Kenyan hiphop has been for a while been downplayed and graced with controversy from one reason to the next.
However, in the recent past the current generation has in one way or another tried to push away this perception. From their branding, performances and even presentation.
Last year, at the bomblast memorial concert held at memorial park, I happened to be a witness to this new age development and I was amazed. The artist in question this time happened to be none other than Jemedari.
First of all his performance is an actual full live set, complete with a band backing him up. If that doesn’t sell to you he’s also the brains behind suits and mics. This is an event tailored toward cleaning up the image of the hiphop industry in Kenya.
With a resume like that I couldn’t pass up the chance to get to know him better and introduce him to you guys.
Your fans know you as Jemedari but what’s your official name and could you tell us a little bit about your background?
Naitwa Joseph Wambua. I was born in nairobi but I have been raised in Coast and Nakuru. Lakini I lived in Nakuru for the majority part of my life.
Why the stage name Jemedari?
I originally wanted to be in the army. This is because most of my relatives were in the army and I really looked up to them. Lakini height ikanikataa so ilibidi nichange. So basically the name Jemedari came from this desire.
How did you start out your musical journey?
I used to perform solo-verses in high school and campus. Later on, I started doing poetry and hiphop verses and even managed to perform at Wapi.
Who are some of your inspirations?
Kenyan or globally?
Well, globally, there’s Ryan Leslie, Busta Rhymes, Tech N9ne, Pac and Talib Kweli. Locally I look up to E-sir, Poxi Presha and Ukoo Flani. Basically I look for story tellers.
I have seen your performances and they’re awesome. What’s your work ethic?
All the time, everywhere. Nkipata inspiration I write. I also try to focus on real life issues. Things that affect us on a daily basis.
Still on the toic of performances, why a live set?
I feel like it adds value to the whole performance. My fans get to experience me in full and my music.
Do you play any instruments?
Yes…I have been playing the bass guitar since high school. I also bought a saxophone 3 years ago but I am yet to pick it up.
I also noticed that you happen to be a chef?
Haha yes I do. However, that is a hobby. I picked it up when I started living alone now I do it for fun and once in a while for my friends.
So you have an album coming out this week(at the time of the interview it was yet to be released) called Kaya. What is it about?
The word Kaya is a coastal term that refers to a village. Therefore this project is an experiment meant to bring coastal sounds to hiphop. I am trying to fuse traditional sounds and modern hiphop.
Did you collaborate with anyone?
Yes I have a few talented acts in this project as well. There’s Chris Adwar, Dan Aceda, Fidel from Lé band, Abbih Nguma , Waithera and Miss Okinda from Gravitti Reggae.
To know more about this album and the launch event click here...
Speaking of which tell us a little bit about Suits and Mics.
This is a periodic event that happens at the Michael Joseph Centre where hiphop artists and poets come and perform dressed in suits. The aim is to clean up the image of hiphop.
How does one get on board and is there a specific requirement?
You just reach out to us through our social media handles or email and we’ll get back to you.
It’s open to all artists hatubagui. Kama unaweza we call you and you do a demonstration for us and if we consider you’re ready we give you the go ahead, if you still need some work we try to help as best as we can.
So far what are some of the sentimens you’ve picked up about the Kenyan industry whether positive or negative?
On the negative, it saddens me that I can’t work with everyone. It seems attitude and success go hand in hand.
On a positive note though, I didn’t expect to have this many collaborations. Milango zimefunguka hehe. (Doors have opened)
On the other hand, the Kenyan market is segmented. Every sound has a fan base and this translates to more opportunities for artistes.
What is your parting shot to any artist who wants to make it?
Writing and recording only carries 20%. Branding and networking determines the rest.
To keep on touch with Jemedari click below.