If you have heard the Mpesa ad jingle; Relax Uko na Mpesa on radio or TV, the mellow voice behind the ad is that of multi-talented singer and producer Kanjii Mbugua. It is rumoured Kanjii was paid a handsome amount of money for the jingle, but that is something he is not willing to divulge, at least not in public. He does however offer some explanation why ad jingles sometimes sound better and catchy than a song.
“Composing a ninety second jingle is much more fun and easy as opposed to an entire single,” says the former member of the gospel group, Milele.
Kanjii and his wife, Mwendie Mbugua, were speaking to Daystar University students in Athi as they engaged students in a talk show organized by the students.
Kanjii, who is a worship leader at Mavuno Church, was brought up in a Christian family, but he came to understand salvation when in high school. He echoes his dad’s favorite quote “If you are going to be a ditch digger, be the best ditch digger” from John F. Kennedy’s dad. His dad’s advice played a big role in helping him pursue his passion in music.
Kanjii started singing after joining an acapella group in Nyeri Baptist High school which he joined because he thought they were cool. Luckily for him, his first single was well received by the audience. That marked the onset of his career in music. Kanjii later on joined Biola University, USA where he studied Audio Engineering and Vocal Performance.
So exactly how did Kanjii meet Mwendie?
The two met in California on a music tour. None of the two recalls when they officially started dating but according to Kanjii they started dating when he bought her a 2 dollar teddy bear which she has until today.
“I am a very traditional African man with no pick-up lines,” he jokingly said. They both were afraid of long distance relationship but they ended up having one as Kanjii was out of the country for four and a half years during their relationship.
“We learnt how to communicate, to talk and we took off masks and became vulnerable,” said Mwendie.
According to Kanjii he knew from the start that their relationship was one that would last and that he would marry her. “I had never related to anyone at the depth I had with Mwendie,” he said.
They both narrated how Kanjii proposed nine years ago in Orange County in the US. Kanjii planned with his boys who hid in bushes at the scene with a camera to record everything. He then took Mwendie for a walk at sunset near a cliff with steps leading to a beach where a cello player was playing.
She enjoyed the tunes from the cello player but she didn’t imagine it had been planned. “Then I went down on one knee,” he said.
Mwendie quickly adds, “He said I would like you to spend the rest of my life with me.”
The couple has two lovely children, Selah and Benga.
Mwendie, a Daystar alumnus, is a musician as well and a marketing strategist. The couple runs Kijiji entertainment Company which started eight years ago that deals with both entertainment and developing content. Kijiji has helped some of Kenya’s top brands harness their potential. Kijiji also runs the Village musical shows every Easter and Christmas.
Mwendie believes that content on air should be a positive. “Content is on air, whether you like it or not, your kids are going to be raised up by media,” she said.
Her vision is for the company to develop content that will shape people’s behavior for the better. The audience sought to know why the couple has not done a collabo yet.
“This industry is not glamorous at all and I want to keep her away from that,” said Kanji, adding a single may be in the cards sometime later.
Kanjii derives his inspiration from God, his life experiences and his desire for justice. His wife on the other hand derives her inspiration from God, her husband Kanjii, her mum and her girlfriends.
Kanjii believes the Kenyan gospel scene is ahead and the rest of the world needs to learn from us. This is because some of the biggest gospel musicians in Kenya are on the national platform as opposed to other artistes in the world.
“I believe in this continent and this moment we are in, barons of industry will be created, “he concluded.