Finding the key


Beethoven is exhausted. He has pouches under his eyes. He can’t wait to finish the damn song and go home, sit in the tub with a pint of vodka. He’s been playing the piano all his life. In fact he dropped out of school – at 10 years old – to study music.

Then at 26 Beethoven started to lose his hearing. His best works were composed while he was completely deaf, and it was a source of constant worry. In a letter to his friend he wrote, “I must confess that I lead a miserable life. For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social function, just because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf. If I had any other profession I might be able to cope with my infirmity; but in my profession it is a terrible handicap.”

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Beethoven. He was touted as one of the greatest composers. His was the music that paved way into the romantic era. He was the bedrock of symphony and a master in orchestra. He had everything going on for him, yet he was always sad and lonely.

Picture him on stage: Beethoven has a head full of grey hair and a serious glare. He leans in and out of the organ. His hands hover above the keys, trilling back and forth to play what would become the ‘Piano Sonata No. 26’.

His pulse lags and pauses. He plays for eight minutes nonstop, only pausing to wipe sweat off his brow. A cough springs from the audience. Beethoven doesn’t hear it. He continues playing, picking up from where he left off.

The ‘Piano Sonata No. 26’ is 16 minutes long.


I write this because I’ve been listening to classical music. Symphonies, mostly, out of curiosity. I was particularly thrilled to learn that DSTV has an entire audio channel dedicated to symphonies.

I don’t even watch TV these days. Once I get the remote I turn the living room into Beethoven’s cellar. I lie back on the couch, all ears, picking among the floating ends of song, patching together fragments of flute and piano like bits of poetry. I let Bach and Mozart and Schubert serenade me into a peaceful corner where there’s no 16 per cent VAT or lengthy class assignments.

Right now I’m listening to ‘Sonata in C Minor’, by Anna Holbing.

After a week of being posh and pretending to know what a ‘quintet’ is, though, I’m happy to report that classical music is weird and I don’t understand any of it.

At high volumes symphonies feel invasive. To the untrained ear – like mine – it’ll sound nothing much than what you get in the background of a slow Woody Allen movie. All of the songs are terribly long and dreary, like a politician’s droning, with just a string of clarinet.

My little sister tells me they were taught symphonies in high school. They were tested by listening to a recording and naming the parts. Seriously, as if naming the parts of a leaf is not enough. She talks of things like ‘adagio’ and ‘allegro’, but all that stuff is beyond me.

Maybe my tastes are not refined enough. I think you have to be queer to appreciate classical music. You have to have names like Holbing. And don’t have anything on the stove with classical music in the background, because the soft strings might put you to sleep.

A girl who listens to classical music won’t suffer fools like me. She is class. She knows the difference between a sonata and a symphony. She wears specs. She reads thick books. She goes to sleep with the smell of paper in her nostrils. She strums the guitar like she’s making love to it, gentle, with her head bent just so, and you can see the beauty spot on the side of her nose.

She likes potatoes.


Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany. He was taught music by his father, Johann, a church singer and an alcoholic. Apparently Johann would stagger into the house at night and force Beethoven to sit at the piano. These ‘practice’ sessions went on for hours.

Sometimes the boy was locked in a cellar; sleep deprived, and told to play until his arms hurt. When he got the keys muddled up he was flogged a good one. The neighbors would often hear Beethoven weeping from across the fence.

(This guy just couldn’t catch a break.)

Small wonder Beethoven grew up to be shy and short-tempered. He took no wives. He sired no children. But he was in a love with a married woman called Antonie Brentano, to whom he once wrote: “To you, my immortal beloved. My heart is full of so many things to say to you. There are times when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all. Cheer up. Remain my true, my only love, my all as I am yours.”

By the time he died – at 56 – Beethoven had composed six symphonies, four solo concerts, five string quartets, six string sonatas, four overtures, four trios, and 72 other songs.

It all seems like staggering output. And I bet if you sat down to listen to each of them you’d get up and head for the polling station because it’ll be 2022 and life will be hard and you’ll be tired of the same old faces with the same old songs of development and a chorus saying why you have to pay more taxes for them to go frolicking on a beach in Mombasa camouflaged as a bench-marking conference.


I’m watching his documentary, titled, ‘Jay Z, The Rise to Success’. I was rummaging around YouTube when I found it. 40 minutes worth of Jay Z insight; he talks a bit about everything, from his rough upbringing in Brooklyn to his dad’s last words to him.

The camera has stripped him bare. He looks vulnerable. Jay Z looks human.

Listen to what Jay Z says about flow: “Flow is just becoming one with the music. You find some place inside the music that you tuck in, and you don’t get in the way of the groove. You insert yourself in the song as an instrument. You’re part of the track. You’re no different from the horn or the snare of the bass or the high-hat.”

His list of achievements boggles the mind. Seven Grammy Awards. Over 50 million records sold. A clothing line. A record company. A scholarship fund. And he married Beyonce, for chrissakes. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks.

Jay Z created his record label at 26. This is how he defines excellence: “Excellence is being able to perform at a higher level for a long period of time. You last three years in hip-hop that’s fantastic. You last five years it’s, ‘wow, that’s amazing’. But if you last through a decade and beyond, that’s unheard of. In my genre of music I believe I’ve achieved excellence.”

Then the scene dips to a snippet of Jay Z’s ‘On to the Next One’:

Had her out in Bed Stuy chilling on the steps,
Drinking quarter waters I gotta be the best,
M-J at Summerjam, Obama on text,
Y’all should be afraid of what I’ll do next

I’m not a fan of Jay Z. I’ve never paid attention to his work, rather. Hip-hop isn’t my forte. And I don’t get rap music because it’s often too damn fast. Punch lines fly right past me. The only rapper I follow religiously is J Cole, who, incidentally, was the first artist to be signed under Jay-Z’s record label.

Jay Z’s childhood wasn’t like Beethoven’s. Jay was allowed to play outside with other kids. They’d run after the ice cream truck and while away the afternoons playing basketball. Sometimes they chased little girls around, squealing along on an innocent game of cat and mouse.

His father was absent and his mother taught him a lesson he still carries around today. “What you put into something is what you get out of it.”


I’m inspired by artists like Jay Z and Beethoven.

They both turned themselves into instruments, and their work speaks to generations. And as the deadline for this piece approaches I have to wonder what kind of instrument I am. How much tuning do I need to become excellent? How do I sound? Do I belong to the brass family or the percussion family? Am I cymbal or a trombone?

Will I find my key?

Or am I just a potato waiting to happen?
Follow Mike on Instagram: mikemuthaka

Lady Justice
Eggs and Balls

Comments (2)

  1. Joy Ruguru

    J Cole is one of the few rappers who raps slow enough for us to get in the flow. If you know what I mean

  2. Mike

    I couldn’t agree more, Joy.

    It’s a real Cole world :)

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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