Art and Music, The People

Surf Msanii


Meet Husus Mugiiri Nyagah popularly known as Surf Msanii. He is a video/music producer and an artist. His office is on 4th floor on Mutindwa plaza building in the luscious town of Meru. To get there you use some spiral stairs that seem to be leading you to hell upwards. I have a phobia for heights so I couldn’t wait to get into the office and block my view of the height. When I looked down as I went up the ground seemed to be pulling me towards it.

Normally you walk into offices with shoes right? Wrong. Surfs office floor has crisp clean white tiles and you leave your shoes outside and he hands you a pair of slippers as you step in. You can imagine my shock as he held me at arm’s length while explaining to me that he needs to give me slippers.

The spotless floor

His office/studio has this room that enhances your voice. He told me it has a reverb; it makes your voice sound sexy. I’m not kidding you have to visit his studio to experience it. You should have listened to me speak too much because I felt like I had instantly become a musician. My voice was delicious. I goggled reverberation and it said it’s prolongation of a sound; resonance. I did not even try to understand.

Here is what our chat told me about this young artist.

Did you know you always wanted to do music?

No never. I only knew I loved listening to music. I grew up SDA. SDA has a lot of music. Nice music, music you love listening to. Rhythmic music. I did not plan on doing this to earn a living. It’s just a passion that has become my career.

Tell me a little about school?

I went to Kiriria SDA high school up to form two. In form two our school burnt down. My brother was also in Kiriria SDA and he was suspected to have initiated the school arson incident. We were very close so it was very automatic that I was among the suspects as well. We were suspended. After a long time at home everyone insisted I repeat form two. I wasn’t willing to. I eventually caved and repeated at Kitui SDA High school. It had to be an SDA school because my parents are SDA. That’s how my brother found himself at Masii SDA High School. Life at Kitui High was a nightmare. I hated every minute. As I was joining form three, I refused to go back to school until I was moved to another school. My father was savage. He told me if I don’t go back to Kitui High, he would not take me to another school. As a teenager I thought he was joking so I stayed home waiting for him to change his mind. I waited until the term was over. When I came around to it I had to look for school by myself. I enrolled in form three at Antu a Mbui mixed secondary school, Igembe North. It’s only 200m from home. You would think I went home every so often right? (I nod) Wrong. From here on, I took education seriously. I knew I wanted to go to Kenyatta University. I did not know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to join KU. I loved that school with a passion.

I was always top of my class so it was obvious I was going to join University. When the results were out, I had scored a C+. I was so disappointed with myself I checked out of the world for a few months. I eventually pulled myself out of it and moved to Maua town.

But I hear you are from Tharaka?

Oh yes I am. My parents moved to Maua when I was very little, then we moved to Kaelo in Igembe North. They had nothing in Tharaka and they did what any parent would do moved to a place they could afford us a good life. Kaelo has been my home since.

What happened after you moved to Maua?

I slept at my friend’s studio for a while. We would work during the day and at night it would be my home. I slept on the cold concrete floor for a few months. I met three other friends during that period. We moved into one room where the rent was ksh 1,000. It was dingy, we had nothing. We did odd jobs and bought a mattress, a blanket and few dishes. After two months we challenged each other. We agreed to take an extra room. Two of my colleagues moved into it with just the blanket and we were left with the mattress. All this time we only ate Ugali and Sukuma wiki for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We sourced all these from around. Nothing was bought; we had no money for extras. We survived somehow.

Were you still doing music at this time?

Yes. I was at the studio in the morning and doing odd jobs in the afternoon. Life was hard but I still did music. I remembered how the music in my church would lift me up. It was melodious; I was keen to learn how to make good music. How the notes came together, so every morning I went to my friends studio. I just kept going. We made an album with my friends it had 5 tracks. Each of us owned one track and we added a bonus track. We could buy empty CD’s and upload music and hawk around. We could even give out for free just for publicity. We mostly sold to high school students. They have an insatiable thirst for music. I think because they are still discovering their music taste. They bought from us so much. That gave us a hope. I had a friend at Muga FM and I sent her some of our music. She listened and loved some tracks. The song that hit so much was “I Kalaa ndarite”.

What next?

I moved from Maua to Embu. I needed bigger grazing pastures, mostly to sell my music and explore. So as life moved along, I got a call one day from my friend at Muga FM that Safaricom wanted a Meru artist to do a gig for two days. They were paying ksh 60,000. Ksh 1,000 was hard to come by those days. I got confused, excited and all mixed emotions. Life was good and I was walking on cloud 9. I moved into a better house and bought a CPU to help me in the business.

In 2013 I moved to back to Meru. With ksh 60,000 I felt that life could be better. I hadn’t made any other money in a while. Life became hard. As hard as when I moved from Maua. I always found music producers in all the towns I went. While in Embu I found this producer who could give me little errands. I did them graciously and to perfection. One day when he was too busy he sent me to Meru to edit a video for his friend. I did it in record time and helped him around the studio. I was exceptional at my job. He paid me ksh 7,000. I was on the moon, I forgot about Embu. I got other jobs in Meru. After a few months I even started gaining weight in the right places. I could now afford clothes, shoes & I could even save for a rainy day.

I met amazing people like MC Laingo whom I worked with until last year when I decided to open Reflections Media. I have known him for a while.

How do you make business?

Word of mouth most of the time. Also if you do good work people will look you up time and again and refer business to you.

You have had such an interesting life.

Yeah, I have. The only thing I have learned in my life is to never give up. I am just only beginning. If I go to university it will have to be for music. I am not too keen on University at the moment though.I am investing my life in this because it’s what I love. I just love music. I would say when you find something you love stick with it. Your efforts will be rewarded.

I am the second born of three kids and I have to inspire my siblings. If it’s the only thing I live for I will inspire them.

Surf doing what he loves
Doing what he loves

That’s just a short preview into Surf’s life. He is passionate about music as you have already read and guess what? He will be a guest writer here once in a while. Talk about talent.

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