Black-Tie or Outright Lie?

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Let’s talk about Groove Awards 2013.

Safaricom's CEO Bob Collymore at the stage
Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore without a black-tie!

As a lover of Gospel music, I looked forward to this event just as much as everyone else who shares my taste. It was scheduled for last Saturday and was reason enough for me to spend my weekend in Nairobi after a week’s stay in Western Kenya, even with other tempting escapades away from the city.

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing participants at Groove Awards
President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing participants at Groove Awards

Top on the guest list was President Uhuru Kenyatta and the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore among other dignitaries in the music world.

Before I write any further, let me take this early opportunity to pass my congratulatory message to all who won awards in the various categories. I must however point out that I didn’t recognize most of the artistes or the songs that were being feted. Reality nudged me and I took notice and for the first time, I realized that indeed I am getting old at a very fast rate. So what does this say about me? Either that I am not watching or listening to  much of the “Kizazi Kipya” (the up-coming artiste) music, or  my taste has morphed over the last 5 years. I now feel more inclined to the likes of Rose Muhando and Jemimmah Thiongo. The ‘boom twaf’ kind of music is no longer my cup of tea.

Invite to the Gala Ceremony
Invite to the Gala Ceremony

Having said that, lets talk about the event itself.  Many of my friends could not understand how I got myself in this restricted event that was invite only. I received my invite from Safaricom Ltd. with the following instructions. “This is a black tie event. Red Carpet at 3.00pm and all guests should be seated 4.30pm.

“You know this is Kenya and when they say 3pm, be assured this means 5pm, always add two hours,” remarked one of my friends who also attended.

The waiting was too long

Guests celebrate winners at Groove Awards
Guests celebrate winners at Groove Awards

By 4.30pm I made it to KICC ready for action. I did what I love to do, look around and observe people. I did this for quite some time and made a number of observations. The event that was meant to start at 5.00pm started at 6pm. The waiting was incredibly too long. The seating arrangement, especially since it was dubbed black tie, was terribly inappropriate.

The musicians were however interesting and entertaining and I also had a great laugh, courtesy of a group of youthful Kenyans who sat in front of me. They seemed to know every song and clearly and easily expressed their disgust for specific musicians. “So what is Size 8 putting on? Doesn’t she know she is performing on God’s platform? Will she ever change her dress code?” Lamented one of them, disgusted at the newly turned Christian artiste, Size 8’s costume.

One interesting bit for me was my observation of the dressing style of those in attendance. Even though on the invite, it was clearly indicated that this was a black-tie event, I couldn’t stop but notice with a high level of amusement, how hilarious Kenyans can be! How in the world could all those people including Bob Collymore himself get it wrong?

President Uhuru Kenyatta and 1st Lady Margaret KenyattaLet’s not talk about President Uhuru and his wife; I will forgive them because I realized they looked like they had just come straight from Madaraka day celebrations. They were still dressed the same way they dressed during the day. But, then, what about the rest of us?

Multi-colours or Swag

Many people streamed in clad in all sorts of colours and ‘swag’. Notable were men dressed in red pants, colored shirts, t-shirts and even multi-coloured sweaters. Could it be that people didn’t understand the meaning of black-tie?

For starters, a black-tie event as defined various online sources is a dress code for evening events and social functions derived from British and American costume conventions of the 19th century. Worn only for events after 4 p.m., black tie is less formal than white tie but more formal than informal or business dress. It is also more formal than recent intermediate codes of “creative,” “alternate” or “optional” black tie.

It’s further explains that, for men, the elements of black tie are a suit, of black or midnight blue wool, in which the jacket lapels and trouser braid are of silk or other contrasting material, a white dress shirt, a black bow tie, an evening waistcoat or cummerbund, and black dress shoes. Women’s dress for black tie occasions has varied greatly through the years; traditionally it was dinner (ankle) or tea (below mid-calf) length sleeveless dress, often accompanied a wrap or stole, gloves, and evening shoes. Today, cocktail (knee) length dresses are considered equally appropriate in most places.

Some of the winners in multi-colours
Some of the winners in multi-colours

Did we just intentionally ignore the instructions on the invite letter? Was it of any importance to us? Is it just a culture that Kenyans are never serious about such details? Did we think of the sponsors who decided this was going to be black-tie event?

“Look at it from a different perspective Patience. You immediately get it wrong dictating what people need to wear. And you actually get it wrong when you invite such a huge number. Many times, black tie events will only cater for just a few people, that way, you can dictate the details.” Remarked one of my friends.

Someone else mentioned that the lack of control on who was going to be invited was a definite recipe for disaster. That the lack of knowledge on who exactly who was going to show up was a blow on the dress code. Everyone was bound to dress up as comfortably and in as many styles as there were invites.

Some of the artists ushering in the President and 1st Lady
Some of the artists ushering in the President and 1st Lady

Of course for women it was such an easy task, as black tie events would allow any official dinner dress. As for me, I did not find it hard to get some black clothes. I have always been accused of loving black, which is not a complete lie because I actually think three-quarters of the clothes I have are black. So I didn’t find it a hard task getting something to put on. I just patched one black after the other and within a minute I was in black then I had to break it down with white accessories.

All said and done, I am sure this was a great lesson for the organizers and sponsors of Groove Awards . Kenyans don’t like instructions, they would rather do it their way, so for future planning, this might work: Dress as you wish… your presence is what matters!

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Patience Nyange

I believe in a just society and I am a strong believer in Ralph Waldo Emerson words: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

4 thoughts on “Black-Tie or Outright Lie?

  • 7th June 2013 at 9:17 am

    The last Paragraph made my day: “Dress as you wish… your presence is what matters!”
    Its becoming monotonous, all parties are black and white. Cant they think of something else. Even African Dressing. Just for a change. But Organizers never learn.
    Nice blog.

  • 7th June 2013 at 11:59 am

    From my experience “Black Tie” events are very foreign concepts. Ideally a black tie even means coat and tails for the men and ball gowns for the women.
    In Kenya i think you should just say jeans, sneakers and masaai sandals not allowed.


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