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Grand Masese comes of age

By Joshua Nang’au

At 11, he ‘stole’ his grandfather’s Obokano so that he could go back home and entertain his siblings.

His father forced him to return the eight stringed instrument with a harsh rebuke that ‘singing was a waste of time’.

Denis Duncan Mosiere, popularly known as Grandmaster Masese, returned the instrument but knew singing was something he wanted to pursue.

After completing his studies, he went looking for an Obokano.

"All along, my passion was in music," he says, but the musical journey was not without incidences.

Considered too young to have mastered the art of playing Obokano, Grand Masese has come of age.

"When I begun, people used to despise me. They could not understand my passion. They wondered aloud why such a brainy boy was troubling himself with traditional music instead of concentrating on studies," says the 27 year-old.

Niche in afro-fusion

His persistence, he says, has paid off.

"I am now a musician, poet and comedian, all rolled into one and I am slowly cutting myself a niche in the in the Afro-fusion music circles," he says.

"The Obokano is a Gusii traditional instrument but I am using it to ensure continuity of culture through song," he says.

Grand Masese’s voice warmed renowned local author Binyavanga Wainaina who invited him to the Kwani forums in 2005.

He combines music with poetry and has thrilled crowds with his poems like, Mo Pain No Gain.

The poem, written in Sheng castigates corruption, ethnicity, assassinations, and misuse of office and police brutality that are bottlenecks to the wellbeing of the nation.

He has formed a band, Ritongo Africa, which has teamed up with others who play instruments like Nyatiti, saxophones and drums to form an entertainment troupe called Tamaduni Shikana

Though he is yet to produce his work, the artist has entertained crowds and internationally.

"In 2008, I performed in Accra, Ghana during the Pan African Literary Forum. Last year, I went to the UK for a number of shows during the popular Hay festivals, thanks Story Moja Production for that was titled Cut off my Tongue," he says.

Poet Tony Mochama quotes Grandmaster Masese in his book What If I Am A Literally Gangster as one of the colleagues who inspired him in his writing.

Piracy and exploitation

"I may not be a celebrity but I’m proud that by my efforts and God’s generosity I have made friends and interacted with various artists. Though the industry is riddled with challenges like piracy and exploitation, I’m getting somewhere," he says.

The musician says: "The sounds of nature-rumbling thunder, falling rocks, flowing rivers, chirping birds and mountain eruptions…. inspire traditional music and I use the beauty of life, in collaboration with song and instruments to educate, entertain and pass on history from generation to generation."