14:50 p.m. My arrival at this other side of town. Braeburn, precisely. Austin Room was half full already. Fuse was on stage making people snap at his metaphors and wordplay as Checkmate accompanied him drumming. “I welcome you to a new age: the Dorphanage.” Fuse concluded as Dorphanage took the stage and commenced with “Mkenya” chastising our society’s morass. Contextually, in the background the vocalists sang our national anthem. “Black Bird” a piece urging us to acknowledge our royalty and dare to fly, followed.
The persona being a street urchin, Dorphan advocated for our understanding of their circumstance and show them some compassion. After that first set, Gufy Dox; who was the host of the show; cordially welcomed everyone, appreciating their presence. The room was now full.
“If you were worried ’bout where I been or who I saw or what club I went to with my hommies baby don’t worry you know that you got me.”
We all recognise this, I presume. At a familiar note, the beautiful Laura Wanjiru was starting off the second set with the powerful piece “Say So” accompanied by Checkmate’s beatboxing, Danny the guitarist and Dorphanage’s Kimberly. As it’s become the norm, Flowflani was ambushed to perform. The look on his face was priceless as Gufy surprisingly called him to do “something small” for the audience. Impromptu, Checkmate jumped on stage as well. Just as they did at the 55th Slam Africa. Their chemistry was thrilling. We were taken for an adventurous beatboxing journey (a short one however this time). Gufy then introduced Dorphanage for their next set: a dedication to the departed.
The very emotional “Brenda” was first. The vocals, the strumming of the guitar, the drumming, effortlessly created the doleful mood and you’d feel as if you lost Brenda yourself. Then, with an African sound, and an impeccable painting of historical allusions/panegyrics and contemporary inequalities, “MashuuJah” was impressively performed.
“I kill my characters in my pieces. It’s up to you to prevent them from dying. It’s up to you to do something after listening to what I have to say.” That was Dorphan introducing “Ndoa Doa” concerning a violent relationship that ended with demise:
“Ilianza na mapenzi, tamati ni mauti.
Ndoa Doa, Ndoa Doa, Ndoa Doa.”
The refrain accompanied by fast drum beats.
“I will keep killing my characters until you do something about it.”
That set was closed introspectively.
Gufy then handled the break and thereafter introduced the king Mufasa who performed two moving pieces. The first one was untitled in which I recount, “There is meat in these words, we should beef up our security.” Then, he gave an insight into his mother’s nature as an introduction to “My Future Wife” (which is in his album “Inside Out” that you should have) letting her know what she should expect of him and what he expects of her. An interesting engagement indeed. Gufy then took us through the break before introducing Dorphanage once again.
Admitting his initial bitterness towards his late mum, but eventually coming to grips with his plight, Dorphan was preparing the audience for a trip down his memory lane with “Mum Aliishia.” One that left the audience with a piece of Dorphan as he exposed his upbringing that was chocked with several impediments.
“It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane. It’s just my heart screaming out.
It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane. It’s just my soul crashing down.”
One of the most euphonious and easily memorable refrains that evening, for many, Dorphanage sang, alongside Checkmate’s beatboxing as Dorphan’s suicidal thoughts were weaved into the piece “Unbound.” After it’s performance Dorphan expounded on the meaning of Dorphanage and its relevance to the audience. We’re all dreamers! Dorphan averred as we went into the perfomance of “Najua.” It easily resonated with the audience who even joined in singing the chorus:
“Najua jua litawaka na jua litatua.
Najua kuna kiangazi na kuna time ya mvua.
Najua dua la kuku halimgusi mwewe.
Hata wakikushuku usijishuku wewe.”
It was supposed to be the final but ended up being the penultimate performance due to public demand. To the close of a bravura performance of “Punch Vs. Punchlines”, he received a standing ovation from the very touched audience leaving Dorphan tear-eyed and blushing. Gufy promptly led the audience to sing Dorphan “Happy Birthday” which he celebrates on 1st June (the next day after the event) and it was very jocund. Good news then came to pass that Dorphanage was trending on Twitter, to the audience’s cheer.
Dorphan was surprised. He gave an emotional vote of thanks and concisely introduced his band members from Kimberly, Achieng’, to Cheif and specially mentioned Checkmate, Gufy (of whom jocular comments were made, nicknaming him Gufy Monroe or Huddah Dox; sorry Gufy, I had to) and Ian, the man behind the scenes behind the scenes (he really pulls those strings), who was asked to come to stage. He was tear-eyed as well. That was the mood. That was Dorphanage! For those who’d tweeted the most, four tickets to the 56th Slam Africa (which is on 14th June) were awarded.
Everyone was inundated with emotion (I can’t deny I was also tear-eyed), the energy, the vibe, the connection, the impression was intimate, just as the venue itself, and Dorphan couldn’t stop thanking those who’ve supported him. “I have friends, not fans!” he declared as he randomly pointed out some from the audience. A few key players who made the event a success were called on stage for the audience to appreciate them. Ululations! Applause! Were all in place as the curtains closed at 17:20 p.m.
To create an impression was the objective: Dorphanage did just that. That was priceless. That was timeless! What next?