At a tender age, Crystal Asige was diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition that affects the eye cornea, causing damage to the optic nerve and leading to gradual loss of sight. The condition threatened to shatter her dream to pursue a career in film production and the arts, but she kept going. Crystal soon moved to the UK from Mombasa where she acquired a Degree in Theatre Arts, her visual condition notwithstanding. Using her voice and mastery in songwriting, she soon found a new home after she was signed by Sol Generation, and went ahead to be featured in their successful Extravaganza album project. Crystal has embraced her disability and has championed herself as an advocate for people with disability. She was recently nominated to the Senate to represent Persons Living With Disabilities. Steered by her mantra, ‘by faith not by sight,’. Indeed, Crystal is the true definition of moving from strength to strength.
Not much was known about DJ Euphoric until he hit the jackpot. Born Barare Ogeto, the DJ chose to stand against challenges arising from a degenerative joint disease that had him confined to a wheelchair from his teenage years. He credits his family with giving him the push to pursue his passion and love for music. He got a breakthrough when he got a chance to play for former President Uhuru Kenyatta. “So impressed was the then president that he urged me to keep inspiring and mentoring young people,” he says. Since then, Euphoric was touted as the ‘President’s DJ’ and before long, it was made official. To top it all, he was appointed to the Permanent Presidential Music Commission as the production manager.
Born Imwari James, Kamanu hails from a family of 10, six of whom are living with albinism. Being a lastborn meant he did not suffer acute stigma due to ‘coping mechanisms’ employed by his older siblings. As a child, Kamanu’s love for music would lead him to experiment with homemade instruments, not knowing he was perfecting his act and gradually paving the way for his music career. Despite challenges he has faced, he has curved his way up as a household name in Meru community and beyond. “I would be denied shows because of my skin condition, but stigmatisation is part of society’s fabric. However, you have to see yourself the way you want to be, not the way others perceive you,” he says. The accomplished multi-instrumentalist has released three albums, totalling over 50 songs among which one is a collaboration with afro star, Akothee. Kamanu is a sought-after performing artiste at corporate and social gigs.
Eric Kioko, best known as DJ Talanta almost lost his life during the 2007-2008 post-election violence after youths armed with machetes attacked him. They chopped off his hand, but his life was spared. The DJ overcame the tragedy of losing his limb and pursued his passion for music. He has now mastered the art and regularly plays for Reggae fans in popular city clubs. Talanta is also an in-house DJ at Ghetto Radio.
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Winfred Wanjiku, aka DJ Wiwa, rose to fame when she wowed online fans with her unique playing technique. During lockdown sessions at the height of the pandemic, Wiwa placed her musical equipment set on the floor and juggled the turntable using her feet, attracting thousands of viewers in minutes. As a female DJ living with cerebral palsy, Wiwa is a first among many. Her love for music and encouragement from her late mother and friends led her to ditch her tourism and travel career to pursue her dream of being a disc jockey. Despite the congenital disorder, she competently drops jams from her machine in a manner that can match a professional disc jockey’s. She has proven that if you need to get something done, it gets done.
It was not until Dennis Karanja, aka Denno, released visuals to his hit track that fans realised his sight was impaired. An alumnus of Thika School For The Blind, Denno’s charming and humorous persona coupled with his melodious voice made it easy to interact with industry heavyweights, which granted him an opportunity to feature in gospel icon Daddy Owen’s track Mbona. So touching was the song it changed many peoples’ perspectives on the physically challenged and inspired thousands facing the same. Denno continues to churn tunes and had at one time been a signee to Bahati’s EMB Records.
To many, gospel music lovers, Reuben Kigame is a household name. And despite being visually impaired at a tender age, he wears many hats; he is a musician, teacher, broadcast journalist and recently unsuccessfully attempted to vie for top office as the fifth President of Kenya. He remains a respected personality, and it is difficult to tell what his next move will be.