Illegal Anthem

I was walking in town and I met this street family playing music. Normally I would pass and dismiss them but this time something was different. The music was actually nice. These people could play the guitar, and together with the other homemade  musical instruments they put in, the sound was amazing. Maybe it always is. You see, never again have I ever considered to stand in the streets to listen and judge.

I notice that my friend too is nodding to the tune. We decide to stand right there on the road and offer these people a hearing. They are great musicians that will more probably than not  ever get any real audience. It’s a pity that their talent will go unnoticed and their great hymns   unsung.  Murimi, not his real name, is this friend that shares in my weirdness. That must be why we became friends. That may also be the reason why we find this peculiar street performers interesting.


The street family entertaining us comprises a blind man, his wife, and two kids, both girls. I’m not sure if the rest of the family are also disabled. I’m not even sure if they are a family but they do look nicely knit. Maybe it’s the love for  music that is holding them together. Or maybe it is the struggle they find themselves in together.  However their paths crossed and whatever brought them together, it did something good. It is touching to watch them play their instruments. The blind man must be the head of the troop, or should I say family. He is the one with the guitar and is the lead singer too.

I can’t help but wonder how these hosts of ours actually live at their home. Do they even have one? Do they have the normal family meetings that normal families have? What do they have for supper? How do they spend the money they get? Who does the chores at home? Do they have a day off? Do they go shopping for household items?

I look at the girls. One of them in particular, the younger one. It is difficult to tell her exact age. Its even more difficult to tell if she is actually a young woman or a mother. But I assume she must be in her early 20s. I bet its her  misery that ages her face.  I pity her. I wonder if she is literate. Did she go to school? If she did, maybe she was educated with the same hustle her parents are in. Then she cleared secondary school and joined them in the streets: like a family business that is passed from one generation to the next. Or maybe she is in university and is on  her long holiday…

My mind wanders on and on into this unknown world. Every thought seems to be deeper and more intense than the former. I can’t imagine why I have never had the thoughts I am having right now.

A shove on my back pulls me back to reality. I turn just in time to see Murimi speeding off. The shove I got was from a brown-uniformed man. On his hands were cuffs. City council askaris! I do not get the conversation that follows. I am not even following the events happening.

Minutes later I am in a van with other drunk men headed to Central. I am literally shaking. I look at my watch, 8:30pm. Does this mean we had been standing at that spot for over 2 hours?
And why had we been arrested? What was I doing in a police van? Had I broken the law by listening to the good music played by the street family? Why had Murimi fled? He must know that it is illegal to stand and listen to people play music.

I am new in Nairobi. I love to call it “The Great City”. I love the thrills here; fast moving cars, tall buildings, billboards, the likes. But as I will come to learn, it is not for the fainthearted. On this day, I was arrested for listening to music. And as I am riding in the police van I can’t help but wonder some more. What is worse. Is it the homeless people around trying their best to make a living out of almost anything, seeming completely forgotten as members of the same society as everyone else, or is it the county askaris that are constantly harassing Kenyans on the streets?


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