Arts

Spoken word poets and songsters sparkle at National Theatre

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Minders' Mineday star, Maina at Kenya National Theatre, February 19, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Two spoken word poets gave performances this past weekend.

Both were at Kenya Cultural Centre. But beyond that, they were very different as were the curtain raisers that preceded their shows.

Both gave their programs titles that only insiders and fans of their art would have known what they were planning to stage.

Matarania was the title Timo GK Maina gave to his showcase at Ukumbi Mdogo on Saturday night for one performance only while the Mainders Mineday: Pillow Talk star, Kevin Maina put on his show Sunday on the main stage of Kenya National Theatre.

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Rapper Timo GK Maina in Matarania at Ukumbi Mdogo, Kenya Cultural Centre, February 18, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

He too performed just once for a house-full crowd of mainly females, most of whom had apparently attended Maina’s previous shows.

Presumably, they had also watched his daily spoken word musings shared on his YouTube channel.

Coincidentally, both men are Maina’s yet Timo was clearly more comfortable performing in Kikuyu and Kiswahili while Kevin felt more at ease speaking English and wearing satin pants with his matching gold kimono jacket.

Timo also wore a kimono, only his was cotton, covered in geometric designs and finished with West African kente cloth, giving his stage presence a more indigenous style as he told stories while blending Kikuyu and Swahili with just a tidbit of Kizungu.

One slick and charming, Kevin was a gentle lover-boy who had a smooth, soothing way of wooing every woman in the house who had ever yearned for a man who was tender and sensitive yet strong, wise and understanding.

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Singer with Minders' Mineday at Kenya National Theatre, February 19, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

That was the aura that Kevin projected by the time he’d come out and spent some quality time with the ladies.

He stood alone (but for his guitarist in the background) on that vast KNT stage, yet his way of sharing his life story made us feel the stage and all the ladies’ hearts belonged to him.

Timo GK also had a charisma of his own, only he was addressing both guys and girls as he wove his web of words in a cool, sagacious style.

And he too held his audience in the palm of his hand as he had a way of speaking gently only with a sharper style, punctuated with issues of social concern.

Timo performed first with a saxophone George Mutito introducing his show, and then Mutito returned as bass guitarist to enhance the upbeat quality of the night.

Other than the instruments and DJ Muthoni’s turn-tables that kept the sound cool and low, Timo hadn’t bothered with set construction.

In contrast, Kevin had invested in a backdrop that included cloud-like replicas scattered all across the back.

They were connected with strings of bright LED lights which I guess were meant to represent a starry sky, ripe for romance and Kevin’s story about losing his mom at age nine and being raised by women, mostly aunties.

“It is women who have been the constant feature in my life,” he told us on Sunday as we lapped up his words and felt so sorry that he hadn’t had the mother-love he’d so deserved.

Anyway, both Maina’s shared the stage with at least one female vocalist. Timo gave us two, and the most memorable of them was his first singer Muringi, who warmed up initially singing in English.

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A singer who accompanied Timo GK Maina at Matarania at Kenya Cultural Centre, Saturday, February 18, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

But then, she began to sing in her mother tongue, and she made us weep for joy at being among the first to hear this angelic sweetness lifting us to the stars with her effortless singing a high soprano and a low alto.

Muringi’s final number was a Gospel song that got the audience singing in Kikuyu along with her. I was fulfilled for the night after that.

But we were subsequently introduced to one more woman songstress. A bit older and more down to earth, Zaituni Wambui was nonetheless an awesome storyteller-lyricist who, like Muringi, wrote her own music.

She too reeled us into her world despite her sharing a sad love song. It was a beautiful story about a love that blossomed for decades but sadly faded and ultimately broke her heart.

Timo didn’t seem to mind that his female vocalists stole the night. He already knew he was giving away his spotlight to beautiful talents who I trust will both go far musically speaking.

Meanwhile, Kevin’s female vocalist Camilla Okongo, only sang briefly, and then gave him back the stage.

The problem with his show was it was overshadowed by the commercial focus that took away too much attention from the 5th edition of Kevin’s Pillow Talk.