The versatile Linda Muthama
LINDA MUTHAMA needs little introduction as far as music is concerned. She has a passion for music and wastes no time to make it clear that music runs in her blood.
For starters, Linda was a finalist in the first edition of Tusker Project Fame, and is also the face of Jitambue Leo, an HIV and Aids awareness campaign which featured other artistes. The campaign has been running since 2009.
“I was born in a family of musicians. My father is a music teacher and a choirmaster while my mother is an active member of the church choir,” says Linda, who emerged third during the first edition of Tusker Project Fame. She says her father inspired her most and this is why when she joined Kahuhia Primary School in Kiambu, she was already set on what she wanted to do in life. She started shaping her career immediately by singing in the choir and representing her school in different competitions.
“When I joined Kahuhia Girls, many of my friends did not believe this. They laughed me off saying that music was not a serious career. After studying music and being in the industry for some time, I believe this is a career like any other.”
Because of her love for music, Linda chose music in addition to Education, which was her parents’ and friends’ wish. Linda is a Music and Performance graduate from Kenyatta University, currently pursuing her Masters in Music Education and Performance.
“Entertainment, specifically music is very fulfilling. I feel elated whenever I take to the stage to entertain my audience,” says the versatile musician who launched her second album, the 11 -track Imaji-nation, in March. Unlike Ne Muciare (He is born), her first album which comprises gospel songs, the latest album has both gospel and inspiring songs blended with love lyrics.
“The album is full of all of my dreams, some of I which have come true. In fact, a number of the hits are dedicated to my manager and long time mentor, Walter Mong’are,” Linda says.
“To create the unique sound of Imajination, my team at Altimate worked across continents with the support of able producers, family, friends, media and above all, God,” she says, and adds that the tracks in this album is a “collection of my personal emotions from joy, anxiety, courage, determination, pride, honour and hope.”
According to her, any loving man should stand by his woman in times of trials. “Walter has done exactly that and he has been my mentor since my college days and I cannot forget what he has done for my career. I would not be where I am today had I not met him. He has been an important pillar in my growth as a musician.” When she is not with Altimate Band which is one of the most expensive entertainment groups to hire, Linda is also a music tutor at Nairobi International School. She also performs in corporate and private functions including weddings but selectively.
“Compared to the entertainment value and package we offer, I believe our rates are fair and competitive. We are a professional outfit with singers and instrumentalists who keep the crowd entertained,” she says about her Altimate Band, which charges anything from Sh 100,000 as appearance and performance fees.
Apart from public performances, she is also part of a team that early in the year established the Kenya Musicians Association, KEMUSA, and she is the Assistant Secretary General.
“We wish to bring professionalism and sanity to this industry which for very long has been associated with indiscipline. The association’s aim is to ensure that the welfare of all musicians is taken into account,” she says of KEMUSA.
For the past one year, Linda has been busy performing with the Altimate Band in the Safaricom Kenya Live concerts across the country. Other than staging her performances, she is also the instructor, trainer and director of the other performing artistes who more often than are not backed up with a live band. The artistes on Safaricom Kenya Live include Nameless, Wahu, Redsan, Eko Dyda, Wyre, STL, Juliani, MOG, Juacali and other upcoming local and regional artistes.
Unlike many musicians, Linda is capable of singing and performing different genres of music including ohangra, and has shared the stage with some of the most respected musicians like Atif Aslam, Eric Wainaina and Jabali Afrika with whom she performed both in Kenya and in Washington DC while on tour with the Reddykyulass trio.
Linda advises the youth, especially girls, to follow their dreams. “Girls, especially those who are yet to join college and/or university should opt for courses they have passion for, with guidance from their parents.”
By Antony Ongalo
Photographs by Harry Olang
Styling by Namnyak Odupoy
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The rise and rise of Nyambane
Story and photographs by Antony Ongalo
People fail to understand that I have been in management for more than 15 years
He has established himself as a refined thespian, a radio station manager and a musician. By day, Walter Mong’are, who is also known as Nyambane, is in the office managing the affairs of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, where he is in charge of all radio stations. In the evening he changes hats and becomes an entertainer. He says entertainment is his hobby.
Walter can be described as one of the masters of comedy in the country because of his acts when he mimicked the retired President Moi, a role he played very well in the popular television comedy Reddykyulass. Walter says his alter ego Nyambane, who was a radio comedian on KISS! 100 and later at QFM, is totally different from Mr President who was in Reddykyulass and later Red Korna on the then Nation TV.
“You are now talking to Walter Mong’are, the Head of Radio at KBC. People have always confused these three people, yet they are completely different from one another,” insists Walter, whose appointment as KBC’s Head of Radio caught many by surprise and he was dismissed as a nonstarter as concerns management of the media.
“What people fail to understand is that I have been in management for more than 15 years. To make Reddykyulass, Altimate Music Band and Nyambane successful, it required management skills of the highest order. I am out to prove wrong those who doubted my managerial skills,” he says, adding that he answered to a job advert and he was interviewed by a panel comprising KBC board naembers and was eventually picked on merit.
“According to the latest Synovate Research media survey, Idhaa ya Taifa is the second most-listened to radio station behind Milele FM. I don’t want to brag, but those in the know agree it is as a result of the re-branding I did immediately I assumed this position.” Walter says he is now planning to launch a number of vernacular stations.
“KBC’s radio stations are the most professional stations because of the type of staff they have. But since KBC was a monopoly for so long, people grew tired and started having negative perceptions, but now, I am happy the attitude is changing and listenership has gone up,” he reveals.
Walter, who was hawking chapati and groundnuts at Lenana High School to supplement his pocket money, says his life has not been a bed of roses but he has struggled to be where he is today. “I don’t come from a rich family and my teenage years were challenging. While studying at Lenana High School, I had to look for ways of making an extra coin and this is when I ventured into the chapati business.The chapatis were made at a relative’s house and my role was to look for a quick market within the school.”
He recalls how because of strict student leaders and teachers, he conducted the business late in the evening and sold each chapati for a shilling more than the relative expected from him. “I did this upon realising that I was taking all the money back to my relative.”
He quit the business when he joined Fourth Form and wanted to be a student leader. “My enemies capitalised on the fact that I was involved in the ‘underworld’ business and I had to quit,” states Walter, who joined Kenyatta University in 1996.
It was at KU where he honed his skills as an actor when he joined hands with Kiarie John (KJ) and Tony Njuguna to come up with Reddykyulass, which exposed the talents of other comedians like Churchill, Kajairo, Eric Omondi, Mudomo Baggy and Linda Muthama.
“I don’t want to mention people’s names for the sake of giving myself or Reddykyulass credit, but I am sure we have contributed towards the growth of many people who were associated with us, either through acting or singing,”asserted Walter, who is a father of a 13-year old Tracy Mong’are and three year-old Walter Junior. “Junior is the ‘acting’ last born; another one is on the way.”
“What do you mean by that? Linda is actually my wife. It is just that we are still in talks to legalise the marriage. I married my first wife in 1996 when I was still at Kenyatta University.”
Walter believes that he started entertaining even before he was born.” I am told by my mum that at the age of three, I would sit on the table and tell very entertaining stories. I believe I was born an entertainer.”
It is reported that Walter is ‘stubborn’ and difficult to hire because of his demands. “Is it a crime to demand my rights or to fully understand that, as an employee, am protected (by the Constitution)? It has taken me time to build my name and career, thus, it is my right to demand what I feel belongs to me,” he asserts. Although he is happy with the support he has received from local fans, he is yet to understand why Kenyans don’t fully support local artistes. “In Kenya, it’s easy to be a thief and survive than to be an entertainer because people want to be entertained but they don’t want to pay.”