A while back, around the time I had just finished recording my album, I started thinking about my early career.
I had come across articles in different magazines back then that said most new artistes in America come to the scene with albums, so I decided to follow this trend.
However, I didn’t have studio money but I worked under DJ Loop’s mentorship for a year. I gained new skills and ended up becoming a studio engineer so that I could cut down my costs of production.
But just after I had finished my final album master, Loop called me into his office and announced that he was moving into a new line of business, so I’d have to look for alternatives.
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What I love about DJ Loop is that he’s never afraid to start a new venture, and he had the courage to admit when a business is failing.
Two of the strong characteristics I got from him were to never be afraid to admit when things aren’t okay, and to start new waves.
He moved differently, his approach to entertainment was ahead of its time. He was the first Kenyan producer I came across who was always in suits – and not just any suit.
He lived the lifestyle; from driving a classic car to wearing classic accessories, whether that was a watch, bracelet or shoes. He had a touchscreen phone at a time when the Nokia 3310 was the talk of town.
Why is this important? Because the last speech he gave me changed my life.
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Where and how you finish
I had a rough start, and when it came to my musical journey, like any other up and coming musician, it wasn’t easy to access studio time.
DJ Loop told me he admired my patience and that with this virtue, I was bound for greatness. He always enjoyed listening to my ‘Eastlando’ stories, and he mentioned that I should embrace them and use those stories as a stepping stone to a different and better future.
At this time, I felt like I was going to fail as a person and as a musician. My city centre branding business was doing well, but the one person who was guiding me on the music front was pulling out.
And then Loop said I was special and that’s why he kept me around; that I should keep up the fight.
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It takes courage to be successful
The discussion ended up being a series of questions and answers.
Loop mentioned that as much as my plan was aligned, my courage played a big role in completing this first album.
How many artistes at that time had an album, and how many new artistes come to the scene with one? That was a very courageous step in my career, he pointed out.
Initially, when I was making the album, I thought Loop would stick around and guide me through the journey. While he wasn’t going to participate in the way I thought, he promised he’d be a phone call away. But even without him, he said, he knew my courage would ensure I would be fine.
Just to highlight this point, he reminded me of how we met, and said I should keep grabbing every opportunity that comes my way.
If you don’t want to make waves, don’t start
As we were speaking, a client walked in and Loop dealt with him and then came back to our talk. He asked me why it was so important for me to do an album when sales were not guaranteed and my name wasn’t known out there.
My response? I wanted to make waves. I wanted to be ahead in thinking and stepping up to the dream. He pointed out that very few creatives have that drive.
Don’t neutralise your uniqueness
The reason it was so important for Loop to teach me sound engineering is that he saw I was unique.
There was a time a client came to record a radio jingle and Loop had an emergency to attend to. Since he didn’t charge his phone that night, he was nowhere to be found.
When the client walked in, I took charge to the point of directing, recording and laying down my voice for the voice over for the ad. The final product was accepted and approved.
Loop always insisted that my writing style was different and that I shouldn’t ever settle for average.
His advice has applied to everything I’ve done since that day on August 22, 2008.
After that talk, I went on to launch my first album, Tales of Kaka Sungura, sold out Club Qatika and moved more than 1,000 albums. I got interviews across top media stations, and was nominated at Chaguo la Teeniz, where I performed as the new act.
The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.