You discover at the age of ten that you are not like the other children. They like to kick balls around and it is okay only that it is not exciting. You have a nagging feeling that you are special, made for greatness, destined to be a star. During the holidays you catch up with Channel O, if you do not know what that is you are a Cerelac baby. You can predict The Beat’s playlist with your eyes closed. Chaguo La Teeniez was one of your best events. When you go to high school you meet others like you. One of them likes rapping, rough on the edges but there is something to work with. Another reminds you of Mariah Carey and you do not understand why she is struggling with Physics that is taught by a teacher who you suspect could be losing it, literally. Either that or you are losing it. Then there is you, combined you form a group and call yourself something like Angelic Voices (that was an amazing group from my high school).
After high school you go your separate ways Mariah goes to the states to study Pharmacy, the rapper is in Kenya School of Law and you studied media with a minor in music it was the only way you could do what you love without your father suspecting a thing. After graduation you start singing seriously. You are at every wedding, funeral and church event singing your heart out. Someone shares with you details of an audition to a singing competition. You go and kick ass and you are in. Eight weeks later you are the first runner up because the sponsor has to sell their products all over East Africa and they are based in Kenya so the money will go to Rwanda. You are sad because the money would have funded your debut album. All is not lost, you have a single and a few people know your name. There is one problem, they will forget it. Why you ask? It is not memorable.
A name is the second most important thing to an artist. It is what defines you, your fans identify you by your name. They will not remember you if you are ‘Yule Msee’ too casual to be taken seriously and that will translate to the amount of business you get.
So why is a name important?
You need to stand out: Do you have any idea how many people believe they can be artists because their family says they can? That is why you need a good name. Fans, corporates and even your own family needs to remember you.
You need to be original: It is normal to have your first name but you might need your name to show that you are creative. Think of it as a rubber stamp on how smart you are; Wyre the Lovechild is a perfect example.
It defines your style: This is one of the smartest ways to do it. Let your name sell your craft, one perfect example is Tattuu.A group of 3 girls who made it a point to have every song give a chance for every member to shine.Or The Kansoul for the Cerelac babies 🙂
Memorable: See that there is very important. They say it is better for people to feel your absence than notice your presence. Like the name ‘Nameless’ is the best invention ever simple, funny, creepy but memorable.
Image is everything: In a world where each artist wants to bag endorsements, visibility is the only way out. Your talent might put you on the map but your brand defines you as an artist. Branding begins with your name.
So how do you coin a name?
First name / Last name: Some parents knew that their children would be stars. They gave them star like names. They have names like Zuri Savana or Chimano. The names are so rare that they stand out and it may take a while to master them but once you do it will be stuck in your head.
Initials: This is not very common in Kenya. Many of the artists use the nicknames from high school to their careers. Allow me to use an international example, B.o.B. His birth name is Bobby Ray Simmons Jr. When asked about it, he said that the whole reason he used periods in his name was to make it artistic and that is why fans all over the world will remember him for a long time.
Titles: There are some titles in this country that are respectable like Major General. So when Mejja who is a member of the Kansoul coined that name he just added a twist to it and he is now a Major in the industry.
Urban Dictionary: In the world of the internet you have no excuse to have a shady name. Google Urban Dictionary and you will be spoilt for choice. You will bump into the name AKA which means also known as. That is the name of a South African rapper and for a long time I knew his name but not his face. Meaning you will know of his music before you discover he is a pretty boy.
Steal a name: This is not advisable but there is nothing new under the sun. When I first heard Avril has released a song, I thought good grief an American rocker has decided to do a Swahili song …till I discovered we have our own Avril. It worked for her, our Avril I mean, you should try it.
Animals: Okay ,tread carefully here and pick a killer one. Chameleone is one of the highest selling artists in Africa. His hair style also complements it, please do not quote me. You can never forget a name like that, just ask Maina Kageni.
Reach for the stars: You know the verse out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. There is so much power in a name. Look at Diamond, when you hear that name you want to be associated with that name, Diamond. It has a new ring to it. There are two types of girls; the ones who would kill for pearls and those who will die to get diamonds. It is no wonder girls fall over themselves over his music and him to some extent. Now when you call yourself Shida Mbili I am sorry when Jay Z wrote 99 problems he had you in mind.
See what works for you and start brainstorming and get that million dollar name. Try Panda. I like the animal and the fact that it means rise.