They’re known as Kabangu, and they’re a group of hip hop grandpas who’ve been around since the 1980s — or so it appears.
This ultimate band of “true hip hop heads” allegedly double as security guards by night in Kariobangi – one of Nairobi’s informal settlements. By day, the four men are said to educate and mentor up and coming talents within the hip hop scene. The lyrical heavyweights remained in relative obscurity until recently, when they joined forces with Kenya’s “League of extraordinary grannies.”
These high flying ladies, who were once corporate and government leaders in the 1970s – travel to exotic and remote areas within Africa to explore, party and enjoy themselves in exclusivity.
A fictional creation
Unfortunately, you can’t really listen to any of their records. It would be great if these two sets of octogenarians actually existed, but they are fictional characters created by Kenyan digital photographer Osborne Macharia and stylist Kevin Abraham.
The pair’s editorials – often shared on Instagram and creative network Behance – have proved so popular that many believe Kabangu are indeed spitting rhymes across Nairobi. The series has had over half a million views across the internet.
“The majority of our audience and the people who come across the images and read the stories believe that it’s actually true, or that it is something that’s about to happen” says Macharia. The duo met in 2014 at an artists showcase and have been working together since.
Our work is about spreading fun and sharing stories that are “positive and uplifting,” says the pair, who identify themselves with “afrofuturism.”
“We just wanted to set a new direction for storytellers and we’ve actually seen it starting to change locally where people are actually producing content that has a story, content that has meaning, content that is futuristic and based on our own ideas” says Macharia. “I feel this is the time for me as a stylist to tell my own story about my own environment” Abraham further adds.
Elsewhere, an elite group of freedom fighting opticians
Macicio – an elite group of freedom fighting opticians – was the pair’s first fictional story released last year. It revolved around the Mau Mau – a very real – group of guerilla fighters operating during Kenya’s struggle for independence.
Research carried out by Macharia and Abraham revealed a special unit of five opticians who hand crafted spectacles that would reveal or spot the enemy at night.
Again, because the Mau Mau existed, online, some believed the story was true. The purpose was to “change up” how Mau Mau fighters were portrayed explains Macharia, adding they were seen by colonials as savages and barbarians with “perverted tribalism”.
“This was just a project that glorified them [Mau Mau] and what they did for us”, he says. The outfits worn in the editorials are from recycled waste. Abbra explains: “during that time I used to collect garbage and my idea was to turn something that is ugly into something that is positive and that’s how we came up with those costumes and the spectacles”.
Snoop Dogg and Jamie Foxx, it transpires, are fans. The latter shared the pair’s images on his Facebook page – an incident Macharia describes as “letting you know you are doing the right thing”.