At barely 31 years of age, Boniface Milimo has known poverty, misery, known defeat, known the heartbreak of losing someone he loved, and has found his way out of the depths of his own despair.
Milimo is now the CEO of the Tukuza Awards and his journey is nothing short of inspiring.
Why did your family move from Vihiga to Nairobi?
I was born in Vihiga County, Emuhaya District. My life was riddled with poverty. We would go to bed on empty stomachs. Life was really difficult.
My parents decided to move to Nairobi in search of greener pastures. Little did we know that life in the city would be twice as hard.
We moved to Kawangware slums and then to Huruma. We were eight kids. On the day, my dad woke up, packed his things and left us. We were left under the care of my mother, who was jobless.
That must have been quite a blow…
Yes. Desperate, my older siblings decided to get married. It was a way to escape poverty. I was left with my mum and our last-born.
Months later, my mother fell sick and died. My elder brother took us in and I managed to get a scholarship from Undugu Society.
I enrolled at Kenya Polytechnic to study electrical engineering. However, at some point, I was forced to drop out after my elder brother got ill and I had to hustle to cater for my needs.
How did you do it?
I landed a job as a watchman in Huruma slums where I was being paid Sh3000 per month. The money could only cater for food and my school fee. I decided not to rent a house to save money.
During the day, I was a student and at night, I worked as a security guard. I developed chest complications because of the cold nights and that was the end of my education.
The streets became my new home. But I never gave up hope and I was lucky to land another job.
What job exactly?
I was employed by some lady to hawk sweets in Mathare, Kamukunji, and Eastleigh. I had no idea that I was being paid on commission and most of the time, I ate the sweets because of hunger. She didn’t pay me a cent after one month of working. I later got a job as a cook in a kibanda in the slums, where I was paid Sh200 a day.
You are the brainchild behind Tukuza Awards. What motivated you to come up with the idea?
My big break came when I started organising events and earned Sh15, 000 from one event. I felt so good because it was the first time to earn that kind of money.
We formed a group that was named R4J and I was known as ‘BONTI’.
We later separated to pursue our dreams as solo artistes. I left singing and concentrated on organising events. Things started looking up when my friends and I organised a big event at the Dandora Bethel Outreach Ministry.
We named it Tukuza Night and that led to the birth of Tukuza Awards and I was selected to be the CEO. The awards target upcoming artists across the country.
Our main goal is to nurture them, encourage and appreciate their work because often, they are left out during major awards where big artistes compete for the top slot.
Many awards fail to recognise them and that’s why we chose a different path so that we can grow the music industry
How does Tukuza operate?
We have regional representatives across the country to reach out to talented musicians who are stuck in this industry.
We have registered 5,000 upcoming artists from the counties and our representatives from all regions like Nyanza, Rift valley, Central, Eastern, Western, Mombasa, and Nairobi are on the ground as we plan to change the game in the music industry by uplifting and promoting new talents.
Any advice to upcoming artistes?
If you have a dream, continue pushing it, one day it will come to pass.