The Music Didn't Stop Playing

I love making music, but I absolutely hate having to be on stage to perform music.

I was 13 years old the first time I ever performed music in public - playing piano to accompany a school choir performance of 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen' - and it was TERRIBLE. I practiced for months, and I thought I was ready, but on the day of the performance, the kids got up on stage and sang TOO FAST!

It's no joke, this piece. I probably still can't play it.

It's no joke, this piece. I probably still can't play it.

I couldn't keep up with them, and had to stop while they plowed on without accompaniment. I waited for the second verse so I could try once more, and - again - it was still too fast. I messed up again. I decided not to try again and just sat on the piano bench until they finished the song. A couple of kids in the audience next to me giggled and pointed at me. Longest 7 minutes of my life.

Sometimes I theorize that this incident was the genesis of my super-intense stage fright related to anything musical. While I was a member of Just A Band, I'd spend weeks dreading every upcoming performance, I'd have sleepless nights in the days running up to every show, and I'd be nauseous and anxious when the day came. I never got used to it.

The rest of the band were OK with being up there, and after seeing me suffer so much they kindly allowed me not to come on stage for the performances. I opted out 90% of the time. I started attending Just A Band shows as an audience member. Awkward, I know.

This was one of the reasons I eventually left the band. I figured maybe my stage fright was the Universe telling me to focus on the visual projects. So I gave up on music. I gave away my guitar. I uninstalled all my music software. I threw away my little book of lyrics.

Since then, I have discovered that I am completely OK going up on stage to do anything else; question-and-answer sessions about a film? No problem. Panel discussion? Bring it on. Presentation about the NEST? No anxiety at all. Weird, no?

Speaking at the Goteborg Film Festival. No nerves at all!

Speaking at the Goteborg Film Festival. No nerves at all!

There's only one problem. The music didn't stop playing in my head. I still wake up with snippets of song in my head. I still really enjoy making music. Some of the tunes I've made since have ended up in the soundtracks to films I've made, and I've given some away to very cool musicians I love - then there's a couple that remain on my hard disk, taunting me.

So I think, "making music and putting it out aren't necessarily the same thing, right? I can just make music for fun and the songs never need to go out. There are enough musicians out there with WAY more talent and WAY better songs in this world and no one cares about some guy in Nairobi with a bunch of songs."

BUT:

Every now and then I meet people who actually listened to the secret EP I put out in 2013 as Adeiyu, or the film soundtracks, or this happens, and it's SO COOL, and it makes me feel like maybe there's a point to all this, and maybe there's space in the world for some guy in Nairobi with a bunch of songs.

I don't know.

So, here goes. I'll just close my eyes, start from scratch and put out a couple of songs over the next few months, though I don't think this means I'll be jumping on stage any time soon. Over the next couple of months, I'll be sending my secret club of awesome newsletter subscribers preview tracks in advance, just to get some feedback. Want in? Sign up here. If there's anyone out there who likes the songs, that'd be really cool. If not, then at least I'll have a little more free space on my computer, right?

Thanks for listening! :)

EXHIBITIONS: SOLO EXHIBITION AND 1:54 NEW YORK

May has turned out to be such a busy month! I'm very excited to announce that my first solo exhibition - Pagans - takes place this May 7 - June 13 at the Mariane Ibrahim Gallery in Seattle.

On display will be larger-than-ever new prints of works from the continuing Pagans series, as well as new video works created specifically for the show.

Concurrently, I'm delighted to be included amongst the list of 60+ artists appearing in the New York debut of the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (May 15-17, 2015). New editions of some of my work from the continuing Pagans series will be on display. Do drop by and have a peep if you happen to be in either of these cities.

PRESENTING: To Catch A Dream

I had the great, great pleasure of finally meeting and working with Kenyan modeling icon Ajuma Nasenyana - who starred in To Catch A Dream, a short film I wrote and directed as part of a fashion collaboration between the NEST Collective and our Chico Leco fashion program.

This story was inspired by a chance conversation with Dan/Abstract Omega - to whom I mentioned I was having recurrent nightmares - who then asked me in all seriousness:

Why don’t you catch it?

I made up the elements of the dream-trap, and the most interesting, oft-repeated question I've been asked about this story is from which tribe (if not my own) I borrowed the dream-trap from. I was surprised that it is possible to construct fables that are seemingly indistinguishable from the untouchable canon of Kenyan/African mythology, and this has reaffirmed my interest in the idea of remixed pasts. I suppose people who have had their pasts erased can make up their own pasts.

This was an intense film to create - with so many people involved (including the designers to whom the script was released for their interpretation of the characters), multiple locations and a short shooting schedule of 3 days. Many thanks go to the NEST Collective who are my family in every sense of the word, and who make co-creation such a wonderful, enriching process. Thanks also go to the exquisite Ajuma Nasenyana and cast members Tom Nandi, Rahel Equbay, Paynette Nyawara, Rosemary Kendi, Alex Wandia, Maureen Onyango and Nikole Warambo, and to designers Namnyak Odupoy, Ami Doshi, Kepha Maina, Jamil and Azra Walji, Katungulu Mwendwa, Ann McCreath and Adèle Dejak for trusting us with their minds, bodies and creations.

I also created music for the film's soundtrack, which was an interesting exercise in exploring a kind of pulsing type of rhythm, and asymmetrical melodic structures that I haven't used before, but seemed familiar all the same.

SCREENINGS: Stories of Our Lives Premieres

This year has started with all kinds of wonderful events! Stories of Our Lives is having a whole bunch of screenings coming up, the most exciting of which are the European premiere at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival, and the US premiere at the MoMA's Documentary Fortnight Festival 2015. An updated list of screening dates and times are available on the film's page at The NEST.

EXHIBITION: Addis Foto Fest 2014

I'm very happy to be closing out the year with a showing at the upcoming Addis Foto Fest 2014! A selection of images from the "Pagans" series will be exhibiting as part of "Visions of Africa" - which will feature photography, photo installations and video projections representing 16 countries from across Africa (including artists I really admire like Wangechi Mutu, Malick Sidibé, Andrew Tshabangu and Kudzanai Chiurai - such an honor!). Visit the Addis Foto Fest 2014 page for more information.