The resilience and hard work of Burundian master drummer and singer Jean Pierre Nimbona a.k.a Kidum is paying off as he now basks in the limelight with his fourth album, Haturudi Nyuma. KIUNDU WAWERU traces his journey to stardom.
The saloon car is cruising towards Westlands. Loud, rhythmic music cushions the bumps as the driver sings along to every word of the song Mapenzi, tapping on the steering wheel.
This is a rare experience, to see one so passionate about music. Behind the wheel is Burundian master drummer and singer, Jean Pierre Nimbona, fondly known as Kidum, who is easily the East African musician of the moment. Kidum is riding high on the music scene with great vocals and deep lyrics with the release of his latest album, Haturudi Nyuma.
The musician, a well-known performing artiste who does cover versions with his Boda Boda Band is truly coming of age as a recording musician.
Recently, Kidum was announced the Best East African artiste during the annual Kilimanjaro Awards in Tanzania for Haturudi Nyuma, which features Juliana Kanyomozi after his infectious tunes hooked legions of fans across East Africa.
And big is Kidum’s forte, dating back to the day he was born. Neighbours had whispered in amazement about his mom, "She has given birth to a baby as big as a bucket."
Laughing uproariously, Kidum says: "You know the 20-litre Jerrycan? That’s what they nicknamed me. Kidum in Kirundi means a drum."
Young Pierre rejected the name but fate was unrelenting. At the age of seven, and with music running in his veins, he could transform the jerrycans into drums. Since then Kidum honed his drumming skills and vocals.
Currently one of the top artistes across Africa, Kidum’s journey to stardom has been inspiring because of his resilience and hard work, overcoming hurdles that could have easily discouraged many. He moved to Nairobi to escape political turmoil back home but has kept his loyalty intact, frequenting Bujumbura and Kigali, Rwanda, for performances.
Back in his home country Kidum is an icon of hope and reconciliation.
In a series of homecoming concerts staged in October 2006 in both Burundi and Rwanda, Kidum received standing ovations. He headlined alongside Alpha Blondy and Lucky Dube in a state-organised concert, receiving standing plaudits from Rwandese President, Paul Kagame for his song Amosozi (tears).
He was also named the honorary ‘prefect’ of musical and creative arts in Bujumbura after a series of countrywide performances in 2007.
The new album features songs, like Mshoma, a song he had composed for his friend’s wedding and various collaborations. He teams up with Nameless in Greedy and Nitafanya with Tanzanian diva Lady Jay Dee.
So why the collaborations, is he not good enough on his own?
"Collabos opens doors for you. For instance, with Haturudi Nyuma, I became a hit in Uganda, and you know they do not easily welcome foreign artistes there unless you are a Jamaican," he says with a chuckle.
Kidum adds that he is also popular in Burundi and Rwanda, markets that welcomed Nameless with open arms after their collabo. He learnt the lesson of working as a team in 2008 when he appeared in the Churchill Live TV show.
"There were about 70 people working behind the scenes. I discovered that only a fool wants to ‘eat’ alone," notes Kidum.
Also gracing the 12-track album is Kipenda Roho, whose video is out, featuring Rwanda-born Frankie Joe. His previous albums draw on life’s realities like war, but in this album the theme of love stands out.
He says, "I have been bitten by love, and Haturudi Nyuma album largely draws on my real life experiences."
His first album, Yaramenje (2001), established Kidum as the voice of peace in the Great Lakes region. He followed it up with the hugely successful Shamba album, released in 2003. Ishano (poison) released in October 2006 by Soundafrica, exhibits Kidum’s multiple talent as a composer, vocalist, drummer and arranger par excellence. Although most of his earlier songs were in Kirundi, Kidum has recently taken to singing in Kiswahili as more and more fans in the greater East Africa bow to his compositions.
The vocal prowess exhibited in his songs are unmistakable and will leave you yearning for more.
Making of the band
Nine songs in Haturudi Nyuma are in Kiswahili.
"My music is beyond borders, and it must reach wide audiences," he explains.
In 2004, as he was waiting for his passport to be stamped at the Kenya/Uganda border, he realised the bicycle taxis, boda bodas, were not being stopped and his thought was, "I wound like my music to be just that, beyond borders." He adopted the name Kidum and the Boda Boda Band.
"People did not accept us, they thought this was a small band from western Kenya," says the musician.
Things went from bad to worse even after releasing his third album, Ishano. A few videos later, and persisting with his band to the extent of playing for free in pubs, by 2007, fans started appreciating his music.
Even as Kidum has no qualms saying his band is among the best, he is afraid that his smooth success has opened a hornet’s nest.
In February this year, rumour mills ran that Kidum had died,
"My friends and fans received text messages which claimed that I had died. Around that time, I received many overwhelming calls from concerned fans. I suspect my detractors were behind this," he says pensively.
But he adds that he will keep on working hard, for he believes every man has one chance in a lifetime to shine.