Jared Ombui is a radio journalist working for the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation – English Service and voturadio, an African hip hop blog. He produces literature, art, and political programmes. Jared Ombui is currently an MA Diplomacy student at the University of Nairobi.
Where are you from, what was it like growing up?
I was born and grew up in Kapsabet town in the Rift Valley Province. Kapsabet is known for first grade tea production and nurturing the best athletes in the world.
What kind of hustles were people involved in?
As much us I have talked of tea and athletes, poverty is evident in some areas, mostly in the urban areas and a few rural areas. The level of poverty isn’t that alarming compared to other parts of the nation that are not blessed with rain.
What do the words ‘kazi’, ‘vijana’ and ‘mshamba’ mean to you?
All the mentioned words are in Kiswahili language. ‘Kazi’ means work. ‘Vijana’ refers to the youth. ‘Mshamba’ is a person from the village or rural areas. This was coined to highlight primitivity of someone from the rural area compared to one from the urban or the city; it can be used offensively to describe backwardness depending on what is being talked about or situations.
What is ‘politicking’?
It is just loose talk that never addresses the needs of the people. For example, the cosmetic speeches that spark no change or give solutions to the most pressing problems of the citizens. Politicians in Kenya are good in this, because they know the citizens or the media hardly holds them accountable.
Besides rappers, who else do you see ‘doing’ hip hop, other artists, activists, hustlas, etc. ?
We need to acknowledge spoken word artists/poets like Kennet B, Mwakenya, Wanjiku Mwaura, Ojamong… But we can widen this and look at other elements of hiphop like Deejaying, Graffiti, Break-dancing and fashion.
Graffiti and fashion are fully developed and getting the attention they deserve. Funny enough, is that the hiphop fashion has been borrowed by all young musicians from all genres in Kenya though to them it is just a trend. Deejaying and breakdancing are slowly picking.
There is too much rap, but real emceeing is rare.
Name your favorite musical artists?
It is hard for me to say who is good that who. I will only say that I love songs that have content that builds the mind.
How have women contributed to hip hop in Kenya?
The sisters have created a balance of the genre, though few. I am talking about L-ness, Taamic, A2, Kadah, Grammo, STL, Shiko and Samantha, Caro, Xtatic, Laikkah… When it comes to Dj work, we have Deejay Steel.
Female artists have a lot to work on away from music, like family, that highly consumes a lot of their time. This has somehow kept the number of female artists constant for a very longtime. The best way to tackle the above challenge is to have annual campaigns to identify and nurture talents. They should be awarded recording deals and sponsored to have shows all over the nation.
What can you say about the Mau Mau kambi?
MAU MAU is powerful because it is composed of best artists from Nairobi, like Kalamashaka, that churn proper content that sparks change in Kenya. I must mention that UKOO FLANI originally from the coastal town of Mombasa too, and is a very powerful [force] in transforming the society. Even with the emergence of so many groups, MAU MAU and UKOO FLANI still steal the show.
What type of community organizations, informal or formal are helping vijana in Nairobi leo?
Nairobi has so many organizations that claim to help the youth but no proper research has been done to quantify their impact in the lives of the young people. Note that very few of them are dedicated to improve the lives of the young. Think through this: Kibera slums remain a slum even with hundreds of the non-governmental organizations. Can Kibera stay without them? Does Kibera need them?
What does hip hop mean to you, What motivated you to become involved in Hip Hop?
I am an ex-mc. I am motivated by the untapped hiphop talent and I want to see it pay artists; I need to see them drive and have a normal life because of their noble call.
What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today (zote, Lodwar to Dando to Westi?)
The youths make more than 60% of the Kenya’s population but they lack proper representations in all echelons of leadership. They are a secluded class, but often used badly during the electioneering year.
What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?
That will come when they take power or fight for what they deserve.