John Philip Ouma, better known by his stage name Madini Classic, is the newest music sensation in town. With only seven songs under his belt, the sky’s the limit for Madini Classic who is currently riding high on the hit ‘Nilivyo’ featuring sultry songbird Vivian.
The Bongo Flava star recently spoke about his humble beginnings, musical journey, and alleged beef with Otile Brown.
Where did your name Madini Classic originate?
I adopted the name from my grandfather who was known for his mastery in gold mining in Tanzania, and everyone nicknamed him Madini, Swahili for “minerals”. I got “Classic” from my profound esteem for Bongo star Barnaba Classic.
Tell us about your music background.
All my life I wanted to do music professionally. My parents, especially my dad, wasn’t for the idea; he thought I was taking a wrong direction which he equated to laziness. I remained in Tanzania when my family was relocating back to Migori County, and there my career was born. I sang along to most Bongo tunes back in the day and later adopted the same style of music. Back then, I managed to record a few audio songs but couldn’t afford a decent video; the reason I remained underground.
When did you decide music was your forte?
Life back home was so degrading and I could hardly make a living out of music, considering I was also the breadwinner.
I would opt for small undertakings like being a barber in the local shopping centre or tilling people’s gardens to make a coin.
I faced such exploitation that was too much to bear. One day I sold the cheap mobile phone I had, to make the exact fare to travel from Migori to Nairobi, and my mind was made up on what I wanted to do for life. Though it wasn’t easy to start off, here we are.
When and how did a beam of hope begin showing?
A friend casually asked me to cover Rayvanny’s “Kwetu” the moment it was released. I had lost hope in both life and music but decided to give it a shot anyway.
The cover went viral online hours after we released it. Tanzanian stars, including Rayvanny and Diamond, made public mentions of me and top radio and television shows in the country booked me for interviews.
This reignited my dream and passion. Serian Music, a London-based artiste management firm, identified me and reached out. We continue to work together and I owe so much to them.
How many songs have you released so far and which one introduced you?
I have seven singles and more are underway. “Nikaribishe”, for me, was a big song. Through it a lot of people identified my flair and vocals strength. It was also a song that everyone related to regardless of their age bracket. My other songs, especially “Tawire” and “Kalongolongo” opened doors for me both in the country and beyond the borders. I’m now riding high with “Nilivyo” a song I featured Vivian on. My fan base has grown immensely.
Tell us about “Nikaribishe” and “Nilivyo”.
“Nikaribishe” painted the picture of a lowly young man who falls in love with a lady from a rich family. He travels on a bicycle to visit the girl’s family for introductions but is rejected on arrival. Afterwards, the girl pleads with the parents and the young man is received into the family.
Most young people in our generation hardly show their real state to their partners. In “Nilivyo”, a young man falls in love with a high class girl who rejects his proposal due to his skimpy earnings.
How did you meet Vivian?
For a very long time I wanted to work with her but my efforts to try and reach her for four years proved futile. She however watched “Kalongolongo” and observed that I was doing a commendable job.
That enhanced the talks, when my manager approached her management with a collaboration request.
Are your love songs directed towards any specific person?
(Laughs) Not really, it is drawn from people’s daily love-lives and what they go through.
How would you describe your music?
It is engulfed in a lot of humility and expression of feelings which everyone can relate to. It covers the normal life of an ordinary person so it’s easy for them to immerse themselves into the context.
Having been in the music scene for long without a breakthrough what did you do differently?
I got signed by Serian Music as their first artiste in Kenya. They asked me to look for a producer whose sound would befit my music. That’s how I identified Vicky Pon Dis. I believe that his sound and support have propelled my music to where it is today. I should also point out my hard work as a driving force.
The main manager in an artiste’s career is the artiste himself since he’s the vision bearer.
Do you live completely off your music?
Absolutely. Music is what pays my bills and enables me to support my parents back in upcountry. I am grateful to God that He’s made it possible.
About Otile Brown, it’s said you sing like him.
(Chuckles) What is the description of beef? I have no beef with anyone unless they have one with me. As a matter of fact, I think Otile sings like me.
A few years back when I had released a song dubbed “Uzuri Wako”, he inboxed me on Facebook and asserted that he wanted to join the music industry and therefore needed some help from me.
You recently denied knowing him.
The presenters misquoted me. I meant that I don’t know him in person.
What would you change in the Kenyan music industry?
I would vouch for policies that lobby support for 8o per cent of local music airplay both on radio and television. International music has eaten terrifically on our local talents sabotaging most of them.
Do you play any instruments?
Not quite perfectly, just the nuts and bolts in a guitar and keyboard.
What’s next for Madini Classic?
Widening my fan base with music that transcends all age groups and races. I would like to bring home awards and show the world that nothing is impossible. Music aside, I have the impulse to support jobless youths in Eastlands and upcountry with revenue earning.