BLANKETS & WINE KIGALI EDITION 1: MISGUIDED THOUGHTS

 

I’m probably not the right person to write about this event considering it essentially isn’t my kind of thing but what the hell, I was there when the first edition of Blankets & Wine happened in Kigali.

The official start time was midday. However, if one knows how people party in Kigali, they’d not waste time coming at that time. My friends and I reached at around 5 pm and the numbers hadn’t piled up at the time to say the least. The biggest number of people came in after dark which was roughly 90 minutes later.

When we arrived the whole place was as silent as a graveyard. The location (being one of the fairways of the golf club) didn’t help to make it better. The place is naturally a silent habitat for its usual residents. When one asked later there was an apparent issue with electricity. This was later solved but something makes me wonder, you organize an event and you can’t sort out something as simple as power? Again I digress.

With events like this, I usually harangue the sound people to do a better job. An inside source that I interacted with told me they did a sound check that morning. That pretty much summed up the sound for me. When the first live sets played, we had to suffer with the usual band issues of the drums overwhelming the bass guitar and some out of tune lead guitars. One positive thing though, the average Rwandan has very strong vocals. This is something producers need to take note of and maximize the hidden opportunity. Guys were doing amazing RnB sets in Kinyarwanda and despite the mediocre sound, one couldn’t help but just stand in awe.

Ms Lillian Mbabazi did her usual outstanding performances with her amazing Sundowner Band. Her popularity in Rwanda is way up there. She sampled a few new songs for the crowd of which one or so was in Kinyarwanda. A part of me wonders why artists always tell us the cliché lie that that is the first time they are performing the song. Maybe they are actually right, but what do I know.

One thing that a normal music fanatic like myself is constantly reminded of is that studio music and live performances are two MUTUALLY exclusive situations. If you doubt me, look up Bruce Melodie’s music then imagine how HORRENDOUS he sounded on a live set.

The final act of the night which was from TRESOR was out of this world and I am definitely going to look up more of  his music. At that moment though, after a substantial amount of Mutzig and Singleton on an almost empty stomach and a massive sleep debt, I couldn’t put a word on the songs he performed. However, that gives me homework to listen to an artist I’d never given much attention.

My highlight of the evening was a certain mzungu (no racist pun intended), that sold the Ugandan Rolexes at this event. It got me wondering why we Africans don’t  trust in our products so much that someone else do it for us. Many Ugandans at the event were livid when they made this discovery.

For the first time, I saw someone make an attempt to sell roast pork this side of town. Minus the guys at Chomad, I know of no other place in Kigali that grills pork. Most that sell pork fry it. This person was a vendor at the event and it isn’t shocking that the people selling were Ugandans (well if we go by their accents that had that distinct “there” from Buganda).

On the whole however, the music rules and it is nice to see more of these events come to Kigali. One thing I’ll say again, is that the average Rwandan that I have heard perform live have VERY good vocals. It is sad however, that this will remain an untapped jewel for some time to come.

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MEMORIES, MUSIC AND NUMBNESS FROM THE INSIDE.

 

While at university, I remember having a fight with an old friend about my love for the seemingly hard/alternative and more energized rock music. And yet I always found beauty in these negative space, in these seemingly angry, energetic and HARD beats that accompanied a lonely voice begging to be heard when they sang. There was that voice that was appealing for someone to reach out and help them, love them and possibly be there for them in these dark moments.

I keep trying to remember what the first Linkin Park song was that I heard, the first song that attracted me to this Nu Metal / alternative rock band but because of all the albums they’ve released and collaborations they’ve had, I’ll just go with Numb that was the last track on their 2003 compilation Meteora and probably is the easiest that anyone (including the self) will identify with when the name Linkin Park (LP) is pronounced.

This Meteora album is one of the best albums that I’ve listened to over time. The energy on that album is on another level. The screaming, heavy beats and fusion that Chester Bennington, Mike Shinoda et al conjured won them the hearts of many over the years. I for one can’t get over this and the Hybrid Theory Album and will not hesitate to listen to either of these albums when I need an energy boost. The track listing alone on Meteora was so perfect for a run. It was that good.

it is heartbreaking therefore, to hear of the demise of their lead singer Chester Bennington, who is said to have battled depression among other things. It will be hard for me to enjoy LP’s music from now considering that this is music a bunch of us listened to and identified with without being forced to remember that the one of the people involved with it was suffering from actual problems.

I only wished that the music of theirs that we listened to when we wanted our spirits lifted on certain days also did the same to them. But in the end it may not matter, the intention of it pushing us away will only draw us closer and we shall just embrace it more.

I suppose, that as fans, we can’t do much for these artists who in their songs cry out to us for some sort of help. However, we can be better and help those around us that suffer from similar problems that can’t be solved by just popping a pill. We can help them get over their insecurities, rejections and disappointments.

Listening to Nirvana’s About a Girl in 2002 and later finding out that Kurt Cobain committed suicide was a bitter pill to swallow considering the hidden brilliance of this left handed punk rocker. It will be hard to break the habit while listening to Linkin Park’s music from this point on without having a heavy heart. What makes it heavier is that he died on what would have been his close friend Chris Cornell’s 53rd Birthday. They were so close that Chester was godfather to Chris’ son.

In all of this sadness I really commiserate with Chester’s family, friends, and those that lived with Chester the man and not the artist that we the fans thought we knew.

 

May his soul Rest In Peace.

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SO MANY WORLDS APART

In life,it’s advisable to travel the world at any given opportunity and I am lucky to have had this chance.

Initially, I was just excited to compare the different ways of life across borders, as well as the odd chance that I’d get to show off among my peers that I’d been to so many places.

With globalization and modernization, one can wake up in Uganda, spend the day in Nairobi and spend the night in Rwanda, a privilege that was previously reserved for the extremely rich. Now, just about anyone is able to travel anywhere in the world, provided they have the means and the documentation that would permit them to do so.

As I grew older, whenever I’d travel to Europe, America or the Middle East, I’d return with a disturbed mind, I love speed and it reflects a lot in the kind of cars I love that can be moved from one place to another in record time. That said, it is a well-known fact that there is no speed limit in Germany. So you can imagine my awe at how people were able to comfortably drive on open roads with speeds in excess of 180 kph. One could argue that yes their roads are good and wide and give so many other reasons. However, I also noticed that the road discipline is generally high. There is no “under taking” yet with the three to four lane roads, people have a general understanding of road signs and good road discipline compared to that of the people in the two countries I call home: Uganda and Rwanda. I have not only seen this in Germany but generally in the European countries I have visited and whose highways, I have managed to drive on. The story is the same in the US, where things are taken a notch higher with people sticking to the respective speed limits.

Speaking of speed limits, during this time I was in Frankfurt, it rained on two days, as expected the roads were a bit wet and the traffic control posted a speed limit of 120 kph. Being the curious fella that I was, I wondered if the speed limit was because it had rained but my host argued otherwise. On our side of town, cars tend to drive slower if it has rained because of wet roads and possible reduced visibility. On the German side (or uniquely the Frankfurt side), speed limits are introduced on the highway to prevent traffic build-ups. It was at this point that I wondered when we would ever reach such levels of development and sophistication in African, as a continent we still have a long way to go in order to match the levels of what Europe has achieved.

For instance, you’ll have a railway network feeding off an airport base/hub, this gives one the advantage of not having to afford a car when you visit another country that has a reliable train network.

To hear of power outages is a thing of the past, in this regard it is not uncommon to have a respective energy department take responsibility for any power outages and in some extreme cases a person in charge resigning over the same. On our side, comments have been passed that some areas are even lucky to have electricity. The respective energy companies in Rwanda and Uganda have tried to have active twitter feeds to aid them in giving their customers/ consumers a platform to freely report all issues however, a lot is still left to be desired when it comes to honoring goals and keeping a high level of service. I mean, while Rwanda has done a lot to ensure that electricity is generally available all the year round with minimal down time, there are the odd annoying intermittent power blackout where power will keep cutting out for more than 5 or 6 times in a day. On the Ugandan side, some areas still go for weeks without electricity due to a blown transformer and no feedback from the electricity transmission people. And it is business as usual.

Lately, my peers and I have been worried about the many businesses that are going bankrupt and being repossessed by banks due to failure to repay loans from banks. Clearly there’s an indication that something is wrong with the economy. The funny reason for such is the inability of such industries to control their expenses, let alone keep the operational costs low. An acquaintance told me how he had to close his recycling plant, because of high energy costs. National manufacturing reports of previous years show a reduction in manufacturing plants. Yet, it can also be argued that these are key to a countries economic growth.

On the other hand, though, if we were to take a leaf from the developed countries, there is both the presence of big and well established industries and the small and cottage industries. So it gets me thinking, is it that hard to start up or focus more on smaller industries with the hope that with many of these, there shall be the chance that these give back to the economy in one way or the other? I say this without removing any light from the already existing initiatives in these related fields.

Without going on and on and eventually losing the major point that I wanted to make. What is happening in these other developing countries is not all perfect but good because something right is being done, it only makes sense to pick out the good and try to emulate what they are doing. From planning their future to managing the environment, to even maximizing clean energy, which should not be rocket science for us to emulate.

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Affordable housing is possible if you explore options

a practical way of approaching owning a house.

The Green Frog

Getting on the housing ladder is easier than you think

2020

One of the biggest obstacles to middle-class growth is the high cost of getting a loan to buy a house. We expect to walk into a bank and sign our way into middle-class life, but when the reality hits it is much harsher, 22% per annum is a killer. Firstly we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that you can become middle-class overnight, it requires sacrifice of a minimum of ten years even if your parents are middle-class. There is no reward without sacrifice, that 50k a week you spend on going out weekly is more than enough to get you comfortably on the housing ladder. Firstly, start saving now, immediately, if you save $300 a month for 5 years, you will have $3,600 a year and $18,000 in 5 years. The dollar will have gone up 20% in that…

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Smoothie Woes and Ice Cubes

I’ve never been an outright fan of Cafe Javas. One thing though, is that their customer service is always on point. Another thing is that whatever you see on the menu is always available. You will almost never hear an excuse from them that item X isn’t present because ingredient Y has run out. Therefore, it is not hard to wonder why they are at the top of Ugandan Cafe/Diner service.

Unfortunately on the other side of the border, which is my other home, with a particular cafe, you will always be treated to a series of excuse after excuse for either poor service, delayed service, poor cooking or why you can’t have a particular dish/item on the menu when served at this particular cafe.

They will however, increase the prices of the dishes on the menu and claim that rent has been hiked therefore needing it to be captured by the increased cost.

You will wonder why, I haven’t gone to other cafes that provide a similar service. The answer is simple, in the location that I’m in, they are kind of the monopoly. So when you calculate the amount of time/ money you will spend in trekking across town to get a smoothie of the same quality and/or quantity, the effect is the same.

I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with staff of this cafe and its branches so it’s safe to say that I’m not revered by them. However, today’s excuse was the winner.

I rarely have lunch, mostly because I will doze in the afternoon. So I prefer to have a quick snack, then have a proper meal later in the evening. This has led me to develop a liking for the Thousand Hills Smoothie which is a blend of ice, honey, bananas, tree tomatoes among other things. It is one hell of a filler. But on several occasions, I’ve been told that they can’t serve it because of lack of ice cubes. It is understandable in the morning because the store manager may not have delivered the usual daily stash of supplies to the various satellite stations of the various branches. However, to run out of ice cubes at midday especially in this hot January defeats the purpose of running such an establishment.

The icing on the cake, is that on all of these occasions, when they run out of something, the staff on duty express a general aloofness with an “I don’t give a shit” attitude on display.

This should be good news for Javas House (the perennial number two to Cafe Javas in Uganda) who open a branch at Kigali heights this Friday. Will they give this cafe, whose name I’ve obviously refused to mention, a run for their money?

Only time shall tell.

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The anatomy of a zombie car project — market perspective.

 

 

I feel sorry for Uganda’s Kiira Motors. VW has just opened an assembly plant in Kenya with the Polo Vivo hitting the market at a price of UGX 60m ~ US $17k. Next up is a plant in Rwanda.

Kiira Motors will also put up an assembly plant for their car, designed in UG; parts manufactured from China. Without getting a strong technical partner, it will be very costly for Kiira to put a car on the road and even if they did the sale price for the car has been projected at about US$35k!

Suppose it did put a car on the road, the Rugasira-problem awaits: bringing a product to market is hard but getting it to be accepted is much harder!

The long-term success of Kiira Motors, as per their business strategy, depends on the smaller market of wealthy East Africans who can afford $US20k+ cars. Now, VW has put up a plant in 254 and will also put up one in 250 — that’s a market attack on two fronts!

Kiira Motors will find itself in an industry with intense rivalry and in which its competitors, being global giants, can afford to incur first year losses (as a result of price competition etc.) and in fact use the losses in EA as tax benefits for the group.

Kiira might argue that they wouldn’t mind being in a competitive industry as long as it is growing fast enough to keep all the players busy but here’s where the problem arises: how fast would East Africa’s GDP have to grow and to what level, to ensure a significant upper middleclass that can afford a US$20k car?? And remember, it’s not that all these folks will buy the Kiira car.

Like the saying goes: ” It’s the economics, stupid!”

All hope is not lost though. The business savvy team at Kiira is aware of this — maybe that’s my hope, and are in fact shopping around for a strong technical partner and cheap funding to shorten the odds of the project’s success but suppose they failed? I’m inclined to believe that the Uganda gov’t thru UDB, and for political reasons, might go it alone. It would be a big gamble. A zombie waiting to be called out!!

 

Credit to this friend of mine who allowed me to share these thoughts of his, but not his name.

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PREJUDICES ABOUT OUR CONTINENT

I was recently asked to join my colleagues to do an assignment in Harare, Zimbabwe. Because this was done at short notice, I had to put most of my pending assignments on hold and go to the land of H.E Robert Mugabe. Being the aviator that I am, the last image I had of one of Africa’s oldest leaders was from a few months ago when his imposing Boeing 767-200 took up one of the prime spots at our airport during the recently held African Union Summit.

At that time, I wondered why a whole leader like him had to use such a huge aircraft as opposed to probably buying a smaller, more modern business jets that most present day leaders use but my answer would be given to me later after getting a feel of Harare and the current state that it was in.

A lot of what I shall write in the next paragraphs is based on sentiment. I’ll probably write something else on the same topic in a few months to come when I gather more facts on the matters at hand.

I went to Harare with a prejudiced mind of some sort of poverty, unsafety and all other bad things that one could expect about a country that had been painted black in the eyes of the western media (which most of us subscribe to). We landed an hour after our scheduled time (thanks to KQ’s usual shenanigans) but our hosts received us warmly. The expectation was that at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m one would be expected to be cranky from lack of sleep but not our hosts. This warmth was felt even from the hotel staff at our first hotel.

My first night/morning was spent in a room across a bar that was playing the latest dancehall music at loud volume (on a Sunday night/Monday morning). I immediately made comparisons with our Entebbe Knight Riders Discotheque that is mostly full on Sunday nights as opposed to other nights of the week.

The crowd in the hotel was an equally happy one. This is in huge contrast to most European hotels that have gloomy guests in the morning. The people here, the majority of whom had come for a conference that the hotel was hosting were chatting away like they had no problems. One could have thought that they were not in Zimbabwe (based on the situation that we had been given by the media).

My colleagues and I conducted our assignments as instructed and several things were evident;

This country was once an economic giant of southern Africa. Being the aviator that I am, I saw lots of underutilized facilities that Harare international Airport has. This place has the potential to make it again and become one of the giants in aviation in the region.

I valued the power of politics. Economic Sanctions had dealt a severe number on this sleeping city. When these sanctions are lifted, one can only tell how far this place can go. It is this power of politics that made me admire H.E Robert Mugabe’s decision to stick to his 20+ year old 767 aircraft as opposed to spending more of the countries monetary reserves to buy a more modern aircraft. He isn’t perfect, but in this field, I give him a plus.

Despite all the things that need to be worked on to make life in this place better, the warmth of the Zimbabweans is really something to write about. I think this is something that we on the overall as Africans generally have. I say this drawing on past experiences of other cities I have visited with worries about being mistreated only to be handled very well.

I intend to go back to Zim soon and more especially to Victoria Falls (in the western region of the country) to see what the rest of the country has to offer especially in terms of tourism. Which brings me back to my next point, when shall we get an African media organization that reports unbiased information for Africa only.

And when shall we support each other as Africans so that the continent grows to be the powerhouse that it is supposed to be. that remains to be found out.

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