Recalling days of calmer, joyful political campaigns

Monday, October 14th, 2019 00:00 |

As a little, skinny but fairly intelligent-looking lad, long before my teens, I recall with immense nostalgia how calm life in our estate was.

I remember a few traditional dance troupes that occasionally belted out folk music, whether there was a special occasion or not.

There was a mwomboko, whose members did jigs especially as they rehearsed how they would go to Nakuru State House to entertain then President Jomo Kenyatta in the evenings.

They were a sight to behold, as the men held the women by their waists, then swirled them round and round until their brightly coloured dresses flew in the wind.

And when they were not in town, a Luhya troupe did their thing. Now, this group was the most hilarious as it would gather, carrying their musical instruments around until they had the numbers for what would easily have passed for a full orchestra. They could have put the London Chamber Orchestra to shame.

There was a bloke with a short drum, hanging just under the armpit, from where he worked it until he got into a frenzy.

There was another sort of longer drum, which produced deeper musical notes and which blended with the shorter, high-pitched tune to complement the village concerto.

Now, to complete this ensemble, was a chap who cradled a Fanta bottle. In those days, the lower half of this bottle bore grooves, which were strummed using a spoon (yes, straight from somebody’s kitchen!). It produced a jingling sound.

To this day, I still wonder how this was discovered. Who came up with the revolutionary idea that striking that bottle would add a memorable tune to such an ensemble? Well, that is a story for another day.

I was telling you how this group would start a jig, once the numbers were enough, and proceed to deliver a rendition of Luhya folk songs, dancing all over the village as interested, mainly older folk, still chewing on delicious maize cobs joined in.

Before long, there was an entire troupe of musicians, children, and old folk reliving their younger days, dancing to the tunes of omutibo songs. They danced until sweat ran down their backs and their faces glistened in the afternoon sun. And mark you there was no occasion as such. Just impromptu happiness, if you ask me.

It was such groups that politicians recruited to help in election campaigns or political rallies, which were a simple affair back then. Just good old aspirants using megaphones to heap praises on themselves and promising goodies once elected. 

At times, they addressed joint rallies. Just imagine that. Ati, a guy like Waititu sitting and listening to his nemesis hurling epithets as he listens with a sheepish grin on his face. Wah! Then he would rise to respond. Miracles were happening. Haki!

I have been reliving those days and comparing them with latter-day modus operandi.

Last week, Nairobi County Speaker Beatrice Elachi, never mind that a court had ordered that she be reinstated, went back to office after a year’s hiatus to find a little reception committee waiting for her.

Hired goons, who looked obviously like they were under the influence of something or other, caused mayhem and disrupted everything, breaking furniture in the process.

Whoever hired those ruffians knows his job. They did not look like folks you want to meet in a dark alley. One had shoulders as big as a barn door.

Indeed, a wag was heard last week remarking that even the Kibra campaigns were too quiet to be true.

The wag was saying that in some parts of Nyanza, when folks want to riot, they do it like they will get a medal; lighting bonfires as early as 10am and enjoying running battles with police.

Indeed, word is that if the police do not come to put the fires out, the folks go to fetch them from the local police station. They will taunt them: “Mumechelewa wapi buana? Kujeni!”

Over lunch, if the cops are tired or run out of ammunition and teargas, they are reminded to go eat and send reinforcements!

Folks are brave in those places. You doubt? Consider this: just last week, vehicles parked near a police post at Daraja Mbili were vandalised. Who else would have that sort of courage? You tell me!

Have a courageous week, folks!

– The writer is Special Projects Editor, People Daily

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