One of Kenya’s biggest names in music, Eric Wainaina is the epitome of longevity.
The singer, 48, is back and evergreen as ever with new music, a record label and other cool stuff in his goodie bag. The Sauce caught up with him for all the lowdown.
1.You are a legendary Kenyan musician. What pressures come with the title?
I do not know so much about the pressure, really. I think of myself as just a guy who plays and has been playing for some time now. That is really it.
2.You are not the orthodox Kenyan musician. Your style of music is quite alternative, which separates you from the rest of the pack. Why is that important to you?
That is a good question. I think we are all trying to do music that reflects who we are. Every musician has their skill and inclination. When it comes to me, I am all about the melodies, I play piano and I am always trying to create material from that, but I respect the diversity that is there. Like with Gengetone, I admire what they are doing. It is probably a very characteristic Kenyan sound now.
3.Speaking of Gengetone, what is your take on it? What are the chances it will have longevity and it is not just a craze?
It is a great genre. Whether it lasts or not, no one could ever deny that it had its run and influence. The sound stemmed from Genge. It might mutate into another genre, but I think it is here to stay and deserves its credit.
4.You are synonymous with infusing Kikuyu in your music. Why is that?
It is funny you ask me that. First of all, my spoken Kikuyu is atrocious. I get help from my dad and other people. Nonetheless, my biggest motivation with incorporating Kikuyu came from an instinctive feeling that singing and performing in vernacular was adding some oomph to it. Singing in vernacular affects my musical choices on the positive. I hope none of my fans ever feels left out though.
5.What do you have underway, musically speaking?
Over the course of the next 8 months, my new group, Television, and I will be putting out a record every month. The songs are ready and this pretty much kickstarts the launch of my record company, something I have wanted to do since the inception of my career. We have a bunch of artistes signed on it already.
6. Mind giving The Sauce a bit more information on the record company?
My wife and I are the founders. We have run Rainmakers-our marquee company-for the last 20 years. The new record label, Rain Records, is a spinoff of that. I am one of the first signees and Television are also signed on it. There are a couple more artistes signed on and is currently very multigenre.
7. How do you fish for signees?
The criteria are quite open. It could be people we have worked with for a while, or people we have spotted by chance. We are still figuring out a specific way to source for talent, as there is a lot of talent out here!
8. Is establishing your label, mentoring and signing other musicians your ultimate career goal?
My ultimate goal is to play for Barcelona! (Jokes) Having Lionel Messi sing my praises would also be quite something! (Laughs)
9. Those statements just suggested that you are a football fanatic. Do you play soccer?
I used to, but have not played for a really long time. I do not really know what happened, it must have been in college when I stopped.
10. Which other leisure activities do you engage in to unwind?
I watch stuff, play table tennis and hang out with friends and cook.
11. Which local productions are you currently watching?
I enjoy Crime and Justice on Showmax. I am also really loving Njoro wa Uba.
12. A lot of singers prefer listening to rap while a lot of rappers prefer listening to singers. Are you wired that way?
I like that you say that because just recently, I got into Kendrick Lamar the and I love him dearly. I however do not think I could recognize a Drake song even if he sang it to my face. I love Khaligraph Jones and Nyashinski-I think Shinski is a god! I also really like to listen to the underdogs.
13. Mkenya Daima is one of your biggest records ever and a Kenyan patriotism staple. Do you have more such songs on your roster?
The patriotism is a social justice pursuit for me. I definitely have a few of those in the pipeline.
14. How has the pandemic affected your work thus far?
There has been impact, both positive and negative. Revenue streams were hugely affected just like everyone else’s. On the flip side, I had more time to write, spend time with family. All that jazz.
15. You are extremely private, unlike many other Kenyan celebrities. How do you manage to do that?
I make the people around me sign non-disclosures! (Laughs hysterically) On the real though, I think it really is a choice. It is always a struggle between deciding what to put out there and what not to.
16. Parting shot?
Follow your dreams, keep it real, find good friends and play a sport!