Part 6 of the 10 things I wish I knew before I left Africa
For some biographical information on Eric Wainaina please check out Eric Wainaina’s Wikipedia page or check out his biography on his site (which is pretty much a carbon copy of the Wikipedia biography). Eric also has his own page on the Berklee University website (where you can hear one of his SUBLIME tracks ‘Ukweli’-which means truth)
**All images taken from Eric Wainaina’s official website**
Whereas until recently I always thought that I had no living African males who I considered heroes or role models, I recently realized just how much I admire Eric Wainaina. Here is why:
1) He marches to the beat of his own drum: Look around at majority of the people you hear on the radio and they are carbon copies of each other. As soon as a hot artist comes out, the record company, in what I think is an act of pure genius, goes to the assembly line to create a second, third, fourth, fifth, fixth etc etc version of that artist. Not Eric!
Eric’s been in the music industry for a long time (10+ years) and even with the explosion of African music he continues to make the same Africa-grow-and-realize-your-potential music with the same focus on creating an ‘African’ sounding sound and constantly expanding his musical horizons within the continent. I don’t think we should expect Eric to come out with a collabo with Young Grillz entitled ‘Get My Money Biatch!”
2) He is an artist: Any man who can sing in Luo, Kikuyu (‘Ritwa Riaku’ which is below), Somali and Kiswahili (check out ‘Twende Twende’ below ) while collaborating with Indians and Zimbabweans (check out ‘Twende Twende’ below ) on one album deserves our respect. You can tell that he is a student, a lover and a pure expression of music and musicality. If his second album, Twende Twende was that artistically diverse, so much more so than his-still-bloody-phenomenal-album-’Sawa Sawa‘, what can we expect from his third studio album I wonder. I am also excited to see what he will come up with because:
3) He Keeps Learning: Please correct me if I’m wrong but the last I heard, Eric had a Bachelor and a Masters in music. First of all going back to the point of marching to his own drum, how many Africans do you know who have the courage to do that. I certainly don’t: I dropped out of film school. I can’t wait to see what his constant exploration of the world of music will make him produce when his next album drops.
4) He Speaks Truth, Even to Power: Whether he is reminding us of the corruption of an African country in a song like Nchi ya Kitu Kidogo (not the direct translation but basically its a reference to a nation of bribes) or telling us just how silly and unfair this world is in Dunia ina Mambo, Eric has no problem making you take a hard look at yourself and the world around you. As artists should do……
5) He Speaks Common Sense: I won’t even expand on this too greatly. Tell me that the verse below isn’t something that makes a helluva lot of sense.
The Devil asked St. Peter
Ni kulala mnalala au vipi (hallo hallo)
Are you guys asleep or what?
Mnaruhusu viongozi wa nchi tajiri
You allow wealthy nations
Kumiliki nchi masikini
To control poor nations
Kwa mfano wananchi wa nchi zilizokuwa chini ya ukoloni
For example, the citizens of former colonies
Waliporwa mali zao au siyo (au siyo)
Weren’t they robbed
Basi mbona waliyonyanyaswa wasipande ndege
Then why can’t those were oppressed jump on a plane
Na kwenda ng’ambo ili kurudisha…haki zao
Go abroad and claim what’s rightfully theirs
6) He Has Many Tricks Up His Sleeve: He has written songs for the UN. He has written songs for marathons. He has performed at award shows and Big Brother. My personal favorite: He was the man behind the music of the wow-that-was-good-I-am-so-glad-I-visited-home-that-year play Lwanda. To anyone who is behind that play, release it on DVD, I as sure as hell will buy.
7) He Creates Music: You can tell that he takes the time to choose the instrument, write the lyrics and blend them all into a complete whole. When I listen to his music and music by cats like Phil Collins, I imagine them sitting in the studio at odd hours of the night, mixing and matching and blending instruments until they vibrate and sync together at the just the perfect frequency with the perfect pitch.
Be ‘Sawa Sawa’ and strive to make others lives ‘Sawa Sawa’,