I am about half an hour late as I take the final shameful steps into her office. She barely takes notice, battling a blitz of phone calls – from within office and on her mobile phone.
“Welcome,” she manages to say, blocking the phone from picking her voice.
In two minutes and thirty four seconds I watch her fumble through files and papers; with the phone trapped between her ear and shoulder. Once every ten seconds she would turn to her computer, squint to pick out something from the screen and then raise back her face at me with a smile that says, “I am sorry but I have to get this done. Just a few more seconds, please.”
I think to myself: women can multitask but this Angela Ndambuki can do that and more.
“We have little time: shoot,” she says, fidgeting her torso into the position that suggests that she is ready for questions. While many of those who know her carry only a single thread of description – her days singing in the girl group Tattu – she feels proud of who she is when she is not on stage, serenading her fans with ballads they created when hip hop was an emerging genre in Kenya.
“I am a lawyer. I am a mother of two and a wife of one,” she says.
She had zoomed into university life, riding on good grades and young ambition. In her younger years she had flirted with several career options and seemed to settle for architecture. But by the time she was completing high school her qualification points didn’t quite match with architecture. But they did with law. And so, she set forth working hard to be a good lawyer.
Then came the stirrings of youth; the feeling of immense energy towards artistic projects. Angela had just won an award for a film she had made. Her team included four girls – close friends.
“We approached David Mathenge [famously known as Nameless] in the hope that he, as an artist, would work with us on some projects,” Angela recalls.
Nameless was a student within the university as well. But his clout, having broken into the music scene, elevated his stature as a big shot in showbiz circles. He would be the girls’ big break.
“He however had his own ideas and asked two of us to be his dancers,” Angela says in retrospect.
She was one of the two. But her dancing career ended abruptly when she couldn’t deliver what was demanded of her: shaking and gyrating in very suggestive moves.
“Suddenly, dancing changed. People had to shake! Shake! Shake! We couldn’t do it.”
Then on a fine day during one of her lessons, she began jotting down a song; or perhaps a love poem. In it, she screamed and cried her heart out. She talked to a lover whose charm had changed into frustrations. She had had enough of him and was walking away. There is a trumpet playing, signaling ‘time is up’ as she gives up on the love of her life.
Together with her girlfriends, Debbie and Shinde, with whom she made the girl group Tattu, they approached a production house. The song, titled Teso, proved to be a big hit, finding its way onto the lips of many young people.
Fame and stardom was sweet. But she never relented on her values and her quest to graduate from law school. In the years ahead, Tattu maintained their rise. But just as fast as they rose they would fade from the music scene barely within five years, suffocated by a growing swarm of younger and energetic rap and hip hop lads.
“We ran out of steam and died a natural death,” Angela says. “Several times we have tried to resurrect the group but in vain.”
By graduation time, Angela had already aligned her mind to pursue the career with all her might. Which she did: passing her bar exams and getting admitted.
She is now a proud advocate of the high court. Her love for law and passion for art led her to rally behind the creation of Performers rights society of Kenya (Prisk).
“Finally, I could do something that allowed me to use both my creative and analytical sides. I loved it. And even when people questioned whether I was a lawyer or a musician, I have loved coming into this space,” Angela says.
Angela does not like the idea that she is the brain child behind Prisk. She prefers being acknowledged as “the person who actualized the whole process of realising Prisk.”
“I had set my mind in it. In fact, for two years, I was never paid any salary. I remember researching as we struggled to put things together. Prisk was informed by the need for protect performers through the meshwork of law,” she says.
When I ask if she has ever represented a client in a court of law, Angela giggles then says: “Never. I can and I would. But my school of thought sees the field in broader perspective. It is not just about the courtroom. It is about defending what is right and that can happen in any sphere.”
But would she have the mettle to argue her lungs out? Gasping between breaths as she matches up to her opponent?
“Maybe not,” she says. “I am pretty emotional and that may work against me. However, this may not stay the same way for long.”
Angela regards herself as less of a musician now than she was in her hey days. She is about to leave the country for a year, to undertake her LLM at Edinburg university in Scotland. And when she comes back, she will pick from where she left because “I feel like I still have so much to offer.”
It is not always that famous individuals are in stable relationships. Angela credits the stability in her marriage on meeting the right man and putting God first at every instance.
The father of her two girls is a man she only has praise for. “He is the best husband,” she says, “and the best father.”
She says she is a better person today because of her husband. Her work at Prisk can at times be overwhelming but she blames none of that tire on her family. Her children are like angels to her. They can only make her happy and never otherwise.
She is proud of her achievements though. This includes a medical insurance deal she pushed for to cover performers against bad health. Yet, she still hopes to rummage farther and earn performers every single dime of what they deserve.
For a woman who ‘shook’ her body on stage [pun intended] in her university days to earn a living, Angela truly has come far. Yet the future is just turning at the horizon.
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