The last few weeks in picture slideshows

I’ve kinda been traipsing about, by the time I upload pics, blog/tweet, its time to catch another flight.
Below are several slideshows from here, there and TED 2010

ORD Camp Chicago Jan 28th 2010

Berlin – Transmediale Festival
Feb 2nd – 7th

TED Feb 10th 2010

TED Feb 11th 2010

TED Feb 12th

TED Feb 13th – Last day with the Fellows…

PS: I took too many pics, and therein lies the problem, can’t really sort through all of them. Whenever possible, I took a pic of the speaker’s name then the images from the talk.

Excellent coverage of TED 2010 is available on the TED blog and on Maria Popova’s Brainpickings.

PS: For my flickr friends, its probably easier to browse my photos by sets or collections

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Transmediale: The future of Tech in Africa

Written for the Transmediale festival in Berlin – Feb 2nd -7th 2010

The transmediale festival is examinining futurity now what the ‘future’ as a conditional and creative enterprise can be. At its heart lays the intricate need to counter political and economic turmoil with visionary futures. With FUTURITY NOW! transmediale.10 explores what roles internet evolution, global network practice, open source methodologies, sustainable design and mobile technology play in forming new cultural, ideological and political templates.

What follows is my perspective on where the future is headed, particularly as it regards thinking of futurism, technology and Africa.

Before I get to the five ideas that shape my perspective on futurity in Africa, I found myself asking, where are the African futurists? In the discourse of futurist manifestos, there is a dearth of the African perspective. Perhaps its a hold over from the old and tired meme of colonization, post-colonial construct that characterized the 20th century.

Or perhaps its because African futurists are few and far between. This remains an open question for many Afrophiles I encounter.

Let me begin with a big disclaimer. When I speak of Africa, it is a major generalization, though in the technical space many of the trends we see appear to be similar in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kindly allow me to generalize by using the term Africa to refer to the grouping of countries comprising, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana. Many examples that i will refer to will be from East Africa, particularly Kenya.

There are five points i’d like to make.

1. There is a new meme emerging. As we begin 2010 in earnest, Africa is growing, and some might even say it is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. The future of the web is already here, and it is in Africa.

The growth of mobile phone tech has been explosive. 550% in the last 5 years. The word leapfrogging doesn’t even begin to describe the transformative effect mobiles have had in Africa. Its been revolutionary. It has led to innovations that have applications around the world. Case in point, MPESA (#MPESAishowdoit) a service that started with 52,000 subscribers in April of 2007, it currently has 8.5 million users and processes nearly 10 percent of Kenya’s GDP in transactions that average less than $20. Since its launch, the cumulative amount of money transferred from person to person is 300 Billion kes. When it comes mobile money, the third world is first That this innovation took hold in Kenya first before its adoption in other parts of the world like Afghanistan is something that no futurists could have foreseen.

Many new users of the internet will experience the web through their mobile phones. The development of user interfaces and key research is happening in Africa, with Nokia and IBM setting up research centres on the continent, and home grown innovation hubs such as ihub present exciting possibilities.
My colleague and friend Erik Hersman wrote that if it works in Africa, it works everywhere, from current events in the African tech space, we could go further and posit that If its awesome in Africa, its awesome everywhere.

2. The promise of technology for social change. With the influence of writers like Dambisa Moyo challenging previously held beliefs about aid, and pushing the idea of microfinance aided by technology in the form of projects like Kiva, we see the potential of technology being used for real social change. Making Africans less poor by investing in their enterpreneurial drive as opposed to financing dictator’s lavish lifestyles. There are myriad organizations incorporating mobile tech in provision of services. Its not just mobile, just as Twitter aims to be the pulse of the planet when it reaches a billion years; We are seeing use of crowdsourcing software Ushahidi as an interesting indicator of what can happen when information is crowdsourced and visualized. Tighter coupling of the SMS realm, mobile and the cloud are exciting prospects in Africa.

3. Note: The knowledge economy is not an enclave of the west. The myths about the developing world being left behind have already been debunked by noted statisticians like Hans Rosling. It is a fact that technology is transforming Africa, and it has an important role to play in increasing GDP. As the tech space grows and matures, there will be more localized applications to help increase efficiency and overcome bottlenecks. There is alot of room for growth here, we will see the continued growth of Mixit (SA stats and Africa growth for this innovative application -stats) Pesa Pal, OboPay, Black Star Lines and other companies betting on the mobile and tech growth opportunities in Africa. Students in Africa will have to rise up to the occasion to provide these localized applications. We are clearly not there yet, but i would wager that the brilliant minds in African universities will step into the Global economy and fill an important gap.

4. I grew up in a country where authoritarianism/post cold war stupor? was the other of the day (80′s and early 90′s). There was a sense of oppression, even artistically there wasn’t as much self expression as we’ve seen in the late 90′s and early 2000′s (noughties). There was the age of conversation – with forums and IRC. This gave way to the age of participation, with blogs twitter and social networking, characterised with co-creation and well, the mashup culture (and LOLcats) For African’s online this trajectory has closely mirrored the global phenomenon of social networks, though it was only accessible to the well heeled or diaspora Africans. The problem was basically a lack of large pipes connecting Africa to the world. This is changing. With the arrival of Seacom cable in September 2009, streaming a you tube video is no longer an exercise in futility. What this means is we are likely to see the age of participation and co-creation as more new users get online. Twitter-like services are gaining popularity with the growth of Naija Pulse (uses Laconica) and aggregation services like Afrigator just to name a few. Take for instance KBC – Kenya Broadcasting service – When I was growing up it was the only tv station. Now they have a twitter account for their breakfast show and for some strange reason asked me a trivia question without giving me a prize.Its a new time. You’ve got foursquare, we’ve got smoke signals – Just kidding, there is growing use of google latitude. Hipster Kenyans with smart-phones were turning on their google latitude to find out where their friends are and where the party is during the holidays. One guy and his dad use google latitude to pinpoint their locations and triangulate the nearest bar to meet up for after work drinks. With the introduction of low cost GPS enabled phones in the African market, we are going to see some interesting uses of this technology and innovations that we cant completely foresee.

So what else is in store. I am going to harken to Clive Thompson’s observation about twitter, that it gives the user some sort of prio-perception/ social sixth sense. I do have to mention too that Clive Thompson also wrote about the point in social networks where the conversation stops because the social network gets too big.

5. The internet has enabled the diaspora to keep in contact with their countries, and with this comes the cultural exchange that’s been part of globalization in general. Project Diaspora is a great example of this. Teddy Ruge and his team are using the internet to support a community whose only source of income is from back breaking work at a stone quarry. The diaspora is part of the solution to poverty in Africa, and the internet is the medium.

There are transnational activists (some of them are my friends) participants in what Ethan Zuckerman calls the polyglot internet,
and whom David Sasaki calls ‘Believers without Borders’. They are participants in the mashup culture and could even be called cultural mashups if there was such a term. They may have been born in Africa, but; are global citizens by identity.

This cultural mashup sees an exciting time revealing itself through the retelling of old stories with technology, breathing a fresh perspective into African identity and self expression online. We already see this with the emergence of African Digital Arts, Animations made in Kenya (Just A Band) Senegal (Tree Lion), and the incredible creativity seen as part of the brand tourism around World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

The old memes are almost dead or as Fergie of black eyed peas would say, its so 2000 late. The new meme of Africa is unfolding in front of us. Technologically and culturally the future of Africa is absolutely refreshing.

Below are the slides

- Many thanks to Jepchumba for helping me out, and the Transmediale organizers for inviting me.

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Nerds Need Art

Digital art.
At Ars Electronica in Linz, I was struck by the amazing pieces exhibited, and more so by the Ars Electronica center. It is set very near to a bridge on the Danube river.The Exhibitions archive page uses a schematic of the center to give you an idea of what is curated where.

Ars Electronnica Center Schematics (roughly)

The outdoor space atop the main gallery and before the future lab space seems to tie the old architecture of the church to the futuristic style of the Ars Center. Click on the image below for a larger size, the church is to the left of the future lab stairs.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

It is one of those buildings that people either love or hate…I loved it. At night, the LED lights that line the outer glass wall change color. Something like a nocturnal visual surprise every time you glance at it.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

The festival itself is something to experience. Since its now over, i would highly recommend visiting the Ars Electronica center to see some of the pieces that formed a benchmark of the festival. Besides, I am convinced that Linz would make a perfect location for any techy, futuristic or even a good action movie. Be it Minority Report 2 or next Bond 007, I can totally vouch for the stunning imagery it would evoke if someone like Daniel Craig would rappel down the Ars Center and straight into a boat on the Danube. (Spielberg, Soderberg, Wachowski brothers and whoever produces 007 – you are welcome :-))

Ahem, pardon my digression. Back to nerds needing art.

This has admittedly been a very busy year for me, and I have to admit that I did not expect it to be. With time, I’ve realized that being in the tech space can sometimes sap your sense of wonder. Or maybe its just me. If you are one of those people who feel mired in tech and sometimes feel like the ‘wow’ factor is gone when you see new innovations…and it elicits a bland ‘hmmm’ reaction and god forbid ‘meh’ – Well you need a healthy dose of art. Attending Ars Electronica helped me marvel again at what artists, architects, performance artists and idea mongers have to share. Below I will share afew of the pieces i particularly enjoyed, and provide some links to blogposts by the other wonderful speakers and friends from the Cloud Symposium.

Quartet.cc

Quartet is a Web-interactive robotic music installation. The machine you see in the live video feed is housed at an innovative museum in Linz, Austria, ARS Electronic. Seeing the machine live, inches away is an visceral experience that shows the real power of live music… and that robots can be a part of that experience. Visitors at the museum are able to enter melodies from a laptop in the museum for immediate interactivity

You play a short melody on the site Quartet.cc then you see the music interpreted onto the machine. Try it…

Since I have a thing for mobile phones (Nokia) I greatly enjoyed the robot controlled by bluetooth.
This is a picture of the phone.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

This is the little robot it controls. How fun!

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

The Anoto pen

This is basically the livescribe pen on steroids. You can write and record audio which is digitized and transferable pdf docs or uploaded online. The steroids bit: The Anoto pen can be used to navigate a map, displaying relevant data on a big screen. For example, if you click on a specific point on the map of Linz, and would like to know the demographics of the region, you can tap on the legend provided on a page to give you stats on number of divorced people between the age of 21 and 45. This was preety cool because it combines maps, tactile input of using a pen and a digital display to add more data.

Ars Electronica - ArsCloud

I got to play the loopscape game with the renowned tech journalist Cyrus Farivar. I really could claim victory, but really…it was a draw.

“loopScape” is an innovative video game for two players that blurs the conventional distinction between good and evil, between “my side” and “the opposition.”

The action does not take place on a flat display but rather on a 360 degree band arrayed around the edge of a ceiling-suspended metal doughnut circumnavigated during play. The object is to shoot down the opponent. But be careful! If a fired missile misses its target, it continues on its trajectory and threatens to strike from behind the game figure that launched it.

This loopscape game is a form of interactive device art, and for some reason, it brought to mind the idea of participatory art. Something that Wambui, Sciculturist and I were discussing at RAMOMA gallery in Nairobi. Check out this ‘Watoto Wa Kwetu’ piece by Wambui. More pics are on this flickr set. I think the loopscape game has participatory qualities just like the Watoto wa kwetu paintings, because both pieces are best experienced with others. There are some observations that Wambui made on the Watoto wa kwetu paintings that I would not have noticed. Do note that the paintings are done by a group of children, and not one artist. So, there is that aspect too.

This is just but a sampling of what was in store at Linz. I havent even touched on the animations. I hope you enjoy the perspectives shared by the others on the Cloud Symposium blog, videos posted there and the following links too.

Kristen Taylor – Mosaics, food and the cloud If you are wondering about her cool dress, its vintage. I had to ask :-) I am not much of a beer drinker, so her suggestion to get some Secco (Austrian white sparkling wine) with our dinner was just invaluable.

David Sasaki – An outsider’s guide to Linz Indispensable. His talk about cloud intelligence provided the framework for discussion that day.

I keep digressing from this nerds need art theme, but hopefully i can tie it all together.

In the quest to not lose your sense of wonder, sometimes you need to look inward, be quiet and just think about the bigger picture. To find the creative place. If you’ve ever used the words ‘code is poetry’ ‘Math is elegant’ or ‘no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should’. There is this need to look inward, to find that inner muse and embrace the imagination. I think whenever you need to go to such a place, art can provide that gateway.

The Thinking Chair by Arthur Ganson

Where does inanimate material end and where does life begin? Arthur Ganson lets his “Thinking Chair” straddle the boundary between those two states. Through its movements—which resemble the gait of a human being walking on two legs—the chair exhibits animate traits. Arthur Ganson had the idea that led to this work while taking a walk. Near his studio, there is a small rock outcropping on a trail, which he likes to walk around in slow circles, deep in thought. During this walking meditation, each cycle finds him back in the same physical place but in a slightly different emotional place

Ars Electronica 09 – The beginning

*Apologies for my absence on the blog… lets just say twitter sorta affected the blog, and I pretty much took the month of August off.

Moving along…
I arrived at Linz for the Ars Electronica festival, not knowing what to expect. I had seen Ge

orgia’s pics from last year, but really, I did not have any idea what this would be like. There is a ton of stuff going on. From animation showcases at the OK Platz, to one hour talks on Digital Art History, video installations, sculptures, performance art…Its a smorgasbord of nerdy, artsy and avant garde pieces. [Well, that video shows the 'Earth Angel' and that was definitely Avant Garde to me. Its a "sustainable pleasure" hand-crank powered device].

The Golden Nica award was presented to several winners. I was very happy that HiperBarrio got an award for the new media training workshops they are running. Congratulations are very much in order for the whole team.

The wifi was flaky yesterday, this post was supposed to go up last night. Luckily, Ethan was on a decent connection. He had great links in his tweets. Here are the highlights:

Speeds of Time, Bill Fontana – a “sound map” of London by recording Big Ben from throughout the city. #ars09

Eduardo Kac’s “Natural History of the Enigma” – a synthetic, genetically engineered “plantimal”, Eduina – #ars09

#ars09 Iriz Pääbo doesn’t like hockey, but loves the soundscape. Her prizewinning film, HA’Aki

“Skhizein”, by Jeremy Clapin. The story of a man who is 91cm away from himself – won a distinction at #ars09. Trailer: (@Jepchumba & @justabandwidth, this is the piece i tweeted you about)

gorgeous installation – Nemo Observatory by Lawrence Malstaf – at #ars09. Video of the piece – a cyclone visualization:

#ars09 Three dancers, sealed in plastic envelopes, like meat at the butcher counter, very slowly moving within their plastic wrap.

I posted some pictures and 1 video on flickr,These are from the first day, with afew on the opening ceremony on the Danube river. They did a ‘Noah’s ark theme’ so that kinda explains the rhinocerous looking piece.

80+1 and Opening Ceremony by the Danube river

I will add more later today…and retrieve the blogging mojo :-)

Why I Blog About Africa

On Globalvoices, Elia translated a meme that is going on in the African francophone blogosphere, a meme that i hope can spread in the English speaking blogs of Afrophiles and Kenyan bloggers.

afrimeme_positive.jpg

So here is the question that Théophile Kouamouo came up with.

Why do you blog about Africa? Do we blog for the diaspora and for the world at large, cut off from our contemporary on the continent? Is blogging about Africa done in the same way as blogging about Europe or Asia? Does the African-oriented blogosphere have something specific to offer to the world version 2.0?

I blog about Africa because it is fascinating, fantastically diverse culturally, beautiful and cool. Like other Kenyans who grew up watching URTNA on the one TV channel (gosh I am old!), I am fascinated by the different types of music from Cameroon (Zangalewa!! eh eh eh – Kibe Zangalewa!), the chilled romantic grooves of Madagascar, Tabu Ley of the country then known as Zaire, Jolie Detta of Congo -even though I thought that was only music for my parents, to my current obsession with Kizomba music from Angola. I really could say more, but i will be brief :-) Being an Afrophile is musically, intellectually and artistically very interesting. There is so much to learn! Not only from the past, but also from the present, how we are innovating and reshaping our continent positively. I touched on this awhile back in the post ‘Memes, Markets, Africa’. Without further ado, I tag:

Forota

Sci-Culturist

Mweshi

Rafiq

So why do you blog about Africa?

Milking The Rhino: Conservation, Community and Empowerment

Last month, I was very fortunate to attend the premiere of the film ‘Milking The Rhino’ at the Gene Siskel Film center in Chicago.
Milking The Rhino

This film left an big impression on me. Long time readers of this blog know that I do have granola-head, green thumb, renewable-energy obsession, tree-huggery tendencies, so no surprise there eh.
Without giving too much away…the film opened my eyes to the link between Kenya’s history and our attitudes towards conservation. Before the British came, Kenyan communities had traditions around hunting wild animals (These traditions and folklore still persist – I visited
Samburu in 2006 and learned a wee bit about this). I would posit that it was sustainable, because there was some balance between the hunting that was done and the populations of wildlife. When laws were enacted to forbid Kenyans from hunting…something they had been doing for millennia, that relationship with the natural world was broken. Why would one want to protect something that they are not benefitting from? Wildlife started to be seen as a nuisance. Granted that there is demand for ‘exotic’ skins, tusks, and bone from wild animals particularly in Asia; one of the factors behind poaching in the parks, there are instances of communities killing wildlife because their crops were destroyed by animals such as Elephants. Still, our attitudes towards conservation and environment bear some reflection.

The film profiles two communities, one in Kenya, at the Il Ngwesi lodge and the Lewa Conservancy, and another in Namibia. The narration is brilliantly voiced by a Kenyan Munyikombo Bukusi, a very talented guy. This film had me making plans to visit Il Ngwesi Group Ranch, if you need a place to get away and relax your cares away…Il Ngwesi lodge looks like just the place to go.

The blurb from the film’s site gives you a glimpse into the documentary…

A ferocious kill on the Serengeti, warnings about endangered species
These cliches of nature documentaries ignore a key landscape feature: villagers just off-camera, who navigate the dangers and costs of living with wildlife.
The Maasai of Kenya and Namibians Himba two of Earth’s oldest cattle cultures are in the midst of upheaval. After a century of white man conservation,which displaced them and fueled resentment towards wildlife, they are vying to share the wildlife-tourism pie.
Community-based conservation, which tries to balance the needs of wildlife and people, has been touted by environmentalists as win-win. The reality is more complex. Charting the collision of ancient ways with Western expectations, MILKING THE RHINO tells intimate, hopeful and heartbreaking stories of people facing deep cultural change.

The film will premiere on PBS Spring 2009, hosted by Terence Howard (the famous actor – Crash, Hustle & Flow etc)
Till then, the following festivals and screenings are your best chance of watching it. If you cannot wait, you can purchase the DVD for $25.00 from Kartemquin films, just contact Xan. I would highly recommend the DVD.

Screenings:

November 2nd 2008 3pm: Chicago Humanities FestivalChicago Cultural Center

International Premiere
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
November 2008

Washington, D.C. Premiere : D.C. Environmental Film Festival
March 11 – 22, 2009

*I will update this post if there will be screenings in Kenya. (I am asking about this and hoping we can arrange one soon)

Interview with Just-a-Band on Kenyan Animation and Music Part I

I was listless, down out depressed, with chicken, egg and crossing of roads questions weighing on my mind; when my fingers as if they had a series of self-cordinating nanobots, tipitty tapped their way onto a blog called Sukuma Kenya. There, I found a pebble shaped like a play button on a retro CD player encased in a rectangle of sorts with a cryptic ‘You Tube’ logo on the bottom right. I touched the pebble. Holyhaberdashery! I touched it!

My fellow Africans, that is how i came to make an interweb acquaintance with Just-A-Band. JAB is defining Kenyan animation and Kenyan techno music with aplomb, piercing wit and style…what follows is the result of smoke signals encoded with morse code and for some strange reason, un-encrypted. Enjoy it, or the chicken gets it. Wait, the egg gets it! oh what the hell…something will get it.

Just A Band is composed of?
BLINKY: Jim, Dan and Blinky.
Jim, Dan, Blinky.jpg
JIM: There’s also our various alter egos – so that’s 2,303 of us in total.
Is the blog Kenya Animation also part of Just-a-Band?
DAN: Kenyanimation isn’t actually a Just A Band project, but I work as an animator, and I put up my JAB animation projects there. That blog was set up to bring together animators and animation fans who are from/work in Kenya, just to show people that there actually is such a thing as Kenyan animation, and hopefully be a launching point for bigger local projects, which haven’t had a chance so far coz people don’t really know that a scene exists! The other guys on the list (filterene, Bint Ali, Achoko, Majiqmud) are my collaborators on that project.

You band bio is so creative. It reads like a great fantasy graphic novel; have you guys thought of making one? When can we get our hands on it? In the CD liner notes – any fun stuff to look for?
BLINKY: Hmm…it just may happen, really haven’t thought about it. The bio was kinda influenced by (at least I thought) by a George Clinton album cover, it had a really long narrative detailing the bands overindulgence on drugs and stuff till it sounded surreal. We get to introduce the gang that contributed to the album’s final sound in the Scratch To Reveal CD liner notes, very fresh cats if you ask me.
DAN: Actually, the bio came about because we thought that the real story makes for a pretty dull read. I still have the notebook page where we start off, “In 2003, three young men met…”
JIM: Now that you mention it, the fantasy graphic novel does sound cool. I think of our bio as a parallel story that’ll run alongside the much more drab reality – we plan to update it each time we do something new.
The liner notes on Scratch To Reveal are slightly nonstandard. The cool thing about being unsigned is that there are no marketing-types breathing over your shoulder, urging you to standardize your output. It was actually Dan’s idea to do the liner notes in a different way – I’m ashamed to say I was one of the people who asked, “Do WHAT?”, but once we tried it out, it actually felt much more relaxed and true to the way the music was made.
DAN: We’d been talking about expanding on this story from time to time, on certain projects. The liner notes on Scratch To Reveal are just us being overwhelmed by actually making an album, and our collaborators and such. But later this year we’ll probably do another project, maybe an EP (Just A Band meets The Sinister Synthesizer!) that will expand on the Bio story and if it gets printed, as opposed to just going online, you’ll get a bunch of cool liner notes and art and stuff… :)
I saw that Daft Punk made a movie! Electroma! (Two if you count the one that went with Discovery – Interstella 5555) and I can sooooo see Just A Band doing some Psychedelic 88-minute Experience (at some point). But first things first, we have an album to push (I think one of the reasons we get so psyched up for JAB stuff is coz it could go so many ways, it’s always exciting to sit and plan out projects…)!

Jim, Dan, Blinky.jpg
The album cover for your CD has an arresting image…is there a story behind it? Did the idea pop into your mind or was it an organic, incremental idea that morphed from something? What is your creative process?
JIM: This is definitely a morph – the original blurry concept was to have angry, cathartic energy of some kind on the cover; and cables. Cables are always cool. The images I have in my head always morph into something else by the time they’re finished. The final image ended up being something rather calm and contained – whilst retaining that arresting vibe you’ve mentioned. Of course, Lenny (the model) helped a lot – I chose him because he’s like visual play-dough and he likes to know what we’re aiming for visually. I explained the general idea to him – and played loud drum and bass and clashy electro during the shoot.
My creative process; I typically see the visual in my head – slightly foggy around the edges, but there nonetheless. Then I work to transform that foggy visual into something real. It feels like I’m cheating, sometimes, because all I’m doing is translating the sketch that’s already in my head. In the process of doing that translation, many things change (somewhat like a multi-branched sequence of little decisions on execution) and the final results usually surprise me just as much as anyone else.

I have only listened to one song from your newest album, is the music on Scratch To Reveal kind of in the vein of Iwinyo Piny or are there more varied sounds?

BLINKY: I’d describe the album as adventurous. We all bring different influences to the Just A Band table plus an unwillingness to stay within proscribed boundaries, I’m influenced by acoustic guitar stuff, funk, jazz, hip-hop and dance stuff, everyone else’s influences are evident all through the album.
DAN: The first single, Fly, is up on YouTube and is pretty different, a bit more aggressive and obviously scifi as opposed to Iwinyo’s flirtation with spacey sounds.
JIM: Somewhere towards the middle, the album reveals a softer core; comes back to earth, if you will. Some people have found this surprising because the overall look of the album says – electronic – so having pianos and strings in the middle could be a bit bewildering for some.

I see Daft Punk is an influence on your music; what are your thoughts on the Gorillaz? Would you work with Damon Albarn if he asked? What other types of music/musicians do you gravitate towards? Graphically speaking… which animators do you like? Cartoons? Which ones??
BLINKY: I know for a fact that [Albarn] did some stuff with Fela Kuti’s band mates on a trip to Nigeria, so we wouldn’t be the first African peeps he’s working with, but I’d be absolutely down for it! I’m currently jazzed by Citizen Cope, Raphael Saadiq, Lupe Fiasco, John Mayer, Jamiroquai, St. Germaine, Van Hunt, Foreign Exchange, Bob Sinclair and Asa. I’m abit out of my waters with the animation vibes, though I like Aaron McGruder of The Boondocks fame.
DAN: DEFINITELY we’d collabo with Albarn (right after we regain consciousness)… Every project he does is SO DIFFERENT, from the Mali Music albums to Blur to Gorillaz…very much the kind of thing that we hope to do, as well.
I have a HUGE crush (creatively, hehe) on Björk. She pushes boundaries both musically and visually, stretches your imagination… We are all influenced by Parliament Funkadelic and their many spinoffs –
JIM: Are we? I just think that George Clinton guy had cool outfits. So, maybe visually.
BLINKY: George Clinton is cool!
DAN: I think they’re our spiritual ancestors in the genre of musical Black scifi! We like old funk bands, Jamiroquai, Basement Jaxx, Jaga Jazzist, acid jazz, French House, Van Hunt and a lot of neo-soul artists, rock dudes like RHCP and Incubus, Madlib, Timbaland and the Neptunes (N*E*R*D was one of those moments of WTF is this??), a lot of stuff. I like comical old ska, garage rock like the White Stripes and The Hives and these new dancey rock bands like Franz Ferdinand. But I think the best music is the stuff you can’t really describe…
Graphically, I’m very much into manga and anime, in terms of the stories, culture, even the shortcuts they take to meet their crazy deadlines! A random list of favourites: Samurai Champloo, Mind Game, Triplets of Belleville, Studio Ghibli films, Satoshi Kon’s work, Genndy Tartakovsky, Jamie Hewlett’s Gorillaz work is really well designed and moves so fluidly, The Boondocks. Ralph Bakshi’s confrontational movies from the 70s are a huge creative inspiration for what I’d like to do in animation in future.
There’s an animation director called Koji Morimoto (he did the Beyond segment in The Animatrix), he makes my eyes water. Also off The Animatrix, the World Record segment was done by another new fave, Takeshi Koike, who is actually a celeb in Japan! How interesting, celebrity animators… I would like to go study at the feet of Moebius, the French comic book artist. And a lot of movies and books (I may be a bit of a junkie). We also keep an eye on the graphic design and motion graphics scene, and that’s always a visual overload.
JIM: Daft Punk’s Discovery was one of those albums that really excited me (and it still does). Frankly, I like the visual detail of the Gorillaz more than their music. In fact, I really don’t think I like their music. But I like the way they work so hard on the supplementary material that helps you form an opinion about a band, the back story, the promos. I like people like Madonna and Björk for putting in extra effort and really being in control of their image and sound, and giving people some fantasy to believe in – however slightly.
When I was a kid, I loved the musicians who went beyond the music and created lush record covers, and placed their music in some kind of fantasy literary context. Or even the people who explored themes other than the usual “love, girls and sex”. I love the way the disco dudes touched the sky and went beyond to other planets. Why confine yourself to dull old Mother Earth?
These days it’s “Hi. I’m X and I have a great body. You want to have sex with me. I also sing.” or the other equally drab approach: “Hi. I’m exceptionally gifted. I will numb you into submission with my technical wizardry. I will now play the Euclidian scale with my teeth.”
I think Europeans are better at it than the Americans (with the exception of people like Madonna, as mentioned above). Americans are very literal about their music – Band X fits into this genre and you shouldn’t ask where they’re from or why they’re doing this. Europeans are very cool about alter egos and costumes and silly things like that.

From your Kenyanimation blog, it appears you are working on another project – Two Countries; will it be a CD & animation type thing? When can we expect to hear of a premiere?
DAN: So, when we started off with Kenyanimation (which is not a Just A Band project, actually) we wanted to actually make something under this new group. The idea for this short animated movie was lying around in someone’s sketchbook, so we decided to make that. It’s kind of like a Gado cartoon come to life, political commentary vibes, but with a bit of Tom and Jerry thrown in, and (hopefully) a Just A Band score (as in, a proper “classical” score, which would be a new thing for the band).
The project has stalled for a bit as people get more involved with their various hustles, but we’ll get it back on track soon, and as it’s just a short, it could be done by year’s end. As for how we’ll put it out, I’m not sure yet but maybe we’ll try some festival screenings and so forth.

Do you perform live shows? If so, where can we catch you guys?
BLINKY: Coming soon to an area near you.
DAN: We’re actually working on the live shows now, figuring out venues and instrumentalists, and all the cool fun stuff like projections, or not. We will be unveiling the whole shebang in August. Details will be on the site/YouTube/Facebook.
JIM: We’re working on making it something interesting – because I am skeptical that Kenyans would be OK with sitting around for several hours watching a bunch of geeks fiddling with guitars. So pom-pom’s, dancing, makeup, lights, psychedelic footage and action – on a shoestring budget, as always.

*To order the CD ‘Scratch To Reveal’ send an email to jab [at] just-a-band[dot]com, they will personally ‘hawk’ it over to you. For us online folks, they will have their music on itunes or calabash soon…
**Part II will be posted as soon as you thaw from the JAB burst of ice cold freshness. It will have more questions about the animated video

‘Iwinyo Piny’.

TEDAfrica – Registration opens today.

TEDAfrica logo

The TED Africa conference in Capetown South Africa, promises to build on the magic of TED Global 2007. The concept for this years’ conference makes that quite clear.

What if Africa had no borders? What if her boundaries extended as far as those living in the diaspora, or even further? What if you could fly directly from Cape to Cairo, Lagos to Luanda, Bujumbura to Abuja? Or what if you could drive to every city and every town and every village? What if the Internet was a reality for every African? What if you could call the world from atop the Kilimanjaro, or from deep in the forests of the Congo? What if a lingua franca was spoken and understood by every African? What if we could halve the number of poor Africans by 2015, or eradicate poverty altogether someday? What if there was a cure for every disease and the average African could live beyond the age of 33? What if Africa embraced innovative thinking, and in the process, reinvented her future?

I would recommend registering early for this exciting event, and if interested in the African Fellows program, to apply for it as soon as possible. There are 50 fellowships available this year.

Organic Farmers Market – NBI Dec 15th

***Please note that the event is for December 15th. and not dec 8th. Thanks.
The latest Globalvoices environment post is on conservation efforts in Zambia, South Africa and D.R Congo. It also includes some links from Phil in Kenya and Mr. SSerwanga in Uganda, writing about carbon footprints and land rights respectively.

While I was writing that roundup I came across the Kenya Organic Agricultural Network. They’ve got an excellent event planned for Saturday December Dec 15th .
You can find more details here. I sure hope the Kwani folks make it there, because that would be just wonderful. A combination of great organic food, music, poetry and exhibits showing renewable energy services in Kenya! Excuse me while I figure out a way to teleport myself there.
Check out what is planned…

Farmers Market and Regional Trade Fair
This area will consist of 25-25 tents (10 x 10 ft and 25 x 25ft), where local organic
farmers and retailers will display and sell their produce and products, including at
least one tent devoted to information about organic food and farming run by the
Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and its members. Partners from East
Africa and beyond will be invited to give the market international flavour, offer
consumers a wide variety of choice and help stimulate regional trade.
Green Christmas Shopping
Purveyors of other types of environmentally friendly products and services will be
invited to exhibit at the market: natural health and beauty products, green crafts,
renewable energy services, recycled products, ecotourism, etc.
Organic Catering
Bridges Restaurant will provide fully organic catering services at reasonable prices.
Kamsitu Msituni
This nursery and garden centre will sell a variety of indigenous and useful exotic
trees, as well as organic gardening inputs such as compost and natural pest control
products.
Art Gallery
An art gallery will display and sell paintings and sculptures, focusing on smaller,
lower priced pieces to make art more accessible to the public.
Solar Cinema
A 50-seat cinema tent with projector or TV powered by solar PV will show
environment-themed films and documentaries for free. A solar cinema at an
Arboretum event in June 2007 featured the Academy Award-winning documentary
An Inconvenient Truth. Other films will be solicited from UNEP, KIFF/Alliance
Francaise and ZIFF.

Also from the same site, you can download the Bio Safety Bill, which I don’t know if its been passed or deffered till after the elections.