Everybody knows KamaNu. He is one of the mainstays in Meru music and for some time, he is all we knew even as the stupid “Merus can’t sing” rhetoric kept going rounds. So, it was only natural that we had to look him up to tell us about the Meru music landscape, from an inside view. And what better platform than just as he was launching his new compilation album for 8 top Meru cultural songs… and new Baite Republic designs!
Here is the hearty chat we had:
KamaNu, seems like I have known this since I was born. Are you that old?
Hahaha. You know, Kamanu is a popular Ameru dance, and that’s how you might have known the name. There was actually a group that was nationally known with that dance.
So, you randomly took the name of a random Meru dance?
Well, no. I used to have another name. Then there was this time I performed the Kamanu song and the MC, KJ (now Dagoretti South MP Kiarie John) couldn’t remember my name, and simply called me Kamanu. I thought it was cool, and more importantly, the traditional Meru song would live on with my name. It’s quite a responsibility… and my dream is Meru events where our music is played, and not Kikuyu, Luhya and Kamba songs that are played in our weddings!
Still, it’s been some time. When did you start singing?
I remember I was singing even as a small mwîjî. But professionally, I started my music career in 2006.
2006 is over a decade ago. I’m sure a lot has changed…
Yes, absolutely. The Meru music scene has dramatically changed in the last few years. One, people have become more receptive to their local Meru music, back then it was a joke.
And then there are outlets now – Meru radio stations, Meru TV channels and Meru blogs like The Ameru. So, the musicians who are rising today are finding it easier. Back then, you would sing for your relatives and friends only because that’s all the audience you got, and many lost hope, accepted and moved on.
Yet you did not give up…
Frank, let me tell you. There is no point in life when I lost conviction that Meru would have an identity in music and art generally. And I knew if we gave up, there was no one to make Meru hip. I had to keep fighting, looking at the bigger picture. And we are realizing it now. I always kept the faith.
Thanks for that, otherwise we wouldn’t be here now. But, what else do you do?
We always get that question. It’s as if you guys don’t believe music can put food on the table.
Yes! I don’t sleep hungry. I quit my job kitambo to concentrate on music. People including my family thought I was crazy.
But, as you can see, I am eating off my music career, which is a great career, by the way, if you look at musicians around the world.
I will say this, though, being a musician doesn’t pay bills, I am an entertainment entrepreneur. And that’s what all budding musicians should keep in their minds.
Speaking of budding musicians, what would be your word of advice to upcoming musicians?
And since you asked, when these musicians you are asking for need advice, they should ask. You cannot get wisdom if you are not looking for it. I am open to anyone who thinks I have achieved something they would also want to get to.
Generally, though, I hear Meru musicians complaining that they have no support from local promoters and media. Eti Ooh, they invited people all the way from Nairobi when we have musicians in Meru, bla bla bla. This is our undoing. Instead of complaining, self evaluate yourself and work on making yourself as relevant as can be. Make yourself un-ignorable! Because when you complain, you give your power to other people, you give the impression that you need them to succeed.
Wow! That’s deep, man. Let’s wrap this up or I will start calling you Juuju. Where can we get your products? You said you are an Entertainment Entrepreneur…
My music is available on YouTube, and from the latest Romba Mwathani album, you will be able to buy it from all major music outlets. Apparel (they have really good t-shirts and hoodies that we approve) are available on social media and you can call me directly on +254721439803 for all these and truly Meru events.
Haiya! You are giving your number to the public? Celebs don’t do that.
Whose celeb am I if my fans cannot talk to me directly? Celeb ni jina tu.
We wish KamaNu and his team all the best as they take up the task of promoting the Meru music and culture.
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