.

Oyundi told the bouncers that he would be back. And indeed he came back, his two brothers in tow with the deep frying pan they used for frying fish. They poured what appeared to be "mafuta ya samaki" into the hall through the window. The whole place started smelling fish. They threatened to go bring "mafuta ya samaki moto".

The bouncers held a brief consultative meeting and agreed that it was safer and peaceful to allow those two in for free than to have them cause trouble the whole night. Even with fish smelling the entire time in the hall, Reggae had to continue. Indeed the late Lucky Dube was right. Jaaaahhh,

Yours truly
RAS Juma Hemedi

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