I pity those who work in Upper Hill and have to use matatus on a daily basis. Those matatus are full of salespeople. Some sell all kinds of toothpaste that they claim can keep your mouth fresh for a fortnight. Others sell shoe polish that they argue can make your shoes invincible amidst the dusty streets of Nairobi. There are others who sell happy socks (Do happy socks make people happy?). There are some intelligent ones who have learnt that erectile dysfunction is now a big hurdle that gives some men nightmares hence they come selling concoctions they call ‘Nguvu za Kiume’. You look at those things at times and wonder whether someone would be so desperate as to sink those fluids down his throat. They look like they could kill at an instant. Like that famous Mexican killer poison called Belladonna.
If you commute to Upper Hill you just can never travel with a piece of mind. In some instances, a person will slowly rise from his seat as if he or she is alighting and then boom. He is already ranting about some medicine that cures everything. So they say. Those cunning lads. Some have tablets that they claim can help one win his or her court cases. At times you listen and laugh inwardly (Nobody ever bursts loudly into laughter. Sometimes I wonder why. Could it be that I am the only who usually has a sense of humour in all these mats? Or maybe there is a secret code among passengers that bars anyone from giggling loudly no matter how funny something is)
So on Saturday as I was travelling to my aunt’s place in Lucky Summer (Sounds like a cool name for a place in Kenya. Yeah?), someone rose up from his seat as the bus just started moving. Imagine my reaction at the time. I was like what on earth is with these Nairobi matatus??!! Couldn’t someone just travel in peace without a person rising up with products for sale or with some strange version of the gospel of Christ?
A minute passed by. Mr. Guy stood right by the entrance surveying the passengers who were now shifting uncomfortably in their seats because no one wants to be stared at when travelling. I must admit that I also freaked out at some point. Who wouldn’t? After reading about and watching the aftermath of all those terrorist bus attacks in Mandera, Garissa and even some in London and parts of the US wouldn’t you be scared? So I was scared. A little bit. The stereotype in me began thinking about all sorts of bad things the guy could possibly do. I hated my mind for invoking such terror-like and frightening thoughts.
Then Mr. Guy standing there starts moving his hands around followed by a slow, rhythmic and controlled nod of his head before he starts rapping. Imagine the relief among the passengers. Imagine the relief inside me. The lady sitting next to me told me that she had even imagined that the guy would utter the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ and unleash a vest bomb to which he would then press the switch and we would all be gone to meet our makers within a minute. All my life, I have realized that if there is one thing that scares and shakes people to their roots it is death or any thought of impending death. Nobody ever learns how to die. I know some people say they are never afraid of it but there have been reports and studies that indicate that even during those very last minutes there is always a certain kind of panic and immense fear that sets in and takes over a person.
By now Mr. Guy is midway rapping. I am beginning to like how he raps. In fact, most people are beginning to like him now. This is clearly shown by how some begin to nod their heads slowly to signify that they are loving what is unravelling. He’s clearly talented. The lyrics to his songs are funny. And he does his rap with so much ease that you’d think rapping is an easy task till you try it out and bite your tongue. He goes on and on till he is done with the song. The whole bus then gives him a round of applause.
He is real this guy. His music is deep. It touches the soul. It melts the heart. The music connects one to the mysterious soul of the universe. The lyrics are like a personal testimony. His words are a representation of the struggle he has encountered in this cruel world. And what I like about the song he has just completed is that it sends a compelling message that would command anyone’s attention. He speaks of humility in a rare fashion. He brings out the concept of love for one another at a level that is outta this world.
Just when we thought he was done, he gives another song that leaves most of us with our chins transfixed in our hands. I was completely swept off by this guy’s prowess. I have heard of musical geniuses but never got the chance to be only two feet away from one. The lady next to me is now in tears because she finds this second song ‘too emotional’. Okay, I felt that this was getting quite awkward now. I mean the song was touchy but shedding litres of tears really? Poor me did not even know what to do. What’s the protocol in such situations? Are you supposed to console such a person or let them cry on? Since I was never taught how to deal with crying passengers, I followed the latter. I let her cry on. (Please don’t judge me. I didn’t even have a white handkerchief to offer her like the men in movies do)
Mr. Guy is finally done with the second song. At this point, he has completely captured the attention of the bus. We are all staring at him like he is a Lord Commander who is readying us for a war. Who could blame us? Words speak to the mind but music speaks to the soul. It’s a proven concept. By the way, if you are a guy and you ever want to capture the soul of a girl quickly, just go to her with a sweet song like Christina Aguilera’s Say Something. Beware that not all music capture the soul though. There are songs like those of Mad Cobra that will completely turn off even a lady who loves riddims. (Who listens to Mad Cobra in 2018 anyway? The guy’s name kwanza is a complete disaster.)
Mr. Guy introduces himself for the first time as Oscar Mizani Mbitho. He then gives us a synopsis of his life. He is from the ghetto he says. He doesn’t say which ghetto he is from and I don’t bother to raise my hand to ask. He speaks sheng. Ghetto sheng. There is that sheng which is a mixture of English and Kiswahili and then there is the ghetto sheng. You can never understand ghetto sheng unless you come from the ghetto or you have close ghetto friends. Oscar speaks fluent ghetto sheng and I only grab a few words and connect the dots. Among the things I am able to catch is the fact that he is an upcoming Kenyan artist who is very passionate about rapping.
I, like the others, also finds out that he has lived a life of misery. He has seen worse things than most of you readers combined will ever encounter your entire lives. In the second song, he had a line expressing his fears for the lives of ghetto people because of the numerous shootings by the police in the name of ‘Chasing criminals’. He tells of how the ghetto is like Chicago when it comes to shootings. The only difference is that in this case, it’s blacks shooting fellow blacks.
Without dwelling so much into details, Oscar Mizani asks us to support his young musical career. His plans are to establish himself as an artist and help as much as possible to improve the lives of people in his slum community even in the smallest way possible. I have never seen people being as generous as they were that day. They gave whatever little they could. They ‘showed up’ for him. A lady rose and hugged him. A gentleman patted him on the back as a way of encouraging him to press on.
Just before he could alight after he was done with his plea, I called him by my side and looked at him straight into the eye. I believed him. I could tell he was genuine and that he was no fraud. His struggle was real. I asked him if I could get in touch with him later and get his story out to the world. He agreed and thanked me in a way that no one has ever done (Not even my friends do thank me like that when I do them favours. Those traitors. Oscar’s doing better than y’all when it comes to courtesy).
He thanks the whole bus one more time before alighting and off he goes. Oscar Mizani. He waves as the bus speeds past him. Distance then swallows him as we get nearer to our various destinations. I hope he makes it one day. I am sure he will make it. He has a very strong will and a steely determination.
PS: Oscar needs our help to produce his next song which costs 30K. Help this young Kenyan man achieve his dreams even if it’s in a small way. Click here to listen to Oscar’s first ever song.