Wahu Kagwi is one of the most celebrated music acts in the Kenyan and East African music industry. Until recently, when she shifted to gospel music, Wahu enjoyed a relatively successful spell doing secular music.
She spoke to Buzz about her shift, what we can expect going forward and her role in the Mkenya Daima initiative.
You have been in the business for a while now, what’s your most memorable moment?
I thank God for blessing me with a career that I love. I’ve had memorable moments in my career, and won many awards, but my most memorable is when I won the award for Best female African at the inaugural MAMA Awards held in Abuja Nigeria.
This was such a special win for me because I wasn’t expecting to even be nominated. I’d been away from the music scene for about two years prior, taking care of my Tumiso who was by then only two years old.
In 2008, I was just happy to be back doing what I love. So when I got the news of my nomination, I was overjoyed. The consequent win for me just blew my mind.
How have you remained afloat all these years when your peers have fallen on the wayside?
I’d like to thank my fans for supporting me all these years. Their love and positive energy means so much to me. Most of all, I’m grateful to God because He is the one who has sustained me through all the ups and downs of this journey
‘Sweet love’ was a shift in your career to mellow kind of music what inspired it?
Sweet love was inspired by my baby Tumiso. I wrote it when I was expecting her, but released it almost a year later. The song was a love letter from myself to my unborn child, so I can say she inspired it.
Quite frankly I wasn’t planning on releasing it, because I wasn’t sure how people would take it. It was very different from the “girl power” vibe that I had going on.
I was just happy to write the song and one day present it to my daughter when she was older. My husband David Mathenge (Nameless) and my producer R Kay are the ones who insisted that I release it and I’m grateful to them for that.
You have since shifted to gospel music, tell us about that journey.
I must say it has been a long time coming. But I’m finally here. When I just got out of high school, I remember feeling really low and frustrated with life. I didn’t think I amounted to much, and was extremely unsure about my future.
I had my first completely genuine discussion with God then, I told him that He needed to let me know why He created me, and what I’m supposed to be doing here on earth. God answered my prayer then through a DVD by the late Dr Myles Munroe titled “Purpose”.
It was an instant answer as Myles said that a sure indicator of your purpose is in the things you enjoy doing. He further said that all watching should start working on the things they love, with no excuse.
That’s how I started singing, in the bathroom… no excuses right? But as I continued on my search for God and purpose, I felt let down by people in Church I considered authorities of the Bible, who talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk.
Young, frustrated and feeling cheated, I shelved my search, though at the back of my mind, I always knew I needed to pick it up. Exactly one year ago, I felt I was ready to pick up from where I left, all those years ago.
I needed to forgive those who I felt had let me down, and being older and wiser, I understood that one should follow God, not the man of God. God wants a one on one relationship with each one of us. He loves us all equally.
Picking up my search though wasn’t automatic. It was borne out of a difficult patch that I was going through, and didn’t know how to “unstick” myself. I went down on my knees in my bedroom and I told God, ‘You have my attention.
Show me how to do life within purpose and on purpose, with you at the centre.’ The music that is coming out of me now, is as a result of my mental and spiritual space. And I love it.
What can we expect from you now that you are in gospel music? More music inspired by God, and my desire to fulfill the purpose He created me for.
How different will your music be? Can I say watch and see? My primary intention is to please my heavenly Father.
What role do you play in Mkenya Daima and how did you get into it?
I’m currently the co-ordinator of the Mkenya Daima initiative, which is a peaceful/non-violence initiative that started in 2012.
The initiative was formed against the backdrop of the 2007/2008 post-election violence that the country experienced, where over 1,000 people were injured and lost their lives, over 600,000 Kenyans were internally displaced and property worth billions was destroyed.
The overall objective of Mkenya Daima is to support non-violent elections and for prosperity thereafter. I got in because of my background in communication, being that I hold a MA in communication, and having consulted on communication strategies and developed communication content for various institutions and campaigns.
But over and above that, I find such pleasure in working within this space as I’m passionate about my country and want to be proactive about contributing towards permanent positive change, for the sake of this generation and generations to come.
What role can artistes play in uniting Kenyans especially in political seasons?
Artistes command a huge following and respect across the board. I appreciate all my fellow artistes who stood up and spoke and/or composed music that spoke into the recently concluded political season.
Moving forward, I would like to urge us all to take front seats in conversations on accountability of our leaders. Rather than back off, I urge us all to push forward and speak truth to power.
We need our public officers to do their job, and by so doing, create conducive environments for businesses to thrive and communities to live in peace, having all the resources that are their constitutional rights like security, water, educational facilities etc.
Musicians have the visibility and ability to drive such conversations and history will judge us on what we have done, or haven’t done with the positions that we have in society.
What’s your advice to up coming musicians?
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any businessman will tell you that it takes years to build a trustworthy brand with posterity. The same applies to Music as it is a business as well.
Stay strong, push forward, and try to identify a unique selling point that will set you apart from your competitors, and meet a need in the market. Once you find it, run with it and build your brand around it. Lastly pray.
Ultimately, make sure you put God ahead of all your plans. Present them to God and ask him for His guidance and blessing.