From Living in the Streets For 10 Years To a Musician: Manzele’s Story

February 13, 2023

Musician Manzele(born Joseph Ochieng’) grew up in a violent home and resorted to living in the streets to escape his ordeal. However, growing up in the streets for about a decade came with its own challenges and risks.

Manzele shares how he beat many odds to become a musician with popular hits such as RibaDiba and Banana. He has also worked with more established acts such as Mejja, Maandy, Dimore, and others.

Who is Joseph Ochieng?

I am a musician. I was born in Nakuru in a village called Rhonda but we later relocated to Nairobi when I was in Class Six.

And how did your musical journey start?

I started way back when I was still in school. We had so much going on in our family. I used music to escape and forget what we were facing. I used to entertain my classmates every Friday morning at the parade. I grew up in a violent home, and all I remember is my mother being sick most of the time. We had to take care of her as my father was a priest in Legio Maria and he was always away handling church issues.

Does it mean you quit schooling?

At some point, I had to. Life in the streets was not easy but at least there was peace. We could no longer witness the violence that had become part of our home.

How long did you live in the streets?

Around 10 years. This was the most difficult period of my life. We knew we had a home but we couldn’t go back there. There were times we would be mistaken for thieves and ended up being beaten up. After my small brother was almost sodomised, we knew our time on the streets was up. We formed a group with my brother called Peacemakers Cru, where we mostly sang gospel music and this saw us record our first song.

We parted ways at some point. I started using my stage name Manzele, and thereafter recorded several audios.

The best among them that launched my music career was ‘Banana’, it was produced and shot by Sean.

It’s that I met  Dj Lyta and composed a song together called RibaDiba. The song introduced me to almost all Kenyan DJs and media stations that played it. This gave me a lot of mileage.

I was also featured with brands like Mejja Okonkwo, Dimore Ochungulo family, Maandy, The Luchi, and Dufla Diligon.

What is it that you will never forget about your life in the streets?

There was this time when I and my brother and a few friends were almost shot dead in Mathare. It was a case of mistaken identity.

The music industry is quite dynamic, what can you advise upcoming artistes? Flexibility is key in this industry. The maximum lifespan of a specific sound is about three years, so artists should learn to adapt easily and also remain creative. Networking is key – having the right people in your circles can work wonders.

What’s your secret code to making it in the music industry?

Invest in a good manager. It is really important for a smooth operation because you can’t do everything on your own. You also need to be consistent,  hardworking, and most importantly smart by always being one step ahead of your competitors.

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