He is fondly referred to as Kenya’s John Legend but singer Otile Brown is keen not to let that get into his head. The Mombasa born R&B hitmaker has been one of the most consistent hitmakers in the country, and he is not about to slow down any time soon.
He spoke to eDaily about his life and music career. Below is his story:
- Early life
“I am the last born in the family of five siblings – three brothers and one sister. I have to admit that being the last born is pretty cool. You get all the love and affection; you get to learn a lot of things from your siblings, and they also give you advice.”
- How he started his music career
Though most fans appreciate him because of his vocal prowess, Brown actually started out as a rapper.
“Well, I started with rapping. I was doing rap at the Coast and I loved it a lot, even more than singing,” Brown said.
“Back in the day, I only used to do music for my own. One day I decided to give commercial music a shot, and I started the journey to stardom by moving to the big city, Nairobi.”
So where did he get the money to start off?
So what is the story behind his stage name, Otile Brown?
“Otile is a nickname I was given; inamaanisha baba au dadi. As for the name Brown, people who didn’t know my name referred to me as ‘that brown guy’…with time it became my moniker.”
- Jalang’o encouraged him to stick to singing
“I had the chance to meet Jalang’o when I was actually waiting for Willy M Tuva and I decided to give him my CD. We got to talk and we then made arrangements to meet at his office,” Brown narrated.
With time, Jalang’o advised him to concentrate on singing: “…he told me that I should focus on singing instead of rapping because I was good at it.”
“Surprisingly, Jalang’o was very happy with my work and decided to sponsor my first song. I clearly remember that day when he told me to choose who to work with – either Wyre or Doctor Eddie. I decided to go with Doctor Eddie,” told the crooner.
Why Doctor Eddie?
“I choose Doctor Eddie because I needed someone who is not too busy to grow me. Wyre is a good artist and producer but I thought he would be very busy to take me in, considering that he was both an artist and a producer.”
- Where he gets his inspiration
“My inspiration comes from the day-to-day things I see…what I go through and even what other people go through.”
Brown’s mum also motivated him to pursue his musical career.
“My mum also supported me in my music. I remember when I was small, I used to take some of my tapes for her to listen to and she would wonder how I knew so many things about love at such a young age. All in all, she was there to always support me and I really appreciate it.”
- He has done seven songs in one year
“In whatever you do, you always need to be vibrant and I did exactly that. I have collaborated with Kalighraph Jones, Dj Pierra and King Kaka.”
So who would he like to work with in the future?
“I believe that it does not matter who you do a collabo with, all that matters is how good the song is. You can do a collabo with one of the greatest celebrities in the world, but the song will never hit.”
“Even if I do a collabo with an ‘underground’ artiste, I will be happy as long as the song itself is worthy,” he explained.
He would, however, like to work with some A-listers.
“I will not hide the fact that, given the opportunity, I would like to work with Diamond Platnumz, Ali Kiba, Nameless, and Jaguar. I would also like to work with a Tanzanian’s Robina Yule.
- Story behind the song, Alivyonipenda
“The song Alivyonipendais my most recent project; I collaborated with King Kaka. The song is all about loving someone who doesn’t love you back.”
Interestingly, most people assume that he wrote the song after suffering the agony of unrequited love. The truth is, however, far from this perception.
“A lot of people thought that the song is about me, but they are wrong. I just thought it was a good idea to sing about that specific situation. Truth be told, happens a lot.”
- Airplay is the greatest challenge
Having landed a recording deal courtesy of Jalang’o, Brown has put his foot in the door. However, he still faces some challenges.
“Airplay has been a big problem not only for me but for other artists too. Yes, my songs are played on the radio that I cannot complain but kuna kuchezwa na kuchezwa on rotation.”
According to Brown, Kenyan stations prefer international tracks, and this hurts local talent.
“It is not fair that international songs are played on rotation and ours are not, that needs to be changed. Our songs also have that kind of potential.”
- On being called Kenya’s ‘John Legend’
“Honestly speaking, I had no idea that people refer to me as the John Legend of Kenya. Well, I am humbled by that. John Legend is a big name in the music industry and I like his songs a lot.”
That said, he would not want to be seen as a John Legend wannabe.
“However, I would like people to know that I am Otile Brown and not John Legend. I have my own ideas and my genre of music is totally different from his.”
- His future plans
So, what’s in the cards for the budding singer?
“Music, music, and more music. I believe I am a dreamer and I have a very dedicated team behind me who support me all the way. This is just the beginning for me.”
Brown has his eyes set on the international market.
“I would really like to spread my music not only in Kenya but also in East Africa and even the rest of the world.
- What he looks for in a partner
Every man has a list of qualities that he would like his significant other to have. What’s on the top of Brown’s list?
“I always look for dignity when I am looking for a woman to be part of my life. I would also consider her education level; she needs to be jovial too.”
So is he dating?
“I am very much single.”