The last time I was in Nairobi was in 1991. The Athletics World Championships were happening in Tokyo. We stayed up late at my uncle and aunt’s house watching Mike Powell and Carl Lewis duke it out for the gold medal in long jump. It’s funny, the stuff you remember. It was my first time in Kenya, and I’d had a whole bunch of new experiences. I’d eaten ugali and chapati. I’d taken a sleeper train from Nairobi to Mombasa, and had woken up to giraffes outside the window – still the only ones I’ve seen in real life. I was eight years old, and not used to staying up past midnight. So, even with all those other experiences, my enduring memory of the trip is of watching sports. That, and my three-year-old brother accidentally suffocating a little baby chick on our grandfather’s farm. A tale for another time, perhaps.
My 2016 trip to Nairobi also involved staying up late, this time for very different reasons: “African Futures.” I was drawn to the name as soon as I saw the Facebook message from the Goethe Institut in Nairobi. I liked it even more when they told me it was an interdisciplinary festival happening in Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg and Berlin. It appealed to the Pan-African in me as well as the diasporan. Is diasporan a word? It is now. You cannot understand what it is to be Nigerian, or Kenyan or South African in 2016 without factoring in the diaspora. Perhaps, as a Nigerian who has lived in England for 18 years, of course I would say that. But, I really believe it to be true. There are just so many of us moving back and forth between our home countries and the furthest flung corners of the globe. I also thought the internationalism would suit my DJ sets. For example, the mix below — edited from my full live set on the closing night of the festival’s Nairobi edition — features tracks not only from Kenya, Ghana, South Africa but also from the US, UK and Europe.
Besides my international predilections, that night an interdisciplinary curiosity was also satisfied. There were academics, film directors and fashionistas in attendance. During my set, I got a kick out of thinking there would be a professor in the audience getting down to “Mentasm” – a reissued rave classic from the early 90s. I also met clothing designers 2manysiblings (and then returned to Brighton to find one of them staring out at me from a poster). However, it wasn’t until the morning after I suppose, that things came full circle for me in Nairobi. I met my Uncle Bob in the center of town as football supporters danced and played drums around us. We boarded a matatu headed for his post-retirement home on the outskirts of Nairobi, and there he explained what was happening in town. We had been in the midst of the Green Army – supporters of Gor Mahia Football Club. So once again my memories of Nairobi are of late nights and sports.
- This post is part of our Liner Notes series, where musicians talk about making music.