Imagine a 12-year-old boy, being forced into the illicit brew business because his parents just died and he had to ensure that ends met? Imagine being forced out of school because one would rather fend for his immediate needs than study? Imagine having to abandon your desire of becoming a news anchor because of circumstances beyond you?
And that’s the life of a young man better known in the entertainment circles as Otile Brown. He has defied odds to rise as one of the best musicians we currently have in Kenya. He has released three songs; Shujaa wako which was his premier song in the industry and he followed it closely with Imaginary love feat Khaligraph Jones. The latter did well, topping charts including being beat of the week song. And to cement his position in the industry, he has released a massive song titled De Javu.
Growing up in a family of seven in the coastal city of Mombasa, Otile Brown never imagined in his wildest dream that his music will one day grow beyond the confines of the bathroom and estate singing competitions. However, in 2013, Otile Brown decided to take a step of faith by moving his base from Mombasa to Nairobi. His desire was to establish himself in the mature entertainment industry in Nairobi. “The game wasn’t fully grown, opportunities were rare, but I was thirsty for success,” noted the humble artist when we met him at Dreamland Music studios in Kiambu road.
Armed with faith and talent, Otile Brown believed that his music would be easily received in Nairobi. But the rude shock that received him when he landed in Nairobi almost made him question his decision to move. He couldn’t fend for himself, his family was nowhere near to help him and he didn’t know many people in the jungle city of Nairobi. He didn’t have a place to stay, but a longtime friend who lived in Kibera took him in. “I had to hustle and contribute to the needs of the house by temporarily abandoning my musical desires to focus on putting vegetables and ugali on the table,” lamented the artist in a reflective mood.
“And so off I went in search of an elusive job. Every door I knocked was answered with the common phrase hakuna kazi. I was getting desperate because days were turning to weeks and weeks slowly morphing to months, but I still had no tangible economic activity,” Otile Brown added.
The hustle went on for almost a year and he was growing desperate. There are days when he couldn’t afford to eat so he would sit by the neighbor’s house and sniff the aroma of the food they were cooking to fight hunger pangs, indeed, necessity is the mother of all inventions.
One day, he decided to sell his bag and phone for Sh 2000 so that he could raise a seed money to start a business. The easier option he thought he could get himself into was selling clothes. He always loved fashion and everywhere he turned, he noticed a business opportunity by how people were dressed. So he decided to venture into second-hand clothes business. He would go to Gikomba (the largest second-hand clothes market in Nairobi) and buy clothes in bulk. His journey would then revolve around the University of Nairobi’s different campuses as he knocked different hostel doors to sell his merchandise.
The hustle continued for almost a year when his breakthrough came forth. He had gone to Royal Media Services to have a meeting with Willy M. Tuva. He had faith in the music he had recorded in Mombasa and he was confident that Tuva would play it. While waiting at the reception, Jalang’o (Felix Oduor), passed by and he gathered the confidence to approach him and explain his predicament.
Jalango listened keenly and since they had one thing in common, acting. So Jalango introduced him to the Kenya National Theatre and their friendship grew. Jalang’o decided to teach him how to fish instead of giving him fish. He introduced him to Docta Eddie (Edward Omondi) of dreamland music.
Docta Eddie noted the potential that this young man had and immediately accepted him into his label. He worked with him in his studio as a music writer, backup vocalist and trainer. Having noticed his potential through their different engagements, Docta Eddie decided to sign him in his newly formed label; Dreamland Empire.
Ever since then, the working chemistry has contributed to their success in the slippery industry. “We are planning to take over. We want to disrupt how music has been managed in Kenya. Let’s take Kenyan music to the continental level,” added the producer who is also the CEO of Dreamland Music, Docta Eddie.
“Were it not for this talent of making music, I would still be brewing and selling chang’aa in Mombasa. It’s heart-breaking what poverty can drive people to. It’s not a part of my life that I’m particularly proud of but the lessons I learnt there are priceless,” said Otile Brown.
As we wrapped up our interview, the team at Dreamland Music took us for a tour of their recently refurbished studio. Here, they played some of the music that Otile Brown is working on. Listening to the songs, we were convinced that time has come for the musician to blow up and compete on a global level. The quality of the audio, depth of lyrics and excellent packaging will definitely see the musician topping charts in Kenya.
Follow the artist @otilebrown
Follow the producer @dr_eddie