Keep Working…


When I was young-er I knew that Manu Dibango was a great African musician. I cannot say anyone told me this but I just knew. I knew he was in the class of Youssour N’Dour, Salif Keita and much later I discovered Habib Koite. I think these musicians are Africa’s biggest export to the world musically. The weird thing is until recently I could not pin point to a Manu Dibango song. Once upon a time I stumbled onto a Manu Dibango’s record in my dad’s LP collection. I was thoroughly impressed but then again my dad’s collection is the stuff of collector’s items but that’s a story for another day.

I have a strong liking for Capital Jazz Club. The major disagreement I had with it was the timing. It is on Sunday evening. Throughout the years I fancied listening to Capital Jazz Club but I couldn’t bring myself to sacrifice my ears on Sunday evening. Then my brother pointed out I shouldn’t consider myself a real fan if I wasn’t willing to make the sacrifice. That sparked something in me and now I listen to Capital Jazz Club avidly though not religiously. Anyway, when I was listening to “The Club” as Jack Ojiambo (the host) fondly refers to it I stumbled upon a Johnny Walker advert on Manu Dibango. In the advert Manu talks about his song “Soul Makossa”. He said that when Soul Makossa came out people said it was an overnight sensation. But he continued to say it took 20 years. He said it took 20 years of hard work and practice before he came up with Soul Makossa. Bet you’re all wondering what is so significant about the song Soul Makossa. Michael Jackson sampled Soul Makossa in his song “Wanna be starting something” and Lionel Richie did the same in “All night long”. Manu continued to say whatever you do keep working and then he finishes with the Johnny Walker tagline keep walking.

The moral of the story is building something good takes time. In this age there is a lot of pressure to succeed. You look around and the guy or girl you grew up with is in a high flying job, driving your dream car and where are you? If it’s not the girl or guy you grew up with it is someone else maybe younger than you; depressing isn’t it? Of course pressure seems to come from everywhere. Look at the property pages in the newspaper awash with splendid houses at astronomical figures and you wonder when will I get there. When will I afford my slice of urban splendour? And there is a new car make every so often that makes your mouth water and you keep your dream alive and say one day I will drive that. Then you retreat to yourself and ask when? When seems like so far off. Then you start to feel really stressed out and inadequate. So you work harder, sacrifice more of your time working and plotting and planning your future. I have news for you. Those are premature grey hairs you are manufacturing. People talk about how life is a rat race and how they don’t want to be in a rat race. But the truth is no one holds a gun to your head and asks you to run. You take your two feet in there and you start to compete with other people. Like in all races there is only one winner. With the rat race it is no different, so we are killing ourselves only to be disappointed when we cannot keep up.

But then there is another way to look at things. Life is a process. What is more important than getting all these big rewards for your efforts is growth and maturity. Growth and maturity come from working at things for a long time. You need to work on your character, your skills, and your life purpose. These things take work and time. Allow me to digress a bit. I have a high affinity for food shows. There’s a show which features diners in America. In a particular diner they make doughnuts coated with bacon. It sounds strange but I reckon there is a method to their madness. When they make their doughnuts they mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients of course. One of the dry ingredients is yeast which makes the doughnut to rise so that when it is cooked it is this big fluffy ring of goodness. The thing that stuck me about their process of making doughnuts is that they let the doughnut sit for 24 hours. The host of the show asked again “24 hours?” Yes they said. Then he said “I love these guys”. The host of the show owns a restaurant or two and he knows lots about food. But even he was impressed that they would let their dough sit for 24 hours because he knows the product at the end is of superior quality. It won’t be your typical dime a dozen doughnut literally.

Still on food, it is common knowledge that a good wine is one that has been matured for a long time. Give a wine taster a 2011 bottle and he will only taste it out of politesse. Even the makers of Tabasco sauce proudly say there chillies are matured in oak barrels for six months. When you think of your average tomato or chilli sauce you would say “six months, are these people nut?” But you’ve tasted Tabasco sauce right; you know it’s not your average chilli sauce. What does this mean; if you want to be a dare I say a superior quality being you have got to know it is a process. Like the song Makossa there is no such thing as an overnight sensation. And if you think about it those overnight sensation songs fade to oblivion as quickly as they came.

Finally I will leave you with a story I have heard twice: the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. I am sure some of you have heard it, feel free to make any corrections where I have exaggerated or something like it. A person bought a Chinese bamboo tree seed and planted it. He watered it and tended to it for a year and nothing came out of the ground. He watered and cared for it the second year and still nothing came out of the ground. The third year he did the same thing. He watered and cared for it but nothing. The fourth year he still continued to water and care for it and nothing came out of the ground. By now someone must be saying insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But still the fifth year he watered and cared for the plant. Around the third month or thereabouts something emerged from the ground. It was the Chinese bamboo tree. He continued to water it and within 5 weeks the tree had grown to 90 feet. This is a valuable life principle, invest in your character, abilities, life purpose and keep at it. It will surely pay off one day.


One response »

  1. “Growth and maturity come from working at things for a long time. You need to work on your character, your skills, and your life purpose. These things take work and time……” On point, well done!

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