WANJURAH: The Raucous Nigerians have invaded Kenyan Diaspora parties, taken our girls
I had to go back on my promise to never again attend those Kenyan get-together dinners out of honour for a special friend.
But that is really not factual because Adrian is not even Kenyan. I have previously written about my Zimbabwean good friend who is reserved and reticent. He makes the labours of extracting a conversation from him feel like what human rights activists would construe as an abuse of the right to be silent.
Adrian default setting may be quietude. But that is until he imbibes whisky. Then his transformation is so radical, so pleasantly full of life that it reminds me of Frank Sinatra (in) famous pity for teetotallers: “…because when they wake up in the morning, that is the best they are going to feel all day.”
Even his pastor would pray that Adrian gets drunk a little more often. That is because he is obviously better company then. Those familiar with this rare side of him know that a party is not over until Adrian has danced to Madtraxx’s hit, Get Down, and DJ Cleo’s Sizohlangana ku Facebook.
Woe unto the DJ if these songs are not on the play list. Adrian has even crammed their YouTube links and all he needs is a laptop and Wi-Fi. He’ll then dance passionately, bending his lanky frame and synchronising his facial distortions to the complicated tap of his feet. I always marvel at how he manages to contort his body without losing balance or spilling the whisky in his hand.
This drunken glory is the main reason why Kenyans here have been keen to adopt Adrian as one of their own. And he never disappoints. I think I have seen him in all Kenyan events that I have attended. I gather he goes even to those that I have skipped, always gifting the host a bottle of whisky.
My resolve to stop attending the get-together dinners or whatever other name they are called was motivated by financial and social considerations. I had noted with concern that everyone expects that I take with me a good whisky. That, of course, costs more than the bottles of wine or the beer cans that other guests bring.
I once took a bottle of wine to a Kenyan birthday party. The hostess couldn’t resist frowning at my drink and wondering loudly whether there would be enough whisky for the evening. As I left for the night, excited from sharing Adrian’s whisky bottle, I was amused to note no one had touched my gift wine.
Three weeks later, I passed by the hostess flat over a different agenda. The wine bottle was still unopened. I switched to a diet expert mode with a verbose recital of the virtues of wine. She held the wine, clicked her mouth, and read from the bottle. “Best served with sea food…” I had settled on it because of the bottle shape and the friendly price!
The majority of the Kenyans in these events tend to be in their 20s and usually from privileged backgrounds. Unless on a scholarship, few families can afford to send children to foreign institutions where annual tuition fee is over Ksh2 million and where monthly rent for a basic eight-by-three feet, self-catering room is around Ksh75,000!
If, like me, you belong with the other end of the social spectrum, you have little in common besides nationality. Their small talk is peppered with daddy-and- mummy-this-and-that stories or the Kardashians latest antics. Inevitably, the talk drifts to animated debates on which club to wind up the night at. It leaves me feeling like Rip Van Winkle, the fictional character who woke up from 20 years slumber to a strange world.
It means quietly enduring youngsters lectures on why there is more to life than books and why a night out never killed anyone – even the old! Some, ironically well-meaning in their anecdotes, talk of their favourite uncle back home who is cool enough to sit with them in bars, clear the bills and drive them home.
So that is what I have become…an avuncular-like attendee, a popular figure and for the wrong reasons! I have noticed, for instance, that I get asked to make short speeches at these functions, just like that uncle at your family gathering who is always called to address the meeting even when, in truth, no one expects him to say anything useful!
At Adrian’s birthday party the other day, I was chatting a Kenyan doctor I had met for the first time and who I instinctively felt we had more in common. Then I heard a young man wondering loudly “Wapi Mzalendo atoe speech tuanze (where is the veteran for the opening speech.) I thought “Mzalendo” was a new guest, perhaps Zimbabwean like Adrian.
I was still scanning the gathering for whoever Mzalendo was when a lady, the impact of drinking too quickly self-evident, pointed at me and said “Si ni yule!” Its only then I learnt that was my nickname. I later understood “mzalendo” is lingo but not exactly in deference for independence fighters but for the elderly who, like Gitu wa Kahengeri, are full of “stori za ma cencha” (old folks tales!)
The last time I tried to dance at one of those events, I brought down the party with laughter. One of the ladies found it so funny because she told me it reminded her of her drunken dad during their extended family get-togethers. I have since learnt not to make a spectacle of myself by retreating to quietly observe the young doing their thing after my ritual speech.
My resolve to give the parties a wide berth is also a one-man protest at the Nigerians invasion. I have nothing personal against our African big brothers (and a few sisters). My beef is that they could do with less raucousness. They need to outgrow the annoying habit of hijacking the events.
Granted, they bring the party to life. But that should be different from a boisterous take-over. If you invite one, be prepared for five of them. Whenever they turn up, they insist on playing and dancing to Naija music. The rest of the world music then becomes just that – the rest!
The only conversion that will be dominating the room is in pidgin. They will loudly take to the dance floor to showcase the latest dance moves. In between, they will slap your thigh and ask you if you have watched the latest Nollywood movie. If you don’t care for the latter like me, they will launch into lectures on why you must do so urgently.
That and the fact that they have taken all the Kenyan girls!
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