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Kisii artiste defies odds to rise to the top

By KENAN MIRUKA

Known for his energetic dance moves and fast paced music, Kisii-based gospel artiste and evangelist Douglas Otiso is a household name in the region.

Orphaned at a tender age, the 24-year-old singer, who dropped out of school at Class Three, has defied all odds to rise to the top.

After being displaced from his Chepilat town home following the 2008 post-election violence, Otiso relocated to Gucha in Kisii County and soon afterwards released his first album, Samson.

Released in cassette and CD format, the song done in the Ekegusii language became an instant hit.

"I wanted to give hope to those affected by the mayhem using the story of Samson in the Bible who had everything but lost it in a day," says Otiso.

Kisii-based gospel artiste and preacher Douglas Otiso. The singer is also an accomplished keyboard player. [PHOTO: KENAN MIRUKA/STANDARD]

Other songs in the album include Tori Omuya Kobua Bari Bakure (You are not better than the dead) and Nacha Ekina (Make a choice). The singer said he sold more than 5,000 copies after the album received extensive airplay in local FM stations.

In 2009, he released his second album, Ekebe Kiobotomani (The sin of Adultery), that sensitises the public on HIV/Aids.

Last year, the artiste released his third album, Omobisa Omobe (An enemy), which urges people to be cautious when choosing friends.

His latest album, Naomi, has also received substantial airplay.

Otiso cut his musical teeth singing at the East Africa Pentecostal Church (EAPC) in Chepilat.

Professional growth

The singer regularly performs at crusades and churches in South Nyanza where he also doubles up as a preacher. He has also performed in Musoma in Tanzania and Kampala.

"Singing has made me what I am today. I try to help my siblings and fend for my family through singing. I have also managed to buy a car and music equipment through it," says the father of two.

Otiso acknowledges that lack of proper education has hindered his professional growth, and it is for this reason he has enrolled for English language classes to enable him communicate to a wider audience.

Nurture talent

"I want to learn how to communicate and later join theology school to get empowered to preach," he says.

His vision is to establish a recording studio in Kisii to cater for upcoming gospel artistes and nurture talent in the region. He notes that lack of funds make many musicians to record their music in ‘backstreet’ studios affecting quality.

Otiso, who performs and records his music alongside his wife and hired backup singers, is also a composers and an accomplished keyboard player.

The artiste says he draws inspiration from gospel artistes Rose Muhando and the late Angela Chibalonza whose passion and energy is manifest in their music.

"I like fast paced music that is full of energy and joyful singing. Occasionally, I do slow songs," he adds.

"Singing gospel music can be discouraging as it is not easy to make a break through. Talent abounds in Kisii and South Nyanza but we need more help from the church and radio stations," he adds.