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Friday, August 28, 2015

Overcoming The Hurdles.

It’s amazing how despite our varied backgrounds, histories, situations and locations, we all seem to have the same desire for financial security and stability. And yet, we seem to face the same challenges when trying to achieve that. Yes, we would like to save, but at the same time, we would like to invest that savings into something that can grow our wealth. Following all the responses garnered from my post, “Changing My Mindset About Saving”, it seems the common threads are: finding the impetus to save in the first place, staying disciplined and finding an investment with low risk and high returns.

From all the feedback I received, these three are the most prevalent challenges or misconceptions when it comes to saving.

1. Not everyone can save.

Quite a number of people said they’d love to save, but unfortunately don’t have enough to do so, especially in situations where they can barely make ends meet. How do you even begin to save when you barely have enough to cater to your most basic needs? How do you make saving a priority, when your basic day-to-day requirements leave you with nothing extra to put away? I am of the opinion that no amount is too small to put away. Start small. Step by step. Find an amount you're comfortable enough to put away every week. That's step one. Cultivate that discipline and see how far you'll grow. Even if it’s 20, 100 or 500 shillings a day. Start.

2.Why save? I work hard so that I can spend. 

You put some money away, and you feel great about being responsible with your money, but then a friend calls you up with a great plan to go away for the weekend. You’ve paid all your bills, and you have money in the bank. Why deny yourself a great time? This is why you work hard in the first place, right? You’ve been so good about money lately anyway. You deserve a treat. You deserve to spend the money. Case closed.

Verna Venoury put it very succinctly on Facebook. “Saving and withdrawing, I believe I should not lack if I have cash lying somewhere.” Faize Njiru added, “I guess I believe in not making myself suffer when I got cash in the bank.”

The discipline to not spend the savings is lacking with a lot of people but some have figured out how to overcome this. By making the money inaccessible. Fabian Mwoshi said he was able to overcome this by enrolling for a saving scheme. He said, “What I intend to save gets deducted before I earn it and is remitted directly into a saving scheme.”

I believe setting goals is very important. Establish what is it you are trying to achieve – a trip, new gadget or to own a home – for the long term and for the short term. Whatever it is, set goals and assign timelines. These will help you keep to your priorities.

3. Saving doesn’t count. Invest. 

There was lots of talk about investment and growing wealth, rather than stashing money away where it does nothing. Many were of the opinion that saving money does little to build your wealth into something significant, and the best thing to do is to invest your money and establish a wide portfolio of investments so as to keep your money out of reach, and also to make it work for you.

Christine Karimi‪ chimed in with this analogy. “Let me begin by saying that money is like manure when you spread it around it helps things to grow, when you stack it all up it begins to stink. In other words money is meant to flow, so let it flow.”

I believe this is true. But saving is a good start – even if it means saving a certain amount for six months to raise enough to invest in something worthwhile. I believe this will help with building the discipline to stick to plans and to keep goals in mind. It’s a good start to a great habit.

Do these three challenges/ misconceptions ring true for you? What’s your take on them and what do you think I may have missed out on?


This article is the second in a series of sponsored posts for the Barclays Savings Challenge. You can follow the discussion on Twitter and Facebook and share your own experience by using the hashtag #AfricaSaves. Visit the Barclays website for more information about their savings account.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

100 Days Of African Music :: Day 1-7.

Day 1.
"Mirabelle" by Kenyan artist, Don Ngatia.

He is a Kenyan singer, a Berkeley Alumni and all round cool cat. First time I heard him perform in front of a crowd was at an open mic gig at some random venue near Yaya, maybe ten years ago. He sang Maxwell's 'This Woman's Work' and it was a bit of a struggle for him, I think mainly because of the nerves but he hit those high notes and I was blown away. 

I bumped into him later at USIU, with a Mohawk, exuding über coolness, I may have had a crush on him and he was always so polite. Next I heard he was off to Berkeley and it seemed a perfect fit. Every once in a while I would bump into him and say a quick hello when he was back in Kenya. 

A couple of years went by then one day a friend of mine, Wanuri, shared a link to this guy's music on Soundcloud.

Day 2.
‘Lies I Told Me’ by Kenyan artist, Prisca Ojwang'.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at her that she’s a singer, and a brilliant one at that. You know, there’s a sort of 'look' or aura that artists are “supposed" to have which should immediately let you know that the person in front of you is a creative. Some have it, most don’t.

It doesn’t matter though, because it definitely isn’t a measure of how amazing an artist is. She's a Sauti Academy alumni, a place that consistently churns out great musicians.
Prisca is the kind of person who begins to sing and you do a double take because you did not see it coming. The gentle brilliance that her voice carries sort of just finds it’s way to that soft spot you didn’t even know you were guarding so fiercely. 

Her lyrics, which she writes herself are also gentle in their honesty. I’m almost jealous of how simple she makes songwriting seem.
This song brings to mind instances of unrequited love and heartbreak, shifting the blame from the lover who didn’t want me, to myself, and acknowledging that maybe I just didn’t get it when whoever I wanted so bad just did not want me back. Selective amnesia, she calls it. I just laugh at myself whenever I listen to the song as it speaks to the small piece of crazy within. Maybe you will too when you listen to it.

Day 3.
"Mombasa Blues”, by South African artist, Mishumo Madima.

If you are or have been in Nairobi lately, you’ll know how absolutely cold and dreary it’s been. Folks have been complaining about the great freeze, which reached it’s peak a couple of weeks ago when there was a freak hail storm. I, however, happen to love it when the weather is grey and dull. This is my favourite time of year. (read, cuddle season.) 

But every once in a while over the past couple of weeks, the sun has decided to make a surprise appearance, and posts about how marvellous the sun feels on the skin have popped up here and there on my social media timelines. All that has done is make me crave the ocean, because I only truly ever enjoy the sun when the sea is lapping at my feet. 

This song speaks of how this girl from South Africa moved to Kenya looking for a fresh new start, only to find that and so much more. Healing by the shores of the Indian Ocean in Mombasa. 

Mishumo is affectionately know as "The Melodic Diplomat" from South Africa, and currently lives and works in Nairobi as just that. 
A singing, songwriting diplomat.

Day 4.
"Take My Hand" by Kenyan artist, Suzziah.

Most people don’t think of Sundays as long work days. Most people are either getting their relaxation mode in high gear, prepping for the week ahead, spending time with family or recovering from weekend debauchery. Whatever it is, it usually doesn't involve work. (For the majority, that is. If you work in the service, creative or entertainment industry then scratch everything I just said.)

I on the other hand, just got home from work and I’m exhausted. I was up till 3am last night prepping for my morning radio show, and coupled with the excitement from a massively successful work event last night, I didn’t get much sleep. Add to that an interview for a TV show that went on for a few hours, and I’m running on empty.

This song however, makes me dance, and is actually what got me to drag my behind out of the car, where I had been for about half an hour trying to figure out where to get the energy to tackle the stairs. It feels like a shot of energy that hits the spot right when you need it. The beat is infectious and Suzziah’s voice carries me to a happy place.

My cousin, Nathan, sent me this song on Whatsapp earlier this week, asking me what I thought about about it. I listened to it and 20 seconds in I was sold. I asked him to get me in touch with the artist, who it turns out is his friend’s cousin, and a couple of days later she got in touch. She’s only 18 years old, about to get into her 2nd term at Sauti Academy and is also about to join University to study Psychology.
If this is what she’s putting out at 18, I can’t wait to hear more from her!

Day 5.
“Love Song” by Nigerian artist, Timi Dakolo.

Anyone who knows me knows how much of a sucker for love I am. I’m that person who believes love resides in every situation, and can be found nestling between two of the most random strangers. I live my life rooting for love, fiercely fighting for it to always win.
This song is about a man begging his love to to come back to him and to declare their love for him. There’s no doubt when you listen to this song that this man really is at the end of his tether, and is fixated on having the love of his life return to him. I’m currently single but whenever I listen to this I forget that I'm happy, and begin longing for a lover that I don’t have.
Timi’s voice is laden with emotion, and I’m pretty sure even when he speaks about the mundane, he may just unwittingly tug at your heartstrings. The raspiness of his voice gives it a raw quality that convinces you, without a doubt, that his heart is shattered. I’m pretty sure he can put you in a state of melancholy, even if he sang about stew.
Timi Dakolo was the winner of the first ever Idols West Africa in 2007, beating vocal powerhouse, Omawumi at the finals. He is signed to Sony BMG and has two albums under his belt.

"Aparo" by Kenyan artists, Kato Change ft Lisa Noah.

I have never figured out why, but I have a particularly strong affinity to Luo music. I don't know what it is about the language but I get a little hot under the collar when I listen to it being spoken and even more so when it's in song.

Kato is a self taught genius on the guitar who disturbed my peace from the moment I met him and heard him play almost a decade ago.

I once read a poem by John Keats called "The Eve Of St. Agnes". It says that when a maiden does a couple of things before retiring to bed on the night of the 20th of January, she will dream about her future husband. On that date in 2006, I dreamt about a man called Kato. He was tall, handsome and kind, and the dream was about our wedding day. I had freaked out about something and was having a meltdown but he was charming, patient and self assured and we went on to have a lovely day. Just a dream.
A few months later, I met the real life Kato on the set of a TV show playing the guitar for Maia Von Lekow. He was the first guitarist whose playing I noticed was not only an accompaniment to vocals, but an amazing complement to a singer's voice. Him and Maia were a match made in heaven.

I started calling him "my husband" just for fun, even though he's not particularly tall, like the Kato from my dream. But he was and still is as charming, and self assured.
Nothing happened between us, but I continue to be a starstruck fan, and I may still harbour a little crush. He has gone on to become such an accomplished, sought after musician, creating such beautiful, sounds with his guitar.

As for Lisa. Well, she sings and the earth slows down on its axis to marvel. The air becomes a little lighter, and colours become brighter. Spirits are lifted, egos assuaged, hearts become full and pain, a distant memory. Everyone in her audience feels a sense of calm excitement and wonder, and for a moment, I'd like to imagine, the world is a perfect place.

She is currently at The Berkeley School of Music.
I'm glad I live in a time where these two exist.

Day 7.
“My Love, My Love” by Nigerian/German Singer, Nneka.

Another love song. Nneka, from the very start of her career established herself as a politically conscious artist, and emotively sang about social issues and a quest for justice. I remember she once said something to the effect that if there wasn’t any injustice to sing out against, then she wouldn’t sing. She's been a African voice over the years and has worked with powerhouses from across the globe. She is know best for her song, "Heartbeat."

Watching her sing live can be emotionally challenging. She once performed in Nairobi and what I had expected to be a fun night of light hearted partying turned into an evening of angst and self introspection. She was raw, and real and I think she may have been having a rough day. At some point she was crying on stage, if I remember correctly. And I cried with her.

This song is an unexpected release from her from her most recent album, "My Fairy Tales.". Even the video is a visceral show of openness and vulnerability (at some point she’s on the toilet). She’s in love, and she’s letting the world know.
She seems softer, lighter.

Make sure to keep up with the series daily on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #100DaysOfAfricanMusic across all the platforms.


100 Days Of African Music.

Last year, there was a flurry of #100Days campaigns that folks all over were posting on social media. 100 Days of Happiness, 100 Days of Gratitude, 100 Days of Healthy Eating, Naked Yoga, Selfies, Spoons, Dogs, 100 Days of grass, you name it. There were many, ranging from informative, narcissistic and downright hilarious. But one that caught my eye and held my interest for the entirety of it's duration was Diana Opoti's 100 Days of African Fashion. She decided she would showcase fashion designs by African Designers from all across the continent and to highlight the fact that we can enjoy full outfits made up of beautiful, well crafted African designs, ranging from casual to couture. Her campaign was wildly successful, and brought to the fore so many wonderful designers. She was highly acclaimed because of it, and rightly so. Diana Opoti is now the go to person for anything African fashion.

This got me, and I guess a few other people thinking about the African Arts and how extensive and diverse it is. From Literature, to Music, and even attitudes. The lovely Angela Wachuka, CEO of Kwani? (SisterKilljoy on Instagram) did a fantastic job with her subsequent #100DaysOfAfricanReads and Wangari Nyanjui, owner of the design label, Peperuka (the brainchild behind the Me I Love Tshirts that Lupita and Neyo have been spotted in) followed with with #100DaysOfMeILove on her Instagram as @peperukaworld. Mandi Harrison is also currently curating #100DaysOfKenyanThrowdowns.

I was very keen to then take my turn with African music, but Diana was ready to go ahead with her 2nd instalment of African fashion. I reached out to her and we then decided to do our campaigns concurrently. 

So a couple of weeks ago, I started #100DaysOfAfricanMusic. It's basically what I do with Afrocentral, the radio show I host on Sundays on Homeboyz Radio, where I curate music by African artists that are not necessarily mainstream, and if they are, I share music of theirs that may not have gotten excessive airplay, but is still wonderful, in my opinion. 

Everyday I'll share a song or five that I'm listening to by an African musician/band, and give you some information about them, where they are from, why I enjoy their music and where to find them. I'll also do a weekly recap here, just so you can have it all in one place.

You can also listen to the songs on Afrocentral every Sunday from 11am to 1pm EAT. This is my personal curation of African Musicians that I love and adore and I hope you get to discover one or two artists that you may have not known before this.

Make sure to keep up with the series daily on my InstagramTwitter and Facebook using the hashtag #100DaysOfAfricanMusic across all the platforms.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Changing My Mindset About Saving.

The first bank account I opened for myself was when I was 18, when I received my first check for my very first gig in musical theatre. The account I had before was in my name, but it was one my parents had opened for me as a child. This, however, was my first, very own bank account that I opened by my grown up self. I felt very adult, and I was proud of myself for nailing this responsibility thing.

Image courtesy of wannajoke.com

For the longest time, the account served as a check depository. I didn’t really see it as a tool to save and grow a little nest egg. It was also very rare for me to make actual cash deposits because as an artist, most of my gigs would either pay by check or direct transfer. But, as my income started to grow, I found that I had money sitting in the bank, doing absolutely nothing. This however, gave me a measure of security, as I would become less and less nervous about taking care of my bills and obligations. I then started to equate the amount in the account with what responsibilities I was able to take care of. For instance, I would say “I currently have enough to take care of 6 months’ rent, utilities and groceries, get that new laptop that I need, as well as two replacement tires and one car servicing.” Am I the only one that does this?

Image courtesy of stylegerms.com

This security was especially important because, as a musician and actress, there can be periods where there is no work and therefore no money. A steady paycheck is rare so making sure my obligations are taken care of became a huge priority. I actually pay my rent every three months and that helps me feel secure knowing that I have a place to live for three months, regardless of what happens. Being late for payments is also the stuff of nightmares. I have never cultivated a savings habit though because, for me, money equates to meeting responsibilities. For some reason or another, I hadn’t figured out that I could put a little bit away that could grow, or be invested in something that could expand or that would appreciate in value.

To date, if I want to purchase something significant, a TV, a car, even a holiday, I will only do it if I have enough money to pay for it all at once. I was lucky enough to be able to pay for my car in cash, and even though I have since hit hard times once or twice, it hasn’t been to a point where I felt I had to sell any of my stuff. If anything, I said I could live in my car if necessary. Rather than put money away over a period of time as I save up for something, that particular item will only come to mind if I realise I have enough money to get it, without worrying about the dent it will make on my account. That’s not to say that I’m rolling around in millions, and this can be detrimental to my savings habit. For example, I don’t believe I can be a homeowner unless I can raise the full amount I need to own a home. That’s not savvy because I could very well save up to put down a deposit for a house and then pay for it every month, just as I pay rent.

Mortgages and car loans make me very uncomfortable as I do worry that if something happens and I can’t make the payments, I may lose everything, including the money I’d been putting into it. I would really like to get to a place where, rather than just have money sitting in my account waiting to be spent, I can find a great resource to help me save, not just to make payments and purchases but also to grow my wealth in a smart way.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is completely different. She owns an apartment, but is horrible at saving. She will make sure her mortgage is serviced, but she is very prone to impulse shopping. If she does make a significant amount of money from a job, (she’s a creative like me and doesn’t have a 9-5 with a steady paycheck) she may put some money aside to purchase land, and then spend the rest on stuff she probably hadn’t budgeted for. I was joking with her about it because her attitude towards money is always, “I’ll just make more”.

Image courtesy of keep calm-o-matic.co.uk

I have decided to take up a savings challenge, where I can put money aside every month that will go into a fund, which can hopefully grow to become a diverse investment portfolio. I also think I need to alter my relationship with money so that it’s not just something I use to pay bills and stay out of debt, but something that can work for me and create the luxurious lifestyle that I desire. I want to enjoy spending money and to use it to financially liberate my family and have my parents breathe easy. I want to build my folks a house and also have them retire soon and enjoy their lives after taking care of my brothers and I so well.

This article is the first in a series of sponsored posts for the Barclays Savings Challenge. Follow the discussion on Twitter and Facebook and share your own experience by using #AfricaSaves.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Songs I Like, with Sharon Nyaboe.

Just over a year ago, a lady, then known to me only as Karingaringa (now Nyaboe_) on Twitter reached out to me, asking me if I'd be willing to be the first in a series of interviews for an upcoming podcast for her blog, Soundscribe. She introduced herself as Sharon, and although things kept coming up that prevented the interview from materialising, we ended up being pretty good friends. We would chat quite a lot, almost daily about music, as I came to find out how much of an audiophile she is, and eventually drifting towards love and men, only for it to come to the fore that we had both been romantically involved with the same guy in the past. (At different times :-D). The said guy had left lots of hurt and pain in our lives, and our conversations about our experiences with him had us bonding much deeper as we realised we had a lot in common.

Her face is kind of perfect, yes? 

We shared the lessons we had learnt from our experiences with him, and deepened our friendship over our varied tastes in music; hers being spectacularly diverse and eclectic. We conversed about  film, literature, love and life in general, and we eventually ended up on a Whatsapp group that she formed, bringing together about ten or so of our friends, mutual and otherwise. The group was a blessing, made of such wonderfully diverse, intelligent, beautiful and spirited feminist women. Some of them, Sharon included, recently came together to create and contribute at The Wide Margin. Spend some time there for some brilliant illumination on African feminist thought.

One of the women died barely a month and a half after the group was formed, and we were left reeling. With time the group eventually suffered some seemingly irreparable friction, which I personally think was not so much because of a difference in ideology but in personality, and with what life is, we sort of just drifted apart and went our own ways. Smaller groups were since formed, some friendships were strengthened and some of us have not seen each other since. We don't speak much any more, but we do still bump into each other on the streets of social media.

About a month ago, Sharon reached out to me again, for the very same reason she did the first time we spoke: The podcast. I had observed on social media that she had gone ahead and finally done it. She started a blog called Songs We Like, and had hit the studio with individuals she believed shared her love for music and would have an interesting curation of gems that they listen to. So far she has had rich, entertaining  conversations with two filmmakers, Jenny and Mbithi, and two actors, Mugambi and I, in a series she has dubbed, The Creators Series.

I was a tad nervous about listening to the final outcome of our conversation. Sharon had sent me a questionnaire about a couple of weeks before with questions that were far from the usual, surface queries that a lot of interviewers ask. I could barely dive into answering them before I would break into tears or collapse into a sea of my thoughts for hours on end. She then got me sufficiently liquored up on the day of our recording, which was wonderfully facilitated by the lovely Benjy, and given that I had completed just over a month long hiatus from the tipple, I was a lot more unrestrained than I would have liked to be in retrospect.

Wondering what this lovely filter is? It's called the Konyagi Filter.

But, I must say, Sharon has mastered the art of delving far below the surface and peeling back the layers of an individual and what resulted was a conversation that, although open and honest, is not cringeworthy. That's huge because I can barely stand to listen to the sound of my voice, let alone the vocalisation of some of my innermost thoughts.

The conversation was mostly nostalgic, bringing to the fore memories of my childhood, my relationships with my parents, my sexual awakening (O_o), love, loss, and the spaces I find myself occupying in the world today. The musical selections interspersed within the podcast are masterfully curated by Sharon. Some I had mentioned and others, she felt reflected the energy of our conversation, and they did so perfectly. Those were definitely great little surprises that blessed me as I listened.

I have since beaten myself up for forgetting to mention more songs or not saying this or that, but I realise that that is where I was on that day, in those moments. That was where my heart and mind were and so I shall celebrate and share with you about an hour and a half of the space I was in a week and a half ago.

Have a listen to the podcast and let us know what you think.

Also, be sure to show her some love. Follow Songs We Like on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more on music and other conversations with other fantastic folk.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015


There's a page on Facebook called berlin-artparasites, a branch of the online magazine, Art Parasites, that's wildly popular because of the numerous poignant posts they put up. The page is a curation of quotes and artwork paired together, which they describe as compelling artwork that alters the way we live, love, work, play, think and feel. Maybe that's what makes it a little more reaching, the art, because the quotes are not necessarily always new. Many of them are deeply retrospective and truthful messages that touch many people in many different ways. Scores of people connect with them because the posts strike deep and inspire a lot of self inquiry, as well as healing. I usually catch a glimpse of them on my timeline when a mutual friend shares a post here and there and usually nod in agreement.

Today, however, I felt a shift. You know how they say when you have an intention, write it down, say it out loud and then let it manifest, well, my sharing this post is sort of like that. I also believe it must be shared as these are all words we need to hear at whatever stage of our lives we are in. Some of them are not necessarily relevant in my life at this time, but I'm sure at least one of them will resonate with at least one of you at this time.

Here you go. 

Photo taken at Karura Forest, Nairobi

by Shannon L. Alder

1. The moment you realize that the person you cared for has nothing intellectually or spiritually to offer you, but a headache.

2. The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad Pinterest quotes.

3. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth, education and your parent’s wisdom.

4. The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. People’s opinions don’t matter.

5. The moment you realize that no one is your enemy, except yourself.

6. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours, it is because you really didn’t want it, need it or God prevented it.

7. The moment you realize the ghost of your ancestors stood between you and the person you loved. They really don't want you mucking up the family line with someone that acts anything less than honorable.

8. The moment you realize that happiness was never about getting a person. They are only a helpmate towards achieving your life mission.

9. The moment you believe that love is not about losing or winning. It is just a few moments in time, followed by an eternity of situations to grow from.

10. The moment you realize that you were always the right person. Only ignorant people walk away from greatness. 

Stay uplifted.


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