18
Oct
2011

Makadem Opening for Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Ketebul Music artist Makadem, travels to Europe today for his autumn One World-Scandinavian tour that will see him perform at venues in Denmark & Sweden. The highlight of this extensive one month tour will be opening for Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 28th of October.

Seun Kuti is the youngest son of legendary Nigerian afro beat pioneer Fela Kuti. Seun is backed by his father’s former band, Egypt 80, which consists of musicians that not only played with Fela, but were often arrested and harassed alongside the founder of the Afrobeat movement.

Makadem, renowned for his electrifying performances and high energy on stage, is also set to perform at the 2011 edition of Word Music Expo (WOMEX), backed by his 4 piece band.

Makadem who plays the guitar, kayamba, and kalimba, will perform songs such as Kisumu Bound Bus and Nyar Nairobi City from his debut CD ‘Ohanglaman.’

For information on this tour follow Makadem on: Makadem on Tour

Makadem the Ohanglaman
17
Oct
2011

Gargar on Tour – Day 05: Sun 18 Sept 2011

Bulawayo
St. Patrick’s Hotel, Bulawayo
The following morning, Fabien showed up at the hotel just after breakfast. He asked me to accompany him to Hillside Dams and go over the technical details with the sound crew.

Hillside Dams, Bulawayo
The Hillside Dams was a very scenic set in the more affluent side of Bulawayo. It was a park with a dam in it and the stage was overlooking an amphitheatre curved out in the rocks.

Hillside Dams

The sound crew had followed my technical rider to the letter, including monitors and how they were configured and they also included side fills. Very impressive.

The-stage-@-Hillside-Dams

The-stage-@-Hillside-Dams

Fabien was concerned that everything was to our satisfaction before he took me back to the hotel. This was going to be a family show and was set for 4pm that afternoon.

Papa’s Restaurant, Bulawayo
Gilmore came by later at 12.30pm or half twelve as they say in Zimbabwe, and took us to Papa’s for lunch. Papa’s was a nice diner, which reminded me a lot of restaurants in Stone Town Zanzibar: it had an Arab-Swahili look about it.

As we had lunch, which ranged from sadza (Zimbzbwe’s version of East Africa’s ugali), rice, chips and a range of curries, Gilmore and I went over plans for the rest of the day. We were already short on time seeing as we had to have lunch, go back to the hotel for our gear, go to Hillside Dams for sound check, then back to the hotel for dressing up and finally back to the Dams fro the gig, all in a space of 3hours.

We came up with the perfect solution: after lunch, we would all go back to the hotel where the guys will all get ready and pick up their gear and head off to Hillside Dams for set up, sound check, and the show in the afternoon. The ladies would be left behind at the hotel where they would clean up and get dressed for the show. The guys will be dropped off at the Dams and the ladies would be picked up an hour later when everything was ready for the show.

Hillside Dams, Bulawayo – Showtime
Even though we tried our best and had everything ready as fast as we could, we were an hour late to start the show at 5.00pm.

The turnout was around 120 people, which according to Gilmore wasn’t bad for a ‘Makiwa’ (the Ndebele slang for white folks) audience.

Asha of Gargar dancing @ The Hillside Dams in Bulawayo.

As always, Gargar gave a stellar performance and had everyone up on their feet dancing with them at their last number.

The-Audience-@-Gargar

The audience joins Gargar for a dance

[gallery]

After the show, people flocked at the backstage area clamoring for pictures with the ladies who were by now getting used to all the attention they were drawing and were happy to oblige.

Gargar backstage with Fans @ The Hillside Dams

Frustration creeped in amongst the ranks later when we had to wait for an hour for our transportation back to the hotel. Gilmore was at pains to explain the delay was because they had approximated the show would end much later than it did, thus they had asked the driver to come by an hour later. We tried our best to while away the time swapping stories and jokes with the ladies who had by now fully opened up to us.

Papa’s Restaurant, Bulawayo
We went straight from Hillside Dams to Papa’s for diner. We didn’t have long to wait for our food as we had placed our orders for diner over lunch.

St. Patrick’s Hotel, Bulawayo
Back at the hotel after diner, everyone else apart from Gilmore, Shady, Erico and I opted to retire for the night. It was pretty obvious now that Erico, Shady and I were the outgoing ones in the bunch. Gilmore told us there might be a nightspot or two worth visiting for a drink that night, and we were only too glad to go for the excursion.

St. Patrick’s Hotel, Bulawayo
Back at the hotel after diner, everyone else apart from Gilmore, Shady, Erico and I opted to retire for the night. It was pretty obvious now that Erico, Shady and I were the outgoing ones in the bunch. Gilmore told us there might be a nightspot or two worth visiting for a drink that night, and we were only too glad to go for the excursion.

Ayoba, Bulawayo by Night
We took a short walk into Bulawayo CBD to a place called Ayoba where we met one of the memorable characters of this tour. Babongile was Gilmore’s friend and the owner of Ayoba, one hell of a crazy dude. He immediately made it his duty to entertain us, his Kenyan ‘brothers’ as he introduced as to all his friends.

We knew we were in for a long night when Babongile said, “… you guys are drinking too slowly, you better catch up coz I buy fast!

A few drinks down the line and Babongile suggested we go to another club that he runs in the other side of town. A few drinks later at the spot and we were all finally giving in to sleep. We finally gave in to the weariness and called it a night.

Gargar @ Hillside Dams Bulawayo
09
Oct
2011

Gargar on Tour – Day 04: Sat 17 Sep 2011

Courtney Hotel, Harare
In the morning at breakfast Luli told me Amina’s tooth had gotten worse, she was in pain and couldn’t even eat. When I saw how swollen her gums were I decided it would be best to take her to see a dentist.

Alliance Française, Harare
Toby and I made a quick dash to AF Harare to get Maarufu and the car. He had some chores to finish first, so I took the time to check out a few things online.

We had travel insurance from Jubilee Insurance Nairobi and I called the emergency number they gave us with regards to Amina’s tooth. This proved to be a total waste of time and money. All I can say is thank God we were not in an emergency situation: their response was anything but rapid. They even put me on hold thrice before I gave up and called the Nairobi office that also turned out to be a useless bunch.

Maarufu was finally through with his chores. He picked up Amina, Luli and Anab from the hotel then came back to AF Harare for Toby and I. We were running out of time because most offices in Harare (clinics and hospitals included) closed by 12.30pm on Saturdays.

Harare
We went by two hospitals only to find them already closed. I was starting to get worried that we might not find a doctor, when on our third stop on Fife Avenue, we found one dentist open. He was almost closing so we dashed in and I filled in the medical history form.

The consultation fee was USD 40..! That got me worried on what the dentist might finally charge for treatment.

Amina and I were ushered straight in to see the dentist. He checked her teeth and found out that the roots to 3 of them were rotten and had caused an infection that was causing the abscess and swelling on her gums. He recommended pulling out one that was very far-gone. Amina was clearly scared of having her tooth pulled out, but I told her it was for the better. She braved the pain of the anesthesia shot and in no time her tooth had been pulled out.

Then I received the shocker that was the medical bill: USD 200 for having a tooth pulled out!!! At that moment I felt like chocking the life out of Maarufu for bringing us to such an expensive dentist, especially after the sales lady at the pharmacy next door (where we got the prescription filled) told us it would have cost us between USD 25 to USD 40 at a nearby hospital.

Courtney Hotel, Harare
Back at the hotel, we had only an hour left to have lunch, pack our bags, and make it to the bus station in time to catch our bus to Bulawayo. I skipped lunch so I could take a much-needed shower after all the running around I had done that morning.

By the time Maarufu picked up the last of us for the 3rd and final trip to the bus station, we were 20min late for checking in to the bus that was to depart at 2.00pm. Lucky for us Harare did not have the crazy traffic we were accustomed to in Nairobi and Maarufu was able to push the pedal to the metal and drive as fast as he could.

Harare
We made to the station just in time to find the bus driving out of the station. We could see Mathew standing by the driver trying to convince him to stop. Maarufu cleverly packed his car in front of the bus forcing the driver to stop and we quickly boarded amid disapproving stares from the driver and some of the passengers.

City bus was a very luxurious bus, and the 7hour drive to Bulawayo was a breeze. Erico kept us entertained with his usual funny stories and antidotes.

Bulawayo
We arrived in Bulawayo at 2min past nine. Gilmore (AF Bulawayo’s cultural coordinator) was there to meet us and transfer us to the hotel.

St. Patrick’s Hotel, Bulawayo
Fabien (AF Bulawayo Director) showed up at the St. Patrick’s Hotel as we were checking in, with food and drinks for everyone. He made sure we were all checked in and comfortable before he left. He even opened up a tab for us to have drinks at the hotel..! Fabien won everyone’s votes as the best host so far.

Erico, Shady and I took up Fabien on his offer and had drinks as we watched TV before we finally retired for the night.

Luli Bashir of Gargar
03
Oct
2011

Gargar on Tour – Day 03: Fri 16 Sep 2011

Courtney Hotel, Harare
Because I had woken up pretty early the day before, coupling that with the fact that it had turned out to be a busy day, I was particularly tired the following morning. I was in no hurry to get out of bed, and only did so to make it in time for breakfast before the restaurant was closed. We were all taking it easy this morning and we all made it to the dining room for breakfast at the same time.

This was going to be an easy day in a sense because we did not have to go for sound check. Since we were the only band playing again tonight, the sound set up would be left the same as the previous night’s set up. The only addition would be a deejay set which only requires 2 channels on the sound desk.

Luli and the ladies retired back to their room to rest some more, while the rest of us went over to laze by the pool (again miraculously discovered by Toby). The sun was out and the stories were in plenty. Before we knew it, it was already half past one in the afternoon!

I took some time to update this report as I waited for the guys to dash back to the rooms and freshen up before we all headed out for lunch.

Alliance Française, Harare
After Lunch, Toby, Mathew (the drummer) and I headed off to AF Harare. Charles introduced as to Kid Fonque (South African deejay) who was going to play his set after Gargar at the Funkalicious show later that evening.

We ended up browsing for the better part of the afternoon.

Courtney Hotel, Harare
We went back to the hotel to have a few hours rest before the show. Showtime for us was 10.30pm, so we had quite a bit of time to ourselves.

Amina was developing a toothache and I had to get her painkillers to try ease the pain. I hoped it wont develop into a problem and keep her from singing that night.

Maarufu, time conscious as always, was there at 9.00pm to start the 3 trips to transfer us to AF Harare for the show.

Alliance Française, Harare – Funkalicious
The AF Harare grounds were busier than the previous night. The turn out was much higher, and there were food stands that were not there the night before. The dressing rooms were pretty much the same as the previous night: fruits water and wine. Charles kept popping in and out just to make sure we were okay.

There was a local deejay on set playing an interesting fusion of South African dance music accompanied by a live saxophonist. When he was done, we had a few minutes to plug in the instruments and do a quick line check. There was no need for a sound check since we were using the same set as we did the night before, and again we were the only band for the night.

Comrade Fatso (renown Zimbabwean artist and MC for the night) did a good job of introducing Gargar. You could feel the anticipation in the audience. And when the ladies stepped on stage dressed in their black hijabs, everyone moved closer to the stage, already applauding them.

When the ladies began to sing, it was obvious that this was going to be a special night. The audience was in high spirits dancing and cheering Gargar from the first note they sang. The ladies and the band picked the energy off the crowd and it seemed to feed their psyche. They in turn gave the audience all they had, and the snowball effect kept growing and growing into one big avalanche of an exciting performance.

Vusa had also done his homework, and the sound was crystal clear this evening. You could hear a pin drop on stage. I had given him a copy of Garissa Express after the previous show, and he told me later that listening to it had given him get a sense of what Gargar’s sound was supposed to be.

Once again the ladies took to the dance floor at the climax of their final number. The audience went crazy with everyone jostling for a chance to dance with the ladies.

Afterwards, we all went to chill out at the VIP backstage area. Maarufu plied us with drinks for the rest of the night. Luli, Amina and Anab were pretty happy and I was surprised to see them on and off the dance floor, dancing the night away. Asha on the other hand was tired and preferred to sit in the VIP area.

We all later retired back to the hotel at different intervals. All in all, this was definitely one of the most memorable performances by Gargar that I have seen yet.

Gargar @ Funkalicious show in Alliance Francaise Harare
02
Oct
2011

Gargar on Tour – Day 02: Thur 15 Sep 2011

Courtney Hotel, Harare
I had forgotten there was a 1hour time difference between Kenya and Zimbabwe, so I inadvertently set my alarm to wake me up at 6.30am to get ready for Luli’s TV interview at ZBC. I only came to realize later when I went for breakfast at 7am that it was actually 6.00am! I was a whole hour ahead of schedule. I spent the time starting off on this report.

Charles came by at 5min past 7.00am (the correct 7.00am local time), and we headed out for ZBC. We picked up Matthew (AF Harare Cultural Coordinator) at AF Harare then proceeded on to ZBC, but not before we got lost a couple of times.

ZBC, Harare
We finally made it to the TV station with only 15min left of our allocated time. We were asked to leave our passports and computers at the gate then proceed into the station. The mood and demeanor of the reception staff at the station struck me as very suspicious of us and almost hostile. However the TV crew was very friendly and Charles later commented that the show’s producer had too much energy asking a whole bunch of questions all the time.

The interview was short and we were out of the studio by 8.00am. I asked to drop a Garissa Express CD at their sister radio station and was obliged. I dropped 2 copies of the CD and asked the presenters to have a listen to the music and put it on rotation if possible.

Courtney Hotel, Harare
Back at the hotel, Luli and I joined the rest of the group at the restaurant for breakfast. Some of the guys decided to go into town after breakfast seeing as we had enough time in our hands before sound check, which was set for 2.00pm at the AF Harare grounds.

I took sometime to update this report, contemplating whether I should head off to AF Harare so as to be able to get an internet connection.

Harare International Airport

I ended up heading back to the airport with Maarufu (AF Harare’s driver) to retrieve luggage that we had left behind the previous day on arrival. I was lucky enough to recover it intact.

Maarufu was also picking up George and Sarah (Director AF Johannesburg and his wife) who was in town to attend the evening’s festivities where Gargar were set to perform. The director told me Gargar were being eagerly awaited for in Johannesburg and that there was quite a bit of a media buzz about them.

Courtney Hotel, Harare
I was dropped off back at the hotel; in time for lunch before we had to head out for set up and sound check at AF Harare. Toby (the guitarist) had somehow discovered a nice food joint close to Courtney Hotel where the food was much more affordable as compared to the hotel. We all tried out ‘saza’ the Zimbabwean version of ugali, pretty much the same thing only cooked much softer and lighter than what you would typically find in Kenyan homes.

When we got back to the hotel, Maarufu had already picked up Gargar and dropped them at AF Harare. We decided to go on foot to AF Harare with our gear leaving behind only the keyboard owing to its heavy weight. We would send the driver to pick it up when we got there.

Alliance Française, Harare
The stage had been set at the grounds just next to the main entrance into the AF Harare compound. It was an impressive set up if looks were anything to go by. It looked very professional and I expected the sound to be as much.

The guys quickly got on stage and in no time, with the help of Vusa (Oliver Mutukudzi’s sound tech who was the sound man for the night) everything had been plugged in. A quick line check to make sure everything was routed properly, then we sound checked 3 songs to get everything sounding right on stage and in the house.

Gargar during soundcheck @ AF Harare

Gargar during soundcheck @ Alliance Francaise Harare

After the sound check, the ladies were taken back to the hotel, Toby and I opted to stay back at Alliance and browse for a while.

Courtney Hotel, Harare
Back at the hotel, we all took some time to get ready. Our call time on stage was 7.45pm. So we had to be at the venue by 7.00pm.

Alliance Française, Harare – AF 60th Anniversary Performance
Maarufu was on time as usual, picking us up at 6.45pm. We made 3trips to AF Harare, and by the time we got there, the grounds were already a beehive of activity.

We stayed in the dressing rooms having fruits and wine (not the ladies) till our call time.

The ladies took the stage with gutso, Luli was in very high spirits, dancing and singing her heart out.

Gargar performing @ Alliance Francaise Harare's 60th Anniversary Gala


The audience was impressed by the funk-oriented numbers, and they thronged the dance floor every time one of those numbers were played.

Part of the audience on the dance floor during Gargar's performance.

On their final number, the ladies surprised everyone by stepping off the stage and joining the audience on the dance floor!

An unfortunate turn of events was Asha falling down and hurting her knee as they got off stage. But she did manage to shake it off and join the rest on the dance floor for a few minutes before they all retired to their dressing room.

The band stayed on stage a while longer keeping the energy that had built up from the last song going for a while.

After the show, the ladies were taken back to the hotel. The guys and I stayed on for drinks till much later. We wanted to go back to The Spin for diner and more drinks, but Charles told us they might not be serving food at that hour. He dropped us off at Nando’s, just a short walking distance from our hotel. We all had fried chicken and fries for diner then walked back to the hotel and retired for the night.

Gargar-AF-Harare-Backstage
21
Sep
2011

Gargar on Tour – Day 01: Wed 14 Sep 2011

Since arriving in Harare on the 14th of September, the ladies of Gargar have had a tight schedule involving sound checks, media interviews, transfers from one venue to another and the performances.

Despite of the tiring tour schedule, the ladies have taken to the life on the road like a duck to water, and are already used to it like seasoned touring rockers.

Here is the first installement of blogs on he tour;

Day 01: Wed 14 Sep 2011

Nairobi
It was an early morning for the group as we had a 3.45am flight to catch to Harare. This meant we had to be at JKIA at least by 1.45am for check in. The ladies of Gargar got there first and everyone else trickled in after. We quickly had our luggage sorted, making sure we spread the weight amongst us to avoid going over the 30kg weight limit per person. The Keyboard and flight case alone were 25 kilos in total, so it was checked in as part of Erico’s (the percussionist) luggage: he had the least personal luggage amongst us.

The first part of our Ethiopian Airlines flight to Harare was a 2-hour flight from JKIA Nairobi to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

Addis Ababa

The flight was ahead of schedule and we landed at Bole at around 5.20am. We had a 4-hour stop over in Addis Ababa while we waited for our connecting flight to Harare. Everyone was dog-tired and we all spent the time trying to catch a few moments of sleep, not an easy task on a metal bench in busy airport lounge. The ladies went for their morning prayers at the designated prayer rooms at the airport, as I tried to while away the hours listening to my iPod.

The boarding gates were opened at 7.20am, but it was still a long wait till take off at 9.20am. This was going to be a 3-hour flight to Harare. I spent the time between conversing with Erico and Shaddy (the keyboard player) and watching a documentary on US President Obama on the in flight entertainment channel. It was the same documentary they had played on the flight from Nairobi and I wondered if that was the only in flight entertainment they had.

Harare
We landed safely in Harare at around 12.45 local time and were met by an immigration officer who handed us our applications for temporary work permits from the Alliance Francaise (AF) Harare. The applications were approved but we were advised to report to the immigration officer within two days to collect our permits.

Charles Houdart, the director of AF Harare was waiting for us at the airport arrivals area, and after quick introductions we loaded our luggage into the awaiting vehicles and headed to the hotel. We were divided amongst the 3 cars that had picked us up.

The streets of Harare were a big contrast to Nairobi, at least the areas we saw on the drive to the hotel. There were vast open spaces of land and the traffic was very light. I however decided to reserve my first impression of Harare until I got to see the rest of the town.

Courtney Hotel, Harare
We were booked into the Courtney Hotel in Harare, which was not that far from AF Harare. It was a small cozy place that looked more like a country inn.

We had lunch at the hotel’s restaurant then retired to the rooms for a much needed rest. Charles promised to take us out for dinner and drinks later that evening after we had had some R n’ R.

We soon realized there was no running water in the rooms; apparently there is a shortage of water and electricity in Harare. However we were advised to call on the reception to deliver water to the rooms when needed.

True to hid word, Charles came back at 7pm, and except for the ladies, who were still fast asleep, we all went out for diner and drinks in the town.

The Spin, Harare
Charles took us to a place called The Spin. Apparently, this was the favorite hang out spot for Harare musicians and artists. We could tell from the posters they had on their walls that The Spin was very active in hosting live performances. This particular night, a local band called Mafriq (Mama Africa) was to perform. The local audience seemed very impressed with Mafriq, they were up on the dance floor whenever they played their high paced four on the floor dance tunes. I couldn’t tell if they were good because the sound was poorly done.

While we waited for our diner orders to be prepared, we had some drinks and Charles introduced us to Chiwaniso, a talented and successful Zimbabwean musician who specializes in the mbira (Zimbabwean kalimba). I remembered seeing her performance before at Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar.

There was another band playing reaggae right across from The Spin, and Charles asked if we would prefer staying on and catching a cab back to the hotel later, but everyone was still tired so we chose to go back to the hotel after diner.

Courtney Hotel Harare
Charles dropped us back at the hotel and asked me to have Luli (lead singer and group leader for Gargar) ready by 7am the following morning for a live TV interview at ZBC.

I wanted to have a bath before I slept. The hotel service in bring water up to the rooms was very slow (there is a water shortage in Harare so all the taps are dry..!). I finally got my water and took a bath way past midnight then retired to bed.

Gargar @-AF-Harare-04
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