When the family of Nyamari Ongegu popularly known as Nyashinski got a chance to relocate to Delaware USA, the then 21-year-old was excited despite being very aware that he was cutting short his career.
The 30-something part guy-next-door, part human dynamo shares with Judith Mukiri Mwobobia the path that led him back home...
“It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. Growing up with that attention from my music may have stunted me somewhat. I was happy to leave Kenya. I had started getting tired of keeping up with the momentum of releasing good music. Plus the allure of the US we saw in movies was enticing.”
But was it all that he had hoped for? I ask.
“Well, no one knew me there, and I loved that. It was like falling off a cliff, the anonymity was refreshing. Then the excitement of discovering a new place was all consuming to worry about what I had left behind.”
The plan, according to his parents, was for him, their last child, to go back to school. But the young man wasn’t too keen.
“I didn’t want to waste my dad’s money on school fees and student loans because I knew that it wasn’t for me. Now in America, I just wanted to look for work and start making money.”
And so started the job search. Luckily a Kenyan resident got him one delivering ‘proofs’ to banks. Proofs are basically slips that show proof of a transaction. He would pick up bags from the hub and drive around collecting the slips from institutions before delivering them to the banks.
“Many Kenyans do that job over there. I was getting Sh91,044 (900 dollars) per week. It was a full day’s job. I lived with a little dog and the money sustained me just fine, though the living expenses were higher there than here.”
The long lonely road
Always looking for better opportunities, his brother-in-law who lived in Dallas at the time, called him and told him that there was more money and great benefits to be made in the trucking business. And so he looked up the application process and found that it meant going back to school on a short truck-driving course.
“I called up my father and told him about it. That I needed about 5000 dollars for the course. Dad was shocked, to say the least. “You want to drive trucks? After refusing to go back to university?” But he relented and he went looking for the money because he didn’t have it. We aren’t very rich, but he finally managed to get the money and I enrolled for the driving course for three months.”
After the training, he was given a truck to run.
“At times, I would be so tense and hold onto the steering wheel for dear life, and my trainer would ask me to relax, and I finally mastered it.”
At this point, he shows me a picture of a big white truck. The kind he would drive across states hauling containers and later other trucks.
“I had started wearing out. The job runs you down. And it is a lonely existence because you are on the road for weeks on end. Just you, the truck and the long road ahead. Relationships breakdown, your health suffers too. I knew many older drivers whose marriages had broken down due to the work. Also, I know I worried my parents a lot. They didn’t know where I was sleeping, they were scared of me getting an accident, which thankfully, through the years, I didn’t. Not even a speeding ticket,”
No co-driver to keep you company? I prod.
“No, the insurance covers only you but you can go on the road with your dog or your wife for company.”
Eventually, Nyashinski and his brother-in-law bought a truck of their own, and the hustle went on.
Finding lost love
Even as the years went by, something continually pricked his conscience.
“I thought about coming back home real hard. I knew that music was my talent and at the end of the day, I would have to answer to God if I didn’t use it. So again, I went back to my parents and told them that it was time I went home. They wanted to know if I knew what I was doing. I wanted their blessings.”
And blessings he got. But there was the little money issue. He would need to support himself before his music took off.
“I had savings but I didn’t want to run through my savings to make music. So I kept my income separate from my savings, using what I was making and not my savings. And I moved back into our old home in Nairobi West.”
That was in 2016. Back home after 10 years, it was time to remind Kenyans that he still had it.
Get the full story here: Away from the mic