The Journey | Ricky Nanjero

Image courtesy of potentash.com

We need to understand what ‘living off of music‘ really means.

Ricky Nanjero

Within the music circles, jazz is revered as one of the greatest genres. From instrumentalists to vocalists the sentiments are the same. It is for this reason we decided we had to have a sit down with one of the most respected artists in the field in the country.

If you are an avid jazz events goer you should know him from his event: An evening of AfrojazzHis name is Patrick Nanjero or rather as he is commonly known; Ricky Nanjero. The Eastlands native took time to have a discussion with us via phone about his journey as and artist, his upbringing and his interests.

Please could you give us a short bio of yourself?

I am a Kenyan, that’s a fact. I am the last born in a family of 8. I was born and raised in Buruburu estate. I played for Eric Wainaina for 7 years before starting Ricky na Marafiki.

Could you briefly tell us about your family?

I have 5 sisters and 2 brothers. We have musicians in our family specifically Dj Ras Luigi who plays for Capital Fm and Kerry who is a producer.

I am married to my best-friend and we have 2 children.

Did your family influence your decision to pursue music?

Yes, I always looked up to my brothers and followed in their footsteps. Whatever they did, I came in and perfected it. Kerry is my mentor and he taught me almost everything I know. He even gave me my first bass guitar. Courtesy of him, I became a body builder at some point. Our first born influenced me to play soccer too. He was the coach of the national team for some time. Ras influenced me to learn tae-kwondo and he is a blackbelt. So I did almost everything courtesy of them.

Do you mind telling us a little bit about your journey as a soccer player and bodybuilder?

There are some old photos to support my statements. I used to go to some body building competitions called Flinstones. As a soccer player, i was a defender. I played for a team called Outering All Stars or something close to that.

During that period as a footballer and a bodybuilder, did you face any challenges?

When I was doing all those things, I wasn’t really sure about them.It was more of trial and error. However, apart from that I can’t say I got any serious challenges because being the last born, I was always supported in all of my endeavours.

As a married man have you faced any challenges as you pursued your career?

Not really. All I can say is, you just have to know yourself, respect your yourself, respect your partner and surround yourself with people who wouldn’t let you fall short of that.

So  how did your musical journey begin?

It started in 1999 when I began practising and learning how to use the guitar. After one year, I started playing in deliverance church Umoja. That’s where I sharpened my skills. I played there till 2007, left and came back in 2010.

I remember you mentioning you played for Eric Wainaina, could you tell us about that?

Growing up, I always wanted to play with him. Back in 1998/9 he did an interview after releasing his song Daima Kenya and he placed his email address on the newspaper. I sent him an email telling him I loved his music and wished to play with him but sadly he never received it.

He called me on December 2006 and I joined him and we began rehearsals. We did our first gig in 2007 and I played with till 2012. He is a nice boss and he gave me a lot of exposure to the world. He played a big part in what I am now.

What are some of the worst and best experiences you’ve had so far musically?

I wouldn’t call it a worst experience, it was more of a humbling experience. When I began doing An evening of Afrojazz, it used to be called  Jazz Saturday Night Show.  We used to hold it in Westlands. For a whole year, every Saturday night we played to chairs. The waiters were our fans and they wouldn’t understand why people wouldn’t show up. The event would run till 11:30 pm. However, by midnight the place would be packed. It was like they avoided coming because of the music. Funny enough when we did outside gigs, everyone wanted to come to our shows but when we called them for our own they never showed up.

My best experience is the satisfaction of my music inspiring people. When people can connect to it then that is my high point. It’s not about the money per se but more of looking to touch people.

Who writes your music?

I am the main songwriter. The other band members chip in from time to time hence the name Ricky na marafiki.

What have you noticed within the Kenyan music industry that needs to change?

At the moment, I can’t say Kenya has a music industry. We still have a lot to work on. If you look at the sports industry for instance, we have booking agents, lawyers, scouts and all that. However, when it comes to the Kenyan music industry we have none of that or rather they are not clearly established.

For starters, we have very few music lawyers. We don’t have advisers who can stand in and direct the artists on how to generate more income. We are yet to get proper record labels in the country. Most of the people who claim that we have an industry are the ones benefiting from it. However, despite this, our financial flow is not sustainable to the artist. Very few artists within the country have enough gigs within a year to sustain them when and if they decide to retire. Very few gigs pay handsomely to allow an artist to actually take time out.

In other words  what you’re trying to put across is most Kenyan artists don’t really understand what it means to live off of music?

I really don’t think so. Eric Wainaina taught me a valuable lesson. He told me the best way to earn through music in Kenya is to view it as multidimensional. There are many ways you can earn through music: as a teacher or you can live off of royalties.However, very few artistes know about royalties and release forms. When they go recording at a studio, they don’t really take time to read the papers they sign. this means that when the music is released, most of the times you find the producer owns the track and is earning from it since it was signed off to him/her.

What advise can you impart on the developing artists?

Just know what you are doing both in life and in music.

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