| For today's interview, we are spotlighting Maono Parkas, a group of performers from Dandora, a Nairobi neighborhood. These youth live in an urban environment, where their respective cultural traditions coexist with their cosmopolitan practices. In hiphop, they have found a medium to describe their daily hopes and challenges in their own language.
Kahendi: Hi guys. The world wants to know, who are Maono Parkas?
Maria: Maono Parkas is a group of artists based in Dandora, Nairobi, Kenya. We consist of 12 members: Mic Witness, Mob Josef, Kim Zahki, Mushtakiwa, Blak Disciple, T.M.C, myself and many others. We work hand in hand to educate, comfort and unite society through our music, art work and dance.
Kahendi: That’s a commendable goal. Please tell us something small about each one of you.
Mob Josef: All of Maono Parkas members come from humble backgrounds; they hustle hard to make ends meet. Some are in college, some in high school and others work in different fields.
Kahendi: How did you get together as a group?
Mic Wit: Most of us such as Giringo, Mob Josef, Mushtakiwa, Blak D, Maria and Kim Zahki met in high school, while the others joined us later.
Kahendi: Maono Parkas is an unusual name. What does it mean?
Mob Josef: Maono stands for Miradi Anzisha Onyesha Njia Okoa (which is Swahili for “initiate projects to show the way and save”) while Parkas stands for Pure African Real Kenyan Aimed Soldiers. Maono is also a word which means “Vision” in Swahili. We use it to portray our mission of educating, comforting and uniting the society, not only in Kenya but also in Afrika and the whole world.
Kahendi: That’s interesting. I had not realized that it was an acronym. How do you fulfill your mission as a group, i.e. what kind of music do you perform?
Kim Zahki: We mainly perform Hip Hop, Reggae and Afro Fusion. We are conscious about issues affecting society like poverty, injustice, violence, prostitution, drugs and daily life in the ghetto. In addition, we aim to give people hope and to suggest solutions to issues and problems facing society.
Kahendi: From where do you get the inspiration to do all of this?
Blak D: We get our inspiration from legends like 2pac Shakur, Bob Marley, Immortal Techniques, Black Moses, Martin Luther King, Malcom X. Locally, we are inspired by Hip Hop and Reggae artists like Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, Bamboo, Abbas, Mwafrika, Nazizi, Bafu Chafu n Mzizi Mbaya etc.
Mob Josef: Our lyrics are conscious about issues affecting society politically, physically, mentally and socially like poverty, injustice, violence, drugs and daily life in the ghetto. In addition we do spread a message of hope and give solutions to the problems.
Kahendi: I have actually listened to one of your songs, “Maswali” (Swahili for “Questions”). I remember being pleasantly surprised that it was addressing social issues rather than glorifying irresponsible sex (which is what we often get from contemporary artistes). I’m curious about why you chose to focus on these issues rather than on the kawaida (usual).
Mic Wit: Okay: because of the sources from which we draw our inspiration and because of the need for mental growth in our society, we have performed songs about love and sex. These are not aimed at destruction or confusion, but at warning and educating the younger ones since these are some of social issues that affect them when they make decisions on their way to adulthood (dual lifetime).
Kahendi: Thank you for the clarification. Let's talk about one of these songs. It has been brought to my attention that you have released a song about about HIV/AIDS. What was your inspiration for that song?
Mob Josef: The song’s title is UKIMWI (Swahili for “AIDS”). Our intention in singing it is to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, to comfort the affected and to educate people on how to live, whether they are positive or negative. We sang it in the Kenyan Slang known as Sheng’, in Swahili and also some English
Blak D: We saw that the experiences of those infected globally affected us in some ways. There are many burial ceremonies, the number of homeless children (orphans) is going up… that’s how the idea of the song came to us.
Kahendi: Would you mind sharing a verse of the song with us?
Mic Wit: Mlidhani ni all fun/ Mtaani tumejawa na ma-orphan/ Ni pain tuna-endure/ In vain, no cure/ Memories remain for sure/ Ni poa mumejua/ AIDS inaua/ Familia inabomoa/ Vumilia jina ndoa/ If infected/ You’re selected/ To warn and tell the tale/ Don’t turn pale/ Msione mume-fail.
English Translation: You thought it was all fun/ Now our streets are full of orphans/ It’s the pain we endure/ In vain, no cure/ Memories remain for sure/ It’s good that you’ve come to know/ That AIDS kills/ It breaks families/ Be faithful to (your) marriages/ If infected/ You’re selected/ To warn and tell the tale/ Don’t turn pale/ Don’t feel like you’ve failed.
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The opportunity to learn from people from different walks of life has opened my eyes to the larger problems affecting us all.
I enjoy doing creative writing, poetry, and pieces on social issues. You can read some of my writing on my weblogs: KAHENDI'S BLOG, Ouagadougou's Weblog and Kahendi's Korner
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