A word with the wordsmith: Oksyde, aka Freimah Aseka
During collaboration between Dandora Hip Hop City, led by Juliani, and the Route to Food Initiative, rap artists took part in two cyphers to highlight food politics issues amongst peers and local community members of Dandora. The performances were compelling and it was clear that the musical talent in the room could carry and convey a powerful message about food insecurity and hunger in Kenya. We’re featuring these artists in a lyrical series of blog pieces that highlight food injustices in the country, while showcasing emerging talent in the musical sector.
In this debut piece, we speak with Freimah Aseka, who goes by the stage name Oksyde. He’s a 26-year-old artist who’s currently recording his first album due to be released this year. Oksyde has previously performed at the National Super Alliance’s (NASA) launch, as well as at hip hop shows for Street Lawyers Entertainment.
“Tackling food rights is new for me, as I’ve never personally experienced hunger, or created music on socio-economic issues; but I’m interested in this line of public engagement,” he says, as we start off the interview.
What do you know about the food (in)security situation in Kenya?
We are not food secure in Kenya, but it’s something we can work on and it’s not that hard if we engage with the appropriate bodies. I see the problem here is lack of proper distribution channels, farmers lack knowledge on the processes after farming: such as storage and distribution.
What do you know about the Route to Food Initiative?
Before today, I didn’t know much about it. But now I know I need to be an advocate of food security so the discussion can be from the people, to put pressure on our leaders.
If I said food is a political issue, what do you understand that to mean?
From what I have understood so far, there are people benefitting from food shortages, and it’s often people in politics or among those who are politically affiliated. They’re benefitting through supply channels by getting tenders to supply food, hoarding and food imports. But this needs to be solved using programs that educate people on farming issues, transparency in tendering processes when importing food, and those in authority held accountable for food issues in the country.
What has been your experience of food in Kenya?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family with sufficient access to food and it seemed that food was plentiful in the country. Unlike now there are many shortages and food is far more expensive. It’s a struggle to get food now. I live on my own but have to support another member of my family, to afford food, which is a challenge. If I had a family, it wouldn’t be easy to make sure there is sufficient food for us all, but I would have to make a plan to get it, somehow. When people talk about nutrition, I don’t have much knowledge on it, and I eat whatever’s available when I can. It could be once a day, it could be four times a day, there’s no planning that goes into it. As a child, food was more scheduled and thoughtful, it always had greens for example, unlike now, when some meals lack vegetables completely.
What inspired you to take part in the collaboration between DHC and the Route to Food Initiative – specifically the cypher – on the subject of food injustices in the country?
Initially, I was just called and told it’s a food issue campaign. However, now I am more interested in discussing food rights and hope to involve and interact with other artists to promote the same. Also, the media isn’t doesn’t take the artists and the issue seriously, but as musicians we feel that it’s our role to bring awareness to the issue from different points of view. We can make enough ‘noise’ about it, in order to get media buy-in and mainstream food politics as an agenda worth talking about.
What were the main points you wanted to express, in your rap lyrics at the cypher?
Mostly agricultural issues such as improvement of irrigation issues, government subsidies on farm costs, and inter-county trade of food items.
What motivated you to join the Route to Food Alliance?
To get more knowledge on the movement so I can share with others.
What’s your take home and widespread message to all on this issue?
Whoever’s responsible for food security in Kenya must be held responsible, as the country is not food secure. How? Through the governments (national and county), we need to question where funds are going and to get people to join initiatives or programmes that push for the right to food security, which can have a wider and higher reach.
Interview by Olive Thiong’o
Image: Oksyde (Freimah Aseka), Dandora Estate, Nairobi. Photograph taken by Armstrong Too.