Vision beyond the eyes
| Jul 11th 2012 | 5 min read
Although Denis Karanja Njoroge, aka Deno, was born blind, he is prove that physically challenged people can achieve their dreams just like any other person. He talks to GARDY CHACHA about his music
When did you realise you could sing?
In primary school. There was a certain young man in our school who used to sing very nice and positive songs. He motivated me to try out my voice. When I did, I realised I was talented.
What did you do after your discovery?
I joined the school choir where I practiced and trained my voice to hit certain notes. Around that time, I met a colleague, Peter Katwa, who was also blind and talented in music. He was already singing and together we composed a ten-track album called Nafsi, which was released in 2007, but didn’t do very well.
How did you meet Daddy Owen and when did you decide to do a collabo with him?
I met him in 2010 at a local TV station where I had been invited for a gospel show interview. I expressed my desire to work with him. He promised that we would do a song together someday. A year later, he contacted me with an idea to do a song about disability. I constructed my verse and merged it with what he had already created. That’s how the track Mbona was created.
Give us a glimpse into your history as a blind person…
I was born blind. I didn’t know I was different until I realised I could not walk freely unless I was guided. My parents explained to me and I eventually understood that I was blind. They are the best parents. They have given me the same opportunities as my siblings.
What was your experience in the education system?
Not easy at all. I began learning at Thika Primary School for the blind and visually impaired. I had to learn braille, which was very hard at the beginning. In fact, my teachers were almost giving up on me and started teaching me technical stuff like rearing rabbits and other domestic animals. As time went by, they realised I was catching up and they gave me a second chance. I made it. I began recording my music in high school.
How did you balance between your music and education in high school?
I set aside time for my classwork and singing was one of my ways of unwinding. It wasn’t difficult, but I give glory to God who made it possible. I am now in college and I still manage to do my music.
What are you studying?
I am a student at Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB) studying computers. You are probably wondering how! I use a special software incorporated with voice prompts. I am in school from morning to around 1pm. I spend my afternoons at home working on my music.
Did you ever feel distraught that you were born blind?
Not at all. I realised God made me this way for a reason. I accepted my condition a long time ago and I don’t want to change anything about myself. I am not disabled; only challenged. I think all humans are disabled in a way because not all of us have the ability to sing, teach, run or drive. My condition has never bothered me.
How would you describe the kind of music you do?
It’s gospel, but would also qualify as inspirational music. I was born again in Class Two and although I have not been perfect throughout — just like any other human being — my desire is to praise God and work for him.
What made you decide to pursue music professionally?
Musicians like Angela Chibalonza, Mary Atieno and others like Ann Wanyama Gaveme — who although not famous sing beautiful gospel songs — motivated me to pursue music. However, Reuben Kigame inspired me the most. He has overcome many challenges and makes me feel like no dream is too far for anybody to achieve.
Tell us about your collabo with Daddy Owen…
I wrote a song, Oh Lord come down, which I hoped to do with him, but he proposed we do Mbona, which came out last month. Daddy Owen has exposed me to the music industry and I am grateful to him.
Any other musicians you desire to collabo with?
Many, but I won’t mention their names because I am yet to approach them. We just have to wait and see.
What are you involved in now?
Daddy Owen is helping me do my own album. He has involved me in a project dubbed ‘Mbona Initiative’. Our first step is to sensitise people to love and respect physically challenged (not disabled) people.
How do you create your music to the point when it is ready for release?
I get inspiration from God and then put the thoughts on paper. I then blend them with a tune and a chorus, and then the rest of the song follows.
What are your prospects in relation to your college studies?
The computer knowledge I will gain will be useful for my career. I want to be a musician and a music producer. Hopefully, I will own a music studio that will provide a platform for gifted musicians to explore their talent, just like what Daddy Owen did for me. I also want to help physically challenged people live a normal life.
How will you deal with the fame and buoyancy that music is giving you?
I pray to God that I remain faithful and not compromise my principles. Fame won’t get into my head because my only mission is to impact people’s lives through music.
What do you think is the right path to success?
Have a dream, pray and ask for God’s guidance then work towards implementing it. Many young people are ‘A’ dreamers but ‘E’ implementers. Success comes after you have actualised your dream.
Your parting shot…
I (and by extension challenged people) don’t need sympathy. Work with us, give us opportunities, mingle with us and treat us like normal people because we are normal. Do you know I ‘watch’ TV using my ears and I can even tell the programmes and the people speaking? I even ‘watch’ soaps like Soy Tu Duena. I am normal.
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