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Making Swabri Mohammed aka Redsan a reggae king

By By SHIRLEY GENGA | September 28th 2013


You had taken a bit of a hiatus from the public for a while, what have you been up to?

I needed to put some more time into family, but at no time was I disconnected from my fans.

You and the likes of Five Alive, Kalamashaka, Hardstone, Necessary Noise and Mercy Myra, were the pioneers of music in Kenya; you helped the industry grow to the point where it is now. At that time, did you think it could blow up to be this big?

Honestly I had no idea I would be part of the group who would change the industry let alone build it. All I knew, deep down, was that with hardwork and with God, anything was possible. So it started shaping itself and slowly I started seeing other artistes and studios come up, and music schools started to build unions. Artistes joined and suddenly, we had Music Copyright Society of Kenya and the river has suddenly become an ocean. I am proud of the industry and the artistes who help shape it each day.

When and how did you get into the music scene?

Around 1996. I was still in school by then; I do not even remember how I made time for my music. It was difficult for me to make a name for myself, especially when there was no industry to begin with. Even radios did not play local music, let alone the dancehall reggae that I was emulating.

When was your big break?

I think my big break came when East African Breweries Limited started to bring international artistes into the country for performances, and I had a chance to meet up with Shaggy. He invited me to perform with him on one of his gigs ,and I guess that is when the radios realised we have our own dancehall star here, who can actually do the same music as Shaggy. Shortly after that, I was the new kid on the block and all the radio stations, which were only two at the time, wanted a piece of me. I got invited to events and star searches, which were started by Susan Gachukia back in the day. Lots of respect to Susan, by the way, because she contributed a lot to  building this industry.

To date, what would you say is greatest achievement?

They are many, but just to narrow it down, it has to be seeing the local music industry grow to the level it is now. Being one of the pioneers who drove this industry to international levels makes me very proud.

You have had a long and successful career, but every one goes through ups and downs; what has been your lowest moment so far?

When I was starting up; I struggled to get my music on radio stations, I guess they didn’t respect me and what I was doing at the time, and it was difficult because I knew people would love my music, but I did not know how to get it to them. However, I did not give up because I knew this was a foundation of something big. I guess the people around me that time did not see my vision. 

When did you realise you had a gift in music and wanted to pursue it?

I was about 15 when I realised I could sing. My classmates would ask me to sing for them before lessons. I got comfortable and grew with it, and turned it into a profession. I did not go to music school, no one taught me how to sing, it’s just one of those God-given talents.

Tell us a little about your childhood?

I grew up in Nairobi and I come from a very large family. I thank God he truly blessed my father and mother.

How would you describe your style of music and who or what inspired it?

I do dancehall reggae. It is not different from what Sean Paul or Shaggy do. I grew up listening to reggae and I loved the sound, and wanted to be the first artiste to contribute to it in Africa. So I worked hard, met the right people and we made it happen.

How many albums have you released so far, and which artistes have you worked with over the years?

I have three albums out; the fourth will be released later this year. I have worked with many talented musicians including: Jose Chameleon, AY, Wyre, P Square, D Banj, Brick and Lace and Demarco.

You recently got signed by a big music company; tell us about that?

My new team is Sony Music and rockstar4000. I am a testament that with hardwork comes success.

You recently tied the knot… tell us a little about your wife?

My wife’s name is Wahida, and I believe it is God who brings two people together; it is fate and I could not fight it. I knew it in my heart when I first saw her that she was the one.

When did you get married?

 We just celebrated our first anniversary.  We are still newlyweds, but it feels like we have known each other forever. It is an amazing feeling —  I am a lucky man.

Word has it that you got a daughter recently…how is fatherhood?

My daughter’s name is Akleema and I love her very much. I miss her so much when I am away. I always call and ask her mom to put her on the phone even though she can’t speak; it’s a big relief to just know that she can hear me talking to her, and I can hear her breath and make all sorts of noises.

What do you love most about being a father?

I thank God for the blessings. I love everything about being a dad; it is a whole new experience for me and I just love it .I cannot pick out one thing that I like most about it, the whole experience is wonderful. I will have more kids definitely, but that’s is in God’s hands.

What is the one important lesson you hope to impart on your child as a father?

Always put God first in everything they do.

Apart from music what else do you do?

My time is dedicated to music full time now, especially with my new contract with Sony Music and rocktar4000. I practically live in the studio. I am working hard to get this new album out.

If you were not a musician what do you think you would be doing?

I would be a writer; I love writing.

You look very young, fit and trim; what is the secret?

Good genes and also a little bit of exercise.

Away from music, what do you like to do for fun?

I like to hang out with family. I also love to play soccer, watch movies and read books. I am a fun magnet away from studio!

Your future plans?

I have many but right now, I want to concentrate on Sony Music and rockstar4000.

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