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It's tough being a Maasai preacher

Arts Lounge

NEHEMIA LENOI KILANKA, a Maasai preacher and gospel singer talks to SILAS NYAMWEYA about the challenges of being a Maasai reverend. 

Where did you grow up?

I am Rev John Mpidaki, the lead pastor at Pefa Church, Kumpa. I was born in Kumpa sub-location, Purko Ward, Kajiado County. I am also a family man with two lovely kids. 

How do you sing so fluently in Swahili and English?

 I am an educated Maasai. I went to school in a cosmopolitan institution, which shaped my language proficiency. I can also say it is due to experience since I started singing at a young age. While in school, my teachers could give me an opportunity to sing during assemblies or religious events, and many a time, I was given an opportunity to sing in churches...This really shaped my career. 

When did you start recording your music?

I started recording my music at a small studio called Mopotune in Kajiado town. However, contrary to my expectations, I found the journey in the music industry to be so rough due to lack of money. Sometimes, you need to go somewhere to entertain people but a lack of resources constrains you. At first, the going was tough but it taught me patience.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced in the music industry?

Most of the time, we Maasais have to wear our shukas. However, sometimes people will not recognize or appreciate you the way you appear and that could make one to give up. Lack of money is another great challenge for upcoming artists. Personally, I could be invited to a crusade or concert but fail to attend due to lack of fare. Yet I know my songs could have blessed many people.

You are so passionate about philanthropy. What is your motivation?

When I was young, there were several times we slept on an empty stomach. That made me totally hate hunger.

What memorable event can you recall from your charity events? 

I remember one day, I and my friends were on the way to see a family. We were going to give them some food we had carried. I remember we went to one family and gave them 6kg of maize and the moment we gave the mother the maize, the mother started to cry: “My sons, you’re sent by God; imagine we have gone for three good days without having anything.” That makes me feel that what I am doing is noble. 

Why is it that many gospel musicians are against one another’s progress? 

It is sad that many of those who call themselves gospel ministers are involved in scandals day in and day out. They are not concerned about those who don’t have anything to eat or wear but their own interests. In fact, some of them are thieves while others are full of jealousy. 

What is your message to upcoming artists?

I would like to call on everybody with a talent to never give up. There is a time for every person in this world. There is a time you will shine no matter what. You may initially find it rough because a of lack of money but your sacrifices and efforts will finally pay off.

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