He might not be very known to you. I personally think he is either lazy or opts to lie so low that when an envelope drops, he lies deep down below it. He is Mahatma. The first time I heard of him was around 2003 December he had just done this song called “Pande Zote Mbili” Here is the video.
I came to like this song because at the time it was released, I had just dropped out of college. I had not impregnated anybody’s daughter but with the troubles I was going through at the time, I was dead broke, no job, the jobs that came through were car washing, delivery of heavy Kenya Postel directories that involved walking long distances in hot sun on heavy timbs, then javing in a KBS jioni, there after loosing the small pay I got to either the police or the hood extortionists. I remember hitting on a certain chik and she turned out to be a kiawa’s (Mungiki) chik. You dont want to imagine what I went through for that. Those not in the know, javing was my hood’s sheng for shiki-li-a-ing that chuma in the middle of those KBS buses or a kawaida matatu in an overload situation like you are javelin participant. Hence javing.
Listening to Mahatma, I felt I wasnt the only one going through troubles. We shared shida milioni. But it never stopped me. Some of my problems back then may have been sorted out now, but this didnt stoping me loving the song. I hope some of Mahatma’s problems were ironed out too.
The next time I heard of him, he was in a track with Nonini (few months before he left Calif) and Jua Cali. This time the song was Labda, Si Wageni, Mtu Saba. The collabo is a whole post all together. You might not have heard it but it was a deadly hit to those who have followed Jua Cali & Nonini’s career. He also provided some mumbles to the hit song Keroro by Nonini. Mahatma then did the chorus for Jua Cali on the song Bidii Yangu. “Nataka tu heshima yako, nataka tu furaha yakoo…….” Thats all I have heard from Mahatma. Three songs in the last 5 years. May be Calif Records has more from him, but thats all I know and judging from this, I feel him and I rate him highly. Hope he wakes up from his deep slumber.
What measures a timeless? What makes a song relevant 5, 10, 30, 33 years later? What makes a song a classic?
It is 1998, a Saturday evening. I was listening to a Metro FM show that ran between 5 – 7pm as I did my laundry and the presenter says this is a new track from the already famous Kalamashaka. Being a big fan for their biggest hit, Tafsiri Hii and because I identified with the message they put across, I was going to pay attention to this one.
2008. Am in the office on a slow Saturday, and in my play list is the Ni Wakati album by the same group. Some somber piano keys, followed by drum kicks as Oteraw aka Rawbar spits the first verse amid Large Professor like scratches fused with a flute and strings announce the track ‘Niokowe’ and I stop everything else to listen to this timeless rap.
Subject: Ranges from stealing from public coffers, tribal wars, peace, unity, poverty, oppressive government, assassinations, joblessness and its harsh realities, the aftermath of unrests and heartless leadership.
The first verse, Rawbar (a KU graduate) talks of being educated and is without a job. His MP has vanished and will reappear at the onset of the next election. 1998 was just after the 97 elections. How many of our MPs play Keyser Soze on us today? Kamaa contemplates being a thug as a result of being idle and jobless. But he is afraid of the harsher realities of uncooked ugali at Indaaz Remand prison. The torture he might have to endure. Picture Kamiti Prison? He tells us of a friend who lies six feet under in Langata after being shot with a live bullet during a street protest. Those who remember the street demos of 97 & 98 led by today’s Land’s Minister Orengo will identify with Kamaa’s line of thought.
The chorus, which is also the hook is done by Vigeti aka Johnie is easy to go with and is a prayer that resonates with the listener.
“Mungu wangu niokowe,
Tabu uzitoe, roho yangu nayo ipoe,
Mungu wangu niokowe,
Rawbar comes again and this time talks of those bright students who can’t afford school fees, those who can’t have a meal because there is no peace as our leaders who have no heart trot the globe. Think of IDPs. He also mentions Mobuto Seseko who still dies after grabbing Zaire’s (Renamed DRC in 97) wealth and today; DRC still undergoing the same violence they suffered in the 90s. Johnie with probably the most skillful flow, starts with how a policeman shoots his friend and nonchalantly declares it looks like their victim has surrendered. This reminds me of the protester shot in Kisumu by an officer for doing a monkey dance infront of him during the post election violence. He then goes on amid loud gun shots,
“Kumi na tisa kwenye dinga, Ati ajali!
sisi si wajinga,Kwani chali mweusi ye-hawezi drive gari kali,
nani ataniambia mahali, okuo vice versa yuko?”
10 years later, even after a commission was formed to solve the murder of Ouko, we still don’t know those behind his killing.
Then Kamaa ruminates,
“hebu fikiria, amani bila maisha ama maisha bila amani,
amani bila maisha, nadhani haiwezekani,
na binadamu wanaweza, ishi bila kukosana,
sidhani, hata ukikazana,
cheki Njoro, Molo, hii sorrow,
watoto wamebaki bila wazazi,
Wee huoni hata Likoni, system ya wakoloni watumia,
Divide and rule imeingia”
Johnie then ponders why tribes are so separate like oil and water, as if we are not humans, like we are not Adam’s offspring; we have refused to share a piece of bread and we are shamelessly drowning in greed for grabbed riches as our children who are the future watch. The last verse ends as he challenges you the listener to stand up against the status quo and join the ‘a million man match’ for change. The song ends with the three doing the hook together in a rhythmic fashion with timely chants ‘ahh ahh’.
Listening to this song you notice how they apply a complex internal rhyming style in their verses. A style only used by experienced and clever rappers like Rakim, Nas, GZA to mention a few. Their flow is without notable flaw. At some point you think they are about to loose their breath but it is what enhances the song’s rhythm. Like Tafsiri, its sets the standards of how to flow, how to rhyme, and 10 years after, few of todays pretend rappers can match them. The production actuates the rappers fittingly. It puts some loose productions we hear today to shame considering the standards are higher now or so we think.
What is mystifying is that the message in this song still stands after all these years.
To me this is the measure of a timeless, the distinctness. The make of a classic. 10 years seem such a long time, but we might woefully be addressing same issues 2018. Hope not.
It just hit me that it’s been three years since we lost a man we have chosen to forget. A pioneer, a legend, a fighter, a talent lost. It also marks a decade since his earliest music was on constant rotation in the then two FM stations. Poxi Presha.The man who paved way for dholuo rap. The man who remixed the 70s acoustic benga hit, ‘Lunch Time’ by Gabby Omollo & Omondi Jassor fusing it with a rap. I am surprised there was no mention of his name all October!
The media, at Poxi’s career heights chose to ignore his positive side and went for his jugular because of his run in with producers, music pirates and promoters. We all know what those who started the current phenomenal in the 90s went through. There was little if any pay in music and the few heads (producers & promoters, FMs) around that the time swindled the likes of K-Shaka, Mashifta, In2, Poxi, Majizee, Gidigidi Majimaji, King Kong, Darling P, and many other artist known and unknown.
Lately, the Music Copyright Society has been collecting royalties on behalf of artists. It must be a huge relief for all of them to see that they going to get paid for their work. Poxi fought hard battles in the streets and in courts to see this happen. Poxi stopped doing music to first concentrate on this fight. He was not to rest until some justice was done. It’s unfortunate he didn’t live long enough to see the fruits of his struggle. Reads like the death of Garang in similarity right?
I wish those who were there in the beginning of Kenyan Hip Hop would have done a tribute to Poxi like the Ogopa camp has always done for their stable mate E-Sir. As a matter of fact, I feel all artists should come together and do a tribute for the man who never lived to see them get paid for their works. It’s through his ‘presha’ that you are getting paid. Or is this a case of the proverbial ‘a prophet is not accepted in his home town’? Nonini however gets some credit for his contribution (to royalty payments) and his tribute to Poxi for his song ‘Ngoma Yako’.
As we listen and watch to the good and the idiotic music on radio and TV, let us not forget this man. For the artists out there, spare a thought. Where you could be without the little you are getting from MCSK? Spare a thought for Poxi. My tribute, anybody out there with any of his music, I am ready to pay for it.