Growing up in our rural area or what many of us call ‘gishagi’ or ‘ocha’ or ‘muchatha’ or ‘dala‘ or ‘reserve‘, depending on which part of Kenya you come from, my grandparents used to tell me stories about how Nairobi was this magnificent city, with tall buildings, highly paying jobs and smartly dressed people. They asked me to study hard so that one day I would get a good job in the city and change the fortunes of our family. I was a young lad with many talents, or so I thought, and one of them was singing.
Boy could I compose!!!I would have given Sauti Sol a run for their money, they are lucky I had already retired from the music industry long before they started their gospel group squadi sauti in mathare estate LOL! So back to my story, when I completed form 6 and decided to head to Nairobi I knew exactly who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Kenya’s version of Samba Mapangala. I wanted to tour the entire African continent serenading naturally haired African ladies with my smooth benga tunes, well combed afro, well pressed shirt and bell bottomed corduroy pants. I was smoother than ‘Chibudi Chibudee’ and Otile Brown combined. I hoped that one day I would do a ‘collabo’ with Miriam Makeba and later on marry her, drive off into the sunset and live happily after in my white mansion on the hill. That’s what I used to day dream about all day before I came to Nairobi and met a green-eyed monster called ‘Disappointment’
Nairobi surprised me then, it still surprises me to date .It was so hard to find a good recording studio. You had to be really connected to shoot a decent music video or land a good gig. Fast-forward, the year is 2020, I am still in Nairobi. I am sure you are asking yourself if I ever got to do music and marry Miriam Makeba, dude I didn’t stand a chance with Miriam she was way out of my league LOL! But I recorded a few tracks, performed alongside great musicians such as Daudi Kabaka and Fadhili William and toured some parts of Africa. Why did I hang my boots? You may ask. I never stopped. I still sing to my grandkids and tell them the same fishy stories, maybe over-exaggerated sometimes, my grandparents told me LOL! Life has changed so much with technology and doing music now is so rewarding money-wise as compared to what we experienced 50 years ago.
Was it possible to be an overnight sensation that long ago? Highly unlikely. The beauty of doing music in today’s age and time is just how affordable it is to produce audio-visual projects and the broadened reach your music can achieve within a short time span. Nowadays you can record your music videos with high tech mobile phone cameras then within a click of a button you can upload the edited video to YouTube, ITunes or any other music distribution platforms and voila!!! Your music is available to the entire globe, 4 Billion plus humans!!! Social media is now a tool you can use to share your content with millions if not billions of users online. 50 years ago we didn’t have such but we still sold music, with little or no means of digital communication. Miriam Makeba, Daudi Kabaka, Fadhili William , John Nzeze and the likes became a common household name because they embraced real art and gave it their all.
I know you might be thinking “Hey kaguka! These guys didn’t have much competition back in the day” ‘ooliskia wapi?’ where did you hear that? Guys back then could sing, there were no auto-tunes to make Kangethe sound like John Legend, no softwares to manipulate instrument sounds. A skilled instrumentalist was nearly worshipped in music circles. Pure talent separated the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. I listen to music mixes on my way to work and ask myself where we lost it as a generation. Did we not teach the new generation what real music sounds like?
Then they ask me “kaguka, how do you intend to change the music industry and you are already retired?” and I always ask them this, “can a coach play as he coaches?”
It’s time for us to go back to those times when music was beautiful, when music was art, when music could soothe babies to sleep. It’s time to get out of ‘Mushatha’ and rebuild Kenya as the hub of talents in Africa. Kaguka has some work to do, I ‘garra go’ LOL! I don’t even know what LOL means LOL!!!
Pic courtesy of <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/photos/people”>People photo created by prostooleh – www.freepik.com</a>