On Masculinity

I grew up being told repetitively
The household is like a human body
The man is the head of the whole
The woman holds it together
Kids are the members
They both follow
The man’s lead coz “he’s the brain” after all

Apparently it takes balls to be a man
But I know mammals that got bigger than…
2 to 3 inches
Heavier than 3 pounds
Of fragile eggs that can barely handle the slightest pinches

This world domination got me to question my own masculinity
Coz I realize that mistreating girls for my own perception of reality
Has nothing to do with feminity

And maybe our need to blow our expansion out of proportions
Is to cover for our pettiness, weaknesses and misconceptions

But I tell you what:
If you wanna test how strong a man is
Leave him alone, if he doesn’t cease to exist
That man is a gem

#1key

Watch the performance for the Big Men project in this video

 

A Thought For #Kenya

The hardest thing for me to swallow about the situation in #Kenya right now is to realize that the violence was expected. It was talked about. There were warnings; Signs. And now it is happening. Again. The same Us-Versus-Them rhetoric. If you knew how much Us there is in Them and how much Them there is in Us, you would know that a panga is not gonna cut it. It’s no way to settle land disputes older than your lineage’s imagination combined.
I speak as a Rwandan born in exile because some people in Rwanda in the late 1950’s thought panga was the way. Where are they now? Many of them became manure for bushes to flourish just like their victims. Neither own the land. You cannot own the earth. It will swallow you before you know it whether you are good or bad. You are a part of nature just like the remains of your ancestors, animals, trees… they’re all present in the soil you step on, the dust, in the air that you breathe, even in the stars light years away. We are all made of the same matter. There is no tribe in your DNA. There’s life, even in its smallest form. And no life is more important than another. That’s why our emotions are the same – fear, courage, sadness, happiness, love, hate… They are the reflections of the other. So if you can feel, you can be the other.

Please forgive me if this sounds ignorant or poetic while people are being killed, I’m sorry but all I want to say is that Kenyans you are being “polytricked” by the same people over again. The playbook is the same. Had it changed, we wouldn’t be having the same scenario: Create chaos, exploit the weak, come through as savior, blame it on your opponent, be a hero, amass wealth and repeat the pattern.

What’s the smallest thing you can do (or not do) to avoid the trap?

~1key

1keynote on #YourMusicYourVoice

Before the Event

About a month ago, when I received an email from the Goethe Institute in Rwanda to participate in a workshop/concert project in Kampala, Uganda, scheduled from 1st-5th October under the theme #YourMusicYourVoice on which Megaloh & Ghanain Stallion, who were on an African tour, would perform, I thought “Who are these guys?” So I looked them up and damn they were hot! I don’t speak German but music has no language. It is the language of the universe. I felt the anger, the protest in their Hip Hop. That’s when I felt the hell-let’s-do-this vibe in my guts. So I emailed back Goethe with a yes. A few days before the event, when Goethe Zentrum Kampala asked me to send a short bio with details about how I use social media to address social injustices, I thought “Okay, it’s serious! Let’s do this!” When the poster was out and I was officially representing my country in such a noble cause, I thought “This is awesome!”

Day 1 – Intro

On the night of the 4th of October, I took the bus from Kigali to Kampala and was picked up from the station to the hotel the next morning. The hotel was nice. The best part was the location: less than two-minutes walk to Kisimenti, Goethe, and Kamwokya for Meddy’s chicken (and everything else one may need on this planet). Since some of the international artists/activists had already arrived, we got to share a drink at the barbecue on Goethe’s rooftop. There was even fireworks in the Kampala sky. Not exactly for us but since we were there, we took it as a personal welcome. It was beautiful energy all over.

Day 2 – Presentation

The morning began with a presentation of my work. I focused on my latest projects: The Expericment and La Voi(e)x de la légende because someone said “You are as good as your last work.” A couple of artists/activists, international and Ugandan got to share their journeys as well. The experiences were so enriching and brought to light our African realities into similar perspectives even though we live in different geographical and historical contexts. We easily related to each other’s struggles. Then came the Q&A. It was intense. In a good way. I still cannot get around some of the questions. For instance, how does one answer to;

  • What have you achieved in your country in terms of social justice for your people?
  • How do people react to your music in your country? What about the government?
  • As an artist/activist who criticize your government, are there instances where you have been in trouble because of something that you said? How did you get out of trouble?
  • Are there available legal bodies in your country to defend you in case you get arrested for protesting and voicing certain opinions? If yes, where does the funding come from?
  • How far will you go to defend your ideals?

It’s not like I had never thought about these questions. They are usually part of my work as a conscious artist. It’s just more challenging when you have to answer and sometimes you don’t have the answers. Unless you have the experience of Monza who said “In Mauritania, I have been arrested many times for speaking out against the injustice. The government is the judge. The people are the lawyers.” The irony of life did not miss the rendezvous. As we had these discussions, one of the artists could not freely participate because he was going through a series of intimidation, persecution, arrest and even attempt to murder. Why? Because he was/is using his voice to protest the motion to change the constitution that would allow Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to become another Mugabe.

In the afternoon we visited a studio in Muyenga where NewzBeat is produced. As the word suggests, it’s the news delivered on a beat. Journalists are rappers and they just don’t rap the news, they research and create new ways of engaging with everyday realities. What was even more inspiring was the fact that Xuman, the creator of the new-on-the-beat format known in French as Journal Rappé in Senegal, was there to witness at first hand the ripple effects of his creation.

Left to right: Xuman (Senegal), Monza (Mauritania), Nash emcee (Tanzania), 1key (Rwanda) and Ntare Patience (Burundi). All are Hip-Hop except Patience, who is a reggae man.

A little bit later we visited the Youth Sharing Centre in Nsambya where Abrahamz gives free hip hop dance classes and cyphers regularly, especially to street kids. I felt blessed to be there and learned a couple of moves. So next time you wanna battle me on the dancefloor, there is gonna be some serious poppin’ n lockin’.

Day 3 – Arts And Activism

We kicked off the morning with fresh discussions related to how we do what we do where we come from and what are the receptions/perceptions in regards to our opinions. I felt blessed to be on the same platform with artists and social activists who make moves that influence change in their societies. It was great to be surrounded with people who have the same ideals as mine and who have been living up to them. Some of the topics that were unearthed surfaced were related to identity, home, the role of the artist in the society, North-South relations, colonization, decolonization, democracy, freedom, free speech, poverty, corruption, justice, equality etc. Check out some of the quotes on Twitter #ArtsnActivismUG

Outspoken talking about his struggle as a social activist in Zimbabwe. Right to Left: Patience (Burundi, Outspoken (Zimbabwe), the moderator, Nash emcee (Tanzania), 1key (Rwanda), Xuman (Senegal) and Monza (Mauritania)
Bobi Wine (Far left) courageously joined the panel a bit late after his house had been subject of grenade explosions. Later on that day, he was taken to jail.

After the talks, there was more talks. This time live on NTV with Douglass on his show The Beat where we got to share a bit of our arts and what to expect at the concert.

Left to right: Juma (Kenya) talking about how he uses music to for refugees plight. I’m paying attention just like Megaloh and Douglas, the host of The Beat.

Day 4 – #YourMusicYourVoice Concert

It was a pretty chilled-out day as we all needed to be fresh for the evening concert. By 1pm we were at Design Hub for sound check (and work on a paper costume for some of us, you know 😉 As for the rest of the show, it was legendary! You are definitely going to hear about #YourMusicYourVoice for a minute. On top of the concert, we did two songs and two videos featuring all the artists on the poster and more legends from Uganda. Meanwhile here’s how my performance looked like…

 

I had so much fun, I learned a lot, I met amazing people, I ate delicious food… I can’t ask for more. It’s been enriching in every sense and I am grateful to Katherina for thinking highly of me, to Anja for treating me with such respect and consideration, to Lara & Flora for making shit happen, to Anne Whitehead for the “positive vibes”… it was well organized. Thank you!

To my sisters Yallah MC, Lady Slyke, and my brothers Monza, Xuman, Outspoken, Juma, Nash Emcee, St Nelly Sade, Sylvester & Abrahamz, HE Bobi Wine, Megaloh & Ghanaian Stallion, Koz n Effekt , Sparrow and everyone that I did not mention, thank you so much for keeping up the spirit of Africa and for making me believe in us more. Let’s keep in touch!

~1key, 1love