At the Kenya National Theatre’s Wasanii Restaurant the first thing you notice when you walk into the auditorium that houses KIKAOO is the look of utter relaxation imprinted in everyone’s face as they turn to welcome the new comer. Its just starting and you walked in right on time to hear the beautiful hostess introducing herself, in a sweet, sultry voice, as Leez. She gives a brief introduction of KIKAOO because she notices quite a lot of new faces.
KIKAOO is a Swahili word, literally translated to English as “forum’ and like the name suggests it’s a home and a melting pot for talents, a lab and space for developing, trying out and merging new, unique and different art forms and techniques. Those who are just starting out have a chance to grow with KIKAOO and those who are old in the art scene are not left out. It brings together both artists and art lovers and creates a relaxing environment for all to be themselves and to discover their innermost thoughts. It can best be described as an evening of poetry, storytelling, music and all things art.
KIKAOO, which is a program of Artist Forum International AFI, has hosted over 1,600 artists on its stage since it started on June 6th 2008. The gender parity stands at a ratio of 60:40, the participation of female artists to that of male artists and almost the same is reflected in audience attendance. The total accumulative audience attendance stands at over 7,000.
The KIKAOO stage has hosted music groups such as: AZIZA, an Afro-fusion boys’ band. The group was unveiled at KIKAOO in 2008 and celebrated their 1st Anniversary in mid 2009 at KIKAOO. The band has been a regular guest ever since; INKA, a music group recently unveiled at KIKAOO; ELANI is yet another group that performs at KIKAOO. The band comprises of two young ladies and two gentlemen and is a complete team of talented individuals who found the rhythm and haven’t let it go. They are blessed with beautiful voices which blend well with musical instruments creating a soulful romantic ambience; FADHILI and NIMO, a pair of university students whose version of the Kenya National Anthem is the unofficial KIKAOO adopted anthem; LULU, the best thing that ever happened to the Kenyan music scene, a young male musician with a voice that need not be magnified, composer of poignant lyrics in the style of (but rivaling the brilliance of) Bongo Music World-the artist to watch in the coming year; POETRY ABLAZE, a poetry group; OHANGLAMAN MAKADEM the musician behind the world fame popular “Obama be thy name’ hit song; SAM ONDIEKI of TWAFF Records; PEDAGOGUES; DODO, to mention just a fraction of the musical talent that has adorned KIKAOO’s stage.
Poetry is the core of KIKAOO and has given many a poet the courage needed to perfect their art. Poetry speaks to us in many ways; through it, life’s experiences that we go through are shared, hope and expectations of a people and dreams of many a soul exposed. The founding father of Artist Forum International, the brain child behind the KIKAOO program never disappoints in churning out superb African poems, inspiring charming love poems and hilarious folklores, one being the “the Contests of the Witches” a story finally well told by the poet, Poet J. DEJUOLS Ammbbaassaah be his name. More poets at KIKAOO include GRAND MASTER MASESE, MOSES MANN- DHAHABU, CHRIS ADWAR, TRACY WAMBUI, MAMA HIDAYA-EUNICE NJAMBI, PAULINA MTOTO MZURI, MO CREATIVE!, SAID OMAR SAID among others.
In the spirit of promoting all things art, movie launches are not out of KIKAOO’s spectrum. KIKAOO was privileged to host the Multi Media University students’ movie launch: “EXPOSED”. The movie was featured at the Kenya International Film Festival thereafter. Apart from that, KIKAOO recognizes the need for the society to have a forum to discuss pertinent issues that faces the community. To this end KIKAOO, in conjunction with and in hosting Pen International Kenya Chapter, conducted a series of readings of Michela Wrong’s controversial book about John Githongo’s expos on the corruption that takes place within the corridors of power “It’s Our Turn to Eat”. The book has reportedly been avoided by the bookshops for fear that they would be sued for libel as has happened before. Thus, in filling the gap KIKAOO remains the voice of the masses and a place to positively vent out.