Nairobi Nights: Musing at MUZE

I didn’t feel like going to the club. It was a Thursday, I was broke, and social situations were starting to feel like interrogations at a time when I needed to be alone with my thoughts. But Nairobi is Nairobi. There’s always something happening. My mind was distracted, but in a conversation with my body- they decided that going would be good for the partnerships I was trying to forge for the year. After all, I was meeting a friend, for a birthday gift they owed me. It would be rude to cancel last minute.

Getting ready. “Make-up set. Basic outfit. Do the thing with your hair that makes you look like you actually wanted to show up. Fuck. You lost *that* lip gloss so I guess…Arimi’s? That should work. Wait, mum said you have to cook the chicken. You have like two hours so you’ll get to that. Okay, you’re done. Not so bad. Now, where’s Mwenda? He’s outside? Let’s get going for that movie. Shit. Traffic – we’re going to be late, guess we don’t have to go anymore?”

I didn’t know what I was doing exactly, but I needed a drink. There are serviced apartments with a bar area nearby, thought we’d grab a cold one and scope the place while we were at it. Cider for 300 shillings? No smoking? Fuck. No smoking. I’m not even much of a smoker but considering how bad that day was, I could have used a drag. We sat there and talked about why they were playing nothing but Ed Sheeran covers. He said it was something about the ambiance of the place: secluded, cute pool area and all. Something about the music irritated me to no end.

 

Done with our drinks but my phone is at 44%. He wraps up an episode of Doom Patrol and offers to charge my phone for me. I agree, it’s almost 6 and I wanted to be at the club by 8.30 PM. Seems like ample time. Scroll, scroll, scroll through Twitter. It’s 7.30. My phone is at 95% by the time we leave the house. We walk to the club – it’s not very far.

And then it hit me.

I can’t remember what we were talking about. A conversation about people who make their art work for them, they maneuvered even if they eventually cracked – at least what the outside world refers to as ‘cracking’: leaving the formal education system at any point to get a breather and recalibrate your life to figure out why any of it matters – they still got to make considerable strides, probably larger than anybody at that time had ever conceived possible of them.

“But then there’s sitting in the shit and actually making it work for you. Getting out of it.”

“And since it’s a pile of shit, there’s a chance you won’t make it out.”

Shit. Mwenda’s still here.

He noticed that I’m in my thoughts. “He would understand your rant but you’ve given it so many times before. You don’t even know how to explain where it all started. Ah yes, the chicken. Blame it on the chicken. Why was Mum so mad about the chicken? You cooked it. You missed your movie but you cooked it. Because you only think about your friends? A friend you hadn’t seen in months took precedence over the chicken you were making for your family. Why, Nyaguthii?”

He knows it’s not about the fucking chicken, because you cooked it and left it on the stove for them to enjoy. But he lets me go on with my rant.

I stopped. It came like a flood and I’m glad I didn’t let it drown me before we got to the club, because I would’ve spent hours in the (very comfortable) bathroom at MUZE. Can you tell I’ve broken down there before?

It came in flashes and the thoughts and imagery were heavy enough to make me physically nauseous. The urge to die. Actually trying. Calling on my mother just a minute too late to survive. Actually surviving. Looking at the disappointment in my parents’ faces. The helpless look on my lover’s face. Dealing with the fact that it didn’t actually happen, and I have to keep on keeping on. Feeling as trapped as Jon Snow in the 8th season of Game of Thrones, like my character arc was done ages ago and they’re only keeping me alive to appease the telenovela storyboards they borrowed from.

jon snow

He noticed the flood. I had to tell him what happened, but not enough to trigger him too. We’re not strangers to the demon of suicidal ideation. It knows us well. Visits us simultaneously. Makes us tea, spikes it with white rum and by the time we realize just how long we had been in its living room, weeks have passed and we have to rebuild, replenish and return to the land of the living because it chose us again. The ouroboros that has been my sadness has gobbled me up and spat me out like this for seven years now. I’ve forgotten what life looked like before it. I don’t remember because I never got the chance to see it.

We’re here.

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It’s Gallery Night at MUZE. Janice Iche is showcasing her work. We walk in as she finishes her live installation- I know her as a visual artist but part of the exhibition included a performance piece titled “Life Excerpt”. A few friends had taped it on their Instagram stories so I got to see it, but wished I’d been there earlier. They said it was the most beautiful thing they’d ever witnessed.

 

ji3

There was a mattress right down the middle of the aisle, where the stage was supposed to be. She used it as her bed, propped up with one of her pieces, ‘Mutuma’s Departure’ – a piece inspired and dedicated to the memory of the late Jason Kalinga. The performance: Janice would get out of bed. Paint. Watch a film. Paint. Get back in bed. Get up. Paint. Interact with the piece. Get back in bed. She painted the words “I’m too much for most” on one side of the black canvas, and “Doing these things without support is hard” on the other.

PEOPLE JUST TAKE & TAKE.

 

YOUR FREEDOM IS FAKE.

 

I was taken by how raw these statements were. How much they resonated with how I was feeling at the time.

ji

I’d been out of a job for about five months now. I quit my 7-7 job as I was graduating from law school and  didn’t see any career progression where I was working, plus I’d landed a creative contract that would act as my parachute and give me time to explore something I’m really passionate about while continuing to give me the financial independence that I’d already established. I worked throughout school but it always felt like it was only to get me the money to fuel my creative pursuits and give me full control over it, without the fear of debt. Even so, I try to make sure that the job aligns with my personal values, in a field which I am qualified for.

The contract ended. As creative contracts go, time passed before I got word of any payment. I picked up smaller contracts to give me enough float but time caught up with me. As an adult, being broke means going back to dependence. A tip: contracts that don’t explicitly state when they’re going to make your payment are open to ambiguous interpretation. Making the contractor’s work sustainable for everyday life is a game where they constantly feel like they’re nagging for money that was promised to them. Money they could use to sustain other projects. To pay the bills, to continue doing what they love, free from the shackles of debt.

Dumping a 9-5 for creative living sans the cognizance of the issues that hamper its sustainability or establishing a cushion will char you from the inside out.  Doing these things without support is hard. People do just take and take.

So how do you keep your creativity going in the midst of corporate bullshit?

Back to our night out.

Janice gave a brief speech thereafter. She talked about how the late Jason pushed her to exert herself into her art by preaching self-love. It’s always the first step: once you love yourself, once you’re comfortable with yourself, your art captures the same. For as long as I’ve known Janice, she has produced thought-provoking pieces in different art forms: music, photography, and now as a fine artist. She is always at the center of her art; she is a quintessential element of it in a way I can only compare to the late Frida Kahlo. Her experiences and the influence that others have impacted are stories she tells through her art. It’s inspiring to watch and experience fragments of her life in this way.

I believe in kismet. I didn’t want to leave the house, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have gotten to hear and see the things that I did. The interactions I had that night with other creatives and people navigating the creative industry in different ways was a message that I should continue to try, even when I am forced to consider otherwise. The urge to quit is always strongest when your life feels like it revolves around your bed. Don’t limit yourself to one medium of expression, either. There are too many ways to make your mark to limit yourself to just one.

Oh, and love yourself. You are important. No flowery language for that because it makes sense as it is. Do as you will with this information.

Nairobi nights, no sequels.

 

Sookie Murage is a dog-loving gin aficionado who spends her days conjuring concoctions with edible flowers & spends her nights as the flaneur of Kileleshwa. Sauntering about, thinking things.

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Featured Image Courtesy of Royce Bett. 

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Me and my Nibbling Conscience: Life Lessons from Earl Sweatshirt (Part I)

Honesty as Catharsis

Good grief, I been reaping what I sowed

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Grief‘.

I almost died twice last year. But what do we say to the God of Death?

The first time I nearly died, it was five a.m on a Monday morning and I was on my way home completely off my rocker. Five hundred meters from my destination, I lost my fight to the alcohol-induced sleep. The car hit a curb a meter of the ground, the impact spun it around and my sobriety instantly set in when the back wheels ascended the same curb. I came out physically unscathed.

The second time I nearly died, it was 2 a.m on a Sunday morning and, again, I was on my way home. My judgment impaired, characteristically, I took a sharp turn at an unadvisable speed. The car flipped through the air like a sous chef with a pancake and landed inches from a ditch. I came out physically unscathed.

At this point, you’d assume these near death experiences would have left me with some wisdom. Or impart some common sense, at the very least. Drive slower. Drink less. Maybe try and be responsible? What I didn’t know was that the hardest person to be honest with is yourself.

Why ain’t nobody tell me I was sinkin’?
Ain’t nobody tell me I could leave

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Shattered Dreams‘.

The scars were all on my psyche. It hurt to wake up. The insignificance of these near death experiences really got to me. I vividly remember flipping through the air. I always assumed this would be the grand moment where my life flashed before my eyes. Opening credits; my emergence from the womb; the time I got my first tricycle and refused to get off it for two days; making out with my best friend under the sheets; falling from my bike and breaking my arm; my first crush; closing credits. Nothing of the sort happened. The only thought that passed through my mind was, ‘Fuck, my dad is going to be so mad if I die.’

I kept waiting and waiting. All this had to mean something. It had to! Don’t people suddenly turn their lives around and pursue their heart’s desires? Climb Everest, cross the English Channel and take up knitting? But that’s where I was wrong. Encountering death doesn’t mean leaving with a gift bag of resolve.

 

The Necessity of Vulnerability

Try to make some sense of all this shit in my brain
One foot stuck in a tar pit of my ways

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Solace‘.

It took me a while to come to terms with these events. At first, I dealt with it the way I dealt with everything prior. Avoid sobriety like the plague, act like everything was fine and run in the opposite direction if anyone saw through my facade. I thought that, because of everything, my lust for life would grow stronger. I’m barely halfway through my bucket list, I’ve never had a cat and I still haven’t seen Coldplay live.

We stay on your ass
Your sense of safety melt in a flash, bang

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘December 24‘.

Instead, it had the opposite effect. If my existence is so uncertain then what’s the point of it all? Do I need to look both sides when I cross the road? Wear my seatbelt? Avoid stepping on cracks? I didn’t know it at the time but this is was an existential crisis manifesting itself in my head.

“You die and then you live, huh?”
Your heart and then your limbs break

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘December 24‘.

On the first day of 2019, it all came crashing down to earth. “Who knew that not dealing with trauma had its repercussions?”, he said jokingly. For the next three days, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was a pressure cooker. A cork no longer sealing its champagne. A can of coke dropped on the ground, it’s contents sputtering out uncontrollably. Eventually, I got some sleeping pills and had my fleeting sanity restored.

 

To Have a Home is Not a Favour

And I don’t know who house to call home lately
I hope my phone break, let it ring

-Earl Sweatshirt ‘Faucet‘.

The next day I came out to my parents. My staunch Catholic parents. I had never confided to them to this extent. The only time this topic was ever broached was when I was eleven and my dad found me under the sheets with my best friend. Keeping everything to myself only let my mind spin round and round in circles until I began to doubt my own sanity. Everything was so close to my chest I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t keep it all to myself anymore.

Thankfully, I still have a roof over my head.

Can you see them now?
stumble from nowhere
to no
where
between
nothing
and nothing
I should just borrow
the rememberer’s voice again
while I can and say
to have a home is not a favour.

-Keorapetse Kgositsile ‘Anguish longer than sorrow‘.

BENEATH THE BAOBABS: NEW YEARS IN KILIFI

It’s funny. When you think of the Coast, one often conjures up visuals of palm trees and ocean. Not baobabs and forest; the coast less traveled.

Once a year in this little pocket of the earth, a 3-day festival occurs. One filled with sun, water, music, and magic. Over 3000 bodies on 30 acres of land, vibrating various energies and sweet release.

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Image courtesy of James Patrick

Nothing is as it seems.

Every structure on site: the 3 stages (Main Stage, Umojah Stage, Hidden Valley Stage) to the unicorns and shower swings- each a product of tireless human labour.

Image may contain: one or more people, plant, tree, sky, outdoor and nature

Image courtesy of James Patrick

Imagine a group of friends decided to throw a New Year’s party but instead, they threw the biggest festival Kilifi’s ever seen. No corporate sponsorship – just regular folk, sharing their corner of paradise with the rest of the world.

I went as a volunteer- partly because I’m underpaid, shit at saving and I don’t have Ksh.9,000 begging to burn a hole in my wallet.

Partly because I wanted the experience of contributing to this massive thing. Of camping in the bush in my little tent big enough for only one. Of being part of a community of people from different walks and spaces of the world – finding ourselves in the same place for the same purpose.

I spent 8 days in Kilifi. A baby, compared to the volunteers who had been there for 20 days by the time I arrived.

26th December:

I arrive in the dark with no tent and no torch. Luck is my homegirl, the first volunteer I meet has a spare tent that he & his girlfriend were happy to get rid of. The guy who promised to buy it off them never showed up. You know who showed up though, conveniently homeless – me.

Fate. It’s convenient.

I get lost every time I try to go back to my portable house from the kitchen. Mark, a kind man with locs grazing the top of his butt and a flashlight, would lead me back to camp any time he saw me stray a bit too far into the distance.

I feel like a bougie outsider, with my ironed clothes and un-sunburnt skin. They work from 8.30 – 5 and drink mnazi every day. By evening, their spirit is one of leisure but one of exhaustion as well. But it’s worth it otherwise, they wouldn’t be there.

After half a mboko of mnazi, my body decides it’s time for us to go to bed. Mark shines the way home for me.

27th December.

Billy Blunts made a pipe from a maize cob and two hollow sticks. He’s part of the team building the Hidden Valley stage. Blunts is his real last name. How apt. I breathed in the smoothest hit I ever had, endorsed by mother earth herself.

Every now and then, I drown in my own face sweat. Jay, a lithe girl with spaghetti blonde hair and shiny obsidian skin suggests a ride on the shower swings. Her days are spent in a bikini for this purpose, this freedom to get wet anytime she wants. I take notes.

Rasta weaves through every activity on a daily. It’s in the way they do their work, in how they relate to each other. Rasta is respectful, and equally, it calls for respect.

Image may contain: one or more people, tree and outdoor

Image courtesy of James Patrick

Rasta is the art of letting it go. A verbal dispute in the morning calls for a group meditation after lunch to heal the community vibes.

Long moist days are capped with nights spent drinking mnazi and searching for weed under a light fluttering breeze. A sky pregnant with stars.

The administration house is where it’s at. Shade from the burning sun.

That was the theme of my trip: burning.

burning sun

28th December

Tuk tuks are like taxis. Expensive.

It cost me Ksh. 400 to get to town from the plantations by Tuk Tuk and Ksh. 150 to come back by boda boda. Cruising down brown sandy side streets at dusk is more fun in a boda boda anyway. You can see the baobabs waving at you from all sides.

In the morning, I break up with my boyfriend. In the afternoon, I’m sorting dreamcatchers. In the evening, I’m at Distant Relatives BackPackers and Eco-Lodge with six other volunteers. I came to see Bruce J Rooke perform but I was late and missed his husky crooning acoustic set. He wasn’t mad, he’s a good friend. I’m the bad one.

enchanted

Lucky Birdi’s set is a zig zag of electric synths under banging basslines and drums that slap harder that mvuli wood. His set merging into Lemi’s set like lost twins, reunited. Lemi had the tom-tom drums and ankara fabric weaving through the sound. In the heat of his set, I imagined me and a young Fela Kuti, rhythming the night away to this new funky electric Africa.

My break-up came at the right time. I felt like sleeping beauty, finally opening her eyes after what felt like an eternity of sleep. It felt like a weight off my shoulders. It felt free.

That was another theme: freedom.

free

29th December.

Spent shrouded underneath a fog of hangover and fabric. Still, no regrets.

The festival begins tomorrow. I go to bed early. We have a long 4 days ahead of us.

30th December. Before the Baobabs.

before tb

I was put on media liaison together with socially conscious rapper, InsectDudu, and a girl from the area called Hope*. We made press packets and got to interact with photographers, journalists and artists coming in to document the festival. Reggie and Arriana rode from South Africa to Kilifi on a motorbike. Eventually, they’ll ride to Casablanca to raise funds to support young upcoming artists in South Africa.

reggie

Hope and Insect vented about working from 8-5 without a stipend, about the Ksh.2000 deposit volunteers had to pay. Even though it would be returned to them at the expiration of their contract, they didn’t have the 2 grand to part with in the first place.

They hated that no-one cared to find out whether they had a tent to sleep in or not, or whether Hope could afford the Ksh.300 bodaboda home and still have enough to eat the next day.

Hope left at the end of the day and never came back. InsectDudu stayed. He sees the disparity but he also the opportunity. He’s trying to raise a point and he will not leave until that point has been made.

Volunteering is for the rich who want to know what it’s like to be poor, the professional savers & budgeteers, and for the broke.

Volunteering is not for the poor. It’s not for the people whose daily reality is struggling to make ends meet. You don’t earn money as a volunteer. In fact, you spend money.  The work is really all there is to it. Whether it fulfills or not, is one man’s white bread and another man’s wholemeal.

31st December. Day 1.

A group connection session led by Ronan and Gayle taught us to vomit bullshit. Any bullshit that comes your way, purge that shit. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Not that they were teaching us bulimia.

“Kilifi is a city full of hippies,” someone muses.

“There are 4 white people for every black person,” someone else muses.

“But we all found ourselves here. We’re all here for the same reason- we’re here to experience something that will change our lives.” The stranger with the shell necklace sips his baobab juice and grins.

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Image courtesy of James Patrick

I get sucked into the Main Stage in the middle of my afternoon rounds by Eric K (editors note: of no relation) playing electric sunshine and flowers through the Funktion One sound system. I love having a dancefloor to myself, it’s like the moment you didn’t have to share a room with your siblings anymore.

Regardless of color or language, we are here because we are trying to liberate ourselves. It’s safe to be you on these grounds. We’re here. We’re alive. We’ve accepted it.  But most importantly, we’ve accepted ourselves.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature

Image courtesy of James Patrick

“We are the generation of transition.” The DJ at the Umojah Sound System Stage chants into the microphone.

We love ourselves for what we are and while we know it can always get worse, it can get better too.

The countdown begins 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

Happy New Year.

1st January.

“You have started the new year on a journey. Your whole year will be a journey.”

I need to stop having these kinds of conversations.

It’s a bushman’s carnival. By day 2 (day 6 tbh), I’d danced at all the stages. Showered under all the swings and mushrooms. Climbed all the jungle gyms and wooden animals. Slept on all the decks and teepees.

Image may contain: one or more people

Image courtesy of James Patrick

 

In the admin. house, renamed ‘The University’ for the duration of the festival, there’s a forum on racism at 2pm. A discussion on feminism at 3pm. Sexual Wellness and Secrets of the Yoni at 4pm. Documentaries showing back to back for most of the night.

At 7pm, I had a micro-racist experience at the Umojah Stage aka The Reggae Stage. After two hours of gyrating and dutty whining, I was tired. I reached for my bag which I had stored in a pocket in the subwoofers. ‘Coincidentally’ at the same time, a white woman decides to adjust her bag which was sitting next to mine and move it further away. I guess it can’t lay on one side for too long lest it gets bed sores.

Flatline: She thought I was trying to steal her bag.

Flatter line: Racist.

95% of my time was spent at the Umojah Stage. Umojah was where I’d go to escape the harsh EDM boom booms and lose myself in smoke and irie.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, night and outdoor

Image courtesy of James Patrick

Flattest line: Not even racism could ruin the Umojah Stage for me.

It’s almost midnight. I join the burn procession for the sole purpose of face glitter and a bedazzled rhino horn hat. This year’s structure is a 30-meter tall man with a rhino mask on, in memory of Sudan – the last male Northern White Rhino. I name him Sudan Man.  I’m so caught up in the circus of it all, I lose my fellow rhinos.

Henry, straddling drums made from recycled plastic, and the man on the Kayamba communicate with no words- only hand gestures, facial expressions, and pure rhythm. They play perfectly in sync despite only having met 5 minutes ago. I accompany them on the shakers. Our feet digging up mini-storms of dust with every downbeat.

They set Sudan Man on fire and cinders of his body fly into the air. The sky is painted with glowing dots of burning wood and makuti. I sit down on the ground and watch Sudan Man burn until he’s nothing but a pile of ash. The fire cleanses me of all the bullshit of 2018. I reflect on all the choices I made and the ones I did not, and how they all led me here.

To this fire. To this earth.

It’s my birthday.

Image may contain: night

Image courtesy of James Patrick

2nd January. Day 3.

The music goes hard all night and all morning. Fast Pumping EDM at insane decibels. Despite this, the beauty of the Main Stage’s Funktion One Sound System is that regardless of how loud it gets, you can still have a conversation with the person next to you without having to shout in each other’s ears.

Image may contain: sky, night, plant, outdoor and nature

Image courtesy of James Patrick

7am. I’m sitting on a jungle gym specially built for hyperactive adults to climb. From up here, the stragglers walking around look like sleepless zombies, waiting for the last of their mnazi, MDMA or whatever they’re on to leave their system so that they can fall into the sweetest slumber of their life.

Image may contain: one or more people, sky and outdoor

Image courtesy of James Patrick

I take in the final hours of the festival and hold it in my lungs. I buy my last Rollex and eat it on the baobab deck, feet swinging over the forest.

Eventually, I go to sleep.

It’s 2019. I am 23 years old.

 

 

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For more on the Beneath The Baobabs Festival, follow Distant Relatives and Kilifi New Years here:

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Art & Its Connection to the Artist

I came across Joji when I fell down a Spotify-shaped rabbit hole some time ago. Mentally, I wasn’t at the best place so his music fit my mood perfectly. His lo-fi brand of melancholy was extremely soothing to my soul and I was going to do a feature but as always, procrastination decided otherwise.

Late last year, I meet this guy at a friend’s graduation and we get into a conversation about 88rising, an Asian label that’s been gaining a lot of traction lately. Dude asks me if I listen to Rich Chigga and of course, I do. He asks if I know Joji and again, I do. Then he asks if I listen to Pink Guy. I haven’t.

Now, for the uninformed, Pink Guy is, to put it simply, an extremely fucked up Teletubby. He does normal YouTuber things like prank videos, skits and occasionally, cooks rats.. This befouled cartoon character brought to life is a creation of George Miller who also happens to be the aforementioned artist, Joji. Turns out before Joji was Joji, he was Filthy Frank. A Youtuber I had only heard of in passing. Are you still with me? Good.

Think of the vilest, most repulsive troll you can think of and maybe then you’ll be close to imagining who Filthy Frank is. Currently, at 5.2 million YouTube subscribers, Filthy Frank embodies a brand of comedy that crosses unsettling, passes absurdist and lands right at the center of fucked up. Like a live-action family guy.

Filthy Frank and Pink Guy are both characters that George Miller plays. They exist in a universe of his own creation bound only by his rules and his moral code. They are in no way a representation of who he actually is.

This juxtaposition between Joji  (plaid-wearing mopey indie artist) and Filthy Frank (Satan incarnate) got me thinking about artists and their personas. At what point does the artist stop and the art continue?

I believe that there are roughly two ways to answer this.

You could choose to see the art that one creates as separate and distinct from the one that creates it. A parent gives life to their child but ultimately they are two separate people. The good thing about this is that it allows us to appreciate art objectively. It allows us to listen to R. Kelly without thinking of golden showers or watch House of Cards without bile seeping down our throats.

At the same time, by separating the art from the artist you’re effectively turning your back on the things that they may have done. If your favourite musician beats his girlfriend and you continue to listen to their never-ending stream of music aren’t you continuing to support them? Or alternatively, to turn this question on its head, if you boycott whatever artist that happens to be embroiled in the saga of the day are you denying the others involved in the creation of that art their due? It’s kinda like the teacher making the whole class kneel because of that one loud mouth. Is moral indifference the answer? To quote an extremely articulate friend of mine:

The art and the artist may or may not be separate, but the fact that the art feeds the artist and the artist feeds the art means that we must link them together.

This brings us to the second perspective you can choose to take in your interpretation of this relationship. Art as an expression of its creator. Whatever you create, whatever you say, is an expression of you. Everything you’ve ever said or written is semi-autobiographical whether you like it or not. The children that I will have someday will be persons separate from me but I shall continue to exist in their big eyes and lack of facial hair. Oscar Wilde puts it brilliantly in The Picture of Dorian Grey when he says, ‘Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter’.

If you take this view, everything is ruined for you. The moment we hear George R.R. Martin got a little too frisky with his secretary, you can never go back to Westeros. Filthy Frank and Pink Guy, despite being characters, would then be inseparable from George Miller.

There’s no clear course of action. At least, I don’t see one.

For you, is art like the bible? An outpouring of words from people inspired.

Is art like a Picasso?  A broken and true reflection of society. Or are we not meant to understand any of it?

At the end of last year, George brought Filthy Frank to an end. He explains that he no longer enjoyed producing that kind of content and that playing all those different characters took a toll on his physical and mental health. Here, the artist has brought his art to an end. The connection is now severed. I wish I could say the same about Woody Allen.

Featured Image: The Great Wave off Kanagawa; Hokusai

Trip: Jhene Aiko

WhatsApp Image 2017-10-27 at 6.12.27 PM

Trip is a 4 sided dice that never stops rolling and you never know which side it will land on.

Side A- grief; the loss of a loved one. Side  B- experimenting with psychedelics. Side C- falling in love. Side D- falling out of love.

It’s about losing yourself and finding yourself all over again.

This project arrived with a masterful short film in which Jhene plays a fictionalized version of herself: Penny the Poet.

And how could I review something called Trip, without sprinkling some trippy imagery here and there?

Enjoy the trip.

drugs 1

 

We open with grief and psychedelics in ‘LSD’. Jhene’s brother, Miyagi, passed away in 2011 after battling cancer. On this track, she talks to him and tells him about her experience with the drug. How that tiny piece of paper made her feel closer to him, almost like she could talk to him and he’d talk back.

Everything you said I shouldn’t do
But those things bring me closer to you,

So the other night, I
Took a tiny piece of paper and put it under my tongue
This white guy said it’d be fun, and it was, but
What I saw
Oh my God, oh my God

‘Jukai’ is a forest in Mount Fiji, also known as suicide forest, where people go to die peacefully, amongst the sea of trees. She relates this forest to escapism; her need to run away to a place where she can never be found.

In an interview on Beats 1 Radio, she broke it down like this:

One night I was in [the studio] with the Fisticuffs and we were partaking in marijuana and we were watching a documentary about Aokigahara, the suicide forest in Japan. My great-grandmother was born in Hawaii, but she’s actually Japanese. My grandfather is Japanese, too. So I’ve always wanted to go. After my brother passed — actually, my whole life — I’ve been very interested in death. Not afraid of it, but interested and intrigued. I was watching that [documentary] and it was such a beautiful forest. Maybe people go there and they just feel at peace. Of course, everyone has different reasons for making that decision.
It’s definitely a place I’ve been in my mind: ‘Hmm, if I were to decide to do that, how would I do it?’ So we started with a guitar and I wanted to write a song about that place and go there in my mind. I know that sounds morbid, but it was true. It was a fantasy of me going there. It’s not super obvious in the song, but I say how my feet keep touching the ground [and] it’s not working for me. Then I’m saved by a guy. But in real life I was on a hike in Big Sur and I was getting emotional. Then I looked up through the trees and I saw the sun. It felt like the sun saved me, which, in itself, is [symbolic]: the Son of God or the sun in our solar system. It just felt like a love story.

‘While we’re young’ and ‘Moments ft. Big Sean’ are a summer of falling in love- with someone else, with yourself, with life. All guards and inhibitions thrown to the wind. The free-est you’ve ever been. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ is an upbeat pop synth number about fighting for that same love.

‘When we Love’. When falling into a love that seems too good to be true, be mindful- it just might be. It usually is.

drugs 3

But seriously, who is this man who keeps giving her drugs. Big Sean, is it you?

She gives us something for the aux in ‘Sativa’ ft. Swae Lee. Staying true to the substance theme, if this song was a drug (I know, it’s called Sativa), it would be lean. It’s a drowsy eyes-closed slow-bumping banger.

‘New Balance’ is a heartfelt poem, originally posted on her tumblr, dedicated to finding that someone who will patiently help you heal all your wounds. Guitar courtesy of John Mayer.

jhené aiko efuru chilombo new balance

‘You are here’ is getting to know this person deeper and finding out who they really are. Yeah this is fun but are you sure? Are you sure you won’t hurt me? The same sentiments are echoed in ‘Newer balance freestyle’

Shit hits the fan in ‘Never Call Me’ and her eyes are wide open now. She sees it, she sees that it wasn’t really love. It was mostly just drugs. Also taking this opportunity to land a few jabs at her ex-husband, producer Dot-da-genius.

So let’s stop pretending like we were in love
We never shared anything but the drugs
We were both numb, never had anything real between us

Ironic because the next track in the album is produced by Dot da Genius. ‘Nobody’ is learning how to be alone again. However, the drugs switch from psychedelics to prescriptions, partly at fault is Dr. Chill.  (Dr. Chill’s identity will be revealed shortly). How the issues in her life are mostly resolved with a “Here. Take this. It will make you feel better.”

drugs 2

 

Okay, so far we’ve met Lsd, Sativa, and prescription pills. ‘Overstimulated’ is coke.  The highs are short and fleeting. The come downs are cruel and unforgiving. Her addiction is rising. It’s an enchanting R&B feel and we get to swirl through Jhene’s mind along with her. She talks to the drugs like they’re a bad lover.

Why you never stay for long? You always go so fast
Who’s gonna hold my hand when I’m crashing

She’s coming down in ‘Oblivion’. That feeling of emptiness after it all ends. When nothing can fill the void. This one is my personal favorite- the sounds wave in and out of each other and the reverb makes it all the more ethereal and heavy. Everything from the percussion to Dr. Chill’s verse is a hovering darkness.

I love how direct she is in ‘Psilocybin’. Incase you had any doubts, yes. She is talking about shrooms. It’s calming (the song not shrooms idk I’ve never tried it) like a mantra i’d recite to myself to remind me I’m here. This is where I am and exactly where I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. It is the right place. It is the right time.

Dear Dr. Chill, how have I lived without your smooth jazz wisdom all this time? Someone please give this psychedelic man a record deal and an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. (Right. Dr. Chill is Dr. Chilombo a.k.a Baba Jhene)

dr chill

I’m from the Universe soul
We’re all from the Universe soul 

Mummy and baby sing together on ‘Sing to me’ ft. Namikolove, her daughter. It’s as adorable and endearing as you think it is. Scratch that, it’s more. The beauty and vulnerable power in the image of a mother-daughter duo vs. the world moved me to tears in a feeling I haven’t felt since I finished watching Gilmore Girls.

The album moves through the stages of grief, finally ending in acceptance with ‘Frequency’. A prayer and a thanksgiving. And ‘Trip’ ft. Mali Music. Love pays but it also collects taxes. *shrugs* It’s a trip.

Life is a trip. Death is a trip. Family is a trip. Love is a trip. It’s all a constant unending journey. Breathe it all in, look around, learn, keep moving forward.

 

Rated : 4.3 / 5