Having witnessed the ugly face of post-election violence in 2007, Eko Dydda, decided to drop his official name in his efforts to fight tribalism, he also doesn't want his two son associated with any tribe, no wonder the unique choice of their names. Shirley Genga had a chat with him.
How did you get into music?
Music was never my original choice. My heart was always in football but in Form Three God showed me that music was the direction he wanted me to take. Before that I had never written a song or a rhyme but nothing can stop the plan of God.
I took an interest in music and God gave me the lyrics and so I began to perform in Eastleigh, and after high school a friend of a friend introduced me to Holy Dave and we did the song Niko na Reason, I think it was back in 2007 and it gave me my big break.
Is Eko Dydda your real name, and what does it mean?
At first the name was my stage name inspired from the words I echo Jesus, I corrupted the words and Eko dydda was born. However, in 2009 I changed my name officially to Eko Dydda, in fact if you Mpesa me that is the name you will get.
It took me about six years to do it, I began in 2009 and the name became my official name in 2015. It is all part of the movement I began in 2009 called the Tribe All Movement, I was tired of the tribalism in our country.
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In 2007 I happened to be in Mathare during the post-election violence and I almost lost my life because of tribalism, I have seen its ugly face first hand and I decided to be part of the change. I do not believe that people should only marry from one tribe, that you should only buy land in your ancestral land or only name our children after relatives.
I believe that as Kenyans we should all live together and thus buy land anywhere; we should all speak one language. Personally, I do not even know my own mother -tongue as I grew up in Nairobi. We are not children of a tribe, we are all children of God, I follow the culture of God.
I want my children to be looked at as Kenyans and not as coming from this tribe or that one, and that is why I called my first son who is 5, AmBlessed Wisdom Dydda and my second son who is 3, KeepItReal Favour Dydda.
Is your father okay with your choice to disregard his name and your refusal to pass it on to your children?
I grew up in a Christian home and when I showed my father personalities in the bible who changed their names in order to accomplish the purpose which God has set out for them, he was enlightened, and became very supportive of my decision.
Your sons AmBlessed (5) and KeepItReal (3) are the latest talent to hit the gospel music industry, what do you hope to accomplish as they are still so young?
When it comes to my boys and their musical talents, I believe my role is to be an and not to impose my own agenda. I am glad that God helped me notice that when I would come with a song from the studio and play it at home that they would stop playing and listen to the song very keenly. They are the ones who asked to go to the studio, and when we go I let them work on their songs on their own. I want them to find their own sound and let God determine the direction and purpose.
The Kenyan gospel industry is currently riddled with rumours of cartels running the show and music singles that sound more secular than gospel, what is your take on that?
When you are in a race, run your race and do not be distracted by what everyone else is doing. I know who brought me into the industry and I know my purpose. If you look back at what everyone is saying or doing you may even be tempted to engage in things which are not Godly because they may look like they are working.
What do you love most about being a father?
I love watching my kids grow, it's a testament of God's majesty. Watching them grow from young and helpless to the point where they can walk, talk and have their own opinions, it is a miraculous.
What inspired your decision to home-school your kids?
My wife and I decided that public school and private did not work for us because we want to be present in our kids' lives, and we did not want other people raising our kids. Plus, we believe that how school is structured these days turns children into robots who cannot do anything without asking the teacher or even simply reason.
We want our kids to be independent thinkers, to be able to reason and to know that they can chart their own destiny that they do not have to follow what everyone else is doing. We hope to home-school them until Campus if possible!
Currently you and your wife have been married since 2009, what is the glue that keeps you together?
My wife is called Galia and I believe that what has kept our marriage strong is the fact that our marriage is between me, her and God, we keep everyone else out. She has my back and I have hers; we do not let third parties into our union. When we disagree, we do not call relatives, the pastor or our friends, we sort it out amongst ourselves.
In high school, you attended a girl's school, that's an interesting twist of fate, how did that come about?
I went to Riverside academy Kariobangi for my primary level before proceeding to East Leigh high school, but in form 3 that I had to drop out of school for two years because of school fees. However, the break came as a blessing in disguise as a well-wisher and teacher in Riverside Girls' High school who had taught me in primary offered to pay half my fee.
The high school had just changed from a mixed school to an only girls' school but I was allowed to attend. I was the only boy in the school, and at first it was hard for me but I embraced it and it helped me get out of my shell as I was a very shy boy.
Glimpse into your childhood?
I was born and raised in the Eastland. We first lived in Mathare valley before moving to Mathare North where I was raised. In short, I hail from the famous Eastlandos. I come from a family of four children; (3 brothers and one sister).
My father was a carpenter and my mother sold vegetables, they introduced me to Christianity at an early stage and in Class Four I gave my life to Christ. Life was very hard growing up. I had to work as a garbage collector to raise money for upkeep and my school fees, also when I discovered music I would perform my songs, sometimes I would get paid nothing, other times Sh1,000 which was a lot.
Apart from music what else do you do?
Although I do not play football anymore, since 2009 I have been organising an annual football tournament that involves 32 slums across East Africa. Last year the tournament was sponsored by Safaricom and the winning team took home Sh200,000; we get sponsorship from different companies or organisations and other times it's out of our own pockets, but I never worry because God always provides.
The tournament is not just about doing sports but its purpose is to transform the community and to bring about unity and tolerance.