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Guitarist Otis Dundos is back in Kisumu, the addictive and possessive lakeside town. He is back to settle some unfinished business. Back in the ‘80s, he was the Urban Benga guitar legend. His commercially potent mix of hard benga and lofty rumba was loud with a culture surrounding it, and a cult-like following. It ignited an entire generation of music fans. It made him rich and famous. When he left Kisumu twenty years ago, it was a sudden unpleasant event. Everything ended in tragedy. He was twenty-nine years and at his peak. Today he still is the artsy man: the musician, the guitarist… People have died fast; the men and women who helped him make music… they have all died or wasted away. Is he about ready to follow suit? What is left? The past has unfulfilled dreams, good life, nice cars, easy money, expensive perfumes, glamourous women, living on the road and in the studio. And conniving band mates, thieving promoters and clever pirates. The present is bearable but holds no promise: he is forty-seven. If he has to accept his forced retirement, he has to learn to be a local Kisumuan, not the famous name. He reminisces about the romantic encounters of ‘70s. The future is uncertain. He is searching for sanity and happiness. Happiness? In Kisumu lives the woman whose unfulfilled love still dwells his heart. But his mind is too bamboozled to even think.
Nine year-old Karo is a troubled otherworldly girl born in a rural family with no moral fiber. She is molested by an alcoholic father. Her mother cannot help her daughter; she is desperately protecting her marriage. Helpless, Karo endures ordeal after ordeal of rape and torture from a 'protector-turned-molester' father. In desperation, takes matters into her own hands. She confides in her grandmother Cucu Wangari; reveals the terrifying secret... tearfully recounts the shocking ordeal of her own father sexually using her. Cucu leads her through a ritual in which a wandering spirit is made to posses her leading her to set ablaze her family house on her ninth birthday, burning alive her parents and her sister. The spirit, Nyawira, is the restless ghost of a nine-year-old girl who is seeking to unleash vengeance on the residents of the village of Ndathia, on the slopes of Mount Kenya, who caused her death under bizarre circumstances more than thirty years before. This demented spirit takes possession of Karo and gives her an appetite for blood. She turns Karo into an cold-hearted slayer whose new natural inclination is to lure people she doesn't like into deaths by using her mind to light up fires and set up accidents. She takes Karo into a dramatic whirlpool that takes her to Nairobi and a decade later Karo grows into a marginally pubescent woman. She kills anyone who prevents her from getting what she wants. When she is locked up in a mental sanatorium, Dr. Muthoni, a psychologist specializing in "psychoplasmics" -- the physical manifestation of a person's rage -- takes up her case, treats her and discovers that Karo’s manifestations go well beyond the usual welts and scars. She and her equally cold-hearted colleagues use Karo as a test subject from one experiment to another for four years. But Karo is given new powers to free herself and her ability to light fires with her mind finally leads her to burn Dr, Muthoni, her colleagues and the entire mental facility down to the ground. Karo escapes. This is where it gets serious… it begins here. Happy 9th Birthday is quick-paced, fascinating and disturbing -- largely because it's so well-written. Broadly drawn characters and a ridiculous plot only heighten the deliciously dark mystery of this popcorn thriller. Okang’a Ooko's visual style in this one is packed with kinetic style, dreamlike sequences and lush colors. His cinematic direction, oodles of atmosphere, a strong cast and realistic, well-rounded characters make this story a true diamond in the rough.
Pandpieri, Kisumu. 1970s. Otis Dundos is a shy and awkward kid but very curious. In the ‘80s as a man-boy he tries to fit in. But he is more an archetype than flesh-and-blood youth. Performing with Nico Opija and KDF in Kondele gives him a beginning and a journey into music. As guitar student hitting all the required notes, Otis is the haunted genius. And KDF in Kondele is a training ground for demonology. He is desperate to leave Kondele's dingy clubs to reach for the future. He seems to realize he is not accomplished until he moves to Nairobi. But the cold, cold heart Nairobi’s nefarious pop culture schools him into becoming a more spoiled artist. Returning to Kisumu with a new band, accompanied by queasy bandmates in the ranks of villainous neer-do-wells, he spirals down into the heart of Kisumu’s darkness, encountering upsurging whirlpools of struggle, survival, greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation. How does he wind down the hysteria; somewhat, and make a fairly good case for an extraordinary achievement backmasking in heavy benga music? That’s not the issue, the issue is that as famous as he is, Otis Dundos has more problems than a normal Kisumuan. Providing a catharsis through comedy, lancing the Kenyan lakeside city’s moral boil with satire, KISUMU tells the story of ordinary men and women trying to live the Kenyan African dream. It is a story of humble beginning, awkward and misdirected fumbling and miraculous accomplishment.
Businesswoman’s Fault is a dense collection of seven new stories that are deeply thoughtful, and endless entertaining flights of imagination. These stories deal with a diversity of issues and show emerging challenges facing Africans today especially in their struggle to survive. The first four stories feature strong woman-led characters and present the pros and cons in the advertising industry. Set against the restless background of Nairobi’s corporate world, they capture the shifting boundaries of professional women’s struggles in a male-dominated world in the post-Moi decades with narrative drawn from the cases of modern businesses competing for advertising revenues. In “Businesswoman’s Fault” a designer-turned-marketer must save her company from the schemes of a shrewd competitor. She is a ruthless and strong-willed never-say-die woman and she must be nasty to win. In “Moni Afinda”, a middle-aged designer manager carries the memories of her father’s failures into her business. She must win a contract at all costs and succeed because she cannot repeat her father’s mistakes. In “Kichorchoro”, a tumult of personal tragedies push a young social worker into the frontier of doom without a back-up plan. She throws herself into her work of reshaping the lives of ragamuffin homeless boys in a dangerous Nairobi slum. The haunting cinema-esque “Happy 9th Birthday” is about a nine year old girl who is sexually abused by her father and its horrific aftermath. She throws the spanner into the works and into a nightmare of suspense and stark terror. The two last stories are about elderly musicians in a changing world. “Kiss Ya Bangongi” demonstrates that chasing greatness spurs doubt, self hatred, failure, and pain especially when the conditions for greatness are deemed by the sort of egotistical man the protagonist is. In “First and Second Rhythm Guitars In an Old Benga Song”, an old benga guitarist must drop his personal principles and give benga music a facelift in order to save it from extinction. The two stories are linked inextricably to innovation in the guitar music, to chord changes, and voiced heartaches.