Lang' Katalang': Living in the slums changed my perspective on life

By - Jan 1st 1970

Born Jacob Okumu Otieno, Lang’  Katalang’ rose to become one of the most sought-after Luo and Swahili Hip Hop rappers in Kenya. His genres of music however cut across Genge, Swahili Hip Hop, and Luo Rap.

Katalang’ is also a songwriter, events organiser, art creative director and film production executive.

“I owe my entertainment career to both the streets and Maseno University where I graduated with a BA in Drama & Theatre Studies with IT and am currently on the verge of beginning my master’s studies,” he says.

He is also the founder of Vetfarm 86 which is a brand that houses music, film, and construction.

“Mine is a story of a brave but very cheeky young boy having to go through the hurdles of life, especially after losing his mother at the age of seven years."

Although now he is an established powerhouse, Katalang remembers his early days in Nairobi with much nostalgia.

“I have a number of versions coming to Nairobi for the first time, but the very first time, I was surprised to see tall, elegant, and attractive Nairobi buildings. This was in 2003, Esir had released Boomba Train and it was all over the streets,” he says.

Although he says he has some good memories of his early days. It was not until he fully relocated to Nairobi that he bore the brunt.  Coming from Kisumu, he had sold all his belongings with the hope of buying new stuff.

“The unpleasant thing was getting a good house along Riverbank (Nairobi River) on the other side of Dohnholm, behind Jacaranda grounds. The environment was messy and smelly due to the raw sewage,” he says.

Katalang’ tried to survive in the filthy environment but finally moved to Kariobangi North after about two years “Waking up every day was all about a different story. If a robber had not been slain by undercover officers, then he was a victim of armed robbery. I witnessed guys get robbed in broad daylight. One memorable one for me was one evening while at the bus station when I witnessed one of the worst accidents. A hit and run on a street boy whose head was smashed beyond recognition."

"And what caught my attention more was just how a police vehicle came by and fellow street boys were loading the body of one of their own with utmost somberness.

I shed a few tears because I knew the poor kid would be dropped at the city mortuary and no one would claim him or rather no word from family. Walking was an option when I had no bus fare to commute in Eastlands.

At some point I did a song known as “Nairobi Hakuna Manzi Ya Mtu” to symbolise both prostitution for survival that I witnessed in the city and also the fact that every man is for himself in the city,” he says.

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