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Artiste banks on music, art to avoid unemployment noose

By Pascal Mwandambo | December 16th 2014
By Pascal Mwandambo | December 16th 2014

Athanas Mwachofi Babu, aka Babu Mapenduzi, is among the youth in Voi town, Taita Taveta County, determined to use their God-given talents to earn a living, rather than be counted among the unemployed.

The 26-year-old spends his time in recording studios working on his songs or painting shop walls, sign posts and portraits.

“I compose music and do fine art to make money, not to get famous,” he says.

Relevant theme

Babu says painting earns him faster returns than music, which takes time before it pays.

“I can earn up to Sh5,000 from one painting that takes me less than two days to complete. Music, however, is a different thing altogether. One needs time to choose a relevant theme, work on the lyrics and arrange the music in a way that appeals to listeners.”

And even after producing the music, selling CDs is another hurdle, especially for upcoming musicians

“On most occasions, I resort to live performances to make quick money.”

Babu says he has been singing since he was 14, and has performed in shows in Nairobi, Voi and Mombasa.

“I sing and record music to make money. I know I have the talent, which should enable me earn a living. Talents are resources given to us by God and we should use them to better our lives; they should not be wasted.”

The singer-cum-songwriter recorded his first audio CD, titled Sigara Mbaya (smoking is bad), which he recorded in 2011.

The nine-track CD cautions listeners against smoking, and attempts to dissuade the youth from imagining the habit makes them look good.

“I would not like to appear to be too critical of other musicians in the country, but sincerely speaking, when one listens to music by some singers, one does not discern any substance. The songs have no moral lessons to impart, and just glorify sex, money and alcohol,” says Babu.

Fully exploited

He says even though such music might sell and earn the artiste good money, it will likely not last in the market.

“Music with moral lessons may not be a hit, but it can stay in demand for long because some themes are timeless.”

Babu has just recorded new songs, titled Sio Vyema, Madawa (which talks about the dangers of drug abuse) and Amani Kenya.

He says the song Amani Kenya was inspired by increasing cases of terror attacks in the country, adding that as an artiste, he feels duty-bound to preach peace, without which the economy would be ruined.

And when the inspiration to sing vanishes, he puts down the mic and grabs a brush to start painting.

“I cannot see myself doing anything else to earn a living — it’s music and fine art all the way,” says Babu.

“There are many talented people who cannot make ends meet because they do not work hard enough to nurture their skills. A talent must be sharpened and fully exploited if it to be bring in an income.”

He says a lack of promoters is the biggest hurdle upcoming artistes face.

“Most promoters are reluctant to work with new artistes. This needs to change if upcoming musicians are to benefit from their talents and make money.”

His advice to young people hoping to profit from what comes naturally to them?

“Use your talents to make money and better yourself, don’t waste your life.”

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