Every four years the world, or at least the part of the world with interest in matters football, comes to as close to a standstill as we can manage, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram and IDF allowing.  I can see you frowning, unhappy that I've chosen to return to that which kept me away from you, but I promised to do this post, if only to get Woolie out of his peculiar funk when it comes to what I considered one of the more enjoyable tournaments we've had in a while.  Well, one of the most enjoyable first halves of a tournament we've had in a while.

The group stages of the tournament were a joy to watch, beautiful football, a touch of unpredictability (but only a touch. Thank you very much, Cameroon, for failing to deliver, as always), goals galore and suspiciously talented youngster with a name that confounded the commentators (in fairness, one would expect that James would be pronounced as James, no?).  The round of 16 games were the longest four nights of my year, with mostly crappy matches dragging out into penalties (thank you, Costa Rica, for the most boring goal ever to be scored in open play).  Would you believe my highlight of that stage was Algeria?  Yes, Algeria, the bastards who beat out my lovely Burkinabe to the finals proved to be most entertaining.  That was most odd.  And Musa, lovely Musa... The boy is a genius.  The problem with these big tournaments, once all the lively upstarts have been bumped off, it reverts to business as usual.  Or not.  The semi final threw up possibly the most humiliating thrashing in World Cup history.  Quick question, did anyone else feel like they were watching a fake match?  The first 30 minutes of Germany v Brazil were surreal, it was like exhibition football.  For anyone who doesn’t understand the love people have for the game, watch the crowd reaction, people don’t cry like that for no reason.

Football is more than 22 people kicking a piece of inflated leather around for 90 plus minutes.  It's a bloody love story, complete with unlikely heroes and evil villains, unexpected heartbreak and happily ever afters.  I know, I'm making it sound like a cheesy movie, but in some ways it is, no?  Where else would you find an idiot biting another idiot, just because?  Or a broken back?   Or a flying Dutchman?  Or a super sub goalkeeper?  Hang on, can we talk about about that substitution?  That shit was not right, it just wasn’t.  Football is fucking brilliant, is what it is.

For your withdrawal symptoms I give you a couple of video montages, because what is football without a mash-up of goals and fouls set to music, no? 

 Here's the arty homage to Brazil from the BBC...

...and the heart-string pulling goalfest from ESPN.

Now that I have you basking in the afterglow of a month well spent, how about we take a little detour down a rabbit hole? First we turn to the defining music of football, to my mind.  Today's soundtrack is 'Nessun Dorma' by Luciano Pavarotti, from the 1990 World Cup, the first one I watched with real seriousness.  Before that I was watching because everyone else was watching and I had no choice, being the last born in the house, but in 1990 I was home alone with the parents for long stretches, and because my father couldn’t (still can't) sit through a match without falling asleep, the TV was all mine.  It was bliss.  I became a World Cup junkie that year, and with my addiction came a peculiar fascination with peculiar music I didn’t understand.  No, not Soukouss (Roger Milla taught us, me, how to dance at a corner flag), I'm talking about opera.  'Nessun Dorma' wasn’t the official song of the tournament, but BBC used it with such spectacular success it ended up on the charts (with matching video montages, of course) and in due course it became a bit of a sports anthem.  I have to make an embarrassing confession at this point, I always though opera was unintelligible nonsense, the Latin 'shoobeeedooowup!', but with an orchestra and powerful vocals.  I should point out that I am horrible with languages.  Up until this week I had no idea what this song was about, and I'd never thought to find out.  Shock on me when I read the lyrics and discovered it's a fascinating tale.  From Wikipedia, this aria is taken, “from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera 'Turandot'”.

Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma! Tu pure, o Principessa, nella tua fredda stanza, guardi le stelle che tremano d'amore, e di speranza!
(English translation: None shall sleep! None shall sleep! Even you, O Princess, in your cold bedroom, watch the stars that tremble with love and with hope!)

Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me; il nome mio nessun saprà! No, No! Sulla tua bocca lo dirò quando la luce splenderà!
(But my secret is hidden within me; none will know my name! No, no! On your mouth I will say it when the light shines!)

Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio che ti fa mia!
(And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!)

Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!
(Vanish, o night! Fade, you stars! Fade, you stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!)


Do you see now why I compare football to a love story, and why this song is my default World Cup song?  It's the high and low, and high again, of a game, in music.  It speaks to our misguided, nay, blind faith in bastards who always break our hearts.

And speaking of bastards, we need to talk about the business of football and greedy FIFA, the real rabbit hole of this tale.  I shall continue this on the dark side, where there is no word count, and I can put up pie charts...

There's a real post coming.  Kesho.  Promise.  I haven't started it, but it's coming...

The business of football, as seen on TV.

Every four years, we sit back to enjoy what's billed as the greatest single sport spectacle known to man. It's billed as such by FIFA, known to us natives as the bunch of old rich white men who don't give a damn about football. It's also obscenely hyped by all the companies FIFA sells rights to, they who seek to peddle all manner of nonsense to us, using the words ball, kick, goal and score in as many convoluted slogans as can be conjured by their ad agencies. Incidentally, you'd think with four years to prepare, the ads would be a bit more clever, but no, the geniuses at UBC (Uganda Broadcasting Corporation) still managed to come up with this little gem praising M7, the kind and generous leader who brought us the World Cup. (If anyone knows where I can find the full clip, please share, that shit was most classic.) My fellow Kenyans, no matter how bad you think things are with Kamwana, know that they could get worse, much worse.

Now I know you're wondering, why was I watching Ugandan television? Well I'll tell you. It was because my national broadcaster, KBC, saw fit to deny digital providers their signal, allegedly because those impertinent buggers were infringing on their exclusive rights. It sounds straight forward enough, if I pay loads of money for rights to air an event, I expect to be the only one allowed to air an event, that's the only way I'll recoup my investment, yes? All the advertising must be mine and only mine. That must be why DSTV took KBC off their bundle of free to air channels, protecting their rights and what not. Thing is, why would a pay TV provider care about what a free to air station was showing, or vice versa? And what is it about these rights that makes them so exclusive? Isn't it the world cup, as in for the world? Welcome to the madness that is international football television.

KBC didn’t want other broadcasters airing their games, and rightly so. Thing is, and this is where it got interesting, these pay TV idiots they took to court are not their competition. What StarTimes, in particular, was doing was advertising KBC's coverage as their own, and selling decoders and subscriptions off it. KBC accused them, and Zuku, of infringing on their rights, and got an injunction to stop them from airing any of its signals, analogue or digital. Note that these digital providers weren't broadcasting only the matches, they were broadcasting the channel as is, lock stock and bloody barrel. As a cheap Kuyo woman I think that’s a pretty good deal, for KBC, increased reach and all, but what do I know? Turns out I may know a little something.

A new bombshell has been dropped in the fight between pay-tv [sic] between StarTimes and the national broadcaster KBC ... KBC may never have had any communication from FIFA on "exclusive" rights by FIFA.

In a letter seen by Cofek, MultiChoice (owned 40% by KBC) in a letter received at KBC is clearly giving instructions on behalf of FIFA to broadcasters.

Cofek is the Consumers Federation of Kenya, supposedly a consumer protection agency, one whose sole mission appears to be TV, pay TV to be precise. Nothing about power tariffs or price gouging at the supermarket, or even the fact that our national broadcaster owns a stake in a private pay TV company. No, no, no. These buggers only wake up when the price of decoders is increased, but that’s beside the point. This letter they claim gives instructions does anything but (assuming it's genuine).

What the letter said was MultiChoice Africa were required, by FIFA, to take KBC and other African national broadcasters showing the matches off their air. See, you don’t just up and switch buggers off in Africa, not on this continent where national broadcasters are the mouth of the government, the same government with the power to kick you out if they should feel so led. You need to notify them, probably in triplicate. It also helps to remind said broadcasters that this action is in their interest too, show them the big picture as it were. All this letter said was, 'by the way, those buggers told us to turn you off, and you might want to tell the buggers airing you to turn you off too.' Sneaky. They killed two birds with one stone and all by invoking the mighty giver of all things football. See, MultiChoice Africa also had exclusive pay TV rights across most of Africa (about 40 countries), and thus they could comfortably turn off the offending stations, with the added bonus that this 'regulation' would lock out all the other pay TV companies, thereby protecting that which they paid so much for (and they must have paid a pretty penny, no?). That's what the ban was all about, return on investment. That can’t happen when you're already showing it for free, thus they cut off free to air broadcasters, apparently in several countries and not just here to force their subscribers to pay for premium access. This is the business of football, no?

Just for the record, FIFA are not entirely evil, they sell broadcast rights to the tournament to both free to air channels and pay TV providers, and in an ideal scenario, a country should have at least one of each.  Thing is, the rights have become so expensive many public broadcasters and free commercial TV stations can no longer afford them. Oddly enough, this is where being a poor native helps. African national broadcasters under the umbrella African Union of Broadcasting (formerly URTNA) have a deal with FIFA for exclusive free broadcast rights, although its unclear how much the union pays for these rights. That shared broadcast allows the masses to enjoy 'their' game (CSR for Sepp, Hayatou and co.) and helps earn much needed advertising revenue for the broadcasters, revenue they can only earn if their rights are exclusive. Put differently, KBC would not have made nearly as much money as (we hope) they did if NTV and KTN and all the rest had been showing the games as well. It's like selling drugs, the last thing you want is another pusher just down the road selling the same crap to your junkies.  In that analogy, we the people are the drugs and the advertisers are the junkies. Or vice versa, I'm not sure. Moving right along.

Back to KBC and their shenanigans. They couldn’t let the pay TV guys air their cup content, lest they risk offending the great mother(...), but they also had another reason, they own 40% of MultiChoice Kenya, the other holder of exclusive rights. That's right, they have a hand in both cookie jars. We can only hope that earns taxpayers like us some revenue, but I am not optimistic. At the very least you'd think we'd get discounted DSTV subscription rates, no? Present your tax compliance certificate and get half off... No? I had to try.

To watch the World Cup in the comfort of your home, you needed to have either:
  1. an aerial to catch KBC on analogue TV, hoping that you could get a clear signal, a difficult feat in most areas given that their signal seems to not be able to surmount challenges like trees and stuff, or
  2. a digital decoder to catch KBC's digital signal (which was turned off I believe), units currently being sold for about 5000 bob, and they also require aerials, or
  3. a DSTV or GoTV decoder, and a subscription, to watch it on SuperSport, in HD no less, or
  4. a Zuku decoder, and a subscription, because those devious geniuses were airing the matches from UBC, and also on M(alawi)BC, bless their independent thieving asses.
Basically, you needed to be geographically located just so, or you needed to spend a wee bit of cash. Football, my lovelies, is not free.

Which should beg the question, why not?

Cue the behemoth that is FIFA. From their site:

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is an association governed by Swiss law founded in 1904 and based in Zurich. It has 209 member associations and its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football. FIFA employs some 310 people from over 35 nations and is composed of a Congress (legislative body), Executive Committee (executive body), General Secretariat (administrative body) and committees (assisting the Executive Committee).

Sounds quite benign doesn’t it? Almost humanitarian, what with its enshrined statutes and shit. But wait, from the section on income... 

FIFA enjoyed a great period of success in the four-year cycle between 2007 and 2010, with revenue rising to USD 4,189 million, up significantly from the figure of USD 2,634 million from the previous four-year cycle. While costs also rose, they remained firmly in control, enabling FIFA to make an extremely healthy result of USD 631 million.

A healthy result. That would be profit to us unenshrined types. This is the break down of their revenues and expenses.

Are you curious about the period, 2007-2010? Four years, from one world cup to another. On that revenue pie chart, note how much comes from event related revenue. What event, you ask? Let us chuckle together... What FIFA doesn’t openly declare in their woolly statements on developing the sport and such, this one tournament is their cash cow. 93% of their revenue in the 2007-2010 period was from 'event related revenue', with 89.5% of that revenue solely from broadcasting and marketing rights for the World Cup. 3.48 Billion in rights, and that was four years ago. This tournament is why, rather how, FIFA exists, and why they milk it for every dollar they can.

From their own numbers, FIFA made roughly $2.5 Billion off the 2010 World Cup. South Africa on the other hand, wonderful hosts they were, spent anywhere from 3.5 Billion (BBC) to $5.9 Billion (How we made it in Africa) to host the tournament, with about $326 Million or so from FIFA thrown in to help. They made a return of $323 Million (according to the Telegraph), from gate receipts. To put this in context, the host country received less money from FIFA than the total given to the 32 countries they hosted, and they're the ones who built the damn stadiums. No wait, they competed too, which adds $8M to their tally and takes $8M from the others...nope, they still got less. South Africa made their (official) money off ticketing, with the advertising and TV revenues going entirely to FIFA. It's estimated that FIFA revenue from the 2014 tournament was $4 Billion. It's also estimated that Brazil spent in excess of $11 Billion, most of which they did not earn back during the tournament, if past tournaments are anything to go by. Do you see now why there were, are will continue to be, protests on the streets of Rio and such? 

It's a beautiful game, depending on what side of the table you're on.

FIFA owns the World Cup (insert trademark symbol here), my people, quite literally, which is why the football is not free. Not too fair either, but that's a story for another day.


37, or something like it.


Three tens and seven.

Three shy of two score.

Three dozen, plus one.

Thelathini na saba.

There is no way to make 37 sound good, is there?  It feels like a transition number, the number between 36 (product of 3 and therefore all kinds of meaning attached) and 40 (the point at which I really must stop drinking cask wine in the bar.  What?  Don't judge me, I am nothing if not cheap...).  37 sounds like a knock-off, right? In college we had Club 36 (everyone reading this who was in Main Campus back in the day just smiled, yes?), and then some idiot came along and set up Club 37 and we were like, 'No, no, no! Don’t fuck with the original, man...'  37 doesn’t even roll off the tongue proper, especially for an idiot like me with MTI (mother tongue interference).  I keep getting the urge to drop the 'ven' at the end but 'thaate seeeee' makes no sense.  This number is not working for me.  I propose to remain at 36 until I get to 39, or just jump right ahead to 39 and kill this vibe for the next three years.  All in favour say aye...

Then again (yes, there's always a then again), 37 degrees Celsius is the normal body temperature, which in theory makes it a significant number, no?  No, not really.  It's still a dubious number, but at least now I know it serves a purpose.  Next time someone asks me how old I am, I'll tell them I'm as old as I am hot.  Then I'll watch them struggle to decipher my riddle, hoping that they (a he in this case) don’t say something silly like, 'You're so hot you must be really old, baibee...'  On second thoughts, I won't use that line.

Listen to me, baby
Hear ev'ry word I say
No one could love you the way I do
'Cause they don't know how to love you my way
You give me fever

37, huh?

I have only one grey hair still.  Save for the 'laugh lines' around my eyes, aka wrinkles, I don’t see that age in the mirror.  I know I keep saying this, but I really don’t feel as old as I am.  I sound my age when I speak out loud, although that has more to do with peculiar reading habits and a lifetime of overindulgence in, shall we say, legal drugs, but I suspect I don’t really look it, seeing as how I'm in dodgy jeans pretty much always, and not those expensive designer jeans mature women with serious jobs wear, the ones that are always pressed and never faded, I mean regular jeans, always wrinkled and sometimes frayed.  A couple of months back, I was going through photos from around 1999 with a friend from college and he remarked, 'You haven't changed at all!'  My first response was a big grin, because I was somewhat smaller back then, but not by much (don’t worry, I'm not saying I'm skinny now, I'm saying I was not much skinnier back then...).   Then I looked at the picture again and frowned. In the photo I was wearing random jeans and a shirt, tackies, hair pulled back into what would be a pig tail if I was white, and a quick glance in the mirror told me I was wearing almost the exact same ensemble, except the tackies have since been replaced with flip flops.  Now either I have a distinct sense of style that is timeless...I shall pause to give you time to laugh at me...or I am stuck in a time warp, and I do not look my age.  I don’t look like I've grown up.

Is this a bad thing?

When we're kids we keep being told, 'When you grow up...'  When we're in our misguided 20's, 'You need to grow up...'  In your 30's, 'You've grown up now...'  I assume in our 40's and beyond it becomes, 'You're too grown up for that now...'  Thing is, who decides what's grown up?  I think men who drink all weekend haven’t grown up, but I know many older, grown men who do exactly that.  I think women obsessed with the car their date drives need to grow up, but I have older friends who call me to tell me their hubby has a new car.  I lie, I don’t have friends like that, but my friends do and they tell me it happens so...  I think people who believe, believe I tell you, that their employer truly cares for their well-being are naïve idiots in need of a serious reality check, the likes of which you can only get from living a few more years.  Then I meet a 50 something year old career bureaucrat who thinks his employer has taken such exemplary care of him for so many years, he can't imagine working for anyone else, ever.  Old age and wisdom are not synonymous, is my point, and growing up is not nearly as essential as they make it sound.

I think it's a ruse.

I think 'grow up' is used to get us to conform to whatever acceptable standards someone else thinks we should meet.  You don’t want to settle down and get married?   Grow up, you won't be young forever. You don’t want kids?  Grow up, stop being selfish.  You don’t want a stable 9 to 5 job with a secure income?  Grow up, you need to buy a house.  You want to party like it's 1999, every year? You really need to grow up, your liver won't last much longer.  You want to keep reading Harry Potter novels, or watching The Expendables?  Grow up, get some interests that suit your age.  (Slight detour.  Expendables 3.  Fuck yes!  Detour over.)  You want to take time off for a month and see the world, or something like it? Grow up, you have a family to take care of.  Grow up, grow up, grow the fuck up.

Or not.

I went for karaoke, my pre birthday ritual for three years now.  I didn’t tell anyone of this brilliant plan, even as I was meeting a pal I am proud to say I have converted to the dubious exercise of singing off key in front of strangers.  Hang on, this pal deserves special mention.  This lovely gentleman has featured on these here pages previously.  Remember Obadiah?  He of the romantic sensibilities quite unlike my own.  I first took him to the almost local last year, and despite his continued insistence that he was unwilling and unable to sing, at round about 3 a.m. I recall him doing a stirring rendition of 'Gangsta's Paradise'.  He's reading this right now and frowning, worried that I’m about to mulika him further.  You damn skippy I'll mulika your ass, my friend, you need to tell that 'very good friend' of yours you dragged along that you penda her ass like a nonsense.  Useless bugger pretending he's not smitten...nkt!  And then you both need to come back to the bar, 'twas a good night, no?  And there you have it folks, this is what happens when you go drinking with a blogger, you end up on the interwebs.  

Where was I?

I went out singing, such as I do, and because this year I was feeling like a boss (not really, but I'm a firm believer in the 'fake it till you make it' mantra), I had my friend John with me.  Not too much John mind you, I am now reluctantly cognisant of the fact that my ageing body can no longer tolerate the alcohol the way it used to, which is to say these days tequila shots are not an option.  And water is bought by the litre.  I had some John, and I also had my heels on, because nothing says 'do not fuck with me tonight' better than heels, yes?  Yes.  Incidentally, I've seen the flaw in this plan, heels put your bosom and ass at just the right height for the wrong man sitting on a bar stool.  Stand just so and the man can grab ass and boob at the same time.  What the hell, man?  I'm all for grabbing, but it is never the man you want to grab who grabs, is it?  True story.

I should point out that I have John with me here right now.  I am booze blogging, kinda.  Don’t look at me like that.  I assume that you always have a drink in hand when you read me.  Trust me, I sound much better when you're tipsy.  I put that in as a joke, but I fear I may be right.  Ah well...

So I was sitting at the counter, looking at the people around me, new friends and old friends, bar BFF's and random strangers, a barman who knows more about my bank account than my accountant and a DJ who knows to play Bobby Brown at 2 am, just because.  That was my birthday celebration, with people who had no clue it was a celebration of anything other than the fact it was Thursday.  I had a fancy lunch thing with the family on the actual day, and it was brilliant, but that night, the random midweek plan, that was when I came to terms with 37.  Always with the bloody 37...

Today's soundtrack is a song I absolutely love to, and I use this term most loosely, sing, partly because it's short, but mostly because it's easy to use and abuse.  You can sing 'Fever' pretty much however you want, and it will still sound good, that's how good a song it is.  I've heard June Gachui do a jazzy version that brings tears to my eyes.  I remember the house/dance Madonna version from the 90's and the classic Ella version I first heard in the early noughties.  Sometime last year, the Wolf sent me the Buddy Guy version, waxing lyrical about the man, and after listening it's hard to deny that it really is a most excellent cover.  But when all is said and done, the 'original' by Peggy Lee, that's the shit.  Yes people, the 'original' is not the original.  Damn you google, damn you to hell!  I've put up the Peggy Lee version, that's the version almost everyone has covered, and understandably so, she did a version with modified lyrics and a laid back sound, sultry yet not.  It's quite restrained when you think about it.  Thing is, and this should have been a dead give-away that this was not her song, a song about someone giving you fever should be anything but laid back.  It needs to be kinda hot, no?  (I do not mean to pun, and yet I do.)  The original by Little Willie John is...well, it's fever, no?  Listen to it.  It's a smidgen faster, a little less fluffy (no Pocahantas nonsense story) and a lot more swing...  If that's not fever, then I don’t know what is.

When you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight
Fever (fever, burn through) in the mornin'
An' fever all through the night...

I think part of the reason I don’t feel 37 is because I've refused to 'grow up'.  I'm not immature, not really, I do have my moments, but don’t we all?  I'm no longer naïve, if anything I'm too cynical.  What it is is I reject the notion that my age should dictate the decisions I make.  I figure, if I am old enough to vote, drive, fuck, reproduce, pay rent, pay tax, pay my bloody bill at the bar (for real though, young girls, pay your bloody tab, you're making us all look bad...), pay for my hair and my jeans and my flip flops, if I am old enough to be responsible for people other than myself, be they employees or ageing parents or friends with more issues than I care to deal with most days, then I am old enough to say to hell with all the bullshit standards and limits they, whoever they are, try to impose on me.  I'm not refusing to grow up, I'm simply asking, 'And then?'  Say I wake up tomorrow the model of grown perfection, how will that change the price of your bread?


I didn’t think so.

I realise that at my age birthdays usually aren’t a cause for celebration, what with the encroaching middle aged status of over 40 fast approaching.  That combined with the lack of the requisite house in the leafy suburbs with husband and 2.5 children to match; and the ka-plot in shags with 5 cows, 25 chicken and 3 goats; and the lifetime membership of Women's Guild; and the successful business and/or career that takes me around the country/world; and the alleged peace of mind that comes from having everything you've ever wanted, save for the house by the beach.  At 37, as a single woman with next to no prospects and next to no inclination to look for any, one might say my life is somewhat unfulfilled.  At 37, one might say that I am fast approaching the point of no return, the point at which the promise of youth gives way to the meaningless obscurity of old age.

One might say that, but I wouldn’t.

I would say that 37 is the time you stop counting the years, because it's such a silly sounding number you can't help but ignore it, normal body temperature notwithstanding...

Bless my soul, I love you
Take this heart away
Take these arms I'll never use
An' just believe in what my lips have to say
You give me fever...

Little Willie John.  Go figure.



I've been gone too long.  Apologies, but the combination of World Cup distractions, low temperatures and general lethargy have combined to keep me away longer than I intended.  I shall attempt to make up for my errant behaviour over the next couple of weeks, but for tonight allow me to clear some cobwebs, get my fingers up to speed, my brain ticking over as it should.  Bear with me, I need to get into the right frame of mind to write the posts that need to be written.  I can't do sewer when I'm pissed off at the government, not unless I'm writing about sodomy with a foreign object (hint: things I want to do to someone with a broom handle).  I can't get fluffy when all I want to do is slap the idiot press for pretty much everything they've done over the past month (I'mma start with KBC, the idiots who thought to ringa with their signal, bloody nkt!).  I can't even indulge in my bullshit alien conspiracies, now that I am convinced they walk amongst us (CORD, I'm looking at you...).  I need to detour a bit, and then resume normal service over the weekend.  Yes?

Disclaimer: This post shall be vague, and rambling, and shall have absolutely no moral whatsoever.  I'm just having a bit of a chat is all, such as I do, and playing you a couple of tunes.  On the up side, this is all about random music.  That’s always fun, right?  Right?  Just nod.

I've ended up following a couple of music junkies on twitter (it's still the work of the devil that one), because I consider myself quite the aficionado and I was looking to meet kindred spirits.  Shock on me when I keep getting taken to school.  These fellas, they're the real deal, the depth and breadth of their playlists is frightening.  No really, real fear.  I'm too scared to tell anyone what I'm listening too, lest I am mocked for my gauche taste in pop ballads.  But that's over there.  Here, in my house, I can play all the nonsense I want, and you must love it.  To wit, I need to tell you about my dirty little secret love.  Well, its not so much a secret as it is a well concealed fact. I know I'm quite the oversharer, constantly subjecting you to way too much TMI, but this one even I am too shy to tell you about, until now. This man, walalalala...

I'm in love with a man.  An older man.  A man who should not be sexy, but dammit he is.  A man who has been accused, but never convicted mind you, of theft.  A man whose hair was slightly questionable, for way too long.  A man who wears his shirts a tad too unbuttoned even for my lascivious ass.  Aaaahhh...  Lovely Michael Bolton.  I'm grinning stupidly at my screen, watching one of his oh so romantic videos, with the ubiquitous beautiful people making lovely even as they pine for love...

I'm swaying and ef'thing...


Don’t look at me like that, I love the man and I am okay with it.  Scratch that, I am most proud of my love for a 61 year old (yes, he is 61, that's how old we are) white man best known for ripping off black soul artistes, and winning Grammys for his effort.  Now ordinarily, a man like this would be on my list of men I plan to one day kidnap and torture in my basement, but Mr Bolton came into my life when I was young and impressionable.  Stop judging me, I first heard the man when I was in kendo Standard 8, back when my music tastes were dictated by John Karani, John Obongo Jnr and Jeff Mwangemi.  If none of those names means anything to you, this post is not for you.  KBC (ptuh!) had such a serious hard-on for this man, he was played all day; Lunchtime Music, Sundowner, Late Date...  There is no one in my age set who is unfamiliar with 'Soul Provider'.  Admittedly, most don’t much care for the man, in public, but you belt out one of Mr Bolton's many ballads at karaoke and watch the geriatric bastards sing along (fellow lovers of easy listening pop/rock, I see you...).  I have known this man for 24 plus years.  That's longer than I have known any of my close friends, longer than I have owned any one pair of shoes, hell, as long as I have been menstruating.  That last one was too much, yes?   Yes.  (Sewer gear...check!)  Michael and I go back, way back, talk smack about him at your own peril.  

There I am, happily singing along to a random playlist helpfully provided by the lovely geniuses at YouTube (they who seem to have me pegged as someone who is in dire need of sanitary towels, if the Always ads they insist on showing me are anything to go by), and I stumble upon one of my favourite songs...

Now this particular song is the reason my black passport will be confiscated, for real.   I am ashamed to say this, but I've always considered his cover much better than the 'original'.  Wait, don’t lynch me, let me explain. The first time I heard the song, it was this cover, to my mind, this was the original.  You can imagine my dismay when I heard Ray Charles sing it.  Why now?  He was so...throaty.  And there was no Kenny G, dammit!  Again, don't lynch me.  Yes, I loved Kenny G too, but not too much.  I've lied, I thought that curly haired bugger was the shit, up until I grew up and got some education as to what real jazz sounded like, which then took me back to Ray Charles, but with a greater appreciation for his genius.  Ray is brilliant, but, truth be told, I still prefer Mr Bolton's vocals.  Before you revoke my negro credentials, listen and tell me what you think.

The sumptuous orchestra on this track makes his a completely different song; less 'woe is me' love song and more gentle serenade.  I don't think I should even compare the two, they're like chalk and cheese.  This is how I get out of my self created awkward corner, yes?  Yes.    

Detour.  I keep saying 'original' because I have recently learned that Ray Charles covered the real original, written in 1930, by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorell.  Yup, all you Bolton haters, he didn’t steal this one from our people (that I can tell), so there.  It gets better, the song was written for Hoagy's sister, Georgia, which explains the lyrics.  Why would someone talk about smiling tenderly when singing about a place, especially in America?  I'm not being mean, I'm just saying, it's the South, Jim Crow and shit, smiling tenderly is not what comes to mind, not in 1930.  Don’t look at me like that, I watched Roots, and Malcolm X.  (Conspiracy theory gear...check!)  Singing about the state is odd, but singing about a woman, now that’s just about right.  The best part of this little nugget I stumbled upon, the original is bloody spectacular, jazz orchestra the works.  Again, listen before you slap me...

It's good, no?  No?  I don’t know why I bother with you ungrateful Philistines.  Detour over.

Scrolling down the Ray Charles playlist, I came upon this lovely gem...

Sound vaguely familiar?  Rap being rap, they took one random line and spun it into that most addictive hook from 'Gold Digger', 'She take my money...'.  I came across the song some time last year, on Treme, the TV show.  It was one of those moments when you hear a song and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you think, 'Fuck me sideways!'  Odd thing is, that show is so fucking brilliant, those moments come along roughly 5 times per episode, at least.  I know you think I'm off on one of my misguided tangents, but listen to this and tell me I lie...

Detour.  If you like this, go out and get the TV show, then get the music.  This is the only show I know with several sites dedicated specifically to the soundtrack, episode by episode over four seasons.  It's a music junkie's heaven, plus it has some of the best writing and acting I've seen in a good long while.  As with all things brilliant, it has, however, since ended, HBO saw fit to kill that story.  I blame Obama, I blame him for everything these days, him and el presidente, just because.  (Ranting gear...no check, trying to disengage...)  Detour over.

While googling for the Treme version I wanted to revisit, I stumbled upon a live performance of the same by Stevie Wonder.  Being that I am loose like a langa, and Stevie is, well, Stevie, I clicked play, and thus began another walk down memory lane.  This man is the voice of my childhood, him and MJ and Lionel.  'Part Time Lovers' was the song, no?  Scrolling down his playlist takes me back to the first time I watched a colour television.  I have no idea why.  Issues.  Listen to this man sing...

This song though.  I'm not sure there's anything I can say about it.  His voice is most fascinating, in some ways its an instrument in its own right.  R&B these days is all woowoowoo bullshit, but this is what it should be about.  Clear voice, control, lyrics that make sense, music that did not come out of a computer.  It's art, is what it is.  Now I'm guessing there's a youngling who'll listen to this and think, this guy sounds like John Legend.  I see you nodding, you poor soul.  There's nothing new under the sun, my lovely, now you know.  All of me isn’t all that new, is all I'm saying.  Yes, I am laughing an evil laugh.  I googled the two, hoping to find a clip of the them on the same stage, and I did, kinda.

My people, when Mr Wonder introduces someone as 'overwhelmingly incredible', you need to listen.  You don’t have to agree, just listen.  In one of those creepy coincidences that tend to happen when you're online way too long, someone put three songs I absolutely love in one performance, thereby rendering me speechless for 10 minutes.  I watched this clip in awe, 'hand in the air, hallelujah!' awe...

Ms Corinne Bailey Rae should need no introduction, but she's so brilliantly eclectic she's often overlooked when we talk about good music.  Watch this concert and tell me she hasn’t won you over...

Isn't she just the most gorgeous creature?  Come on...  If this doesn't move you, then you are a cold heartless bastard unworthy of good music.

John Legend on the other hand is a staple, whether you like him or not, Kenyan FM has decided he is the man they will play until our ears bleed.  'Coming Home' is...fitting.  As much as we hate to admit it, us and our langa government, we are at war, most of the time with ourselves, and trying to come home.

We'll make it home again
Back where we belong again
We're holding on to when
We used to dare to dream

We pray, we live to see
Another day in history
Yes, we still believe...

Detour. These two artistes do a mean duet.  Their cover of 'Where is the love', off his live album, almost outdoes the original.  Almost.  For all their brilliance, Donny Hathaway cannot be beaten, and because I know you don’t believe me (you never do, do you?), here's the original with Roberta Flack.  Further detour, as I was wandering through Mr Hathaway's playlist, I found a live version of 'Someday we'll all be free'.  I'd explain my obsession with the man, but it's easier to let you figure it out for yourself...

Keep your self-respect, your man, the pride
Get yourself in gear, keep your stride
Never mind your fears
Brighter days will soon be here

Take it from me someday, we'll all be free, yeah...

If you do nothing else this week, get yourself one of his albums, the man was true genius, the likes of which we rarely see these days.  You shall thank me later.  It was inevitable that this song would lead me to his live cover of 'What's Going On', which in turn could only lead to Marvin Gaye himself, he that was shot by his father, useless twit, the father, that is.  Wait, both of them were equally foolish, no?  This album is described as the seminal album for black conscious music, yaani he sang about more than pretty women, unheard of for an Motown musician at the time, or so they say.  I wasn't born yet, so don't quote me.

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying

You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today, yeah...

Lakini, if I need to tell you about Marvin, then we cannot have a discussion.  If you don’t like him, that’s another story, I'll fight with your dodgy ass later.  Detour over.

The last of the trio on that Stevie Wonder clip, John Mayer, now he is a truly special bastard.  Honestly, I'm not entirely sure he's sane.  Any man who refers to his dick as racist, well, he's a star.  I absolutely love his no-filter mouth, and I love his music more.  I know a man who is about to send me a strongly worded email tukana-ing me for that statement, but fuck it, this man plays blues guitar like someone three decades older and several skin tones darker.  'Gravity' is moody music, just what you need when you're in a funk and unwilling to climb out.  Strange thing is, this is just what I needed to get me out of my funk.  Go figure.

Oh, twice as much ain't twice as good
And can't sustain like one half could
It's wanting more that's gonna send me to my knees

Whoa gravity, stay the hell away from me
Whoa gravity has taken better men than me
How can that be?

And to wrap up this random walkabout, we return to (almost) the beginning, with my 'strange white man with a penchant for covering black man classics' fixation.  The beginning of 'Gravity' has a riff off this beauty...

I still want you to stay
I still love you anyway
I don't want you to ever leave
Girl, you just satisfy me, me...

Possibly related, I now have the title for my next post.  Chitty chitty, bang bang.  Bang here refers to...