2010 was a good year! Our year. The year of the tiger. International year of biodiversity. The year of youth. Yes, of youth. Oh! to be young and in love like we were. You see, the answer to what MMI-MMC is about wouldn’t be complete without us telling this love story set in 2010. This is because MMX was the year that marked the beginning of a journey. A voyage that we are fortunate that you’ve joined us on. We started off as Moran in The City, a mixed platter, doodle-like blog hosted on blogger.
What’s In a Name? Why Moran In The City ?
Trust us, we did pontificate a lot trying to find a brand name that would capture our ethos, the spirit of the times and still remain sell-able when those two inevitably change as the dream evolved.
As we had risen to the challenge. 21st century warriors of sorts, charged by the “African Rising” narrative of the times. Obama had already been president. South Africa was preparing to host Africa’s first FIFA World Cup. In Kenya, a majority locally owned company had given the world the future of money: mobile money transfer! Surely, it was Ke`nako and we weren’t to be left behind.
Because we faced a new wilderness in the new brave world. A rapidly morphing concrete jungle threatened to swallow us as our home city, Nairobi, transformed. The Neo-Liberal version of globalization was at our door knocking. And it had not come alone. In tow, was a brother from another mother: the knowledge/information age. We saw its two faces as Wikileaks and Facebook exploded. As we sought to tell our story, we knew we had to cut through the noise. Keep striving to crisp without losing the bigger picture nor becoming just another pop product. Indeed, what was needed was a manual to hack the 21st century.
The Spirit of The Times: KeNako
Moreover, we felt pressed as the 21st Century picked pace. Little did we know then the exponential pace of the evolution of technology were the first signs of the 4th industrial revolution. However, rather than being intimidated, we chose to speak and not cower, mesmerized and confused. We sensed that there was a tale to be told and the time was now. KeNako.
Maybe, the infectious “let’s do this” attitude going around had something to do with this. Humanity had dug in, seeking to rise from the ashes of the world financial crisis. Around us, the optimism was infectious as Kenya’s economy grew at 8.4% annualized rate after decades of stagnation. In the last quarter of 2010, Nairobi reported 12+ % economic growth rate! Who’s to blame then for young Kenyans feeling all-conquering ?
Think about it: Twelve percent! In testament to this, Nairobi’s skyline was changing fast.
The Place: 2010 & The Evolution of Nairobi’s Skyline
A Nairobi neighborhood, Upper Hill, was leading the way. Going by the mortar being poured there, it wasn’t too dreamy to picture the next Burj Khalifa in Nairobi. At the time, Nairobi’s tallest building, the 163M high UAP/Old Mutual towers, was still in the proposal phase.
How this story of the evolution of Nairobi meets the early history of MMI-MMC comes about from how I came to learn of exciting developments. To partake of this irresistible whiff of brand new was a two part process. First, I’d visit an online forum of Nairobi city architecture enthusiasts, that I stumbled upon online. Today, I can’t find the website for all I have. Thanks to this online community, I appreciated first hand the value of the online space to life in the 21st century.
Secondly, being part of this community spurred me to a new hobby. I did spend many evenings of 2010 sightseeing in the then hybrid Nairobi neighborhood of Upper Hill. The walking sure did my health a lot of good. But what’s even more marvelous was that I found communion with strangers online. This was happening in an age when My Space was still a thing. It awoke a thing in me.
The end product of this spiritual part of the journey to where we, MMI-MMC, are today was the feeling: Dude! We could do with more of this 21st century life. The unusual sight of a skyscraper rising high next to a family home. Juxtaposed upon Upper Hill’s narrow and winding roads that are part of sleepy, Jacaranda tree-lined streets. And the evolution of this version of Nairobi Traffic as family sedans made way for pre-mixed cement trucks; was sobering.
You’d imagine it to be chaotic, but it wasn’t. It was more of a willing transformation as one by one, old British style homes that dotted Upper Hill, gave way to skyscrapers. Anybody who has ever had the privilege of a front row seat witnessing a new reality being created knows of the obstinate tag that it has one’s innate creative instincts. The unbalanced-ness of it all, as psychedelic waves of construction and destruction inherent in the process of creation, leaves one with the tingly feeling of: go get it.
The Enablers – In 2010, Everything Blossomed from Architecture to Music
Nothing beat the feeling of walking by one evening to find the foundation of an upcoming building that the guys over at the forum had been talking about. The seductiveness of it all had something to do with the power that comes with knowledge. That insatiable drive that comes with knowing.
The clarity and confidence with which you approach life when you can apply what you know is liberating. It is this feeling that we sought to capture in our early forays with Moran In The City , by delivering a crisp take on 21st century entertainment, science and lifestyle. A task that was made easier by the richness of the menu of human expression that straddled the arts.
We desired (still do) that our readers get to ‘live in the 21st century‘. Live, we insist. Not stand by as what promises to be humanity’s most prosperous period ever unravels. As with any worthy undertaking in life, music – sound track actually – is needed to punctuate the events as they unfold.
In this regard, 2010 didn’t disappoint. The music was Bruno Mars just the way you are good. Badass as Jay Z and Alicia Keys’s Empire State Of Mind . Yet, still Owl City’s Fire Flies amazing. In 2010, hip hop was positive. On the grand scale, as the first decade of the new millennium came to a close, we were at the upstroke of the exponential explosion of dance music in the 21st century. We danced to Enrique Iglesias’s Tonight. And sang along to Katty Perry’s Firework. Got high to the hard bass of David Guetta and Rihanna’s Who’s That Chick.
For Kenyan music, a new sound (Afro-fusion) claimed its space, as 2010 was Kenyan artiste Juliani’s , Dj Khaleed-esque: ” I’m the best”, year. You will agree with is that even with the music, as humanity closed on the second decade of the 21st century, in the manner of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist , 2010 was the year when the universe conspired to be something great.
I had just finished my undergraduate degree and the world was an oyster. But it hadn’t been easy. The last year of my studies were the toughest. I had to struggle not to drop out in a tried-to-be-like-Steve-Jobs-but-failed style. Nonetheless, straight after broke and fueled by nothing but optimism and ambition, I wanted to do nothing but take in the 21st century.
My peers were queuing up looking for jobs. There I was in my bedsitter in Nairobi’s Umoja’s estate some 21 days to my next rent. My possessions? My PC and a plan. Here’s the deal: In 2009, Kenya had been connected to fiber optic internet. Here is what the then President Mwai Kibaki had to say of that development:
Our BPO Roots
Oh boy! And didn’t we take on the 21st century with gusto! We were young and we knew our way around the internet enough to pay for the needs of a mid twenties young lad in Nairobi. You see, some of my close friends had dropped out of college to run mini BPO’s in their bedrooms. Thanks to their trailblazing exploits, by the end of 2009, I had known my way around finding some freelance work working for them.
In 2010, I break off to do my own gig. In MMX, I too was a boss! It was fun while it lasted. It sure felt like being 21 all over again. But the story within refused to die. As you will come to see, so many times after, this dream has faced the same fate: Death and resurrection.
What kept this dream alive?
Some feelings stick with us once experienced. Like the feeling of the open road ahead on a Sunday afternoon. Or brush in hand, standing over a blank canvas mounted on a stand looking through a generous window in April. Or with only stale coffee for company, the blinking of the typing cursor on your computer screen at 2.30 in the morning.