Sarabi

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When I heard from my roommate that Sarabi was performing at Kings of the Arena VI, I decided to go. The band has a reputation for great live performances, and is a favorite among my Kenyan friends. Such a first impression was more than enough to justify the 500 KES early-bird fee, and I excitedly entered the building and sat in my rain-sprinkled chair.

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Other acts at the Kings of the Arena VI included poets MUFASA (above) and Teardrops, as well as bands LULU and Yellow Light Machine

Around 9pm, the band strode on the stage. Dressed in white with heads adorned in masks printed with the Kenyan flag, Sarabi delivered the night’s most captivating performance. Their Afro-funkish, rock-like sound and colorful personality energized what was previously an apathetic crowd, while Swahili vocals proclaimed the band’s fiercely democratic views. “Kelele,” meaning “Noise,” and fan favorite “Sheria” meaning “The Law,” were among the songs performed during their one-hour-plus set. Brand new song, “Koko’s Vibration,” was also unveiled during the night. Lead singer Nelson Mandela Akello described their newest single as “a song about necessary noise, about the young generation speaking in one voice.”

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Nelson Mandela (center) with other members of Sarabi

Mandela, Sarabi’s most influential member, is the metaphorical embodiment of the band’s values. Raised in the slums of Eastlands, Mandela founded Sarabi in 2005 with several friends and together they used music to spread messages of peace and harmony. “When I was a young boy, I wanted to be like Michael Jackson,” Mandela said, “I’ve always had this fire burning inside me- this desire to communicate with the people through performance.”  Mandela oozes positive energy both on stage and off, and his passion for social activism is reflected not only in his music, but also in his Confusian-esque life philosophy of love and giving, called “Maramaso” or “Man Raise Man Society.” It’s obvious to any onlooker that Mandela loves to be on stage, and judging from the smiles in the crowd, Nairobi adores both him and his band.

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To learn more about Sarabi, go here. If you’re interested in the concept of Maramaso, check it out here.

Here’s a short clip of the band in action:

Around Town

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Walking around town on a Friday afternoon is always an arresting experience. I especially love to analyze the expressions on pedestrians’ faces and make wild guesses about where they’re going specifically, and who they are generally. On this drizzly overcast day, I captured a number of citizens in various stages of confusion, fatigue and purpose.

 

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Fashion Find: Menswear Hat at Jaqub’s in Kilimani

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Adam’s Arcade Marketplace in Kilimani is home to a number of small businesses. Each shop sits along the bustling street eagerly awaiting customers, while its assertive owners beckon to passersby. Christopher Kimonyi is one of this area’s many business residents. His little gem of a hat shop, Jacqub’s, offers an expansive selection of headgear, with styles ranging from delicate sunhats to traditionally Western cowboy hats. Christopher opened Jaqub’s 2 years ago from the money he saved selling DVDs and apparel for other businesses in the marketplace.

“Hats are very [financially] beneficial,” said Christopher when I asked him why he chose to sell Panamas instead of Passion Fruits. He collaborates with his friends to secure steady sales.

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Christopher with his business partner Michael (center right) and friend J. J. (far right)

Christopher seems like a honest guy with a relaxed and easy-going demeanor. He patiently catered to me while I tried on an endless array of hats and expertly fielded all my questions that ranged from washing instructions to tips on proper sizing.

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My Masai figurine modeling my new Fedora

Both Christopher and I agree that the fedora is our favorite style of hat; its classic design and unassuming presence makes every outfit just a little bit cooler. I ultimately walked away with this tan linen fedora. The hat itself is in mint condition and is a great compliment to my wardrobe. Most importantly, it helps shield my face from the scorching heat.

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Jaqub’s is located on Suna Road, just off Ngong Road, in front of the Friends Butchery.