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Anthony Ndirangu, 28, popularly known as Kanda Junior is a man of many faces. The entertainer, hype master and 2015 winner of inaugural Mzuka Africa Dance Awards is credited with mentoring a number of aspiring dancers and prisoners free of charge. He speaks to EVE about his dreams
Why the name Kanda Junior?
It was a transition I made with the help of my fans – in particular my late father, Mr Paul Maina, and Kenya's dancing machine Kanda King who was my biggest mentor. Being around my father who was an acrobat meant that I was always around music. With time I developed love for dancing and would often do so around tables at a tender age of five. It is when when I met Kanda King through my father that I started focusing on Lingala music and styles.
He taught me everything from dance moves to singing in Lingala language and that is when I started calling myself Kanda Junior since he is the one who built the foundation for my career.
Do people often mistake you for a Congolese and how has this affected you?
Yes, the fact that I do dance like them not to mention my features which are similar to that of Congolese performers. There are occasions when my Kikuyu fans end up discussing me in my language thinking I don't understand what they are saying. For me, this is a clear indication that I am good at what I do, that I am able to morph into something without anyone telling the difference.
Who is the real Kanda Junior?
I am Kenyan, born in Nyahururu.
How did it feel to be labelled Kenya's top dancer?
It's such a great achievement for me. Special thanks to the first edition of Mzuka Africa Dance Awards held in 2015 - an occasion which seeks to recognise and award Kenyan dancers/dance crews and individuals who have made positive contributions to the entertainment industry through dance.
Did you expect it?
Yes. This is because I learnt the best in the industry and also because of the passion I have for my job. I believe that if you love what you are doing then there is no stopping you from being victorious. Despite this, during the initial stages of my career I was doubtful if people would accept and appreciate me. You know Nairobi people are very particular when it comes to entertainment. But one day I was amazed to see a mammoth crowd getting into the club in order to watch me. My heart almost skipped a beat. I didn't know the dance was such a big affair. I was grateful to God and the host for enabling the event and accommodate all fans who braved the evening chill in the capital to watch me.
What do you do to make sure you remain fresh to your audience?
Meeting the expectations of my fans is not easy owing to the fact that they always want something new and fresh or else you lose them to your competitors. This means that I have to study them in order to know their dancing appeal besides constantly trying to come up with new dance styles so as to give them relief from my old ones.
What are you up to at the moment?
I host my own shows dubbed Diva's night every Wednesday at Club City Space situated within Nairobi's CBD from 6pm until dawn. I also do the same outside Nairobi. This aside I have employed a group of four different dancers drawn from Queen East Africa and Dot Com Professional dancers among others.
You also train prisoners within the country?
Yes, I feel that there is so much untapped talent out there (prisons included) that is the reason I have chosen to use my God given talent to train aspiring dancers regardless of who or where they are. Some of the prisons I have visited include Nairobi West, Nairobi Remand, Kamiti Medium and Maximum.
Was it easy making your way there?
Yes. A friend of mine Madame Wanini organised a dancing competition for prisoners from various local institutions. The good news is, they have since reformed.
What else do you do apart from dancing?
I sleep eat and enjoy dancing. It is what puts food to my table. I don't do anything to supplement my dance income. Despite this I would like to do a marketing course in the future since I already have a diploma in Mass Communication. I believe that with the latter I can promote myself both locally and internationally.
How do you cope with challenges?
I believe challenges are meant to prepare me for extraordinary services ahead. Despite being underrated by a section of green-eyed artists just because I am a dancer has not deterred me from doing what I do best.
What makes you different from the rest?
I believe I do it as it is. With the changing trends in music and dance style I strive not to let my fans down and that is why I give out my best during shows. To achieve this I practice and rehearse wherever I am, be either while driving, in the house, or in the bedroom. I always give my performance intensity before I step on the podium. And the results are amazing. In other words, I'm a self-conscious dancer with a style that is diverse, poetic, psychedelic and original.
What is the inspiration behind your dance?
Every day, I live for my fans and my nation. When I wake up I ask myself if they would be comfortable seeing me doing what I do. Will they be inspired or dejected with the kind of dance styles?
In what ways has your career changed from when you first started?
I have improved all around. When I first began, I just wanted to dance, but I didn't know much about anything so I did what I saw other dancers doing. I couldn't really be myself because I didn't know who I was. Now, I know a lot more and I am more confident in my ability to come up with unique and rare dance styles depending on what the crowd wants to see. My dance has become a part of my lifestyle and not necessarily a hobby anymore. I feel like I have to dance just like I have to sleep.
There was a time you were reported to have beef with your mentor Kanda King?
That was a creation of social media. Beef is for people who don't know what they want in the entertainment industry. On my part I want to concentrate on doing what I do best and inspire the coming generation.
What are your future plans as far as dancing goes?
I want to inspire upcoming dancers through my career by making them realise that nothing is impossible in achieving their goals in life as long as they are determined to do so. I intend to nurture and encourage more youngsters who may have lost hope in life. I am that living example - a simple youth from Nyahururu who made it despite the many life obstacles that stood my way. All they need to do is focus on their goal, go for it, work hard at it through patience and perseverance besides never giving up and they will be able to achieve their dreams.