Interview: Christian Urban Music in Kenya

I discovered I could write raps and poetry once I became a believer. Somehow, without much prior exposure, what I would produce, people would consider really good. And I went for it.

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 04, 2020/-- A new month, a new guest; Kikao is privileged to have a rapper, poet and youthful pastor. Nduati takes us through the Kenyan Gospel Music industry, the Christian Urban Music genre, coping with Corona pandemic, his approach among other topics.

Let Kikao begin...

[Question 1] Nduati welcome to Kikao. Introduce yourself?

Nduati is the name, both for the stage, and for the government. Many people often ask why I don’t have a stage name, or rather find it strange. The explanation is simple. I don’t think I present a different person/character while recording and performing my music. My music embodies everything that I am, my beliefs, thought processes and convictions. Inviting you to take a journey into my mind, I present myself. Nduati.

[Question 2] In the past decade the Kenyan Christian Music industry has seen a resounding resurgence. It has reshaped itself and the industry at large. What is your perspective on this?

First, I have to say, that was an unprecedented and unexpected occurrence. I doubt there’s ever been a time, in any country whatsoever, where Christian Urban Music was the biggest, most consumed genre. That was as rare as it gets.

While the light shone on the gospel industry in the last decade, it had been growing and developing over many years prior. There were pioneers who went against the grain and gave their all to do this music, which was unconventional at the time. The likes of Daddy Owen, SK Blue, Zaidi ya Mziki, just to mention a few. The church didn’t want to identify with and support people with dreadlocks and disc jockeys. The content wouldn’t never cut it for the clubs and music shows at the time. But they kept at it, based out of the conviction that God had called them to do exactly that.

I’d attribute the explosion of Christian Urban Music on 2 things:

● Consistency - the pioneers did it relentlessly. It was never about the money or the fame. They wanted people to know Jesus, and they went all in. And as they did so, a culture and community rose that appreciated what they did. And right there, the industry was born. And many people could join in. DJs set up DJing schools and music ‘empires’. Artists could now make big money from performances and music royalties. Online trendsetters had content to push due to the high competition. Christian Dance Groups was a thing, enough videos to be featured in, and competitions to be won. And the list goes on and on.

● Convenience - People want to have fun, naturally. But having fun can end up being dangerous. The Christian Urban Music genre was the perfect middleground. While previous church music was mellow, this new sound was very upbeat. Parents can allow their children to go to these events since they are sure they won’t get drunk, just hype. It was safe. Safe is always good.

[Question 3] Is the Christian Urban Music genre still exclusive to a specific demographic?

I’m afraid, yes. The ‘majority’ has moved away from Christian Urban Music to Kenyan Pop (Arrow Bwoy, Otile Brown etc) and Kenyan Street (Ethic, Boondocks etc). With the shift, it’s back to square one, building an audience around you and hoping that as you create more content, that they will grow with you and invite other people.

[Question 4] Winning hearts and minds, cultural renewal or cultivating a culture. What is the larger approach?

I would definitely say all. But it starts with winning hearts and minds. I share my life through my music to challenge people to think critically, with an aim to win them over. Through that, bit by bit, a new culture can be birthed, one that is distinct and different. And eventually, through this culture, slowly influence the entire society towards cultural renewal. The end goal is to get people to embrace who Jesus is, all of who He is.

[Question 5] You have great hits under your belt and a great fanbase. What makes it easy for you?

God’s gift and God’s providence. I discovered I could write raps and poetry once I became a believer. Somehow, without much prior exposure, what I would produce, people would consider really good. And I went for it. God gives the ability. And then He creates the opportunities and networks; audio producers, video directors, deejays etc. I love my fans and everyone who believes in me. It’s been a long journey in a sense. And there’s been an entire community behind me.

[Question 6] 2020 has not been an easy year. How are you coping as a creative?

In a sense, God has been quite gracious to me. My music is not my primary source of income. I work as a pastor too, with a church. So, financially speaking, I’ve been able to keep afloat and even produce more content. I’m definitely being very frugal with how I spend money, and using this ‘away’ time to reflect, relax, learn and grow. Being a Jesus follower allows me so much peace, comfort, confidence and assurance even in such times. My mental health has been in a good place. Again, God has been super kind.

[Question 7] “Mama wa Kufua” single and projects in the pipeline. Give us a glimpse.

Haha. It’s funny how I had, at a moment, decided to quit. Story for another day.

Mama wa Kufua is one of my most favorite projects. I really love the concept behind it. I remember speaking to a friend late in the night and mid-conversation she apologises saying “​So sorry for the commotion in the background. I’m putting a few things in order ju mama wa kufua anakuja kesho (my laundry lady is coming tomorrow)”. She goes on to say how she leaves the key somewhere, leaves at 7am, and when she comes back at 10pm, she’ll find everything in order. I knew this happens, but for some reason, that was some shocking information. Leave that key to the right person and you’ll find the house in order. Leave that key to the wrong person and you’ll find an empty house. Made me wonder, “Trust then isn’t the issue. If a promise is kept, and the maker of promise is trustworthy, then surrender isn’t difficult”. Why would we be so reluctant to surrender our lives to God, through Jesus, considering we know how messy our lives are? The whole song explores that dilemma of thought, garnished of course with a little bit of humor.

I’m looking forward to releasing even more content. Look out specifically for content addressing the LGBT. Exciting and scary at the same time. Brrrr!

All in all, anything I churn out is aimed at growing your confidence in the person of Jesus and challenging you to consider being saved through Him.

The written interview was compiled by Phineahs Munene – Co-founder of Wazo Moja for Nduati Murigi – of Nduati

Distributed by Wazo Moja on behalf of Nduati