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Blankets & Wine celebrates 10 years

As Blankets & Wine celebrates 10 years over the weekend, there is no question this well-oiled machine has greatly influenced and driven the festival culture in the country, quips Alfayo Onyango

The zeal and thrill in Nairobi is engraved in the entertainment culture the place has. For any person that has had the honour of gracing this wonderful city, they should be able to teach you how to have a good time.

From amusement parks, national parks, five star hotels, gaming arcades, shopping malls in almost every corner, private nightclubs in uptown and city areas, the city is buzzing with places to visit and activities to immerse yourself in.

Defining moment

But it was not until 10 years ago 254 got introduced to a lifestyle that would forever change the way local music would be perceived and appreciated.

Festivals easily became the way new acts would be introduced to the scene, or how local and international acts would share the same stage, so much so even how local acts would be challenged to take up a live band as opposed to playbacks from DJs just to be relevant, and so on.

Muthoni The Drummer Queen’s (MDQ) decade-long event, Blankets & Wine culminates this weekend with a celebration of 10 years. The celebrated artiste has been the frontier in delivering quality shows through pristine performances to wholesale experience. 

In what will undoubtedly be a celebration of the coming of age of Kenyan artistes as headliners, the vibrant event will feature a 100 per cent local artistes line-up such as celebrated producer/DJ Blinky Bill,  who’s debut album Everyone’s Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales is topping iTunes charts.

The Queen, Muthoni will also perform hits from her latest 12-track album, She. Celebrated award-winning band, Sauti Sol will also hit the stage as well as renowned rapper Nyashinski, songbird Atemi Oyungu and accomplished singer and songwriter Chris Adwar.    

Uganda may have borrowed a leaf from Kenya’s hat through their annual robust dance festival, Nyege Nyege. The monstrous Jinja festival that takes in the beginning of every September has been known to attract up to 8,000 in attendance.

From tasty fusion line-ups that are inclusive of local upcoming acts to already-established known acts, Nyege Nyege has distinguished itself in having the ingredients of hosting a flawless gig. So impactful was the event’s influence that Uganda’s own government threatened to halt this year’s edition insinuating that it promotes homosexuality.

Big and better

254 has written its name in history pages as one of the best places to gig at, judging from the acts and iconic moments. Notably, Yemi Alade has been able to pull massive crowds at Koroga Festival, Kilifi New Years Festival managing to become a great successor of the Diani Beach Life by 6:AM Entertainment, Safaricom Jazz Festival for never disappointing when it comes to bringing legends such as two-time Grammy nominee, the late Hugh Masekela, or Hakuna Matata bringing us the Afro pop Queen Tiwa Savage who roared a sold-out Ngong Racecourse crowd barefoot with a live band.

The suspense for more mesmeric performers on the big stage that can get the 254 audience hooked is evident as more numbers turn out at more festivals in pursuit of the next big thing.

But it is also important to address the misconception that has managed to exist long enough now about every show, concert or event with an artiste of huge status being termed as a ‘Festival’. Festivals happen annually, and have a list of activities to keep the audience engaged. Jameson Live has been a silent example of how that works.

Collaborations between musical acts internationally and locally have been made possible through festival celebrations. Wizkid, Major Lazer, Nasty C, WSTRN, are all names with international accolades, but upon their visits to the beloved 254, they have found inspiration to join forces with Kenyan acts when they land on Kenyan soil.

Other creatives such as visual artists, painters, stylists, culinary artists, and others also get to mingle with clientele and share ideas as well as socialise creating the environment of friendship and fun under one roof. Such has been paramount in continuing a great trend MDQ managed to begin.

The demand to bring more desirable acts to festivals is heating up as A-list celebrities such as American acts Future and Migos performed in Tanzania and Nigeria, respectively.

Kenyans are an informed crowd with great passion for a great time and new music, but festival organisers could perhaps offer more as they continue to lag behind in entertainment even when infrastructure is already set up.

According to a poll carried out on Twitter by renowned rapper Taio Tripper, the reasons people go to festivals have also been in question. Some go for great shows, some to relax, others go to find soulmates, others go for new talent, but the list goes on. Purpose is important for you not to get lost in the mix.

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