BEGIN TO HOPE: Kenyan-born Patrick Mureithi, who plays at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club this Sunday, December 6 (1221 State St., 7:30pm), knows how to make the best of challenging circumstances and thwarted expectations. Raised on movies of glittering and glamorous Manhattan and Los Angeles skylines, he arrived in Missouri at age 19 at Missouri State with the hopes of furthering the hip-hop prospects of his original group, Zig Zag, who had found some acclaim in Kenya. “I thought I would live the happily-ever-after rap life, so you can understand my disappointment when I came to Springfield and saw two semi-tall buildings and that’s it,” he said.
Disillusionment soon turned to enchantment as he absorbed the rivers and woods of the region, so much so that he now considers himself African-Ozarkian. The lush landscape filled him with creative energy, and he began a very promising songwriting pursuit — that is, until he was crippled by recurrent complications from a previous surgery in his neck that partially paralyzed his guitar-playing hand.
Greater devastations hit, too, both personally and culturally — he lost a younger brother to suicide and witnessed, on television screens, as a devastating near-genocide swept across Kenya in 2007-2008. From these tragedies he felt moved to inspire hope and healing through creativity. He made a documentary, Kenya: Until Hope Is Found, in which he used the experiences of survivors and perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide to draw parallels with Kenya, hoping to educate his country away from a similar nightmare. “If we want a peaceful world, we must have more peaceful hearts,” he said.
The survivors’ lessons taught him how to heal himself through self-forgiveness, and his accumulated grief and nerve damage — like the deep wounds of a nation — healed from within. This year, he has released an album, This I Believe, a sum of songs of transformation and hope in the face of darkness. The tunes range from soul-baring meditations on mortality, such as “Love Alone Will Save,” to a cheerful and playful song for his daughters, “School Bus.”
Through his works, he encourages communal compassion and transformation through self-acceptance and self-forgiveness, and with an understanding of healing that can only come through facing darkness head-on. “There’s no situation too difficult to be bettered. We must wait through the sour to get to the sweet,” he says. “Something better must come — this I believe.”
THE DOCTOR IS IN: Longtime outsider musician legend, music critic, and experimenter extraordinaire Eugene Chadbourne, aka Doc Chad, plays at Funzone on Sunday (226 S. Milpas St., 8pm), in a special performance cosponsored by UCSB’s Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music, 91.9 KCSB FM, and his country-western-punk-noise music is nothing if not unexpected. Take, for example, his famous electric rake, which he has plucked on all manner of surfaces and detritus. “Plugged in, I have raked leaves, sand, rocks, coins, pool balls, and the chests of a biker and a large-busted porn star,” he said.
Chadbourne’s music is often categorized as avant-garde, but in its unfettered honesty it is in many senses as fundamental and genuine as the most traditional bluegrass, just with a lighter heart, a freer mind, and a celebratory dismantling of uptight musical comfort zones. As one of indie music’s firmest carriers of the credo, the music journalist/radio host/walking encyclopedia is a rare bird indeed. “I am not trying to challenge anything, but am aware my sheer existence is challenging — the fact is that if someone as uncoordinated as me can make a living as a professional musician, maybe there is no challenge,” he said.
Joining him will be flute frontiersman Azeem Ward and Ojai multi-instrumentalist Rob Magill. Expect the unexpected.