UPDATE – 31 March, 2013: Check out Doo Mambo’s article on African Jazz; “Roots of Jazz” on newlondonbloggers.
Where are you from, what was it like growing up?
I’m from Nairobi, Kenya. I grew up in the Eastland’s area, which is mostly a low life settlement area, for a better part of my life. I lived in Dandora, Huruma, Kariobangi South and finally Eastleigh. We moved a lot because my mum was a freelance hairdresser and was constantly looking for ways to better her career after my dad passed away.
Our family was not rich neither poor when my mother was alive. She managed to pay for our school fees and cater for all of our other needs. Although she tried her best, we had our shares of hard times where we went without food some nights and landlord’s closed our homes because of late rent payments.
After the death of my mother, I literally had to raise myself. This was when I was 12 years old. Most of the extended family didn’t want anything to do with us at first but changed their perception later on once we started to excel. Still, it’s been forward ever backward never ever since.
What kind of hustles were people involved in?
In Eastleigh area, there is the largest ‘Mitumba’ (Second-hand) market known as ‘Gikomba’ where mostly clothes, beddings and other items from the first world countries are sold at subsidized prices. Many traders, from all over Kenya, go there and buy the clothes at wholesale and then they take them to their various boutiques and sell to consumers for profit. This is mainly what I used to do ever since I started high school up to college. After dropping out of college, the trade sustained me for 3 years before I started writing and looking for ways in which music can also pay me.
Since Eastlands is well known for crime, prostitution and other social ills, some of the kids I grew up with involved themselves in such-like activities. This was not for me, nevertheless, because I always carried the values of honesty and hard-work that my mother had instilled in me when I was younger.
What do the words ‘kazi’, ‘vijana’ and ‘mshamba’ mean to you?
Kazi means work, occupation or career.
Vijana means the youth. The description of the term under the Kenyan constitution mainly means anyone in the age bracket of 18-35 years.
Mshamba means someone who was raised in the rural areas. The term is mostly used in the Sheng’ Slang language.
Besides rappers, who else do you see ‘doing’ hip hop, other artists, activists, hustlas, etc.?
Hip Hop is a varied culture. It has 4 main elements which are: Emceeing, Deejaying, Graffiti and B-Boying. There are countless sub-elements as well.
I largely recognize other contributors of Hip Hop apart from the rappers. They include: Deejays, dancers, emcees, fashion designers, radio presenters (of Hip Hop shows),
Name your musical influences?
Internationally: Fugees, Nas, Common, Talib Kweli, Tupac Shakur and Immortal Technique
Locally: Professor Jay, Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, K-South and Nannoma
What do you know about the Mau Mau camp like? (Is it still in operation?)
This is the Camp that started the entire Kenyan Hip Hop revolution. It started with the trio Kalamashaka who later on formed Mau Mau by incorporating other artists mainly from Dandora and other areas too.
I don’t think it’s still operational because most of the well-known artist who were bred in the camp, like Juliani and Wenyeji, do very little to assist the Kalamashaka trio and other struggling artists affiliated to the camp. It’s like everyone for himself and God for us all.
What type of community organizations, informal or formal are helping vijana in Nairobi leo?
I don’t think there are any communities helping vijana in Kenya. I am a Kenyan youth with plenty of ideas to better the society in which I live in and other areas in the country as well. I have approached several, even the government’s NYF (National Youth Fund), with proposals but I usually get turned down. The existing organizations are just there to steal money and make a few individuals fatter.
What does hip hop mean to you, what motivated you to become involved in Hip Hop?
Hip Hop to me means freedom of speech, knowledge, creativity and unity. This is what motivated me. Not the flashy lifestyle, cars or nude women. Through the art, I got a chance to speak my mind and thus freeing it so that I can create more as a result.
At the present moment, the industry has been infiltrated by whack rappers who are puppets of the ‘System’. They are being used as tools for passing their messages to the unsuspecting average citizens everywhere. This has lead to a deviation of the main purpose that the art was intended for. Sorry to say, but right now I’d much rather listen to roots, benga, jazz or any other genre that still maintains realism.
What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today (zote, Dando to Westi?)
1. Lack of resources
2. Alcohol and drug abuse
6. Lack of Visions
7. Tribalism/ Nepotism/ Racism
What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?
Please give a brief bio of uaself.
This is a conscious artist that first started with writing and performing poetry while still in high school. He was also involved in writing short plays and also acting in them during drama festivals. He is a very gifted writer who has been in the industry for a couple of years professionally and a decade in general. As an artist, he is the mastermind behind the “DOO MAMBO” slogan and emblem. DOO MAMBO is a Swahili slang “Do Great Things” which initially originated from the Bible’s teaching, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”-Philippians 4:13. The concept involves a clothing line , a recording studio and an entertainment magazine, which are all in the making…….watch this space…With the absence of conscious artists in this region, his deep and thought provoking lyrics and unique writing style offer a breath of fresh air in the East African entertainment scenery.