I wish I had gone for the Nneka concert. I some of her music on my iPod, and it yet to grow on me properly, but I wish I had gone. I would have had a good time, enjoyed my own company, likely flirted with some strange man in a near-drunk stupor. I definitely would have danced, nibbled on some needlessly costly, greasy plate of snacks – some crumbly fish fingers here, a handful of French fries, a vegetable samosa stuffed with peas and carrots or cabbage, some warm and spicy pilau there. I saw it, the concert, featured on the newspaper, and I felt bad for not having gone. There was a picture of her above some silly caption in bad English; a large, bushy, black cloud of fluff emanating from her scalp, a hideous outfit with big African patterns – the cloth was definitely some kitenge material – her eyes shut in a reverie; barefoot with her long skinny arms hugging a big guitar. Maybe it was a cello. The instrument looked like an African string rendition of one or both.
When Paul first called me in Kajiado and offered to pay for my fare to Nairobi and the tickets, I was touched. In fact, I was certain that I would go. Then one-by-one my friends called or sent a message saying that they could not make it; citing the lack of money because it had been a hard month – January must be jinxed in every corner of this earth – or that they simply wanted to stay indoors, cuddling with their lovers or watching a football match with the guys. My heart sank alongside the initial enthusiasm. So when he called again to confirm, I told my boyfriend that I would not be going, on second thoughts. I came up with enough lame excuses to hold water when looked at as a collective whole of circumstances. He didn’t seem to care, but I now fear that I may have bruised his ego.
I am listening to Corinne Bailey Rae as I write this. I have been listening to her for the past two or so weeks, comparing her appearance to Nneka. I am gradually falling in love with the free lyrics that tap into the foolish sentimentalism that resides in the core of every woman. It was said that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes story writing seem as easy as birdsong. Well, the ease with which Corinne expresses herself in her music, the beautiful marriage she makes of jazz and her child-like and yet feminine voice, the background vocals resembling an African-American choir somewhere in a homely little church faraway from here, the serenading beats that woo you in and how the fall apart suddenly without losing their magical unison. In fact, there is no one word that describes exactly what her music is like. It is like a forceful wind that sweeps past you suddenly and leaves you blushing because it blew the skirt of your Summer dress a couple of inches above your knee. Then it is also soft like a baby blanket, soothing as a lullaby does a toddler in her mother’s arms following a bad dream. Also it is bold and forward like that woman who speaks her mind in the presence of men older than herself even when she knows that they will not approve of her manners, or in their opinion, the lack thereof. Finally, Corinne Bailey Rae is that sound you want in your ear on a windy night, reminding you of teenage fantasies that you still cling to as an adult woman, when it is chilly and slumber has gone for a stroll at 3 a.m. on a weeknight and your lover is not there to tell you all those chocolate-coated half-truths that you like to hear even when you know that they are neither really true nor false.