by AIGERIM SAPAROVA
The Village Beat’s devastatingly beautiful film, Tough Bond, named after a commonly huffed adhesive, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival last month. It tells the stories of four Kenyan street children that unite together to hustle through yet another day. The film is a thick window that peers into what many would call an unfathomable lifestyle. We sympathize and pity, try to understand but for many reasons we fail to truly make the leap.
In 2007, it was estimated that 250,000-300,000 street kids, often malnourished and sick, scramble to survive on the streets of Kenya with more than 60,000 living in the capital city of Nairobi. Unlivable wages have given rise to homelessness in Kenya. Children are sent out by their parents to work small jobs or to stop passengers in traffic for money. Many of these children have been orphaned or abandoned by family members due to ethnic conflict, insufficient medical care or the lack of financial resources.
The Village Beat, a non-profit film collective based in Venice Beach, California, creates art as action, aiming to “amplify the voice of the village.” The collective, co-founded by Anneliese Vandenberg and Austin Peck, dabbles in film, photography, music, and public installation.
They’ve produced music videos for The Very Best’s “Kondaine” [feat. Seye] and “Yoshua Alikitu.”
“Kondaine” was shot in the Turkana village of Epiding in northern Kenya. The musical collective, consisting of London based DJ/production duo Radioclit and Esau Mwamwaya from Malawi, fuses dance, hiphop, pop and traditional Malawian music to make up a distinct Afro-Western sound.
“Yoshua Alikitu,” was shot in the Kiamaiko neighborhood, outside of Nairobi. The Very Best and Seye, a 24-year-old Nigerian singer, composed the original soundtrack for Tough Bond.
Shabazz Palaces, a futuristic hiphop duo based in Seattle, used footage from Tough Bond in their 2011 video for “Blast It.” The group is led by Zimbabwean multi-instrumentalist Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire and Ishmael Butler aka Palaceer Lazaro [formerly Butterfly of Digable Planets]. Also check out this dope site, Ishmaelites, dedicated to exploring the complex music of Shabazz Palaces.
The Village Beat will soon launch the Beat Radio Network, a network of community radio stations in northern Kenya that will broadcast news and music in local languages and help Kenyans connect with each other, their country, and the world.