Celebrity Status

To be idolized must be nice. To have people that hang on your every word, move, action, people who look to you almost as though you were the basis of their being. The yardstick along which they generate their opinions.

Biko’s Master Class felt like a fan club. Everyone in the room idolized this guy…and with good reason.

Biko’s writing is amazing, to say the least. Or am I just an appeaser…unable to fault others?

Either way, I just seem to have jumped onto the bandwagon that is his fan base a little late.

Biko would refer to some of his previous works as examples of things we were discussing in class, and 99% of the room would remember it better than him. (The remaining 1% was me.)

As a writer, I suppose it is fine for him to write and forget. He writes an average of 60,000 words a month if I remember correctly. 60,000, can you imagine that?

This definitely buys him a ticket out of remembering every last word he ever wrote. Besides, he confessed to never going back to read things he has written in the past. Even I can relate to this one. When you have grown, even a day or two later, going back to something written in the past will always be cringe-worthy! You will always see all the things you could and should have done different to make the piece better. You will not be able to believe your short-sightedness. With the wisdom of hindsight, you will wonder how you could not have known better.

With music artists, I imagine it is another playing field all together. Musicians come to mind because my favourite kenyan band, Sauti Sol, released a new track this past weekend. This fan-club, I undeniably ascribe to. Anyway, back to topic, they would not be forgiven for forgetting their words, would they?

Imagine heading to a Sauti Sol performance, the crowd packed with die-hard fans, excitement, cramped stuffy spaces as is characteristic of these performances. Personal space a thing we all surrender at the door, a small price to pay for getting to watch Sauti Sol perform live!

Yes, we die hard fans will know the lyrics to their songs word for word, we want to sing along and be a part of the performance, but do you reckon they will be forgiven if they find themselves hesitating and unsure about a word or two…do you reckon the crowd would take kindly to having to fill in parts of the lyrics when the authors(…although artists these days do not necessarily compose their own music.) themselves are sketchy on the details? Tripping, stumbling, stammering over words, swallowing others whole.

I think not. In my case this would likely be the start of the decline of my idolization of them.

Biko seemed very down to earth. A bit blunt for my taste, to be honest, but mostly unaware or oblivious to the effect he has on people. He is camera shy, so very few of his fans know what he actually looks like but I can assure you all of them have an image of what they imagine he looks like etched in their minds. This one lady I sat next to on the first day, Hellen, was convinced we were being pranked. Biko came in and greeted everyone individually, making small talk. We then started the morning session. He introduced himself, we went through a whole morning worth of content and at the tea break, this lady was still not convinced that was Biko!

“It must be a conspiracy!”

“This cannot be Biko!”

“It must be his brother or something, Kathleen, I am telling you we are being punked! This is a practical joke!”

It was not. I, not having too many expectations when it came to Biko’s appearance, had no difficulty in accepting it. I actually thought him good-looking. Definitely easy on the eyes.

Now, Sauti Sol I bet, have very little reservations when it comes to their fame! Of course I may be wrong, but they being in an industry where physical appearance is part of the package, wear their fame like a power suit and flaunt it. I imagine every time they go out in public, they expect, have come to anticipate a certain reaction. They know they are a big deal and they enjoy it.

They say fame changes people. I wonder if the reverse is not true as well. Have you ever found yourself (subconsciously)mirroring the behaviour of a character in a series you are engrossed in? Or if a writer, gravitating towards a writing style employed by people whose works you have read and idolized?

When the fans of a musician or a band are stereotyped or characterised and grouped by the same parameters, were they attracted to the public figure because they are that way or did their attraction to the public figure cause them to pick up and start manifesting those traits?

Another ‘the-chicken-or-the-egg’ which came first debate, no doubt, but whatever the case, with great power comes great responsibility. Being famous, like it or not, comes with great influence. At some point, it has to stop being a popularity contest and become about impact.

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