Erick Kioko popularly known as DJ Talanta lost his left arm in the post-election violence skirmishes in Nairobi. Despite losing his arm and friends, he never gave up on his life and his passion for music.
He spoke to Standard Digital’s James Mwangi about his journey to recovery.
How was it like growing up?
I grew up in Mathare 3C in Nairobi. I am the third-born in a family of five, but I lost my two elder brothers. I dropped out of school in class three, since my parents couldn’t afford my school fees. To survive, I collected charcoal and sold it in paper bags. Life was tough, but I had to make ends meet. It was a do-or-die situation.
How did you end up being a DJ?
From a tender age, I loved music. I admired how DJs mixed music and always danced to their beats. It was a fascination. I would spend most of my nights in reggae sessions in town. In 2002, an entertainment group in Mathare hired me as a deejay. We travelled across the country playing reggae music in clubs and other events.
At some point, you were a criminal. What exactly happened?
During the reggae sessions in the 1990s, I turned to crime. I remember praying before going out to rob people. Most of my friends were shot dead and I was lucky I escaped. The most memorable incident was in 2000. A pal of mine with whom we had started a movie library and barber shop was arrested by police and has not been seen to date. I don’t know what happened to him.
How did you lose your left hand?
My life took a turnaround after the hotly contested 2007 presidential elections. I was entertaining revellers at a club in Kisumu when a group of rowdy youths stormed in and attempted to kill me claiming we had stolen their victory. I was rescued by the club owner, and for four days, I locked myself in the house until a neighbour helped me catch a bus to Nairobi. I arrived at Mathare on January 12, 2008, only to find my relatives had been displaced and were residing at a camp outside the airforce base in Mathare.
What transpired later?
On January 17, after the tension had eased, we decided to go and pick our household items. We encountered a group of over 15 armed men who had cornered a woman and were raping her in turns. I stoned them to get them off the woman, but unknown to me, others had laid ambush behind us. One of them aimed a sharp panga at my neck, and when he made to slash me, I blocked it with my arm, which was sliced by the sharp panga and fell on the ground. I dashed towards the camp and was rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital by the military personnel.
Then what happened?
I was hospitalised for like a month. The hospital was overburdened. My hand was amputated. When my mum and younger sisters went to pick the chopped arm, they broke down. My friend took it as my mother removed the wrist watch. I was told the government took it for burial, but I doubt that. Why didn’t they involve us in that burial? I suspect it is somewhere in a learning institution.
How was the healing process?
My family was there for me. The support I got was immense. It was tough and some days, I just wanted to be alone. My current wife (Anne Mwihaki) was very supportive after my ex-wife took off. A friend catered for my medication and paid for my surgery at no cost. I recovered fully, but was jobless and nobody wanted to hire me. They said they could not trust a one-handed deejay.
Those who photographed my chopped-off arm made money from it. I was surprised to see its image displayed on the streets. In 2013, the Ghetto Radio boss heard about my story and passion and hired me. I was behind the Vote for Kenya, vote for Peace show ahead of the last polls. I proved many wrong by deejaying with only one hand. My friends came back when they heard me on radio, but the company sacked me in 2015 without notice.
How did your kids cope?
My son, who is now in form one, understood what transpired, but the young one in class one had lots of questions. I told him the truth and even showed him videos and photos of my hand. They respect and love me.
Have you met any of your attackers?
We don’t know them, but the lady they raped came to see me. I forgave my attackers, but it hurts me that they destroyed my life. God will avenge me. It however irks me that the government forgot about us.
Are you still angry?
At some point I wished I was dead. I had many questions without answers. I was almost giving up. But what happened to me was a blessing in disguise. Perhaps today I would be a hardcore criminal or even dead. I believe that what befell me was for a reason.
What do you do for a living now?
I deejaying at PetroCity club in Umoja, Club Climax at Taj Mall and I am occasionally hired for weddings and other events. I use whatever I make to take care of my family and mother. My wife is a salonist.