Scarred piano man
Nightmares and cold sweats That was the beginning of the end of normalcy for the strapping lad and a painful three years of hospital visits. “I was in hospital for a month, and at the time, I had been preparing to join Nairobi School for my high school education, a journey that was going to be harder than I had anticipated.” When he was not bullied by his peers, his self-esteem took a brutal beating, and it took him almost 10 years to rebuild his self-esteem. “To me, the first thing everyone saw was my scarred face. I always thought that people were laughing at me behind my back. At some point I grew a huge keloid on my face. It was not a pretty sight. And this made me retreat into my shell some more. I kept to myself, fostering very few friendships. I didn’t think I was good to look at, and this went on for so many years,” he admits wryly. Also the constant getting out of school for hospital visits made studying difficult. “I had a difficult time in high school. I spent most of my time in the hospital getting treated and doing skin grafts and radiotherapy.” And deep in the night, he would wake up abruptly in a cold sweat. “I had nightmares, reliving the fire and my burning face and arms. I couldn’t sleep. And so I had so many sleepless nights. It was tough, but over time, they went away.” To give him a chance of leading a normal life, the medics embarked on a plan to reconstruct his face. “Because of how thick the forehead skin is, they had to stop using anesthesia while doing the skin grafts because it would kill my nerves. It was so painful and I would talk myself through the procedures, trying to remind myself that I had come too far and that I could do it. Healthy skin from my thighs was moved to my face and hands. I also had some radiotherapy done to kill the excessive cells that were growing.” End of the pity party Even though the facial reconstruction procedure was finished three and a half years after the fire, he still carried some residual physical pain. And while he bore that admirably, he still carried his low-esteem issues and frustrations about his appearance everywhere. “10 years ago, I finally made my peace. I saw a therapist who was very blunt. He said what my loved ones were not telling me. That I was using my fire accident as a clutch, that I was letting it define me. I realised that he was right and I had to accept my new looks and move on. And that is when he slowly started getting out of his shell and working on his music. A passion that turned the young man into a household name in the world of jazz music. His musical career began working as a music director for the Eric Wainana before gaining prowess in his own right as a jazz artiste in the musical circles. He gained nationwide recognition when he joined the Tusker Project Fame as the head of the band. Since then, his star had kept on rising.
The little limitations Just like the scars on his arms and face, the gas may have caused some damage to his lungs. “I have some scars on my airway and experience some difficulties with my left hand. It still doesn’t function as well as my right hand. Given that I’m a pianist, I always have to practice a lot and do lots of exercises to help my left hand can endure working or playing for a long time,” he explains. Today, Aaron and his wife are based in New Jersey, and he is excited about his life there. His eyes light up as he talks about his wife of eight years. “I met my wife in church. We became friends and to date she is still my best friend. Our move to America wasn’t planned. Safaricom Jazz Festival was instrumental to my move here. During the very first edition, Richard Bona who was the main artistes for the festival encouraged me to move to New York because it is the ‘haven’ for jazz music. So after some thought, we decided to move. And I worried that I would regret not taking the chance. Is he living his best life? I prod. “Yes I am. We’ve been here for over a year now and I love it. The calibre of musicians playing here is amazing and intimidating. Makes me work harder and be better. I am happy.” And his happiness shows as he beams widely as he signs off. While it is daytime in Kenya, it is nighttime across the Atlantic, and with some shows lined up in the next few months, Aaron says he needs to get some sleep.