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PROJECTS BLOG 12/06/2009

Motomoto Performs at National Festival in Lamu

Early Friday morning we all met to take the bus to Lamu. All of us except Matano the young boy that was going to meet his mother. We spent the next 20 minutes before getting on the bus searching for him. We heard he was seen with a group of other kids and their street mama heading out of town early in the morning.

Street Mamas. If you watch any small child begging on the streets for long enough you will eventually see them handing over all or a portion of their money to their mama. In some cases they are the biological children of the mama, but in most cases they are children the mama found and cared for as they migrate into the city and/or are abandoned by their parents. I see these mamas are the root of street life. Without them you would not see children on the streets (at least not for long).

I believe, most of the time, that these mamas are doing what they do to simply survive and they do take care of the children in a way. But … all mamas know you get more money from your children the worse they look. The more skinny they are, the more dirty they are and the younger they are. If they are injured – even better. Many of these mamas were raised on the street the exact same way they are raising others.

So Matano was a bread winner for his mama and she didn’t want him to go. We got back Sunday night and I went looking for him. I found him. He was back with his mama. He said he tried to come but didn’t see anyone there and he even tried to call on the phone of a man there but couldn’t reach anyone. (a lie). Lying, stealing, and fighting are how you survive on the street. … When Matano decides he is ready to get off the street he will be. I think the best thing I can do for him is keep teaching him poi and have him talk with other boys that are now off the street and just keep offering him support.

It was amazing. The trip there was a bumpy 7 hour bus ride followed by a 30 minute boat ride. By the time we got there everyone was happy but tired and hungry. There were seven of us (pic) from left: Aisha, Suzanne, Ishmael, Jacky, Martin, me and Isiah.

We had been invited there, over a month before, by a guy working for National Museums of Kenya. But when we got there we found out the he had never booked us a gig. We were no where in the schedule. I found the guy and the seven of us surrounded him and begged the question.

He then took me aside and told me to talk to two people then vanished. We never saw him again for the rest of the trip. After about an hour of waiting talking to guards and 3rds and 2nds in command. We got to the top. It was a woman and man. The woman spoke very fast and told us that the only time we could possibly perform was Sunday night. We were booked to leave Sunday morning… Finally she left and the old man who was really in charge finally spoke to us. I showed him the video of the boys performing and we explained that he could just put us in anywhere and it would mean a lot. He agreed and said they could dance on the pier at night Friday and Saturday.

So that night we performed. The pier was pretty far away from the main festival – but as soon as we lit up a huge crowd came. Reporters were there snapping pictures and people cheered. After the show people yelled ‘tena’ (again)! We told them ‘kesho’ (tomorrow)! After the show reporters came up to us and asked us why were weren’t performing on the stage. They were upset because the backdrop for their pictures was just the black ocean and they wanted to better shots. I told them to talk with the chief.

Then in the afternoon we got a call from one of the reporters. He got us on the stage. I rushed over to the main festival and talked with the big dude there. He said we could be the opening act for the main festival night. Whoa! Cool!

I gave the DJ our CD and did a sound check. Then when back and got the guys. By 7:45pm we were ready, poi soaked with paraffin, behind the stage. But the stage was chaos. There were microphones and equipment everywhere. The guy in charge was no where to be found so I just started moving things. The owners of the equipment got upset and stopped me, then the big guy showed up and told them to back off …. finally the stage was cleared. I had a funny feeling and ran up to the DJ. He had lost our CD. Finally I found it and pressed play. …. It worked. MotoMoto rocked the show! The audience was in the thousands. They were stoked.

The next morning we got on a boat at 5:45am then on the bus. Everyone was super happy and tired. As were were about 2 hours from Mombasa, Ishmael told me he lost his wallet. Luckily it wasn’t where he kept his money but it had his National ID card. The ID card is one of the things that keep him out of jail when the police occasionally round up street youth. I told him I would help him get a new ID tomorrow and I said ‘goodbye, practice tomorrow,’ and got off at my stop.

About 10 minutes later as I get in the house I get a call from Martin. Ishmael and Isiah have accused him of stealing the wallet and are threating to beat him up. The bus driver has to kick them off the bus. Lying, stealing, and fighting are how you survive on the street.… Old habits die hard. I don’t think Martin would be stupid enough to steal their wallet. They all showed up to practice last night (Monday) and we talked about transitioning into a CBO and what that means in terms of acceptable behavior. Growing pains – We’ll be ok.


We have a audition today and have shows until the end of December. We have only had 2 real paying shows (not counting donation money) and are getting about 3k per show right now which is going to the boys minus 20% that is going toward the new CBO. It is a lot for the guys. We are working on getting them bank accounts too. Most of our shows like Lamu have been possible through the support of donations …. Thank you all for making this possible!


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