Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dead and Buried, Rip Mr. Sony Walkman

It is now official, the Sony Walkman is dead and buried. To the younger generation the walkman might not have meant much but those of us who saw out our teenage years and the early twenties before mp3s and iPods, the walkman was the coolest thing to a music buff those days. It was the must have thing when in school, college or when traveling. I have not held a walkman for over 10 years but when I read earlier this week that Sony had officially ceased production (I was actually surprised that production had been going on till 2010!), I could not for a moment contain the nostalgia. The following are some of my walkman moments of yore!

My first memory of the walkman is listening to Whitney Houston's Miracle off her I am Your Baby Tonight album in the very early nineties. And it was under the bedsheets, way past sleeping time in the boarding school dormitory. I had a crush on Whitney back then (I can't believe how she turned out!), and on my way to Maseno School at the beginning of the term, I bought a pirated copy of I am Your Baby Tonight cassette at Kisumu bus stand - together with a set of some AA batteries. I had to wait for Goddy's batts to die out a few days later before I could finally borrow his walkman, and I fell in love with Whitney under the bed sheets, lights out. Later on I was to acquire the likes of Michael Bolton and Karyn White, not to mention the recordings from KBC's late date program.

Fast forward a few years later to a small town in Rajasthan in India, Udaipur. To be honest I don't know how I would have survived those years without the pleasures of the walkman. I remember once traveling all the way to the city of Bhopal, a one and a half day bus ride, to cash my draft cheque. This was my first year in India and as luck would have it, the bank declined to cash the cheque as it was not properly signed. Broke without enough money for a decent bus, I took what we called the mango-head bus, buses which had hard seats similar to those found in the old KBS buses. I over 30 hours in a very hard seat, without a single bite but with my walkman and a bunch of Kenny G tapes, I was able to endure the trip. I think I must have listened to Breathless more than 10 times on that trip!

Take a close looks at the seats here, that's what I am talking about (photo courtesy of

A few years later, just about to embark on a 14 hour bus trip from New Delhi, I stumbled upon Tupac's All Eyes On Me cassette, and Tupac was never the same for me again. Yes I had listened to Tupac's music before but playing the tape over and over again with everything else blocked out, listening to each and every word of Only God Can Judge Me and Tradin' War Stories, it took my awareness of Tupac to another level. About a year later,the chap was gunned down but give that album over any new hip hop album any day. Lastly, after spending five straight years in India, I took another long bus trip, 18 hours, to Mumbai from Udaipur, this time on my way back home. It had been an emotional farewell to friends but I had about 100 cassettes in my bag and 18 hours in a bus never looked so short a time! I think that was the last time I listened to the walkman, for upon my arrival in Kenya, my younger brothers disappeared with it. Not that I miss it (not with over 100GB of mp3 music in my laptop and the convenience of an iPod), not with the rewinding and forwarding to get to your favourite track, or to find it has chewed your favorite cassette, but while it was the only technology for carrying music along, it gave me all the pleasure. RIP Mr. Walkman!


  1. Ah, the memories of the Sony walkman. I remember not having one for such a long time and when I did get one it was pure bliss to be able to travel around and listen to music. I had a moment of sadness when I heard the news the other day about the walkman no longer being made too but my memories are so faded as compared to yours. It sounds like your walkman really pulled you through. That is a real investment you made ;-)

  2. That line about waiting for someone's batteries to die out before you borrow their walkman in Maseno is priceless memory. As a form one, I had to wait and use one in Arot's cube when he was not using it. Remember it was against the school rules to have such gadgets unless you were "protected" or willing to face the music during inspections.

  3. Hey Adede, that was why we listened under the bedsheets after the lights were out! As a form 1 I was a CB so at times I got certain privileges!
    Joyful, that was one wise investment I made!