Jan. 7, 2020

Blankets & Wine Ring In 2020 With A Show For The Books

Cover Image by Shem Obara

For the past decade, Blankets & Wine has been the ultimate Sunday plan for Nairobians. You can try, but I highly doubt you’ll find a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than being sprawled on a blanket with a couple of your favorite people, under the warm Nairobi sun, sipping on a glass of wine. Blankets has made it so that time and time again, we keep coming back for more. From the minute you walked into the venue, you couldn't help but feel giddy with excitement. Blankets went out of its way to make sure that the venue is Instagrammable. Featuring a floral installation by Mesmerize and the stunning art installation by incredibly talented Eliamin, the various installations had millennials lining up for their photo op before diving into the day’s festivities.

As I walked around, I spotted love in it’s all its forms. Couples cuddled up and enjoying the music; friends cracking jokes and laughing; parents playing cards as they keep a close eye on their little ones who are running after a ball close by, holding sticks of cotton candy almost as big as they are. It’s good vibes all around and I can’t help but smile… and drool. Yes, drool. The aroma from the Onja Onja corner was literally pulling me by the nostrils and my tummy put on its theoretical bib in anticipation for the feast to come. The Onja Onja corner was aptly named because it had an array of restaurants offering sumptuous treats that made you want to try every. Single. Thing. As always, great food goes down well with great music, so, having a DJ on site to keep the vibes going was simply perfect. After treating myself to some delish chicken tikka it was time to find a spot and gear up to jam all night long.

With Blankets & Wine being the ultimate vibe bringers for the past ten years, you know the lineup was something conjured up from a dream. Fresh from the perFORM Music Incubator, Prisca Ojwang, Kabochi and Karun showed us what a six months musical program that endeavors to see the wholistic growth of the artists involved can do. The crowd watched and cheered as they commanded our attention and put on quite the show. Karun, especially, dazzled us with her honey vocals as she performed some of her newer music alongside hits such as Glow Up and the recently released Hit Me Up. The highlight was undoubtedly seeing Karun bring out her girls as she closed her set with Glow Up. We love seeing queens supporting queens and reveling in their self-love.

Speaking of queens, the Atlanta-based, Kenyan artist, Xenia Manasseh, was another personal favorite. The ‘See Me’ singer showed us that she wasn’t just a singer but a performer as well. She blew us away with her voice and then went off with her dance moves. Doing a cover of Danileigh’s ‘Easy’, she bust out some choreography that convinced us she just might be the next Danileigh. Xenia was followed by Kagwe Mungai on stage and he showed us why they call him “Mr. Steal Your Girl” or as he like to say, you can call him tonight.

Just as we thought the performances couldn’t get any better, Kenya’s music industry poster boy, Blinky Bill, took the stage. For a second we thought that Blinky was not going to make it seeing as he was in Lamu that morning, but, where there is a will, there is a way and he made it in time for his set, making for a very happy lot of partygoers. Now, if you haven’t seen Blinky Bill perform live, you are doing yourself a great disservice and you need to change that ASAP. From the trumpets, to the guitars, to the background vocals by the insanely talented Lisa Oduor, to Blinky’s musical prowess and stage presence, there are no better elements for a gripping performance. Unless, of course, he brings out a Kenyan hip hop legend such as Octopizzo to do a track or two which, of course, he did and had the crowd losing their shit.

The man of the hour was none other than American rapper, GoldLink. I first discovered GoldLink when he did a COLORS SHOW of his song Rough Soul (ft. April George). I instantly became a fan thanks to his flow and lyricism as well as the alternative R&B vibes he was giving.

Fast forward to January 2020, following the release of his latest album, Diaspora, in 2019 and fresh from his AfroPunk performance in South Africa, GoldLink was set to take the stage at Blankets & Wine. All we could hope for is that he would be half as good live as he sounds on my Apple Music. Ten seconds into his set and the realization dawns, we had no idea what we were in for. GoldLink as a live performer is, well, gold! His vocals are as crisp as that night air at the Racecourse. If it wasn’t for the fact that we were at a festival, I’d be convinced we were in a studio listening to him record live. Let’s not forget that GoldLink is arguably the coolest kid out there. His demeanor is calm and collected; the way he moves reminds you of silk, so, naturally his stage presence is on 100. He demands your attention without even trying. He just walks on stage and before you know it all eyes are locked on him. Once he started performing, there was no controlling the crowd. We all lost our minds and for the rest of his set we were singing his songs at the top of our lungs and turning up way too hard for what our feet could handle, but those were the next day’s problems. What mattered in that moment was us and GoldLink, GoldLink and us.

That was one spectacular Sunday and I’m not sure if the rest of 2020 can match the undefeated vibes of B&W but we sure hope they try. Until then, Drinksember is officially over, let’s secure the bag and try salvage what is left of our livers.