Kenyan entrepreneur and the Whitney memorabilia
Posted by Administrator on February 18, 2012
I have remarked here before how strange people can get after a famous person dies. These thoughts came back to me last weekend with Whitney Elizabeth Houston’s death. Suddenly she was everyone’s favourite. The Twitter-sphere was alive with the tweets of “mourners” many of whom, as is their wont, were shedding crocodile tears for this former mega-star whom they had mostly dismissed as a loser after her self-admitted battle with drugs.
I must state here that though I enjoyed some of her music, I would never go as far as saying I was a devoted fan. Nevertheless, I must admit that some of her songs formed part of the soundtrack of my life and while I was not particularly shocked or broken by her death, I do feel sorry for those she has left behind including her daughter and her family, most especially her mother. It is never a good thing for a child to die before the parent.
If I was to be completely cold-blooded and examine Houston’s death from a detached and dispassionate point of view, I would say that she had reached the top of her career at the end of the 1990s with her ‘My Love is Your Love’ album and after that it was all downhill. But Houston’s career and what I thought of it is not the reason I have brought her up in this article. It was actually the reaction to the death by a businessman friend of mine in Nairobi that got me thinking about how fake we can be about death.
My friend Peter or Pitts as some call him, runs a successful fashion business in Nairobi. He imports clothes, shoes and accessories for men and sells them from his stalls in Nairobi, Ongata Rongai and most recently Nakuru. Over the last couple of years, Klad House, the name of the business, has done extremely well and Pitts has taken full advantage of modern marketing techniques and has grown his clientele through his use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
He is one of those guys who thinks on his feet and in my estimation will go far in business. In fact, if our universities and business colleges had any use for people with a practical experience of growing a business, he would be one of those people they called in every so often to give a lecture to the students and inspire them to do great things.
On hearing the news of Houston’s death, Pitts, who may or may not have been a great fan of the dead singer whose angelic voice was ravaged by drugs, immediately figured that her fans in Kenya were going to want something to remember her by. He immediately started advertising on social media saying that for Sh1,000, he would print Whitney Houston t-shirts with a message of the customer’s choice above or below the picture. Customers were guaranteed they could have their shirts within 24 hours of ordering them.
From my perch in Johannesburg, I thought that while some people might think it was tad tacky or tasteless, many fans would be delighted to have some memorabilia. Certainly businessmen in China, for example, would have no qualms in immediately producing Whitney Houston memorabilia which these very same fans would snap up and treasure.
Peter’s entrepreneurial spirit reminded me of the spirit shown by another Kenyan, Darius Msagha Mbela. In 1978 when Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta went to meet his ancestors, most of Kenya went into mourning. While it was not as showy as the “grief” shown by North Koreans recently when their “Great Leader” died, it was still quite a big deal.
Mbela had been PS at the Information ministry at the time but was perhaps more widely known for his involvement with the magnificent St Stephen’s Church choir. If my memory serves me right, Kenyatta had not even been buried yet, when St Stephen’s, which was the Muungano National Choir of its day, released an album of choral music about Kenyatta and sold hundreds of thousands of albums.
I don’t remember anyone complaining about that. Earlier still, When JM Kariuki was murdered in 1975 musicians Daniel ‘DK’ Kamau and Joseph Kamaru both came out with songs about JM and nobody then cried about making money off the dead. So why now did people take offence at my friend Peter’s initiative? When did we suddenly become so self-righteous and so anti-capitalists? Or was it just that someone else had caught us napping?
One Response to “Kenyan entrepreneur and the Whitney memorabilia”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.