For the Applause
Preachers’ kids always come with an elaborate backstory. You will not find one without a story. They live double lives, become gangsters, altar boys and economists. Not that there is a line that shows where the robe gives way to the face mask. You have to figure them out yourselves. They can be slippery. They have mastered the art of living in tales. Average is not a word that has been associated with any I have met, and I would definitely like to be proven wrong. PKs are a special breed. Their parents preach the gospel while they serenade the streets.
His father stood on the podium every Sunday, and he in the streets the rest of the week. Both preached the gospel, saving as many souls as they could. The son emulating the man. People understood his need to stand on the pile of sand at the side of his mother’s shop as he echoed his father’s words. His mother’s shop was next to a hotel and a construction site. The perfect concoction to generate the ideal audience for a young performer. Vince was 4 years old and commanding the attention of crowds. Tell me this is not a true child of the church.
His body moved before he realized his voice could move the hearts of girls all over the nation. His first love was dance. Saturdays were for Club Kiboko and working on choreography. “I was 9 or 10 and had to go to choir practice. I would make choreographies for the church. The congregation each Sunday was of about 250 people. They would give a decent round of applause and it made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.”
He went to boarding school in Class Five [show me someone who didn’t]. That was when he realized he had some serious pipes too. “It was only right that I started out writing gospel songs. I was from a religious family [and he was just being practical. If he started with secular, his father may have rebuked the devil that was in him]. He was a 10-year-old lyricist, penning choruses and “little raps”. He was the go-to entertainer at school. The guy who sang for guests and read poems to his peers at assembly.
It did not come as a Eureka moment for Vince. It was in him. He woke up on Saturdays pumped for practice. No one had to drill the excitement into him. It came pouring out. “Why do I do what I do? I do it because I love it. Because I love to put smiles on other people’s faces. Because I like seeing people dance. To laugh, cry. I like being a part of people’s moments.” He also does it for himself. It makes him feel good about himself. Pouring his soul into others fills him in ways he never imagined possible.
As he stood on the sand emulating his father, he remembers being liked. He was the kid hanging out with anyone and everyone. The child hiding between the feet of grown men under shade, preaching the gospel like his father. The 4-year-old who knew what he wanted before he knew anything else. Crowds drew to him. The child talking about a man he knows not. The child that preaches and sings and dances and choreographs for the church. At some point, however, even the preacher’s kid realizes music comes in many forms, and he succumbs to the ways of the world.
Vince was sitting in a boring oral presentation class in Multimedia University of Kenya. He was dressed in a suit, waiting to give his kickass presentation. The group giving their presentation was not as interesting as they hoped to be, and Vince was bored. He chuckles when he says this. He has had only 2 hours of sleep and has a voice so groggy it forced me to listen to his voice note more times than I actually needed to. Back to him in class. He opens Instagram and the first post he sees is by King Kaka.
The post asked for singers. That those with sultry morning voices should belt out the latest song at the time by the King, and see what happens. It was all very mysterious.
Class ended at around 2pm. He went home in his presentation suit. He did not change clothes, recorded the video of himself singing in suit and tie [Cue J.T]. He showed them a few things his voice could do. They loved him. They invited him to Kaka’s studios. There were three winners, Vince, Brandon and Ethan.
“I was 2 hours late to meet with the guys. The others had met with him and mimi ndiyo walikuwa wananingoja.”
They hung out around the studio and started singing. “King wasn’t there so we just started singing. We were like; Oh my God. Yeah. This is nice. Mh nice. You have a nice voice. Oh, I have a nice voice? No, you have a nice voice. Oh stop. Gush. Sigh.” [I exaggerate a little but you get the point]
King [Yes, I am forcing this first name basis] wanted to create “the next big thing. The next singing group, band, group thingy [Vince’s words]. None of the three minded doing it, and Jadi began its serenade to Nairobi’s rooftops. “We realized our dreams were based on the same path, and we wanted to walk down it together.”
Jadi means tradition. Your roots. The smell of rain in your hometown. Your mother’s special Sunday evening stew that you tear hot Chapatti into. The sleep in your eyes when you are woken up by the matron for preps. Okay, maybe not that last one. “We wanted our name to remind us of our tradition. We want to always make music that we love. Music that we think is substantial and resonates with people.”
“Meeting with the guys has made me into a better singer. Before Jadi, I was singing on campus, going to events, and performing. I was singing everywhere I could and that helped me develop more as a singer. It helped to make the audition easier. Now, I am producing my songs and can confidently say that I am following my dreams. I’m giving it my all and am not going to stop doing it.”
Things have definitely changed for him. He understands things better now. He knows about the music industry and business [which he says are totally different. I have no knowledge in this business/industry and will take his word for it].
“I think I have become a better musician over time. We have made some money. We have faced hardships. But hard times make the journey interesting. I have grown tough skin. I have improved on my skill set too. I was just a singer when I joined Jadi. Now I am a singer, a pianist and am becoming a producer. I’m getting better.”
Vince has identified a problem he has. That of needing appreciation. He relies on people telling him he did great. He sings well. He is talented. Vince feeds on compliments. He lives for the applause. They boost his spirit. He recognizes this is something he needs to stop doing. To stop waiting for validation, but the business thrives on it. Charts and comments and views and compliments. The business of a performer is directly influenced by his audience’s reaction. Their satisfaction. Their reviews. Validation. “I am big on opinions. It is something I have recently learned I need to change. I take people’s opinions to heart, whether good or bad. I appreciate it so strongly. People who tell me they believe in me end up motivating me. People love to hear that stuff. To hear ‘you’re awesome, keep going’, you know? [I do know]
Also, the other thing that has changed is his parents now take him seriously as an artist. Jadi has a lot to offer in the music industry and business and they are chasing the bag. “We have had some hard times, and I hope more are not coming, but I’m ready for it.”
Well, I am still facing procrastination hurdles but at least the day is not yet over, right kids?