Kenya: How to get Safaricom 3G on your iPad

1. Get a new sim card. Do not cut it just yet.

2. Turn SIM PIN Request off (On Nokia E71 go to Settings, Phone, Security, Phone & Sim Card, PIN Request set to off)

3. Add credit *141 voucher number #

4. Purchase a data bundle by texting the word ‘Activate’ to the appropriate short code. i.e

safaricom data bundles

5. Text 450 to get the balance of the data bundle

6. Once you’ve added credit to the sim card, you are now ready to cut the regular SIM into a microSIM.
Instructions are on this link. You just need a pair of scissors and an exacto knife to trace out the microsim shape on the regular sim.

Safaricom & Ipad

At this stage, you can also create a regular sim template using the same instructions on Hijinks, as you will likely need it later.

7. Fit the microsim into the ipad tray, you might need to gently hammer the Microsim into the little ipad tray it so it lays flat. Insert the tray into the ipad slot.

8. You can put the new MicroSIM into the iPad and voila’! you are connected to Safaricom 3G.

Safaricom & Ipad

The tricky part now is how to recharge your account when you run out of credit. The fastest way is to MPESA your MicroSIM number, though that would mean you would be using the more expensive 8 kes per MB instead of the cheaper rates afforded by bundling. At this point, you can remove the MicroSim, fit it into a template created step 6, put into a regular phone, add credit and text ‘activate’ for the appropriate short code and for the bundle you prefer.

IMG_0002

On the iphone, you can use the SIM applications to check your MPESA and Safaricom credit balance, that is not currently possible on the ipad. You can view and even send the request for balances, but there isn’t a mechanism to display the response from Safaricom. I am hoping someone can come up with a solution for this, if you know how, please comment or get in touch.

Update with info from @69mb
:
Re: Topping up, its possible from a postpaid line to topup a prepaid line with a data bundle from the *200# menu. So if you’ve got a postpaid line / a friend with one you can mpesa their bill for the bundle. Sucks this isn’t also on the *100#

Update 2: Safaricom has MicroSims available. Via @blongwe and @whiteafrican. Yet to find out whether topping up issue is easier on the special MicroSIMs.

PS: Rates on Orange look better, here is a grid (thanks Charles!)

Orange rates

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

Broadband In Kenya: Small Businesses, Big Pipes

**free flow thoughts on Broadband in general and the advent of SEACOM cable in Kenya**

The 3 SAT3 countries of South Africa, Egypt and Senegal could be said to have fibre optic connections to the rest of the world or what others may call ‘true broadband’, the rest of the countries in Africa have to contend with VSAT connections or have their internet traffic routed through the above named SAT3 countries.

In the case of Kenya, fibre has been laid by companies such as Kenya Data Networks for communication within the country. The problem has been connecting Kenya to the rest of the world. That is where the bottleneck has been. The government of Kenya has been laying cable in many parts of the country, so is just a matter of time before high speed internet access is made available to urban areas and even smaller towns.

Do note the VSAT connections can have broadband-like speeds, so what we should look at is the connection costs and amount of bandwidth available.
For example, an E1 line (equivalent to the American T1) of 2 Mbps to ISPs costs 4000 USD in Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, 7000 USD in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, 32,000 USD in Cameroon, 25,000 USD in SA.

In residential access Telkom Orange charges about 5990 Ksh (approx. 75 dollars) for home access line of 256 kpbs downloads and 128 kpbs uploads per month. Many people use the Huawei wireless modems E220, E160 particularly in Nairobi with the 3G connections, utilizing a pay-as-you-go plan. Kenyan readers, how much do you pay for your internet access? what kind of speed do you get? Do you have a preferred service provider?

By and large, broadband access is very expensive. There are also other projects like TEAMS and EASSY (Quasi-Govt. consortium: Telkom Kenya/Orange is a member, as is Safaricom and Econet) that plan to connect parts of Africa to the rest of the world by Fibre optic Cable. So far SEACOM has arrived first and the prospect of having more competition could result in the cost coming down. Though that may indeed take time. For now, companies herald the arrival of SEACOM’s fibre optic line because it would mean an increase in productivity for businesses that depend on the internet. For example, there is a young businessman in Nairobi with an IT outsourcing company, with his relatively decent connection, he still has to wait for more than 5 minutes to download a 26MB file. In a few months with the SEACOM cable reaching Nairobi, the same download could take less than a minute and he can move on to other tasks. He has employees who often have to upload files via ftp to servers in the US. With the faster speeds it will make their jobs that much easier. He is not even too concerned about the cost right now, the overarching benefit is well…broadband.

There are other factors such as open access, latency, and reliability, but talking about that would be tantamount to counting chicks before they hatch no?

As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments or via twitter if you prefer to be pithy.

Nokia Takes on Apple’s Digital Music Dominance

Nokia Could Loosen Apple’s Grip On Digital Music:

For years, Microsoft and others have attempted without much success to shake Appleâ??s tight grip on the digital music scene. From subscription services to the Zune, companies have searched for the winning alternative to the iTunes, iPod bundle. Analysts now believe Finlandâ??s Nokia may have a good shot of chipping away at Apple dominance.

More than 80 percent of people would pay for Nokia’s Comes with Music service – particularly when it feels like they are getting tunes for free. Nokia says it will launch the handsets Oct. 17 in Britain.

Strategy Analytics said cost and selection trump brand – even ones so tightly woven as Apple, iPod and iTunes.

Nokia Comes With Music effectively bundles a year subscription of music downloads (PC and mobile) into the price of a handset, analyst Pitesh Patel told Cult of Mac.

Patel said Nokia – the largest handset maker – could overwhelm Apple’s iPhone.

Nokia’s strong distribution and handset marketshare means that it currently sells more music playing devices than Apple, the Strategy Analytics wireless analyst said.

….

It turns out that brand is irrelevant,said Patel.

(Via Cult of Mac.)

I often tell my friends to ‘Bet on Nokia’, and it seems like this is another reason to continue to do just that. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, though I would expect Nokia to continue its world dominance, and expansion in emerging markets. If Nokia can grab some of the Digital music market share, even better.
Why am I rooting for Nokia over Apple? Because Apple, with its DRM and charging 99cents to create a ringtone( and only from songs bought on itunes) smacks of authoritarianism. Let alone the complete handset lockdown of the Iphone, with threats to turn it into an ibrick if you unlock the device then install a sw update. Sigh* With Nokia, you get an unlocked phone that affords you much freedom. You can use whatever song you want as the ringtone (at least that is the case with the E71), you can use your phone as modem, tether it to your laptop. This is particularly important when you are not in broadband rich areas, but are in a wireless-signal-rich locale.
Speaking of the E71 do check out JKE’s series of E71 reviews. 1 mobile blogging, 2, 3 pics , 4, and stay tuned because the man is not done reviewing this phone.

I often have to remind myself to buy music from the Amazon mp3 store instead of Itunes, because I believe DRM (Digital Rights Management) that Itunes still saddles on music is just plain wrong-headed. I am not about to be left in a lurch like the Yahoos who bought tunes from the Yahoo store (forgive me…I couldn’t resist!) To be fair, Itunes does provide DRM free music, but good luck finding the ‘itunes plus’ versions of the songs you want.
So in conclusion…AFM recommends you Bet on Nokia and buy your music on Amazon mp3 download/or other DRM free service. You do reserve the right to ogle at Iphones, but only John Oliver, Anthony Bourdain and Joseph Kabila reserve the right to be awesome. 🙂

Just-A-Band Interview Part II – Animation

This is the last part of the JAB interview, the first is here. It was fun reading JAB’s responses, and I hope you enjoy this last bit. Before we get to that, here is one more pic of the trio.

Dan,Blinky,Jim.jpg

Iwinyo Piny & Animation in general.

The chicken or the egg question: Which came first? The animation or the music?

BILL(Blinky): The music. We used to jam in campus. And that’s where everything else spun off from.

JIM: The music came first, definitely. As always, it was a random happenstance (our music usually is). Then Dan went, “We could do a cartoon…”, and here we are.

DAN: The music was there first, but I can remember some occasions when the animation influenced the song, especially the lyrics, coz there was supposed to be more words that would have made it clearly a song about a girl, but when we talked about the video concept allowing for a broader interpretation, the lyrics were trashed (after which one station told us they couldn’t play our song coz it didn’t have any lyrics! Haha!).

Progression.jpg

What is your animation history?

DAN: I did this one month crash course in animation right before starting Uni, and when I met Jim and Blinky I talked trash about how we could do these huge animated videos, even though I had never actually done anything… So we started Iwinyo, and I was thoroughly humbled. I guess it came out OK, though. It was a learning experience.

JIM: If there ever was a time that we had internal fights, it was during the Iwinyo phase. I think we’re over that now.

DAN: Or at least we’ve figured out some “Constructive Anger Management Techniques.”

JIM: I have absolutely no idea what he means…

DAN: *blink*

(Does rendering take forever?)

Rendering? That depends on what programs/methods you’re using… As the 2D guy, I lack the patience that the 3D guys develop whilst waiting for the goodies to iva[ripen].

I personally really like animation because of the freedom it allows you in terms of following your ideas. And I like 2D for its much more human feel, 3D can be kinda plastic. I really hate how long it takes to make, though. I see Jimmy dropping live action videos and photography projects like bunnies…

I taught animation and cartooning a bit and I work as a freelance animator to pay them bills, and so I’m all up on Kenyan animation, where it could go, what stories we could tell… but that’s a long story.

JIM: Photography and video are somewhat more immediate, which makes me look hard-working. It’s just that projects get finished real quick.

What kind of software do you use to create the animation? and is uploading videos onto YouTube (from Kenya) as torturous task as I experienced or do you have a secret high speed bunker where we can mooch off of justabandwidth?

JIM: Adobe Flash and Adobe AfterEffects.

DAN: Drawings for the 2D are done on paper, and scanned or redrawn on comp. For the next animated video we’re doing, for the track called FunkyFineBeautiful, we have a new collaborator who kicks butt at 3DS Max. As for the uploading, we mooch off our friends’ high speed connections…

OldManSketch.jpg

Your YouTube tag is justabandwidth which is very cool. Could one presume that you are total geeks?

BILL: We seem to attract an intelligent crowd…I prefer to be on my computer than at a party…

DAN: Haha! Ms Interviewer, it’s like you know us! 😛 Yes, at least two of us are total geeks (the other one is in denial).

JIM: As in?

DAN: As in, whilst some of us spend all day turning pale indoors with computers and pencils as our only companions, others manage to maintain some kind of engagement with the outside world. Game recognize game, by the way, so should we assume that [Ms. Interviewer] is also the “bookish type”?

JIM: So all that nonsense about Bill preferring to be at the computer is a lie. He’s the most outgoing chap. I think it’s strange how it’s never been cool to be a geek (only for a brief moment, when Pharrell and company emerged, then he sold out and became cool)? I mean, everyone else has had their moment in the spotlight; the skaters, the punks, the thugs, the gay boys and girls (heady times, the 80s), the Goths…I feel disenfranchised.

I am a total geek. I did every geek thing a human being can possibly do; the braces, the spectacles, being bad at sports (except swimming, for some strange reason), being good at computers, going to cinemas to actually watch movies instead of making out at the back, actually using my library card, studying IT in college etc. If there are types of geeks, I guess I’m the finally-at-ease-with-it kind of geek.

BLINKY: You should see my primary school pictures… then you wouldn’t talk like that… I only go for parties because…

DAN: Geeks are so cool nowadays. The days of warrior kings and sportsmen politicians are gone! Now it’s like, “Bow Before My Fearsome Intellect!”

I found the use of pictures in the video quite interesting, what is the name of the street at [1:08] of Iwinyo Piny? (I have taken pics of that street but can’t remember the name for the life of me??! What of the one at [1:33] placemark?

JIM: That would be Kenyatta Avenue – one of the cuter streets in town. 1:33 is the street that connects City Market to Koinange Street, I have no idea what it’s called; but it’s very textured.

Have you guys ever been jacked? There is a depiction in your video, of a guy being mugged and his shoes being taken. Was this a form of commentary on the crime problem in Nairobi?

DAN: Not recently. 🙂 As a young person living in Nai, I think you just have to get jacked at some point. We added that bit in the video just for laughs (the video has had a lot of very cool interpretations by people and I’m always scared of telling people what we were thinking as we made it coz it’s so underwhelming… When we’re coming up with images most of the time it’s just like, hey, this would look cool! And then sometimes it comes with its own deeper meaning…)!

JIM: Incidentally, I lost my phone on Friday, and two weeks before I lost my ID and elector’s card. And I also lost my wallet the other day (in a bank!) – I’ve been on a roll. The bank called me the other day to say they’d found my stuff lying around in the banking hall. Thankfully, all those incidents weren’t the mugging kind; they were the pickpocket kind (sigh) – which is slightly more embarrassing because it makes people think you have no sense of self-awareness whatsoever.

In 2004, it was more of a problem than it is now, which is not to say that it doesn’t happen anymore. People actually wear gold chains and earrings and watches on the street these days, because cases of mugging have decreased. Pickpockets still rule, damn them all to Eternal Hell. As for making commentary, I remember Daniel just thought it’d be funny. Does that count?

BLINKY: I used to live in Eastleigh, It was hard to keep your new shoes, coz at one point, I was sneaker jacked, and it wasn’t funny.

I found out about your band through the blog Sukuma Kenya. What are your thoughts on blogging? How do you feel about your own blogs so far?

Old Man Hairy Alternatives.jpg
DAN: I had never heard of that blog before today, but I looked and I thought it was kind of surprising to see Iwinyo right in the middle of a lot of politics! Haha!

I think the Net in general has really helped get the word out, Facebook and YouTube and such. Blogging has really helped add a more personal vibe to everything (especially the band blog, I think the other blogs are more like manifestos of some sort but the band’s blog is just goofing around…). I think it really helps to have an online presence as it allows you to present your stuff the way you would want it done, not in a control freak kind of way, just in the sense that, for example, I doubt that we could find a media house that would indulge our fake bio.

JIM: Except for the very cool people at Kwani Trust who just slapped it onto their site as is. Sukuma Kenya? That’s so cool. I didn’t even know that exists. Say hi to them. Blogging feels a bit self-indulgent sometimes – I use my blog to provide alternative material about the process of making pictures, and the mental stuff that happens before and after. Sometimes people ask me tough questions, and I ask everyone what they think – then I plagiarize the answers I receive and generally look smarter.

We used to run an underground arts-and-culture type web magazine thing a few years ago, it was called LabelRevolution, and the thing we enjoyed the most was the community feel of the site. So we try to be very inclusive about everything we’re doing, because that’s how we make our music. The only reason we’ve come this far (admittedly, not THAT far but…) is because we make people feel like this is something anyone could do. Whether that’s true is another matter entirely.

BLINKY: I blog sparingly of late because I tend to expose myself a lot in my writing, I’m trying to find a method of detaching myself when I do. I don’t want to have the whole world know about me.

I would like to thank JAB for sending me the images from their initial storyboard, as it gives us a glimpse into their lovely animation work. The image on the left is one that shows the progression of sketching the old man’s hair.

Keep an eye on the Just-A-Band Blog, Kenyanimation Blog, and Jim’s blog for more updates. Jim will post another AfriGadget soon. (I wont reveal what it is, but it will definitely be ingenious). Thanks guys!

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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’.

Pic of the day

Solar in madagascar

This picture was taken by Adriankoto, who writes on the blog Harinjaka [Malagasy]. He is the founder FOKO madagascar initiative which has been active in planting trees particularly in rural madagascar. More on his awesome work here[English].

PS: I know i haven’t been blogged about solar energy for awhile, doesn’t mean i have lost my mojo, I am just re-charging. ha!

Nokia Debuts Phones for Emerging Markets


The Nokia Event Site announces the debut of new phones designed for the emerging markets like Sub-Saharan Africa. Nokia put alot of thought into the functionality that they added, which makes me want to give one of these gems a whirl. I am a sucker for features such as FM Radio, and there is just something about a phone with a flashlight…that is absolutely genius IMO. You would think so too if you were in upcountry Kenya (around 2005i  sh), torch/flashlight batteries are dead and you uhhm lets just say you need to walk from point A to B in the dark of night…then your cousin says “Here! Use my phone, it has a flashlight!” Indeed not all heroes need wear capes. Before i get all mushy about inanimate objects, here is the blurb…

While features like phone-sharing, cost monitoring and flashlight remain relevant to consumers in entry markets, Nokia continues to add new functionality, such as mega pixel cameras, FM radio with recording functionality, email and Bluetooth connectivity technology to mobile phones targeted at consumers in entry markets.

  while on the site, and if you have a decent connection, do check out Julius’ story; on how he uses his Nokia phone in Kapenguria, Kenya. I am still admiring this silhouette image of Julius and his phone.

If you have an N95 or other Nokia phones that have video recording capability, record your story and submit it to the www.nokiaproductions.com, where noted film director Spike Lee is going to review  the entries (includes music, photos and text) then weave your bit (if chosen that is…) into a film to be released later. (Hat tip Shel Israel via Twitter)