kunc-header-1440x90.png
Our Story Happens Here
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kenyan Musician Composes Song About Life After COVID-19

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

In many parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging, but Kenya in East Africa has so far escaped the worst. Infection rates there are the lowest they've been since the beginning, and life seems back to normal. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports on a song that is capturing the moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLINKY BILL AND OSSIE SONG, "JAM NOW, SIMMER DOWN")

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: "Jam Now, Simmer Down" is a song of renaissance. It acknowledges the people who have died during this pandemic. But then the house beat cuts in, and it throws caution to the wind.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAM NOW, SIMMER DOWN")

BLINKY BILL: (Singing) Pray that we all make it. Sending love to the ill-fated. Body ready to jam now, simmer down, jam now, simmer down. Pray that we all make it. Sending love to the ill-fated. Body ready to jam now, simmer down, jam now, simmer down.

PERALTA: Blinky Bill, one of Kenya's biggest musicians, says he actually wrote the song last summer, when the prediction was that the virus was going to ravage the continent. But Blinky Bill started with the beat, and that led to a song about emerging from catastrophe.

BLINKY BILL: It's just something that's acknowledging the moment that we are in. But also, like, just wanting it to relent a little bit so we can have some fun.

PERALTA: A year later, Kenya seems to have escaped the worst. It has officially recorded fewer than 2,000 deaths. And suddenly, summer is in full swing. Kids are back at school. Cafes are full. And Blinky Bill is playing shows. It's almost, he says, like...

BLINKY BILL: The universe's way of saying, you guys have been hit hard your whole lives. Just for this plague, I won't go as hard on you guys (laughter).

PERALTA: So he wanted to celebrate that and capture this idea that in places like Kenya, where lots of people still die from malaria and cholera and political violence, you have to take your wins because if you stay home to keep from getting COVID-19, you might very well get killed by something else.

BLINKY BILL: It feels like that because it's almost like there's a race for what's going to try to kill you first.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAM NOW, SIMMER DOWN")

BLINKY BILL: (Singing) I don't know what the future it brings. Love me good. Hold me good. Love me now. Not the time or the place to pretend. Love me good. Hold me good. Love me now. Summer sand, want a handful (ph) again. Every season, it come to an end. I don't know if I'll see you again. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.

Like, I just based the writing of that song on my assessment of society and myself and just talking to people. And, like, a lot of people were afraid. I didn't see my dad for a year, till last week.

PERALTA: Wow.

BLINKY BILL: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLINKY BILL AND OSSIE SONG, "JAM NOW, SIMMER DOWN")

PERALTA: He says he and his dad drove out to the hills overlooking Nairobi to catch up. His dad told him he regretted not making a trip to the beach in more than 40 years. And in that moment, Blinky Bill realized that while he was busy saving his life from this virus, life was also slipping away.

BLINKY BILL: The older you get, it means that if you have parents, they're also getting older. And in this moment, both of you don't have a lot of time.

PERALTA: And that's the essence of this song. Yes, this virus can kill you, but this song is an affirmation that life has to go on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAM NOW, SIMMER DOWN")

BLINKY BILL: (Singing) It's an opportunity - (unintelligible).

PERALTA: Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAM NOW, SIMMER DOWN")

BLINKY BILL: (Singing) Pray that we all make it. Sending love to the ill-fated. Body ready... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.