I watched her do the whole teary acceptance speech thing and felt just like I did when Barack Obama was named the first black President of the United States It was something that I never thought I would see in my lifetime – a young, female Kenyan being feted on an international stage for her excellence in the music industry.
“The MAMAs gave me a lot of exposure throughout the continent and indeed the world. It got people from different countries asking ‘who is this Kenyan girl who won Best Female Award in Africa?’ As a result, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with internationally-renowned musicians and producers.”
“It has opened my eyes even wider to something I have always known – the sky is the limit. Just because I was born in a Third World country, and found myself at the heart of a very young music industry does not mean my dreams have to be limited? Limitations only exist in your mind.”
On the flight back to Nairobi after the ceremony in Abuja, Nigeria, Wahu Kagwe, and her husband, David “Nameless” Mathenge, sat directly in front of me. As she laid her head on his shoulder and slept, they were the picture of marital bliss.
Independent observers would never have been able to tell that it was Wahu who rested so peacefully on her husband’s shoulder or that it was Nameless who so naturally made room for his wife.
Wahu is philosophical about marriage but unequivocal about her decision to become Mrs Mathenge. “There’s a certain feeling of peace and calm that comes from knowing that the person you sleep next to is someone who truly loves and cares for you; who you can be your absolute self with, and who would do anything to protect you. I would definitely marry my husband again, minus a couple of things about him that bug me!”she says, chuckling.
But without a doubt, her greatest joy was the birth of their daughter Tumiso. “Tumi is such a blessing to us and brings such joy and warmth to the home! Life is much better and fuller with her in our lives.”
Motherhood may have been the one thing that turned the young entertainer into the strong woman she is today. “It is the best thing that ever happened to me because it is such a humbling experience to have the opportunity to watch a little life unfold and begin to blossom.
“I am a more focussed woman now. Since she will always use me as a yardstick against which to measure her life, I do my best to make wise decisions, and strive to be successful in all that I do, so that one day she can say, if Mum did it, so can I.”
“I knew from an early age that everything happens for a reason. I also knew that human beings never fail. If you expect failure, you have not failed…you got exactly what you expected – failure. If you plan to succeed, you will succeed, because your heart, your mind and your energy is focused on that. I knew that whatever I set my heart on doing, I would succeed. It just happened to be music. I know there is so much more I can achieve. My journey to success has really just began.”
Wahu has chosen to read the signs of the times and capitalise on the singles market, much like her husband. “Market trends are changing. Singles are readily available online and the prevalence of piracy in Kenya is also very discouraging. Because of this, the returns on album sales are not what they should be. So, majority of us earn our living from performances, endorsements and music downloads.”
If she was named Queen of anything, Wahu would be the Queen of the Hit Single. She has a gift for catchy lyrics and addictive melodies and has a string of hits like Sitishiki, Kibowwow and Mambo Bado to her name.There are no plans to retire her hit-making machinery, but she has found that since the birth of Tumiso, she has acquired a new taste.
“I normally create music depending on my mood. When I was pregnant, I was in love with reggae, so a lot of the music I did then had very strong reggae undertones. I wrote Sweet Love, Running Low and other unreleased tracks during that period.There was a time when all my music was strictly kapuka but currently I am feeling Afro-fusion, so a lot of what I am working on now is in that direction.”
But the sky is the limit for her and it is as wide as it is high. There are other things that she wants to do. “I would love to set up community talent centres across the country for talented but under-privileged children; a college along the same lines with a strong scholarship component and a programme that caters for the empowerment of the girl child.”
Obviously, Wahu has mad love for her fellow women. So why are there whispers that she is beefing with Amani?
“It is strange that 90 per cent of the public expect a beef. Sorry to be so boring but we are totally cool with each other. I think she is extremely talented, extremely gorgeous, and extremely ambitious. We have come a long way together in this industry and there is just no space for us to have bile for each other.” There you have it. You heard it here first.
By Julie Masiga